Sanan Resigns from Breeders' Cup Board

Sanan Resigns from Breeders' Cup Board
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Satish Sanan

Saying he saw an opposition to openness and transparency among some members that degenerated to personal attacks, longtime Breeders' Cup board member Satish Sanan resigned from his position May 9.

Sanan turned in his letter of resignation, effective immediately, to Breeders' Cup chairman Tom Ludt, who himself does not plan to run for re-election as chairman. A new chairman will be determined when a new board is seated in July.

In February, Sanan provided on-the-record insight to The Blood-Horse about Breeders' Cup meetings at Gulfstream Park confirming the board discussed its Salix policy. In 2011 Breeders' Cup announced plans to ban race-day Salix (also called Lasix) in its 2-year-old races and expand that ban to all of its World Championship races in 2013. Sanan said several prominent board members repeatedly chastised him for providing that information and even attacked him personally.

"They were attacking me as if I was constantly leaking information," Sanan said. "I don't leak information. I'm just open and transparent. Ever since I've been on the board, I've tried to be open, tried to be transparent, tried to look at the industry issues."

Sanan, owner of Padua Stables and founder of computer outsourcing and software services provider IMR Global, said he knows not to discuss personnel issues or business strategy. But he said the board owes it to the nominators who elect them to be open about decisions on critical issues for the industry.

"We got into a big debate about this at the last meeting and I questioned the management," Sanan said. "I said, 'Are you telling me the medication issue can't be discussed? Everybody knew about the meeting. Everybody knew medication was on the agenda. Are you telling me this is a Breeders' Cup confidential issue?'

"The way I feel, the nominators elect us. Everybody who pays $400 or $500 is electing people. We are elected on their behalf and we should be able to communicate backward and forwards. They just don't want that. They want to run a private club, which they have for many years, and I just have a fundamental issue with it."

Ironically, Sanan said the board seemed to have little interest in chastising any members who have confidentially leaked meeting information.

"At least if I speak, I speak on the record," Sanan said. "When I speak to somebody, I put my name on it. I don't hide behind other things."

Another concern for Sanan is Ludt's leaving for giant track owner The Stronach Group, and the possible conflicts of interest involved there. He described a board where some members carry more power than others. He said too often decisions were made at "meetings before meetings."

"When you go to meetings, they've already decided what they're going to do," Sanan said. "I think people who have control, The Jockey Club, Breeders' Cup; it's amazing what they've been able to do. They don't like outsiders coming in.

"I was considered a troublemaker, controversial, and not suitable for membership. So you have two choices, either you resign or you continue to fight these guys that I've fought for 10 years. I'm at a point in my life where I just don't have time for it."

Sanan said he tried to bring a business point of view to his leadership at the Breeders' Cup, including the Salix issue. Sanan opposes Salix bans in Breeders' Cup races from a business perspective that it likely will cost the organization handle and money. He also said as a championship event for the sport, the Breeders' Cup should offer races in line with the accepted rules of the sport.

Sanan said if state regulators and others that make rules were to prohibit Salix, he would not necessarily have a problem with that. But he does not think it's the Breeders' Cup's role to shape such a policy.

The resignation of Sanan follows the March resignation of Breeders' Cup board member Oliver Tait, Darley's chief operating officer, following the decision not to expand the Salix prohibition at this year's World Championships. Tait had wanted Breeders' Cup to move forward with the full Salix ban for its races.

While Sanan was frustrated about many issues, he said he was proud of some added financial oversight the board put in place during his tenure and said he hopes Breeders' Cup enjoys success going forward. He said he still believes in Breeders' Cup, and hopes improvements and positive strides are made.

Sanan said he headed a strategic planning committee that spent $1 million in 18 months to shape ideas that were not implemented. That plan, approved by the board in December 2011, called for consideration of a single permanent site for the Breeders' Cup World Championships, a new racing series partnership between North American and European tracks, expanded Breeders' Cup brand marketing and commercial development, and a new approach to nominations to significantly expand the number of Breeders' Cup eligible horses.

"None of these guys ever implemented anything because they didn't believe in it," Sanan said. "I got to the point where I felt like I was barking up the wrong tree and should focus my energy elsewhere."

Sanan would like to see more emphasis on longterm planning and open discussion of racing's most important issues.

"Our industry needs to focus on longterm strategy," Sanan said. "Our industry needs that. This is a critical time. I think working together, being open, and being transparent, are the ways to bring about fundamental changes that we need to make. It's a tough industry to get those things implemented."

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