Archives for May 2015

IS THE RIGOR OF THE TRIPLE CROWN EMBELLISHED?

After American Pharoah’s impressive Preakness win, three of the announcers on NBC’s telecast were discussing the colt’s chances to complete the Triple Crown.  They cautioned of how much the Triple Crown races take out of a horse and pointed out how rested horses that skipped the Preakness have such a conditioning advantage in the Belmont.

This conversation promoted me to revisit the past performances of 1941Triple Crown winner Whirlaway.  Following is his 20-race schedule for the entire year 1941 along with the distance of each race.

February 8, 6 furlongs
February 18, 7 furlongs
March 22, 6 furlongs
March 28, 5.5 furlongs
April 11, 6 furlongs
April 24, 9 furlongs (2nd in Blue Grass)
(Between the April 24 and April 29 races, Whirlaway was worked 10 furlongs in 2:07 2/5)
April 29, 8 furlongs (2nd in Derby Trial)
May 3, 10 furlongs (1st in Kentucky Derby)
May 10, 9.5 furlongs (1st in Preakness)
May 20, 8.5 furlongs
June 7, 12 furlongs (1st in Belmont)
June 21, 10 furlongs (1st in Dwyer)
July 15, 9 furlongs
July 26, 10 furlongs
August 6, 8 furlongs (1st in Saranac)
August 16, 10 furlongs (1st in Travers)
August 23, 10 furlongs (1st in American Derby)
September 13, 9.5 furlongs
September 20, 12.5 furlongs (1st in Lawrence Realization)
September 27, 16 furlongs (2nd in Jockey Club Gold Cup)

The 20 races were held at eleven different racetracks and ranged from 5 ½ furlongs to 16 furlongs.  Whirlway’s record was 13-5-2.  He was not aided by race-day medication.

Winning the Triple Crown is difficult, no doubt about that.  However, by Whirlaway’s standard, the annual dialogue about the rigor of the Triple Crown looks like whining.

Copyright © 2015 Horse Racing Business

SEARCHING FOR A DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH

Finding a diamond in the rough for a bargain price is the goal of most buyers of unraced horses.

While seven-figure yearlings and 2-year-olds receive the lion’s share of attention at auction, they usually don’t live up to their lofty prices, whereas a few of the relatively inexpensive yearlings typically prove to be steals.

In spite of the advancements made in evaluating racing prospects, the selection process is still far more art than science, with a strong dose of luck mixed in.  But this is true of assessing aspiring athletes in any sport, as vividly illustrated by the 44 exclusive players who started for their respective teams on offense and defense in the centerpiece of America’s most popular sport, the 2015 Super Bowl.

An organization named 247Sports has a staff of 50 recruiting evaluators and reporters that compile data– from the major media recruiting services–on America’s high school athletes in football and basketball.   Each prospect is ranked on a scale ranging from no stars or unranked to the elite category of five stars.

CBS Sports examined the high school star rankings for the starting players for the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks in the 2015 Super Bowl and found that “not one starter was a 5-star recruit out of high school” and only seven of the 44 players or 16% were 4-star recruits.   The average player ratings for the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots were 2.4 and 2.3, respectively.  The quarterback for the Seahawks, Russell Wilson, was a 2-star prospect.

Individuals and partnerships in horse racing also have a chance to find the next I’ll Have Another or even a John Henry for a modest sum.   This has always been the allure for owners with meager budgets.  What’s being purchased is not a horse, but rather dreams, opportunity, and hope.

Copyright © 2015 Horse Racing Business

ESPINOZA’S WHIP USE IN THE KENTUCKY DERBY

According to the Daily Racing Form, jockey Victor Espinoza administered 32 whip strokes to American Pharoah during the running of the 2015 Kentucky Derby.  This aggressive degree of “urging” naturally generated much discussion.

My personal opinion on Espinoza’s actions is irrelevant and may not be representative, so I won’t offer it.  For the sake of analysis, set aside our individual opinions and emotions for the moment and ask a dispassionate question:

What effect did Espinoza’s whip use have on public perception of horse racing?  The answer is of paramount importance, of course, especially for a sport and business that has experienced declining attendance and pari-mutuel handle and has repeatedly been accused of inhumane practices.

Suppose we asked a representative cross section of the adult population in the United States to consider a factual statement and then to answer a follow-up question:

Fact:  In the 2015 Kentucky Derby, the winning jockey Victor Espinoza used his whip 32 times on his mount American Pharoah.

Question:  How do you feel about this amount of whipping?  (Please circle the number that most closely reflects your opinion.)

Not Abusive    1    2    3    4    5    6    7    Abusive

Now instead of asking the general public, suppose we narrowed the sample to a representative cross section of people who derive their livelihood from the horse-racing industry.

How do you think the results would turn out in both cases?  The view here is not at all well for the image of horse racing, even among horse-racing insiders.

Whip use in races can and should be dictated by rules and regulations.

Copyright ©2015 Horse Racing Business