News Flash: It Is No Longer the 19th Century. Grass Horses and F!llies–Not Inferior.

Marion E. Altieri, New York WriterEvery time I think that perhaps horse racing doesn’t need my voice–and that of many other intelligent, level-headed womyn and men–I read something that makes my eyeballs bleed, and my blood boil.

I spied a headline this morning that nearly blew off my head–I ranted to myself for a while, then decided that I’d rant to YOU, instead.

But, no…a mere raving on, about bias and outright prejudice won’t accomplish anything for The Long Run.  It WILL help me avoid bleeding eyeballs, and get it out of my system.  But for The Long Run–and this Long Run is very important, readers–for this battle and its many implications, it’s necessary to write a compelling, logical argument.

Yes, I DO find it to be fascinating–or I have multiple personalities–that I have these two sides to my brain:  the emotional half, that goes berserk and vents using 64-cent words and finger-air-stabbing gestures–and the Vulcan-like, logical place at which I can logically argue anyone into the ground.  Don’t get into a  Platonic argument with me–you won’t win.  I was taught by brilliant logicians, and built up some serious chops.

So I’m going to spew for just a minute here, then switch to the logic portion of our show:  I’m going to tell you that any headline that reads,

“…To Eclipse Reputation As Filly, Grass Trainer”

IS, on its face:

* a lousy headline, at the very least.

* a signal, that American horse racing still hasn’t joined the 21st Century–and the rest of Planet Earth–and acknowledged that neither grass racing nor female race horses are inherently inferior to dirt, and males.

Let me shake my head vigorously here, to clear out the bad Karma that dumped itself all over my Being when I read that headline, and the ensuing article.  The piece states that a major Thoroughbred trainer (who’s a really great guy, and obviously, a gifted horseman)–enjoyed millions of dollars of purses last year.  And that the majority of those wins came at the hooves of grass horses and f!llies.

Oh, the poor man.  He only won millions of dollars–and he rode it on the backs of horses who obviously were inferior, because they had big feet (loved the grass) or who were packin’ lady parts.

Wise Dan (Wiseman’s Ferry) wins the Maker’s 46 Mile (G1) at Keeneland on 4.12.2013. Jose Lezcano up, Charles LoPresti trainer, Morton Fink owner.

Wait-WHAT?!?!?  Is this the 21st Century?  Does America race against horses from all around this planet?  Horses who, in their own countries–regularly, and historically–race on (shudder)–GRASS?

Or is American racing doing that U.S.-centric thing, where we live in this little bubble–expect the world to come to US–and insist (in spite of a mountain of evidence to the contrary)–that we don’t have to acknowledge that the methods, theories and traditions of the rest of the world–COUNT?  That The Others MAY actually know a little bit more about the sport than we Americans do, if for NO other reason than that–they’ve been doing it longer?

Every other country on this planet–and probably every other orb in this solar system–traditionally has raced on (and continues to race) on good old grass.  (You know, grass:  silky, soft, tiny green plants that stick out of the ground–and, when billions of them come together, they create a lush, often-rain-slickened surface that has challenged most of the world’s greatest horses.)

Phar Lap racing to win in 1930.

And YES, some of the world’s most famous–and most accomplished–horses, EVER–are/were turf specialists. Revered names like Dr. Fager, John Henry,  Phar Lap, Wise Dan,  Frankel, Theatrical, Flintshire, Makybe Diva,  Sunline, Black Caviar–and the new goddess on the block, the mighty Winx who just won her 17th straight in Oz–all grace(-d) the grass.  All won hearts, minds and boatloads of green (cash), putting their big, strong feet down on lush, waving, cool–green.

And yet, movers and shakers in American horse racing–media, owners and trainers–still offer resistance to the turf. As if somehow, Americans invented the sport of horse racing.  As if we know more about it than, oh, those people who were doing it for centuries before the American Revolution began.

This brings us to the last three names on that list:  Makybe Diva, Black Caviar and Winx all are female Thoroughbreds, whose careers established them as legitimate members of the Pantheon.  With two strikes against them (according to American racing “wisdom”)–these three powerhouses proved themselves over and over.  And over.  How could three f!llies become rock star race horses?  Easy:  they raced in a country that doesn’t see a horse’s gender as a measuring stick for potential success.

Think about this for one moment, please:  
Jockeys aren’t called, “men jockeys,” if they’re male.
But read an article about, say, Julie Krone–and without fail, you’ll see the description, “woman jockey.”  The insertion of her gender in her job title seeks to diminish all that she accomplished, and continues to achieve.  Her gender had NOTHING to do with her mad skills–with her superiority in the irons.

So, too, is it diminishing when it’s noted that, “…Winx, the f!lly, is the favorite…”  Why is it necessary to mention her gender?  Is it a SURPRISE, that she’s the favorite?  Unless you live on MARS, you know that she’s kicked every butt she ever met.  So, for you, her winning streak may be a surprise–but if so–is that because she’s FEMALE?  REALLY?

Clearly, Winx has shown herself to be superior to all (brave) takers–so, mentioning her gender is ridiculous.  And that prejudice should be recognized for what it is:  the grasping-at-straws by a generation who still can’t accept it, that both equine and human females are their equals.  (And maybe it’s a little about one’s own insecurity:  when we think of others as being inferior, it’s easier to ignore our own shortcomings–individually, and collectively.)  

Grass race horses are equal to any dirt horse on Earth.
F!llies and mares are equal to any male horse on Earth.

As soon as American racing wraps its head around these two important, scientifically- and historically-proven facts–the sooner we can get on with actually being a valued part of the international racing family of equals.   (The horse racing communities in other nations need to see us genuinely respect them–not land like conquering heroes, who then act like we’re doing them a favor, just by being there.)

The sooner we acknowledge grass horses and female horses as being equal to dirt, and males–and write races with equal purses for them–the sooner we’ll actually GROW this sport here in the US.  Racing has tried the inane concepts of face-painting; drunk sweepstakes and misogynistic bikini contests and other gimmicks to bring in paid admissions.  And those Fools’ Errands MAY work for ONE day–but never have they resulted in creating a legion of devoted,  wild-eyed, over-the-moon FANS of horse racing.

As soon as we write more turf races–and the media begins to write about them with the respect they deserve–the sooner we’ll grow this sport.

As soon as we start to treat great female Thoroughbreds as being just GREAT HORSES, period (as Jess Jackson said)–the sooner we’ll start to grow the fanbase.

Those in Arabian horse racing always have known the facts of gender- and grass-equality:  it’s time for the American Thoroughbred world to wake up, catch up and put up.


Photo Credits:

Thanks to Thoroughbred Daily News, and to Wendy Wooley for Wise Dan.