By Ray Paulick - Included in that "it's not illegal if you can't test for it" category is cobra venom, the use of which has been rumored for years. The substance, believed to be 1,000 times more powerful than morphine, can help a horse run through pain by blocking impulses through the nervous system. Use of the substance in horse racing is illegal. Worse yet, it's cruel to the animal.
By Dan Liebman - But just imagine if the owner of every racetrack in North America could agree to do what is best for the sport overall, realizing what is best for all is best for one. Think of one network carrying every race televised across the continent with a cohesive schedule understood by fans.
By Ray Paulick - What fans got this year were three incredible horse races that ended with three very accomplished and deserving winners, punctuated by the history-making performance of Rags to Riches, the first filly winner of the Belmont since Tanya in 1905.
By Ray Paulick - There is a touch of irony that Mom's Command will be inducted into the Hall of Fame the same year as the trainer of Forward Pass, Henry Forrest, who was elected by the Historic Review Committee.
By Ray Paulick - Finally, after 23 years, Breeders' Cup officials can let out a sigh of relief. James Tafel's Street Sense proved that life does exist for a horse after winning the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I).
By Ray Paulick - For some, just getting a horse to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May is the realization of a dream. For others who've been there before, it's about winning -- pure and simple.
By Ray Paulick - Conventional wisdom suggests front-running horses have a huge advantage if they are allowed to set the tortoise-like fractions established in this year's Blue Grass. But Polytrack has thrown conventional wisdom out the window.
By Ray Paulick - The CHRB's mandate is not only the right thing to do for the safety of horses, it is a benefit to owners, too, and ultimately for the tracks. Fewer injuries ensures there will be more horses in training, which will lead to larger field sizes, which usually translates to increased pari-mutuel handle. Owners are always happier to have horses racing and training rather than convalescing or recovering.
By Dan Liebman - New Jersey's Monmouth Park was formally announced as the host site in the fall of 2004, and from the look of the plant in mid-March, the first-time site will be ready to take racing's center stage, though much still remains to be done.
By Ray Paulick -- Twenty years ago, in the infancy of whole-card simulcasting, there were fears that only the so-called "super tracks" would survive -- those offering the highest-quality racing signals to receiving sites around the country.
By Ray Paulick -- One of the interesting things about Thoroughbred racing is the penchant so many people have of knocking something into oblivion, and later complaining about the fact it's gone. Take TVG, for example.
By Ray Paulick - Whether they race cars or horses, cheaters are getting more sophisticated today. Blood-doping agents or venom from exotic snakes and sea creatures are believed to be in use by some unscrupulous horsemen as performance-enhancing stimulants or painkillers. In a sense, it's the same kind of rocket fuel Waltrip's team was accused of putting into its Toyota.
By Ray Paulick - I had to go all the way to Dubai to hear a panel discussion about how racing officials in various American jurisdictions have different interpretations about the most basic rules infraction.
By Steve Haskin - Fairy tales are not supposed to have unhappy endings. Barbaro was to leave New Bolton Medical Center, walking soundly with his head held high, and live happily ever after. But Thoroughbreds, despite the fairy tales they inspire, live in a different realm than Walt Disney.
By Ray Paulick -- The Jan. 8 announcement of the expansion of the Breeders' Cup to two days, along with the addition of three new $1-million races is symbolic of the organization's dynamic new leadership, one that is willing to take some chances.
By Ray Paulick - The gap between purses in Thoroughbred races in the United States and money spent in the American Thoroughbred auction market widened in 2006. While total purses for the year aren't yet known, the projection is that they will be up by a couple of percentage points to just north of $1.1 billion, which would be an all-time record.
By Ray Paulick - Roy and Gretchen Jackson's beloved colt demonstrated other-worldly intelligence, matched only in size and scope by his courage and heart. Barbaro could play the role of the Cowardly Lion, Scarecrow, and Tin Man -- after they'd been to see the Wizard of Oz. Wouldn't it be nice if some of those attributes gravitated toward Thoroughbred industry leaders?
By Ray Paulick - The Society of International Thoroughbred Auctioneers is employing a classic carrot and stick approach with the Japan Racing Association, acknowledging through official recognition of 60 graded stakes that the JRA's racing quality is high, but warning the organization that no further advancements will be recognized until non-Japanese owners are licensed to compete in that country.
By Ray Paulick - The proposed strategic plan that came out of last month's Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit is one of those documents or white papers that most likely will land in one of two places: the Thoroughbred industry's dust-gathering burial ground of so many other good ideas; or the hands of a leader with the energy, influence, and personal commitment to make a difference.
By Ray Paulick - After a rocky year of changes that touched both the board of directors and the organization's top executives, stakeholders in the Breeders' Cup should feel good about its new direction.
By Ray Paulick - It's too late to change anything for 2007, but California racing will be better served by a serious reduction of racing in 2008 and beyond. It's up to the CHRB to convince the industry it's the right thing to do.
By Ray Paulick - For Thoroughbred trainers driven to succeed, it's all about numbers. That's the way it's been in the Hall of Fame career of D. Wayne Lukas, who virtually rewrote the record books in the 1980s, and that's how it is for his former assistant, Todd Pletcher, who Oct. 14 broke the single-season mark of 92 stakes victories established by Lukas in 1987.
By Ray Paulick - Reaction to the Congressional ban on Internet wagering was swift and severe -- at least from stock market investors who previously were bullish about online poker, sports and horse race betting, and casinos.
By Ray Paulick - The political power the horse racing industry now enjoys in our nation's capital is a result of a strategy planned and executed by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, and supported by knowledgeable individuals who understand that contributions to the NTRA's Legislative Action Campaign and Political Action Committee are an investment in their future.
By Ray Paulick - Increased distribution along with the convenience of telephone or Internet betting resulted in double-digit increases of advance deposit wagering handle in 2003-2005. Del Mar reported a 24% increase one year ago, which makes this year's 7% drop all the more puzzling -- and alarming.
By Ray Paulick - The median household income for a family living in the United States was $46,326 in 2005 -- about $1,000 less than what a bloodstock agent would make in the purchase of a $950,000 horse if the agent was working for a client who agreed to pay a 5% commission, considered a standard fee by many in the Thoroughbred industry.
By Ray Paulick - There is profound sadness in the Bluegrass region as its residents and extended network of friends and family begin to deal with the tragedy of Comair flight 5191, which left 49 people dead when it crashed on takeoff at the end of Lexington's Blue Grass Airport Runway 26 in the pre-dawn hours of Aug. 27.
By Ray Paulick - At the 45th Annual Jockey Club Round Table Conference on Matters Pertaining to Racing in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., on Aug. 10, 1997, Ogden Mills "Dinny" Phipps, then and now chairman of The Jockey Club, proclaimed that the "National Thoroughbred Racing Association is an idea whose time has come."
By Ray Paulick - A survey of buyers of Thoroughbred weanlings, yearlings, and 2-year-olds discovered that surgeries to correct conformation defects have a significant influence on whether or not someone will buy a horse at public auction.
By Ray Paulick - Over the next few weeks, the contenders and pretenders angling for the right to operate the New York Thoroughbred racing franchise at Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga will be finalizing their paperwork in the request for proposal process developed by the Ad Hoc Committee on the Future of Racing.