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Monday, June 25, 2007

Tale of Two Retirements

- In some ways, I'm far more upset about the retirement of Scat Daddy than that of Invasor. Of course, the loss of the champ is far more significant to the game, and potentially a cruel blow in the short run considering the disheveled state of the handicap division. But I feel mostly disappointment rather than anger. He was back racing at five after all, whatever the motive, and even though he perhaps could have come back, I don't think you can really question the decision give the nature of the injury, and the fact he'd had a similar one in the past.

I also don't really know what else he would, or could have proven in his last three scheduled races, the Suburban, Woodward, and Classic. He didn't figure to be remotely challenged unless and until one or more of the three-year olds were able to step up late in the season at Monmouth. In another era, all that would have been left was for him to carry 136 pounds and give away 12 to 20 pounds or so to talented thoroughbreds. We won't be seeing that again anytime soon.

Scat Daddy had become one of the forgotten three-year olds as Street Sense, Curlin, Rags to Riches, and, OK, Hard Spun took center stage in the Triple Crown races. Something obviously went wrong in the Derby, and indeed, Pletcher made a case that it was in that race that he originally sustained his current injury. If you throw out his two races at Churchill, his record was pretty damn good - seven races, two Grade 1 wins, two Grade 2 wins, and two in the money finishes in graded stakes. He showed versatility, and a helluva lot of heart, as he demonstrated in the Fountain of Youth.

So his retirement is frustrating on several accounts. For one thing, he's not badly hurt; 90 days rest is what Pletcher said he would need.

We also don't know how good he could have been; and given his record, he could have been pretty good. We've recently seen examples of three-year olds who failed badly on the Derby Trail go on to improve enough to be players in the handicap division; Flashy Bull and Hesanoldsalt come to mind. Most, and I say, most horses that are on the Derby Trail are there because they've shown some serious ability. Just because they're not really ready for the Triple Crown route doesn't mean they won't develop as they mature into four-year olds. Horses like the two mentioned above remind one that three-year olds in the spring are still very young horses. And since Scat Daddy did a lot more than just show potential, it's a pity that we won't see him as a mature racehorse.

But what angers me the most is way the retirement was announced.

"Our vets told us he would need 90 days rest, so we would have run out of time to get him back for the major races this year, and the decision was made to retire him to stud." [DRF]
Personally, I would have preferred that they just lied, and said he had a career ending injury; it certainly wouldn't be the first time. This way is just so straightforward and cold. 'There's nothing seriously wrong but we're just gonna go ahead cash in at stud...Thanks for stopping by,' is basically what the connections are saying. Better for them to just go through the motions, make something up, and at least make an attempt to make it seem like something other than the outright self-serving money grab that it is. It feels like a big screw you to the fans and the sport. This just a couple of weeks after part-owners Smith and Tabor gave us Rags to Riches in the Belmont out of their "sporting nature." Maybe they just wanted to remind us that it's all about the money after all.


Anonymous said...

Love your blog, but I think you're being a bit harsh here. 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) 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.


Lenny said...

Scat Daddy's retirement is a joke. First of all he is not bred all that well. Johannesburg was a turf horse that was best up to 1 1/16 miles. Scat Daddy won at 1 1/8 miles but earned mediocre speed figures. He was probably best up to 1 1/16 miles just like his sire. Secondly do the connections really need the money? They already have Fusaichi Pegasus and Giant's Causeway in America and Montjeu and Sadler's Wells in Ireland. Those four generate more money each year then some countries.

This retirement further proves the need for a minimum age requirement for breeding. A horse should not be allowed to breed until they are 6 years old. This would keep horses in training longer, at the very least through the four year old season. How hard could it be to enforce this rule? The Jockey Club and the sales companies could simply say that any horse who's sire is less the 6 at the time of conception will not be allowed to run in the United States. Would this hurt the sales companies in the short term? Yes, but in the long run they would benefit. This rule might also force breeders to breed for more stamina. Is this wishful thinking on my part? Most likely, but it seems like a logical decision that would benefit the sport on more ways then one.