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Kelly Spencer's Blog


The People's Horses

Published: October 9, 2008 1:41 am ET

Last Comment: October 21, 2008 5:29 pm ET | 2 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

Is it possible that the industry’s tendency to criticize the retirement of its stars is rooted in communal care rather than communal condemnation?

Two sides of the coin: One, a horse slated to retire amidst cries of woe. Two, a horse is ceremoniously retired, then reintroduced amidst cries of woe (and some glee, but mostly woe).

Most of us have no ties to either horse. Yet, we’re compelled to care and comment, ad nauseam. Is it just the usual know-it-all backstretch bologna? We have no emotional stake in it — or do we?

Somebeachsomewhere will retire to the breeding shed at the end of this season, despite emphatic pleas from an enchanted racing community. While unfortunate, it’s understandable. But, it stings on an almost personal level. I suppose it’s the same dynamic that makes grown men cry like little girls and moan like drunk toads over the status of their favourite players in other sports.

In fact, I think the summer-long lament about SBSW’s pending retirement speaks clearly to the profound effect he has had on all of us.

Admirals Express was retired in a lavish ceremony at Mohawk in May 2007. When he returned to the track a year later, trainer Mike Hales said the horse was back because the horse wants to race. The world once captivated by the Grey Gladiator seemed reluctant, yet eager to believe. It was an uncomfortable return — like that icky feeling in your tummy during an impromptu visit from an old flame that was hard to forget the first time around.

In fact, Admiral’s encore has been disappointing and even disheartening as of late. His last effort yielded a sixth-place finish in a $7,600 race for optional $13,000 claimers at Sudbury Downs. Truthfully, I think the only being that wants to be in Sudbury on a Saturday night in October is Stompin’ Tom.

So, is it possible that our seemingly arrogant insistence to criticize the career paths of these superstars is more clinical than cynical? Communal rearing (or ‘community’ for those of you grossed out by the thought of ‘communal’ anything) is not new, or extinct. The concept of communal child rearing is older in most cultures than the current familial system, and still fully intact in many parts of the world.

I think it’s not such a stretch to compare our colossal affinity for the sport’s headliners (or any horse, perhaps) with the innate global desire to protect and nurture kids. Even the ones that don’t live under our roofs, or sleep in our barns. (Horses, not kids).

October 21, 2008 - 5:29 pmspeed kills!!!/ when open

joe k (not verified) SAID...

speed kills!!!/ when open miles go in 1;50+ every week, the horse's system cannot take the strain and demand to carry o2 to energize w/o breakdown and capillary bleeding/ years ago [ the glory years] the open trotters flirted w/ 2;00... all the great returned [ su mac, cardigan bay]and almost all stake colt s returned to go @ 4 again/ the trainers are hard pressed to get thru planned limited campaigns... you want speed you got speed, you want hero's , regulate medication they will slow down , less strain and last longer. the flat horses face the same dilemma.. curlin came back [email protected], everyone is joyful. look up the gelding KELSO.... HE BEAT THE BEST OPEN HORSES 5 YEARS STRAIGHT/jk

October 17, 2008 - 5:02 pmIt was disappointing to

Carey (not verified) SAID...

It was disappointing to learn that horses like 'SBSW' and 'Dewey' are leaving the race track at the end of the season when they have done so much for the harness racing industry. Not many horses have this impact on patrons. And it is great going to the track to hear people actually point out 'there's SBSW!' I truly dislike hearing patrons, or shall I say gamblers, say "Number 2 sucks or they didn't try with Number 4!" I think true patrons of this sport selfishly want to see the standouts race forever, just like the Grey Gladitor but to bring them back to race and see them perform poorly (with heart mind you) when they have done so much for the sport is sad, case in point, Admiral's Express. I think I'm the biggest fan of The Admiral as I've seen him race in Indiana, New Jersey, Michigan, Quebec and a number of Ontario tracks but I wish they would have let him enjoy his retirement. He always tries... but it is sad to see. If they are going to race, they should have a circuit for accomplished older horses, like Admiral's Express and Primetime Bobcat. To see them race is wonderful but to see them not be competitive is sad not only for the horse but to those who truly love these majestic animals.

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