The 2015 Horse Racing Season in Review

December 23, 2015

As the 2015 horse racing season winds down, I think there are some positive signs to focus on, instead of the usual negativity and problems. Now make no mistake, we still have our issues to resolve, many of them. I surely would like to have seen some get resolved, and some get more traction than they have. Well, there is always next year, and as Eddie Arcaro taught us in The Sport of Kings, never give up. Eddie lost 250 races before his first win. He later became the only rider to win the Triple Crown twice.

That’s actually not my favorite thing about Arcaro. That would have to be his riding. But he did have a quote that rivals some of Yogi’s, (may they both rest in peace) best. When asked by an interviewer once what he would have liked to do had he not been a jockey, Eddie thought for a second and said “I’d like to be the bookie in the jock’s room.”

Hopefully we are somehow moving to a central governing body for racing. Yes, it can be done, yes it’s done in other sports that compete in multiple states. With that I hope comes medication reform, strict penalties for violations, better safeguards to prevent violations, and even a no race day medication environment. I’d like to see the ridiculous and ancient obsolete gambling tax laws, as they relate to horse playing, changed. They’re too ridiculous to even go into. A lot of people laughed at me when I suggested racing under a retractable roof. It’s done in other sports. Danonymous Dan was nice enough to share they have one for the paddock in Hong Kong. It can be done. My tarp idea, like the ones used on baseball fields for turf racing is even better and more feasible. I’d also like to see the Eclipse Award voting public, not anonymous.

I’d also like to see the Eclipse Award voting public, not anonymous.

Jackpot wagers, like the Rainbow 6, and Exchange Wagering when and if it gets here, are going to be game changers. More about that in a future column. Horse racing is the ultimate fantasy sport. I’ve said it for years. You can pick and adjust your stable not only daily, but race by race and profit from it.

It’s tough to say anything negative about the 2015 horse racing season when we had our first Triple Crown winner in 37 years. A deserving one at that, as if there can be an undeserving Triple Crown winner. American Pharoah put an exclamation point on his phenomenal accomplishment by also taking The Breeders’ Cup Classic against the best older horses around. Racing’s not dead.

The Triple Crown is one of the most difficult things to accomplish in sports. Its history and record speak to that. Thank you, American Pharoah, for proving there is nothing wrong with the series and that history does not have to be changed.

I wasn’t going to say anything about the whole Sports Illustrated fiasco, as I didn’t think it was really worth it at the time. A lot of people asked me what I thought; however, so I’ll weigh in briefly. Awards are overrated. What matters is what you do on the racetrack, just like what matters with us players is if we beat the game. I’m pretty confident the breeders and bloodstock agents look at race records and lineage when they mate and set stud fees. I doubt the vox populi, or whatever it’s called, or the Sports Illustrated award mean all that much in the long run. We had a Triple Crown winner. That’s what counts. So we got faked out with a meaningless poll. So they gave it to Serena; it doesn’t matter. They can’t take away what American Pharoah did on the track. I’d have loved to see him win, but again awards are not all they are cracked up to be. After all an Eclipse voter even voted for California Chrome for turf horse a few years back. Anybody hear of Main Sequence?

The only good thing about the whole Sports Illustrated mess was it united horse players. Sure a lot of nonsense was spouted, but it was better than the arguing over who was better, Zenyatta or Rachel Alexandra. At least all the players and fans were on the same side. Most anyway.

There is a lot to look forward to in 2016. The Elite Racing Network debuts Saturday. They have a great concept and team, and it sounds to me like they will be targeting more seasoned players. I think that’s a good thing. It’s great to introduce and educate new fans but it’s also nice to recognize your customers and who helps drive this game and give them a venue to advance their knowledge, ask questions, and exchange ideas. It sounds like Elite will be just such a place while also offering the novice the edge of some expert opinions.

A new magazine, Thoroughbred Today, is coming out. That’s nice to see as most papers are reducing or eliminating their horse racing coverage altogether. Racing’s not dead!

What can be more exciting than some of the horses who are sticking around in 2016? It looks like it will be a great year of competitive racing. We also have some exciting young prospects already emerging.

Perhaps the best news for the 2015 horse racing season brings to our game comes from the barn of Chad Brown. After quite the battle with laminitis, which we chronicled in an earlier article, Lady Eli is not only alive and well, but she’s back with Chad Brown and galloped at Palm Meadows on 12/16. Merry Christmas to all who love the Sport of Kings. What a remarkable job Chad and his team did to accomplish this.

We have lots of new plans and interesting columns planned for 2016. Wishing all of you the healthiest and happiest of holidays.

High Five

Lady Eli, Chad Brown, and his whole team.

Low Five

Are you kidding, it’s Christmas. Everyone gets a pass.

Contributing Authors

Jon Stettin

Jonathan’s always had a deep love and respect for the Sport of Kings. Growing up around the game, he came about as close as anyone...

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Jonathan Stettin is a New York Legend. He's been a Horseplayer, earning his living at the track, since he was 19 years old. @jonathanstettin

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  1. Greg Balabushka Dec 24, 2015 at 12:24 am

    I understand your comments on awards, but… I was a part owner of the 2011 Breeders cup Filly n Mare sprint winner Musical Romance, who also won the eclipse award. Two radomes why the awards were previous to me. I grew up on the streets of Brooklyn and my game was street stickball. Got a tip at age 16 on a horse running at Narragansett who won, and paid $16 ($5 win bet was big back then). Who woulda thought that I could have had the great fortune to be a part owner (rust me, I had nothing to do with picking the horse out of the sale. They said send check, I did, I became part owner, lol). From the streets of a Brooklyn to a breeders cup picture. Also, for the six months before the 2011 BC races I had to put up with my brother-in-law telling everyone that I was nuts n the horse was a pig. So having the last laugh was so so enjoyable. I was also given the great honor to walk MR from the track to the paddock for her last victory race. That picture is in my house, my work, my phone, my iPad etc. I think you get my drift. So I feel so lucky and yes, the awards, the win photos, make it all worthwhile. Would it all be worthwhile without the awards,…..absolutely. But they are just an added pleasure. FYI, I cried winning my first race as an owner. My current count of wins now stands at 77. I am so so lucky.

  2. Debra Pichanick Dec 24, 2015 at 4:14 am

    Well done again Jonathan another great article. I was glad to see we are in agreement
    regarding a need for one central governing body to guide our thoroughbred horse racing industry. I just know this would help weed out some of the the unwanted that gives horse racing a negative image. I have been wondering if starting an online petition to test the waters on this would be the way to start. Any thoughts?

    Yes I agreed American Pharaohs brought excitiment and also positive attedention to the sport of thoroughbred racing. Ok I having a brain freeze. Was the ever triple crown filly?

  3. Don DiBiase Dec 24, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    Enjoyed commentary…..

  4. Jon Stettin Jan 1, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    Great story Greg and thanks for sharing. She was a real nice filly and that was a great race she ran that day. I grew up in Brooklyn too and played my share of stickball. Never dreamed I’d own a racehorse but never won anything like a BC. There’s still time maybe though. The finish line is in front of us.

  5. Jon Stettin Jan 1, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    It always seems to fall on deaf ears with a million excuses. Because racing is multi state and multi jurisdictional is the most common one but so are other sports and they do it. Not yet on a filly Triple Crown winner but Regret, Genuine Risk and Winning Colors won the Derby & Rags to Riches won the Belmont

  6. Jon Stettin Jan 1, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    Thanks Don

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