By Ray Paulick - By year's end, betting on pari-mutuel races run in the United States could fall to its lowest point in five years. Compounding that sobering possibility is this: The percentage of revenue to purses from every dollar wagered is also heading in the wrong direction.
By Fred A. Pope - The Holy Grail in competition is a level playing field. It is natural for people to try to gain an advantage. A jockey "race riding" to advantage is acceptable. Giving a horse a performance-altering drug is not.
By Ray Paulick - Thoroughbred owners and breeders in California soon must come to grips with the fact two of the state's five major tracks are owned by a company whose primary business is land development, not racing.
By Jeff Wise - Twenty horses pounding down the stretch at Churchill Downs in May, or perhaps half that number taking Saratoga's clubhouse turn with the famous grandstand roofline as a backdrop, are the sport's defining pictures. But there are other, more obscure, and unanticipated moments. Their obscurity and their surprise make them just as special.
By Barry Irwin - Alex Harthill never wanted to be the author or the subject of a book about his life, preferring to protect his friends, dead or alive. "Doc" passed July 16, but versions of his tales will be told as long as racing offices crank out overnights.
By Morton Cathro - In the early months of World War II, before the horse cavalry became fully mechanized, young equestrians such as Paul Mellon, George "Pete" Bostwick, and Oleg Cassini, among others from the Eastern establishment, converged on Fort Riley, Kan., to hone their riding skills and earn commissions in the United States Army cavalry. Into this temporary bastion of fox-hunting, polo-playing blue bloods rode another officer candidate, jockey Ralph Neves.
By Ray Paulick - Concern was expressed in this space June 21 that Kentucky's newly created breeders' incentive program could become a divisive issue, one that might sidetrack far more important initiatives down the road than the one that has earmarked an estimated $12 million in annual stud fee taxes for a breeders' fund.
By Joe Hickey - John S. Covalli, 78, who had ridden Miche to win the 1952 Santa Anita Handicap (upon disqualification of Intent) was about to rejoin Sally, his wife of 51 years. Nary a blood relative present; funeral home staff matched mourners: two dolls and a pair of track-sore old-timers. The one on the gimp read committal prayers from a book borrowed from a priest.
By Ray Paulick - In an industry where horse owners and racetrack management often find themselves on opposite sides of an issue, racetrack safety is something upon which both parties certainly can agree. A safe racetrack can help reduce the frequency of injuries to horses and riders and thereby provide long-term economic benefits to both owners and tracks.
By Ray Paulick - It is up to leaders within Kentucky's Thoroughbred industry to devise a program to distribute money for its incentive program, and an industry-imposed deadline of July 1 to finish the job is fast approaching.
By Marion Gross - I don't know anywhere else you can go and see a 35-year-old horse. I would like for Stop the Music to eat more but he seems happy and healthy. Guess he eats as much as he wants. Older people don't eat as much either.
By Dan Liebman - Perspective may be needed to realize something is indeed great. That is why it is commonly written that men are best judged after death. The time to reflect by future generations helps identify and define those who were great.
By Ray Paulick - There have been a number of critics (notably in the media) who have said the National Museum of Racing's Hall of Fame needed a change in election procedures that each year designated inductees in jockey, trainer, male horse, and female horse categories. They wouldn't name names publicly, but these critics charged that the Hall of Fame was electing too many individuals who simply did not belong.
By Roberta Smoodin - If Mike's Thunder could talk, the stories he would tell. About his race career, during which the now 8-year-old gelding earned more than $375,000 and had 15 wins in allowance and claiming races, showing the kind of heart and fortitude that define what is best about the Thoroughbred horse. But the more interesting part of his story remains a mystery: What happened to Mikey in retirement?
By Ray Paulick - Only a handful of people were watching on the morning of April 26 when Afleet Alex recorded his first workout over the Churchill Downs strip in preparation for this year's Kentucky Derby.
By Dan Liebman - A politician wins the primary but is defeated in the general election. A pro football player on a winning Super Bowl team is traded to the worst team in the league. A rider wins the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), and then two weeks later loses the Preakness (gr. I).
By Ray Paulick - A lot of grayhairs frowned initially when the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Breeders' Cup signed an eight-year deal with ESPN, moving racing's championship day to a cable network beginning in 2006. NBC Sports has broadcast the event every year since its inception in 1984.
By Morton Cathro - When owner Jerry Moss attached his green-and-pink colors to slot 10 during the post-position draw for the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), he unwittingly was saddling Giacomo for a wild ride through storied Derby history.
By Bill Nack - For a fleeting instant, as the leaders powered off the final turn at Churchill Downs and Afleet Alex appeared to be threading his way through horses to the lead, a tremendous roar burst forth from the throngs surrounding me and suddenly, even magically, it was as though I'd been transported back to the River City and were seeing the spectacle first hand.
By Lenny Shulman - In its first big test under the new, open, responsive management of executive director Ingrid Fermin, the California Horse Racing Board proved itself quite capable of continuing the Keystone Kops routine perfected by the regime of former executive director Roy Wood.
By Ray Paulick - Conglomerate ownership was designed to bring economies of scale to the racetrack segment of the industry. Statistical evidence, along with unconfirmed reports that Hollywood Park may be sold to developers, suggests it hasn't worked very well in Southern California.
By Evan I. Hammonds - There have been some gaudy numbers put up over the last couple of weekends by horses and humans alike. Some add spice to the coming Kentucky Derby (gr. I); some show a renewed vigor in the sport of Thoroughbred racing.
By Ray Paulick - The road to the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) changes from time to time, and so do the roadmaps printed by the racetracks and used by owners and trainers to get their horses to Churchill Downs in optimum condition on the first Saturday in May.
By Dan Liebman - On May 7 in Louisville, Ky., when the most famous race in the land is run at the most famous track in the land, the race will look the same as it did a year ago. The Kentucky Derby (gr. I) is still for 3-year-olds, still at a mile and a quarter, still the first Saturday in May, and the winner still gets a garland of roses.
By Ray Paulick - Only one trainer in the modern era of Thoroughbred racing--D. Wayne Lukas--has started more horses in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) than Nick Zito. Beginning with Thirty Six Red in 1990, Zito has sent 14 horses postward in the Run for the Roses. Two of them have won: Strike the Gold in 1991 and Go for Gin in 1994. He's sitting in the catbird seat with as many as five potential contenders for the 2005 Kentucky Derby.
By John Angelo - My wife, Lorrie, and I have danced the same dance every spring for the decade we've been together. She discovers me late one night with the VCR remote in hand watching "The Life and Times of Secretariat" or "Jewels of the Triple Crown."
By Terese Karmel - When Shakespeare's King Richard III cried out, "a horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse," how could the playwright have known what would occur at York Racecourse more than five centuries later?
By Edward S. Bonnie - Would you pay $5 per start to support better drug testing, research, and track security? The average Thoroughbred races eight times per year. Hence, the average Thoroughbred owner would pay $40 per year per horse to help ensure competition on a level playing field.
By Dr. Rick M. Arthur - The California experience has been successful. The tracks and horsemen, on their own and outside of the state regulatory system, eliminated 99% of the problem (25% to 0.2%) in six months.
By Morton Cathro - Racing is full of unlikely scenarios, few of which have been more unlikely than the one featuring Hollywood screenwriter Ethel Hill and War Knight, the Thoroughbred she called "Tuffy."
By Ray Paulick - Jess Jackson, the California vintner who is making headlines for his increasing involvement as a Thoroughbred owner and breeder, undoubtedly was more than a mildly interested spectator when the Supreme Court returned to work in Washington, D.C., the week of Feb. 21. So are many others in the racing industry.