It's Breeders Cup Friday. Horse racing takes center stage. Life At Ten, a mare that has garnered her share of national attention, appears to be tying up during the post parade and pre-race warm ups.
The mare is so noticeably off that Jerry Bailey, who is working as part of ESPN's broadcast crew, decides to ask jockey John Velazquez if Life At Ten is ok.
Velazquez told a worldwide television audience, not once but twice, that Life At Ten was not ok.
Despite this, the horse wasn't scratched. Instead, she was loaded into the starting gate. And when the gate sprang, Life At Ten showed no interest in running and lagged badly behind the field. Fortunately, Velazquez did not persevere, and Life At Ten was eventually pulled up.
Amazingly, after the press started asking questions about the incident, Chief Steward John Veitch allegedly suggested a gag order be implemented going forward, apparently to prevent jockeys from talking about this type of incident - as if a rider answering questions was somehow the root of the problem.
A number of players and HANA members have told me in no uncertain terms that as HANA's President, I should have immediately called for Veitch's head on a plate.
A number of HANA members and players have also asked why HANA has been silent about the Life At Ten debacle. (And make no mistake: It was a debacle.)
It's a valid question. One that deserves an answer.
Please do not take our silence to mean we approve of what happened or the apparent attempt by Veitch to sweep it under the rug. We are every bit as incensed and bewildered over the events surrounding the Life At Ten incident as you are.
Our mission at HANA is to give horseplayers a voice. As a way of achieving that, we strive to shine a very public spotlight on racing's many debacles (and yes, there are many.)
Almost immediately after the Life At Ten debacle, we looked around and noticed that a very public spotlight was indeed pointing out the events surrounding the Life At Ten incident.
Frankly, once we saw that a spotlight was being pointed at events surrounding this incident, we felt that not only was the job being done, but that is was being done well.
Jeremy Plonk's column at ESPN.com about this incident is an excellent read:
Here are some other links to coverage of the incident:
Turf N Sport:
In closing, we would like to ask racing's decision makers the following (obvious) questions:
What assurances do we as bettors have that measures will be taken so that an incident of this type will not be repeated?
Can you not see that racing is a gambling game?
Do you not understand that integrity is one of the requirements for running a successful gambling game?
In the hearts and minds of thousands of bettors everywhere, failure to scratch Life At Ten was a breach of the public trust, as was failure to test the horse after the race. If ever a horse should have been subjected to a full battery of drug tests, it was Life at Ten after the 2010 Breeders Cup Ladies Classic.