I love horse racing, but it doesn’t love me back
June 26, 2018 3:10 AM
by Robert Mann
Unrequited love. As always, it remains an important part of ancient and modern culture.
From philosophers like Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the German writer and statesman who wrote, among many other instructive truisms, “The soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone,” to more modern song lyrics such as those in Shelley Fabares’ 1962 hit record Johnny Angel in which she pines that she’s in love with a boy “who doesn’t even know that I exist,” the subject remains relevant to many of us.
In the past few months, I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with my “unrequited love” for horseracing. The daggers the Sport of Kings has thrust into my aching heart over the past few years and especially in the last few months have made me question my passion for the sport.
Do the various entities running the sport know people like me exist? Do they even care?
I’ve been wondering if I can still enjoy racing without even betting on it. I’m concerned that enjoying (betting) the sport is now impossible because the “price point” for such pleasure has made satisfaction increasingly more difficult. For example, I enjoy drinking soft drinks, way too much for my own good, but I just refuse to order it if it costs more than $2. I can afford the money, but that’s the only way I can show my displeasure for what is price gouging of the most obvious nature.
Although never a big bettor by anyone’s standards, I’m now wondering if my unreturned love for horseracing may be over.
What exactly has driven me to the brink?
The explanation is simple. I’ve come to realize horseracing and the people who run it do not love me back. In fact, they just don’t care about me – the average fan and small bettor – in the slightest.
I was pushed to the brink in recent months by a series of events that most prominently include:
• A recent report in the Daily Racing Form that New York stewards met with jockey Florent Geroux to discuss his ride in this year’s Belmont Stakes. That was good. What’s bad is they refused to publicly discuss any details about the conversation.
Geroux was lambasted by many after his ride aboard Restoring Hope, a stablemate of Belmont winner Justify and whether it was designed to give Justify an advantage. Geroux took Restoring Hope wide into the first turn and later kept Bravazo trapped along the rail.
The failure of the stewards to discuss the conversation with reporters is far worse than anything Geroux may or may not have done.
• The Stronach Group, owners of both Santa Anita near Los Angeles and Golden Gate near San Francisco, now say, and rightly so, that the Northern California off-track betting network is broken and the regulations that created it must be fixed.
Stronach’s astute leader Tim Ritvo says, Golden Gate shouldn’t be required to support the fair circuit and its off-track betting network. Ritvo’s business model requires more racing at Golden Gate and more utilization of its world-class turf course.
Yet, instead of quickly moving to revamp outdated rules and regulations and a clearly outdated commercial structure, the California Horse Racing Board says it won’t grant Golden Gate dates unless it continues to spend money so another entity can compete against it. Simply put, this defies any rational logic.
• It’s become a fact that the state stewards at Santa Anita have little idea that their lack of consistency in interpreting fouls is hurting the sport. A recent disqualification caused a major uproar and rightfully so. When and if they explain themselves their reasoning makes little sense. I still can’t get over the lack of a disqualification of Bayern in the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita. Bayern fouled several other horses coming out of the gate. How can an obvious foul at the beginning of a race be deemed to be less deleterious than a foul at the end of a race? This incomprehensible logic on the part of the stewards continues and I’ve had enough.
• I’m concerned the high takeout, much worse at some tracks than others, makes it too tough to be a winner. The juice for sports bets is much less, so why do I keep beating my head against the wall when the track skims 15 to more than 25 percent off the top of my winning bets? My aging skull can no longer take the pounding. My head hurts just thinking about it.
I’ve got more beefs than there’s room for here. Among them are obscene concession prices at the track, a lack of concern for injured riders, insufficient out-of-competition drug testing for horses and a system that allows big bettors at some tracks to enter the pari-mutuel system and use sophisticated computer algorithms to conduct a game of arbitrage that excludes me and impacts my ability to turn a profit.
As a young man, I was often chastised for complaining too much. My answer then is the same now. If no one complains, nothing ever changes!
Sadly, my love for racing has diminished in recent months. I still love it, but it just doesn’t love me back.