The big news this weekend - excluding the Derby preps - was that California Chrome is off to jolly old England to race at the Ascot meet. This caused some major consternation on the twitter box; mainly, I think, due to the fact that trainer Art Sherman will not be handling the horse.
But it's more than that. Others think this decision - in a sport that tends to treat horses like this as some sort of managed 401k - is batty. For the record, I would not go to England with California Chrome, I would go back home. But 1) I don't own him and 2) Who cares.
The handling of California Chrome was destined to be different in the first place. This is not an ownership crew whose main goal is to maximize stud value, or do what others before them were expected to do. They don't seem to care what the high foreheads say they should do, either. What they are doing, it seems, is taking advantage of what this cool horse allows them to take advantage of. They want to go to different places with him and see the world; experience other racetracks, people.
In the 1980's there was a cool horse named Cam Fella. He traveled from harness track to harness track as a four year old, taking on every horse who wanted to race. During his 28 race win streak he visited the east coast, the west coast and places in between. He raced match races; just about everything.
The owners were not your regular star horse harness owners either, just like Chrome's owners aren't. These folks traveled on a bus - the "Cam Fella Express" - and invited fans along for the ride. If you liked Cam Fella and wanted to watch him race, the owners were your tour guides, and chances are you were enjoying a post race beer with them and Cam while getting his bath.
Really, isn't that what racing is supposed to be about? Isn't that the big tent racing needs to survive?
I realize that California Chrome could not command big value at stud last year. And I realize that the method of operation in horse racing dogma (MOOIHRD ®) when that happens says they should try and win as many grade I's without facing Shared Belief as a four year old. Trust me, I get it. But, isn't it refreshing they want to actually have fun with their horse, making memories that will last forever?
I hope California Chrome does well in England. I will be pulling for him.
Solid tweet today from Joe:
47 years ago today New York raised takeout rate from 15 to 16% for both breeds. Harness drivers threatened to strike over distribution of 1%Notice that the drivers were upset about where the increased revenue would go. That's the thinking that permeated the sport, because it was a monopoly: When monopolies raise margins, it does mean more money. That's why they're regulated. However, it's not like that any longer, but that thinking is still here: Raise takeout, make more money. It fascinates me to no end that a lot in the sport still think they are playing on Baltic Avenue.
— Joe FitzGerald (@Jaf3Joe) March 30, 2015
The thinking that drives that thinking, is the racing gene. Racing is guided by the lizard brain:
"Racing doesn’t guide with rules based on principle, it molds rules to mollify. It doesn’t make
decisions, it delegates. It doesn’t lead - realizing there will be winners and losers with any new policy - it searches for consensus, until the new policy is so watered down it has nary any effect at all.
It’s why declining foal crops are still declining, despite purses at or near record levels. It’s why when handles crater, it’s the economy, or table games, or sports betting, or the lotteries fault. It’s why the words “we can’t” are not challenged inside the ropes of the tribe, they’re embraced like a warm blanket, or a hot cup of tea on a cold day."
To read the entire column, it's on page 6 pdf here.
Enjoy your Monday everyone.