Power Cap

Power cap- existential handicapping

28 October 2009

Polytrack Is Horseracing's Version Of The Toyota Prius

HRTV is re-broadcasting past Breeders' Cup broadcasts during the down time in the early morning hours. Yesterday the 1986 B.C. was shown. Jockey Chris McCarron was off all of his mounts with a broken leg suffered just days before the B.C. In 2009 television will shy away from showing a horse suffering a fatal breakdown, in 1986 they showed the breakdown that led to McCarron's injury 4 times! Snap, snap, snap, snap! This led me to reflect on cultural changes over the last few decades and the realization that racing is in worse shape than I previously thought. Not only is racing feeding the slot machine gambling vice that will succeed it, but racing is completely unfit for the new consumer morality that holds sway today.

For hundreds of years western civilization operated under the Christian moral order; the morality of the Old Testament Hebrews, the philosophy of Greece and the law of Rome. Virtue was a product of the love of God, the love of family and control of self passions. If you fulfilled these three requirements your conscience was clear. After the sexual revolution of the 1960's the moral order was out the door. Science was tabbed to run the show and it was scientifically proven that Darwinism could run the show better than a supernatural power, or so the social engineers thought. All of that stifling moral order self control that kept your pants zipped and passions in check was for old people and prudes. A new secular moral order based on unbridled sexual passion and consumerism was launched. It was from this new moral order that were blessed with things like Polytrack and organic brown rice pasta.

God became money, the family became your roommates or television watching mates. In the new morality self control was only limited by the extent of your means. A new morality replaced the old moral order. I will call it "consumer morality", or basically technology and social engineering in the place of the moral law written on our hearts. For an example of this new morality you only need to go to a grocery store and see consumer morality in action, the outlet "Whole Foods" is a chain based on making their customers feel morally good about themselves. When California mandated that tracks install a synthetic racing surface, they did this action with nothing but moral benevolence in their hearts.

This new morality is all about divorcing the repercussions from the action. You can consume as much as you like but make yourself feel better and choose the organic product. You can live really far from your job but choose the hybrid car to hurt the environment less. It is okay to cheat on your wife, but be sure to wear a condom and make sure your tryst-mate is on the pill. We can bomb a country in the Middle East and spread death but we are doing this to encourage "woman's rights". The new morality requires no effort. It is all about feeling good about yourself by doing what you what you wanted to do anyway, but doing it in a way that integrates technology to shield the world from the effects of your consumerism.

Polytrack is racing's big foray into this new morality; it was an attempt to mitigate horse breakdowns by applying technology. Judging by the reaction of the fans and the trainers this new morality has not worked well for racing. The breakdowns have not only continued but a new type of "soft tissue injury" has emerged. The fans crowded into OTB's and other wagering venues do not seem to share this "consumer morality" that much of the suburban middle class has embraced. If polytrack gets in the way of their golden rail speed bias angle there will be hell to pay. Parimutuel wagering on synthetic racing surfaces has disproportionately crashed, while handle on old style dirt like Saratoga has suffered more modest losses. There seems to be a moral crisis among American horseplayers when it comes to synthetic surface wagering; they do not share the altruistic goals and have not supported the endeavor. With horses getting hurt and bettors abstaining racing has a problem. Racing has not been able to divorce the repercussion of horse injury from the action of racing.

With so many options for entertainment or gambling vice why would new "moral consumers" choose a sport that brutally maims animals from time to time. They would choose to do something like skateboarding or if they wanted to gamble the choice would be poker where the only organic damage is the trees felled to produce the cards(can someone say fair trade organic playing cards!).

This leaves racing with only one core customer, the immoral degenerate. The bourgeois consumer moralists are going to shun racing due to the occasional horse breakdown and the lack of "feel good" appeal. What racing is left with is those that are filled with vice, and those that go from one debauchery to the next without a care in the world. That is why racetracks and OTB's are filled with old men that burst with profanity, suck on cheap cigarettes and could care less about what you think of them. They are vestiges of a time long gone. The new consumer morality did not stick to these people and they likely would not have participated in the old order either if they were born 40 years ago. This is why the Prius is the rarest car in the Aqueduct parking when they open the meet later today.


Superfecta said...

I'd say the Prius is rare since we Prius owners tend to take public transit to the track.

The_Knight_Sky said...

I went to a blog and got a lesson in anthropology 101. ;-)

A new type of "soft-tissue" injury has emerged as well but less discussed is the the loss of traditional main track racing.

How well would western stars like Zenyatta, Stardom Bound, Evita Argentina, Street Boss, et. al do on the eastern surfaces?

The world may never know.
Parochialism will not allow it.

Amateurcapper said...

Power Cap(tain), my captain,

I agree that the Polytrack and other synthetic main tracks are racing's Prius.

The Prius won't save the world because there are too many people who want to drive fast and for long periods of time while sitting in comfort. That's not the mindset of a Prius owner. Changing a product in the car industry only makes the company a curiosity while giving the rest of the car offerings within a successful company (like Toyota) visibility to many different people.

Synthetics won't save racing for the same reasons. The real issue lies with owners, trainers, and jockeys. Those that like the synthetics will train horses on them the way turf horses train on grass. California has proven that the fast works and intense race situations on synthetics cause a horse to break down tissue...first soft tissue tears (tendons and ligaments), then comes bone disruption.

Horse racing changed the variable that was easiest to manipulate. The real answer to saving the horses will be to change the way horses are bred, trained, and ridden.

That means changing behavior of adults and possibly affecting their bottom lines in the short term. Convince them that doing right by the horses will be the best way to sustain their stock for auctions, racing, and enhance the long-term viability of the game. FAT CHANCE!

G. C. said...

Synthetic surfaces have much in common with the Prius. Both are imported, both are marketed as being kind to organic beings, both contain a plethora of chemicals that have an unknown destination at the end of their useful life, both mitigate the negative effects associated with their purpose and both will be severely underrepresented at Aqueduct this winter.

Anonymous said...

We've had synthetic tracks in the UK for 20 years - in fact tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of the first "all-weather", as we call it, meeting.
I therefore would suggest that the problem is not the track, but the way the horses are trained and raced.

The elephant in the room here is drugs, more particularly steroids. Until American racing comes up with nationwide rules and penalties you might as well stick your finger in the dam and hope for the best.

pNewmarket, UK

Graeme Beaton said...

Good read! You might be right on morality, and I'd give it deeper thought if I were not off to Wal-Mart to buy a new flat screen TV, a carton of cigars and a bushel of condoms.

Soooo, if the composition of the track was not causing the break-downs what are we left with?

My three hunches:

1. Drugs that are masking injuries and infirmities and masking other drugs that mask injuries and infirmities. Try getting rid of race-day medication as they have done in every other civilized nation with racing.

2. Not warming up the athletes sufficiently. Again, here is a difference with nations with much lower break-down rates. They gallop out runners sans ponies prior to loading.

3. Training methods. Am I imagining it or have break-downs increased since we imported so many techniques from the quarter-horse world? Are short drills good for thoroughbreds or were equine athletes better off in days of yore with long slow works?

Not up to Aristotle's speed admittedly, but I would argue that all three fit a less modern 'morality.'

Unknown said...

"This leaves racing with only one core customer, the un-morale degenerate."

I'm deeply offended by that statement. I'm a horseplayer and I'm a morale degenerate.