Recently, a well known turf writer in California called me because he was doing a column on racetrack characters and their nicknames. He had observed that there were very few nicknames in this day and time, and he wondered if I could supply him with any modern day monikers. I gave him a few, but they were hard to come by. Where are the colorful characters who have helped make our interesting, glamorous sport?
The same day I picked up a racing periodical and observed their list of ten leaders to follow. This prophetic selection of ten individuals in the racing industry would seek to provide us with leaders who would have an affect on the future. All but one of these were dry, technical and corporate types dedicated to gaming, simulcasting and other board room oriented activities.
The next day a reporter from the New York Daily News called to see if I thought it would be a major blow to racing if Aqueduct was closed. The never ending struggle between the State and New York Racing Association concerning the franchise to conduct racing spawned this idea. This man brought up the fact that Aqueduct was no longer host to the great races of the past – as Belmont and Saratoga still are. I agreed that winter racing at Aqueduct hardly conjured up images of the glory days of the American turf. It is a bit like watching paint dry.
Then too, we are chagrined that the recent winner of the Kentucky Derby and a close second in the Preakness opted not even to contest one of our great Triple Crown fixtures – the Belmont. Recently, Invasor, perhaps the world’s greatest horse, broke down in a workout and for very legitimate reasons will now go to stud. Surely Classic winners Street Sense and Hard Spun will go to stud at the end of their three-year-old year. This means some of our greatest stars will be leaving the racing scene, lured away by commercial stud farms.
Thank goodness for Rags to Riches, that brilliant filly put a little of the juice back in the game when she won the Belmont. Thank goodness also for Lava Man, the Tin Man, Evening Attire and the other old time gelded campaigners who keep slugging away and bringing the people out to see them.
Thank goodness for the true, passionate racing people who are still in the game, the people whose sporting blood has not congealed.