The ponies

Apparently, the Kentucky Derby is this weekend. I haven't heard much about the race itself, so if I were a betting man I'd be forced to resort to my normal Derby practice of putting my money on the horse whose name most closely resembles the name of a sandwich.

People seem to think that horse racing would suddenly become immensely popular if some year some horse were to win the triple crown. I don't see it. The annual trinitarian mystery is pretty compelling on its own terms, but what would change if one horse won all three races? Nothing that I can see. The next year the Derby would roll around again with a field of horses that nobody has ever heard of.

If the powers that be in the world of horse racing were to ask me, I'd say that if you want people to follow horse racing then what you need to do is make more races matter to the casual fan, and that you do that by having more races featuring horses that the casual fan might have heard of. It turns out, though, that this is pretty much the idea behind the Breeder's Cup. Worse, the sport has become less popular in the 35 years that the cup has been around.

Probably there's nothing to be done and horse racing is going to remain a niche sport. All I know for sure is that horse races are spectacular and that off track betting should be legal in each of these United States.

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