The Daily Buffet

by Ed Meyer

posted on December 2, 2014 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Horse Racing, | No Comments >>

When you check-in you’ll get a taste of handicapping, behind the scenes happenings, and the day-to-day life in the sport of kings. Yep, just like a buffet, you get a little sample of everything. – Racing is a world within the world, and its never boring. I was reading the sports section about a coach being fired, and how his players found out through an email. I was surprised how this all went down, and got to thinking how lucky racing doesn’t have any “double-secret-probation” moves. Well, after further review, thoroughbred racing is not exempt from being a side dish on the buffet table of the sporting world.

When the coach was fired, you could argue it was a business decision. That’s a tough pill to swallow, but don’t worry about the man. His contract could choke an elephant, and he’ll be back in the game sooner than later. I thought about the suddenness of this move, and it took me back to a couple of horse owners. They had a cheap claimer, and it was their first horse. When the old boy wasn’t winning stakes races, they decided it must be the trainer. Hell, it sure couldn’t be their fault and someone had to be blamed. This happens everyday, but it was their first time in the batter’s box. They paid a big “cowboy” to bring his large horse van to the farm and pick up their horse without notice. They felt he may be mistreated if they called ahead and let him knew they were coming. Well, you could say the trainer was a bit surprised when three big men got out of the van and demanded the horse. The trainer brought the well groomed claimer around and gave him a quick brush and a carrot before turning him over. He had tears in his eyes as he watched the old claimer drive down the road, but life for the trainer went on. He continued to train for awhile, and eventually left the game his grandfather taught him.

The old claimer had a little bit of racing luck for the new barn, but the advice of the first trainer came back to bite them in the butt.  “Claiming horses have cycle of about three months if you’re lucky, and then they’ll need a break,” the sage-like trainer informed the two bone heads. But, they figured if they paid the bills, they must be right… Kinda’ like the University who gave a man his walking papers before he was able to thank his loyal players and wish them well. The horse was retired as jumper, and the two owners argued their way out of the game blaming each other daily. The original trainer retired and took a job in Lexington, Kentucky. He works for one of the biggest farms in the sport, and has supervises the million-dollar foals who will  head to the races.

Thoroughbred racing has moments that make history and others that couldn’t find the waste basket. – I worked for a track that was a leader once upon a time. We couldn’t do anything wrong, and our ideas were the stuff that dreams were made of… Well, that’s what our crew thought for the longest time. As we travelled to Vegas for meetings, the competition was working and building for the future. We heard they had some things going on, but we dismissed their efforts and laughed. But, just like the big University. “We needed to think how this was going to look down the road. The heads you step on today are connected to the butts you’ll have to kiss tomorrow.” We watched as business declined in the double digits, and no matter what we’d try, nothing seem to move the mark. Employees were let go one at a time, and the in-fighting began with the rest of the surviving staff. Eventually, many of us hit the road seeking better opportunities. A small handful from the past stays to this very day, and continue to hang in there fighting the good fight.

We think it’ll never happen to us. People who are affected by hasty decisions and bad practices can be their own worst enemy. It doesn’t matter what you do in life, I’ll bet dollars to donuts you’ll see plenty of events that could’ve been avoided. The big University made it’s decision, and they’ll live with the consequences no matter the outcome. Just like the newbie horse owners and the track staff who felt the party would never end, and there wouldn’t be a bill at the end of the line. The sporting world is not only entertainment, it can serve as a barometer of what is going on in life. Thoroughbred racing needs to stand united and work together and give up celebrating individual gains at the expense of the industry. Once upon a time it was the only game in town, and it was hard to do anything wrong. The times have changed, and survival depends on the ability to be resilient and embracing change.