Almanac Discourse and Horseracing: The Fuhrer furore – a thoroughbred race war?

The Fuhrer Furore: A Thoroughbred Race War

 

 

Lockdown boredom and an interest in mathematics led me to try promotional arbitrage during Victoria’s first full lockdown. Essentially arbitrage involves putting bets on the same market across many bookmakers while making a small but consistent profit on the margins. This is what led me to looking over a provincial race in the world capital of sports, Northam, Western Australia.

 

There’s no need to look over the names or the form in too much details when placing arbitrage bets, just the numbers. But on this occasion, one caught my eye, Fuhrer. I sat back in my chair for a moment and scanned the rest of the page. Trillionaire, Fingermark and Bar Trade all seemed like the standard, half-baked thoroughbred names. Black Smuggler caught the eye a little but certainly not to the extent of Fuhrer. Other words on the page like ‘race’ and ‘thoroughbred’ only seemed to seat me back further in my chair and furrow my brow.

 

Being an inner-north Melburnian I’m probably a bit more of a wowser relative to the rest of Australia but certainly wouldn’t be considered particularly politically correct in my friendship circles. In cases like the calling out of Colonial Beer I can see the merit in both sides. I guess I’m interested in where we draw the line in call-out culture between the power of words to determine our social attitudes and pointless nit-picking.

 

I typed ‘Fuhrer’ into Google and was met solely with pictures of the moustachioed, beady-eyed, genocidal eccentric. I asked a friend with a keen interest in German history whether I was wrong to assume that the word ‘fuhrer’ was synonymous with Adolf. It turns out that after WW2 when Germany was divided, the word continued to be used in West Germany as a general term for leader or boss. As in if you were working in a factory, your shift leader could be called your ‘fuhrer’. However, in communist East Germany, the word was officially discontinued. However, he agreed in modern times, in the western world, it can only relate to a particular drug addicted, herbivorous psychopath.

 

Another reason the horse might have come to have this name I thought might be the convention in racing nomenclature of creating a portmanteau of the sire and the dam for the newborn foal. An online database showed me that Fuhrer’s mother was called ‘Furocitee’ and his father was called ‘Universal Ruler’. This gave me a small window into the mind of the owner. However, a hybrid of the two would simply be ‘Furer’, but an Hhas appeared from somewhere.

 

I Googled who the responsible agency might be in Western Australia. I then sent an email to the RWWA (Racing and Wagering Western Australia), not a complaint as such, more an inquiry as to whether it was common practice to have these kinds of names in the horse racing industry. After having forgot about the whole thing for three weeks, I received a call from Sue, the Licencing and Registrations Officer from the RWWA. Apparently, there had been 3 other inquiries from the public and some from within the organisation resulting in an RWWA Chief Steward decision to petition Racing Australia for a name change.

 

A month or so later, the response from RA came back. The name ‘Fuhrer’ was deemed to be ‘appropriate under Racing Australia regulations.’. I’m imagining the rigamarole required to change a name in the nine-billion-dollar racing industry is probably worth more than pleasing a few concerned citizens.

 

The next tree to bark up was the Australia Israel and Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC). I asked whether they were concerned about it and was transferred to a linguistics expert who gave me a similar history of the word to my Germanophile friend, however he said that the word is still in use in parts of Germany today. Transferred back to the chairman, Mark, I asked whether he thought about the name. He said he didn’t think it was explicitly racist but described it more as something that was ‘concerning’.

 

I was beginning to think this whole Fuhrer-the-horse issue would be one that would lean towards the nit-picky side of call-out culture. So, I decided to ask a friend of mine, the person with the most right to be offended by the name, what she thought. Rachel’s grandparents were held in concentration camps, forced on death marches and she deals with related generational trauma as a result. She found the story very funny and when asked whether she was offended by a horse being named ‘Fuhrer’, she responded by saying that in the Australian context it is almost certainly racist but isn’t particularly troubled by it.

 

I have a feeling that if anti-Semitism was more of a ‘hot button’ issue like the BLM movement or Islamophobia we’d see more concern over a name like this. There’s no doubt that names have power. You couldn’t have a situation where It was normalised for people to go around calling their dogs ‘Hitler’. But does it in any way influence people or normalise anti-Semitism to have a horse called ‘Fuhrer’ in rural WA? Probably a little. Enough to be a problem. I’m not sure.

 

 

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