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Breeders' Cup 2017

Life Without Horse Racing

Can you imagine it? Just writing that title was like drinking a shot of diesel.

Since the Derby is the longest held sporting event in the history of our country, we can say, with complete certainty, that it is the love of the sport by the millions of people throughout the past century and beyond that has kept this endearing tradition alive. It is the Fathers and Grandfathers who took us to the track with them and passed this excitement down to us. Just last evening I read a post by rafirox who told us about meeting Johnny Velazquez at Gulfstream yesterday. What I found most endearing about his post was that he had taken his son to the track with him and what a memory he gave to that boy. This will be something that his son will look back on when he gets older and tell his friends about the day that he met the great Johnny Velazquez with his Dad back in 2012.

Hopefully, we continue to do the same. We were all drawn to this amazing sport at a personal moment in time. We all have our own memories about a certain race, a great hit or a favorite horse. Thousands and thousands of people throughout the decades. From breeders to trainers, to jockeys, to the ticket guy behind the glass, the track hands, and handicappers, both professional and amateur, and on and on and on. One persons opinions or experiences are no more meaningful or important than the next. It is the collection of these thoughts, opinions, dedications and memories that carry this amazing sport forward. Each tiny vessel adds to the whole.

There are all types of passionate followers of this sport. Some have a vast amount of knowledge and therefore we should be grateful that they are unselfish with this knowledge. After all, there is money involved. Others are simply feeling their way, trying to get a foot in and participate. Trying to learn. Be happy all are here, because we all do have something in common. We fell in love with the race track. The sport stays alive. Tracks remain open. No matter the level of expertise or your position held within the industry, each person is important in sustaining and growing this fantastic sport of Horse Racing. You can learn something from anyone if you simply free yourself from ego.

I'm sure that each of us can remember that moment when the bolt struck and you felt that desire to be a part of it all. From a handicapping perspective, I believe for most it is not about the payout,
(although, I'd take it any day of the week!) it is about deduction, perseverance, studying, learning, and listening. It is about gaining knowledge and the ability to say silently in your head, "I just knew it!" I can recall with specific clarity, the one and only time in my life when I cashed a Superfecta ticket in the Kentucky Derby and I floated on air for weeks. Not because of the payout, but because I did it. We all have had those days of elation and understandably it was that feeling of just knowing it that outweighed the cash for most.

I remember the day at my Grandparents house watching a replay of Secretariat run like a "tremendous machine" and my Grandfather explaining seconds, lengths and furlongs to me. I would kill to have just one day with him now to ask the right questions and listen to him speak. I remember seeing the 1992 Breeders Cup Classic with my Father when A.P. Indy moved "powerfully in between horses" and had taken over like a freight train. I remember the first time I saw Rock Hard Ten and thinking to myself that he was the most beautiful animal I had ever seen.

I fondly remember seeing an old-timer sitting on a green beach chair at Belmont Park. He was all decked out in an old brown hat, floppy pants and cigar. I felt compelled to talk with him.

I walked up and said, "You look like a man who knows his stuff."

He said, "Honey, been comin' to the Belmont Stakes since I was yay-high, never missed one yet."

I asked the man who he liked. He said, "Put it all on Ice Box!"

So I gave him one of my quizzical looks and he says, "What! You don't like him?! He's already won and the race hasn't even started! He's running against cows!"

I said, " Drosselmeyer is going to win this race and Fly Down will be right behind him."

He had the roughest and greatest laugh and said, "Daisy, if Drosselmeyer wins this race, then you come back here and I'll give you a hundred myself!"

I never went back to that old man afterwards but he had a story to tell his friends. A strange girl, out of the blue,  gave him the exacta not ten minutes before post time. I was shocked myself! But therein lies the point. He didn't listen to me, but more importantly, I didn't listen to him. Here was a man who obviously knew much more than I and yet, I did not accept his advice. Why on earth would he accept mine? Right or wrong, our own opinion wins out every single time. To put someone down for their opinion is not only foolish , it is simply childish. In 2011, I went back to the same spot looking for that green beach chair, but to no avail. Good thing, because I certainly didn't have Ruler on Ice!

We all have our stories, our favorites, our moments, our opinions, and I for one respect and admire each person who respects and admires the sport. It is the love of the game and the athletes - The Horses - that join everyone together and allow it to grow. It is not competition between fans, it is competition between horses. If we all had the same opinion, then every single race would have even-money chalk. That's no fun. Tolerance, openness and acceptance is all that is required. Let them all in. It is ONE aspect among many that allows us to continue and grow.

A new year begins. We must embrace all who want to join in, for I imagine, Life without Horse Racing, is no life at all.
Written by Lisa DeMichael


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Older Comments about Life Without Horse Racing...

I read that McClain didn't know anything about wagering and Hayward made her COo handling financial and wagering operations and surprise surprise there was a huge wagering scandal and subsequent lawsuits in the tens of millions of dollars so that the NYRA posted a loss inspite of all the casino money. Hayward picked her for her affirmative action credentials to cover her tracks no more no less. I am sure I will get heat for that comment but I've been around NYCity politics along time and I know how the game is played.
I read that McClain didn't know anything about wagering and Hayward made her COo handling financial and wagering operations and surprise surprise there was a huge wagering scandal and subsequent lawsuits in the tens of millions of dollars so that the NYRA posted a loss inspite of all the casino money. Hayward picked her for her affirmative action credentials to cover her tracks no more no less. I am sure I will get heat for that comment but I've been around NYCity politics along time and I know how the game is played.
That should be multi million dollar loss and subsequent lawsuits.
Yes and no shadowno. First of all Hayward is gone. McClain got the proverbial kick upstairs for incompetence and corruption. She gave her report showing how she presided over a multi million dollar and subsequent lawsuits was applauded and basically removed and left as affirmative window dressing while a new board with Bobby Flay and the head of betting oversight whose name escapes at the moment and others run the new board. I agree that NYRA has a long way to go, but it is a start. As to Ellen MCclain, lets be honest Hayward picked her on purpose to cover his tracks in the looting of the NYRA. I doubt she had enough intelligence to even be a thief. She was an usual idiot in my opinion
We must not forget this is the same NYRA that oversaw the theft of 8 million from our pockets and gave us Ellen McClain a complicit thief or just plain idiot as president before Cuomo put an end to that madness. NYRA has a long way to go to regain customer faith IMO.
I am encouraged that the NYRA has asked it's patrons for their opinions to improve the racing experience. I believe this is a huge step forward. I look at The Meadowlands and see the huge commitment that Jeff Gural has put into the track. Their handle is up over 28% from last year. While I am sure he would like to have slots monies to help fuel his purses, he is managing to make a real difference. I think that with changes in advance wagering and more states allowing it, it is helping. Will change happen overnight no, but at least the racing community is recognizing the problems and are actively looking for solutions.
Shadowno. I think you are right that slots money will not alone keep the horses on the track. I think that the owners and breeders need to change the rush to the breeding shed which has decimated the ranks of top horses. I do think there is a glimmer of hope that things are changing in that regard. Whether you like Dr. Hansen or not, his racing Hansen at smaller tracks attracted a large number of fans and was a shot in the arm for racing. I also think that the situation in Ontario will in an odd way help in this direction. The removal of slots monies is devastating the industry up north. They had forgotten about attracting the fans and the wagering dollars and instead relied on the slots monies. All of these jurisdictions with slots monies are or have seen the govt try and take more of the money and realize that they must use this money to improve marketing and improve their facilities.
Buckpasser. always ejoy your interpretationof the political clime as it relates to NY racing. Agree whole heartedly regarding the benefits the New York breeding industry will reap. It won't happen overnight but within a reasonable period of time I also feel we will benefit from fuller (and better) fields, creating superior wagering opportunities for the day to day player. Rather than the poor quality of animal that shipped into A last winter and lets face it handle not head count is what drives the business. However, I can't see any way it will benefit the casual fan who thirsts to see stars have lengthy campaigns on the track.Truly believe those days are over save the occcasional gelding and as we have seen filly or mare who tend to have been the standardbearers of the sport the past few years.
Shadowno. If you look at PA and Ohio, where slots monies are helping to fuel purses. You are seeing more studs moving from not slots jurisdictions to those with larger purse money for their offspring. Tracks in these stakes, I am thinking of harness racing in particular, are seeing more entries, better horses fuller racing cards, more fans and better handle. Scioto Downs is not only surviving but prospering. The other tracks are moving around and either building or fully renovating facilities with the influx of money.
Belmont will get some needed funding and changes once the politicians finally decide that the NYRA will keep all three tracks open
Shadow no. I understand your point about more horses moving to the breeding farms. But with the problems in Ontario, Cuomo signed a bill that will make it easier to bring their horses here to qualify for NY bred races. I believe you will have more horses and stud farms opening in NY but you will also have more horses racing at the NY tracks to take advantage of the large purses. With more horses in the races, you get more wagering money as well. Previously, there wasn't enough money to make needed upgrades to the track facilities. Saratoga needed huge improvements to the traing track which they will get. The problem with Belmont getting upgrades was tht under Spitzer and under govs who wanted to close Aqueduct and race year round at Belmont which would have required huge expenditures.
Buckpasser as you are aware the Belmont plant is a monstrosity that direly needs to be downsized and modernized. Re your take on the breeding shed it looks like the advent of the racino cash will have just the opposite effect in New York. There is going to be so much extra money for New York breds that it will be an imperative to get the top NY Breds to the breeding shed for the uber lucrative purses that are being offered for their offspring . Weve recently seen Bluegrass Cat, Possee and Congaree move to NY to compete/accompany our old standby Freud. In short while your take is valid with regard to what is good for the industry , It looks like the opposite will be the end result.
I of course mean that things were more comfortable but that he preferred the old. He also mentioned that the subway dropped them off right at Aqueduct's gates. I'm glad the casino is doing good.
Cocoa. That was interesting about Farley's son. I do think they will use the money to upgrade the parts of Aqueduct that need it.
Walter Farley's son wrote of "new" Aqueduct as it was once called, that Footsore downs had changed too much for him. While comforted by the fact the clay Man O' War flew by on was still there, the comfortable seats and steam in the jockey's room were nothing like the former racetrack. Let us see if Aqueduct can find some room in that casino for a racetrack.
That last line should be and NOT retire to the breeding shed
The NYRA sent out a questionnaire about improvements to be made for the fans to improve the NY racing experience. Aqueduct needs some major work. A lot of the facilities are out of the 1950s and need enormous updating. A great many changes are going to be made to the facilities at the three tracks to improve the fan experience. Tracks like Oaklawn are partnering with local TV channels to improve their coverage. Emerald Downs is engaging a top media agency to promote the track. More races would shown in prime time if you have a popular horse. 60 minutes did two programs on Zenyatta. Horses that capture the publics imagination help sell thoroughbred racing. That is why it is imperative that top horses stay on the track and retire immediately to the breeding shed.
The Pacific Classic, Woodward, Whitney, Met Mile, Jockey Club and Big Cap are the only ones that would be interesting enough. If horse racing was more popular it would be shown. Complain all you wan't but I can't blame them for doing what pays the mortgage.
Appreciate it rafi and bigbay very much. It really kills me when a great Graded Stakes race is running and all should be watching and the prime time channels are showing 5 straight hours of golf. They get serious ratings three times a year with the Triple Crown and forget about it afterwards. You are right about marketing.
I agree, TBB.

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