10/14/2008 12:00AM

Blogging with blinkers on


ARCADIA, Calif. - It is usually a cheap shot to take an honorable yet uninformed opinion and drag it over the coals. Best to leave such sentiments stew in their own thin juice until they quietly evaporate.

But when someone steps up to a bully pulpit like the Los Angeles Times and exhales in the direction of Thoroughbred racing with an alarming lack of rational perspective, mention needs to be made. Especially when that someone is the sports editor.

In his Monday morning entry on the Fabulous Forum blog, head Times sports guy Randy Harvey - a racing fan, by the way - mourned the removal of Big Brown from the field for the Breeders' Cup Classic by recommending that Curlin should not run.

(There will be a brief musical interlude while that sinks in. Something from Kenny Chesney would be nice.)

Sports fans express their deepest emotions in every kind of way. Boston reacted to the Red Sox victory in the '04 World Series with joy-filled street riots. Colombian soccer star Andreas Escobar was assassinated in a Medellin cafe 11 days after scoring an own-goal while facing the United States in a World Cup match. I have yet to get over Damascus losing to Most Host in the Strub Stakes, but it's only been 40 years.

Harvey wrote, presumably with a straight face, "As much as I'd like to see Curlin run here, it would be a mistake. What does Curlin, the 4-year-old superstar, have to prove?"

Harvey answered himself with the following string:

"He won the Breeders' Cup Classic last year . . . If he runs and wins, without Big Brown in the race, Curlin won't have enhanced his reputation . . . If he runs and loses against an undistinguished field, it will diminish his accomplishments in the eyes of some . . . Worse, he could be injured."

Where to begin? Taking them one by one, and quickly: (a) by winning the Classic twice, Curlin would be doing something only Tiznow could do, while champions Cigar, Skip Away, Alysheba, and Unbridled could not; (b) the assumption is that the Classic was only two horses deep, which leads to; (c) among the "undistinguished" left in the field will be Euro star Duke of Marmalade, Japanese phenom Casino Drive, Travers winner Colonel John, and Pacific Classic winner Go Between; and (d) yes, Curlin could be injured. So could any of the other 180 or so horses running in the 14 Breeders' Cup events. Does Harvey's grim portent not extend to them as well?

It's okay for some guy sitting in Bangor wearing a ski parka and a "Sham Lives!" button to toss an off-the-cuff remark like, "Big Brown was the only reason to watch the Breeders' Cup." But sports editors are supposed to be the adults in the chat room. Even bloggers hyping the secession of Alaska from the union are allowed to ponder before they pound the keys.

As background, it should be noted that the run-up to the Breeders' Cup has marked a begrudging re-entry into horse racing coverage by the L.A. Times after the purge of earlier this year, when both its turf writer and public handicapper were sacked and entries and results eliminated. But with the Angels out, the Dodgers dangling, and the NFL still missing in action from Los Angeles, it is reasonable to assume that the sports brass might have been banking on a local showdown between the two most famous Thoroughbreds in America to briefly spark flagging interest in their product.

Instead, Harvey's post provided more proof of the top-down view of horse racing fostered by the mainstream media. In their eyes, it took Curlin two testing campaigns of international scope and $10 million-plus in earnings to finally achieve equal billing with Big Brown, who won the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and not the Belmont. Forget about the Big Brown owner-and-trainer sideshow. The Q rating generated by the 2008 Triple Crown alone trumped anything Curlin could have done, short of swimming the Hudson River.

Yes, it is very disappointing that the best 3-year-old in the country did not get a chance to run against the best older horse in the country. Such moments have been both entertaining and richly satisfying. The 4-year-old Kelso did a number on Derby and Preakness winner Carry Back in the 1961 Woodward Stakes. The 3-year-old Damascus was way too much horse for 4-year-old Buckpasser in the Woodward of 1968. In 1979, the 4-year-old Affirmed was better than 3-year-old Spectacular Bid, but not by much.

Lately, the expectations for intergenerational combat have been lowered. Three-year-olds who have gone through the Triple Crown have a hard time sticking around. It would have been great to have seen 3-year-old Point Given range up alongside 4-year-old Tiznow in the 2001 Breeders' Cup Classic, but it didn't happen, while neither Smarty Jones nor Afleet Alex made it beyond the Belmont Stakes to be measured against Ghostzapper and Saint Liam.

In fairness to Harvey, though, at the time of his post he had not yet seen Curlin's five-furlong work in company at Santa Anita on Monday afternoon. Had he waited to hang the black crepe on the Breeders' Cup Classic, he might have blogged instead that Big Brown was lucky he won't have to come all the way to California just to get hit by a big red train.