Trotter sets world record but most newspapers just yawn

Oct 9, 2007 5:45 AM

By Joseph St. Louis

While Stan Bergstein, whose words of wisdom normally fill this page recoups from a whirlwind visit to the Midwest, I have a chance to expound a bit on harness racing, and its current state.

On the bright side, are recent performances that truly have been exciting, especially by the nation’s top three-year-old trotter, Donato Hanover. The son of Andover Hall posted his 11th consecutive victory Saturday in the 115th Kentucky Futurity at The Red Mile in Lexington, Ky.

And, in doing so, he equaled the world record of 1:50.1 for the mile.

It was an electrifying performance by a colt that is now 19 for 20 since he began his career for Trainer Steve Elliott.

The ease with which he coasted to victory in the Kentucky Future caused race announcer Sam McKee to exclaim, "The Kentucky Futurity is a race for the ages and it was won by a horse for the ages."

The victory was not unlike Donato Hanover’s performance in this year’s Hambletonian when he sped toward the Meadowlands finish line with Driver Ron Pierce just coaxing him along.

Now for the downside: most newspapers in the U.S. ignored the story completely. For whatever reason, be it that the sports editors are so consumed with football or the baseball playoffs, or whether they believe there is no reading interest among their subscribers for a sport that has peaked and waned.

Even thoroughbred racing, whose fat cats spent years disdaining their trotting cousins, has trouble claiming a few column inches on the sports pages of America. At least, the Las Vegas racing fans (thoroughbred that is) were able to read a little about the Breeders’ Cup prep races in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

But, by and large, the running horse and trotting horse sports stories either get spiked or end up as fillers.

Doesn’t seem so long ago that the country’s newspapers couldn’t get enough stories of horses and their jockeys and drivers. "Names make news" yelled the editors in the days when everyone read newspapers. Just mention Arcaro, Atkinson, or Hartack among the jockeys or Dancer, Haughton or O’Brien among the drivers, a space on the sports pages was made available immediately.

Now, to read about a sensational Kentucky Futurity and its champion Donato Hanover, it’s necessary to utilize the Internet.

Is that telling us something about the news source of the future?