Letter to the Editor: `I'm Skipping the Breeders' Cup'

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I'm skipping the Breeders' Cup this year. Or, if I allow myself a slight delusion of grandeur, I'm boycotting it. This is an action–consequential in my life–that I don't take lightly, especially given that Keeneland is hosting this year's Holy Days of Obligation for people of my ilk.

I had secured my tickets–great seats to take it all in–and had planned a road trip with my wife, a would-be firster at Keeneland. But I won't attend. Here's why:

I cannot in good conscience spend my discretionary recreation and leisure money in Kentucky, whose state statutes banning a woman's right to choose are the law of that beautiful land. This comes, of course, now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that there is no federal right that protects women's ability to decide the question for themselves.

Make no mistake: I have nothing against the Breeders' Cup, though I hope they'll consider placing future events in jurisdictions that recognize bodily autonomy, along with same sex marriage and contraception–the rights that are likely to be under attack next. (Put me down for next year's red-letter November weekend, assuming it's not at Lone Star or Remington or Oaklawn or the Fair Grounds or Gulfstream.) And I certainly have nothing against Keeneland; to the contrary, the splendor and charm of that magnificent racecourse made me want in on this year's Breeders' Cup even more than usual.

I know my decision doesn't carry the weight of Major League Baseball's moving last year's All Star game from Atlanta to protest Georgia's voting issues, nor professional organizations avoiding conference venues with similar social issues. But it's something I must do.

On a small scale, everyone loses. Wallace Station and the Keeneland backstretch kitchen will forfeit the revenue that one large, appreciative racing fan would have generated, and I'll miss out on the good eats. My bourbon-drinking friends will lose out on my services as hooch mule, and the distilleries will sell less of what my grandfather used to call profit water. Old Friends will have two fewer carrot- and mint-toting visitors than it would have.

I will lose out on introducing my wife to the setting I can't or won't shut up about. I'll watch the races on television and lose intelligently on my ADW, but there's nothing like watching in person as Songbird and Beholder throw down. Racing is (much of) my life. I don't remember if I put shoes and socks on this morning, but I recall vividly my first day ever at the track, my first bet, and my first winner: the Jersey Derby at Garden State in 1975, Professor Joe in the opener, and A Musical Formal in the fourth, respectively. I walked hots at Belmont in the mid-70s, did on-air racing analysis in the mid-80s, covered the sport for a daily newspaper, and have been to more than 70 Thoroughbred tracks in the nearly 50 years I've been chasing these magnificent creatures.

These losses, mine included, constitute collateral damage from the undeclared, but unmistakable war our government has declared on half of us – more, if you count men who care about propriety and justice. My support for women's unfettered right to choose is absolute, and I'm unable to fathom why anyone would want to deprive women of that unfettered right.

I do get to make one choice, and with some wistfulness but a conscience that tells me I'm doing the right thing, I choose not to contribute to Kentucky's economy or that of any state with similarly draconian laws. Even if it means that I'll have to wait a year for an in-person Breeders' Cup.

Dave Brooks is a freelance writer and former PR professional and hot walker emeritus with a more-than-healthy love for Thoroughbred horse racing. His wife thinks he should find a new hobby, such as Parchesi.

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