QUALITY ROAD: THOUGHTS ON CONTENT

It’s been an interesting week at the Virginia Thoroughbred Blog. It started out with a reader suggesting we were reluctant to allow controversial discussion (among other things) and has ended with some other folks advocating that some things are too controversial.

The first was easily resolved. All dialog, debate and comments are welcome.

The second one is a little more ticklish.

Here’s what happened. We received some complaints about having the video of Quality Roads gate incident on this blog. Some folks we know, like and respect though it simply didn’t belong here for various reasons.

No doubt, what happened with Quality Road on Saturday was devastating for his connections, disappointing to his fans and it did not portray our industry in a positive light. However, if this blog wants to effectively promote and market Virginia horses, horsemen and breeders, I feel compelled to cover what happened in a credible way.

While I realize we aren’t CNN, ESPN or an industry periodical like the Blood Horse, I believe that if this vehicle is to be effective at promoting racing and breeding in the Commonwealth and the quality and value of Virginia-bred horses, we have to present honest, fair and complete coverage of the good news and the bad news.

When I decided to post the video, I dusted off my journalism degree and called upon my thirty-years of experience that includes newspaper section editor, reporter and columnist published in the Daily Racing Form, Thoroughbred Record (yes, I’m dating myself) and Horsemen’s Journal among others. Right or wrong, I took off my Quality Road hat and put on my editor’s hat.

In journalism mode as opposed to PR mode, I didn’t think I could accurately describe what happened and that the video made it very clear why QR was a gate scratch from the biggest race of the year. Still photos remain hard to get as most photographers were camped out at the finish line. Thus the video was an important adjunct to a news story – a very important news story about a Virginia horse in the biggest race on the biggest and most important racing day in America. Simply put, it was a big deal to all of us in Virginia, QR’s fans everywhere and the folks that bet over $2.2 million on him.

I hope it was obvious that we have tirelessly promoted this great horse and that no-ill will was meant for the horse (QR has been the subject of some harsh comments on other sites, but we know, and have photographic evidence, that he’s a puppy dog 95% of the time…), his connections, Virginia or racing in general.

One of the reasons I thought the video was appropriate was that nobody (human or horse) was seriously injured. QR might want to debate that, but my point is that there were no catastrophic life-threatening injuries. No dangling limbs, no gushing blood. Had that been the case, we would not have posted the video.

Is the video good for the industry? No, the entire incident wasn’t good for the industry, but neither was Eight Bells breaking down in the Kentucky Derby. That unfortunate incident also called for complete coverage supplemented by carefully chosen images. Such incidents, accidents and breakdowns are an unfortunate part of what we do, but ignoring them won’t make them go away nor will it improve the perception of the industry in the eyes of the general public, PETA or anybody else.

I was at Belmont Park when Go For Wand broke down, and afterwards I wrote a scathing letter to Sports Illustrated complaining about the gruesome photos they used in their story about the event. The key word being “gruesome. “ SI’s photos were sensationalism at its worst, and fundamentally unfair. One photo would have illustrated to their readers how horrific this tragedy was, publishing four (as memory served me) such photos was inappropriate.

What happened to QR was partially self-inflicted and then made worse by an impatient, and perhaps nervous/anxious, gate crew. The helicopter didn’t help either. The video, while painful to watch, is not dissimilar to the photos taken of Chris Antley holding up Charismatic’s leg after he was injured in the 1999 Belmont. The image is disturbing and sad, but it tells the story in a dramatic fashion without being too graphic.

Needless to say, I wish QR had simply walked in the gate, but he didn’t.

I appreciate everybody’s thoughtful input. And, yes, all opinions to the contrary remain welcome.