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.
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 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 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 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.
By Evan Hammonds -- A pat on the back goes to all involved at the National Thoroughbred Racing Association for putting together a smooth and slick presentation of the 34th Eclipse Awards Jan. 24. A special nod should be given to Debbie Blair, the event coordinator and vice president of customer service at NTRA/Breeders' Cup.
By Ray Paulick -- Getting caught is no picnic, but occasional fines, suspensions, and hefty legal bills are included in the price some horsemen have been willing to pay to live on, or over, the edge of the game's rules and regulations.
By Ray Paulick - It is probably an understatement to say that 2005 is going to be a challenging year for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association/Breeders' Cup. The direction and mission of the organization could be subject to change as it navigates crossroads on the near horizon.
By Ray Paulick -- Racing will be saying farewell this year to a man who has had an enormous influence on the sport over the last decade, as Carl Pascarella retires as chief executive officer of Visa USA.
By Ray Paulick -- There was something a bit unsettling about how the California racing industry began a crackdown in February 2004 against the use of "milkshakes"--the loading of bicarbonates through a stomach tube as a performance-enhancing aid in Thoroughbreds.
By Ray Paulick - Some unsolicited advice for Cot Campbell, chairman of the Sales Integrity Task Force: Get an unlisted telephone number. Campbell's stewardship of this most difficult issue was inspiring, and his phone soon should be ringing off the hook with inquiries and job offers from scores of failed committees, task forces, and do-nothing organizations within the Thoroughbred world and beyond.