The sport of horse racing, at all levels, is suffering from a massive inferiority complex which has resulted in a pronounced and ongoing defensive posture that may well lead to the continuation of a string of bad decisions which, if allowed to persist, could bring about the end of horse racing in every state not named Kentucky.
More than a decade ago, when Racing Twitter was in its infancy, a character in some boring TV show mentioned how his dad used to take him to Belmont Park when he was a kid. Within minutes, Racing Twitter blew up. “Is anyone watching (insert TV show here)? They just mentioned Belmont Park!!!” the tweets boasted. It was as if racing fans needed to celebrate that they were not alone in this world. Other people beyond the bounds of Racing Twitter had actually heard of horse racing. It was time to celebrate. That HBO show “Luck” brought about a similar response from racing people. As hokey and nonsensical as that show may have been, at least horse racing was part of the mainstream now, right? Every episode was discussed ad infinitum because racing fans loved to see their sport front and center beyond the Triple Crown, if only for a short time. Racing fans were starved for validation, and they’d take whatever they could get from the non-racing world, like a dorky kid who draws a smile from a pretty girl for the first time. People who loved the sport were so touched that someone, anyone, from the “outside” was even aware that the sport existed, that Racing Twitter could be counted on to wake up and chronical even the most casual of racing references noticed in the mainstream.
The above examples illustrate, at least to me, what is at the core of this sport’s problem as it seeks to address the recent negative press related to horse deaths. And in my opinion, the window of opportunity to handle this issue properly and in a manner that will lead to horse racing’s survival in America is getting narrower and narrower. Addressing this issue defensively will not bring about the result that the sport wants.
Nether Dianne Feinstein nor Gavin Newsom give any kind of a crap about the welfare of horses. They care about the same thing that nearly all politicians care about: pandering to the people whose votes they count on. Without turning this into a political post, allow me to say that there is a certain segment of the American population that feels as if it has been losing continuously in recent years. This segment is the same group (more or less) that successfully ended dog racing in Florida, the state in which I have the misfortune of living right now. The abolition of dog racing was a “win” for people who desperately needed one. It allowed them to feel virtuous and powerful at a time when they have felt no power at all. Nor have their attempts to virtue signal brought about other such guilt-inspired changes they’ve cried for which are completely unrelated to animals. Again, I’ll resist the urge to pontificate further here. But suffice it to say, guilt is a powerful thing. And some politicians have mastered the art of turning guilt into votes. In the case of horse racing, sanctimonious frauds like Feinstein and Newsom have the attention of voters who care about something. And all the defensive measures in the world won’t convince them to drop it. Even eliminating whips and switching to synthetic racing surfaces won’t stop it. If politicians feel they can win votes by tapping into the guilt chip embedded in enough brains of registered voters, I assure you, they will do exactly that. And the same goes for the gentle, intellectual, I’m-guilty-because-I’m-human-and-humans-are-inherently-evil crowd. You think they’re going to stop virtue signaling because whips are banned? Or because Santa Anita replaced dirt with a safer surface? Hell no they won’t. They’ll become emboldened and they’ll cry for more. And the louder they cry, the harder their elected officials will pretend to agree with them.
So here is what I suggest, and it’s a two-pronged approach.
First, the powers-that-be in the sport of horse racing need to immediately abandon not only the defensive posture they’ve taken, but also the feelings of inferiority they have felt as a result of being part of a sport that ultimately, not that many Americans care about. When you long to be liked, it’s natural to want to please others. I understand that. But this sport needs to stop caring about being liked by outsiders. Stand up and tell those pretending to care more about animals than humans to shut their stupid mouths and recognize that no one is trying to ban household pets even though tons of them die in accidents every year as humans breed them for what is essentially our own selfishness. I mean, when a pet dog gets hit by a car, does Dianne Feinstein call for the end of the pet industry? Wasn’t that dog born for the sole purpose of providing joy to some family in Palo Alto or some other sanctuary city? If you love animals and hate humans because secretly you hate yourself, shouldn’t you seek to prevent all unnecessary animal deaths by fighting for the banning of pets? Additionally, let’s work on being an attractive gambling option and generating more revenue. Try lowering takeout, even if it means you have to take a short-term hit in revenue in favor of a long-term increase in profitability. I know, I know. You don’t want to be the guy who has to explain to the board of directors that revenue is down. You’re gutless and you don’t believe in your ability to demonstrate that a smaller slice of a bigger pie means more pie for you and the shareholders, even if it takes a couple of years. Learn to believe in yourself. You can do it. I believe in you.
Second, figure out how to buy political influence. I am not totally sure exactly how the NTRA works or if they are even the right people for the job. But someone in control of the money needs to make sure that the sport of horse racing has the key elected officials in its pocket. I don’t think this is an issue in Kentucky since I’m pretty sure half of the politicians in that state are financially connected to the horse racing industry. But for the sake of people who want to see racing survive beyond the Bluegrass State, figure out how to buy influence. It can’t be that hard.
The people who seek to end horse racing are impossible to win over. So don’t even try. It’s an exercise in futility and you’ll just end up lighter in the wallet and frustrated. Learn to be assholes. Fight back. All this sport can do is try its best, and I believe it’s doing just that when it comes to the safety of horses. Succumbing to the demands of virtue signalers is a recipe for nothing more than a prolonged death sentence. Because they won’t stop until the blood they smell has been completely drained from the body of the sport that I love.
Proceed with confidence. This is a great sport. Get off your heels and on your toes.