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Memorable Race Carries a Lesson

Thoroughbred horse racing. This image is a low angle view of two thoroughbred brown horses racing on a track covered in sand. The horses are racing alongside a white fence. The horse in the front has a black two on it. In front of the two horses in the picture there is a tail of the horse in front.

In 1996, I had decided to go out on my own after six years of practicing law and money was tight. That year, the great racehorse Cigar was to run in the Pacific Classic. He had already won a record-tying 16 straight races - most of them Grade 1s (the best). Winning the Pacific Classic would give Cigar a record 17 straight wins, surpassing the great Citation. Cigar had won the inaugural Dubai World Cup, which started that same year and was the biggest purse race.

I decided to take a chance at the races that day. The track was jammed with over 44,000 people. Many of them had come from the Republican National Convention that was being held at the same time in San Diego, but many celebrities were also present - including Bo Derek, Clint Eastwood, Bob Costas, William Hurt and others.

The crowd went nuts when Cigar came into the walking ring and paddock. They roared when Jerry Bailey rode him out to the track. Cameras were everywhere as people took pictures of Cigar to memorialize what could be his record-breaking event. There were five other competitors racing against him, including the great Siphon and Tinners Way. Siphon was a Brazilian speed horse trained by Richard Mandella. Mandella also had another horse in the race, Dare and Go.

I had done my homework the night before and I liked the long shot, Dare and Go. I remember looking at the odds of Cigar. He was 1/9 to win - the lowest odds in horse racing. I noted to myself that Cigar was more likely to Place than to Win.

The race started and, as expected, Siphon jumped to the lead with Cigar right off his flank. But then something unexpected happened. Dramatic Gold, a horse not really known for his early speed, went fast early and put pressure on Cigar from the outside.

Dare and Go was back in fourth then and started to make his move. They ran a mile in 1:33 - the fastest opening mile in Pacific Classic history. The crowd was screaming at the top of their lungs as Cigar ran past Siphon and Dare and Go came up beside Cigar. But the super-fast starting pace took its toll on Cigar. He began to lose speed and Dare and Go sailed on by to win by 3¼ lengths over Cigar.

Cigar's mistake

Cigar had won 16 straight races when he ran the Pacific Classic, meaning he had tied for the record of most consecutive races ever won and he was going for the unprecedented 17th straight win. In the excitement and the desire to win, they made a crucial mistake. Since Cigar ran at a breakneck pace right out of the gate, he needed to keep that pace up the entire time to win, but it was too much for him. Cigar was pushed too hard too fast and as a result, he became exhausted and could not finish the race with the same speed.

Unfortunately, too many workplace accidents follow a similar pattern, especially in more labor-intensive fields. When employees are put in a position where they have to overwork themselves or have to work long shifts without taking adequate breaks, when they are pushed too hard, the risks of a workplace accident increase. Or if appropriate safety procedures aren't followed at an intense, high-pressure job, workers can end up getting seriously hurt or hurting others as a result.

This year the Pacific Classic at Del Mar is being promoted as the "Battle of the Sexes" (the top older female horse in the world, Beholder, will take on the top older male horse in the world, California Chrome) and as the biggest and greatest Pacific Classic race since that day in 1996.

Robert A. McLaughlin

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