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California Chrome Loss Good For Horse Racing

Credit, Joe Bianchino

Everyone wanted California Chrome to win on Saturday.

Hardly anyone in the world – save for those who had a personal or financial stake in the colt’s opposition – was rooting against the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner in the final jewel of the Triple Crown.

We all wanted to see history made.  We all wanted the 36-year drought broken.

But maybe we shouldn’t have wanted that.  Maybe, when California Chrome turned for home with nothing left in the tank and finished tied for fourth, we got lucky.

Timing, they say, is everything.  And right now, for racing, the timing couldn’t be less right.

In recent years, The New York Times has written numerous times on what they describe as a trend of “death and disarray” at America’s tracks, criticizing the industry for an alarming number of on-track racing deaths.  Weeks before the Kentucky Derby, they wrote again on the sport, publishing a video obtained from the animal rights activist organization PETA alleging that unnecessary and dangerous drugs are being given to horses for non-therapeutic means.  HBO’s Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel followed up on those writings with a segment of their own, diving deeper into the sport’s “pervasive drug culture.”

In response, the racing industry as a whole has done little to combat the allegations and the uncaring, win-at-all-cost reputation that has developed.

Perhaps, because, there is no “racing industry as a whole.”

The Daily Racing Forum counts nearly 100 different Thoroughbred race tracks in North America – each subject not to the oversight of a sport-wide governing body responsible for the health of horse racing, no such organization exists, but only to their own whims or individual concerns, or those of their state government.

The result is as chaotic as you might expect, with horse racing having become a hopelessly complicated mess.  Dozens of tracks host thousands of Thoroughbreds covering a multitude of divisions – two-year-old, three-year-old, older horses, turf, dirt, distance, sprint and every permutation of each.  And with no structure in place to help organize it all, fans are forced to play a hellish game of “Connect The Dots” and closely monitor the likely runners in hundreds of different, independent stakes races if they’d like something to follow.

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