California Chrome wins the 2014 Preakness Stakes. Photo by Laurie Asseo.

California Chrome wins the 2014 Preakness Stakes. Photo by Laurie Asseo.

by Frank Vespe

If it’s true that bad news comes in threes, then the good news for horse racing is that we should be done with bad news, at least for a while.

In the space of three days, three of North America’s most exciting racehorses found themselves on the sidelines.

First, we learned that 2014 Kentucky Derby-Preakness winner California Chrome would sit out the rest of the year — and may be done altogether as a runner — as a result of a bone bruise.  Chrome, second in both of his 2015 starts, including the Dubai World Cup, had been training towards a start in the Grade 1 Arlington Million.


That was followed in quick succession by the news that undefeated turf filly Lady Eli was battling laminitis and that dual Eclipse winner Main Sequence would be retired because of a tendon tear.

And that’s to say nothing of jockey Rajiv Maragh’s frightening fall last Friday at Belmont, which left him with four fractured vertebrae, a broken left rib and punctured lung.

That’s a tough few days, and it points up the dangers and risks inherent in horse racing.  It’s not, as the saying goes, an endeavor for boys in short pants.  Horses, even the best of them, are ever at risk of accidents, sometimes of the most freakish sort.  Lady Eli, for example, stepped on a nail on her way back to the barn after winning the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks.

And for jocks, it’s equally clear: top of the world one moment, lying on a stretcher the next.

All of which may be why racing fans embrace the sport so fiercely: love hurts, and in racing, the lows are so very low.


But the highs are pretty high, too, and it’s not hard to see that, especially now, in mid-July.  The Grade 1 Delaware Handicap — always a seasonal highlight — is Saturday.  Triple Crown champ American Pharoah is training towards his first start since the Belmont, in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on August 2.  Saratoga and Del Mar are right around the corner.

And that’s racing, too: good news and bad so closely meshed as to be intertwined.  One and then the other.

Which reminds us: after seeing the bad news rule of threes turned into a rule of fours, maybe we’re about due for a little run of the other kind of news.

Frank Vespe, the founder of The Racing Biz, has owned, bought, sold, claimed, and written about horses, in varying combinations, for a decade.