At long last it’s time for the first ever Blogger Wars showdown. Out of the dozens of entries (thank you to everyone who participated) two articles have been chosen as the best submissions for the month of December. Now is where the real fun begins. It is time for you to make the call. After reading each blog, you get to decide which one you think is the most deserving winner. You can make your selection through a simple statement in the comment section. Names and affiliations of the two authors will be withheld until a winner has been declared. Voting will conclude at midnight Central time on Saturday, January 14. Enjoy the two fine articles.
Where Do We Start?
One of your favorite horses is starting to lose, and it looks as though this is becoming a trend. He appears first in a $35,000 Claimer and comes in fourth. He goes on to lesser claiming races, and things just don’t look good for him.
You have him in your Virtual Stable and know every move he makes. Then notices stop coming. You think first he’s being given a needed break, a rest, and you hope he has not been injured. Hopefully, he’ll be back – maybe back to his old form. Weeks go by with no Stable notices. Months. He has dropped out of sight.
You’re not the only one.
Here are the names of some horses still sitting in my Virtual Stable while I wait to hear anything: Raceland, Bennington Station, Clemens, Stately Character, The Great McGee. Natural optimism tells me they are all probably happily occupied in another career, but are they gone from us through injury or worse?
There is no record of their disposition – anywhere. They have simply dropped out of sight.
Equibase records a claim, but not a private sale. Equibase tracks every movement of an actively racing horse until that last nowhere notation, “Not Currently Entered.” Sometimes a kind owner or trainer will note the disposition of a horse on pedigreequery.com, but that efficiency or kindness is far from consistent. We know the last owner and the last trainer. We also know these people do not often respond to a letter of inquiry even when we rarely know how to reach them.
So where do we start? Where should these records be kept and by whom?
If you think of it, an accurate record of births, deaths, claims, sales, gifts – the off-the-track disposition of all thoroughbred horses in the racing world – could very likely put a halt to slaughter.
How can one not define Rapid Redux as great?
My high school European History teacher taught me that the best way to learn history is to pick one aspect of it and follow its developments. An example would be, if you thought boats were interesting, follow their evolution through history and it will often match up with the key events occurring throughout time. The same goes for cooking, clothing, or anything else that might interest you.
So, when I starting to become a fan of horse racing, I decided to follow my teacher’s advice, and look at how some of the key events in world history shaped the sport of kings as we know it. Because of my novice knowledge of the sport, I began with its origins when the breed of the thoroughbred began. As I saw all the dots begin to connect, it made me think even more.
What if America didn’t go through the industrial revolution, building the foundation for the American banking system? Would August Belmont II have ever been able to breed Fair Play to Mahubah? But lets take it one step further, what if the United States never became involved in World War I? Would Sam Riddle have ever gotten the chance to buy the chestnut colt that many others had passed over? And if Riddle didn’t buy Man o’ War, would he have ever been bred him to Brushup to lead one of the most memorable match races in US history?
In 1973, the US had been torn apart from nearly 8 years of war and had lost all sense of trust from the their government leaders. American’s were begging for hope, and a hero. That hero came in equine form, and his name was Secretariat. Aside from being the best racehorse of all time, he filled a void that was empty in America. He changed history.
We all know the story of how Secretariat came to be, but I don’t think enough credit is given to the true beginning of Big Red. In 1950 when one man went against the status quo, and syndicated one the most influential stallions in United States history, despite the exhaustive effort it took to get there, Bull Hancock had a vision. And his tenacity brought Nasrullah to America, starting a chain reaction that has since defined our beloved sport.
Let’s fast forward to today. We live in an era that loves its records. Michael Phelps wins 8 gold medals in the 2010 Olympics. Cal Ripken Jr. plays 2,632 straight games and is nicknamed the Iron Man. We again have history being made right in front of our eyes. Rapid Redux has done something never completed before in the history of US racing. His owner was quoted as wanting to break the record of consecutive wins, and now his horse’s success will be forever debated.
One definition of greatness is “Of outstanding significance or importance.” In this, how can one not define Rapid Redux as great? During his streak, he has excelled every time he was asked, without fail or second-guess, even if not against the best competition available. What if Robert Cole Jr. decided to take his horse to the next level? Would Rapid Redux have reached the same level of success? I don’t think its fair to assume either way. History has been made, and let's enjoy it for what it is.
Once again we are in a time of political unrest; lack of confidence in our elected leaders, and with Barry Bonds getting convicted of obstruction of justice, even America’s pastime cannot go without speculation. I respect and admire Mr. Cole for having the foresight to set his horse at such a goal. He did what so many people disagreed with and inscribed a legacy that will now be a benchmark for all those in the future. We are again in need of a hero, and a man who is unlikely to be remembered has given us the gift of a legend. When future generations look back at this era of racing and remember Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra, Curlin and Frankel, I can only hope they remember Rapid Redux.
We need more people like Mr. Hancock and Mr. Cole in our sport, and in the words of the late Steve Jobs, “Stay hungry. Stay Foolish.”