While the Turk does not pretend to be an industry expert or insider, he does have plenty of opinions on the continuing decline in interest with horse racing and the plunging level of exposure the sport receives in the media. This troubles the Turk deeply and he wonders if the little Turk will still have a sport to blog about one day.
I akin Horse Racing to College Football. In College Football, the fans are rapid about the institution of a particular program. LSU, Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State...It doesn't matter the names on the back of the jerseys, it's about the program that those jerseys represent.
I think it can and should be the same with Horse Racing. We will never see the days again when our equine heroes race as much as they did in the past. We have these animals for a few months of their 2yo careers, their 3yo seasons, and then many of them are gone. I loved a horse last year named Hard Spun. Most of you have heard of him. He was a tough horse, not the best 3yo in 2007, but game and arguably the forth best 3yo behind Curlin, Rags to Riches and Street Sense. To build momentum in the national media behind a star who has an 18 month career just isn't going to work. I don't need to work on Madison Avenue to understand that.
My analogy creates institutions around the great tracks. It creates rivalry races with champions from different meets. It creates intuitions out of our great breeders, our great owners, our great trainers, and our great jockeys. These are the people and those tracks are the places that endure year in an year out. Until the general public is enthralled by something they can follow, the sport will always be a curiosity in our current cultural environment.
I know this is a simplification, but complicated issues must be solved by a series of simple premises that are built upon each other. Sooner or later the greater good of the industry must be addressed by the various factions involved. It may take a forced participation, similar to a union that must be joined. A union makes decisions for the best of all employees (in therory), not just one individual. Owners/Trainers/Track Owners/Breeders must be joined to some greater common good eventually.
Which leads me back to Hard Spun. Hard Spun's trainer, Larry Jones, announced in late September that he hoped to be retired from racing by after the 2009 Breeders Cup. Larry is one of the true colorful trainers in the business today. Likeable and genuine in a way that is endearing to race fans. How many of you wished he trained Big Brown? I know I do. It's a true shame because losing Larry is our loss, a national exposure trainer that the media liked and looked to for marketing. The death of his filly Eight Belles is a real-life Greek tragedy, and Larry wore the episode on his sleeve. I can't imagine what he went through this year, with the scrutiny of outsiders to our industry questioning his methods, his motivations, his ethics.
The Turk knows there are no easy answers. The Turk also knows that our passion is an ostrich with its head in the ground hoping that bad times go away. There has to be people who place the industry over their own personal wealth and good. I don't know if that person or persons exist. What I do know is we are about to lose one of my favorite trainers and someone I had hoped would be a year in and out challenger to the best races for a long time.
Don't stay away too long Larry.