- In the bipartisan spirit of Election Day (ha), I think I'm going to stay mostly out of this discussion going on regarding Pine Island in particular, and breakdowns in general. I think both sides' hearts are in the right place and each makes valid points, though in my opinion, I think each of them is rather extreme. Though I'm sure there are a number of people who have ceased being fans because of such incidents, I wouldn't blame that for attendance declines. But I think that an accident such as Saturday's is worth more than 30 seconds of comtemplation.
I say the latter partly because of the early - and let's emphasize early - promise of synthetic surfaces in reducing such breakdowns, which will never be totally eliminated. As long as there's something that can be done, I think it's worth discussing.
One topic about which I'm getting to the point where I don't want to spend more than 30 seconds on is stories such as the retirement of Bernardini. As long as there's such big money involved in breeding, this is something that's never going to change. Yesterday at the Keeneland November sale, over $6 million was paid for Half Ours, an undefeated (2-for2) two year old who hasn't been sound enough to run in over a year. It wasn't because the buyer has visions of winning the Donn Handicap...except as a means to an end. "We hope to win a grade I with him and then stand him at stud." [Bloodhorse] $6 million for Madcap Escapade; $3.4 million for Sharp Lisa, who isn't even all that great.
This is the game now, and we can beat our heads about it all we want, but it doesn't seem worth the bother as long as the financial incentives are what they are.
But in the case of Bernardini and Henny Hughes, I can't help it. Check out this quote from Darley's Dan Pride:
"These are the supreme Thoroughbreds of their generation and each bested older horses, too....They are well-bred and exceptionally attractive. They were not only brilliant, but they came back for more time and again."For one thing, we can count the number of older horses Henny Hughes beat on the fingers of one hand. But - "they came back for more time and again?" More what? Rest? Hay? Jeez man, you gotta be kidding me!!
OK, there's my 30 seconds on that. Time to move on.
Overshadowed by the news is the surprising and welcome word that Invasor will be back, and pointed to Dubai. Will he get a rematch with Discreet Cat there? Sign me up for the Sheikh Hamdan Fan Club:
“Breeding is a big part of what we do here at Shadwell, but it’s all about producing good horses. The horse can be bred at any time. To get a horse of his ability is not something that happens frequently. It came down to not retiring him while he is at the peak of his career.” [NY Times]We do hear such sentiments from time to time, but not generally regarding a four-year old non-gelded winner of the Classic.
- Pine Island was buried on Monday at Claiborne Farm.
- Reader Green Mountain Punter passed on this article from the Saratogian that has some history of NYRA's battles with the state, and specifically, about the agreement that has led the state to believe that they own the land. In the early 1980's, NYRA accepted a provision by then Speaker Stanley Fink that the state could take possession of the tracks upon termination of the association's existence; this in return for a 15-year extension of the franchise.
At the time, the late Alfred G. Vanderbilt told me of his worry that NYRA, led by [former president Gerald] McKeon and board chairman Tom Bancroft, would accept the Fink demand.Soon, a New York bankruptcy court will no doubt get to rule on just that.
Vanderbilt, a former board chairman and one of the sport's greatest patrons, defended NYRA's ownership and said he was willing to lose the betting license and keep the properties, rather than the other way around.
But NYRA accepted the Fink provision, a regrettable decision that state leaders today cite in their contention that they own the tracks.
However, in its Fall 2004 issue, the New York State Bar Association's Government, Law and Policy Journal raised the question of whether or not the state acted constitutionally with the Fink demand.
- Please feel free to email me links to stories, as well as comments, questions, and suggestions.