free spirit

Baby Talk #35

by Tom Carley



Volume 2   Edition 4

The Calendar reads December 15 and Christmas is just 10 days away.  This edition of BabyTalk is going to be slightly different: I am going to “play Santa” and hand out my imaginary wrapped “boxes” to offer thoroughbred racing fans the gifts you want and deserve.  This is a light hearted column to accompany the holiday season. Next edition I shall jump back into the business of analyzing the soon to be 3-year-old thoroughbred contenders for the upcoming racing season. So, while we focus on remembering our family, loved ones and friends as the season approaches, let’s have some fun taking a look at holiday gifts that could make this Sport of Kings even more enjoyable.

As the New Year also approaches, we look back on the year 2015, which will long be remembered for providing every fan of the sport what he or she had been anxiously awaiting for 37 long, drought years: a Triple Crown winner.  American Pharoh proved to be one of the most popular athletes of 2015, and was even in the running for Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year award.

So gather around Horsemen and women one and all – as I reach in my big red bag of goodies, conscious of what an auspicious year it has been – and pass around the gifts I’d like to give everyone involved in this sport, whether naughty or nice…

For the sport:  A national racing commission that is uniform in rules.  Too many times trainers ship horses from their home state to other parts of the country only to learn that they need be aware of differences in minor rules such as medications, licensing, etc.

For the racing secretaries:  Horsemen attracted to invest time and money to compete in major races so we no longer have major stakes races with only 6-horse fields.

For the fans:  A new group of three-year-olds with whom we can develop a long relationship. We long for horses we can root for; connections we can get to know and love; jockeys who are charismatic; and horses that become household names to us.

For the fans:  A group of solid three-year-olds that become seasoned, and don’t retire at the end of their three-year-old career: equine athletes who stay competitive for a few more years.  This will give fans horses to root for their favorites over a longer period of time.  The sport needs another Wise Dan.

For the sport:   A growing national television deal that puts more races on network television channels.

For the sport:  An infusion of new fans who come to appreciate why so many of us all love this sport.

For the horsemen:  Uniform race run ups.  What I mean is that, while races are held at all racetracks at a distance of 6 furlongs, each racetrack varies how far behind the 6-furlong pole the starting gate is placed.  The further behind the pole the gate is placed (increasing the length of the run up) the more a horse will build forward momentum.  This leads to fluctuations in race times, speed figures, etc.   It is now time for all racetracks to adopt a fixed run up distance.  I would suggest a standard of 90 feet.

For the horsemen:  Larger purses to win.  Larger purses are an indication that economically the sport is successful: larger betting pools from the fans lead to larger purses for the horsemen.  The horsemen are the brick and mortar of thoroughbred racing: the ones that make this sport operate.

For the fans:  A radio network that focuses on horse racing.  Yes, XM has horse racing programming, but wouldn’t it be great to be able to tune into live audio of races from our desk during the work day? 

For the sport:  A way to spread out the excitement and focus the sport receives on KENTUCKY DERBY day, and maintain that engagement and momentum over numerous Saturdays throughout the year.  Increased media attention on thoroughbred racing would help achieve this goal.

For the bettors:  A way that each weekend could offer multi-race wagers for events held at different racetracks.  That way, you could take the four most important races of the day (usually the stakes races) and make an All Stakes, Multi-Track Pick 4 wager possible.  This would allow bettors to avoid focusing on only a few tracks.

For Oaklawn Park:  A year of great weather.  This racetrack has really helped horsemen out over the last few years by increasing its purses.   However, Oaklawn seems to lose a dozen race dates each year due to weather related issues.  I also would love to see them get a permanent race caller.

For TVG:  A way to show thoroughbred races all day— as well as during prime time.  There are too many periods when no tracks are running that the station resorts to showing harness racing or specialized programming.

For the horses:  A way to end their reliance on medication and allow these equine athletes to run naturally as they were intended.  Horses use to be much more durable.  A return to those days of seeing our favorite horse race 10 to 12 times a year can only improve the sport. 

For Churchill Downs:  A way to recreate the excitement seen in early May to the entire racing year.  The track is trying things to bring new fans to the sport.

For the Belmont Stakes:  The final jewel in the Triple Crown that offers a horse the opportunity to contest the Test of a Champion.  This race is so exciting to me when the mile and a half distance has so much at stake.  Last year’s race sold out early as a triple-crown winner was so hopefully anticipated.

For all the trainers who do it the right way and place the horse’s well-being first:  A 2016 of healthy horses, racing success and the ability to teach other trainers, owners, and people the right way to allow these majestic beings to develop naturally.

For everyone:  A holiday full of well wishes and great times spent with loved ones.  While we all love the sport, let us not lose sight of what is really important:  family, friends, loved ones, our four-legged friends of all kinds, laughter and love. 

Peace to all and a Merry Christmas from the BabyTalk staff.

This column is for you, the reader.  I really want you to be a part of it.  Please feel free to drop me a line at with your questions, comments, and items you would like explained in more detail.  I thank each of you for taking the time to read my words, put up with my opinions, and share your love for our sport.  Let’s all do our part to keep this game great.

I look forward to sharing our journey all the way to Louisville.

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