Whats Going On Here

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Clearance Sale

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.

Leaner Leadership

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.

Taxing Times

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.

Series Shake Up

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.

Rising Runners

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.

Congress Calling

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.

Boom Town

By Ray Paulick - The boomers are coming! The boomers are coming! And that should be nothing but good news for Thoroughbred racing and breeding.

Betting on Growth

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.

Less is Less

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.

Ride to Nowhere

By Ray Paulick - Wayne Gertmenian, the president and CEO of the Jockeys' Guild, is a bully who finally met his match in the halls of Congress.

New York, New York

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.

On Track

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.

Classic Classic?

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.

Greatness Affirmed

By Ray Paulick - Steve Wolfson was just a kid in 1963, but he has a clear recollection of the August morning his father, Louis, received a troubling phone call at his farm office in Ocala, Fla.

It's Just Business

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.

Shelter from the Storm

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.

Owning Up

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.

Rolling Along

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.

Friends in Need

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.

Just Say Yes

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.

Dream Win

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.

Losing the Handle

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.

Land Wars

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.

War Weary

By Ray Paulick - The strange case of War Emblem, the 2002 Eclipse Award-winning 3-year-old now at stud in Japan, keeps getting stranger.

The Big Chill

By Ray Paulick - Freezing samples puts cheaters on notice that they are not necessarily free and clear just because the initial drug screening detected no illegal substances.

Funding the Future

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.

Track and Field

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.

The $12-Million Question

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.

Fleeting Moments

By Ray Paulick - Winners and losers from the 2005 Triple Crown, the last one sponsored by VISA...

Hall Pass

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.

Still a Jewel

By Ray Paulick - It's hard to believe, but 10 years ago the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) attracted just 37,171 people, a pitiful turnout for what is annually one of American racing's biggest days.

Afleet's Feat

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.

Fresh Air

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.

Kentucky Pride

By Ray Paulick - It's been a long time coming for Alice Chandler, who took the reins at Mill Ridge Farm in 1962 after the death of her father, legendary horseman Hal Price Headley.

Bellamy's the Boss

By Ray Paulick - The "new" Churchill Downs will provide a spectacular setting, and the Thoroughbred foal crop of 2002 has brought forth an intriguing group of candidates...

Where Are They Now?

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.

Trail Mix

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.

Stacked Deck

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.

A Breed Apart

By Dan Liebman - What does is take to operate a Thoroughbred breeding farm in the height of the breeding season? In this issue of The Blood-Horse, we attempt to show you.

Century Mark

By Ray Paulick - On May 4, 2005, it will be 100 years to the day since Belmont Park opened its doors to the public for the first time.

Hollywood Ending?

By Ray Paulick - The good old days? They weren't that long ago for horse racing fans in Southern California.

For Keeps

By Ray Paulick -- The horse industry now has a strong voice in Frankfort that will be heard.

The Big Chill

By Ray Paulick - Human sports and racing have faced the same challenge: the cheaters are ahead of the labs.

Today's Job Market

By Ray Paulick - This item of interest from the Feb. 25 issue of USA Today: a horse racing groom has the worst job in sports.

Grape Consequences

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.

Incomparable Gaines

By Ray Paulick - Best comment I ever heard about John Gaines was from Lexingtonian Arnold Kirkpatrick, who said Gaines was "smarter than a tree full of owls."

Galloping Ghost

By Ray Paulick - Nearing $1 million in earnings, Chindi's days as a runner may be numbered, but they aren't over yet.

That's Show Biz

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.

Ghostly Vote

By Dan Liebman -- In Smarty Jones and Ghostzapper, Eclipse Awards voters were faced with two clear and deserving choices for 2004 Horse of the Year. Now they have spoken.

Raising the Stakes

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.

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