Sunday, March 05, 2006

Maybe Early Retirement Isn't So Bad?

Much has been written on how the recent retirement of several thoroughbreds in their prime is bad for racing. If Smarty Jones, Afleet Alex, Ghostzapper, Saint Liam and the many others gracing the advertisements in The Bloodhorse were still racing, there would most definitely be greater interest and excitement in the sport. Sure, injuries have taken their toll on the Grade I ranks, but if the lure of the paychecks from breeding weren't out there, these horses would be in rehab with sights on the next big purse.

That being said, I'm glad that I will never have to see these great champs be trashed like Derby winners Giacomo and Funny Cide were yesterday. These two unfortunate athletes didn't have all of the credentials to transition into the enviable life of a champion at stud. Giacomo was never taken too seriously because many believe he was the beneficiary of a crowded Derby field that didn't let the cream rise to the very top. His owners had to campaign him as a 4 year old and win a few big races to prove that he deserves a $50k stud fee. That apparently is not gonna' happen.

Poor Funny Cide is missing more than just credibility. As a gelding, neither he nor the Sackatoga folks will every get to the promised land of breeding. He has no other revenue streams other than racing, so he will continue running until he gets injured or he becomes an embarrasment. I think the latter option may be near. He showed some speed yesterday before tiring, so maybe a shorter race in in his future.

So what is worse, a brilliant career cut short, or the athlete who stays in the game too long? I don't know the answer, but it sure is more tolerable to watch when the athlete himself is making the decision and not an owner.

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