By Ray Paulick - It's difficult to imagine a Breeders' Cup without D. G. Van Clief Jr. The gentleman from Virginia has been a steady, guiding influence on Thoroughbred racing's championship day since before the inaugural running in 1984 at Hollywood Park.
By Ray Paulick - They may not be pleasant subjects -- death, a tragic plane crash, and a serious motorcycle accident -- but the story lines surrounding several of this year's leading Triple Crown contenders promise to add a measure of emotion and high drama to what is always a compelling afternoon.
By Ray Paulick - Hard evidence points to the Arkansas Derby (gr. II) as the most productive Triple Crown prep race in 2004 and '05, with Smarty Jones and Afleet Alex each going on to sweep two-thirds of the Triple Crown after taking Oaklawn Park's signature event.
By Ray Paulick - Unlike human sports, Thoroughbred racing doesn't conduct surprise tests between starts in search of blood-doping drugs. By relying only on race-day tests, that leaves the regulators of our sport living in yesterday's world.
By Ray Paulick - Election of Del Mar Thoroughbred Club executive vice president Craig Fravel as the National Thoroughbred Racing Association's new board chairman was considered such a momentous occasion that it took 19 days for the NTRA to issue a press release on the subject--and only after receiving an inquisitive call from a reporter.
By Ray Paulick - The movement for reform in the business of bloodstock sales began in earnest nearly two years ago when Florida Thoroughbred owner and breeder Satish Sanan rallied support for a code of ethics, elimination of dual agency, and increased transparency. Sanan, in a letter to this publication, said "kickbacks and other fraudulent behavior are something the industry professionals know about, participate in, and encourage, but turn a deaf ear to when someone brings it to their attention."
By Ray Paulick - Kentucky politicians need to understand the educational and lobbying efforts undertaken by the Kentucky Equine Education Project are not a one-and-out deal. The horse industry, which for too long was nonexistent in Kentucky politics, quickly became the state's No. 1 lobbying force. And that's exactly what Kentucky's top industry should be.
By Ray Paulick - With extraordinary luck to go with soundness, speed, heart, and three full racing seasons, the Forestry colt bought by Coolmore and its partners for an all-time record price for a horse sold at public auction could dig nearly halfway out of that $16-million hole while racing.
By Ray Paulick - When will regulators or racetrack executives follow the lead of Woodbine in Canada and the New York Racing Association and stop allowing private practitioners to treat horses on the day of a race?
By Ray Paulick - Roy Chapman and Bob Lewis were members of a very select club in Thoroughbred racing. Both experienced what most owners involved in the sport would call the ultimate thrill: winning the Kentucky Derby (gr. I).
By Ray Paulick - Owners and breeders who have become increasingly critical of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association point to a funding imbalance that shows racetracks lagging behind in their financial contributions to the organization.
By Ray Paulick - The respected and beloved Penny Chenery, who brought the crowd to its feet when she was honored with an Eclipse Award of Merit, set the standard for class and elegance while reminiscing about her longtime love affair with horse racing and the life-changing experience of owning Secretariat, the 1973 Triple Crown winner and two-time Horse of the Year.
By Ray Paulick - The selection process for the Eclipse Awards has remained relatively unchanged since 1971, when the awards program and annual dinner were inaugurated by the Thoroughbred Racing Associations to singularly honor horse racing's champions.
By Ray Paulick - The Breeders' Cup is one of the greatest innovations in the history of horse racing in North America--perhaps throughout the world. It also is one of the industry's biggest shared assets, one that has enjoyed sustained growth.
By Ray Paulick - This year's 60-day session of Kentucky's general assembly will be the first time KEEP--established in May 2004--has pushed for the "Keep It in Kentucky" constitutional amendment, so named because it is estimated that Kentuckians who crossed into Indiana and Illinois last year spent $671 million on casino gaming.
By Dan Liebman - Like many businesses, the Thoroughbred industry enters the new year facing countless serious issues. In New York, the racing association is threatening bankruptcy; in Maryland, Texas, and Kentucky, slots are needed to compete with neighboring states that are reaping their benefits; in Louisiana, a natural disaster has changed the landscape; in California, there is a shortage of horses; in Florida, purse levels are below those of other major racing states.
Ray Paulick - One year from now, when The Blood-Horse conducts its annual year in review, it's likely that Jan. 8 will stand out as one of the most important dates on the calendar. In fact, it could be one of the most critical days in the modern history of the Thoroughbred industry.
By Ray Paulick - On Dec. 9, Jeb Bush said he reluctantly would sign legislation authorizing slot machines at four Broward County pari-mutuel operations, including Gulfstream Park in Hallandale. The gambling machines were approved by a 57-43 margin of Broward County voters in a referendum in March.
By Ray Paulick - Horses today--for whatever reason--are racing fewer times during their careers. Trainers are handling them more carefully than ever before. Running a young horse through the obligatory Triple Crown prep races and then through the demanding series itself can take a toll--not just on the brave animals who try it but on a sport that suffers through the injuries of its best performers.
By Ray Paulick - Japanese horse racing has had something of a coming-out party in 2005. Earlier this year, Cesario invaded American shores from her Japanese homeland and overpowered a top-class field of fillies and mares in Hollywood Park's American Oaks (gr. IT). Reigning Japanese Horse of the Year Zenno Rob Roy was sent to England, where he was nailed on the finish line to narrowly lose the Juddmonte International Stakes (Eng-I) to Electrocutionist.
By Ray Paulick - On Nov. 16, one day before a congressional subcommittee looked into the possible need for legislation to improve health insurance and safety issues for jockeys, the full U.S. House of Representatives said "no" to the creation of a federal commission to oversee professional boxing.
By Ray Paulick - D.G. Van Clief Jr., commissioner of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and president of the Breeders' Cup, set a bullish target for the 2010 World Thoroughbred Championships: $200 million in pari-mutuel handle.
By Ray Paulick - The 2005 Horse of the Year vote figures to be a one-sided affair. Saint Liam raced strictly in grade I competition from early February until late November and won four of six races, including the Breeders' Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge in an impressive farewell performance.
By Ray Paulick - Emotions have run high the three previous times Belmont Park has hosted the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships. They have run the gamut, too, from the pain and sorrow experienced when three runners died in 1990, to the exhilaration of Cigar's captivating run down the stretch in 1995, to the enduring human spirit shown in 2001, when Americans were still reeling from the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
By Ray Paulick - So far, so good. That's the early report card on Polytrack, the all-weather surface that was tested under American racing conditions for the first time at the recently concluded Turfway Park meeting in Northern Kentucky.
By Ray Paulick - Seldom do horses win a major stakes in a common gallop like Borrego won the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) Oct. 1. But you only have to go back three weeks, to Sept. 10, to see a similar romp, when Saint Liam won the Woodward (gr. I) in a laugher.
By Ray Paulick - The bidding duel between Dubai's Sheikh Mohammed and Ireland's John Magnier for the $9.7-million sale-topping Storm Cat--Tranquility Lake colt wasn't the only drama at Keeneland in the opening days of the annual September yearling auction.
By Ray Paulick - Horse racing people have heart. If that was ever in doubt, look no further than the extraordinary steps countless owners, breeders, trainers, jockeys, veterinarians, racing officials, fans, and others have taken in response to the terrible devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina.
By Ray Paulick - Owner apathy. It's what Ed Friendly called the biggest obstacle to his successful effort a decade ago to overthrow the status quo and form the Thoroughbred Owners of California, the first and surprisingly only state organization to strictly represent horse owners in negotiations with racetracks on important matters such as purse contracts and simulcasting.
By Ray Paulick - Unbeaten Lost in the Fog, America's most popular racehorse, is now its best, according to the Aug. 29 poll of racing journalists conducted by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.
By Ray Paulick - There is a very good reason people are suspicious about Tim Smith's motives in his role as president of Friends of New York Racing, the industry funded think tank and research group behind the proposal to change the business model under which racing in the Empire State is run.
By Ray Paulick - The Racing Medication and Testing Consortium--RMTC for short--is one of the newer acronyms in horse racing's bountiful alphabet soup. Nevertheless, it is doing what many of its verb-challenged siblings are not: making progress on specific issues of concern within the industry.
By Ray Paulick - The stars were aligned at Saratoga last summer when Marylou Whitney's Birdstone was victorious in the Spa meeting's most prestigious race, the Travers (gr. I). No one personifies Saratoga Springs better than Whitney, whose tireless dedication to fund-raising for numerous charities reaches its zenith during the summer race meeting.
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 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 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 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 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 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 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.