Leading to the Breeders’ Cup Classic there was a swirl of good humor, sweet talk, and the best is yet to come. They loaded into the gate, the odds are clicking, and human connections have their fingers crossed. The racing world watches with shallow breath, the bell rings and the gates break open. “Annd They’re Offfff!!”
Racing can be a fickle bitch. One minute she’s your best girl, and the next she’s dating the quarterback. I wish we could look into the crystal ball and find the answers. Oh wait, here it is… I’ll just dust it off and seek divine interpretation from the racing gods. I begin by dropping my losing tickets into the caldron of truth, and the flames of knowledge summon voices from beyond. POOF! “Racing fan, what truth do you seek? How can the gods of all things racing help you? ” – ” In the Breeders’ Cup Classic, did the right thing happen, or should there have been some action to switch the results?” – “Racing fan, you will be visited by ghosts of the past to answer any and all questions. But remember, there will be no second-guessing, and all decisions are final.” The room went dark and thick smoke rolled in . It had an eerie feeling, but one that felt familiar.
As the smoke parted, the first visitor came into focus.
Eddie Arcaro = “I know you’re sore about the start of the race, but do you know what it was called in my day? It was called race riding. How many times have you went to the windows to cash a ticket that you know should have been taken down? Plenty. But that’s all good if you’re on the right end, huh? Let me tell you how many times I was shut off, blocked, or struck by another rider’s whip. How about when you’re shooting through a hole and it closes to squeeze you against the old wooden rail. I have splinters in my ass and still I continued to ride. But let me tell you, how about stepping on another rider’s iron coming around the turn away from the judges view? Or, drifting out a smidge near the wire keeping your fast closing runner in check? That’s the game, and if you don’t like it, bingo is down the street. But, they have three balls missing from the hopper, and they are yours.” His image began to fade into the mist, and the thick smoke rolled in again. As the smoke filled the room, two figures came into focus, and they sounded like they were going to fight. I was getting scared, as the smoke began to dissipate. Two small figures stood in the mist and they looked pissed.
Don Meade and Herb Fisher = ” We’re the tough guys you see in old time pictures. You know, the 1933 Derby as we were whipping each other and fighting down the lane. Ring a bell now? I bet you thought that was funny, huh – Let us tell you, when Broker’s Tip beat Head Play by a nose, there was plenty of tickets that hit the floor. Back then it was part of the game, and you didn’t bitch after the stewards decision was made. We probably wouldn’t have made it in your day, as there are rules and regulations that cover everything. Kid, here’s the scoop. Get in or get out. It’s final when they post the results. Winners get paid, and losers have a story.” As they faded back into history, I began to understand. All of a sudden there was the sound of booming thunder and I began flying through a portal of time. I was twisting and turning as images of races past swirled around me. – I landed in front of a door, and I reached for the knob and walked in. There before me were some of the best trainers that ever saddled a horse. Sitting in the middle was a gruff looking bald man. He had a stare that could look through steel and a confident swagger. “Were you born in a barn? Then shut the damn door and come in.
There was a long table. – It was the kind you would see in a board room, and there were some men staring at me. Not a word was spoken until the bald man in the center said; “sit down and get comfortable. You’re here seeking knowledge and answers, and sir I plan on letting you know what time it is. I’m the chairman, and I decide on who speaks and when. Allow me to introduce you to the members at the table. At my far left is P.G. Johnson trainer of Volponi, High Schemes, and Quiet Little Table who whipped Forego. Next to Mr. Johnson is my man Mack Miller, legendary trainer of Java Gold, Fit to Fight, and Sea Hero. To my right is the Maryland winning machine Bud “Grover” Delp, and he had a little runner you may remember by the name of Spectacular Bid. Sitting next to Mr. Delp is may be one of the best horsemen I have known. Allow me to introduce you to Robert Frankel, trainer of Ghostzapper, Bertrando, Empire Maker, Ginger Punch, and Aptitude to name just a few. I’m Charlie Whittingham, and if you haven’t heard of my accomplishments, maybe you need to play Keno. Trainers gather here from time-to-time talking horses and watching over the game we dearly loved. We gathered here to set the record straight, and you need to sit back and take it all in.
“First off, the game is not perfect. You can have a thousand judges, stewards, and the 3rd Battalion. Things will be missed, and all decisions will not please everyone. That’s the way it is. – As far as the Breeders’ Cup Classic, there was some bumper-car racing out of the gate. We know all of the players, and some have a valid excuse. But, if you look in the front of your program, there is a line in bold that says; ALL DECISIONS BY THE STEWARDS ARE FINAL AND BINDING TO ALL PARTICIPANTS. That means it’s over and done… Please tell everyone who loves the sport that nothing is perfect, everyone can’t win, and from time-to-time mistakes will be made. This just happened to have a $5 million tag attached. Now, go back and enjoy the beauty, pageantry, and heart pounding action. Enjoy every race like it’s your last, because someday it will be. Go now, and take this knowledge with you. Oh, and before you go, please let the powers-that-be know I am really pissed that Hollywood Park is gone. That place should have been kept, and the rest of the town scrapped. ”
It felt like I had been sleeping for years. I awoke with a passion and purpose. I wanted to go to the races now. I didn’t care if they were cheap claimers or Kentucky Derby runners. I wanted to put this one decision behind me and get on with the game. “Would any decision have made everyone happy? No. It is time to move on, and quit wasting time talking about “what-ifs” and what should have been. There is so much action to see and only a short window to enjoy the beauty.