|CURATING THE BEST IN SPORT|
|November 3-9, 2020|
Gambling on death: Australian handicapping
Seven fatalities in eight years is a number beyond what is acceptable yet it is the reality of the Melbourne Cup, the “race that stops a nation”. Some hours ago, the pre-race favorite, horse Anthony van Dyck (IRL), had to be humanely euthanized after he sustained a fetlock fracture in the final stretch of the race while following the leaders. Some editors wonder why the Melbourne Cup is marred by tragedy basically every year but this is no coincidence: horses are exposed to death with the primitive and cruel practice of ballast handicapping.
Handicapping means adding extra weight ballast for the horses to carry so as to make it more difficult for the pre-race favorites to win and hence make the racing closer and the bets more attractive. This practice exists in different areas of the world but it is more brutal in Australia. Anthony van Dyck was carrying 58.5 kilos, one of the largest weight penalties of all time.
In sporting grounds, handicapping is simply an unfair success burden, where winners are penalized for being good. That goes against what sport should be about. But the impact is not only that it produces fake winners, but that we are dealing with lives of living beings: animals that feel and suffer, elite athletes that ought to be protected from injury, especially because injuries in horses usually end up in euthanasia. It might be annoying to see Toyota being penalized for winning at the FIA World Endurance Championship but no one dies there if they lose.
If we go back to the January 28, 1957 edition of Sports Illustrated, the “Jimmy Jemail” controversial question of the week was: “How much weight can a race horse carry without the danger of breaking down?”, and while there are different responses, trainers seem to already know, more than sixty years ago, that carrying over 130 pounds is exposing your horse to breaking down. With the jockey, Anthony van Dyck was carrying way more than that. Fast forwarding, scientific studies (Horsetalk) have concluded that there is a threshold of 15% rider-horse weight ratio for satisfactory performance and other studies show that the horse’s physical effects are very significant when carrying 25% of their weight (Journal of Equine Veterinary Science).
With all of that evidence, it is clear that the practice of handicapping success must stop, especially at such extreme values. What we are gambling with here with are lives, and that is just not acceptable. At the same time, it is misguided to call for horse racing to stop altogether, since it is not an inherently inhuman practice. Instead, attention should be given to what is feasible and can save lives (a racing horse reportedly dies every three days in Australia – Animals Australia), such as prohibiting ballast or that horses are sent to slaughterhouses after retirement, which is a primitively legal practice in Australia (The Guardian).
In the meantime, Rest In Peace Anthony van Dyck (2020), The Cliffsofmoher (2018), Regal Monarch (2016), Red Cadeaux (2015), Admire Rakti (2014), Araldo (2014) and Verema (2013), all victims of the Melbourne Cup (7 News).
|Five things to know from last week|
- The Dodgers are The Champions, finally. The Los Ángeles Dodgers finally won the Major League Baseball World Series, having reached this phase three of the last four years, but with a 32 year-old Championship drought. The Dodgers had the best 40-game start in MLB (30-10) since the Mariners in 2001 (31-9) and finished the regular season 43-17. They swept the playoff series against the Milwaukee Brewers and the San Diego Padres, came back from being against the ropes against the Atlanta Braves, and then defeated Tampa Bay 4-2 for their 24th pennant, more than any other National League team. Shortstop Corey Seager (USA) was the World Series MVP -he had previously been the League Championship MVP-, while Víctor González (MEX) took the final win and countryman Julio Urías (MEX) was awarded the save. Mookie Betts (USA, RF), was another MVP candidate. Watch the game highlights (MLB)
- Almond Eye. There is a new horse with the record of most Group I race wins in Japan, and that is Almond Eye (JAP), who ridden by Christophe Lemaire (FRA) won the Tenno Shō (Autumn Stakes), her eight Group I. In Venezuela, Raffsttar (VEN) became the ninth Triple Crown winner ridden by Jean Carlos Rodríguez (VEN). And in Australia the tragic Melbourne Cup was won by Twilight Payment (IRL), ridden by Jye McNeil (AUS) but Anthony van Dyck (IRL) was fatally injured, pouring backlash within Australia (Herald Sun).
- Lucky loser. Lorenzo Sonego (ITA) stunned Novak Djokovic (SRB) 6-2, 6-1 in the VIenna Erste Bank Open (ATP 500). Sonego had lost in the qualifying tournament but was put in the main draw as a “Lucky Loser” and made it all the way to the final, where he dropped to Andrey Rublev (RUS), who had defeated #2 seed, Dominic Thiem (AUT). Djokovic said he fulfilled his goal of ending the season as #1 and the tournament Director was unimpressed. He also pointed at the death of a Serbian Orthodox Bishop as a reason why he was not enthusiastic about playing (Tennisworldusa).
- Korean eSports Champions. The League of Legends World Championship was won by a South Korean team, Damwon Gaming, who defeated Suning Gaming 3-1. Their jungler, Kim “Canyon” Geon-bu (KOR), was named the MVP and Suning’s Chen “Bin” Zebin (CHN), got the first “Pentakill” in World final history. In StarCraft 2, former commentator, Jun “TY” Tae Yang (KOR) won his second Global Starcraft League of the year (out of three), by defeating Cho “Maru” Seong-ju (KOR), in a tactical battle. In a very different form of eSport, simracing, eNASCAR crowned Nick Ottinger (USA), by passing Bobby Zalenski (USA) with fresher tyres on a restart. Zalenski had controversially taken fellow title rival Ryan Luza (USA) out in what could have been a racing incident – you decide (NASCAR).
- The Monster. Naoya “Monster” Inoue (JAP) continues to show why he is one of the best Pound for Pound boxers in the world, by defeating Jason Moloney (AUS) to retain the WBA (Super), IBF and The Ring bantamweight World titles in a 7th round KO. In England, Savannah Marshall (ENG) defeated Hannah Rankin (SCO) to take the vacant World Boxing Organisation World Female Middle Title. In a Masterclass, she used her reach and a series of combinations that made Rankin take a knee and the referee to stop the fight in 8. Later, Oleksandr Usyk (UKR) made his professional Heavyweight with a KO against Derek Chisora (ENG) and announced he wants to sweep the division. In México, Mariana Juárez (MEX) -potentially the best female bantamweight ever- displayed an embarrassing defeat as she was battered by Yulihan Luna (MEX) and then called for her gloves to be inspected. The gloves were clean. In a bizarre 8-Round World Title fight, Yesenia Gómez (MEX) defended her WBC Female Light Flyweight title against Mirna Sánchez (MEX) (Vavel).
|GLOBAL PODIUM OF THE WEEK|
Gold: Lewis Hamilton
(England, Auto Racing)
Lewis Hamilton keeps on breaking records. One week after breaking the Formula 1 win record, he extended it to 93 by winning the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola, Italy. But the most remarkable was that he and teammate Valtteri Bottas (FIN) clinched the Constructors’ Championship for a seventh consecutive time, breaking Ferrari’s record of six, from 1999 to 2004. Hamilton’s win is the ninth of the year, out of thirteen races.
Bottas took pole position but a timely Virtual Safety Car for Hamilton and mechanical problems relegated him to second. Max Verstappen (NET, Red Bull) was running second when a tyre failed and forced him to retire. Sergio Pérez (MEX, Racing Point) was set to inherit a well-deserved first podium in the season but incredibly he was pitted -while he had fresher tyres than his rivals- and his team gave Daniel Ricciardo (AUS, Renault) a nice present with another podium and third place in the Constructors’ Championship. Racing Point fell to fifth with that decision.
Watch the race highlights (Formula 1)
Silver: Gervonta Davis
(United States of America, Boxing)
Gervonta Davis frustrated Leo Santa Cruz’ (MEX) attempt to be the third boxer to hold World Championships in three divisions simultaneously by knocking him out with a huge uppercut in the sixth round after Leo decided he could hold his punches and decided to trade. It was a very competitive fight until then and a “Fight of the year” candidate. With this win, he became one of the very few boxers in history that have won a fight for World Championship belts in two divisions simultaneously, by taking the World Boxing Association Super Featherweight Super World Title and the WBA Lightweight World Title. His immaculate record is now of 24 wins, 23 by way of knockout, including all of his last 15 fights.Watch the short highlights (Premier Boxing Champions)
Bronze: Erica Lee Enders
(United States of America, Auto Racing)
Erica Enders continues to extend her legacy as the best female driver in NHRA history. At the season finale in Las Vegas she won her fourth NHRA Pro Stock World Championship, having previously won the 2014, 2015 and 2019 editions. She finished the Championship by taking her fourth win this year in the season Finale, which is her 29th NHRA Pro Stock win. She is now tied 10th in the list of drivers with most NHRA World Championships, and 4th in the Pro Stock division. This weekend also saw Steve Torrence (USA) take his third straight Top Fuel Championship, Matt Hagan (USA, also won the Finale) win his second Funny Car Championship and Matt Smith (USA) win his fourth Pro Stock Motorcycle Championship.
Watch the moment she wins the Championship (NHRA)
|GLOBAL SPORTS AGENDA|
Primož Roglič (SLO) says he is surprised at his shape in the end of the season as he leads and has won four stages at the Vuelta a España, but Richard Carapaz (ECU) is too close for comfort and might take advantage of the next mountain stages, where he excels.
The MLB World Series might be over but in Korea and Japan the playoffs are just starting. Also in Japan, the WBA Light Flyweight World Title fight between Hiroto Kyoguchi (JAP) vs Thanongsak Simsri (THA) was called off when Kyoguchi tested positive for covid-19 after the weigh in. At least we have more World Title fights, and we got to see Elwin Soto (MEX) successfully defend his WBO Title last week. There will also be interest in Asia of the five Tier-1 eSports tournaments that conclude.
Horse Racing has a huge week with the Breeder’s Cup, featuring some of the best jockeys and riders from all around the World, in a total of 12 Group I races.
NASCAR concludes its season this week and the Championship will be won by either Joey Logano (USA), Chase Elliott (USA), Brad Keselowski (USA) or Denny Hamlin (USA), although Kevin Harvick (USA) had arguably done more throughout the season.
The Indian Premier League (Cricket) will define its finalist teams, with at least one of either the Mumbai Indians or Delhi Capitals making it to the Finals, but one of them might be frustrated by the winner of the Sunrisers Hyderabad – Royal Challengers Bangalore series.
NFL Regular Season
UEFA Champions League Matchday
Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (Hockenheimring, GER x2)
FIA Karting World Championship – OK & Junior (Portimao, POR)
FIA World Cup for Cross Country Bajas (34 Baja Portalegre 500, POR)
NASCAR Cup (Phoenix, Arizona)
NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series (Phoenix, Arizona)
Super GT (Motegi, JAP)
World of Outlaws Late Models (The Dirt Track at Charlotte, USA x2)
World of Outlaws Sprint Cars (The Dirt Track at Charlotte, USA)
Nippon League – Regular Season end
KBO Post Season, Japan Series
WPSBA World Snooker Tour – CHAMPION OF CHAMPIONS 2020
World Boxing Council World Light Title – Devin Haney (USA) vs Yuriorkis Gamboa (CUB)
vacant World Boxing Organisation World Fly Title – Giemel Magramo (FIL) vs Junto Nakatani (JAP)
vacant World Boxing Association World Female Super Light Title – Kali Reis (USA) vs Kandi Wyatt (CAN)
ICF World Cup Slalom, Pau (FRA)
Speed Chess Championship Main Event Starts
Indian Premier League Playoffs
PDC Tour – BetVictor World Cup of Darts
Arena of Valor (Garena Challenger Series Summer 2020, RoV Pro League 2020 Winter, Arena of Glory Winter 2020) – Season end
Quake Pro League Season 2: Stage 1
BLAST Premier: Fall 2020 Regular Season end
Warcraft – WCG 2020 Connected Group Stage Finals
Men’s FIH Pro League Matches
Women’s FIH Pro League Matches
ISU Grand Prix China
PGA Tour – Vivint Houston Open
Ladies European Tour – Omega Dubai Moonlight Classic
VRC Oaks, Seppelt MacKinnon Stakes, VRC Sprint Classic, (Australia)
Grosser Preis Von Bayern (Germany)
New Zealand 2000 Guineas (New Zealand)
Yildirim Bayezid, Caldiran Stakes (Turkey)
Breeders’ Cup – 12 Group I races (USA)
FIM BAJAS WORLD CUP (34 Baja Portalegre 500, POR)
FIM Borilli EnduroGP World Championship (Marco de Canaveses, POR)
FIM Motocross World Championship (Pietramurata, Italy x2)
FIM MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3 World Championship (Circuit Ricardo Tormo, ESP)
UCI World Tour Vuelta a España
UCI Women’s World Tour – Ceratizit Challenge by la Vuelta
F1 Esports Virtual Grand Prix Series (x3)
BMW SIM 120 Cup
GT Pro Series
The Race IndyPRO Championship
International Swimming League Matches
Dishang 2020 ITTF Women’s World Cup
ATP – Rolex Paris Masters
Sport’s best values
|Humility: Ryan Hall and Anderson Silva|
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“These championships aren’t like winning like Petty and Earnhardt used to win them…You have to put them together three weeks at a time. It comes down to one race, and it came down to one race for us tonight. We came up short.”Kevin Harvick (USA)
2020 NASCAR Cup Regular Season “Champion”
After being eliminated from NASCAR Playoffs with one race to go after he had dominated the season with nine wins.