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Podcast #52: POINT OF VIEW: Luck
Podcast Date:
02-07-2011
File Size: 5.2MB
Download File

Everyone in racing pays lip service to Luck, and how important it is to have the good and avoid the bad.

But it is interesting that, after having acknowledged the vital nature of luck, we all then tend to theorize, formularize and explain just how to go about breeding and selecting horses that will defeat all the others. I know; you really have to do that. You can't tackle any significant endeavor, and say, "Well, it's all going to depend on luck." That would be a major simplification anyway. You've got to help luck along, goose it a little bit. Or, more accurately, perhaps, you have to put yourself in a position to get lucky. That's what you do when you buy a yearling with enough pedigree that enables you to say it would not be an absolute fluke if this horse turned out to be a good one. Or why you would avoid an unsound one, or one that looked nerdy.

Of course you don't want to go crazy putting yourself in a position to get lucky. Most of us have some budgetary restraints. And money does not guarantee-or even strongly indicate-success with a racehorse. I have always maintained that the horse that cost $500,000 has, perhaps, a 20 percent better chance to be a superior racehorse than the $100,000 horse. But he sure as hell does not have a five times better chance. Good people have bad children; bad people have good children. And, an expensive horse can run through a fence, colic, or get cast in the stall and bow a tendon just as easily as the less expensive one.

If money ruled the game, the yearling-- later named Seattle Dancer--that brought $13,100,000 in 1985, would have made Man o'War and Secretariat look like chopped liver. He finally won a graded stakes, but was life and death to do it.

Not to oversimplify matters, but I maintain that the best approach to racing is to not only help luck come your way, but-more importantly-recognize it when it is clear that it has gone South, and move quickly to close the chapter on that particular racing venture.

The undisputed deans of dialog when it comes to pontificating about breeding and racing horses are the English and, of course, the Irish. They are blessed with the charming ability to speak with stunning certitude about what will happen in a race, or the quality of yearlings in a horse sale, or the future of a new stallion. And then, when things don't work out that way, get ready for the big razzle-dazzle. They are focusing on the next prognostication.

Forecasting the results of mating horses is mostly a matter of luck, it seems to me. There is an altered version of the old adage that is very wise: "Breed the best you've got to the best you can afford." There is no great brilliance to that, but it is clearly not a bad thing to do.

The late Warner Jones, of Louisville, was a wonderful horseman, a great contributor to the good of the game, a world-class companion, and a fine friend of mine, and many other people. He was one of the most respected men in racing. And, incidentally, he, too, could turn on the old blarney.

I have been in his presence often when he was introduced excitedly as "The man who bred a Derby winner." He did breed the horse Dark Star that had the distinction of beating the fabulous Native Dancer in the 1953 Kentucky Derby. Warner was known far and wide as a renowned Thoroughbred breeder. He bred and sold a lot of horses, and some of them were good. But what really distinguished him, and earned him numerous extravagant accolades had to do with sheer luck: the fact that Native Dancer was in a blind switch just about every step of the way in the Derby, and when Eric Guerin finally found him a clear path the race was over, too late by a head to catch the horse that Warner bred-Dark Star, a pretty fair and very lucky racehorse, but one that normally could not warm up the great Native Dancer.

Luck. Better to be lucky than good.

This is Cot Campbell and this is my view.

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