10/18/2011 12:43PM

Preventing Another Life At Ten Situation

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It’s impossible to take issue with the plan to have a racing official monitor all television and internal track radio broadcasts at this year’s Breeders’ Cup in an effort to prevent another situation like the Life At Ten debacle that took place at last year’s Breeders’ Cup. It certainly can’t do any harm, and it might do some good. It’s sort of like adding another stop sign at a residential intersection that already has two of them. It might actually prevent an accident once every five years or so.

That said, horsemen and jockeys need to be reminded that the first line of defense at preventing another Life At Ten episode begins with them. While the rights and protections of jockeys and horsemen are always of critical importance, it should be reinforced to them and every other segment of the racing industry that the rights of the betting public come first.

I’m certain the prospect of having to gate scratch a horse in a multi-million dollar race would be a nightmare for both horseman and jockey. The jockey is in an awkward position because the owners have probably traveled a distance for the event, and a gate scratch could easily alienate a trainer just by placing him in a somewhat embarrassing position. The trainer is in a bad spot because – unfairly, the vast majority of the time – a gate scratch could cast aspersions on his ability to read and judge the racing fitness and readiness of his charge.

Simply put, horsemen and jockeys have to get beyond these awkward and embarrassing feelings that could arise in these instances. Not doing so compromises the rights of the betting public. Allowing a horse to race who might be unfit to race means bettors who wagered on that horse are not getting a fair shake.

Why should horsemen and jockeys (and everyone else in the industry, for that matter) be so concerned with protecting the betting public? They should, because it is the dollars the betting public wagers that funds the purse money horsemen and jockeys make their living off of. And this includes the Breeders’ Cup, and the breeding industry in general. Do you think for one second that the breeding industry would exist as we know it today without the incentive of the purses funded by the betting public?

What needs to be reinforced is, if a horseman or jockey suspects there is something even slightly off with their horse pre-race, not only in the Breeders’ Cup – in every race, they must seek consultation with the track veterinarian. Every time. It’s simply the right thing to do, for the horse, and for the people who pay to make this game go.