Imagine that J. Paul Reddam had made a different decision and elected to run I’ll Have Another in the 2012 Belmont Stakes. A Hollywood ending would have the colt bravely fighting through his physical maladies to sweep by the field in the stretch to become the first Triple Crown champion in 35 years.
In the wake of this story, the media and industry insiders would speculate that the stirring achievement is just what Thoroughbred racing needs to spark fan interest. Reddam would be hailed as a sportsman and the offers for his colt would escalate to the tens of millions of dollars.
An alternative scenario with a grim outcome would also be a realistic possibility. In this version, I’ll Have Another is not only defeated, he suffers a career-ending injury or worse. He is vanned off in front of a stunned worldwide audience.
The finger pointing would begin immediately as Monday-morning quarterbacks second-guess Reddam for his decision to run his charge. Editorials excoriate the I’ll Have Another brain trust and cite the incident as proof positive of an industry debased by drugs and populated with owners and trainers mostly in the game to make a buck.
A third scenario is what really transpired. Weighing his options and the possible results, Reddam decided against a Triple Crown run for glory. Most fans were saddened that I’ll Have Another would not have his chance to join the pantheon of racing immortals, but understood and were grateful that the colt’s team took the prudent course of action.
The theme that should have prevailed afterwards, in the media and elsewhere, is about how owners like Reddam put animal welfare above fame and money. Indeed, while horse racing has its problems with medication abuse and rogue trainers who cheat the game, the sport is not the corrupted entity portrayed in particular by the New York Times during the entire 2012 Triple Crown season.
In its latest salvo, the New York Times chose to ignore any semblance of fair and balanced reporting and instead doubled-down on its previous exposes by trying to make something suspicious out of I’ll Have Another’s normal and routine veterinary care in the weeks and days leading up to the Belmont. I’ll Have Another’s veterinary treatment was then used to segue into a broad indictment of the U.S. racing enterprise.
In the parlance of game theory, or the scientific study of decision-making, a “lose-lose” outcome is one in which no one involved benefits. The New York Times managed to create such a public-relations denouement for all of the humans participating in I’ll Have Another’s abbreviated time in the limelight, and for horse racing overall. However, thanks to the largely unheralded stewardship of the Reddam crew, the winner of the first two legs of the Triple Crown is alive and well.
Copyright © 2012 Horse Racing Business
Originally published in the Blood-Horse. Used with permission.