William S. Farish cited five current developments that give him optimism about the future of the Thoroughbred industry during his remarks as the honor guest at the Thoroughbred Club of America's 75th annual testimonial dinner, held at Keeneland Nov. 2.
Farish, who recently was named to Keeneland's three-person board of trustees, was introduced by James E. "Ted" Bassett III, the man he replaced in that position. Owner of Lane's End Farm, Farish is the former ambassador to the Court of St. James in England, and he has served in many key industry positions, including vice chairman of The Jockey Club.
Preceding Bassett was a videotaped tribute from former President George Bush, a close friend of the Farish family. Bassett, borrowing Sir Robert Whittington's 1521 description of Sir Thomas More, called Farish a "man for all seasons."
"In the 75-year history of the Thoroughbred Club honoring industry leaders, few have been as versatile, not only as a leading owner and breeder but also as a public servant and benefactor in many areas of medical research and public health," Bassett said.
Farish thanked Bassett for his long and distinguished career, saying the longtime Keeneland executive "has done more for racing, as an institution, than anyone in the modern era. He has been our ambassador for the Thoroughbred industry throughout the world and has placed his stamp on every aspect of the sport."
Then, turning to his own "very optimistic" outlook on the industry, Farish touched on five points: the Breeders' Cup, medication, alternative gaming, Polytrack, and the NTRA Political Action Committee.
"It has been a fascinating year for the Breeders' Cup," he said. "Purses have been raised from $14 to $20 million on Breeders' Cup day. A new administrative and organizational structure has been put in place, with 13 elected directors. They immediately downsized the staff by 40%, and have just announced the formation of the Breeders' Cup Challenge."
Farish called medication not just a concern for racing but "for every major sport." He cited the funding and startup of the Equine Drug Research Institute, based at UCLA under the direction of Dr. Don Catlin, who Farish called "the world's foremost authority on sports medication control."
On the subject of alternative gaming, Farish said it has "saved and revitalized" racing in Canada, Delaware West Virginia, New Mexico, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. Maryland and Texas, which border some of those gambling states and have been hurt economically because of that, are making "serious progress" toward legislative support.
Farish called Polytrack and other synthetic surfaces "maybe the most encouraging and exciting" development in racing. "Catastrophic injuries at Turfway and Keeneland (which has Polytrack) are down a remarkable 85% for both tracks," he said. "For owners, vet bills are already proving to be far less, and tracks will have at least 50% less maintenance cost."
Commenting on the NTRA's legislative activities, Farish called Washington, D.C., "a money-driven town, and said "the NTRA PAC has dealt in that reality. We can never relax or assume that a legislative victory today is a guarantee for tomorrow."
to read full transcript of Will Farish's remarks to the TCA.