By Michael Patricks
The year 2018 is a very interesting time we live in. The sporting realm has now become a cross-pollination between enumerable athlete-related “off the field” offenses, and athletes themselves raising societal awareness in disparities of inequality with the way classes of individuals are treated. Professional athletes are now using their associative platforms as podiums to carry out their intended messages for the masses to receive more so than ever before, both on their fields of play, but also through social media to a great extent. Meanwhile, the one constant remains that capitalism has shone through in the end. And what can’t be muted by any of these athletes involved regardless of stance or viewpoint is that they are all on the receiving end of the all-mighty dollar.
Colin Kaepernick, who had been deemed “ultravirus” to all 32 NFL owners has received a huge sponsorship deal from Nike. What’s greater, Kaepernick now receives significant endorsement from Nike on athlete activism and promotion of awareness on social injustices Kaepernick campaigns against. Le’Veon Bell has yet to report to the Pittsburgh Steelers because he wants more money, and his teammates have turned on him as a result of his greed. Apparently, about a million dollars a game is not enough to motivate this guy or risk compromising himself to a potential injury. Conor McGregor decided that combat fighting was just too simple and got a fat pay day to box Floyd Mayweather in a boxing ring. Unfortunately, McGregor decided to take a steel chair and hurl it towards a UFC bus full of fighters. Several of them were injured, the event was severely hampered due to fighters unable to participate and now McGregor faces numerous lawsuits as a result of his poor choice in behavior.
And speaking of behavior, Serena Williams had a much-publicized meltdown in last week’s U.S. Open Women’s Final. Williams claimed during the match and at her post-match press conference that she was the target of gender discrimination from the chair umpire, a man named Carlos Ramos from Portugal. In my opinion, instead of talking about perceived issues of gender bias we should be celebrating the winner here, 20-year-old Naomi Osaka who was incredibly humble and gracious in victory and someone realized her dream by outperforming her childhood idol in a U.S. Open Final. Unfortunately, that’s not what sells newspapers or gets views on social media though, and so the Williams narrative advances further. Regardless of what side of the net you are on in this debate, you cannot argue that Williams’ behavior in defeat dramatically subtracted from Osaka’s crowning moment in victory. My belief is that if the shoe was on the other foot in this situation, Mrs. Williams would not be okay with her rival subtracting from the spotlight of earning her first Grand Slam title and certainly would not… “go gently into that goodnight… Rage, rage against the dying of the light…”-Dylan Thomas.
In a sense, all this is why I’ve always loved horse racing and in some way took a stance against joining fantasy sports or being wrapped up as a fan of a team or any one individual playing for my team. Individuals are human beings and human beings are fallible. As much as we strive to be infallible, I too must acknowledge I’m quite flawed. I officiate sports as well and have refereed basketball for over 18 years. There are always going to be calls you wish you could have back and officials…just like the players and coaches involved in any sporting event they officiate…are not perfect.
Horse racing is imperfect and not without flaws–many inequities exist and the sport is in need of a renaissance and infusion of young men and women to permeate the sport and be visionary leaders to effectuate changes that are needed for augmentation and the sport’s long-term survival. Unfortunately, horse racing received as much publicity most recently with a shooting just outside Del Mar before a post-race Ice Cube concert, as it did when Justify won the Triple Crown back in June.
Horses perform without financial compensation, don’t need a sponsorship deal, and do not need the backing of an agent to pass the entry box. There is a real purity and truth in what they do and I think that’s why horse racing is and will always be my first love. As Winston Churchill once said, “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” No card table, slot machine, roulette wheel, professional sports franchise, or professional athlete has ever provided me that type of feeling that Churchill described, and most likely never will.
Breeders’ Cup tables at the Jockey Club will go on sale starting Thursday, October 4th and tables are $50; a limited group of special seats are available for $15. The purchase of a Breeders’ Cup table provides a group of up to four people a tremendous view of all the Breeders’ Cup races from both Friday and Saturday and features table service as well. Call the Sonoma County Jockey Club at 707-524-6340 for all the details.
Like what you’re reading? Every week I post a racing-related article to The Grapevine, the official Blog of the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. Visit https://www.sonomacountyfair.wordpress.com for news and updates on all the events surrounding the Sonoma County Fair. You can also reach me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
For those of you that read last weekend’s installment, I gave out the top two selections in the Kentucky Turf Cup with Arklow at 6/1 and Bigger Picture at 9/2 combining for a $50.70 exacta. Let’s see if we can come right back with another positive result as I take a look at the Woodbine Mile as this weekend’s complimentary preview.
Woodbine Race Course-Race 8
The Woodbine Mile (Grade I)–1 Mile on Turf for 3 y/o and Up
Purse: $800,000–Post Time: 1:48 PST
#3 Delta Prince at 5/2 is the morning line favorite and should be a glove fit as a trifecta candidate. He’s never failed to hit the board in nine lifetime starts and he’s been in the exacta in all six of his races at the one-mile distance. Owned by Frank Stronach of Stronach Stables, the Canadian-resident has yet to win this race and Delta Prince gives him a strong hand to check off this bucket list item.
#5 Mr Havercamp at 6/1 is my second choice and I think he will make the favorite work for it. At first blush, Mr. Havercamp looks a bit light on paper, but a closer look under the microscope shows that this four-year-old is 4-for-4 over the Woodbine turf course and he appears to be training up to this race in peak form. Mr Havercamp took down the Grade II Play King in his last start with consummate ease. He’s taking on better today that he’s ever faced but I think he’ll be part of the battle at the end.
#6 Lord Glitters is my third choice. It’s tough to say how well he fits in this group with this being his first north American start, but his form lines in Europe are quite strong and he just missed in a Group 1 event back in June at Ascot. Lord Glitters gets Lasix for the first time on Saturday and his jockey Jamie Spencer won this race in 2014 aboard Trade Storm (GB) and his trainer David O’Meara won this race as well in 2015 with Mondialiste (Fr). In other words, each of them are no strangers to dancing this dance.
Some will be hoping for a bounce back effort from #7 Oscar Performance at 7/2 who was eased in the Arlington Million as the 9/5 favorite. He’s a tough customer when he’s right but he hasn’t been the same animal at the Grade I level in his last few races as he was when on top of his game as a straight three-year-old. I’ll be poking the bear with him.
#8 Divisidero is 8/1 on the line and always brings a late kick for a minor award. He’s 0-for-4 at the one-mile distance but he will be picking up a few stragglers and should mop up for a piece of this $800,000 pie. I fear this distance is simply too short for him to threaten for top honors.
Selections: 3-5-6-8 in the Woodbine Mile