If a horse falls on the track and they don’t show the replay, did it really happen?

by Bob Heyden

Doug McNair told us after the ninth race, the Roses Are Red final this past Saturday (June 17) at Woodbine Mohawk Park, that he went from lying on the track in the eighth race with Wheels On Fire that did not finish to just 20 minutes later talking about the fastest female mile in Canadian history, 1:47.4 with Grace Hill.

I’ll have to take his word for what transpired in race 8.

After race 9, McNair took off his remaining drives.

Mark MacDonald told me the accident, “wasn’t pretty. James [MacDonald] hit my back leg.” Mark was driving Billy Clyde who finished sixth and was placed eighth and James drove Linedrive Hanover who finished third.

I guess so.

It was the $100,000 Mohawk Gold Cup Invitational. That I’m sure of.

What you didn’t see was any replay of the accident that marred the finish of the eighth race. Abuckabett Hanover, Tattoo Artist and Linedrive Hanover finished 1-2-3, respectively.

Why no replay?

It appears — and this is not a Canadian or American thing — it’s an industry-wide issue that we don’t really deal with anything other than the good stuff. The last 15 years or so of standardbred racing has seen the Leave It To Beaver-ization of the sport. Would anyone like another piece of cream pie?

There were 13 races on Canada’s biggest night, and 12 replays.

Ever watch a big cycling event from France? I have. Any mishap, likely a chain reaction or accident, is carefully scrutinized, replayed, dissected, you name it. It happens, and they cover it. Fully, and quite well.

Damar Hamlin from the Buffalo Bills had a cardiac event in an NFL game with the Cincinnati Bengals and the crowd and the entire sport, and then some, followed his progress and celebrated his comeback.

Last week, a player from the Boston Red Sox got hit with a line drive in the face playing the Yankees. He was hospitalized, and it was all over the news.

It happens. To pretend it doesn’t is doing a monstrous disservice to the fans, the bettors, casual observers, everyone.

We just saw some of the best free-for-allers in the world, and the sport’s very best drivers, scattered at the top of the stretch with several horses and drivers hitting the deck. Boom. Six, seven, eight seconds or so, and then out of view.

What happened? Was anyone hurt? Are the horses okay?

Instead of showing us anything, management decided that an announcement was okay and it was “12 minutes to race 9.”

McNair drove Grace Hill to perfection and then took off his drives. What is the exact definition of okay?

It’s called reporting, folks. Reporters want the full story and are trained to analyze all the facts. We don’t need a hurried press release and a muted announcement that everything is good. Even if it is.

In 1984, on March 20, Jack Parker Jr. got in a terrible wreck at The Meadowlands driving Hope Valley A. It was touch and go for him and he pulled through and 35 years later he drove in a Breeders Crown elim. But that accident brought on new rules for helmets and potential head injuries. Pylons came out in 1991 or so, depending on your track, for safety precautions. No more hub rails to worry about. Good idea.

The NFL began slo-motion replay in the late 1960s, the instant replay rule as of the 1986 season and have updated that today to the point of maybe too much. But they want to get it right. Good move.

How is not showing our best horses — $9.4 million in combined earnings lifetime — in the Mohawk Gold Cup, in the best interests of anyone? Can’t we learn from the incident? Why 12 replays and not all 13? Because we might be turned off from the sport? It is real guys; it is a part of our sport. Drivers aren’t wearing vests for style points.

To promote the sport as one that does not have risks — occasional accidents — is the height of irresponsibility. On March 23, 2003, John Campbell had a mishap in the first turn with Bonanza Alert. The sport’s leading driver hurt his arm badly and missed some time. Imagine if this was flowered over and not covered.

I am not asking to promote a Joe Theisman/Lawrence Taylor-like broken leg ad nauseum. I am asking to be treated with the respect that all fans, bettors, casual observers and reporters deserve. The truth. The whole story. We do not have temporary amnesia. We saw it — it happened quickly — but we know for sure something happened out there.

We also know this is part of the sport. Forty-five of the 50 years since Secretariat’s 31-length Belmont triumph, jockey Ron Turcotte has been paralyzed. Nobody wants this to happen. But we sure as heck want to see it again, and again, and collectively learn what may be done about it to prevent it from happening again. Without our heads in the sand.