Complacency in horse racing, now is not the time for that

November 23, 2022

Complacency is the bane of existence. It doesn’t matter what area of life, business, sports, personal, professional… The moment we allow ourselves and others to become complacent is the moment everything goes downhill.

People… Racing has become complacent.

Early retirements are occurring left and right. Some from injury, others when horses are supposedly, completely sound, and not a single person is willing to take steps to prevent this. When Flightline, the brilliant Flightline, was retired after a scant six starts… all I heard was this:

“He’s got nothing left to prove.”

“Who left in this division will beat him next year”

“There’s nothing we can do, he’s their horse and they can do what they want with him.”

If that is our attitude when the stars of our sport are ushered to stud before they can even create a legacy, then we should shut our doors now. Why? Because, without new fans, new blood, this sport will die. Fans can turn into bettors, which provide tracks money. Without money there is no track, which means nowhere to race, leading to no racing.

“But what about slots!!!”

Slots are a temporary stop gap. Take it from a person who lived in Delaware and has seen two tracks struggle, even with slots. Slots are not a be all end all. If they were Delaware Park wouldn’t be struggling to keep purses up and Dover Downs wouldn’t have needed Balley’s to step in and buy them out.

No. We need our stars to stick around.

It’s true, the older division in America is currently weak. No horse, at this point in time would be able to beat Flightline… but we said the same thing about Arrogate in 2016. Then Gun Runner went and became a beast while Arrogate found the one track in the country that he couldn’t handle.

Things Happen.

And even when they don’t we still get treated to seasons like Spectacular Bid’s 4 year old season of sheer dominance. Do you really think fans cared that there was no horse to hold a candle to him? NO! They just were happy to have the chance to SEE him and WITNESS his greatness.

A horse with only six starts does still have plenty to prove. Longevity should still be valued… in racing and in breeding. It is an incredible trait that if allowed to become prevelant will lead to a better, STRONGER breed. Which ultimately is for the good of the horse… Isn’t that what we all want?

Maybe this means stricter breeding standards. Maybe this means we don’t allow horses under a certain age to breed. Maybe we take a hard look at the price gouging of insurance companies, and the effect that some of these therapeutic drugs have on our horses long term. I don’t know, I’m only one piece of the puzzle…

But, what I do know is we can’t keep this mindset of complacency. Not if we want this sport to survive and thrive. We need to expect and demand more. We need to come together and solve this problem… before there is nothing left to solve.

Contributing Authors

Laura Pugh

Laura Pugh

Laura Pugh got her first taste of Thoroughbred racing when she watched War Emblem take the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2002. At that...

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