A few pages deeper in this magazine, I wrote a long feature about 1972 Preakness winner Bee Bee Bee, his trainer Del Carroll and the passage of time. Carroll died 10 years after that Preakness, stopping a career at 2,224 victories. While far behind Steve Asmussen, Dale Baird, King T. Leatherbury and others, the total still stands tall. Carroll ranks 83rd among trainers by career victories according to Equibase.
My question became, where did he stand on the list when he died? You’d think I wanted the formula for making Coca-Cola (and not the new stuff). Equibase couldn’t help. The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame scoured some books, but came up empty. Carroll’s not a Hall of Fame member, although . . .
I have some editions of The American Racing Manual and found some others in a local collection. The book included a list of trainers ranked by lifetime victories, but didn’t start until the 2004 edition. Carroll was 39th then, four spots ahead of Asmussen. As an aside, Carroll’s 89 lifetime stakes winners trained were second only to Charlie Whittingham in 1982.
Someone suggested starting with that list from the 2004 book and doing the math on the trainers ahead of Carroll to figure out their totals since 1982, then subtracting those numbers from their career totals. I started that process, but quickly surrendered. That person possesses no understanding of the amount of free time I have, and also owns no clue of how terrible I am at math.
Racing – like other sports – should be able to produce that statistic. Efficiently. Correctly. Numbers drive this game like no other. Bettors need numbers. Breeders want trends and statistics. Owners, trainers, jockeys, racetracks, veterinarians count on accurate reporting of racetrack success and failure. Race times, weight carried, internal fractions, blinkers or not, track condition, pace scenario . . . all of it.
The sport has progressed by furlongs in recent history with the advent of Equibase and the ability to pull up charts of races from a horse’s career online. I use that website every day. You probably do as well. But there are huge gaps and big disconnects, especially when it comes to history. Look up the great Secretariat on Equibase, and you’d believe his first start came in the 1972 Sanford Stakes at Saratoga. You’d be wrong. He made his debut on July 4, 1972 at Aqueduct, and finished fourth.
I’m sure there are viable reasons for such shortcomings – history, money, paper, computers, the shift from an independent company (Daily Racing Form) to one owned by racing entities (Equibase) for data management and so on. But, the situation should be better.
Racing can’t find simple answers like where Del Carroll was in relation to other trainers when he passed away. I’d guess top 10 or 15, but that’s just a guess. Racing should be able to compare historical eras accurately the way baseball and other sports can.
When steeplechase trainer Jack Fisher was inducted into the Hall of Fame last year, his career statistics report included a slew of early wins credited to his father and even flat trainers Fisher had purchased horses from – sorry, Dickie Small fans, he did not train Saluter to any wins over timber. To Equibase’s credit, the mistakes were fixed but it took an outside look to even find the errors.
Back to Carroll for a minute, try finding Bee Bee Bee’s career record from an official source. Then give up. The Equibase report includes a seemingly correct statistics line of 31-11-8-2 for $281,098 earned. An Equine Line report from The Jockey Club did the same. Neither source offered a reliable listing of his individual starts, showing one in 1971, five in 1972 and one in 1973. I searched old editions of The Baltimore Sun on newspapers.com and put together his complete 1972 season – two starts at Gulfstream Park, one at Hialeah, five (culminating in the Preakness) at Pimlico, two at Liberty Bell Park. He must be the only Preakness winner to make his next start at Liberty Bell, a long-gone track outside Philadelphia. Alas, nobody can actually figure that out for sure.
The book Champions is a great source for lifetime past performances of champions but you’re out of luck if the horse wasn’t a champion. Bee Bee Bee for example. And data like that should be online.
I don’t mind the work. I like the work. It’s fascinating, if a little distracting, and that newspapers.com subscription isn’t free (remind me to cancel). But, come on. Baseball researchers (and random fans) can find complete statistics – and box scores – for the 1927 Yankees at the touch of a few keys on a computer with internet access.
Lou Gehrig batted .373 with a .765 slugging percentage, and drove in 175 runs.