Thoroughbred Racing Fan Association, Inc.




Sometimes a Race is Just a Race

No argument here, sports betting casts a shadow over every sport we see on television. Whether you play golf or not, you were likely glued to your chair in front of the television watching the 2023 Masters last weekend. These golf professionals performed with precision and consistency. They made the game look easy and easy is one thing the game of golf is not. No doubt thousands of golf fans in the stands had wagers on the tournament, as did many at home. The Bet MGM Sports Book had Dustin Johnson as the favorite while actual winner Joh Rahm was much farther down the list. Most of us, even non-golfers, watched and applauded Rahm as he humbly readied for the Green Jacket ceremony. Why?

Why are sportsí fans attracted to sports that they never played? The imploding athleticism amazes us. As a hockey player most of my youth I wondered how so many who have never laced up love and follow the game. It must be the joy of watching the competition which brings me to racing, my sport of record after hanging up my skates. My first encounter with a Thoroughbred horse came accidentally when a friend invited me to attend the 1978 Belmont Stakes. I had no idea that I was about to see history documented on the dirt oral in Elmont, New York. I took to the sport like bear for honey. It helped that I had gambling blood and enjoyed the thrill of winning a wager, occasionally. Here I am some 45 years later still downloading PPs and visiting as many tracks as possible in a year that my time allows.

This week I had an epiphany. I was looking over Saturdayís card from Oaklawn Park. Full disclosure Oaklawn Park racing tops my day at the races not because of ROI or great racing, but because of the enthusiasm and love of racing Arkansans and their neighbors have for our sport. I, also, have the assignment to handicap the 2023 Apple Blossom Handicap for ThoroFaní s Handicap Corner. Pulling up the card I was shocked at the small four-horse field for this prestigious $1 million race. Two champions, Secret Oath and Clairiere joined two new commers to grade-one racing. It looked like a two-horse race, both carried Morning Line odds of under 2-to-1. Should I base my analysis on a flip-of-a-coin? Should I try to beat the favorites. As I scanned the past performances my excitement for the race heightened. Clairiere was back seeking retribution after a traffic caused second place finish to Secret Oath last month in the Azeri Stakes. She was the favorite to win that race but didnít. A third horse, Hot and Sultry, raced in the Azeri, as well, taking the lead in the stretch only to give it up to Secret Oath. The teams of each awaited the rematch. The 2023 Apple Blossom Handicap parallels the Masters for racing fans. Who will win? Will the bet be worth the risk? Unknown. Yet assuredly the 8.5-furlong competition for these ladies will be worth the price of admission, even if not a betting race.

Like the Masters racing fans will settle in to watch an incredible race between two greats with the chance that another will relive Onion in the 1973 Travers Stakes beating Secretariat. Although the past performance make that unlikely we racing fans know whatís on paper may not reveal itself on the track. They have to run the race to determine who wins. So many factors play against any horse winning when they are so well matched as Secret Oath and Clairiere in the 2023 Apple Blossom. But taking less than two minutes to focus on the race is the only way you will know for sure.

Racing fans are so lucky to have a sport that offers such excitement many times a day and on which we can legally bet. We need to cherish what we have and enjoy it to the fullest. Watching a good race between two champions can be exhilarating for a real racing fan as wagering on the outcome of the race.