Thoroughbred horse racing is on the ropes, and there are fingers pointing in every direction. Some blame the lottery, others bad management and still others the higher competition for the sports dollar.
The problem is not one of method, but of philosophy, and to illustrate this point, let me relate the story of golfer Ben Hogan. While at the height of his career, a bus crossed the center line and crashed head-on into a car he was driving. He dove in front of his wife and saved her life, but doctors said that he would never walk again, much less play golf. After months of painful physical therapy, he not only walked but won the most coveted prize in golf, the United States Open. The point is, if Ben Hogan were a horse, he would have been shot and his story would have been over.
Horse racing has no Hogans or Ruths or Namaths because for a decade and more the triumvirate of owners, breeders and trainers have prematurely retired to stud every major colt in racing. The result is a generation of racegoers who know only one legend, a recently retired gelding named John Henry.
Fancy full-page ads, large purses and cosmetic improvements to race tracks won't save the sport from ruin, and all this superfluous spending reminds me of the guy with a hole in his boat who rows faster thinking that this will keep him afloat. The racing industry better fix the hole in the bottom of its boat, or it's going to join that guy at the bottom of the lake.