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Sport first, business second
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December 15, 1958
That's the way it must be if racing is to stay healthy, as the brilliant 1958 season has again convincingly proved
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December 15, 1958

Sport First, Business Second

That's the way it must be if racing is to stay healthy, as the brilliant 1958 season has again convincingly proved

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If our Triple Crown is to have lasting significance, it would make more sense to limit purses of some of our lesser races and specifically those preceding the Kentucky Derby. At last summer's Jockey Club Round Table Conference in Saratoga, Jockey Club Chairman George D. Widener went on record as saying he disapproved of any race having a value of more than $100,000.

A MAJOR SWITCH

A logical reform would be to rearrange the dates and running order of our Triple Crown races. The Kentucky Derby, traditionally run on the first Saturday in May, should be run following the Preakness, which is a sixteenth of a mile shorter. It makes more sense to train a horse up to the mile-and-three-sixteenths Preakness distance in early May than to attempt to bring him to peak form to run a mile and a quarter. Thus, if the Preakness could be held first, the Derby could follow at an interval of two or three weeks. And the Belmont? Why not, say a number of influential New York racing officials, run the Belmont (at a mile and a half) in the fall rather than immediately after a good proportion of 3-year-olds have succumbed to the inevitable ills and ailments that accompany a tough spring campaign and two of the Triple Crown events? Speaking on this subject shortly after the most recent Belmont Stakes, in which the champion Tim Tam bowed out of his racing career for good, New York Racing Secretary Jimmy Kilroe said: "The Belmont would then (if moved back to the fall) be sort of a counterpart of the English St. Leger, rather than the Epsom Derby, and it might be more of a championship test as it would get all the new 3-year-olds who, for one reason or another, couldn't make the spring races, as well as the survivors of those stakes after they have had time to be freshened."

Racing in this country today is conducted, for the most part, by men of integrity who want to build their sport up and clear it of any old smudges left over from the days when its conduct was always suspect—and often rightly so. Problems affecting everyone in the sport are discussed and settled with a minimum of discord. Some solutions will not be found at one sitting: of prime concern to everyone in racing today, for example, is the imminent danger that there may soon be a shortage of top jockeys. The child labor laws have restricted the employment of young stable hands, and fewer exercise boys are industrious enough to qualify as hopeful apprentice riders.

As healthy as the sport-business of racing is at the moment, it can ill afford to relax. This is an enterprise big enough and mature enough to be totally adult about its problems. When the administration of New York City recently began talking about the legalizing of off-course betting to gain additional revenue, racing's top brass exploded in nervous indignation. It was not until a week or so later—after The New York Times had run an intelligent survey of off-course betting in other countries—that many racing officials began to grasp the problem. The system, after all, does work in some places. When such a proposal comes up to confront racing it is racing's duty to give it thorough scrutiny instead of lapsing into outmoded and unnecessary defensiveness. A week or so ago there was an investigation of New York race track pari-mutuel clerks in connection with labor employment practices. This was certainly no reflection on the conduct of the racing itself at Jamaica, the track then in operation. And yet the track hastily saw fit to treat the investigation with such defensive humility that by the time some of the press had given it bold suspicious headlines it was inevitable that a large segment of the public was unnecessarily aroused over thoughts of possible racing "fixes," stimulations and other such hanky-panky. Does the president of a bank have to tell the public that his tellers are all hard-working honest men just because he finds out his secretary got her job through the brother-in-law of the retired night watchman?

A bank is too respectable for that. And racing is both too respectable and too big for it.

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