Rudy's Duty
by Ray Paulick
Date Posted: 12/3/2002 1:48:38 PM
Last Updated: 12/3/2002 6:40:08 PM

Ray Paulick
Editor-in-Chief

Skeptics might argue the National Thoroughbred Racing Association has latched onto the coattails of two best-selling authors over the past year for mere publicity.

The first is Laura Hillenbrand, whose Seabiscuit has had a run atop the New York Times bestseller list that would make any author jealous. NTRA officials made no bones about trying to capitalize on Seabiscuit the book, just as they said they hope to benefit from the movie of the same name that is currently in production.

The second, more recent best-selling author to be embraced by the NTRA is former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, whose book, Leadership, was No. 2 on the New York Times' non-fiction list as of Dec. 1. However, the relationship between Thoroughbred racing's national office and the man Americans came to trust following the Sept. 11 terror attacks is about more than good publicity.

Giuliani's firm, Giuliani Partners, was hired to conduct a thorough review of horse racing's wagering systems in the wake of the Breeders' Cup Ultra Pick 6 criminal investigation. According to its official Web site, the company, created in January when Giuliani ended his eight-year tenure as mayor, is "comprised of leading experts recognized worldwide for their management and problem-solving abilities. The members of our firm possess an extensive background in the development of effective crisis communication strategies and preparing for and managing any event."

If Giuliani and his current team can be as effective in understanding and then fixing racing's totalizator mess as his City Hall crew was in cleaning up the streets of New York and later helping the city cope with the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, the NTRA has hired the right man. The end game seems obvious: racing must exert greater control, if not ownership, of the electronic systems that handle its wagers. Getting to that point, and cleaning up both the problems exposed by this scandal is the real challenge.

Dance: One of the Best
A good auctioneer is supposed to get people to spend more money on something than they really wanted or expected to. Laddie Dance was a very good auctioneer.

Over the span of six decades, from the late 1940s to the early 1990s, Dance perfected his craft, making a Thoroughbred auction part business, part entertainment. He knew the horses he was selling, knew their families, knew the buyers, and knew the sellers.

"He had a very, very sharp mind and a unique style," said retired bloodstock agent Lee Eaton. "When John Finney worked with Laddie as Fasig-Tipton's announcer, they were quite a team."

It has been 10 years since Dance and Fasig-Tipton parted ways. Since then, he bought and campaigned champion Lemon Drop Kid with his wife, Jeanne. But when word of his death spread during the Thanksgiving weekend, it was his years as an auctioneer that people most remembered.

"Breeders work two or three years to bring to Saratoga the best-bred yearling they can," Dance once told the Maryland Horse. "Then in two to three minutes we dispose of the yearling. It's a big responsibility. You've got to be sure in your mind that you've succeeded in getting the last dollar possible from that crowd sitting out there in front of you."

If someone he knew was interested in buying a horse but had stopped bidding, Dance said, "You look at him, and, if necessary, talk to him--maybe needling him a little if he's the kind of man who responds to needling. You've got to know your customers and how to handle each one."

D.G. Van Clief Jr., the current chairman of Fasig-Tipton, said Dance "was absolutely known as one of the greatest Thoroughbred auctioneers of the 20th century; some would say he was the best."

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