November 2014–Bigger Problems Than DQs

Two diametrically opposed opinions on whether Bayern should have been disqualified from his victory in the Breeders Cup Classic.

Yes, dq him:  “He crashed into the favorite [Shared Belief] and his lone probable pace rival [Moreno], so of course he should be disqualified.  Why should he get rewarded for this behavior?”

No, leave him up:  “Horses often break sideways coming out of the gate, so those first couple of strides should get a pass.  Besides, it was a mile and a quarter race, so there was plenty of time to make up the difference.  And no jockeys objected, anyway.”

As it turned out, there was no DQ, and Bayern was the official winner of this year’s Classic.  But two topics remain unresolved:

1. Why do the dq rules seem so different from one jurisdiction to another?  in some states, any bump means an automatic dq.  In  others, the stewards use their judgment as to whether the bumper really cost the bumpee a placing.

2. Why do stewards bother talking to the jockeys at all?  In every other sport, the official call the foul as he sees it.  He doesn’t ask Kobe Bryant whether he thinks the foul cost him a basket.

As usual in horse racing, there are no national standards for anything, but instead a patchwork of rules that vary widely from place to place.  A drug violation in State A is legal pharmaceutical help in State B.  Betting on the Internet is applauded in State C and banned in State D.

Despite many calls for it, there is no national racing commissioner, and it’s unlikely there will be.  Mostly it’s business as usual, only the business keeps declining.  Nationwide handle has dropped nearly 30 percent since 2003.  Take any measurement–the number of racing days, the size of the annual yearling crop, the number of stories racing generates in the press–and the trend is down, down, down.

Sure, there’s interest in the Kentucky Derby and, to a lesser extent, the Breeders Cup, but other than that, few civilians pay attention to racing.  The hardcore players care, but where are the new ones coming from?  The young’uns prefer to bet sports, both real ones and fantasy ones, or poker.

I don’t know that there’s a solution for this.  Boxing was once a big sport, with everybody knowing who the heavyweight champion was.  Now, the kids watch mixed martial arts, and the heavyweight champion can walk down any street in America and not be recognized.   Things change.  Horse racing has consistently resisted change–to name two obvious areas, it took years before racing was shown on television, and horsemen have put the kibosh on betting exchanges.

So should Bayern have been disqualified?  I dunno.  Nobody in my small town cares.