8 Deadly Sins
When Pope Gregory I consolidated the
eight “evil thoughts” of the 4th Century Christian monk Evagrius
Ponticus into the Seven Deadly Sins, he perpetuated what I believe may
be one of the classic errors of all times by excluding “Arrogance” from
In my opinion, Arrogance should not only be on the list, it should be #1.
While the thoroughbred industry and the press have examined about every possible excuse and reason for Big Brown’s collapse in the Belmont Stakes, ad infinitum et ad nauseum, I haven’t seen arrogance come up as one of the stated reasons for his disastrous performance in the Belmont, but I think it’s probably at the root of most of the excuses which have been proffered for the loss, thus far.
Arrogance: Trainer Rick Dutrow spent the three weeks between the Preakness and Belmont spouting the belief that his horse could not be beaten.
I have not trained a winner of the Kentucky Derby or of the Preakness, but I have been around for long enough to know that there are two types of horses; those that have been beaten and those who are going to get beaten. A couple of years ago the Blood-Horse assembled a panel of experts to name the 10 best thoroughbreds of the last century. There was some controversy over the top horse, but, to put it simply, the list follows (with undefeated status after each name):
1. Man o’ War—beaten
5. Count Fleet—beaten
6. Dr. Fager—beaten
7. Native Dancer—beaten
9. Seattle Slew—beaten
10. Spectacular Bid—beaten
So, in the opinion of his connections, Big Brown is a better horse than anyone on that list.
Arrogance: By the time the smoke had cleared and everybody was looking for an excuse, Dutrow began to blame Kent Desormeux for the loss.
There possibly is some validity to Dutrow’s criticism—the horse was very rank going into the first turn and down the backstretch.
Finally, Dutrow apparently was sufficiently overconfident that he took it upon himself to discontinue the monthly dose of Winstrol he was having administered to Big Brown. To me that’s wrong on two fronts: (1) If I had a horse who was competing in the Triple Crown and running like Big Brown, I wouldn’t even change my underwear, much less his training regimen, and (2), if I did, I’d have a damned good reason. When asked by a member of the press why he gave Big Brown Winstrol on the 15th of every month, the trainer, whose RCI fine and suspension sheet looks like his pedigree should read “by Machine Gun Kelly-Ma Barker, by Jessie James” answered, in effect, I don’t really know why; I don’t really know what Winstrol does, I just give it to every horse in the barn every month because I like to.
To me, that’s not a proper answer, just as there’s no proper answer as to why so many racing cards are run today with 100% of the starters on bute and 85-90% on Lasix (oops, excuse me, Salix).
So here’s the bottom line. We can all point at Big Brown and his connections all we want, but we need to do something about it, all of us.
I have a proposal for a modest start. Why couldn’t somebody in the industry, host a get-together for rookie owners and trainers coming into the Triple Crown, the Breeders’ Cup and other important events where they could meet some of their predecessors who are particularly good with the media so the veterans could remind them that they’re not just representing the horse whom we’re trying to make into a hero, they’re representing the whole racing industry.
Ideally, that would include an articulate vet who could coach the trainer to have an intelligent answer when some member of the media asks a perfectly logical question such as why is this horse on steroids, when all the other sports are outlawing them? And, by a plausible reason, I do NOT mean, “Everybody else does it” or “I like to do it.”
Basically, the whole course could be summed up very briefly: “Millions of people will be watching you, perhaps including some potential clients, so don’t be an arrogant ass; it doesn’t help you and it won’t help racing."