The sport of horse racing like the world at large, is evolving. It seems as if every year (or every day, for that matter), someone is inventing or introducing us to something that will better our sport and or our lives.
Over the years, the evolution of technology has definitely affected the sport of horse racing for the good. You can look back in history and find some of the wonderful marvels technology has brought our sport. Whether it's Clay Puett's creation of the first ever electronic starting gate, or George Julius's invention of the Totalizator ( Tote Board), the history is there.
Over the decades Americans have turned to horse racing as an escape in times of despair. Seabiscuit was a hero with a cult like following during the depression. Citation was an inspiration during World War II. Secretariat made us feel good in a time when Vietnam had us all down. And when our eyes were blackened and our hearts were broken after 9/11, Tiznow won the Breeders' Cup Classic for America.
With invention and evolution comes responsibility, and with any new endeavor comes excitement and freedom.These freedoms must not be taken lightly or abused.
Maybe the biggest evolution in technology in the sport (and the world in general),has been the introduction of social media and social media websites. In the past, a horse racing fan was forced to read papers and listen to the radio to get the scoop on their favorite horses.Now we're in the Facebook age, one can comment on a race literally moments after it's been run.Facebook has also introduced horse racing fans around the world to each other..This is something that this sport has needed for years.
The social media outlets – Facebook and Twitter – have given the common fan a voice and they've also given the fan a chance to talk to and get to know the stars of our sport via the internet. These platforms have already helped grow the horse racing fan base and will continue to do so in the future. But it's something we must be careful with.
Social media sites have lead racing fans to participate in discussions that have sometimes turned vitrolic. Often, these discussions evolve into side arguments that have been made time and again, which have nothing to do with the actual topic. This is not something a potential fan will find appealing, and new fans are hard to cultivate because of the bad publicity the sport continuously receives.
A perfect example of this is the Zenyatta – Rachel Alexandra- debate. Zealots among the two fan bases of the two great fillies often hijacked discussions having nothing to do with either and turned them into a who's better debate. It often got very personal and quite ugly. We look no further then some of the recent political debate between some of the competing factions on both sides of the isle to see what effect such rancor can have on the fragments in the middle.
I bring this issue to the forefront because of the reaction to an article Brian Zipse wrote about Goldikova's quest to be the greatest of grade I winners. Brian just showed statistically that Goldi has a chance to have more grade I or group I wins then any other horse in the grades stakes era. Immediately, this article turned into a debate on Facebook, Zenyatta Vs Goldikova,who was the greater mare?
Any article or blog that praises another horse now a days is subject to being taken over by Zenyatta's many passionate fan. Z's legacy is enormous and what she's done for the sport is something we'll never be able to measure. I fully appreciate Zenyatta's incredible contribution to the sport, and in fact I wrote an article about my feelings towards Zenyatta after last years Breeders' Cup.
No one's indifferent about Zenyatta.There are as many people out there that are ready to call her out (unfairly), as there are people that think she's the greatest horse to ever breathe air. Zenyatta will go down as one of the greats of horse racing, as well she should. And I think she'll be remembered in the ranks of Seabiscuit, Secretariat, and Seattle Slew, and all the other greats of the sport.
The problem is, these people that so badly want to defend her greatness and constantly want to debate her with any current horse in racing,actually end up hurting her legacy. Some new fans just introduced to this sport this year, could associate Zenyatta with all these terrible debates and personal attacks made on the social media sites, which is sad. Zenyatta will never be duplicated on the track and her personality will last in my memory forever.
Let's take a step back, take a breath, and allow our new fans to experience the great things about this sport. Let them enjoy the stars of today without comparing and debating with the stars of yesterday.
Discussion is fine, these social media outlets let us express our opinions in a way the common fan has never been able to. But we must use this incredible innovation for the betterment of our sport, and not get bogged down in superfluous random arguments.