Derby Day 2023


Category:  Op/Ed

By:  vic-eldred  •  3 weeks ago  •  9 comments

Derby Day 2023
You hear about the Kentucky Derby. You hear that it’s the greatest race in the world. It’s a fantasy. If you ask any rider in the country that hasn’t won the Derby, ‘What would you like to do best?’ I guarantee you they are going to tell you they want to win the Kentucky Derby. Oh yes. Laffit Pincay, Jr., jockey of Swale, 1984 Derby winner

Today is the first Saturday in May and that means the race will be run today for the 149th time. I've been attuned to it since 1969 or thereabout. I thought I'd take a look at what has changed about the race itself and racing in general in all that time. Much has changed.

First let us start with the good change, known as progress:

This race can be viewed and bet on from the comforts of one's own home. If you want the atmosphere, just about every other racetrack and casino is simulcasting the event. There are two resort style casinos in CT which make today into a daylong event complete with memorabilia, a midday buffet, free drinks including Mint Juleps, a female hat contest and expert analysis of every race from Churchill Downs today.

Now the bad changes:

First off American racing has changed to the point that we rarely see the horses who take part in the Kentucky Derby have long careers. There is a lot of pressure on owners of the winer and even the main contenders to get them retired and to stud. There is nothing to be gained by racing the horse for too long and it may even be counterproductive if the horse loses his edge and starts losing races he should have won or sustains a fatal injury. In Europe horses are raced differently which keeps their horses safer and extends their careers.

The owners. When I was young many of the largest stables were the families of America's old wealth. They were the Carnegies, the Vanderbilts, the Woodwards and the Whitneys. The non-profit NYRA which ran racing in New York was populated by those owners. decisions were made for the benefit of the sport. Sometime around the time that Mario Cuomo was governor of New York that all began to change and the officials at the NYRA were replaced with political hacks and the result has been that New York is no longer the center of racing, nor does racing revenue mean as much to the state of New York. Since that time New York has legalized the lottery as well as casino gambling.

When I was barely 18 there were 4 racetracks operating in New England. Suffolk Downs in Boston, Rockingham Park in Salem NH, and Narragansett Park & Lincoln Downs in RI. Today they are all gone. As soon as there was simulcasting, we all kind of knew that it was mostly be the big racetracks that survived. Those little racetracks used to be packed, even on a weekday. I have seen it all dwindle away.

I could go on with the negatives, but why spoil the day. I think we can all agree that technology improves our lives even if so many other things don't improve.

Derby Day as it is now structured is a long day. The Derby goes off at 6:57 p.m. EDT.

NBC's national coverage runs from 2:30-7:30 p.m.


jrDiscussion - desc
Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
1  author  Vic Eldred    3 weeks ago
Professor Principal
2  JohnRussell    3 weeks ago

I like Tap It Trice in a mild upset. 

The thing that makes the Kentucky Derby the most important horse race in America is tradition and the fact that people who dont follow racing on a continuous basis get interested in the Derby. 

About 10 years ago I remember being at a family birthday party on Derby day when I asked someone where one of my adult nephews disappeared to. He went to go place a bet on the Kentucky Derby at the OTB I was told.  My nephew is not and was not at that time much of a horse race enthusiast.

The money bet on horse racing today will far exceed what it is on a regular Saturday. 

Professor Principal
3  JohnRussell    3 weeks ago

The heavy favorite Forte has been scratched from the race, due to a bruised foot. The decision was made by state veterinarians.

independent Liberal
Freshman Quiet
4  independent Liberal    3 weeks ago

I've never understood the fascination with abusing animals and the midgets that ride them.

Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
4.1  author  Vic Eldred  replied to  independent Liberal @4    3 weeks ago

I guess calling a very small man a midget would be a form of abuse.

Senior Principal
5  Hallux    3 weeks ago

Two more horses died on Saturday at Churchill Downs. That makes at least seven in recent days.

"The deadly week at Churchill Downs continued on Saturday when two more horses died. A gelding named Chloe’s Dream was pulled up leaving the first turn of Saturday’s second race, taken off the track in an equine ambulance and euthanized, according to a spokesperson for the Horse Racing Integrity & Safety Authority.

And in the early part of the eighth race, Freezing Point pulled up abruptly. The horse, ridden by Corey Lanerie for the trainer Joe Lejzerowicz, walked into the equine ambulance under his own power but was later euthanized because of his injuries, according to the same spokesperson.

The deaths are bringing attention to the sport’s troubles during one of the few weekends of the year when sports fans are focused on horse racing.

In the days leading to Saturday’s races, the Derby entrant Wild on Ice was euthanized after he sustained a leg injury; another horse was put down after an injury; and two collapsed and died after racing, prompting officials to suspend their trainer, Saffie Joseph Jr., and scratch his Derby horse, Lord Miles.

Adding to those numbers,   Code of Kings broke his neck   after flipping several times in his saddling paddock last Saturday. He was rushed to a nearby equine clinic, where he was euthanized.

In Saturday’s 10th race, Here Mi Song, a 5-year-old gelding with 20 career starts and five wins, was taken off the track in a van after finishing fourth. An Associated Press reporter   said on Twitter   that X-rays showed no injuries."

Professor Principal
5.1  JohnRussell  replied to  Hallux @5    3 weeks ago

Thoroughbred horses are bred to race. They want to run. Deaths of these animals that are in training is tragic.

Without racing there is little purpose to a thoroughbred, they are not suited for casual riding, and certainly not as work horses . The people in charge of the sport should redouble their efforts to make it safe for the horses. 

The initial data analysis from the 14 th  year of reporting to the Equine Injury Database (EID) shows a decrease in the rate of fatal injury in 2022 (1.25 fatalities per 1,000 starts) compared to 2021 (1.39 fatalities per 1,000 starts). This is the fourth consecutive year that the rate has decreased, and it is the third consecutive year in which the rate has been below 1.5 fatalities per 1,000 starts. It is the first time ever that the rate has been below 1.3 fatalities per 1,000 starts.
Analysis provided by Professor Tim Parkin (University of Bristol), who has consulted on the EID since its inception, and by Dr. Euan Bennet (University of Glasgow), also shows historic low rates of fatality on each surface type, for 3-year-old horses, and for race distances longer than 8 furlongs.
“The data shows that since 2009, the risk of fatal injury during racing has declined by 37.5%, which is statistically significant,” Parkin said. “The overall downward trends are testament to the benefits of an evidence-based approach to safety, which is only possible thanks to the EID.”  
Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
5.1.1  author  Vic Eldred  replied to  JohnRussell @5.1    3 weeks ago
The people in charge of the sport should redouble their efforts to make it safe for the horses. 

The statement from Churchill Downs:

Churchill Downs  confirmed the deaths of the horses  Wednesday afternoon in a public statement. "While a series of events like this is highly unusual, it is completely unacceptable," the statement issued by Churchill Downs spokesperson Darren Rogers reads in part. "We take this very seriously and acknowledge that these troubling incidents are alarming and must be addressed."

Thanks for the Jockey Club statistics.

You are 100% right.

Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
5.2  author  Vic Eldred  replied to  Hallux @5    3 weeks ago

I don't understand it either, except to say that it is uncommon for that many hosres break down from workouts in that short a period of time. What I will admit is that American racing is more of a strain on racehorces because here in America speed has always been king. Our horses are pushed at top speed from the moment the gate opens until they pass the finish wire. That is why they don't last as long as they would in other places.


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