As you probably know by now, California Chrome attempted to become the 12th horse and first since Affirmed in 1978 to win the Triple Crown and join a fabled group that includes such esteemed equines as Gallant Fox, Whirlaway, Citation and Secretariat…and fell right on his long face, finishing fourth. The winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness lost the Belmont Stakes to 9-1 long-shot Tonalist, who did not run the opening two races of the series. Ah, there’s the rub. Part of the challenge of the Triple Crown, a not insubstantial part, is that it is an endurance test. CC lost to a fresher horse.
Well, you know, that’s why winning the Triple Crown is so special and the horses who achieved it are the sport of racing’s four-footed immortals. It’s hard. When your horse loses the final and most difficult (it’s longer) of the three races after winning the first two, as many horses have, the correct, classy and ethical response is well established. It doesn’t take any imagination. You say that you congratulate the winning stables, the owners, the horse and the jockey, that of course you are disappointed, that your horse ran the best race he could but on this day it was not good enough. Then you shut up, and let sportswriters make excuses for the loss, if there are excuses to be made. Continue reading →
The best example of the ethical problem with the Star Syndrome, the expedient and destructive compromise organizations make to allow a high-level performer break rules and indulge in conduct that would not be tolerated in other employees, that I have seen in a long time involves…a horse.
California Chrome has won the first two races in the Triple Crown, with only the Belmont Stakes remaining. Horse racing hasn’t had a Triple Crown winner in decades, and has suffered as a result; everyone is rooting for its latest star to finally achieve the heights last reached by Affirmed in 1978. But CC used a nasal strip in his last six races, all victories, and while the devices, which aid breathing, are allowed by the racing rules of all states but one, New York, home of the Belmont, is the one. The owners of the horse say they may not run him if he isn’t allowed to use the strip (they are almost certainly bluffing, but its a good bluff); a request for an exception is pending.
The ethics here is simple as pie. If its a valid rule, then no exception should be made just because the horse in question is on the verge of making history. If it was an arbitrary rule, it should have been eliminated before now. If the stewards allow California Chrome to use the strip because, well, he’s a big shot and it will be a shot in the arm for racing, but then go back to prohibiting ordinary horses to use it, that will be an outright rejection of fairness and integrity (not that this will be news flash for racing critics.).
If the rule was a good one in the first place, then it should apply to California Chrome. Waiving it just for him is favoritism, and unethical.
That, however, is exactly what will happen. Watch.