Beyond the uplifting coronation of Zenyatta as the 2010 Horse of the Year, two themes emerged from Monday night's 40th annual Eclipse Awards dinner from Miami Beach, Fla. — that horses and fans are what really matter.
No one spoke more from the heart than Marylou Whitney did, when she summed up her experiences in the sport so eloquently. “Horses–and the people involved in racing–have always given me more than I could ever give them,” she said. “Horse racing is where I feel the most alive…AND at home. You are my family!”
If you haven't read the complete transcripts of her remarks, please do. Click here.
Whitney talked about the duty we have to end horse slaughter, and Jerry Moss, co-owner with wife Ann of Zenyatta, touched on a similar theme when he spoke of the importance of supporting Thoroughbred retirement programs like California's Tranquility Farm.
Mike Repole, owner of the 2-year-old male champion Uncle Mo, exuded the enthusiasm of the racing fan and horseplayer and the compassion of a horse lover. Repole, like Whitney and the Mosses, puts his money where his heart is, supporting retirement programs to take care of his former racers.
It's often been said that if you take care of the horse, the horse will take care of you, and that theme can probably be extended to racing fans and horseplayers. Several owners of Eclipse Award winners pointed out that this sport cannot exist without fans. And that's true, but we can't live without owners, breeders, racetracks, trainers, jockeys and backstretch workers, either.
Tracks need to do a better job providing better service to their customers. Owners, breeders and trainers must do more for the horse that carries this sport and for the people who care for them. Horseplayers who may have lost a bet need to think twice before shouting out that some trainer is a cheater or juicer, just because he won.
This is not an either/or thing. It's not Zenyatta vs. Blame, or horseplayers vs. trainers or jockeys vs. owners. This is about recognizing that we depend on each other, that we need fans who love this noble animal, gamblers who bet on them, owners willing to risk capital that their horse is faster than your horse, breeders willing to live the dream that this mare and that stallion can produce something wonderful that may live to take our breath away like Zenyatta, Blame and all the other champions did in 2010.
This is the circle of life in the sport of the Thoroughbred.
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