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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Notes - June 26

- Reader Bit Player feels I'm being too harsh on Scat Daddy's owners.

If Tabor et al thought that Scat Daddy was an early bloomer who didn't beat much in Florida, had been bypassed Beyerwise by the leaders of his generation, was never going to catch up, and would only decline in value with more racing, you couldn't really expect them to put that in a press release for broodmare owners everywhere to read. Add in that his issue was a tendon, which might flare up again when they put him back in training and the decision makes sense. Thoroughbred ownership is an expensive game (see Highland Cat) [OUCH! - ed.] and if you don't let the rare winners pay for all of the losers (see The Green Monkey), you'll be out of it in a hurry.
These points are all completely fair. As fans who so dearly love the sport and only want to see what's best for it (and not have to pay for mistakes like The Green Monkey), it's easy to get frustrated and angry, and forget that yes, this is a business. Those who put up their money at considerable risk are certainly entitled to make prudent business decisions; and the reader lays out rationale which seems perfectly logical, even if, as Lenny points out, four of the owners' current sires generate more money each year than some countries. Business is business, after all.

So perhaps the answer is indeed to change the business model that these decisions are based on so that they no longer are prudent ones. Lenny suggests a minimum age for stallions, Bill Finley proposed writing conditions for major races that would specify a minimum age of its runners' stallions. Increasing purses to provide a financial incentive to keep horses in training might help; and working towards making those tracks safe, whether real or synthetic, would reduce the risk of a catastrophic injury. These, and any other ideas, should be fully explored, because I believe that keeping horses on the track and thereby establishing some name recognition and rivalries that casual fans can relate to is crucial to growing the game's popularity.

Again, I think what really annoyed me about this one is the casual way it was announced. I was only half-kidding when I wrote that I'd prefer if they lied and said that Scat Daddy had an injury that would prevent him from racing. I used to sense more guilt on the part of owners who rushed their horses off to stud, usually in the form of the fake injury, or by issuing no elaboration on the reason at all. Just maybe, a sense that they'd be doing wrong by the sport has contributed to some horses staying in training even for the short time that they have. Perhaps that's at least partly why Discreet Cat is (allegedly) coming back, and why Street Sense is too - does Darley really have anything to gain at this point by permitting the latter to race this fall? Isn't the tag of Juvenile and Derby winner in itself far far more than sufficient to commence a lucrative stud career?

Winstar was the first outfit that I noticed being so completely shameless in this matter when they started running stud ads for Bluegrass Cat last summer before his retirement was even announced. Now, by being so damn honest, I fear that Smith/Tabor are contributing to a feeling that it's OK to retire your horse to stud at three; that it's no longer the least bit taboo, and y'know what, we're not even going to bother inventing an excuse for it.

- Here's an interesting article on the aforementioned The Green Monkey that ran recently on Ireland's Check out these comments by one of Pletcher's assistants:
Tristan Berry, an assistant trainer with Pletcher, said The Green Monkey's problems go beyond an aggravated glutteal muscle cited as the horse's most recent setback or any other physical ailments.

"For $16m, you'd expect a wow every time he'd breeze, and he never did it for me," Berry said recently. "And I don't know why that would be."
"The horse really didn't have any problems," Berry said. "He just didn't show to be fast enough to run in a maiden race where he was going to win. And if you were going to run him, that would have been the only result that would have been good enough." [Independent]
That's quite a bit of candor, probably a lot more than the horse's owners would like to see from one of their trainer's employees!

- A commenter at Pulling Hair suggests that the explanation of Scat Daddy's retirement was a lie: I think the 90 days is spin. From the reports I've received, the horse is crippled. Now, as opposed to a relatively harmless white lie, that, if true, would be a malicious lie, designed to deceive broodmare owners who think they are breeding to a sound colt.


Patrick J Patten said...

thanks for the link, the anonymity of the internet is a beautiful thing. as i said on my blog though i don't know why they'd sugar coat a bad injury unless it was something they thought was genetic. all around this game gets shadier and shadier, and that's not a good thing.

Jim L said...

Biancone under the microscope in KY.

Didn't he get banned in Hong Kong years back?

Hawken said...

I don't think we should spend too much time or energy speculating on the "reports" received by some anonymous poster. For all we know, he's getting his reports telepathically from Scat Daddy himself!

Nellie said...

I saw his retirement from a 'mild' injury coming a mile away when I got Coolmore's book in the mail. He has a very glossy two page spread, along with Circular Quay. And the back says: And they're both on their way back to Ashford, too.

The way I see it, they kind of have to find a way to retire them before they really screw up or prove that they're unsound, because they've already advertised them as being the next gods of the breeding shed.

I think Lawyer Ron is going to be yanked soon, too - he's receiving advertising already ('for 2008'), and haven't his recent (non-winning, but still not horrible) performances put his career in danger? I remember there being some legal thing where he only runs as long as he's still winning (or placing, at least - two non-win/place showings and he's off to the shed) - but haven't heard anything since, maybe they've resolved it and have agreed to let him run through the year?

Superfecta said...

At least Lawyer Ron has some exciting legal problems to fall back on as his excuse if he heads off to the shed in the near future -- that's getting to be a complicated story too.