The Front Row with Jerry Hitchcock November 9, 2010
This past weekend was full of action on the sporting fields, but a couple of dustups definitely drew my attention for polar opposite reasons.
In two sports all about horsepower, one tries to keep its human competitors' emotions away from the public, while the other wants it let loose from time to time to boost interest. See if you can tell which is which.
Horse racing - The Sport of Kings - held its annual Breeders' Cup event over the weekend. It is supposed to be the wrapup of another fabulous year on the track.
Unfortunately for all involved, the image most will take away from the event, aside from Zenyatta losing by a nose, will be Calvin Borel trying to separate fellow jockey Javier Castellano's nose from his face.
In plain view of attendees and a national television audience, Borel decided to take out his frustration of Castellano's move, aboard Prince Will I Am during Friday's Breeders' Cup Marathon that disrupted Borel's mount, A.U. Miner, after the race. Borel made clear comments that he would kill Castellano if security officials would let him go.
The timing of the tussle couldn't have been worse for the sport. During Saturday's Juveniles Turf race at Churchill Downs, Rough Sailing, who was leading the pack at one point, fell heading into the first turn. His jockey escaped serious injury, but Rough Sailing was examined and was put down after a shoulder injury was diagnosed.
Zenyatta's narrow loss later in the day added to the shock content at Churchill Downs for the weekend.
Jockeys for decades have taken up their grievances with their counterparts only in the privacy of the jockey room, so when Borel made his assault attempt in full view on such a grand stage, near the winner's circle of a major race, it caught everyone by surprise.
A college buddy of mine owns thoroughbreds, and has a little history with Borel at the Breeders. Dominic DeBellis' horse, Mambo Meister, and Borel's ride, Ready's Echo, collided during the 2009 Dirt Mile. At the time, Dominic was fit to be tied with Borel's riding (since Ready's Echo came home second, and Mambo Meister finished a close fifth, with the stewards determining no foul had occurred).
But in retrospect, DeBellis repects Borel's talents and understands the reality of competition.
"Calvin is a great rider," he said, "Tony Stewart is a great driver, AJ Foyt was a great driver. All of these guys are hot heads and passionate about winning. Giving them an anger management title is BS. You don't do those kinds of jobs without being on the edge and if you are fouled, it can tick you off and in the heat of the moment you don't hesitate to say so."
On Sunday in Texas, the normally restrained Jeff Gordon had to be restrained after Jeff Burton got into him and both ended up in the wall during the NASCAR Sprint Cup race.
NASCAR has wanted the drivers to show some emotion during races, and Gordon didn't disappoint, shoving Burton and trying to get a few swings in before officials could separate the two.
Burton later said the accident was totally his fault, and he hitched a ride in the same ambulance with Gordon to the infield care center for a checkup.
NASCAR officials are openly allowing their competitors to get in each other's grill, and obviously Gordon got the memo.
So what's next? Will Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal go toe-to-toe at midcourt during the U.S. Open final? Will Tiger Woods and Lee Westwood bend a few clubs around each other's neck on a Sunday at Augusta?
It's good to see some old-fashion passion in the era of the multi-million dollar athlete. Of couse, if I was one such athlete with oodles in the bank, maybe I'd feel more apt to deck someone who drew my ire.
So now there's a new amendment to the old joke: "Hey, I went to a hockey game and a horse race broke out..."
Jerry Hitchcock is a sportswriter for The Press. He can be reached at 664-8176, Ext. 2017, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org