John Gaines' speech to the Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers' Club (continued)These are the bare historical facts of their respective careers, but the far more intriguing and relevant question is not what they have done, but exactly who are Ross Perot and Frank Stronach, and what is it that makes them tick.1. Both men are utterly, absolutely convinced of their rightness and they require people to accept them on faith alone.2. Both men say what they think and accept the consequences and are willing to risk everything for what they believe.3. They make a virtue of being ordinary so long as they are first recognized as celebrities.4. Both men were billionaires by the age of 40.5. They are openly anti-establishment and contemptuous of conventional wisdom.6. They are anti-government, anti-union, anti-bureaucracy, defenders of the underdog, zealous patriots, manipulators of the media, charismatic leaders, and are driven by their own personal vision of the world.7. Fierce competitors, ruthless adversaries, and fascinated with power, by their standards, there are only two possible outcomes for any endeavor: complete victory or utter defeat. They don't mess with Mr. In-between.The bottom line: Despite their sometimes utopian visions and iconoclastic personalities, America would not be America without the Ross Perots and Frank Stronachs of the world.It was not that many years ago, that thoroughbred racing was far and away the number one spectator sport in America. Today, we have slid down the slippery pole to 10th on this list and are still sliding.It was not very long ago that thoroughbred racing had a 92% share of legalized gambling in America. Today, we have a pathetic 4% share, and our politically savvy, well financed, aggressive, highly intelligent competition, if they have their way, will not be satisfied until we are reduced to zero.Mr. Stronach asks the right question, "Who were racing's leaders during this disastrous loss of market share?" He believes that racing's leaders, were self-appointed guardians of the turf who created soft perpetuating bureaucracies that were accountable to no one but themselves either fiscally or administratively and sometimes not even to their own Board of Directors. These institutions include the Keeneland Association, the Jockey Club, the Breeders' Cup, and to some extent TOBA and HBPA.Different organizations and different entities have different reporting requirements, but legalisms are not the issue. The issue in credibility. Peter Drucker, the world famous father of "Management Theory," states in his classic work, "Management" – "Without accountability there can be no progress."Warren Buffett, one of America's most successful investors, is never tired of repeating the necessity of full financial disclosure, not only when required but as a common sense initiative that is in everyone's best interest, and that is owed to both those financing the enterprise and to the industry as a whole.I have never been able to grasp exactly what Frank Stronach means by the word, "democracy," or even what relevance pure democracy has to the operation of what are basically business of trade organizations. Accountability and full disclosure are what I believe he is talking about and who can argue with him on the validity of this criticism. Secrecy is almost never helpful or constructive and can hide a multitude of sins of both commission and omission.Since it is almost impossible to have civilized dialogue, constructive discussion, or meaningful compromise in an open paddock at Gulfstream Park without an agenda, without any rules, and with no code of conduct, I fear that such a proposed open-ended meeting will only cause further polarization and will mask the real issues.Of course, the barracudas of the press will have a feeding frenzy and will trivialize the whole proceedings into who won or who lost the debate. Instead of a public service, we get a propaganda circus. Let's focus on the reality issues concerning the sport, not the philosophical issues that inhibit rational discussion and undermine positive action.
A recent article on Frank Stronach in a prominent West Coast newspaper posed the question, "Is Stronach the saboteur or the savior of the horse world?" The horse world doesn't need a saboteur like Osama ben Laden, doesn't need a savior like Nelson Mandela, but is in desperate need of a statesman like Winston Churchill.The great Greek historian, Herodotus, in a famous text in the 4th century BC talks about the ebb and flow of history as personified by the fully engaged man. (Since I do not have the actual text, please forbear my paraphrase of what he actually said.) Herodotus said that all of us are standing on the banks of the river; and that if we wish to influence history, we must step down from the bank and stand in the middle of the stream in order to change the direction of the current.Mr. Stronach can't stand on the riverbank and deliver lectures on democracy and sermons on entrepreneurship, he must join the NTRA and stand in the mainstream. Only then can he change the direction of the current.Another wise man, the famous Indian Chief Seneca, said, "No one man weaves the web of life; he is but a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web he does to himself."The 17th century English poet, John Donne, says it another way, "No man is an island; we are all part of the mainland."The so-called Gulfstream Summit should be terminated. If Chairman Stronach is not willing to meet with Commissioner Smith and other leaders of the industry and establish a creditable, constructive structure for discussing racing's problems in a civilized collegial manner, then his sincerity and credibility will be seriously compromised.The Gulfstream Summit is the wrong format, at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons, and can only give aid and comfort to racing's enemies.And, once again, I would respectfully request that Chairman Stronach reconsider his position and stand for election for the NTRA Board.There is a West Coast track seat currently available, and a democratic election of all member tracks in the West Region will be conducted in the next 30 days to fill this seat.Q. Will any of these common-sense suggestions become realities?A. If you don't believe in miracles, you are not a realist.(end)