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.
By Ray Paulick - Keeneland's director of racing, W.B. Rogers Beasley, earlier this year made an interesting case for expansion of the Eclipse Awards from 11 to 15 equine categories (including steeplechasers). Suggested additions were 3-year-old males and 3-year-old fillies on turf, filly and mare sprinters, and turf sprinters.
By Ray Paulick - The Guild officers, convinced this time by California-based jockey Alex Solis in the Chris McCarron role, are in the process of hiring two racing outsiders to direct them: sports agent Dwight Manley, who became a millionaire by acquiring rare coins, and civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson, whose integrity and credibility have never fully recovered from a scandal involving a mistress, a child out of wedlock, and questionable payments.
By Ray Paulick - In California, where the safety-conscious California Horse Racing Board has mandated synthetic surfaces by the end of 2007 for the state's major tracks, an opportunity arose for the various track operators to seek a common solution.
By Ray Paulick - Beginning in 1985, when the three Triple Crown host racing associations--Churchill Downs, the Maryland Jockey Club, and the New York Racing Association--joined together to form Triple Crown Productions, the series clearly began to benefit and grow. But the alliance has cracked, resulting this past year in separate television contracts and the loss of a title sponsor.
By Ray Paulick -- For the second consecutive year, no contemporary horses were elected to the National Museum of Racing's Hall of Fame. That is astonishing, considering some of the champions named on the ballot.
By Ray Paulick - The mood could not have been darker when the horse ambulance left the Pimlico backstretch on the evening of May 20, its precious cargo the shattered dreams of racing fans and horse lovers everywhere.
By Ray Paulick - If Barbaro can safely pass his next test, in the 131st running of the Preakness May 20, Matz' strategy will have worked to perfection. It will then be up to Barbaro to prove his place in the annals of the Turf come Belmont day.
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.