“WHAT IF” IN 2012?

The world of sports is full of “what ifs.” How much would Babe Ruth or Wilt Chamberlain command in salaries if they were playing today? How much would an NFL team pay Vince Lombardi to coach? Could Man o’ War have beaten Secretariat at a mile and a quarter?

Looking back on 2012 as it recedes into the past, following are some what ifs pertaining to the year in racing.

What if:

Frankel had come to the United States and won or lost the Breeders’ Cup mile or the Breeders’ Cup Classic?

If he won either race, it would have elevated his standing as one of the greats. Had he lost in a close race, the defeat would have been attributed to his traveling to a new country and time zone and the loss would not have tarnished his reputation much, or place in history, similar to how Zenyatta was evaluated after her second-place finish in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic. The most intriguing what if concerns how Frankel would be viewed if he had won the Breeders’ Cup Classic at a mile and a quarter on dirt. In that case, he would be talked of as one of the handful of best racehorses of all time.

What if:

Frankel and Sea the Stars had both been in training at the same time. Who would have won at a mile and a mile and a half?

Probably Frankel at a mile and Sea the Stars at the longer distance.

What if:

Camelot had won the St. Leger Stakes and become the first English Triple Crown champion since Nijinsky in 1970? Would Camelot or Frankel been the Cartier European Horse of the Year?

This is anybody’s guess. A slight edge perhaps to Camelot because of the rarity of winning the English Triple Crown and also because Frankel was Horse of the Year in 2011.

What if:

I’ll Have Another had run in the Belmont Stakes and won?

He would have joined the ranks of eleven other Triple Crown champions. But how would that have affected the offers that came in for the colt for stud duty? In all likelihood, I’ll Have Another would have remained in the United States, rather than being sold to Japanese buyers, and he would have brought a much higher purchase price and warranted a considerably higher stud fee.

What if:

The Breeders’ Cup World Championships had been scheduled for Belmont Park instead of Santa Anita?

Hurricane Sandy would have forced cancellation. But would the event have been held later at Belmont Park, moved to another track at a later date, or cancelled altogether?

The Loma Prieta earthquake in California took place before game 3 of the 1989 World Series–between the Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants–and resulted in a 10-day delay in play. Whether the Breeders’ Cup has an extensive contingency plan for severe weather disruptions is unknown to me. My guess is that Belmont Park could not have held the event even several weeks later because of the devastation on the East Coast and it would have been difficult to move the Breeders’ Cup World Championships to another racetrack on such short notice, so the event most likely would have been cancelled entirely.

What if:

Stan Bergstein had been alive to see Team Valor present the first annual Stanley Bergstein Writing Award?

Having known Stan for many years and of his pursuit of integrity in racing, I am absolutely certain that he would be very humbled and grateful. He never said much in the way of elevating himself but was a high achiever, who loved the sport of horse racing and thought the people compromising it should be driven out. Stan never mentioned to me that he was in the D-Day invasion of 1944 and only talked some about his early years with the Harlem Globetrotters when I brought it up. Imagine the obstacles encountered by a man of Jewish descent traveling with an all-black basketball team in the late 1940s. Barry Irwin could not have found a more appropriate person to name his award after. Rest in peace, Stan.

What if:

Diverse racing interests in the United States decided to put aside their parochial concerns and agree to do what is best for horse racing in the next two decades?

What a delusion! That is a far more remote possibility than the President of the United States and Congress jointly doing what is best for the country in the long run.

ALL THE BEST FOR 2013!

Copyright © 2012 Horse Racing Business

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