Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why we race horses.  Sometimes it’s for fun, sometimes it’s for money and sometimes it’s for the glory of the game.  There are as many different motivations as there are people and horses.

Rapid Redux

There is currently a rather special horse doing the rounds in the US called Rapid Redux.  He is a 5 YO chestnut gelding by Pleasantly Perfect out of a Storm Cat mare called Thiscatsforcaryl.  He’s not a top division horse and runs in the claiming ranks in fact, but nonetheless, last week he galloped into the history books by winning his 20th race in succession, beating the record set by Pepper’s Pride and the mighty Zenyatta.  Since being claimed by Robert Cole for $6,250 late last year, the rangy chestnut has been conditioned by David Wells and he started his 20 race winning streak on 2 December 2010.  With just over a month left in his current division, his connections are now eyeing a second prize – Citation’s record of 19 wins in one year.

It has been interesting to follow the on-line coverage and internet chatter that has inevitably been generated.  Some have suggested that Rapid Redux should be nominated for Horse of the Year.  There is equally strong opposition that being a ‘claimer’, he’s simply not good enough to merit such an honour.  There were similarly vociferous opinions when Zenyatta was nominated for Horse of the Year, and murmurs that she’d not done enough to merit being a genuine superstar.

There is an old expression that one should keep yourself in the best company and your horse in the worst, so it seems a little unfair to knock the horse because the connections have campaigned it intelligently !!

Aren’t people funny creatures ?  We long for track stars and when they do the impossible, break records and create some well-needed publicity for racing, we still find reasons to knock them down.  It all depends on your idea of a super star I guess.  But either way, here we have a great little horse, who generates column inches and heated debate and he goes out roughly every 18 days and simply gets on with the job.  And I think that’s fantastic.

Turn on, tune in, drop out

I recently had the honour of being made godmother to the most charming little boy called Max and to fulfill my new-found duties as fairy godmother, I was called to a family gathering last Saturday to celebrate his 3rd birthday.  We did the cake decorating and candle blowing and with there only being so much value I can reasonably add to a group of toddlers, I duly sloped off to watch some coverage of the Summer Cup.

There were some fantastic runners carded and I had a rather long wish list of horses and jockeys I wanted to see.  Max is fascinated by horses (I am obviously a good influence!) so he came along to watch with me.  It was horrible and fascinating at the same time to notice that his sticky 3-year old hand just about covered the tiny square on the screen showing the ‘horsie’ and the rest of the space on the TV was entirely dedicated to revolving lists of bets and odds.  When he pointed to the rest of the screen and asked what the numbers were, we tried to explain that those were the betting odds.  When he blinked back at us and asked ‘why?’ in that way that children do, I must admit I didn’t really have an answer.

First principles

The Silence of the Lambs is one of my favourite films and my favourite line is when Hannibal Lecter tries to explain the motivations of the serial killer.  ‘First principles, Clarice. Simplicity. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing ask: what is it in itself? What is its nature? What does he do, this man you seek?’

On a recent discussion on the African Betting Clan, Barry Irwin wrote ‘Racing started out without the need for an organized racing association.  It was started by owners that wanted to know which man’s horse could beat the other man’s horse’.

With horse racing, I think that first principle goes back to Barry’s explanation that we are, at the core, simply looking to find which man’s horse can beat the other one.  And I believe that that’s why we breed horses, buy horses, spend money training and conditioning and lavishing all sorts of therapies and exercise theories on them.  And I would guess that that’s why people enjoy betting on them too.  Yes, we gamble to try and win money, but mostly, we want to see who is the better horse.

Back to the Studio

The Summer Cup race day commentators seemed entirely focused on reminding people that this was the first leg of the Pick 3 / Pick 6 / Place Accumulator / blah blah and that there were only so many minutes left to get your bets on.  Honestly, I zoned out entirely.  It was horrible !

I wanted to hear about Link Man and Shea Shea, Felix the Cat (ridden by Felix the Cat – how bout that combo to get people interested?).  There was Ilha Bela – the daughter of the fabulous Ilha da Vitoria, Whiteline Fever, Straw Market, Merhee and Potala Palace who had generated so much hot debate in the punting ranks.  The White Horse, Dancewiththedevil, Perana, Jet Jamboree, Pierre Jourdan – all horses with fabulous back stories.  But no, instead we were treated to revolving reminders about bets, odds and payouts.  Nothing about what we’re supposed to be betting ON.

Ugh.  Really guys, just ugh.

And I’m afraid Kenilworth wasn’t a lot better on Sunday.  We had some INCREDIBLE horses on course.  The entries for the fillies race alone was the stuff dreams are made of – Ebony Flyer, Hollywoodboulevard, Beach Beauty.  At the same course!  IN THE SAME RACE !!  What A Winter reminded us why he dominated the press and punters imaginations not so long ago with a fantastic win in the Pinnacle Stakes.  Past Master, this year’s Met Winner was on course.  Changingoftheguard and Polar Bound gave us a stonking finish in race 7 and the Selangor was a veritable chocolate box of favourites and fabulous horseflesh.

And still there was little hype and the on course PA announcements were all about the dividends….

That Man Timothy

Timothy O’Leary said that his famous catch-phrase was often misinterpreted to mean “Get stoned and abandon all constructive activity” so he took the opportunity to explain it a little more fully in his 1983 autobiography Flashbacks.  “Turn on” meant go within to activate your neural and genetic equipment. Become sensitive to the many and various levels of consciousness and the specific triggers that engage them.  “Tune in” meant interact harmoniously with the world around you – externalize, materialize, express your new internal perspectives.  “Drop out” suggested an active, selective, graceful process of detachment from involuntary or unconscious commitments.

We really have lost our grasp of the first principles.  We are on channel 232, on course, on the training gallops, at the sales to see the horses.  If we’ve really forgotten that, then I’m afraid we’re going to have a lot more people ‘dropping out’.

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