The Kentucky Derby Deserves Better – Time to Fix This Mess

Clint Goodrich Blog Post 82 Comments

This is so easy. It’s so easy because it is so totally screwed up. You really can’t go wrong. Once things get to the point where horse racing is today, you can’t make it any worse. There is nothing to lose. The only thing you need to fix it, is one thing: COURAGE.

As all the politicians say, “let’s be clear.” Well let me be absolutely clear. The sport of horse racing is in a death spiral. Further denial of this downward spinning phenomenon will only accelerate the demise.

As just witnessed on May 6th, the first Saturday in May, the Kentucky Derby is total cluster f**k. And no, I’m not going to call it “The Kentucky Derby Presented by (oh please) YUM! Brands”. Make no mistake, Always Dreaming won and deserved his victory. It’s pretty clear he was the best horse. But it’s really no longer a horse race. It’s been turned into a cheap media event, a circus actually. Horse racing is doing a horribly bad job of trying to imitate The Super Bowl and Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus is going out of business this month. The horses are merely an excuse for what is a week long party that ends anti-climactically with a group of 20 inexperienced 3-year olds trying to lay claim to a blanket of roses and what was once sports immortality.

Churchill Downs could care less about the horses. If they cared even a little bit, they would limit the field to 14 horses. ONE starting gate. It’s smarter on every level. Plus, it’s safer for horses and jockeys, prompts true competition, gives real contenders a fighting chance to run their best race and it’s more fair to the betting public.

The racing Gods need to create a more consolidated list of sanctioned Kentucky Derby prep races that either provide points or earnings to qualify for entry to the Derby. This way real contenders can mix it up a little bit and sort themselves out. Inexperienced horses like maidens and horses with 3 starts are generally junking up the field. These lightly raced horses are winning faux stakes races to gain entry. They should instead be gaining real world racing experience by running in allowance races and graduating to stakes. Having only 3 or 4 starts prior to the Kentucky Derby should be the exception, not the norm. Want me to back up my point of view? Always Dreaming and Lookin At Lee had legitimate Grade I racing credentials and experience. They finished one, two. (I have corrected a previous mistake, here on numbers of starts for several horses. But my point does not change)

Management at Churchill Downs thinks a cavalry charge of 20 mostly undistinguished horses is an exciting frenzy!! They are wrong. It’s nothing more than a dangerous mess. It’s merely a vehicle to perpetrate this charade that once used to be called “The Greatest Two Minutes in Sports”. Some day, maybe soon, Churchill Downs is going to learn this lesson in a very ugly way.

Additionally if Churchill Downs Corporation (NASDQ: CHDN) gave a flying fig about the actual legacy of this race, not to mention the well-being of horses, owners, trainers, jockeys and the actual real people involved, the Kentucky Derby (again, no YUM! Brands) purse would be at least $10Million. The current purse of $2Million is a national embarrassment. It’s dog puke for the stature this event has in the history of sports culture. If YUM! Brands (NYSE: YUM) were actually paying market price for their exposure in the Kentucky Derby, YUM!Brands should put up my entire proposed $10Million purse – and pay Churchill Downs millions more for these marketing and sponsorship rights. They pay Churchill Downs a pittance for this sponsorship deal, exactly ZERO goes to the purse. If Churchill Downs had a competent marketing department who actually knew how to spell horse and sell the sport, they could present a deal that could demonstrate to many potential advertisers the real value of branding sponsorship exposure for a marquee international sporting event.

Here’s another dirty little secret. Churchill Downs puts up very little money for the Derby. Most of this money, if not the lion’s share is generated by the owners paying nomination fees, supplemental nomination fees, entry fees and starting fees. Churchill Downs only guarantees the purse not to be LESS THAN $2Million. The horsemen and horse owners are in effect just running for their own personal cash.

Churchill Downs, Inc. makes tons of money off the horsemen who are so egotistically driven to run is this race. CHDN is not sharing back, directly with the horsemen, one single penny of the $100’s of millions of dollars this event generates for CHDN and their shareholders across the board on so many levels. The purse structure and stakes race funding at every race track is generated by a varying percentages of the betting handle. According to the industry trade journal, Bloodhorse, Saturday’s Derby Day card generated $209Million in wagering handle around the country. Churchill does not disclose on track pari-mutuel wagering figures. Why? Some transparent accounting should really be in order. Churchill Downs always hides behind unverifiable dollar amounts of renovations since 2005 or 1905 or something to justify how much money they are putting back into the game. The Churchill Downs Corporation is surfing on your backs boys. You’re being used and screwed at the same time. It’s kinda like President Trump says, “It’s like a magic act.”

Time to fix this mess and this sport. The sport of horse racing today is a complete disaster. The Kentucky Derby is nothing more than an over-hyped, luster-less race for a bunch of ego driven owners with more dollars than sense, who are enabled by a bunch of trainers who have never learned how or are too scared to say no. Who do I think I am to say no to an owner who thinks they should run in the Kentucky Derby? I did it. The horse in question, Saint Ballado, was far better off for not having run in the Kentucky Derby in 1992. The late Kentucky Derby historian, columnist and author, Jim Bolus wrote an article about it:

Think I’m just making noise? Ranting and raving? It’s as easy as taking Kentucky Derby time – two minutes to read this:

Graded Stakes Winner
Saint Ballado

(1992) Jim Bolus – Three Cheers for Ballado Camp

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, I just straightened out The Kentucky Derby. Next, I’ll clean up the entire sport. Stay tuned!

Comments 82

  1. Sean

    I agree with you in that the horse racing is circling the drain. There are too many people making decisions for our industry that are not from our industry. There is also a huge disconnect between the front side and the back side. It almost seems like anyone with prior experience in the horse business need not apply for a position on the front side.

    I don’t claim to have the answers, but I know that quietly standing by isn’t going to help either. I appreciate your efforts, if for nothing else, in bringing the discussion to the table.

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      Clint Goodrich

      Sean – THANK YOU for reading my blog post. I really appreciate your comments. You are totally correct in your observations. I am currently working on a follow up post to address the big picture, sweeping changes, the industry needs to once again thrive. I hope to hear from you again.

  2. Jon Luman

    It may go a long way toward fixing the mess if horsemen got more involved with marketing THEIR PRODUCT, instead of leaving it to an uninformed, non-caring, and non-thinking corporate interest.

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      Clint Goodrich

      Jon – You are 1000% correct!! I am working on another blog post that will address this exact issue. Well, it’s actually a much bigger picture fix but this exact point will be made and incorporated into the message. Stay tuned!

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      Clint Goodrich

      The Grand National? What’s that got to do with anything I wrote? It would be like saying “I like wine and someone else says, have you ever tried whiskey.” The two races are night and day apart.

  3. F J

    “Churchill Downs could care less about the horses.”….

    It’s COULDN’T care less !!! God damn that makes me mad when I read or hear people express that incorrectly. ….IDIOTS!!!

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  4. Marilynn

    Without reading the entire article, if these 20 horses weren’t allowed to make up the Kentucky derby, what would we have in this race for the interested viewing audience to watch?

    1. Cathy

      14 Quality horses, in ONE starting gate. Or does the thought of witnessing a disaster at race time, with dead horses and jockeys appeal to the masses today?

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        Clint Goodrich

        Cathy – Marilynn is disqualified because she openly admits she didn’t read the entire article. If you can’t focus long enough to read 1000 words, she shouldn’t comment. You however are quite right! Thanks for reading:)

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      Clint Goodrich

      Marilynn – Maybe you should read the ENTIRE article?? You are automatically disqualified and placed last otherwise!

    3. s l b

      I completely agree that the Derby should be a 14 horse field. I hold my breath and pray during the entire race. Well written article.

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    4. Paul Lawrence

      14 of the best horses all with a chance to run an honest race, as it is the horses outside charge across before the first turn so they don’t get swung wide, horses inside get shuffled back cutting off their chance. Dangerous & unfair.

  5. Bonnie J Bishop

    CLINT GOODRICH The font you are using in this blog is nearly impossible to read. If you could make it some text font that was thicker or darker it would be better. I know you probably wanted to make it different, but when a person is unable to read it due to not enough contrast with the page it is on, you are losing people. I for one got about half way down and gave up.

    Eye strain is not a goal in blogging.

    thanks for understanding.

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      Clint Goodrich

      I’ll take a look at it Bonnie, but you absolutely have the ability to increase the font size on your computer or device. Thanks for trying to read!

  6. Geoff Richardson

    You could start by growing some grass. At least that way you’d have colour AND movement.
    But I use the term ‘movement’ loosely as while you have plenty at the start, when the poor animals are pushed hard to avoid the kickback, there is not much at the finish as they run out of steam at various stages before determining the winner on a ‘last man standing’ basis.

    A totally lacklustre “spectacle”.

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      Clint Goodrich

      Geoff…. This is the USA. We racing primarily on DIRT. This is not going to change. Horses here are used to racing on DIRT or mud if it rains. Do I think the Melbourne Cup should switch to dirt? No. I appreciate you reading and commenting but what you suggest is not going to happen. It’s like asking the USA to switch from peanut butter to vegemite.

  7. Walt Gekko

    Excellent thoughts throughout:

    Soundness is clearly a big problem and definitely has been bred out of the sport. One thing to me that could (and should) be done to fix that is take a page that Jeff Gural attempted to in Harness Racing a few years ago and take it further: Have it where horses whose stallions were five years old or younger when conceived are ineligible for ALL Graded stakes events, including the Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup. That right there would force changes in how horses are bred since soundness, stamina and durability would need to be bred in in place of speed and precociousness, especially knowing a top horse must be able to race through his or her five year old season.

    Beyond that, running the races much closer together like we used to is another thing. There to be has been too much “babying” of horses in the last 20 years that to me is one of the reasons we see so many more injuries, similar to what we have seen with pitchers in baseball. Churchill could play a big part in this in insisting the last major Derby preps are no more than three weeks before the Derby with the intent to eventually get that back to two weeks before like it used to be, with incentives on having it so eventually, top horses are racing every other week and in far more races before the Derby than they once did (ideally, with 10-12 starts under their belts before the Derby). Further incentives in that regard can include bonus points for running in more rounds of prep races and preference to horses who races in every round of prep races (and doing well in such) to weed out those, especially those who have owners who simply enter in the hopes of being able to say “my horse had the lead in the Kentucky Derby.” The same can be done with the Breeders’ Cup in the fall.

    Speaking of the Breeders’ Cup, that could also help by having the Distaff and Classic both lengthened to 1 5/8 Miles. Lengthening both to 13 furlongs would make for many big changes, including most notably (and immediately) the Jockey Club Gold Cup (which is still supposed to be the most important race in the sport aside from the Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup) being returned to its former 1 1/2 Mile distance and many other top races lengthened to either 1 1/4 or 1 1/2 Miles.

    Another thing I would do is phase out Lasix over a five-year period: First by banning it from ALL two year old races plus the Triple Crown, Breeders’ Cup and certain other Grade 1 events (like the JCGC, Arlington Million, Travers, Woodward, etc.), then expanding it to ALL three year old races through the Belmont Stakes as well as ALL Grade 1 & 2 events, then ALL Graded stakes events, then ALL non-claiming events and finally ALL races. Getting Lasix out of the sport to me would strengthen the breed as well.

    Finally, we also need to have the major championship events like the Derby and Breeders’ Cup at night no matter how much traditionalists howl. There is an entire generation that has grown up with the championship events in the “Big Four” pro sports ALWAYS being at night (east coast time), dating back to Game 1 of the 1991 NBA Finals (the last such game to be played in the daytime). This is in fact why I suspect Churchill could wind up hosting several Breeders’ Cups in a row as I think given how poor the TV ratings are on Saturday nights outside of live sports, NBC will want the BC telecast to run from 8:00-11:00 PM Eastern Time starting next year. We may very well actually see this next year with the Derby moving to a 10:10 PM post time over any objections of Churchill Downs and local officials because of the fact Saturday Night Live is now airing live everywhere (meaning on the west coast it airs at 8:30 PM PT/9:30 PM MT). Given the TV rating for the Derby would have made it the #1 show for the week in recent years had it qualified for Prime Time, I suspect NBC will want the Derby telecast next year to be 7:00-11:00 PM Eastern Time in order to assure a huge chunk of that audience stays on NBC afterwards for Saturday Night Live with if that happening a likely big crossover promotion between the Derby and SNL and likely a very big host and musical guest for that night’s SNL. This may have to happen anyway to get the Asia-Pacific region and the potential for hundreds of millions in new handle on board as well.

    1. Donna

      I am not sure how moving the Derby to night is going to improve the race or the attendance. How do you figure more people would get into a crowd of 160,000 at 10 p.m. rather than 10 a.m. especially with more guns and terrorism?

      I do agree about fazing out Lasix. It’s hurt the animals.

      1. Walt Gekko

        Moving the Derby to 10:00 PM may not be Churchill’s call. Networks dictate the start times of sporing events all the time as it is, and with the Derby telecast getting its biggest number since 1989 (when people had FAR fewer TV options than they do now), it’s something that I now think will happen. Basically, that comes down to whether or not Lorne Michaels wants the Derby telecast to lead into Saturday Night Live, and HE likely is going to want that because it could be the most watched SNL in many years if that happens (especially since SNL now airs live everwhere, including in the west at 8:30 PM Pacific). I wrote about this in my own blog at: https://wallyhorse.wordpress.com/2017/03/21/could-saturday-night-lives-actually-airing-live-everywhere-cause-the-kentucky-derby-to-move-to-prime-time-in-2018/

        1. Dar

          Who ARE you, Walt? I am not sure where you are coming up with some of these ideas. Babying the horses? So you want more horses breaking down due to over racing and longer races? I don’t know about the Jockey Club Gold Cup being 1 1/2 miles. When was that? I thought the Belmont was the only race where the horses ever went a mile and one half. And I’d prefer to see the Derby run at its previous time, not the lengthened almost 7 pm time that it is now. I’m not a horse expert but I suspect some of your ideas are not for the horses, but for the birds.

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            Clint Goodrich

            Dar – The Jockey Club Gold Cup actually used to be 2 Miles! Racing lost it’s appetite for true distance racing when cheap speed became fashionable and breeders started breeding for the sales ring as opposed to the actual sport. Follow the money. It’s too bad.

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          Clint Goodrich

          Walt – The networks only dictate times when THEY pay the sport to broadcast. Currently (this is a big bone of contention with me) horse racing is largely paying NBC to broadcast the Derby with only minor exception. We do not receive TV money like the Olympics of MLB we PAY money to TV. This has to stop.

          1. Walt Gekko

            It will be very interesting this time because the Derby if it had been in prime time the last several years would have been the #1 rated show in prime time for the week it aired. That is something likely not lost on Lorne Michaels, who likely sees the opportunity to have the Derby almost directly lead into a Saturday Night Live that he can make into one of the biggest ever, especially now that it airs live throughout the country as opposed to just the east coast. Live sports is likely going to become more the norm in east coast prime time because it’s one of the only things that does well in Saturday prime time now, and a telecast like the Derby can be big for NBC in winning the “May Sweeps” if it is in prime time. That in itself is a big consideration outside of the fact Lorne Michaels can now have the Derby lead into SNL with that week’s show likely getting its biggest rating in years, even ahead of new SNLs that have followed NFL playoff games. THAT is likely the main consideration here.

      2. ShirleyVH

        And best of all, make the triple crown for four year olds. I can just see the howls of NO. But you seem to want the horses to have much more experience under their saddle.

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      Clint Goodrich

      Walt – WOW! Deep thoughts here… some good ideas. The best way to get things organized in the racing world is for it to fall under a commissioner office like MLB or NFL or any other major league sport. The commissioner needs teeth. Racing is wildly fractured and in need central organization. Until this happens (if ever) no meaningful changes will take place. Currently, it’s every man or woman for him or her self!

      I’m working on my next blog that would make possible not necessarily the specific changes you suggest but effective and meaningful ways to bring racing into the 21st century. Thank you for reading and posting your thoughts!

      1. Walt Gekko

        Exactly Clint! You had some solid thoughts as well and those need to be built on.

        A real Commissioner is something this sport needs with people having to stop protecting their fifedoms.

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    3. craig b pearl

      all horses bleed one time or another before the only time u knew horses bled was when it came out the nose lasix benefits used in control helps a horse from bleeding

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  8. Katy

    It also doesn’t hurt that they only race six weeks a year, six months apart. Its an event at Keeneland for sure, a day off work without question for a Friday card. But its a short season, they aren’t struggling to fill card because they aren’t trying to fill cards four days a week for six months. I’m not disagreeing – I LOVE going to Keeneland – but there are other reasons why Keeneland doesn’t want for horses or spectators.

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  9. Cindi Nave

    I’m throwing my 2 cents in. As a Kentucky girl, Keeneland has been my “home” track. It is also my favorite because of the beautiful grounds. I have raced at several tracks around the country and was initially surprised that not many tracks care about the atmosphere. Keeneland has trees, shrubs, floral arraingements, beautiful bathrooms with attendants, the barn area has trees and grass for houses to graze. The public parks in tree lined lots, or grassy pastures. The whole atmosphere is gracious and beautiful. Go anywhere else and you find minimal effort to make the racing experience a glorious one. Keeneland is never hurting to fill their card or their stands, and I think it’s because of the attention to detail for the horseman and the customer.

    1. Katy

      It also doesn’t hurt that they only race six weeks a year, six months apart. Its an event at Keeneland for sure, a day off work without question for a Friday card. But its a short season, they aren’t struggling to fill card because they aren’t trying to fill cards four days a week for six months. I’m not disagreeing – I LOVE going to Keeneland – but there are other reasons why Keeneland doesn’t want for horses or spectators.

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      Clint Goodrich

      Cindi – Keeneland is a beautiful place. One of the main reasons it is so unbelievable beautiful is that after paying “all expenses” the balance of their cash goes back into the grounds and the upkeep. They are a non-profit (id you actually believe in that sort of thing). Also, as Katy says, the race meets are short and purses are really good. THANK YOU for reading my blog post!

  10. Anthony Kelzenberg

    Hi Clint! I hope you remember me from when you trained Saint Ballado, Prince Compliance and Cheap Sunglasses at Arlington. Saint Ballado might have been one of the best racehorses I have seen in the last 35 years.

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      Clint Goodrich

      Of course I remember you Anthony! I really appreciate hearing from you and you remembering Prince Compliance and Cheap Sunglasses! A special thank you regarding Saint Ballado. He was the best, the absolute best. He changed my life in more ways then one. I am so proud to have trained him and to have been with him from the sales ring to the breeding shed and everywhere in between from day one.. Thank you again.

  11. Joe

    To think Hence strolled in with 100 points for winning what was basically an Allowance race in New Mexico is enough for me to see that some things definately have to change.. The purse is laughable for the scale of the event. This SHOULD be the biggest day in racing in the US but seems to have been eclipsed by the Breeders Cup.. It should be a day that showcases the best of what the sport has to offer, not just to the television viewing audience but the patrons in attendance.. Its silly they run allowence optional claimers on what should be a full day of stakes racing..

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      Clint Goodrich

      Joe,

      I could not agree more, it should be a major showcase day. Lots of these prep races are nothing more than allowance race fields. It needs to change. Purse needs a big boost, the entire game needs a make-over. I have ideas, Read my next blog post! Thanks for reading this one and taking the time to comment!

  12. Mark W Colgan

    Hey, lets get rid of kittens and puppies because they are slaughtered after a period of time that they are not adopted. Its cruel to breed animals that ultimately die, right? We put them into countless situations that they don’t want to be in, yet people are still allowed to adopt pets for their own amusement.

    Your comments are ignorant. Horse racing has been around for a thousand years. Just because you see the bad side of American racing you want to rid the world of the sport? It was only 20 years ago that we were feeding our pets Alpo Horsemeat chunks! Now you complain about slaughterhouses and overbreeding?

    Horse racing needs some fixing…its views and attitudes like yours that need to go away

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  13. Mark W Colgan

    Clint

    If we’re going to offer changes to the Kentucky Derby, horses like Looking At Lee don’t belong. Grade 1 credentials don’t mean a thing when the horse hasn’t been able to win and his best was as a 2 year old where he clunked up for a piece.

    If we are to cut the number of entries from 20 to 14, the entries should all be winners of various stakes races going head to head for the roses. Utilizing the best of the prep races and only the winners will also limit the number of inexperienced horses. How many horses finished second in these big races that were shocking long shots, entered the Derby and then ran like the inexperience unworthy horses that they were? Too many to count.

    Horse racing in America is hurting, but its not due to neglect from the companies and tracks alone. People don’t come out to the track. Its not the only game in town anymore. The new fans are few and far between, and bad experiences at the track limit the return for most of them.They don’t know how to place a bet, don’t know what they might win when they do bet. and there are only a handful of people who will help them. I watched a young girl trying to cash a $2 dollar place ticket and was utterly shocked that the return was $2.40. She thought she had won like $100 or some large payoff, and was heard muttering…”this was a waste of my time” as she walked away from the windows.

    We need to do a lot of work to change the view of horse racing and of the fans of the sport. The party atmosphere at Churchill, Pimlico and other events draws large crowds. There should be “Betologists” ala Keeneland race track walking around helping people learn. The atmosphere at Del Mar was an incredible racing experience for me. Why can’t other tracks do the same? Anything to draw a younger crowd to the races would help. Instead of booking bands like Sha Na Na or The Commodores to mid level Racino’s, get younger bands and their fans will come out.

    Whatever the solution is, it needs to start yesterday, but the people running the show need to think outside the box. The old ways are going by the wayside. Time to inject some new blood into this dying sport before it’s too late

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      Clint Goodrich

      Mark… Many great points in your comment. Obviously, there is no perfect system. Someone will always complain or potentially be left out. No way around it. 20 is too many, use whatever system, it just needs to be cut off at one gate, 14 horses. This would be in everyone’s best interest. The race would be better and safer. Nobody in the grandstand would not be there if only 14 raced.

      And yes, the game has been neglected by arrogance for way too long. I will address many of these issues in my next post.

  14. Susan H.

    Well said, Mary Hirtle. Absolutely agree. I am also from the old school and have watched the love for the horses and tradition of the sport go downhill.

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  15. Upbeatred1951

    With 70% of the foal crop of thoroughbreds of any given year eventually going to slaughter, it is hell to be born a TB. Thoroughbred racing is NOT a sport of kings but a money machine where horses that are too young are started too early, trained too hard and beaten to run as fast as possible (and let’s toss in some of these performance enhancing drugs, too). Or maybe they finally got old and then, no matter how much they earned, they are sent to auction and likely shipped to Canada or Mexico. All this for a $2.00 bet and someone’s adrenaline rush (not the horse’s). Horse racing is not a sport. It is a business. As one of the countless people who rescued one of the many OTTBs out there, I know what I’m talking about. Horse racing is cruel and needs to go away. And, all horses enjoy running. But you don’t see them lining up to race around an oval at top speed. Sorry, but they’d rather play with their herd and eat. Horse racing is cruel. Overbreeding is what causes a glut of horses. And folks won’t stop breeding because the next foal crop may just produce the next Secretariat. Oh, we love our horses. Nonsense. You love the money they generate for you. If you love them that much, you wouldn’t forces them into situations that result in injury, pain, and death. That’s the mind set. If the horse disappoints – see ‘ya, don’t want to be ‘ya. Terrible.

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      Clint Goodrich

      Well I’ll just call you “Upbeatred1951” since you are too embarrassed by your own words to use your real name. To be honest with you lady(?) you’re totally clueless. This is a classic quote from people as totally out of touch with the real world as you are

      >> “But you don’t see them lining up to race around an oval at top speed. Sorry, but they’d rather play with their herd and eat” << I'll just ask you politely to leave but I'm going to leave your ugly comments up here for everyone to see.

  16. Diane

    Good article. Agree 100% with you! One other issue that will also bring the demise of racing is cheating and doping. We need national uniformity and real consequences for those caught.

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      Clint Goodrich

      You are totally correct Diane.. I will address this in my next blog post. This can easily be fixed. It least in so as testing technology can keep up. But I have an answer. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  17. Bruce Burks

    Don’t know where your from but horse racing is alive and well in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Your article may apply to the “your perfect world” but it is what it is. I do however agree with you on the purse size in comparison to other races. But as in all free markets “time will tell !!

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      Clint Goodrich

      Hi Bruce – I spent many winters racing at Oaklawn Park. Biggest secret in the world is how cold it is in Hot Springs during the race meet!

      Yes, Oaklawn is a bit of an outlier but it has leaned heavily on instant racing machines to supplement purse revenues. That’s ok but it’s a band-aid. Racing needs change to keep up and stay relevant. Race Track management and the industry in general is leader-less and has little continuity. The same ol, same ol is not going to carry it much further. Except for a few places like Saratoga, Del Mar, Keeneland and to some extent Oaklawn, racing is falling badly behind. Even these 4 tracks are not what they once were. Last week Santa Anita had to cancel racing on a Thursday due to lack of entries. Which ultimately translates into a lack of “interest”.

  18. Cathy

    I believe you meant “couldn’t care less” as “could care less” implies the opposite of what I think you are trying to convey. Additionally, each horse is an individual. Perhaps a campaign with fewer races as a 2 and 3 year old suits some and not others, thereby not needing “real world experience” which could be detrimental to the horse.
    Regarding, “Kentucky Derby is nothing more than an over-hyped, luster-less race for a bunch of ego driven owners with more dollars than sense, who are enabled by a bunch of trainers who have never learned how or are too scared to say no..” There are many benevolent owners and trainers who not only invest countless dollars into the sport but are also dedicated to the welfare of horses (both publicly and privately) after they are done racing. I hope you are able to get to know some of them. Here is just a recent example: https://www.paulickreport.com/horse-care-category/derby-winning-trainer-pletcher-donates-value-ram-truck-thoroughbred-aftercare/

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      Clint Goodrich

      First off Cathy, it’s a blog post not a “thesis” – I’m not really concerned with “couldn’t care less” as “could care less” but hey, I’ll take note.

      I know many, many benevolent owners and trainers. I have literally been both (as well as a jockey). I speak of that which I write with first hand experience. There are tons of great people holding trainer and owner licenses, I actually have gotten to know many of them.

      The Derby has largely turned into what I described. You know, “largely” implies most, as opposed to every…which is what I am conveying.

      BTW, Todd Pletcher, as I know him, is a good guy.

  19. Heather M

    I’ve always said that the Kentucky Derby Is not a horse race – it is a stampede. Agreed on the 14 horses and one gate. But being in Louisville, Ky most of my life, I do totally enjoy the 2 week party.

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      Clint Goodrich

      I understand where you’re coming from Heather. It’s always fantastic to have a good time. That should continue BUT the actual race has been bungled by Churchill Downs since it became a publicly held company.

      Their allegiance is now primarily to shareholders. They are screwing most attendees and horseman while the stock prices has gone through the roof. Yes, that have made improvements to the grandstand. They love to remind everyone about that at every turn. It’s a total deflection.

  20. Terri Bey

    Some of your “facts” like Always Dreaming having the most starts need a little work. Hurts your credibility.

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      Clint Goodrich

      Terri, My mistake. If you’re (me) going to “write, you have to be right”. I fixed my lack of clarity.

  21. don

    Churchill not allowed to make a profit (money), owners not allowed to run their horses, horse racing is Dying because of Horses being mistreated? What Communist commune do you recommend?

    1. Post
      Author
      Clint Goodrich

      Don…! Whoa!! Churchill Downs is absolutely allowed to make a profit. I never said they shouldn’t. Horsemen need to fight for their profit too. If you don’t demand money, you won’t get any!

      And just because you own a horse doesn’t mean you have a right to run in The Kentucky Derby. You don’t get to play in the Super Bowl just because you own an NFL franchise.

      Horse are not being mistreated unless you think racing them is animal abuse. If you think this is true, I’m not sure how you found my post. Is dressing up “Fifi” in a sweater and booties more of an animal abuse than throwing a numbered saddle towel over Thoroughbreds that has been bred for over 300 years to race?

      1. Cathy

        Clint, I believe Don was being sarcastic…except maybe for the Communist part. LOL Don, correct me if I’m wrong. 🙂

        1. Post
          Author
          Clint Goodrich

          Cathy,
          I was hoping Don was being sarcastic about the Communist Party! He sounded pretty serious otherwise..

  22. Barbara S

    I know this is impossible, but I wish they ran the Kentucky derby is four-year-olds. I raced some horses his owner and trainer and never once started a two-year-old. I think two is too young to be racing, but that just seems to be my humble opinion. And I do know economics play a big part in things .

    I came from family racing and the horse was king. We couldn’t race on any kind of drugs. The horses started very few times a year compared to what they do now and we had them year after year. We made a living with him, maybe not a killing , But we made a living. The horses eventually retired and went on to riding stables or some sort of after racing easy life.
    I do agree with what you’re saying.

    1. Post
      Author
      Clint Goodrich

      Barbara, thanks for sharing your insights. When I trained horses, I kept many horses in my barn for years. I could not replace them at will. I had to preserve them and also make money for the owners at the same time. It’s a juggling act to be sure.

    2. Katy

      Its not so much that they run as 2yos or make too many starts – we have bred the soundness right out of them.
      Look up the Triple Crown winners of yesteryear – Assault ran nine times as a 2yo, NINE TIMES! THREE TIMES in June ALONE! And twice more in July. From June 4th to July 18th – 44 days – Assault ran FIVE TIMES – every 9.2 days – as a TWO YEAR OLD! After ending his 2yo season in early October he returned in April to run three times – 4/9, 4/20 and 4/30; before sweeping the Triple Crown on 5/4, 5/11 and 6/1. He won the Derby having run four races in less than 30 days. And won the Preakness ONE WEEK after the Derby. Check out his training schedule recently published in the Blood Horse:

      April 1 Shipped to Belmont Park
      April 5 Worked three furlongs in :37
      April 6 Worked six furlongs in 1:14
      April 9 Won season debut six-furlong Experimental Free Handicap in 1:12
      April 12 Worked four furlongs in :48 2/5
      April 14 Worked three furlongs in :35 1/5
      April 15 Worked one mile in 1:43 4/5
      April 18 Worked one mile in 1:41 2/5
      April 20 Won 1 1/16-mile Wood Memorial in 1:46 3/5
      April 23 Worked three furlongs in :39; shipped to Churchill Downs
      April 30 Finished fourth in one-mile Derby Trial over a muddy track
      May 3 Worked four furlongs in :48
      May 4 Won 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby by eight lengths in 2:05 3/5 (sloppy track)
      May 5 Walked
      May 6 Shipped to Pimlico
      May 8 Worked three furlongs in :40
      May 9 Worked one mile in 1:45
      May 11 Won 1 3/16-mile Preakness by a neck in 2:01 4/5
      May 12 Shipped to Belmont Park
      May 16 Worked four furlongs in :52
      May 18 Worked three furlongs in :40
      May 20 Worked four furlongs in :48
      May 22 Worked one mile in 1:43 3/5
      May 24 Worked three furlongs in :35
      May 25 Worked 1 1/4 miles in 2:05
      May 28 Worked four furlongs in :50
      May 29 Worked 1 1/2 miles in 2:32
      June 1 Won 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes by three lengths in 2:30 4/5
      He frigging WORKED a mile and half THREE DAYS before running a mile and half race – and he worked two seconds slower than he ran. No, the issue is NOT running two year old or racing them in to the ground with a crazy number of starts – the issue is that the soundness has been bred right out of them by owners more concerned with a flashy weanling than a sound runner.

      1. Post
        Author
        Clint Goodrich

        WOW! Great research Katy. You are totally correct, the greed and lure of the sales ring is what has contributed to the decline in soundness, no question.

  23. Kathryn Defranc

    Excellent article!! I totally agree with you, the racing sport needs much cleaning up, but the Kentucky Derby, the race we all want to win, has definitely become just a party for most people who do not go to races before or after they ‘party’ at the Derby! When an announcement was made about the ‘ swimsuit ‘ party for the Preakness, I and several friends commented how ridiculous to make that a big deal when there are many hard-working women in the racing community who could be highlighted at this prestigious race! The problem is getting the right people involved to take racing into the future…

    1. Post
      Author
      Clint Goodrich

      Kathryn… Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. I agree 100%. You are the second person to point out the swimsuit thing surrounding the Preakness. I have no idea where we’re going from here. Racing is rudderless and need sweeping changes. I’ll address this in my next blog post.

  24. Rick Robbins

    I like some of what you wrote but you need to double check your facts.
    Always dreaming only had 5 starts, not 6. And he was far from the. It’s experimented horse. The most experienced horses in the field both had 10 starts, state of honor and the maiden sonneteer.
    Gunnevera had 9 starts. Thunder snow and irap both ran 8 races. Classic empire ran 7 races.
    7 horses ran 6 times and always dreaming wasn’t one of them? He ran only 5. The horse that finished 3rd only ran 4 times.
    The combined starts of the winner and 3rd place horse was less then the. Umber of starts sonneteer, and state of honor each ran by themselves?

    1. Post
      Author
      Clint Goodrich

      Rick Robbins is correct on me missing some facts about numbers of starts with regards to certain horses. I’ve made the corrections to my post. If you’re (me) going to write, you have to be right. My mistake.

  25. Mike

    I wish they would go back to the Old system graded earnings not this point system, Sprinters. Closers eveystyle if runner

    1. Post
      Author
    2. Anna

      Throwing sprinters in the gate just wastes a spot in the gate. They might set the pace, but they burn themselves out and finish at the back of the pack–they aren’t going to get a mile and a quarter. It doesn’t make it interesting, it just means that legitimate route horses get knocked out of the gate by ones that can’t get the distance. They fade through the field and impede those who are trying to close or make up ground. Not a fan.

  26. Brian Peck

    Okay,,,,,,,,on the money…..Let me rest up then I will jump on my soapbox and enter a few more things and some instances I found out firsthand that back some facts you stated

    1. Post
      Author
      Clint Goodrich

      Brian Peck! – Can’t wait to hear you chip in your first hand, real world racing experience. Racing needs to listen to more people who speak from a position of knowledge.

  27. Mary Hirtle

    I absolutely agree with you. This is not the same sport that I fell in love with 60 years ago… this has become a travesty. There is no history… no sense of tradition….. no sense of history. Instead it is, like you said, a group of very greedy owners pushing horses, some extremely unsound, simply to win an extravagant purse. The fact that races like the Wood Memorial, the Whitney…. Jockey Club Gold Cup, and others…. don’t matter anymore. The importance of races like those went out the window with the onset of the Breeder’s Cup… it became all about the money. And this point system for the Derby is simply insanity. Especially for three year olds who are still growing and developing. Horses are getting an automatic entry into the derby sometimes based on one race.. the “win and you’re in” philosophy which keeps many other, probably better qualified, horses out of the race. The derby has become a stampede as soon as that gate opens… that is a tragedy waiting to happen… simply because overanxious jockeys, who want to be a part of history, push their horses way too much. The race this past Saturday was terrible.. horses came out of it injured… one with a bad puncture wound. How did that happen?? How does a horse get a puncture wound? Something needs to be done to save our sport… and it needs to happen soon. Handle is down at almost all tracks… races in Santa Anita have been cancelled due to lack of entries… lack of entries??? Really???? There are no new fans flocking to the races.. young people only care about football and basketball….. horse racing only becomes important during Derby week.. where it is nothing more than an excuse to have a huge party… and drink too many mint julips……… it breaks my heart. From when I was a 9 year old child who fell in love with Tim Tam in 1958, to now. This sport has been my passion. And it’s being destroyed.

    1. Post
      Author
      Clint Goodrich

      Mary….

      You are a true racing fan. I really appreciate the fact you know exactly what I’m talking about. We all know things change – but nothing says things can’t change for the better. It’s my hope is that changes for the better can be made. This is my attempt to share what I know from actual first hand racing experience and not just spout words without offering solutions as well.

      Thank you for reading. I hope you keep reading my blog posts and feel free to speak up!

    2. Anna

      Just to point out here that the point system lists and the graded stakes earnings lists have been almost identical since they put the point system in, the point system just doesn’t include sprints. Winning 100 points for the Florida Derby or the winner’s share of the $1 million purse, either way it’s a “win and you’re in”. All the point system did was eliminate the sprints as qualifiers for the Derby. Why should a 6 furlong horse run in a mile and a quarter race just because his owner has Derby fever and enough graded stakes earnings in sprints to qualify? No, I think the point system has been a really good thing.

    3. ShirleyVH

      As a teenager I fell in love with Whirlaway, Little Mr. Long tail with his miraculous stretch runs from the back of the pack. It used to be called “for the improvement of the breed” They used to show the name of the sire and dam along with the picture of the horse and his post position. Now its all trainers, Owners, etc.

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