Saturday, August 13, 2011
Repole sees an empty Cup
By Bob Ehalt
Mike Repole’s silks are blue and orange, but the native New Yorker is seeing bright red these days.
Enraged might be a mild way to describe Repole’s reactions to recent decisions by the Breeders’ Cup to stage the 2012 event at Santa Anita Park in California and to ban Lasix, a diuretic, in its 2-year-old races in 2012 and from all of its races in 2013.
Mike Repole is not smiling about recent decisions from the Breeders' Cup.
One of New York’s largest and most prominent owners, Repole said not only should the Breeders’ Cup reconsider its decisions but “they better reconsider,” adding that unless there’s a change, he would actively promote a fall series in New York to compete with the Breeders’ Cup.
“If I put my heart into it, I’ll turn the Breeders’ Cup into the [now defunct] ABA [American Basketball Association]. This could be the end of the Breeders’ Cup. I want an explanation for what they did [in choosing Santa Anita] and they’re not offering any,” said Repole, who first voiced his feelings in a Blood Horse blog post. “I guess that’s because it makes no sense. There’s no reason or justification for it. There should be an investigation over it. It’s just not right.”
The final straw for Repole in his anger with the Breeders’ Cup came earlier this week when Santa Anita was selected over Belmont Park and Churchill Downs as the host site for the 2012 Breeders’ Cup. In awarding the series to Santa Anita, next year will mark the third time in five years that track has been the host site, while Churchill Downs will host the $26 million, two-day series on Nov. 4 and 5 for a second straight year. Belmont Park, meanwhile, has not been awarded the Breeders’ Cup since 2005.
“With each passing day I feel stronger about this, and the feedback I’ve gotten is overwhelming. Everyone I’ve talked to believes this is a travesty. If they gave New York the Breeders’ Cup three out of five years I’d feel it’s unfair. I don’t think the people who created the Breeders’ Cup envisioned this as the Masters at Augusta or the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. It’s not fair to fans on the East Coast who can’t get to California. The Breeders’ Cup should be thinking about the horses, the fans, the owners and the trainers and they’re not doing that right now. Everybody seems to get it except the Breeders’ Cup.”
While Repole said he has yet to approach anyone at the New York Racing Association about competing with the Breeders’ Cup, the owner of past and perhaps future champions such as Uncle Mo, Stay Thirsty and Overdriven said he would happily skip the Breeders’ Cup if it means shipping to California in 2012.
“If NYRA is willing to move some of their major races and compete with the Breeders’ Cup, I’ll not only support it, I’ll help fund it,” Repole said. “Charlie Hayward [NYRA’s President and CEO] took the high road over this, but it was the biggest slap in the face to New York racing that I’ve ever seen, and the Breeders’ Cup shouldn’t think they can just get away [with] it. That’s not right.”
On the topic of Lasix, Repole believes the Breeders’ Cup and other groups are doing a disservice to horses and horsemen by outlawing the anti-bleeding medication. Earlier this week, the American Graded Stakes Committee joined the Breeders’ Cup in announcing that tracks must ban Lasix in 2-year-old graded stakes -- races in New York like the Hopeful and Champagne -- in 2012 or those races would lose their graded status.
“Lasix is the one medication horses should be allowed to run on. Horses need it. Research shows it’s good for a horse,” Repole said. “No Lasix will mean the end of every small track in America. There are plenty of people on the Breeders’ Cup board who race horses, well, to set an example I think they should stop running their horses on Lasix right now. A group can take a grade away from a stakes, but states like New York and New Jersey will decide if Lasix is allowed. It’s incredible what they’re trying to do.”
As Repole’s anger grows, he says it's his fervent hope for a bright future for racing that diminishes.
“Each time I hope this sport would unite, we go in different directions,” Repole said. "We compete more off the track than we do on it and this is a competitive sport. It’s the worst marketed sport in history and all we’re doing is accelerating its demise. And that’s a shame because it has such a loyal and passionate fan base. I thought this sport had maybe 10 years left the way it was going, but I now I think it’s down to five to six years left before it implodes. It’s mind-boggling how this sport keeps shooting itself in the foot.”