With one exception, I’ll leave the commentary on this weekend’s BC preps to the analysis on Capital OTB’s always entertaining morning programs and to DRF and the Blood Horse. The exception is the Arc. That is one impressive three-year old filly. While there is regular commentary on the difference between European and American racing - usually centered around either the “breed for speed” of the States or on drug policies - why is it not unusual for one of the European girls to beat up on the boys (in an 18-horse field no less)? It may be the 11-pound weight advantage they get because of age and gender.
Here are some other observations from this week’s news:
- Travers complaint of cheating was baseless:
Six days after Moreno was run down in the stretch by Will Take Charge, the trainer of the second-place horse filed a complaint with New York authorities that the winning jockey had used an electrical device (or “battery”) to stimulate his mount. According to trainer Eric Guillot, over 100 people had witnessed his video and came to the same conclusion that the jockey had something in his hand other than his whip or the reins, and hid it after the race. When I looked at the race video following news of Guillot’s complaint, it was clear that if you wanted to see something in the jock’s hand that did not belong there, you could so conclude. But based on prior allegations of jockey misconduct based on video footage, one should be careful before drawing any conclusions.
New York’s Gaming Commission, the agency with investigatory and regulatory responsibility for racing, assisted by the forensic unit of the State Police, conducted a thorough review and concluded the jockey “was not carrying any sort of electrical device and that Mr. Guillot’s allegation was wholly unsubstantiated.” In the Gaming Commission report released last week, there were four salient points:
- The State Police reviewed 7,000 frames from NBC’s broadcast as well as photos from a professional photographer who was covering the race;
- The video that was the basis of Guillot’s complaint was the result of using a mobile device to record from a DVR recording;
- The quality of that video was impaired because of “compression artifacts,” or a reduction in the amount of data that could be recorded because of the quality of the devices used to make the video;
- The photographs by the professional taking shots in the race aftermath show nothing inappropriate in the jockey’s hands.
I think the photographs included in the Gaming Commission report - particularly Figures 6 – 18 - are the most compelling exculpatory pieces of evidence. They are all the more significant because there simply is no incriminating evidence. The Commission’s report can be read here.
Guillot’s complaint was troubling because someone who earns his livelihood from an enterprise has a responsibility to not drag the profession through the mud unnecessarily. That is not to say he should not have filed the complaint with the authorities, but rather that he should not have gone around broadcasting it in a way that would draw the inevitable attention. The sport does not need more unwarranted negative publicity. Guillot simply fanned the flames of those would want to believe the worst about the game, and many of those people will have conveniently forgotten the clearing of the jockey the next time there is a discussion about integrity. The Gaming Commission is to be commended for having completed its review in about a month with a thorough and professional effort.
- Racing is in trouble if this is its company.
This September Atlantic did a short piece on the success of ESPN. In describing how the network rose from its doldrums to become a dominant figure in TV ratings, the magazine quoted an executive:
We had strayed to food eating and gaming and salsa and horse racing and figure skating, and it just didn’t perform for us. I had this quadrant with two axes: young versus old, and male versus dual audience.
Yikes! Food eating and salsa? I assume by “dual audience” he means one that includes women. It will be interesting what ESPN’s aspiring competitor, Fox Sports 1, will do to attract younger viewers and women, given that they have stated that racing will be a significant part of its broadcast package,. I don’t know how their one announced star, Regis Philbin, fits into that equation.