We are entering an especially exciting time in horse racing: the Breeders’ Cup approaches, and major prep races around the country bring together our greatest racehorses.
But still, the racing press inundates us with prickly subjects such as jockeys' insurance, medication violations, bitter in-fighting around the New York Racing franchise, simulcasting disputes, slot machines, offshore discount betting operations, internet gambling, horse slaughter, and a variety of other vital but unentertaining subjects – hardly the topics that will produce the goosebumps we are all looking for. Woven into this entire tapestry in a prominent matter is the idiocy of the legislators who really govern our sport.
While at Saratoga this year – for a month and a half of great racing excitement, tradition and recapture of the glory days - I interrogated horsemen of all types – old, young, seasoned and novices – asking them to name the greatest racehorse they ever saw race. There was not a human questioned who did not spark to the topic. As obvious as the question is, it is never asked. I had great fun over a period of several weeks of simply going up to such as Allen Jerkens, Wayne Lukas, Nick Zito, Todd Pletcher, Angel Cordero, and other avid racing people and asking that question. It was simply a feeble, but very enjoyable, effort on my part to put the spotlight back on what it’s all about: The racehorse with his game and generous spirit and the great, great races that have pitted horses of indomitable will against each other.
Not surprisingly, Secretariat won that very unscientific survey with 10 votes. Seattle Slew was second with six and Kelso and Cigar were tied for third place with four. You would naturally be interested in the fact that Lukas chose Spectacular Bid; Allen Jerkens, Citation; Nick Zito, Kelso; and Todd Pletcher (a younger trainer who had not seen some of the greats of the last part of the 20th century) chose Ghostzapper. Cordero voted for Kelso.
I, too, am a staunch Kelso voter. He was five times Horse of the Year. He carried over 130 pounds twenty-four times in his life. He sprinted with the sprinters and he stayed with the stayers. He fought it out in California, New York, Chicago, Miami and Washington on the dirt, on the grass and in the mud. Surely no horse ever did more.
Kelso was a running son-of-a-bitch. But then, so too, were the others. At any rate, it was an interesting, stimulating question, and one that was fun to ask and to get answers for.
It deals with what our game is truly all about.
This is Cot Campbell, and this is my view.