Welcome to the TDN Op Ed page, where a selected
stable of writers will, from time to time, offer their opinion and
perspective on matters concerning the racing industry. The viewpoints
expressed herein are not necessarily those of the management, but
promise to represent what we consider to be responsible comment.
Comments? Please respond to TDN management at email@example.com.
- 4/4/2014 - The Price of Relevance
[Dan Liebman] Reading that Keeneland had again expressed interest in hosting the Breeders' Cup, the idea for a column was born. The angle would be that Keeneland could host the Breeders' Cup--if the track tore out its Polytrack surface. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 3/29/2014 - Bandoroff Op/Ed
[Craig Bandoroff] I've read about all I care to read in the last week since the latest NY Times assault appeared. Probably the last thing any of us needs is another opinion, but sometimes the best way to mourn is to express oneself and I'm in mourning. Like my friends Barry Weisbord and Gary Biszantz, I'm mad as hell. Like my friends, Barry Irwin, Bill Oppenheim and so many others, I want leaders our industry to clean it up, address its problems, and make changes before it is too late. But if I have to choose one adjective that best describes my emotions, it's not mad, or frustrated, or exhausted, or sickened, (all of which apply). It's sad. Let me explain. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 3/28/2014 - The Perfect Paradox
[Arthur Hancock] There is a country song, “What Part of No Don't You Understand.” Some of us have come to identify with this song in our efforts over the last 30 years to win the war against drugs and thugs. Aside from creating awareness, we have failed miserably so far. This issue has once again seized the headlines and this time the consequences are far from over. We all have eyes and ears and seeing and hearing is believing. You cannot sweep this one under the rug no matter how vigorously you sweep, and the ramifications will be severe, as they should be. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 3/27/2014 - Please Stand Up
[Dan Liebman] Stand up before you read this column.
If you think Scott Blasi is the only trainer in America who has ever bad-mouthed an owner, please sit down.
If you think Scott Blasi is the only trainer in America who has ever run a horse he didn't think was 100% healthy, please sit down.
— (click here to read the entire article)
- 3/24/2014 - The Cootie Factor
[Barry Irwin] Over the past few seasons, as racing has contracted, much discussion has taken place among the game's stakeholders as to which of these entities is most necessary for survival of the sport. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 3/22/2014 - Tippping Point
[Bill Casner] This morning I viewed with revulsion the video posted by PETA. The cold hard fact is that it is a snapshot of how so many racehorses are managed. Our industry is permeated with those who have no regard for the welfare of the horse, nor understanding of the growing negative perception of horse racing. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 3/8/2014 - Data Power
[Joe Applebaum] Almost a year ago, the National Basketball Association (NBA) unveiled a new website, stats.nba.com, where they did something novel to improve their sport. They released a vast statistical trove, powered by a flexible and useful database allowing fans, researchers, fantasy gamers and even team executives to investigate and study all forms of basketball data–current and historical. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 3/7/2014 - In Support of the Minimum Wage
[Adam Corndorf] I have been a member of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association & Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders (KTA/KTOB) for several years. I believe in supporting the entities that work tirelessly to improve our industry, and am confident that this organization has done a great deal for all of us who work with Thoroughbreds. However, I was disappointed to receive the following email from the KTA/KTOB on March 4, 2014:
— (click here to read the entire article)
- 3/7/2014 - IN SUPPORT OF A MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE
[Adam Corndorf] I have been a member of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association & Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders (KTA/KTOB) for several years. I believe in supporting the entities that work tirelessly to improve our industry, and am confident that this organization has done a great deal for all of us who work with Thoroughbreds. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 2/22/2014 - Synthetic Surfaces Save Lives, So Why Are You So Happy They're on Their Way Out?
[Bill Finley] I am asking the many of you celebrating the on-going unraveling of the synthetic surface era to pause for a moment and consider what this means for the future well-being and safety of the thousands of race horses that have no say in this matter. The answer: a lot more of them are going to die. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 2/14/2014 - The Importance of the RMTC
[Alex Waldrop] I was honored to be elected as chairman of the RMTC–the industry's scientific advisory organization consisting of 23 major racing industry stakeholder organizations – in September of 2013. I chose to accept this expanded role after participating as a board member since the RMTC's inception over a decade ago. I am passionate about RMTC's education and advocacy initiatives, particularly the RMTC's efforts to reform horse racing's national medication policy through the development and advancement of uniform medication rules, a multiple violator penalty system, laboratory accreditation / external quality assurance, and a tactical research program. These initiatives are evidence that this consortium is the industry's best means to ensure horse racing safety and integrity. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 12/21/2013 - OPEN LETTER TO RACETRACK VETS
[Barry Irwin] I contend that every race day at every major racetrack in North America a trainer cheats by sending out a horse for competition in an illegally enhanced state. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 11/9/2013 - IS IT TIME TO RENEW SCHOLARSHIP IN AMERICAN RACING?
[Barry Irwin] When I worked at The Blood-Horse in the winter of 1970, I remember how excited everybody was about publication of the Experimental Free Handicap. When I edited The Thoroughbred of California in the early 1970s, I remember how excited we were to see how the California-based and -bred juvenile would be treated in the weights — (click here to read the entire article)
- 10/8/2013 - Charging to Enter the Track, Even in Slotsville? You Bet
[Dean Towers] Back in the 1990's when slots started to enter the landscape of North American horse racing, one of the first things racetracks did was spring open the gates, making it free for everyone to enter. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 9/27/2013 - What the 'Buzz' Is Really All About
[Frankie Lovato Jr.] After watching the GII Pennsylvania Derby this weekend, where Will Take Charge once again got the better of Moreno, I felt even more compelled to write about the accusation and ongoing investigation of jockey Luis Saez using a buzzer during his winning ride in this summer's GI Travers S. A buzzer, better known in the business as a “battery” or “machine,” is an outlawed battery-powered electrical shock device. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 9/18/2013 - The Last Leg-Up
[Frankie Lovato Jr.] The publicity and well-deserved outpouring of sympathy going to Ramon Dominguez, who sustained a career-ending injury early this year, is another reminder about how dangerous racing can be, even for one of the world's top jockeys. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 8/17/2013 - LASIX NOT AT THE ROUND TABLE
[Barry Irwin] I, along with some 300 other invited guests, attended The Jockey Club Round Table last weekend in Saratoga. Many of Thoroughbred racing's stakeholders had a seat at the Round Table. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 5/2/2013 - BETTER LATE THAN NEVER
[Barry Irwin] Eight and a half years ago, I wrote an Op-Ed piece for The Blood-Horse in which I urged the racing industry to strongly consider using the United States Anti-Doping Association as a national watchdog for horse racing. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 3/8/2013 - THE REAL PROBLEM WITH LASIX?
[Bill Finley] Does Lasix cause horses to race less often?
Forget about racing's image, the weakening of the breed, how Europeans view our sport, should it be part of the Breeders' Cup, even whether or not the drug is effective in treating bleeders. The question that needs to be debated and answered is whether or not the drug has created a horse that cannot race as often as its predecessors from pre-Lasix times. If it has, the economic effects on the sport have been devastating. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 2/6/2013 - CLAIM AFTER THE RACE, NOT BEFORE
[Bill Finley] When the claiming horse who had been winning for $25,000 is in for $10,000 after a six-month layoff, is the trainer trying to steal a purse or dump damaged goods on another stable? It's like a poker game, only these chips aren't made of plastic. They're horses and it's appalling that the very nature of the claiming game incentivizes trainers to run unsound horses in an attempt to dupe their competitors. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 1/29/2013 - ATTENTION PRO LASIX ADVOCATES
[Barry Irwin] California has become the battleground in the national debate among horsemen, vets and owners over Lasix. Thanks to funding, energy and passion from the Thoroughbred Owners of California (which also has trainers on its board of directors) and Dr. Mark Dedomenico, the debate about whether to continue to use Lasix or ban it is reaching a fever pitch. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 1/19/2013 - How 'Bout Them Owners?
[Barry Irwin] Rick Dutrow has officially been banned from the game for a decade. Interestingly, like the notorious American miscreant Al Capone, Dutrow was knocked off his perch not by what people suspected he did, but by technicalities. Capone was not sent to prison for murder, but famously for tax evasion. Dutrow has not been suspended for using illegal practices as many suspect him of, but for lesser infractions. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 12/23/2012 - REFLECTIONS AS WE TURN THE PAGE ON 2012
[Craig Bandoroff] I read with interest Charlotte Weber's letter that appeared in the TDN on Dec. 21. That same day I also read the CNN article, "How Racing Became Cool" and an article in the Wall Street Journal on hand-held devices and Internet gambling. The combination gave me cause for year-end thoughts as we turn the page on 2012. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 11/5/2012 - SAFARI IMEPASUA
[Rob Whiteley] This Swahili phrase means, “The journey, it has blown apart.” I write these words because my own journey in the horse business has come to an end. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 11/1/2012 - WELCOME TO THE REVOLUTION
[John P. Sparkman] When the Breeders' Cup debuted in 1984 it was a revolutionary concept. The fertile mind of the late John R. Gaines combined the idea of extraordinary purses of $1-million or more with the idea of running seven championship events on the same day, funded by a variation on the funding mechanism of Futurity races that depended on breeders' contributions to build the huge purses. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 10/23/2012 - THE LAW OF UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES
[John P. Sparkman] Where one lives can change one's perspective. Six years ago we moved from Lexington, Kentucky to the Tennessee county with the lowest population density and lowest per capita income of any county in a state where per capita income as a whole is 13.2% lower than the national average, according to 2010 census data. As a direct result of that move, my immediate, gut reaction to last week's brief suspension of exports of horses for slaughter to Canada was different than it might have been had I remained surrounded--insulated, actually--by the wealthier confines of Fayette County, Kentucky. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 10/19/2012 - IT’S TIME FOR ANOTHER … AND ANOTHER
[Rob Whiteley] A long-time breeder friend phoned recently to say how disappointed he is that I'll Have Another was sold to foreign interests and is lost to American breeders. He went on to say that he sees fewer and fewer top-class options available to commercial breeders and that recent sales of stallions like Empire Maker, Dehere (for the second time), Lion Heart, and Henny Hughes and the deaths or retirement of Indian Charlie, Dixie Union, A.P. Indy, Dynaformer, Grand Slam, and Lawyer Ron make him even more worried about “falling further behind the rest of the world.” — (click here to read the entire article)
- 10/18/2012 - THOROUGHBRED AFTERCARE
[Gary Bizantz] Thoroughbred owner Jack Wolf, Darley President Jimmy Bell, and Jockey Club President James Gagliano deserve accolades for pulling together the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance for retired Thoroughbred horses who have performed so admirably at the race tracks in America. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 10/9/2012 - IN SEARCH OF A BETTER BUSINESS MODEL
[Rob Whiteley] My Op/ed of September 27th detailed the fact that breeders lost more than $100 million in this year's Keeneland September sale. It's even scarier that breeders collectively lost a half billion dollars over the last four years. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 10/5/2012 - A SHIFT TO THE EAST
[John P. Sparkman] Orfevre, 2011 Japanese Horse of the Year and Triple Crown winner, is the likely favorite for Sunday's Qatar G1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Europe's richest and most prestigious weight-for-age race. No Japanese horse has ever won the Arc, but Orfevre's attempt is hardly a one-off, and if it does not happen this year, it is going to happen soon. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 9/28/2012 - NYRA IS FOR SALE. BUT WHO WOULD WANT IT?
[Bill Finley] So Andrew Cuomo wants to privatize NYRA, sell it to the highest bidder, which he figures will be any one of a dozen major companies who will be beating down the door of his Albany office with checkbooks in hand. Perhaps there is someone or some company out there who will want to buy NYRA, but that's only because the world is filled with gullible people. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 9/27/2012 - A WORLD WITHIN A WORLD WITHIN A WORLD
[Rob Whiteley] The Keeneland September sale is now in the record books and the dust is settling. How it went pretty much depends on who you talk to and their particular reality and agenda or intention to spin. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 9/21/2012 - TIME PASSAGES
[John P. Sparkman] In 1994 the Thoroughbred industry was in recovery mode. After reaching then-record heights in the mid-1980s, bloodstock lost about 35% of its value by 1992, but the tide had turned in 1993 as pinhookers reinvested profits and the optimism of racehorse owners rode the Clinton economic recovery. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 7/13/2012 - THERE'S MORE THAN ONE WAY TO SELL A HOT DOG
[Dean Towers] I watched the CNBC special about Costco the other night. The story looked at what exactly the business does, how it brands, how it sells, and most of all, how it keeps prices low to grow. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 7/12/2012 - CHRIS CHRISTIE'S BIGGEST MISTAKE
[Bill Finley] When Chris Christie became the 55th Governor of the State of New Jersey, he was faced with many problems and forced to make immediate decisions that could either help get his state back on track during difficult times or further its trouble. Few situations would test Christie's foresight and his ability to make tough, but correct calls than that of the state's complex and struggling gambling industries, which needed fixing. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 7/11/2012 - THE LEGACY OF JORGE HERRERA
[Mark Cramer] A 2009 study of the Medical Journal of Australia found that being a jockey is more dangerous than being a boxer, with only the job of an offshore fisherman having more risk to lives. I suppose that being a race rider is probably safer in the USA, though 19% of the active riding members of the Jockeys' Guild were out for some time on temporary disability. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 5/2/2012 - THOROUGHBRED AFTERCARE ALLIANCE
[Gary Bizantz] Once again, Rob Whiteley has written a great article on what to do to raise funds to save and rehabilitate, when possible and appropriate, the retired Thoroughbreds who have given us so many thrills and enjoyment (Au Currant, TDN Op/Ed, April 27, 2012). — (click here to read the entire article)
- 4/27/2012 - Au Currant
[Rob Whiteley] I learned yesterday that a nine-year-old daughter of Horse of the Year Point Given out of Belmont graded stakes winner Inquisitive Look was ticketed for an imminent trip to slaughter in Canada. Her name is Au Currant and I was co-breeder. She was last seen in a sales ring at Keeneland in 2006 when sold for $35,000 in foal to graded stakes winner Sharp Humor. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 4/25/2012 - WHY SLOTS PLAYERS ARE SMARTER THAN YOU THINK
[Bill Finley] Horseplayers tend to look down on slots players. We are the smart ones, using our brains to solve the complex puzzle that is a horse race. They, the slots bettors, are too stupid to think, and that's why they while away their hours mindlessly playing a game a trained chimpanzee could master in no time. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 4/11/2012 - THE UPS & DOWNS OF BETTING HANDLE
[Dean Towers] Being a bit of a betting and gambling geek, a hobby of mine is looking at the factors that drive pari-mutuel wagering. It's a fascinating exercise because there are so many items that go into the make-up of a gross betting pool. Sure we know the basics, like the lower the takeout the higher the bet, and the less gambling competition we have the better it is for racing handles, but there are so many more. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 3/30/2012 - PROTECTING THE BREED
[Fred Pope] This is a tough time for Oliver Wills. He can't sleep. His annual review is approaching and he will be asked to grade his own job performance last year, then to present his plan for the next two to five years. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 3/26/2012 - SO WHY DID WE DISMISS THE SYNTHETIC SOLUTION?
[Bill Finley] Now the New York Times is pummeling horse racing. We've seen the first part of a four-part series and the “paper of record” has all but come out and said that racing is a notch below cock fighting. PETA, as vitriolic as ever, has had its say, choosing the HBO series “Luck,” and by extension, the sport, as its punching bag. Even New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has chimed in, telling NYRA that horses better stop dying at Aqueduct, or else. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 3/23/2012 - SOUTH AFRICAN THOROUGHBRED INDUSTRY
[Peter Gibson] In 1997, shortly after Hong Kong had agreed to follow Europe's example by allowing direct imports from South Africa, Alec Laird travelled to Sha Tin racecourse with his South African-bred champion London News to win the G2 QEII Cup (now Group 1). — (click here to read the entire article)
- 3/17/2012 - MEETING THE OBJECTIVE
[Fred Pope] The decision by TOBA's American Graded Stakes Committee (AGSC) to withdraw the ban on medication in this year's 2-year-old graded stakes races was a crushing blow to the industry and the organization's members. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 3/11/2012 - IT'S THE HANDLE. IT'S ALWAYS THE HANDLE.
[Dean Towers] In September of 2010, a round of applause broke out at a meeting of the California Horse Racing Board. A call from the Governor's office came in, informing the California racing braintrust that the takeout increase they asked for earlier that summer had been approved. Everyone seemed happy. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 10/29/2011 - TWO WORLDS. TWO REALITIES.
[Rob Whiteley] We currently are experiencing "a jobless recovery" in the broader world where contraction and consolidation places greater wealth and power in the hands of fewer people, and drives a stock market that churns along on corporate earnings while long unemployment lines remain unchanged. The gap between rich and poor grows daily as more people on the bottom drop below the poverty line, while the rich get richer and many corporations sit on a hoard of cash. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 9/19/2011 - WHY THE BREEDERS’ CUP IS REALLY IMPORTANT TO AMERICAN RACING AND BREEDING
[Rob Whiteley] Two reasons define the Breeders' Cup as the American organization with the most leadership potential: (1) Unlike other groups that may bark but have no teeth, the Breeders' Cup can establish rules for participation related to drug use, whipping, and other practices in need of reform, and then actually enforce compliance; and (2) by attracting a greater number of elite international stars to its signature event, the Breeders' Cup may eventually stage a true “World Championship” that will secure an important American presence in the rapidly evolving globalization of top-quality racing. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 7/29/2011 - THIS ONE'S FOR CHARLIE
[Jerry Brown] Recently, it has become very trendy to offer opinions as to how to solve the drug problem in our industry (note that I did not say sport). As someone who has been fighting this fight since long before most of those who are now offering opinions even knew there was a problem, who worked with the only group that has ever made a serious attempt to deal with the problem (The Jockey Club Safety and Integrity Committee), and who will be dealing with the issue--the real one--long after most of you are done with it, I can tell you there are a few important points that need to be made. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 7/26/2011 - PRIDE OF OWNERSHIP
[Barry Irwin] Racing needs to wean itself off race-day medication. Various reasons have been proffered for the elimination of drugs on race day, but there is one rarely mentioned that encompasses another major problem hurting the well-being of our industry--a lack of owners willing to play to game. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 7/16/2011 - NYRA AND THE CUP
[Ed Bowen] Considerable debate has gone on in recent years about whether the Breeders' Cup would best serve its purposes by establishing a permanent base for its annual two days of racing. Having followed and written about racing history for many years, I have been keenly interested in this debate. In my opinion, a number of individuals who have not been in the game for more than 25 years or so might be overlooking at least one aspect of the history of the Breeders' Cup which I believe should take the permanent-site option off the table. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 6/7/2011 - IT'S NOT THE WHIPS, IT'S THE WHIPPING.
[Rob Whiteley] I happened to watch She'sawontontomato win the 6th race at Golden Gate on Saturday, June 4, as two of my favorite commentators celebrated Russell Baze winning his ninth race in 11 starts.
Winning without honor, however, is not winning. After 30 strikes with the whip, I lost track of the number of times Baze hit the filly from the quarter pole home. The TV analyst's comment was, "He [Baze] had to work for it."
— (click here to read the entire article)
- 5/18/2011 - BUFFALOED
[Arthur Hancock] The other night, I was watching TV and a few wild dogs were trying to bring down a buffalo. They were having trouble until they were joined by more dogs and, lo and behold, they brought the buffalo down. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 4/18/2011 - A MANAGED RESPONSE
[Sue Finley] I had a call this week about a horse. Like all of the other calls, this one started with an ex-racehorse at an auction somewhere, and ended with the imminent threat that the horse would be sent off to the slaughterhouse if someone didn't step in. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 3/12/2011 - THE DRIFT BETWEEN U.S. AND EUROPEAN BREEDING
[David Powell] I recently came across an article I wrote which was published in Pacemaker in February, 1997. On the one hand, I felt that it had been a bit prophetic; on the other hand, little has been done to correct the situation in the 14 years since. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 2/5/2011 - EXCHANGE WAGERING: QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
[Bill Finley] At last, exchange wagering, a wildly successful concept in Europe and elsewhere, is on its way to the U.S. Governor Chris Christie signed a bill earlier this week that, among other things, authorized exchange betting in New Jersey. Once exchange wagering begins in the Garden State, which could happen as soon as the beginning of the 2011 meet at Monmouth Park, New Jersey will be the first state in country to have exchange wagering. What is exchange wagering and what might its advent mean to the racing industry? — (click here to read the entire article)
- 1/4/2011 - TAMPA BAY DOWNS: A TRACK THAT GETS IT
[Bill Finley] When Tampa Bay Downs out-handled Santa Anita one day last week, it seemed that the world of horse racing had officially turned upside down. Some 10 years earlier, Tampa--then a cheap track no one cared about or paid any attention to--doing more business than mighty Santa Anita would have been unthinkable. Now it has happened, and it will likely happen again before both tracks conclude their 2010-2011 winter meets. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 12/22/2010 - FROM THE HARNESS GAME, HOPE
[Bill Finley] Amid the slumping economy, the empty grandstands and the tumbling bottom line, it's sometimes easy to forget that horse racing can be pretty special, even rather popular. Jeff Gural remembers. He came into the sport of harness racing during its golden era, when the stands were packed at Yonkers and Roosevelt Raceways and a driver, Carmine Abbatiello, had his own beer commercial. Whether it's harness or Thoroughbred racing, Gural isn't convinced that the sport can't climb its way back and do so without a crutch called slot machines. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 12/4/2010 - GIRLS CAN RUN FAST TOO
[Bobby Flay] Yesterday, the American Graded Stakes Committee announced their official upgrades and downgrades. I'm sure, if you looked carefully enough, you could make plenty of arguments about races that were rewarded for their importance and races that were penalized for their loss of impact. However, there is certainly one race that sticks out amongst them all. The committee decided that the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, for colts, was worthy of a promotion from Grade II to a Grade I. I wholeheartedly agree and applaud this move upward. However, the female counterpart of that same race, namely the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, remains a Grade II. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 11/5/2010 - THE MCKINSEY REPORT: A RETROSPECTIVE
[Matt Iuliano] If there is a document or report in the Thoroughbred industry that is cited or mentioned more often than the "McKinsey Report," I am not aware of it. Almost any discussion of drugs and medication in our sport eventually leads back to a mention of that seminal report of 1991. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 11/4/2010 - STUD FEES AND BREEDER PROFITABILITY: PART TWO
[Rob Whiteley] Why stud fees need to be slashed. A few stud fees for 2011 have already been announced, and so far it looks like business as usual, even though business as usual is a disaster. We cannot ignore the math and go forward with "blinkers on" when the best thing that can be said about this year's horse market is that it is not in free fall compared to the previous year. We have not yet found bottom. Meanwhile, farm owners in Kentucky continue to go out of business on a regular basis, and mare owners who breed to sell are an endangered species. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 10/9/2010 - HIGH HOPES FOR NEW OWNERS
[Edd Roggenkamp] In recent years, all three of the foundation pillars that support our industry--bettors, racetracks, and owners, have been crumbling. Our old reliable bettors are aging, pulling back or are moving to other games. Our racetracks are under siege and many, even in big critical growth markets, are seemingly in danger of failure. And our racehorse owners have been reducing their stables, with some exiting our sport completely, or going on hiatus. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 10/8/2010 - STUD FEES AND PROFITABILITY: THE REAL STORY
[Rob Whiteley] A deepening crisis. Two years ago, I wrote that our American breeding industry's chief service providers (stallion owners, sale companies, and veterinarians) needed to be proactive and reduce their fees 50% to address an emerging crisis in breeder profitability. I pointed out that as breeders disappear, there will be fewer and fewer horsemen and horses to “service,” and revenues for all groups will decline, even after the general economy regained strength. In other words, I argued that it is actually in the best interest of service providers to work with breeders to lower production costs in order to keep them afloat. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 8/21/2010 - HUMPTY DUMPTY SAT ON A WALL
[Arthur Hancock] Have you ever wondered why Humpty Dumpty had his great fall, and why he could never be put back together again, even by all the Kings' horses and all the Kings' men? What happened? Humpty Dumpty started using drugs; in fact, drugs permeated his entire realm, the Sport of Kings. Humpty Dumpty also began a long and cozy association with shady characters and thugs...all types, like rogue gamblers, race fixers, and trainers who used Cobra venom or who had multiple drug convictions and yet still continued to ply their trade. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 8/4/2010 - WOULD A CENTRAL VISION FOR RACING BE SO BAD?
[Edd Roggenkamp] Just imagine a National Football League where every state had slightly different rules, perhaps nine-yard first downs when you play in Illinois and 11-yard first downs for games in Ohio. Imagine the NCAA basketball tournament if each of the eight "sweet 16" games were played on randomly different dates because the four host arenas could not agree on a coordinated schedule. And what if we could not watch all of those games on nationwide TV, because each arena had negotiated its own unique TV contract? — (click here to read the entire article)
- 7/10/2010 - LESS RACING. LESS GLOOM. LESS DOOM.
[Bill Finley] It has been another week of gloom (Turfway scraps Kentucky Cup) and doom (wagering off $519 million through first half of 2010) and more gloom (Hollywood cancels another card) and more doom (Mace Siegel throws racing leaders under bus). It gets a little tiresome, especially when the solution should be obvious to anyone who understands the most elementary economics, and yet the industry doesn't do what needs to be done. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 7/1/2010 - Active Love
[Rob Whiteley] As Tim Capps wrote in his recent Op/Ed, "people who love racing in America … are more concerned about its health, well-being and, above all future, than at any time in the writer's increasingly lengthy memory." Concern, however, is not enough. We need active love. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 6/25/2010 - FINDING A WAY FORWARD FOR HORSE RACING
[Tim Capps] For regular readers of Thoroughbred Daily News, it has become customary to read opinion pieces written by racing industry participants of all stripes on what they see as the state of things in the sport, most of them laced with elements of frustration, fear, anger, wishing and hoping: "please, please, please: someone take charge and get us out of this mess." — (click here to read the entire article)
- 6/17/2010 - POLLYANNA THINKING?
[Craig Bandoroff] There were several news items that appeared recently in this publication that I found thought-provoking. The first was the article on John Fulton and the opportunities he is taking advantage of in Argentina. The second was the news that the NTRA had launched a virtual reality game based on different aspects associated with our sport and industry. The third was the continued excellent coverage of the current Monmouth Park meet. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 5/4/2010 - IN SEARCH OF A MASTER PLAN
[Rob Whiteley] The present. A friend called me recently to tell me that he will soon be joining the list of industry casualties. A bank is taking control of his farm and horses.
I am deeply sad for my friend and for the many others in every segment of racing and breeding who can no longer "make it" doing what they know and what they love. And I am sad for myself to realize that I became so preoccupied with my own efforts to survive that I did not recognize the seriousness of my friend's difficulties and try to help in some way. We are all connected in the horse world. What diminishes one of us diminishes all of us. John Donne had it right when he wrote the timeless lines, `Do not ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.' — (click here to read the entire article)
- 3/27/2010 - A TRUE HALL OF FAMER
[Corey Johnsen] My good friend and mentor Chick Lang passed away last week. Chick is best known as “Mr. Preakness.” During his tenure at Pimlico, he was the driving force behind taking the Preakness from a weak sister to the Kentucky Derby and Belmont S. to making it the “Middle Jewel” of the Triple Crown. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 3/10/2010 - IN NEW JERSEY, A BOLD IDEA THAT CAN CHANGE A SPORT
[Bill Finley] Horse racing's response to its myriad problems has too often been no response at all. There is too much racing, particularly too much bad racing, and not nearly enough betting dollars around to maintain the status quo, yet bold initiatives have been sorely lacking and the industry is led by individuals who have no true power and/or no good ideas. The situation has become so severe and so troubling that it was reasonable to fear that unless something dramatic happened, the very future of the sport was in jeopardy. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 1/28/2010 - 20-SOMETHING
[Corey Johnsen] I wish I had a dollar for every time I have heard, "Horse racing is a dying sport. Its customers are doing just that--dying off--and there is no one to replace them. Young people don't like horse racing." And those statements were made by people within the industry! — (click here to read the entire article)
- 1/26/2010 - STRUGGLING BUSINESS? JUST RAISE YOUR PRICES
[Bill Finley] I own a restaurant, and business is not good. From what I hear, my food is too expensive and that seems to be my problem. There are 10 other restaurants within a mile of mine and all charge less for food that is every bit as good. My entrees are in the $30 range. The competition sells virtually the same entrees for $25 or less. I have to do something--my revenue goes down every month and I am going broke. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 12/3/2009 - HIALEAH: WORTH ROOTING FOR
[Bill Finley] There were a lot of big races run around the country last Saturday, but the most important event in Thoroughbred racing occurred when a field of seven Quarter Horses burst out of the gate a few minutes after 1 p.m. on a memorable day at Hialeah Park. Hialeah is not yet back: running Quarter Horse races with small purses in front of crowds sure to dwindle to meager numbers after the initial excitement wears off is just a first step. But it could be a major one toward what could be the most improbable comeback in Thoroughbred history. For that, everyone in Thoroughbred racing should be grateful. This place is worth rooting for. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 11/3/2009 - A BREEDERS' CUP SOLUTION THAT COSTS JUST A DIME
[Bill Finley] Based on recent trends, it's a pretty safe bet that the pool for this year's Breeders' Cup Pick Six will decline, maybe to as little as $2.5 million, or less than half of what it was 10 years ago. That's an alarming trend, especially when you consider that the Breeders' Cup is constantly looking for ways to grow handle. The Breeders' Cup Pick Six, which should be a wildly popular wager, is broken, but no one seems inclined to fix it, even when the obvious solution is staring them right in the face. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 9/4/2009 - OLDER CAN BE BETTER
[Rob Whiteley] Riddle: What do Sea the Stars and my sister, Sherry, have in common?
On the surface, not much, although both have demonstrated precocity and great talent, and both are achievers at the highest level.
Sea the Stars is the top-rated horse in the world with four Group 1 wins this year. He is the first horse since Nashwan in 1989 to accomplish the 2000 Guineas--Epsom Derby--Eclipse S. triple. And his recent win in the Juddmonte International adds to his candidacy as one of the great racehorses of the modern era. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 7/11/2009 - KEEP IN MIND
[Barry Irwin] Patrick Neely (Thoroughbred Daily News, July 9) took to task Arthur Hancock for a previous Op-Ed (Alternative to Slots, July 2) on behalf of KEEP, an organization for which he works. The focus should not be on Mr. Hancock, but on KEEP, its founders and leaders, and on the Democrats in Kentucky led by the governor. What is KEEP? — (click here to read the entire article)
- 7/2/2009 - ALTERNATIVE TO SLOTS
[Arthur Hancock] Many voices are saying that Kentucky racing is being compromised by slot machines in adjacent states, and that our legislature must legalize them to help our industry relieve this crisis. If this can be done, they say, it will benefit the state as well as our industry. But what is our industry and who are we? — (click here to read the entire article)
- 6/27/2009 - RESPONSE TO SENATOR THAYER'S POSITION ON KY GAMING BILL
[John Sikura] I wish to respond to Senator Thayer's explanation on why he did not support House Bill 2, VLT's at Kentucky racetracks (Thayer Defends Position on KY Gaming Bill, Bloodhorse.com.) His defense first reaches back in time to explain his past support of our industry to create a warm feeling without tackling the issue. I, for one, have appreciated his past support, but do not accept past works as a shield for his stand on the most important piece of racing and breeding legislation in the history of Kentucky. His first concern was that of the constitutionality of the bill. He does not mention that the current Attorney General gave legal opinion prior to the special session that the bill was constitutional. Furthermore, it was well known that if successful, the bill would have been challenged on constitutional merits. If a final legal opinion was the intent of the Senator, the Supreme Court of Kentucky would have rendered one and settled the issue. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 6/25/2009 - WHY DID THE SLOTS BILL DIE IN COMMITTEE?
[Craig Bandoroff] I wish I could tell you the answer to that question. There is only one thing I can definitively tell you: it was not from a lack of effort from some very talented and hard-working people who put their heart and soul into this. Anyone who wants to criticize or finger-point is making a mistake. I can tell you this didn't die in committee because of anything anyone did wrong. People like Governor Steve Beshear; House Speak Greg Stumbo; Representative Susan Westrom; lobbyists like Gene McLean, John Cooper, Smitty Taylor, David Switzer and Judy Taylor; Nick Nicholson; Brereton Jones; and Bill Hoskins and the KEEP team, led by an extremely capable and smart Patrick Neely; gave it every ounce of fight they had. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 6/24/2009 - HISTORIC MONTH IN KENTUCKY
[Corey Johnsen] The Kentucky Equine Education Project will host a rally at the Keeneland Sales Pavilion on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear and Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo will be on hand to address members of the state's signature industry. Earlier in the week, the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee voted 10-5 to not send House Bill 2, which authorized VLT's at Kentucky racetracks, to the floor of the Senate for a full vote of the members. So why have a rally after a disappointing defeat? — (click here to read the entire article)
- 6/18/2009 - RETHINKING THE CLAIMING GAME
[Bill Finley] It was a while back that Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella came up with an idea to help protect the horse and reduce the number of catastrophic on-track injuries. Mandella suggested that North American racing should do away with claiming races as we know them and adopt the European system in which some horses are sold or claimed after, and not before, they race. That, he contended, would remove any temptation a trainer might have to run an unsound horse in a claiming race in hopes that someone might be duped into taking them of his or her hands. If the horses are sold after the race, no one is going to buy an unsound or injured horse who may not have made it around the track in one piece. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 6/16/2009 - LET KENTUCKY COMPETE
[Corey Johnsen] This is the most important week to the Kentucky Thoroughbred industry since 1902, when Colonel Matt Winn and a group of investors purchased Churchill Downs, which was in financial ruin and ready to shut down. As we all know, the rest is history for Churchill Downs, the Kentucky Derby and the sport of horse racing. Like 107 years ago, the Kentucky Thoroughbred industry is at a crossroads. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 6/2/2009 - LET US NOW PRAISE GIFTED MEN
[Rob Whiteley] Riddle: Who among us performs the most difficult job in the industry while bringing widespread added value to our sport … day after day, week after week, year after year?
Answer: A small fraternity of especially talented professionals known as track announcers. Think the job is not difficult? Go ahead, practice as long as you want, pick up a microphone and try to enthusiastically call a race with four or more horses. See how you do. (I rest my case.) — (click here to read the entire article)
- 5/14/2009 - KEEPING THE GAME SIMPLE
[Byron Rogers] I'm a simple guy. I swear. My Mom said I never understood why my sister took forever to decide what to wear out on a Saturday night. I worked on the basis that if what you said when you opened your mouth didn't make sense, then the best clothes in the world wouldn't help you at all. It helped when I opened my mouth--I could sell just about anything, but the idea was I kept it simple and did alright. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 5/12/2009 - LET’S HEAR IT FOR MAY FOALS!
[Rob Whiteley] As a populist horseman, it makes me smile when a relatively obscure horse comes out of the hinterlands and beats up on a bunch of fashionably bred horses who are sired by generally over-priced, over-hyped, and over-bred stallions. And it turns my smile into a broad grin to observe that Mine That Bird is a mid-May foal. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 4/23/2009 - POLYTRACK HARD TO WATCH
[Barry Irwin] I will leave it up to analysts more qualified than me to figure out whether Polytrack is safer than dirt, even though the initial evidence suggests that the synthetic surface has already saved the lives of many of our equine warriors.
From my narrow perspective, however, if somebody can tell me the good part about watching races on Polytrack, I for one would love to hear about it. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 4/8/2009 - THE VOID IN RACING'S STRUCTURE
[Fred Pope] Tomorrow starts the Masters golf tournament. Millions of people will watch this great show and then go out and increase their participation in golf. The Masters is the premier event in the structure of golf. When it started, there was no PGA Tour, just a bunch of golfers being jerked from one event to the next, kind of like racehorse owners today. When the major league PGA Tour was established, they decided the Masters, The PGA and the U.S. Open should remain separate, distinct events. In the Masters, the players' strategy on the course and greens at Augusta is just about as important as their ball-striking ability. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 4/2/2009 - A BETTER MOUSETRAP
[Randy Moss] Pondering the possibility that Mafaaz could make the Kentucky Derby while Dunkirk is left in the cold, I have dusted off columns previously published elsewhere in May 2005, May 2007 and June 2008. Needless to say, the Derby's graded earnings rule has been one of my pet peeves for some time. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 3/10/2009 - POLITICS AND THOROUGHBRED RACING
[Fred Pope] Don't you just hate politics? Seems like politics creeps into everything today. Banks, real estate, autos, you name it and politics is now involved. The Kentucky horse industry has thrust itself into politics in pursuit of slots at the tracks. For those of you outside Kentucky, adding slots at the tracks might seem a no-brainer for the center of the Thoroughbred industry. But politics in Kentucky, like everywhere, is complicated. My ad agency used to do political campaigns in Kentucky, including an amendment to the state constitution. During such campaigns, you gain insight into what Kentuckians value and hold dear. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 3/6/2009 - JUST AS MUCH `QUALITY’ AS THE TIMER INDICATED
[Randy Moss] A year ago, fractional clockings for the 1 1/8 mile Fountain of Youth S. appeared suspiciously slow, and the suspicions were well-founded: the timing beam was triggered prematurely, and a new set of official times was released. This episode also brought to light that Gulfstream Park's oval is 17 feet longer than the intended circumference, due to a surveying error which necessitated a complex adjustment in the timing of nine-furlong races. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 2/25/2009 - G Men Needed
[Barry Irwin] Survival of Thoroughbred horse racing on the scale we have known it may be in greater jeopardy than usual because of a confluence of events that is being fueled by the current economic crisis. Those of us who derive our incomes solely from the industry have come to fully realize horse racing is not an activity that is required for the existence of life. In the current climate, the only group outside of the game's participants that might like to see racing continue is the state governments where betting on horses is conducted, because tax revenue from horse racing in an age of unprecedented budget deficits is temporarily useful. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 1/31/2009 - THE QUAD
[Barry Irwin] Last week I challenged Kentucky Thoroughbred interests not to pursue alternative gaming (VTLs). I promised to show how a positive change to the racing environment through the introduction of a new bet would serve to get racing's fan base pumped up on a regular basis. My concept is far from original, yet proven in popularity. With a twist here and there, it can, I believe, jump-start our sagging game. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 1/22/2009 - KENTUCKY SLOTS
[Barry Irwin] Bill Finley penned in the January 17 TDN an editorial that is the most chilling piece of racing journalism in a long time. For import and vision, the only comparison I can make was a piece Jimmy Kilroe wrote for "Sports Illustrated" in 1967, when he said one day nobody would go to a track to see the races, but would watch them at a tele-theatre. Who could imagine such a thing ever happening? — (click here to read the entire article)
- 1/17/2009 - THE FIRST RACINO TO DROP THE “RAC” & JUST HAVE THE “INO” ?
[Bill Finley] Fort Erie is like a lot of racetracks. It has slot machines, which make money, and horse racing, which doesn't. It seems that's no longer okay with the track's owner, Nordic Gaming Corporation, which is vying to end live racing at Fort Erie, a lovely little Canadian track that's been around since 1897. The slots, though, may not be going anywhere. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 1/12/2009 - CHECK-OFF … AND WRITE A CHECK
[Rob Whiteley] The new year begins with fresh hope and an opportunity for breeders to set an important example for the industry. As announced recently, The Jockey Club has established a “check-off” program for breeders to make voluntary contributions toward the care of unwanted or retired Thoroughbreds. Responding to requests from Thoroughbred Charities of America (TCA) and the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF), The Jockey Club will begin collecting monies from breeders at time of foal registration, and will distribute the funds through the TCA and TRF. Despite limited funding, both well-established programs have already made an important impact related to rescue, retraining, adoption or placement, and retirement. For its part, The Jockey Club has agreed to contribute up to $200,000 in matching funds. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 11/8/2008 - WHY I JOINED THE NTRA SAFETY & INTEGRITY ALLIANCE
[Bob Elliston] The last few weeks have been an important time in the history of Thoroughbred racing, with the announcement in New York of the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance. As both the executive chair of the NTRA and the president of Turfway Park, I often find myself viewing the Alliance from two distinctly different points of view. From the broad perspective of my role with the NTRA, I am exceedingly gratified that so many subsets of our diverse industry were able to put individual issues aside and collaborate for the good of all. These industry groups, which importantly included fans, were not just unified in their approval of the Alliance and their willingness to embrace changes that were, first and foremost, the right thing to do on behalf of our equine and human athletes. They also were instrumental in developing virtually every component and concept contained in the Alliance's 21 pages of reforms. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 10/19/2008 - AND IN THIS CORNER, 2-YEAR-OLD SALES
[Bob Fierro] Immediately following the Keeneland April this year, Jay Kilgore and I, who are partners in a company that offers selection services at the two-year-old sales, decided to take a look at the rationale, market and schedule for these venues. We sensed something was in the air, and no one was really addressing some issues that needed to be discussed. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 10/14/2008 - GIVE IT A CHANCE
[Kip Cornett] With all apologies to John Lennon...all I am saying is GIVE IT A CHANCE! And what is it? Filly Friday Oct. 24 at Santa Anita. There's been a lot of angst about the repackaging of our female division's championship races, but hey, in less than two weeks--it's going to happen. And the sport will be better off for it. That is, if we care about attracting more attention to our Championship event. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 10/10/2008 - WRITING RACES FOR EVERYONE, BUT THE CUSTOMER
[Fred Pope] When assigned a marketing project, you gather all the facts and then write a situation analysis. If you are good at it, the analysis gives an accurate picture of where things stand on four key items--the product, price, distribution and marketing communications. In a TDN Op/Ed piece on July 18, I addressed the distribution and pricing of racing and concluded it was upside down. This time, let's look at the basis issue--the racing product. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 10/8/2008 - GOOD MAN FORCED TO SIDELINES
[Barry Irwin] I don't know Larry Jones. Never met him. But am I surprised that he has had it up to here (I am pointing just north of my own Adam's apple)? No. Not at all. If not Mr. Jones, it surely would have been somebody else. Larry Jones, it seems clear to me, is probably not the first, but certainly the most notable example of a racing figure that has decided to chuck his lifelong passion because he chooses no longer to participate in a culture that has made him a target of character assassination by members of a media, both legitimate and underground, that has gone wild. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 10/3/2008 - Keeping Breeders Afloat: Another Modest Proposal
[Rob Whiteley] There's not much more I can say about the silliness of "humane" whips and counting the number of times those whips are used to hit a horse in front of fans, would-be fans, and out-raged critics, when the real folly is not the whip, but the act of whipping. Somewhat
modifying the use of the whip is a bit like trying to put band-aids on a deep, three-inch gash. As I have no more to say on that important matter, however, I will speak out in this essay about an even more pressing and fundamental crisis facing our industry, the perilous plight of the breeder. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 8/2/2008 - THE GAME HAS CHANGED, NOT THE HORSE
[Rob Whiteley] There's been a lot of high-profile, loose talk floating around lately about how we are allegedly producing weaker, softer, more fragile Thoroughbreds. A Congresswoman from Illinois said so in a Congressional Hearing. Randy Moss announced it to the nation on ESPN. And veteran story teller Bill Nack even made up a story about it. I'm not sure what qualifies any of them to weigh in on the issue, but I know for sure that they speak from hear-say or anecdotes, and personal opinion, rather than from supportable or researched facts. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 7/17/2008 - RACING'S UPSIDE-DOWN DISTRIBUTION MODEL
[Fred Pope] In 1978, the Interstate Horseracing Act (IHA) became law. It legalized wagering across state lines. This gift of distribution could have taken Thoroughbred racing to a level unimaginable today; however, there was a catch.
Racing would get nationwide expansion of its monopoly on legal wagering, BUT the law would take away control of its product and distribution by empowering the weakest segment of racing with "approval.” It was a curse. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 7/13/2008 - PLEASE DON'T HIT ME ….. AGAIN!
[Rob Whiteley] Are you uncomfortable with turmoil and controversy? I say, bring it on! Embrace it. Work
with it. Use it. Winds of conflict also carry with them the seeds of change, and the possibility
that an eventual resolution of conflict might actually produce a better circumstance. — (click here to read the entire article)
- 7/11/2008 - COLLAPSE OF THE PRIVATE MARKET
[Barry Irwin] As the first of the major yearling sales for 2008 is upon us, I would like to sound the death
knell for the private market and suggest that a combination of a lack of private trade and
institution of accelerated depreciation for yearlings as part of the federal government's
economic stimulus package will help prop up the yearling sales in spite of a contracting
economy. — (click here to read the entire article)