As the calendar flips to 2016, the Paulick Report staff has compiled a list of the stories that you, the readers, found the most compelling in 2015 based on views.
Looking at the variety within the top ten, it would seem the reputation of the PR readership as fascinated by negative stories is only half-deserved. Still, there can be no denying many readers love a good argument (particularly with each other), and commenters seem especially interested in debating various aspects of fairness in racing regulation and equine welfare — probably a good thing, even if it does make a lot of work for the moderators.
Here's our rundown from 2015:
1. New 'Open-Toed' Shoeing Technique Could Correct Hoof Problems, Shift Paradigms, By Sarah Coleman. We were a little surprised to see a hoof care story at the top of our list for 2015, but contributor Sarah Coleman's profile of the ROST open-toed shoeing technique went viral on social media. The ROST technique is pretty distinctive, so the photo that accompanied the story might have prompted viewers to do a double-take. Thoroughbred managers and farriers alike were curious about the technique, which is supposed to help correct contracted heels and toe pain — both common issues with notoriously difficult “Thoroughbred feet.”
It's also possible, based on a quick skim of the title, that Facebook users thought we were selling summer sandals.
2. Unhappy: Borell Sacked Day After Breeders' Cup Sprint Victory We knew when a virtually unknown young trainer began pointing a horse for the Breeders' Cup that we had a big story on tap, but no one realized how sordid the Runhappy saga would become after his seemingly fairytale win. Trainer Maria Borell shocked the racing world the day after Breeders' Cup, taking to Twitter to vent frustration at having been fired the day after the greatest career victory for the colt (and for her). Commenters seemed taken aback before advancing to the eight stages of horse racing news analysis: Surprise, Concern, Anger, More Anger, Critique, Argument, Insult, Debate Over Use Of False Names.
The horse's welfare was also at the forefront of reader's minds, and that remained a point of concern throughout our reporting of Runhappy's barn switch.
3. Twice Banned For Buzzers, Chapa Under Investigation In Texas, By Ray Paulick. Equine welfare was an obvious concern in the case of jockey Roman Chapa, who was accused of carrying an electrical device during a race at Sam Houston Race Park—the third such allegation during his career. Besides outrage directed at Chapa and the trainers who have employed him, commenters also expressed curiosity and frustration at whether Chapa would receive adequate punishment from state racing commissions that had put him back in the saddle after previous charges related to buzzers. The public reaction to Chapa's story served as a useful reminder to any regulators who may have been paying attention — fans don't have a lot of trust in the current system of state racing commissions.
4. Eight Oregon Farms Now Under Quarantine From EHV-1 When we launched our Horse Care section earlier this year, we brought in content that dealt with breeds other than Thoroughbred, and this was one of those stories that reminded us why we did. The news of an EHV-1 quarantine in Oregon spread like wildfire on Facebook, even though the horses involved weren't necessarily racehorses. The outbreak seemed to have occurred at a high school equestrian event, but the dangers of EHV-1 are universal, and disease outbreak at a competition doesn't differ much from one at a racetrack.
5. New York Stewards Sock Espinoza With 'Monster' Fine, By Ray Paulick. This piece, on Espinoza's Monster Energy Drink-sponsored apparel, was the only American Pharoah-related piece in our top ten list for 2015. In the midst of a Pharoah love affair, many readers and social media followers were disgusted at the New York stewards' decision to fine Espinoza, and in light of racing's many regulation problems, accused them of missing the forest for the trees. Surprisingly, no one started a petition to have the stewards, who were criticized for various other decisions or non-decisions this year, sponsored by LensCrafters.
6. 'Hey, That's My Whip!' Astonishing Stretch Run At Parx By Ray Paulick. Part of what likely drew people to the story behind an apparent whip hand-off in the stretch of a claiming race at Parx was the bizarre nature of the move, which may or may not have been coordinated by the two riders. The other part had to be that stewards did not light the inquiry sign to look into the matter. Incidents like this one deepen the public's mistrust of state officials and serve as a reminder that some states seem more like the “Wild West” to fans and bettors than others.
7. McIngvale: 'Timing Was Terrible, But We Did What We Did' By Ray Paulick. Although we published two side-by-side commentaries, one from McIngvale and one from Borell on the Runhappy firing, this was the one people gravitated to more. Maybe that has something to do with McIngvale's big personality and even bigger list of trainers he has hired and fired.
8. TVG And HRTV Merger: What Does It Mean? By Ray Paulick. Even though the merger of the two horse racing networks happened months ago, readers still revisit this post from time to time, looking for answers (or hoping to learn which tracks will appear on which channel, something we're still sorting out ourselves). Besides the practical element of programming, readers seemed most concerned about a monopoly and what the merger would mean for their favorite on-air hosts.
9. $222.40 Mahoning Valley Maiden Winner: Was 'She' Really A 'He'? By Ray Paulick. This one leads the way in the category of 'We Couldn't Make This Stuff Up If We Tried.' Readers had lots of questions when a gelding named Leathers Slappin was brought to the paddock and run at Mahoning Valley as Ruby Queen. It was only in the test barn that officials realized the horse was male. It was only after some investigation and explanation that the incident was determined to be a case of (really) poor attention to detail, rather than any kind of intentional race fixing.
10. 'Our Hearts Are Broken': Connections Confirm Shared Belief Dead After Bout Of Colic By Natalie Voss. For many of us watching at home, it's easy to forget that our favorite horses are not really our own. That makes us cheer all the louder for (and bet all that much more money on) them, but it also makes their deaths that much harder to take. Such was the case with Shared Belief, who died suddenly Dec. 3 as he was preparing to make his long-anticipated return to the track. Co-owners Jungle Racing called the moment “our most devastating,” and our readership felt the blow along with them, offering sympathy and comfort in comments on the Paulick Report and social media.
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