When Abraham Lincoln was only 28 years old, he delivered his Lyceum Speech, in Springfield, Illinois. When it was published, it was instrumental in establishing the reputation that led to his presidency decades later.
Those of us of a certain age vividly remember Walter Annenberg, friend of presidents, Ambassador to the Court of St. James, master of Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, and publisher of Daily Racing Form.
But stop and think: American racing is and has been since the 1930s essentially political, since it’s a state-regulated industry. It’s about to add another layer of government regulation, now that in their mutual wisdom The Jockey Club, United States Congress, and former President of the United States have just enacted new legislation to elaborate racing regulation still further. And complicate it?
Justice—and injustice—are as old as humanity. Our contemporary ideas and standards of fairness trace all the way back to the very beginnings of recorded history, whether in Egypt, Greece or Rome.
Looking back over 2019, it seems to me this has been The Year of the Bromide. Our own annus horribilus in so many ways, including having to endure so many of those truisms, many of them dubious, owing to racing’s regrettable circumstances.
Given the ongoing train wrecks or meltdowns (take your pick) we’re now experiencing in our racing lives, isn’t it about time to try to figure out what the hell happened in the last six months? Why it did? What’s still to come? And what to do about all this?
You never know how much you can do until you try to undo what you just did.” So proclaimed my old riding teacher, one of the world’s greatest horsemen. Constantly. He was talking about teaching and training horses, of course, but the same wisdom applies to business, all business, and in our case, the plight of racing today in America, especially California.
It’s amazing what can be accomplished when nobody cares who gets the credit.” This saying has come to me often in the weeks since Thursday, December 7, 2017, when a catastrophic wildfire claimed the lives of scores of racehorses at San Luis Rey Downs in Bonsall, California.
Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) understood education and persuasion as well as anyone else ever has. He once said that when you want to convert someone to your view, you go over to where he’s standing, take him by the hand (mentally speaking), and guide him to where you want him to go.
Way, way back in 1986, I was invited to speak at The Jockey Club Round Table in August at Saratoga. I thought it went fine. After all, I reasoned at the time, I was leaving Santa Anita and racing altogether, and could “tell it like it is.”
Anyone who has witnessed the saga of racing at Santa Anita this winter needs no repeated recitation of the facts . . . to say that the sport as we have known it is jeopardized in California, and perhaps North America, is a gross understatement.
Not too long after this esteemed magazine published my last essay, one of my “admirers” contacted me with her own opinions. “You’re so smug and condescending,” she said. And went on to berate me for “never” doing anything except calling attention to problems, “never” offering solutions, “never” recognizing that it’s a far, far different world now than in my relative youth. And I’m “always snarky” besides.