But seriously, folks, has it really come to this? Threatening to sue the Breeders' Cup because you don't agree with the medication policy adopted by the organization's board of directors two years ago.
The reasons for possible litigation in a letter from the attorney representing California horse owners Gary and Mary West were many: the safety and health of horses and jockeys; the “obvious” financial injury to owners and breeders who have raced in an environment permitting race-day medication; the “unfair advantage” it would give to owners of horses from outside the U.S. who don't use Lasix as a crutch. And then there were the “fiduciary duty” references, namely that discontinuing the use of Lasix for two days a year would “have a devastating impact on every aspect of the American Thoroughbred racing industry.”
The letter says Breeders' Cup would be “betraying U.S.-based racing interests in favor of foreign interests” if it had gone forward with the ban on Lasix for all of its 2013 championship races at Santa Anita.
“Our clients see no moral, legal or ethical rationale or justification for providing preferential treatment to foreign interests who only marginally participate in the BC's races,” the letter said. “They provide no jobs in this country, the money does not stay in this country, and almost none of the foreign horses were bred or bought at U.S.-based sales.”
The influence of internationally owned farms like Ashford Stud, Darley, Juddmonte, Shadwell and others is enormous, both in providing jobs and stimulating the American horse farm economy, Thoroughbred sales, and ancillary businesses.
Someone could play the “fiduciary duty” card every time the Breeders' Cup was held at a track other than Churchill Downs, which has proven to be the most successful host site from a ticket sales and wagering standpoint. Yet no one has done that.
The letter said the Wests have paid fees to nominate stallions and foals to the Breeders' Cup “with the expectation that their horses would be competing within a Lasix-permissive environment” that existed in previous years. “This merits judicial intervention,” the letter said.
Let's go back in time to another major change to the Breeders' Cup program. In 1988, the Breeders' Cup Distaff (now Ladies' Classic) was shortened by a furlong, from a mile and a quarter, the distance at which it had been contested since the inaugural championship in 1984, to a mile and one-eighth.
You may remember that Personal Ensign capped off an incredible career that November day, getting up in the final jump to beat Winning Colors by a desperate nose in a race that many still believe to be the greatest in Breeders' Cup history.
The late Ogden Phipps bred that daughter of Private Account out of Grecian Banner, by Hoist the Flag, with the knowledge that the Breeders' Cup Distaff – the crowning event for fillies and mares – was a 10-furlong race, not nine furlongs. Had her furious rally fallen short and she finished second that day, needing another furlong to get the victory, would Ogden Phipps have sued the Breeders' Cup for shortening the race by 220 yards?
Now, that's funny.
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