(Inspired in part by jockey Gary Stevens and his call for a horseracing “revolution” in North America this morning, I plan to make this piece the final Rivers of Gold blog. At least for now. If readers are hooked I suggest buying the electronic version – because it brings a lot of fun to this history of extraordinary horses; or buy the paper version; or the Northern Dancer trilogy gift set and get Rivers for free. (info elsewhere on this site.)
Indeed, both the trilogy and Rivers are also catalysts to this decision. The trilogy, at some level, chronicles how horseracing arrived at this crossroads. Rivers takes us further back in time – back to previous crises, and into a time when horseracing was the most popular sport in North America. But first, back to anti-racing legislation..)
“…Then in1908 there was a poisoning attempt when the anti-racing measures came before Louisana legislature.
“The Locke Bill, as the Louisiana measure was called, looked to be a dead-heat in the morning and it was reported that someone doped the food of two senators who favoured its passage,”reported William Robertson. “Sick as they were they showed up in the legislature the next day and survived a long harangue calculated to wear them out until 3:00 pm at which time a voted was forced; prodded by their cohorts they were barely able to raise their heads and utter a feeble “aye” as the measure went through, 21 to 19…”
The collateral damage created by the anti-horseracing legislation was far-ranging and enormous. The number of US tracks was reduced to 25 from 314 ten years earlier. Then there were the horses. While racing was being waged almost daily demand for horses was almost insatiable. Breeding operations, from palatial Kentucky horse farms to backyard operations, had sprung up to meet the requirement. Now with no place to race the horses, the market dried up
For some owners like Ed Corrrigan, the swashbuckling tycoon, it was the end of the ride. His horseracing conglomerate included interests in a collection of tracks from Chicago to California; a 500 acre Kentucky breeding farm; and a stable of 80 racehorses. He sold everything in order to pay his debts to his principal creditor, “Bet-a-million” Gates. Within a year Corrigan lost everything…”
…. we will be back this week with the new blog focus