Forcibly liberated from Rangers hockey for the season and still uninspired by this year's Derby, I went out to see the Scottish band Mogwai last night at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, a fine and relatively new space in Brooklyn. Playing mostly instrumentals, this band pounds out down-tempo "post-rock" dirges; quite epic and melodramatic in nature, a natural progression I suppose for a kid who counted King Crimson and Procol Harum amongst his faves back in the day. Loud, tight, and intense with a wall of guitars and a rumbling bass. Great show; their latest album is available on Matador.
While awaiting the band's appearance, I overheard a conversation about the Kentucky Derby, surprise surprise. They were talking about mint juleps, and I think they were planning to go to the Bell House, also in Brooklyn, where the official Derby drink is free from 5 until 6!! Free!!! Yeah, they're probably in little shot glasses, but who's to complain for free!?
I knew they weren't real fans, because they referred to the favorite as He Wants Revenge. But it's always nice to see the sport drift, if ever so slightly, into the mainstream this time of year. Reader RG alerts us to a special on CNBC tonight. There's a long article on Larry Jones in this week's issue of The New Yorker (registration required to read the entire article). The first part is worth reading - it discusses how Rick Porter chose Jones and describes his unorthodox training methods. But then it moves into a detailed recounting of the Eight Belles disaster, so I didn't bother going through the rest. The Book Bench, a New Yorker blog, has a piece on Five Splendid Books for Derby Day (though the Racing Form will generally suffice for me).
And then we have on the front page of the New York Times, Joe Drape's article with the headline Despite Outcry, Derby Owners Fall Silent on Drugs for Horses, complete with a photo of a horse with notations of which drugs work their magic where. The Paper of Record continues its year-long assault on the racing industry.
Of the 20 owners or their trainers who as of Monday intended to run a horse in the Derby, only three shared their veterinary records with The New York Times.Well, if I was a trainer administering legal medication to my horse, I wouldn't tell Drape about it either. Not a matter of hiding anything given the fact that we're talking about permissible medication. But why would I give away my trade secrets like that? (And I'd have to believe that the guy who said he was protecting his horse's privacy had to be putting him on.)
The 17 owners unwilling to show the records offered a variety of reasons for their refusal. Some talked about competitive pressures, and one trainer cited his horse’s privacy.
David Lanzman, co-owner of the Derby favorite, I Want Revenge, referred the inquiry to his trainer, Jeff Mullins. “I’m a mortgage banker,” Lanzman said. “I don’t know what goes on back there.” Mullins declined to provide the records.
The owners’ responses make it impossible to tell what practices even racing’s most prominent and accomplished people follow when using chemistry to improve their horses’ performance. [NY Times]
Here again is a case of the press commenting dispassionately on a controversy that it played a major role in creating, like the reports we read about the "circus" that Governor Paterson created over his Senate selection, when it was that press itself which mostly created it. The Times, with its William C. Rhoden columns and Drape's reporting on Rick Dutrow, played a major role in the "outcry" that Drape cites - and over what? I don't want to sound cold and unfeeling here, but let's be objective - one dead horse in 134 years of Kentucky Derbies is really hardly newsworthy at all, the obvious and understandable melancholy and tragic effects on its connections and lovers of the sport and breed aside. And the big fuss over Dutrow and Big Brown was over a drug which was perfectly legal at the time, and which had nothing to do with Eight Belles at all. Yes, it's certainly a concern that, as noted in the article, the death rate for racehorses in this country far exceeds those overseas. But that's way old news, and does it really warrant a front page story in the New York Times?