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Friday, November 10, 2006

Trash Blogging

- Reader weegee writes in regarding Andy Beyer's column last week in the Daily Racing Form in which he accused Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum and family of "checkbook horsemanship," and the ensuing reaction by Shadwell's Rick Nichols in labelling the piece "trash journalism." As weegee notes, Ray Kerrison in the NY Post reports that Darley reportedly responded by withdrawing their advertising from the paper. I haven't read anything about Haskin's comments being suppressed by Bloodhorse; I'd be interested in seeing any information anyone may have about that. You can email me here.

I found the reaction to Beyer's column (there goes my chances of landing a banner ad from Godolphin) to be more noteworthy than the piece itself, which I found rather routine. We've been reading for years in sports about controversy over professional teams that try to buy championships and, as Steve Crist noted in his recent take on the spat, there's been similar grousing in the past in racing about Calumet and the patrons of Wayne Lukas. I thought that the best part of Beyer's column was that regarding the lack of human interest associated with owners such as these. ("You've won the Kentucky Derby, Sheikh!" - hehe)

The howling by Kentucky horsemen, flush from the Keeneland yearling sales during which the Maktoums spent over $70 million in the first two days, over the column was expected. Indeed, Geoffrey Russell, the director of sales at Keeneland, was recently quoted during the ongoing November breeding stock sale as saying that "..we'd love to have those two 747's parked at the airport." Horsemen there cite the Sheikh's charitable activities, and that is indeed commendable, but as John Pricci points out in a column on today that is perhaps even more critical than Beyer's, we’d be less than candid if we didn’t acknowledge that it’s good PR, too. Whatsmore, it seems to me that some are engaging in rationalization for the obscene sums they are receiving for their produce.

And I'd be less than candid if I didn't point out that the same magnanimous Sheikh is the subject of a lawsuit filed in this country for allegedly trafficking and employing kidnapped youths as young as four as camel jockeys, calling it "one of the greatest humanitarian crimes of the last 50 years."

As for the reaction from the Sheikh's camp, we know that they are interested in dominance of American racing, but he better get used to freedom of the press, which is an evolving process in the United Arab Emirates.

On the other hand, this is a free country, the Maktoums are free to spend their money as they wish, and there are certainly many beneficiaries here who I don't wish to begrudge for their good fortune. But the key question that Beyer raised is whether they are ultimately good for the game. A decision on Bernardini other than retirement would have gone a long way towards the argument that they are. Bringing him back to race at four would have done nothing to put even a dent in the Sheikh's vast finances, even if disaster struck, and would have shown that he is truly the great sportsman that his supporters make him out to be. There's no reason for this retirement other than the bottom line, and while there is no faulting the folks in Kentucky for considering theirs as well, the long term future of the sport lies more with great horses running in great races against each other over a period of time than in $11 million yearlings. To the end of the former, the Sheikh is only giving us brief glimpses before hauling them off for his own greedy purposes. And there's nothing sporting about that.

- Pricci also notes Bernardini being ill-prepared for the challenge presented by Invasor in the stretch, writing: Javier Castellano appeared more interested in styling and index-finger pointing than preparing his mount for the tougher challenges to come this fall. OUCH!

- There's a different take on the Beyer flap in the UK's Times Online that the SuperfectaBlog beat me to in this excellent post; the Times' columnist claims that the Maktoums have invigorated the sport on a global scale, with a positive knock-on effect for Britain.


Anonymous said...

You can try this link to the forum:

Paulick ordered the Haskin article removed.

Patrick J Patten said...

i got a link to the hasking article from the google cache, love those guys' storage, link up on my blog

Alan Mann said...

Here's the link to the original story, and it just produces a blank:

Alan Mann said...

Thanks Patrick. Paulick would pull the article because of that??

Anonymous said...

Hey Guys,
Did anyone ever hear any more about Ian Jory's (I think) allegations about some horses being drugged before the world cup last year. I think it was invasors race. Just curious, I had read something about it at the time, but heard nothing sense. thanks Byanose

Anonymous said...

The two horses involved were Simpatico Bribon (the favorite) and Gold For Sale, who i believe was the third choice. No allegations were ever made regarding Invasor. And no, i haven't heard anything about it for a long, long time. The whole thing seemed to get swept under the rug.