Updates on life, the Kentucky Derby, and one of horse racing’s biggest issues

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written something here. There are a bunch of reasons for that, and a bunch of reasons why I’m putting this together.

My “new” job

As you probably know, I’m back in the gambling industry on a full-time basis. A bit more than three years after The Daily Racing Form saw me as surplus to requirements, I’ve latched on at Catena Media as a Content Manager. They’re an affiliate marketing company in the space, and I’m having a blast wearing many hats.

Since coming on board in January, I’ve assumed a leadership role with several sites in the company’s “play” network. Each state gets a site, and the ones in my bucket are California, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Ohio. I’m managing a fantastic team and working with people who are insanely passionate and spectacular at what they do. It’s been a fun few months, and it feels good to be back.

In addition to managing those sites, I’ve also started producing plenty of horse racing content for Playfecta, the company’s resident racing page. This includes betting strategies and looks at Kentucky Derby prep races.

Catena’s also been wonderful about allowing me to freelance for non-competitors. You may have seen my Derby Bubble column for the fine folks at The Paulick Report, and, predictably, the one thing I insisted on prior to coming aboard was an ability to continue my role with The Pink Sheet each summer for as long as they’ll have me. They were fantastic about this, so my summer Saratoga coverage remains unchanged.

If I may be allowed a quick detour into “wrestling promo” mode: This means that your reigning, defending, undisputed Saratoga all-media handicapping champion will be back this July to defend his title. If you don’t like it, play along for 40 days, publish your picks, and beat me. Contrary to what some may like to believe, if you do that, I’ll be the first in line to shake your hand, say “good game,” and mean it.

All of my Kentucky Derby stuff

I figured it would be handy to have a one-stop shop with links to all of my content focused on Kentucky Derby Week. The below list includes written articles, podcasts, and videos, and if you’re curious about how I see things over the next few days at Churchill Downs, these are what you’ll want to dive into.

FRIDAY

SATURDAY

Horse racing has a problem

Earlier this week, the plight of a young woman in racing got my attention. Mary Cage chronicled what went into an excruciating decision to leave the game she loved. Her explanation was raw and honest, and what some interpreted as “millennial softness” was, in actuality, a much-needed dose of humanity.

I related to this right away. When I feel something, I feel it more intensely than most. That’s a quality horse racing doesn’t have much use for. My career almost ended before it really got started due to a situation where that came into play (we’re getting closer to when I can feel comfortable telling that story publicly, but we’re not there yet). It played a role in why I left TVG, despite 99.9% of people I worked with/for being outstanding professionals and people (I spent most of an afternoon with several of them last weekend at Golden Gate Fields!).

When Mary talked about the issues she faced, it hit home. My challenges were different, but rooted in a lot of the same concepts. I bent over backwards to help a variety of companies and people. I wore many hats, I worked long hours, and I was ultimately deemed expendable by a machine that seems to take pride in chewing up and spitting out those who care about maintaining it.

Predictably, while Mary got plenty of support from some of the industry’s best people, she was dragged by some of the worst. Not everyone is going to agree on everything, and that’s fine. Some of the attacks got personal, though, with insinuations made that she lacked a proper work ethic or other qualities commenters deemed necessary for success in racing.

At the same time this was going on, a company came out with the first of several “explosive videos” designed to lobby for causes and people in racing. Predictably, the name “Bob Baffert” was dropped four seconds into the video, which aimed to pit Baffert’s camp of loyalists against Churchill Downs and its backers.

This is going to sound harsh, and perhaps the firm has better ideas up its sleeve moving forward. Having said that, after seeing the nonsense Mary had to deal with (as well as stories of other young people in racing being forced to question the longevity of their careers)…I really don’t care about what happens to Bob Baffert anymore.

Racing is the only billion-dollar industry I’ve discovered where passion to make things better, and ideas that require short-term sacrifice for long-term gains across the board, are frequently frowned upon. People like Mary shouldn’t be chased out of the industry. They want to work, and they want to make things better. Instead of deciding they’re expendable, give them all the work they want, and get out of the way while they do it.

We can go on and on about things like Baffert, trainers, breeding, and any number of issues. Contrary to the belief of some of the trolls out there, I welcome respectful disagreement on all topics (it’s the “respectful” part that’s often a bridge too far, I’ve found).

Here’s a much more important thought to ponder, though: If we’re turning away people who actively want to have long, sustained careers in racing, what chance do we have to attract those who are indifferent about the sport? Furthermore, what chance do we have to change the minds of those who have decided they don’t like it?

Look up at the amount of content I’ve produced for two days of racing, on top of my normal, 40-hour job. In addition, I’m writing this at almost 11 pm Pacific time on Thursday, May 5. Tomorrow is Kentucky Oaks Day, with a 7:30 am first post. I’ll be up for all 13 races, from maiden claimers to the main event, and I’ll be ready to do it again for 14 more races Saturday, including the sport’s biggest one.

All of this is my contribution to the game. I’m a handicapper and content creator. I write and produce things for people to enjoy, with the hopes that some of it helps people make money. It’s why I enjoyed last year’s Kentucky Derby so much. My show (which included a special appearance from my father) gave out $30 in tickets that returned more than $1,000. As hokey as it sounds, buying him and my girlfriend a nice dinner after the races is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. If my analysis and insight helped give someone else a moment like that, even better.

I love horse racing.

There are times I wish horse racing loved itself.

Medina Spirit, One Handicapper’s Peaks and Valleys, and Horse Racing’s Next Steps

It was 8:38 am when I got the text message.

I had just gotten out of bed and was getting ready for work. My phone vibrated with news that Medina Spirit had died following a five-furlong drill at Santa Anita.

I almost went back to bed.

I’m not a vet, I’m not an expert on the structure of the American thoroughbred, and I’m not here to bash certain people within the game just because it’s the fun, trendy thing to do. I’m a fan, handicapper, and content producer that’s had, simultaneously, the best and most chaotic year of my life betting on and talking about horses.

Medina Spirit is a big reason for that. Sent away at 13-1 in the Kentucky Derby, he was left alone on the lead when Rock Your World didn’t break. Mandaloun, Hot Rod Charlie, and Essential Quality came up to challenge him, but Medina Spirit refused to yield, got home, and triggered a celebration in my Northern California apartment that was probably audible up and down the West Coast.

We know the rest of the story. He tested positive for a banned substance, and a lengthy legal battle has outlived its subject. After his death, we still don’t know if we can call Medina Spirit the official Kentucky Derby winner. He won a few races, was ridden for second behind Knicks Go in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and may very well win Champion 3-Year-Old Male honors at the Eclipse Awards.

On its own, Medina Spirit’s death would be bad enough. A high-profile Bob Baffert trainee dying of an apparent heart attack after a workout, while the subject of a lengthy drug investigation, is reason enough to cringe. However, it’s the latest blow to a sport that’s been crippled lately by one public relations disaster after another over the past few years.

Santa Anita was put through the ringer in 2019, when a series of breakdowns caused an avalanche of bad press (including an astoundingly tone-deaf one-liner on the ABC show “Black-ish”) and forced significant changes to the racing product. I worked at Santa Anita for a year and a half. It’s a cathedral with fantastic people steering the ship and making the engine go. They’re back racing down the hill, and the surface is far safer than it was nearly three years ago.

Good luck, however, telling that to people whose exposure to Santa Anita comes in the form of blurbs on the ESPN “Bottom Line” talking about breakdowns and deaths rather than consuming the product on a regular basis.

Medina Spirit’s win in the Kentucky Derby triggered legal activity from all corners of the racing world. After news of the positive test made national headlines, some handicappers felt cheated enough to file a lawsuit against Churchill Downs, demanding that bettors who were beaten by a drugged horse be properly reimbursed.

Speaking of bettors, there’s no other way to explain what happened on the first day of the 2021 Breeders’ Cup than three simple words: They got hosed. Modern Games was let through a starting gate prior to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. In a sea of confusion, he was scratched, then un-scratched, then announced as running for purse money only. The talented Charles Appleby runner won as much the best, because of course he did, and the reaction from the Del Mar grandstand was a thunderous chorus of boos, one that I’ve never heard at a track before and don’t plan on ever hearing again.

As a sport, where are we on controlling the narrative that reaches novices and those who have never been to the track before? Where are we on a response that reassures the racing fanbase that the racetrack is still a fun place to go, and that one’s gambling dollar is more respected there than at a blackjack table, a slot machine, or a daily fantasy sports provider? How is it possible that a sport with many incredibly wealthy, smart people at the top level can be playing defense this much?

– – – – –

I can’t address those questions without a look at where I’m at. I don’t work in horse racing full-time anymore. I’ve been out of the business for three years, ever since I was a casualty of budget cuts at The Daily Racing Form. To some, that’s a very good thing, and to others, I’m no different from other ignorant washouts who like to toot their own horn.

Those people don’t know me. By and large, they know the silly guy who posts professional wrestling memes and fires up Ric Flair’s promo from the 1992 Royal Rumble when he wins. News flash: If any of you, and I mean ANY OF YOU, take that stuff seriously and think that’s a true indication of how much I think I matter, re-evaluate your life choices and check your rear end for a stick.

If you took this seriously…really???

What people other than my family and closest friends don’t see is the time I spend, on top of a full-time job, creating written and video content with the intensity of someone who still does it on a full-time basis. I’m probably the only guy left who attacks the Saratoga all-media handicapping race the way writers and horseplayers did 20 years ago, and I make no apologies for that. When kids my age were reading Roald Dahl, I was reading Russ Harris. Putting out a quality product matters to me, and that’s not going to change for as long as I do it.

My main rush, though, comes from helping the once-a-year track-goers cash tickets and enjoy themselves at the track. I had a friend tell me once that I cared more about people knowing I was right than actually being right. Heck yes, I do, and it’s because if people know I was right and they bet what I liked, they made money! What rush is better than that?

I said all of that, and went on what seemed like a few meandering tangents, to bring it back to one point: If racing continues to shoot itself in the foot with no plans to convince people it’s fun to come to the track, there may not be once-a-year track-goers anymore.

– – – – –

I still love this game. I love writing about it, I love going on-camera to talk about it, I love reading the form to find an edge, I love betting that edge, and I love being right. I’ll answer questions from people about the sport all day long, if I can, and any sort of ambassadorship I can provide pales in comparison to what horse racing has given me.

That said, I’ve never been confrontational when I meet people who don’t like (or, in some cases, actively hate) horse racing. It’s not going to be everyone’s thing, and that’s okay. Where we find trouble is when we ask ourselves this dangerous, two-part question: How many people have been turned off by issues in racing the past few years, and what can we do to bring them back?

Remember what I said about how much I think I matter? If you think I’m an egotistical maniac, strap in for this one: For all of my flaws (and there are people who will gladly take the time to list all of them), I’m REMARKABLY self-aware. If I took my annual handle (it’s none of your business, but it’s not totally insignificant) and put that money and my content creation efforts into any other relevant field, I know I wouldn’t be missed by racing at large. That isn’t a knock on myself. It’s just a fact.

The same can be said for people I know who have bet considerably more than me and vowed that they’re done with the sport. On their own, one’s individual handle going elsewhere isn’t going to break the game or send shockwaves through the industry. However, if the whales leave, and the medium-sized fish leave, and the small fish leave without laying eggs (in this hypothetical, the eggs represent people introduced to the game and given reasons to be excited about it), what’s left? In that instance, horse racing suddenly turns into yacht racing, where rich people compete for each other’s money and nobody in any other tax bracket cares.

Any changes made are going to take time to implement. Expecting an overnight revolution when the status quo hasn’t been seriously threatened on a national level for decades is irrational, and anyone taking the opportunity to demand such a movement should know that. However, those in the game who think everything is fine and that the sport can police itself are also misguided (not to add yet another tangent, but if the sport could police itself, why did it take the FBI to run Jorge Navarro and Jason Servis out of the industry?).

There need to be constructive, inclusive conversations about how to fix the issues in our game. Women, minorities, and those that haven’t traditionally had prominent seats at that table need to be involved. Bettors and owners need to be respected in equal measure, because the sport doesn’t work without both revenue streams. The words, “but that’s the way we’ve always done it,” should be cause for a public flogging, and anyone with conflicts of interest should be required to leave the room when a close-to-home topic is being discussed.

I don’t know how we get fans back who say they’re done with the game and mean it. We don’t know the official Kentucky Derby winner. We don’t know for sure which trainers are dirty and which ones are clean. We don’t have a concrete plan in place that ensures a Modern Games fiasco doesn’t happen again. Shoot, going back to the 2019 Kentucky Derby, we still don’t have one uniform answer to the question, “what is a foul that merits disqualification?”

What I do know is that doing nothing won’t work.

I’m not asking racing to solve all of those problems instantly. However, here’s a simple prayer from someone who gives a damn about the sport surviving and thriving at all levels: Can’t we at least get the car out of “neutral?”

INTERLUDE: Gimmick Andrew, the Kentucky Derby, and horse racing insanity

We find Normal Andrew in his absurdly-overpriced Northern California apartment, mulling over the events of the strangest day in the history of horse racing Twitter. It’s quiet.

Too quiet…until music familiar to wrestling fans of a certain age blares from the parking garage next door.

Suddenly, we see the familiar flair and panache of Gimmick Andrew strut right through the front door and past Elliot the fearsome attack cat. Unlike past run-ins, this time, Gimmick Andrew is clad in a freshly-tailored suit, walking with a newfound spring in his step in time with “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase’s theme music, and speaking when marked in bold.

“Is the music really necessary? And the suit? And…is that a cane?”

“Everyone else is doing stupid things with no ramifications for their actions. Why not me?”

Both Andrews judgmentally look at a nonexistent camera for a few seconds, a stretch of time that feels like an eternity.

“You know what you need to do?”

“Write something that’ll go over the head of 90% of my audience but hit the other 10% square between the eyes?”

“…other than that.”

“Ask when you’re refunding the money you won on Derby Day?”

“Nobody’s going to make either of us feel guilty about hitting the race. I won’t allow it. All the naysayers can come take my Kentucky Derby winnings from our cold, dead hands, like Charlton Heston and his guns.”

“Credit where it’s due. We had Medina Spirit and gave out winning wagering strategies on every platform…”

“So why shouldn’t I be celebrating?”

“Read the room, dude. It’s not exactly a celebratory time.”

“What? Trainers cheating in horse racing comes as a shock?”

“Not quite. It’s moreso the fact that we’ve got so few chances to get things right as an industry and can’t do it. Then, when stuff happens, we have no uniform response because jurisdictions can’t work together.”

“Did I hear right that Baffert’s blaming a groom for urinating in a stall?”

“Yep. He’s also blaming ‘cancel culture.’”

“How is ‘cancel culture’ at fault with regard to a drug test? His horse tested positive. He’s either got a drugged-up horse or the testing system is flawed.”

“I wrote that.”

“Well, one or the other clearly has to change.”

“I wrote that, too. Read the site.”

“Sorry. I spent all day getting my suit worked on. It’s like an Italian sports car. Gotta get it fitted just right.”

“Whatever. It’s just sad.”

“Why do you feel that way?”

A pause.

“Don’t get all clammy on me. I’m your subconscious. If you can’t tell me, who CAN you tell?”

“I’ve given a lot to this game. A lot of passion, a lot of gambling money, a lot of time spent creating content. Now, everybody’s got an opinion, everyone thinks their opinion’s the only one that counts, and whether you’re being logical or not, and whether you have any credibility or not, isn’t worth a damn.”

“Welcome to Twitter.”

“It’s never been like this, though. Monday was unprecedented. Horse racing really can’t get out of its own way.”

“Then why do you care so much?”

“That’s why I paused. Between this situation, how it’s being handled by everybody, and the general disrespect being shown by everyone towards everyone else, it’s the first time I haven’t been proud to be part of the racing community. I just…wish there was room for some logic, somewhere, ANYWHERE.”

“You wish there was room for you.”

“…you don’t pull punches.”

“What good would I be if I did?”

“You want to fire up the CM Punk pipe bomb, or should I?”

“Go ahead.”

“Hey, WordPress isn’t allowing me to post a link to the spot in the video.”

“Tell them to scroll to 4:14.”

“Better now?”

“A little. There’s so much wrong that I want to change, except I can’t change it. Being passionate is almost a negative nowadays.”

“You wrote about that a few years ago.”

“Nothing’s changed. The people angriest about this situation may not be the connections involved in the Kentucky Derby. It’s the fans, the bettors, the people the sport cannot function without yet sometimes completely takes for granted and fails to appreciate.”

“You mean the people that groom from Claiborne went after?”

“I’m not touching that with a 10-foot pole.”

“You’re no fun.”

“Anyway, it really stinks to be passionate about something when a perfect storm of horrible things comes together and threatens to destroy it.”

“You’re not going to quit betting, are you?”

“No, why?”

“Because if you did, I’d say, ‘see you tomorrow,’ which is literally the only possible retort against an attention-seeking person who resorts to that.”

Normal Andrew smiles.

“I’ll give you that. But what do you do when the thing you love very much seems hell-bent on destroying itself and doesn’t much care what you think about it?”

“You be yourself. In your case, it means being the very best you can be, doing things very few other people can do as well as you can, and hoping that one day, it’ll be enough for…well, whatever it is you’re chasing.”

“What am I chasing?”

“It seems like a moving target. But if it’s meant to be, you’ll hit it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m double-parked outside.”

“You bought a car?”

“Yeah! Brand new Camaro.”

“How’d you afford that?”

“What I made on Medina Spirit pales in comparison to what I made buying Dogecoin.”

Medina Spirit, the Kentucky Derby, and two important words

A long time ago, I composed a 50-point plan to improve horse racing’s future prospects. One of the most important ones was also probably the simplest one on the list. It was two words, and comprised a philosophy that racing had yet to embrace at that time.

“Optics matter.”

You know why I’m writing this column. It was announced Sunday morning that Medina Spirit, the winner of the 2021 Kentucky Derby, tested positive for a banned substance. We’re now playing the waiting game as a split sample gets tested. If that comes back positive as well, we’ll see just the second medication-based disqualification in Derby history.

When trainer Bob Baffert was reached for comment on the situation, he denied giving Medina Spirit the illegal substance.

“I don’t know what is going on in racing right now but there is something not right,” he said to reporters Sunday. “I don’t feel embarrassed, I feel like I was wronged.”

This is consistent with his responses to situations involving top-tier horses such as Justify, Gamine, and Charlatan, among others, all of whom tested positive and have largely had those situations swept under the rug. In the latter two cases, the Arkansas Racing Commission recently overturned rulings made by its own stewards and reinstated victories for those two horses. Justify, meanwhile, tested positive for scopolamine following the 2018 Santa Anita Derby, but was not disqualified, either immediately after the test results came in or after lengthy legal proceedings stemming from a lawsuit filed by Bolt d’Oro’s owner/trainer, Mick Ruis.

I’m not a vet. If you’re looking for a detailed analysis of the substance Medina Spirit tested positive for, you’re going to need to look elsewhere. What I am is a lifelong racing fan, a handicapper since I was in middle school (for better or for worse), and someone with a career in marketing and communications that can provide some insight into how this will go over with the people racing needs in order to survive.

Spoiler alert: It’s not going over well.

Many in racing want the sport to be mainstream, as it was many years ago. As Alicia Hughes, a friend of mine and one of the best writers in the game, continually points out, this means an acceptance of criticism and coverage that is good, bad, and indifferent. Right now, what we have are a bunch of people who are very angry, for legitimate reasons.

Those who bet Mandaloun, who ran his eyeballs out to be second and tested clean, feel robbed. Those who took to social media to complain after the Derby, either because they didn’t use a 12-1 Bob Baffert trainee in a race he’d won six times before last weekend or because they genuinely felt something was afoot, have all the ammo they need to say the game is crooked (though cries of “I’M NEVER BETTING AGAIN” from those who shove the GDP of a developing nation through the windows or ADW’s will always come across as hollow and/or ego-driven).

How does any of this help racing draw the new fans it desperately needs? How has racing’s continued inability to effectively police itself in any way, shape, or form helped ensure a place for itself moving forward? And when will people who have the ability to make decisions that impact the sport moving forward realize trainers constantly complaining about being wronged are taking lessons from the Taylor Swift School of Spin, where nothing bad is ever their fault?

The answers: It doesn’t, it doesn’t, and they won’t, at least not without significant prompting to do so.

It took the FBI moving in for Jorge Navarro and Jason Servis to be run off the racetrack. In Navarro’s case, he had a rap sheet as long as Giannis Antetokounmpo’s arm but continually received mere slaps on the wrist as he took bottom-level claimers and turned them into stakes winners. All the while, bettors had an idea of what was going on, bet money accordingly, and watched as racing took no significant action despite enough smoke to indicate a giant wildfire.

At a time when perception is everything, it seems racing is deliberately choosing not to be proactive. In combating the issue of race-day medication, the sport decided to phase out Lasix, a substance designed to stop horses from bleeding. While Lasix may be A problem, the Medina Spirit situation shows it was not THE problem. Add in that horses may need Lasix to run at the sport’s highest level due to the way horses are bred in 2021, and that several of those top-tier equine athletes have bled during races, and anyone who’s watching closely knows significantly more work is needed in order to ensure any consistency and integrity moving forward.

If Medina Spirit’s split sample comes back negative, I hope it’s a stimulus for the complete and total rebuild of post-race testing from coast to coast. I don’t care what it costs, nor what the hurdles are in instituting a nationwide system where all results can be trusted. If we can’t get this right when the entire world is watching, who’s to say we’re getting this right when it isn’t?

If Medina Spirit’s split sample comes back positive, I hope it’s a stimulus for a new era of stricter sanctions for trainers who cheat. Horses run for millions of dollars, and paltry fines that amount to change “supertrainers” might find between their couch cushions means the usual punishment doesn’t come close to fitting the crime. Meaningful fines and suspensions, ones that shut the door for assistants to step in as program trainers and allow a “business as usual” mentality, are long past due.

Optics matter. And if for horse racing doesn’t apply those two words to this situation on a national level, it casts doubt on if the sport ever will in a meaningful way.

Racing Had Momentum After the Kentucky Derby. Now What?

In the aftermath of the Kentucky Derby, I firmly believed that there was a chance for racing to capitalize on mainstream attention.

Everyone was talking about it, and Maximum Security and Country House, forever linked by a disqualification among the most controversial in racing history, could lock up again in the Preakness. Such a rematch would be one of the most anticipated in the game, and the sport would have two weeks to market to an intrigued fan base eager to know more about it.

Swing and a miss.

Maximum Security is being held out of the Preakness. Country House got sick and is now being pointed to the Belmont. As a result, public interest for the Preakness is at a low, and the middle jewel of racing’s Triple Crown has a decidedly “meh” feel to it among prospective fans the sport cannot afford to lose.

Please don’t get that statement twisted. The Preakness could be a fun betting race, with lots of different directions to go in if you’re not crazy about likely favorite Improbable. Preakness week also features an array of high-quality races that provide plenty of attractive wagering options for handicappers like me (and, I surmise, like most of my audience).

However, the general public could not possibly care less about the makeup of the Preakness, nor could they care less about the cornucopia of graded stakes races on Friday and Saturday at Old Hilltop. Saying otherwise is naïve, at best.

Casual fans of the sport have likely heard of four or five horses over the past year and a half: Justify, Accelerate, City of Light, Maximum Security, and Country House. The first three are retired, and the other two are on the bench. Stars make racing much easier to promote, but when horses run less and less (due to radical changes in the ways horses are bred and managed), there has to be a fallback plan in place.

Therein lies a bigger problem nobody is talking about. While the debate following the Kentucky Derby was endless, vicious, and unnecessarily vile at times, debates about how to actually grow the game in the wake of it have drawn crickets on social media. It shows a distinct lack of focus on what should be the biggest focus in racing: Getting new fans, drawing them in, and educating them so they have the most chance of coming back.

What are we, as a sport, doing to ensure that such a plan is in place? This question holds doubly true now that two of the biggest racing days of the year are without any sort of a Triple Crown storyline. We can talk about concerts, and food trucks, and hat contests, and things that look pretty on social media, but how does any of that affect racing for longer than one afternoon? More bluntly, how does any of that affect handle, AT ALL?

Now that Maximum Security and Country House are both out of the Preakness, I challenge you to find a bigger public interest storyline than, “The Stronach Group wants to leave Pimlico behind and move the Preakness to Laurel.” Meanwhile, the Met Mile on Belmont Day could draw McKinzie, Mitole, and Coal Front, which for my money makes it the main event on that program (as opposed to a race for 3-year-olds going a distance they are not at all bred to handle). Tell that to the general public, and the response is, “why should I care?”

What are we, as a sport, doing to answer that question? We did a lot in the 72 hours after the Kentucky Derby to try to convince people that the DQ was either the right call or the wrong call. If we channeled half of that energy into actually marketing the sport the way it should be marketed, I’m convinced we’d see substantial results long-term. Combine that with breeding horses for stamina and soundness instead of pure speed, and we may actually have ways to market both the sport and the best horses in it.

It’s naïve to think the Preakness matters as much as it did to the novice racing fan before Maximum Security and Country House defected from the field. It doesn’t. We can be as positive and optimistic as we want about how it still holds historical significance as the second leg of racing’s Triple Crown, but such statements fall on deaf ears to a public conditioned only to care about the sport on its biggest days. That isn’t me being negative, or pessimistic. That’s a fact, one that racing has brought onto itself as top-notch horses transitioned from running 10 to 12 times per year a generation ago to running four to six times per year while their connections said, “We’re training him up to…”.

The answer to the, “now what?,” question should be, “well, this coming week has a lot of really good horses in action that you could see later this year.” Except it doesn’t. There are five stakes races Saturday at Belmont Park, and they boast a combined total of 31 entries. Only one of those races (the Man o’ War) will have more than six horses going postward.

I’ve worked in marketing at a number of different businesses. The keys to a successful campaign are capitalizing on momentum created from prior steps in the process. Racing had chances to do that this time around, and it didn’t.

I’m worried about how many more chances the industry will have to do that.