The racing in 2013 was great, including a close Breeders' Cup Classic, but Bob Ehalt hopes to see a few different things in 2014 (Photos courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire).
A new year is at hand and while it’s surely a time for resolutions, it’s also appropriate to look up at the stars and offer some wishes for the coming year.
So before the big ball drops in Times Square, here’s my wish list for what I’d like to see in Thoroughbred racing during the 12 months awaiting us in 2014.
1 – A Triple Crown – On the afternoon of June 10, 1978, I was fortunate enough to be in the grandstand at Belmont Park when Affirmed become the 11th Triple Crown champion. Less than a month earlier, I had graduated from college.
Go back in time, and there was no way I could have imagined that I would have a son who has a college diploma and there would still be 11 Triple Crown winners.
The arrival of 2014 will bring the Triple Crown drought into a 36th year and suffice it to say the sport is long overdue for a horse to join the ranks of its greatest runners.
While all of the near-misses and teases of the last three and a half decades haven’t diminished the immense popularity of the series, it’s about time for a new generation of fans to have their own version of an Affirmed or Seattle Slew or Secretariat to cherish and hold up as the gold standard for greatness.
I'LL HAVE ANOTHER WON THE DERBY AND PREAKNESS IN 2012 BUT WAS HURT BEFORE THE BELMONT
At the very least, how about if the racing gods give us a Triple Crown bid that lasts more than one race? The Belmont Stakes hasn’t enjoyed the presence of a Kentucky Derby/Preakness winner since 2008 and after the Big Brown fiasco of that year it’s about time to see 100,000 fans at Belmont Park rooting for it to be 1978 all over again.
2- A little unity – At some point the powers that be in racing have to realize they need to work together, not at cross purposes. Hopefully it will be 2014.
The only way for racing to move forward in powerful strides is for the major players to understand the virtue of unity.
Racing has no shortage of problems but as long as various segments of the industry act independently of each other there will never be proper resolutions. That can only produce strife and the kind of bickering that allows negative images to fester.
At some point, racing has to learn from professional sports and understand that some sacrifices on the part of some can lead to prosperity for all, and that needs to happen sooner rather than later.
3 – A New York Breeders’ Cup – It can’t happen in 2014, but it would be nice to hear that the Breeders’ Cup will return to the Big Apple at some point.
Look, Santa Anita is a great location. The weather is gorgeous and Arcadia is not far from the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles and Hollywood (unless you’re stuck in rush hour traffic).
But New York remains racing’s best year-round market and the fans who support the handle at Saratoga, Belmont and Aqueduct on a daily basis deserve the opportunity to shell out a $13 toll to cross the Throgs Neck Bridge to so that they can see the Breeders’ Cup as opposed to spending $1,300 to travel to the West Coast and spend a few days there.
THE BREEDERS' CUP HAS BEEN HELD IN CALIFORNIA FOR FOUR OF THE PAST SIX YEARS
There’s no one person or group to blame for the lack of a Breeders’ Cup in New York since 2005. There’s surely been a multitude of valid reasons for the event being held elsewhere. Yet with a new management team in place at the New York Racing Association, setting up a future date would be refreshing news for East Coast fans – even if a private entity runs the tracks when it happens.
Sure, the Breeders’ Cup belongs in California in most years. But there’s nothing wrong with asking fans from other parts of the country to pack a coat and head East every now and then.
If they can play the Super Bowl in New Jersey in February, a Breeders’ Cup in New York in late October is hardly a preposterous request.