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article imageOp-Ed: Horse racing has a troubled future

By Michael Bearak     May 16, 2010 in Sports
Horse racing might just be dieing faster than boxing. The reason for horse racing's demise is hard to pin-point, at least much harder than boxing's.
It is hard to say why horse racing is dieing. I look at the history here at Digital Journal and since 2001 there have only been about 6 stories covering horse racing. Heck, DJ gets six on boxing in two days usually. Still, for boxing it is pretty simple, mixed martial arts has taken its fan base away. At least that is what many people point to, others point to the fact that boxers often face a lifetime's affect from boxing. The rounds of hard hits over and over again to the head, knockouts and so forth. MMA doesn't have that, so that sort of explains why boxing is struggling.
So that poses the question of what is going on with horse racing? Is NASCAR, horse racing's MMA? I don't think so, NASCAR has taken out Indy and Formula-1, so what is it with horse racing?
Horse racing is hard to follow. No, if you are watching it on TV it is quite easy to follow in a literal sense. What is hard to follow is the career of a horse is very short, Mike Tyson had a longer career (pre-jail and pre-bite) than a horse. It is hard to sign on in this day and age when people want to follow something and want to root for a star, when the star is gone in a year or two years.
Drugs were an issue with horse racing, but it wasn't as bad as baseball. They have done a lot over the years to make sure that horse racing is clean and it hasn't gotten the headlines that the major, more mainstream sports have gotten.
Some people blame the lack of a Triple Crown winner in 32 years as a prime reason. Now that would make sense, especially as I said, you don't have stars like you do in other sports. People wanted to cheer for Secretariat and for Easy Goer--that year it turned into cheering for Sunday Silence.
Horse racing used to be broadcast on the radio for people to hear, but not any longer. You can find a local race or a Kentucky Derby, but on the average week you can't find horse racing.
The sad thing is that these are beautiful horses. Animals that are just wonderful, majestic in the way that they move and carry their rider. You often hear of the melding of man and machine but here it is the harmonious bond between man and animal.
There is a reason why the first weekend in May every year the stands at Churchill Downs are packed, and no it is not because of the Derby Pie and Mint Juleps. People come out to see the horses, they love the horses.
My wife and I would go to the Carolina Cup in Camden, South Carolina every year. We always heard stories from college age people that they went but never saw a horse. Not me, I can pass the dressing up, the drinking, the eating (well maybe not the eating), but I am not going to miss a race. On the rail in the infield I stand watching every movement as they race buy. I grab for binoculars just so I can see the end of the race. the relationship between the jockey and the horse is so unique and unlike anything else in sports.
So it is hard to understand why the sport is dieing, but it is. It will never go away, but it won't be the same as it was during the '30s, '40s, and even into the 70's.
I had the privilege of watching Easy Goer race at Arlington Race Track outside of Chicago, Illinois. I still to this day can't understand how Sunday Silence beat him not once but twice. Nothing against Sunday Silence, but I still contend that Easy Goer was a much better horse.
We haven't had another Secretariat or even a Seabiscuit to capture the hearts of Americans like we have in the past. Smarty Jones even got fan mail, I wonder if he sent anything back.
Horse racing is a great sport, but unfortunately for many reasons it is dieing and there doesn't seem to be a way to save it right now. It just seems to be afflicted with an illness that no one knows how to treat.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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