“YOU’RE FIRED”

A story in the Paulick Report of January 3, 2017 led off with this sentence:

“Jorge Navarro will become the ninth trainer for 5-year-old War Story when the Northern Afleet gelding makes his 18th career start Jan. 28 in the inaugural running of the $12-million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park.”

The proclivity of dissatisfied racehorse owners to switch trainers has a lot in common with the annual ritual, occurring about this time of year, in the National Football League.  So far, at this writing, five of the 32 NFL head coaches have been terminated and a sixth–the 2016 Super Bowl-winning coach–has retired citing health reasons.  A few more firings in the days ahead would not be surprising.  The San Francisco 49ers will be hiring their fourth coach in four years.

Every racehorse trainer with a public stable has experienced the negativity and hurt associated with an owner taking horses away and sending them to another trainer, and Hall of Fame conditioners are no exception. Last week, for example, Triple Crown-winning trainer Bob Baffert had an owner relocate 13 horses to two other trainers.

A firing is inherently an ordeal, a challenge to the banished person’s self-esteem, especially when the firing is done capriciously or in a heavy-handed way.  For instance, the owner of the Buffalo Bills reportedly terminated his coach without first informing the team’s general manager.

While parting of ways with racehorse trainers and NFL head coaches is sometimes warranted for poor performance, in many cases fault lies with an impatient owner who has unrealistic expectations and outsized demands.

Unrelenting pressure on trainers and coaches to win makes for a stressful situation.  During the 2016 NFL season, three head coaches were briefly hospitalized, apparently owing to job-related causes.

The one big and important difference between fired NFL coaches and fired racehorse trainers is that the former routinely receive millions of dollars to soothe their hurt feelings while the latter get vacant stalls.

Professional sport is one of the last bastions in society for meritocracy in that participants are largely evaluated objectively on their won-loss records.  Yet even a strong winning record is not always enough to please an owner.  The trainer of Seattle Slew was fired soon after the colt won the Triple Crown and Barbaro’s owners took all their horses away from the trainer who guided him to a Kentucky Derby victory.

Copyright 2017 Horse Racing Business

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