Having been rankled for some time by the trend in horse racing toward commercialism at the sacrifice of quality, we were gratified to be joined in protest last week by John Hay Whitney, co-owner of Greentree Stable. At a dinner in his honor given by the Thoroughbred Club of America in Lexington, Ky., Mr. Whitney hit racing's problem right on the head. In fact, he hit it on both its heads: 1) the business promoters and 2) the tax-hungry politicians who have taken an increasing hold on the nation's tracks.
"The spirit of racing is in jeopardy wherever and whenever sportsmen lose control," said Mr. Whitney. And even as he spoke, the New York State Racing Commission, for revenue purposes, forced its tracks to extend their season to December 7—longest in the state's history—when running conditions can be filthy and even dangerous.
"To check the slide of racing toward the level of professional wrestling," said Mr. Whitney, "racing commissioner-ships must not be passed out as political plums. Men qualified to administer the business of racing are not necessarily qualified to administer the sport of racing." As examples, he cited the spread of betting gimmicks like the twin double and Pic-Six, which may increase the mutuel handle but push racing farther toward a blind lottery. Mr. Whitney also deplored nine-race cards, as well as management that is "more concerned with the publicity value of fast times and track records than with the soundness and well-being of horses."
The racing men at Lexington—and elsewhere—having deservedly honored the right man, would do equally well to honor and implement Mr. Whitney's sound advice.