When Has a Racehorse “Done Enough?” Weighing in on Stream of Gold

This morning’s New York Times racing blog, The Rail, has a short entry from Alex Brown regarding the former stakes horse, Stream of Gold. For those who aren’t on the mailing list of two dozen horse rescue groups on Facebook, Stream of Gold is a ten year old horse with a pretty impressive career spanning three continents, from England to the UAE and then on to the United States. His last stakes placing was a third in a Grade 3 stakes back in 2008, and after that dropped down to Allowance company.

Now it’s 2011, and Stream of Gold is running against a much lighter crowd than he did was he was a kid. The last entry on his Past Performance (here, via The New York Times) was in a $3200 claiming race at Fairmount Park. He came in third place, and the notation says that he made a “late gain.” He didn’t exactly come in last, coughing on the dust of his opponents. He came in third, gaining on the leaders. Horse welfare advocates, including Alex Brown, have become vocal on the cause of retiring Stream of Gold, based upon his history as a stakes horse.

My intro to the story came via Ed DeRosa’s blog, in which he made the comment:

The conventional wisdom on Twitter was that a horse of his stature should not be toiling in bottom-level claiming ranks—that his $738,021 in earnings had earned him a dignified retirement.

I disagree on the basis that all horses deserve a dignified retirement.

I have to side with Ed. What bothers me is that because Stream of Gold made a ton of money, he’s “done enough.” That because Stream of Gold ran in G1 company against the likes of Einstein, he’s “done enough.” What if Stream of Gold had an equal win rate, but had done it his entire life at the claiming level? There wouldn’t be a conversation. Because you never even would have heard of him. He’d just keep running.

And yes, I can say that, because every day there are horses filling races at every track who have never won. Some come in second or third now and then – that’s not bad. Some never come within biting distance of the last horse in the pack. They run for years. They run ten, twenty, forty, sixty times. I guess they haven’t “done enough” yet?

Alex Brown writes:

For $5,000 this horse can be claimed and retired. Surely he has served our sport well, both in the United States, in Europe and in the United Arab Emirates. This horse deserves our support.

I have to respectfully disagree with Alex here. Asking a rescuer to step in and claim a horse because he has run at the upper echelons of the sport isn’t a good enough reason. What about all the horses who run for years and years but never break out of the claiming ranks? How hard do they have to work to deserve retirement? There are thousands of horses who can be bought for a song or picked up for free. Their names do not appear in black-type, or next to the titles of great stakes races. They haven’t done enough yet.

Maybe the $5,000 could even claim his competitor, Keystone Kid, a 7 year old gelding who hasn’t won a race since 2009 despite ten starts in 2010 and two already this year?

I’m not saying that Stream of Gold should or shouldn’t be running. I don’t know the horse, I’m not his vet or his owner or his trainer or his rider. I’m saying that the popular outcry for retiring him, basing it solely on his graded company performance, doesn’t hold up when there are so many hard-working, but unsuccessful horses in the country today.

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8 Comments

Filed under Media Coverage, Outside Sites, Racing, Retirement Options

8 responses to “When Has a Racehorse “Done Enough?” Weighing in on Stream of Gold

  1. Trish (mom)

    Nice argument.
    Thoroughbreds are born to run–and do want to be first–lol I remember Rillo would not let us pass him on our bikes! So what if these horses are like Border Collies–born to do a job, bored when not doing the job. Like our dog Murray whose lost without the cat to follow. If he’s running in third against younger horses I don’t think he can be hating life too bad (or treated too bad).
    -mom

  2. I definitely remember how hard Rillo would work to stop you from passing him on your bike! He would break into a canter if necessary but you were not going to pass him! Too funny.

    Maybe you should get Murray a goose.

  3. Hmmm…he’s running in my neck of the woods, maybe I’ll go watch him. Some of those thoroughbreds NEED to run, maybe he’s one of those who isn’t happy unless he’s out there working, which happens. But you’re right, it doesn’t matter how much he’s earned, if he still can run and still wants to run, does it really matter where he’s running? It becomes an issue, for ALL racehorses, when their owners keep running them well after they should have been retired from the track purely out of greed.

    • Jenn – that would super-cool if you went to see him. Investigative journalism! See how he looks in person!

      “It becomes an issue, for ALL racehorses, when their owners keep running them well after they should have been retired from the track purely out of greed.”

      It does.

      Of course, the greed part is debatable. There’s not that much money in running cheap horses who don’t win. 🙂

  4. Do you really disagree with Alex OR are you saying he needs to include in his view the horses who don’t have “star quality”? Personally I think that the horse in his story has done enough in racing. There’s probably a good reason why he can’t win a $3200 claiming race now. It’s like asking a 40 yr old pro football player to be able to play like he did when he was in his mid-20’s. The body just isn’t the same with all that stress over years and years. With that in mind, many of the hard knocking “elderly” claimers shouldn’t be running anymore regardless of how much (or little) they have won for the exact same reason. I think Alex’s point is “when is enough enough?” for any race horse. It’s probably an easier sell to retire a more notable horse because of their previous accomplishments. C’mon – who has ever heard of Jaguar Hope or Hola C Bright?

    I’m just glad he’s bringing up the dark side of the claiming system and how it does not help many horses.

  5. Thank you Wendy! Here’s what I think…

    ‘Do you really disagree with Alex OR are you saying he needs to include in his view the horses who don’t have “star quality”?’

    I disagree with the reason cited for retiring him, which is that he used to run at a high level and doesn’t need to run anymore.

    There are good reasons for retiring horses. Retire a horse who is sore. Retire a horse who is sour. Retire a horse who is never competitive.

    No matter what his past performances might say.

    ‘It’s like asking a 40 yr old pro football player to be able to play like he did when he was in his mid-20′s.’

    Well… is it, really? Or is it like asking a former 4-star horse to do a training level event? Or a Grand Prix jumper to be a schoolhorse? They’re not asking him to run at the Grade 1 level… they’re asking him to run at the $3200 level, which is, by definition, not the same level of athleticism. It’s still running, but less so. Like it would still be jumping, but less so. Or, if he were a football player playing in an over-thirty league, still football, but less so.

    I don’t think he’s bringing up the dark side of the claiming system at all. He’s saying that this horse is too good to run in claiming races. He didn’t mention any of the other horses running alongside Stream of Gold. I know Alex’s intention might be to say something of that nature, the “enough is enough” – but read the article – he didn’t say that at all. He described the horse’s background and then said the horse deserved better. There are other ten year old horses running. Do they all deserve better? Can we mention them, then?

    Question: Should there be an age limit for racing? Are they necessarily “washed up” at a certain age? And if so, how does that effect other high-stress equestrian events – from reining to eventing?

  6. Great post, I agree. Thousands are forgotten/abused/neglected/sent to slaughter. But this horse deserves more, because he paid his own way? They all deserve a humane life. ALL OF THEM.

    “There are other ten year old horses running. Do they all deserve better? ” YES.

  7. Unfortunately, another throw-away horse in racing’s shameful “Disposable Horse Culture”. As William Rhoden of the NY Times stated in the title of his article, “Racing Should Take Care Of Its Own”.

    It is not weather any horse has done enough, but if we have provided a path for our TBs to be successful in racing or other careers. Obviously, the connections should be step up and do the right thing but we have been “accepting the unacceptable” for so long in TB racing that Stream of Gold situations are the status quo. And the status quo needs to change if TB racing is going to accepted again by the general public.

    @Highgunner – The voice for the “Unwanted Thoroughbred”

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