Years ago I used to make speeches about the charm of the horse business - saying that one of the most attractive features was that it did not lend itself to the use of computers. Now admittedly I’m somewhat of a dinosaur. That is still true though, but it is not as true. What I say is that we must not get too far away from the majesty of the living, breathing horse, or we’re going to be in trouble. When we do, the game looses its elegance and it becomes a glorified form of slot machines.
You know I have been going to the horse sales for forty years now. They’re exciting and colorful. One of the greatest gambles in horse racing is buying young horses. It’s like recruiting a professional football team from looking at 10-year-old kids. I like going to the barn, seeing the same old consignors, old pals. I like the camaraderie of the sales - you go to the barns, see familiar faces, indicate on a card which hip numbers you want to see, and then after a little pleasant banter with the consignors, you see the horses and then you’re on your way.
So I was taken aback recently when I received in the mail, prior to a sale, a card with my name on it. It looked like a credit card. This came from one of America’s leading consignors of Thoroughbred horses — and a hustling, innovative, admirable outfit they are. But the drill was you were supposed to take your card to their barn, to a “welcome station” where there’s a computer. The card is put in the computer, then after some interrogation about your name, and your first name, they will have a record of the horses you want to see, which is desirable to them and you’ll get to see your horses. But it’s too much of a rigamarole and I definitely did not care for it. It was too regimented for me. Too much like the commercialized establishments you call on the phone, dial four or five different numbers and then you finally get a recording. To hell with that.
Now trainers today like to communicate with faxes, emails, and they have their horses on a computer screen. That’s good for them of course, but it does lack some grace and some appeal. Nowadays we measure horses mechanically, we evaluate their hearts through different devices, we analyze their gaits. But in the long run a good horseman can look at a horse and tell you the same thing that those things are going to tell you. To me what it boils down to is I want to see those babies coming down the stretch, looking one another in the eye and knowing that they’ve got to reach back and call on the guts that their mammas and their daddies gave them. Ours is an inexact science and it needs to remain so.
This is Cot Campbell and this is my view.