To be perverse, I’d suggest that for the horse-racing industry, it’d be best that I’ll Have Another does not — yes, does not — win the Triple Crown this Saturday.
Oh, certainly, absolutely every year you want a horse to win the first two races — the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness — so that suspense builds and a horse has a chance to win the Belmont and take the Triple Crown. But isn’t it better to have the potential winner barely get beat so that the losing streak continues, building interest?
It’s now been 34 years since we had a winner, and someday soon, someone will start to call it the curse of the Triple Crown. Terrific! Curses are even more attention-getting than streaks. I mean, suppose I’ll Have Another wins Saturday. Next year, if another horse heads into the Belmont, going for the crown, everybody will just say ho-hum, they did that last year, what’s the big deal?
OK, that’s perversity. Now specificity.
I don’t want I’ll Have Another to win the Belmont. Oh, he’s a terrific little horse, and his jockey, Mario Gutierrez, provides us with a wonderfully uplifting story. To horse and rider, I say: Good luck, Godspeed, and if you win every race but the Belmont, good for you.
But the people in charge of I’ll Have Another don’t deserve the honor. The trainer is Doug O’Neill, a charming enough character, but a drug cheat nonetheless. In fact, he must start a 45-day suspension on July 1 in California. Illinois has already suspended him. He’s been fined nine times for horses testing over the regulatory threshold. Perhaps most grievous, horses he trains break down at twice the normal rate.
I’ll Have Another’s owner is J. Paul Reddam, who is invariably described as a former philosophy professor — as if he still strolls the hills and dales alone, contemplating his favorite philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein. More recently, though, Reddam is president of CashCall, which refinances dubious mortgages. Three states have challenged him over violations of consumer protection laws. In West Virginia he’s charged with breaking usury laws, assessing annual interest as high as, yes, 99 percent.
All right, no official judgment has yet been rendered against Reddam, but when the ethical standards of both men are taken together, can’t we simply say: After 34 years, shouldn’t a Triple Crown champion possess a better human pedigree?
Wittgenstein opined once: “I sit astride life like a bad rider on a horse. I only owe it to the horse’s good nature that I am not thrown off at this very moment.” I’m sorry, but I hope both O’Neill and Reddam get bucked at the Belmont. There is so much drug abuse in the sport, so many shady shenanigans, that when it comes to that next horse who finally wins the Triple Crown, I’ll take another.