Two Cents

by Ed Meyer

posted on December 24, 2008 in General Discussion | No Comments >>

Arrogance, old fashioned haughtiness (of the full-to-the-eyeballs-with-hubris variety), prominently displayed itself this past week, screaming loudly to anybody who would listen (and many did). It should be regarded as one of the conspicuous symptoms of horse racing’s poor health.

The first example was supplied by Michael Iavarone, the co-president of IEAH Stables. In a television interview, he said Big Brown’s loss, or surrender, in the Belmont Stakes cost his group somewhere between $50 million and $60 million. As a Triple Crown winner, Big Brown, he said, would have commanded a stud fee of $300,000.

That set off the old flapdoodle alert. Is Iavarone ignorant not just of the breeding industry but also of the economic downturn of the last six months? Or is he just so arrogant, so feverish with hubris, that he actually believes such flapdoodle? Or does he just want others to believe it? In this market, A.P. Indy doesn’t stand for $300,000.

The Breeders’ Cup supplied the second example when it announced it wouldn’t continue its program of supplementing stakes purses around the country. Never mind that the Breeders’ Cup later reversed itself; the damage was done. And it suggested that the Breeders’ Cup board members would find it easier to empathize with Babar, King of the Elephants, than with the average horseman. And what was the Breeders’ Cup doing putting its money in common stock anyway?

And then there was the Kentucky task force on horse racing that recommended increasing the takeout. The recommendation sounded a little like “Let them eat cake.” The worst thing anybody could do for horse racing right now would be to increase prices, and that includes takeout.

Anyway, most of horse racing’s problems can be traced to the sport’s inability, or refusal, to answer correctly the essential question: Why do horses race? They don’t race just for you, or just for the board members or task force folks.

No, horses race for the lords and ladies of the grandstand who push their money through the windows and who express their full-throated support with each turbulent race to the wire.