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One of the most damaging, saddest, disgusting and ubiquitous attitudes of our well-on-its-way 21st century is stated, as sure as if it spanned the satin sash on Miss America's chest, is: It Is What It Is.
The slapstick humor amuses me when a Queegish, entitled punk coach is so clearly placekicking paranoid that he never even talks to his thick-legged gnome. And the ball-swatting mousey kicker only tells anyone he'd prefer to start not here, but over there, in the newspaper because, hey, the beat guy was the first one who asked. In the end, it is what it is, nobody's to blame. No consequence, except that a whole squad and the gullible followers are hanging by their hands on the 100th rim as the swirling blue water unstoppably flushes.
IIWII is the prelude, interlude and postscript of laziness and failure, even when survival's on the line. You can analyze it dozens of ways in George Carlinesque dissection. From the top down, ain't no nuthin' to me, I'll get by, because it is what it is.
Most people don't want to hear it, part of the IIWII package. As the 35th Breeders' Cup World Championships kicks off November 1-2 at Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California, the state of horse racing has never been worse. The house of cards somehow stays together, while the rot and mold of its underlying structure just grows.
Where to start? Arcadia, California. Where, because snakes prefer warm weather, the Breeders' Cup, which takes over the venue as does the NFL for the Super Bowl, refused to even consider another track even after dozens of horses died in the 2018-19 winter/spring Santa Anita meet. I can't link everything, but the overwhelming attitude I sensed back then is that it is what it is to them. Lo and behold, six more horses have died since the fall meet began to prepare for the 'Cup. Including Emtech, whose both front forelocks (ankles), untouched, cracked and helped drive the horse into the track, launching Mario Gutierrez safely away.
NBC analyst Randy Moss, explaining in great detail the need for euthanizing in most cases, never mentioned or lamented the cause of these breakdowns. Perhaps that aspect just is what it is.
Santa Anita gets all the pub, but Keeneland, Lexington, Kentucky, a true cathedral of American racing, had eight deaths in 2018, most since 2009, and nine more in two 2019 meets. Read between the lines of this ass-covering report, and you'll see that it just is what it is. Saratoga had 12 deaths this summer. Hawthorne is no prize - well, it's just bad all over.
Horses have always died, and who can imagine the evils put upon these animals in so many past decades. But we should be better now. Drug free. And the time it will take to lose the drugs and breed them better. Never forget, they make more money not racing, so the cheap splash is the rule.
The philosophy of IIWII claws its tentacles into skulduggery, the fix, corruption and shame in racing as ethically situational decisions are made in its behalf.
Witness 2018's Triple Crown winner Justify, who I always thought was a plugged nickel of a fraud, turned out to be just that. If you want the anatomy of a well-executed cover-up, unlike that of the White House, click through and learn how the California Horse Racing Board went dark, stalled, sabotaged its own protocols and procedures, kowtowed to trainer Bob Baffert and Justify's powerful owners and then said the few days remaining before the Kentucky Derby made it impossible to rule on the matter, tests and all.
After the Santa Anita Derby that April, he was found to have heightened levels of scopolamine, an element that can improve the cardiovascular efficiency of a horse, the most important part of successful equine physiology.
While about 75 nanograms per milliliters of scopolamine raises red flags, Justify had 300! The substance is found in Jimson weed. While CHRB equine medical director Dr. Rick Arthur told horsemen to be on the lookout for the weed in a horse's hay and feed, horsemen have routinely used the magic fairy dust argument that the weed "contaminated" the feed and got into the horse. For an industry that will ship all of a horse's feed to Dubai in the overhead bin, pardon me if I call bullshit on the Bafferts of the world who call themselves horse whisperers. They don't know what's in the feed or where it comes from? Maybe not, if you're connected and untouchable. CHRB went into total cover-up mode, its complexion obvious in the fact Chuck Winner, its chairman, has stakes in horses trained by Baffert, and other board members are in similar positions.
NBC's Tim Layden raised the same specter as the People's Court: Somebody is lying here. In a September broadcast report, the vets told him that scopolamine in fact hurts horses, not helps, and said that several horses in the race tested positive. He'll never try or get the test results, but if it does not enhance performance, why would its presence trigger a violation inquiry? Maybe Justify's urine was more dense. Maybe he ate a bud, not a stick. No evidence it was an intentional doping, Layden speculates wildly, but because the specimen wasn't sent to the lab until May 1, there wasn't enough time to "adjudicate" a suspension from the Derby. There's reporting, then there's spouting what CHRB fed him. The Santa Anita Derby was run on goddamned April 6.
Layden spent minutes saying, in the end, it is what it is, Justify won the Triple Crown.
But will they retroactively rule against Justify and his connections? Will Churchill Downs Inc.'s Kentucky Derby investigate and DQ Justify? No way, because it is what it is, in the history books now.
The always reliable Ray Paulick, publisher of The Paulick Report, spins your head in describing the fragmentation of the racing "industry." No spokesmanship, no consensus, fomented, ala Washington's Orange Road Apple, by Churchill Downs as it simultaneously bullies racing and cultivates toxic divisiveness.
Jockey Club president Jim Gagliano replied to a scorched-earth call for an end to racing. He cites the Horse Racing Integrity Act and its anti-doping provisions. He doesn't mention that Churchill Downs will not support the bill and if Churchill won't support, professional Kentucky ass-licker Mitch McConnell doesn't support. Moscow Mitch, who has a second home in Churchill's groin, admitted it.
Paulick also provided a forum for Mike Campbell, president of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, to lay out the reality of Churchill's bullying in the case of Arlington Park. He's suitably angry and articulate in his argument, but does anyone have any faith in either the Illinois Racing Board or the Gaming Commission to even know what to do to stop Churchill's sadistic blitzkrieg? Keep in mind Illinois Horsemen hung on by a frayed rein for years while Churchill systematically ruined Arlington racing.
I'm also sick of hearing from our benevolent wise protector Grandpa Dick Duchossois. He went welfare extortion mode, for the third time, blaming the Illinois legislature for not writing unfair Churchill-only fairness into the gaming bill. "The Illinois state legislature will close Arlington Park. Only its members can change things," Dickie said. At least he's consistent.
He closed the track in 1995, cryin' about how Elgin got the casino and not Arlington Park. He got his massive tax breaks.
Crain's Shia Kapos got it wrong years ago in buying the pap that Duchossois closed the track in 1998, for two years, trying to "figure out how to rev up business." No, he got into another pissing match with Springfield, then emerged in 2000 on the heels of his major acquiescence to Churchill Downs.
So now, it's Breeders' Cup Weekend 2019, at Santa Anita. I have heard the argument that perhaps a couple of horses need to go down in the Saturday races to fire up so much heat, racing will have to reform. But that can't be the way.
Santa Anita and California are already afraid. They scratched Vitalogy, from the Juvenile Friday morning, based on veterinarian decisions. His connections vehemently protested, offering to undergo any test. The vets struck Thursday by scratching Thais from the Filly and Mare Turf. Trainer Chad Brown was equally angry. With Santa Anita's and California's credibility, how do we know these aren't mere ploys?
Television just came on and plugged horse and jockey safety measure "in place" for the BC. I will listen for specifics.
I have been stewing in this horse racing angst for months, it's so probably futile. I can't give in to IIWII; I'm wired differently. The game seems effectively unwilling and ill-equipped to solve its problems. It does know how, but like any addict, especially the trainers and owners, they depend on the pharmaceuticals.
But this is the Breeders' Cup, the culmination of a long year of races and so many other things.
There's also this. Pick it up at 0:40 if you're impatient, and watch the rail horse #2.
Omaha Beach, favored but scratched out of the Kentucky Derby, ran October 5 in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship, his first race since the April 13 Arkansas Derby. He had every reason to Place or Show, class will out. He also had the race lost, in a bravo moment, until he didn't. Stay with it to the wire and you'll see his heart and soul and stride and flying mane and why he brought tears to my eyes.
For the next 31 or so hours, that's where I'll be.
Thank God, Omaha Beach is exactly what he is.
Your Racing Day
Television is NBC, split between NBCSN and the big channel 5 for the main events. Friday is Juvenile Day, kids at the big table before the adults pile in.
You'll be looking for Code of Honor, Covfefe, Diamond Oops, Eddie Haskell, Elate, Hog Creek Hustle, Imperial Hint, McKinzie, the mighty lady Midnight Bisou(!), Mitole, Omaha Beach in the Dirt Mile, spicy filly Serengeti Empress, Vasilika and Yoshida. And Vino Rosso will drive me crazy in the Classic.
If you need the entries, go to the Daily Racing Form, click Entries at the top and seek Santa Anita SAT Nov 2. They're free.
Tom Chambers is our man on the rail. He welcomes your comments.
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