View From The Eighth Pole: Whipping Up A Frenzy

by | 06.04.2018 | 11:38am
The issue of whip use was one target of Gaffigan's commentary on horse racing

It's all good.

On Saturday, NBC devoted a full hour to the unforgettable 1989 Triple Crown rivalry surrounding Sunday Silence and Easy Goer with the airing of a documentary film “Dark Horses” (encore presentations can be seen on NBCSN June 6 at 8 p.m., June 8 at 7 p.m., and June 9 at 8 a.m. – all times Eastern).

On Sunday, during the popular “CBS Sunday Morning” news broadcast, the Triple Crown was the subject again, with the popular comedian Jim Gaffigan poking fun at horse racing during a three-minute essay.

There were some nice comments on social media about “Dark Horses,” with people saying they got chills watching Sunday Silence and Easy Goer going at it through the Triple Crown and into the Breeders' Cup later that year. I even heard from a few friends who saw that I was one of the people interviewed on camera about the rivalry that focused largely on brothers Arthur and Seth Hancock. The comments were all positive.

It was nothing compared to the reaction to Gaffigan's takedown of horse racing.

“If we put all the pageantry of the Triple Crown aside, we're talking about gambling,” Gaffigan said. “I guess it's like prom for gamblers, where people bet on horse racing while dressed like characters from ‘Gone With the Wind.'”

Not only is that statement true, the behavior is what we as an industry encourage people to do at big races: Dress to the nines and bet with your lungs.

Then Gaffigan said the winning owner is “usually dressed like the monopoly man.”


Well, I have yet to see the owner of a Kentucky Derby winner wearing a monacle or top hat, but Steve Coburn was sporting a pretty big mustache and a Stetson when California Chrome won in 2014. And we had a glimpse of royalty the following year when the Burger King man made an appearance in trainer Bob Baffert's box while American Pharoah ran for the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes.

Finally, Gaffigan touched on that most sensitive of topics, whipping, the one the industry refuses to acknowledge is a problem for the sport's image.  Mocking what he called the “valuable insight” gained from a post-race jockey interview, Gaffagan joked, “Well, I whipped the horse and then it ran.”

He added: “They're horses and they don't care about the Triple Crown. They probably just want someone to stop whipping them because they are poor horses that are being whipped.”

Despite the public outcry (led on Twitter by American Pharoah's owner, Ahmed “Dress to the Nines and Bet With Your Lungs” Zayat), I'd say this three minutes on “CBS Sunday Morning” was good for the sport. Remember, it's when people stop talking about horse racing and the Triple Crown that we need to worry.

It would be even better if the Thoroughbred industry's leaders actually listened to what he said. That's my view from the eighth pole.

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