THE GREATEST PREAKNESS

The late ABC-TV sports announcer and Thoroughbred-horse owner Jim McKay said the 1989 Preakness was “the best race that I have ever witnessed.”  It certainly was the best and closest Preakness in history.

Although Sunday Silence had beaten favored Easy Goer two weeks before in the Kentucky Derby, by 2 ½ lengths, bettors weren’t convinced and made the Ogden Phipps-owned and Shug McGaughey-trained Easy Goer the favorite in the Preakness rematch.  Sunday Silence was trained by Charlie Whittingham and owned by a partnership of Arthur Hancock III, Ernest Gaillard, and Whittingham.

After 6 furlongs in the Preakness, Easy Goer was a head in front on the rail with Sunday Silence to his outside.  Sunday Silence had run into traffic on the backstretch in the eight-horse field, causing his jockey Pat Valenzuela to check him, but the colt showed his tactical speed and caught up with Pat Day and Easy Goer near the top of the stretch.

Down the stretch the two colts dueled, reminiscent of Affirmed and Alydar in the 1977 Belmont Stakes, with each colt briefly getting the lead.  When they crossed the finish line in tandem, Sunday Silence had prevailed by a nose.  Dave Johnson, calling the race on ABC, said he could not tell who had won but Valenzuela was celebrating by waving his whip.  Pat Day made a claim with the stewards that Sunday Silence had interfered with Easy Goer during the stretch run, but the objection was dismissed.

Easy Goer easily beat Sunday Silence in the Belmont but Sunday Silence bested Easy Goer by a neck in the 1989 Breeders’ Cup Classic.  Sunday Silence was retired and sold to stand at stud in Japan.

On Kentucky Derby day 2018, the 2000 Guineas—the first leg of the English Triple Crown at Newmarket—was won by Saxon Warrior, a Japanese-bred grandson of Sunday Silence.

Copyright © 2018 Horse Racing Business

Click here to relive the 1989 Preakness.

U. S. SUPREME COURT STRIKES DOWN SPORTS-BETTING BAN

On Monday (May 14, 2018), the U. S. Supreme Court struck down a 1992 federal law (The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act) that prohibited states from offering sports betting, with the exceptions of Delaware, Montana, Nevada, and Oregon, which prior to 1992 had laws allowing sports betting.

In 2011, New Jersey voters challenged the 1992 ban by approving sports betting.  The New Jersey law was contested in the federal court system by the NCAA and the four major professional sports leagues.  By contrast, seventeen states supported New Jersey.  The 3rd U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the New Jersey Law in 2016, but the Supreme Court has now reversed that decision.

The states of Connecticut, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Iowa, New York, Mississippi, and West Virginia have already prepared laws that would legalize sports betting within their borders.  States that are planning to consider legalization include California, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and South Carolina.

This list includes the most prominent horse racing states.  Some of the states have relatively high taxes on residents and corporations and have huge budget issues and looming pension deficits for public employees.  These problems will no doubt be presented to voters and legislators as rationale to pass sports betting measures.

Racetrack companies will seek to offer sports betting whenever possible.  The effects of sports betting on pari-mutuel wagering is unknown because there is so much illegal sports betting going on, it remains to be seen how much legalized sports betting cannibalizes wagering on horse racing.  Racetracks should seize the opportunity to attempt to craft sports-like bets based on horse racing outcomes.  In other words, fixed-odds bets.

The U. S. Congress could endeavor to write a new law prohibiting sports betting in the states.  However, President Donald Trump is on the record in favor of sports betting, so he would be likely to veto such a bill.

Copyright © 2018 Horse Racing Business

BOB BAFFERT: IN THE GOAT CONVERSATION

In organized sports, elite achievers throughout their careers are voted into a Hall of Fame, or will be enshrined once they retire.  These are the greats whose names are immortalized.

However, reaching a consensus on the GOAT, or the “Greatest of All Time” is an impossible task, as greats from different eras can’t be compared against one another with any degree of certitude.

For example, who is the GOAT in their respective sports:  Vince Lombardi or Bill Belichick, LeBron James or Michael Jordan, Joe Montana or Tom Brady, Muhammad Ali or Joe Louis, Sandy Koufax or Cy Young—or somebody else?  A preponderance of horse racing experts believe that Man o’ War and Secretariat are the two best racehorses in American turf history but have differing opinions about which horse was the GOAT.

Bob Baffert’s attainments make him a legitimate contender for the GOAT title in training racehorses in North America…and his work is unfinished.  Baffert’s astounding achievements include having his horses win a Triple Crown, five Kentucky Derbys, six Preaknesses, two Belmonts, fourteen Breeders’ Cup races, with three Breeders’ Cup Classics, and three Dubai World Cups.

Were Baffert to send out the winner of another Kentucky Derby, he would tie Ben A. Jones for the most wins.  At age 65 and with owners wanting to send him outstanding prospects, that seems like a realistic possibility.

Baffert also has a reasonable shot with Justify, or perhaps a future star, at joining Jones and James “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons in training two Triple Crown champions.  (Fitzsimmons conditioned Gallant Fox and Omaha and Jones trained Whirlaway and Citation.)  Baffert came ever-so-close to winning a Triple Crown with Real Quiet in 1998 and then did so with American Pharoah in 2015.

Like all exceptionally successful individuals in any field of endeavor, Baffert draws criticism, often from envious people.  But an objective observer, looking at the facts and leaving emotion aside, would conclude that he is among a handful of the greatest American racehorse trainers.  In the words of NFL Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells, “You are what your record says you are.”

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