The Phipps Passion
Photo:
Ray Paulick
Editor-in-Chief
The Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association recently honored Jockey Club chairman Ogden Mills Phipps with the Industry Service Award that was presented to him at the organization's annual awards dinner at WinStar Farm.

Over 1,000 people attended the event, and a number of those who heard what Phipps had to say while accepting the award suggested The Blood-Horse consider printing his comments in their entirety, so that his message could be heard throughout the industry.

Herewith are the remarks made by Phipps, who is also a founding board member of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association:

"First of all, I want to tell you how proud I am to receive the Industry Service Award from TOBA. It is gratifying to receive any award, but it is especially meaningful when it comes from an organization that does so much for our sport, year in and year out.

"This sport is a passion for me and it has provided me with some of the happiest days of my life. I want it to grow and prosper and I try to do everything in my power to see that it does.

"I admit that I get frustrated at times when various segments of the industry--owners, breeders, trainers, jockeys, track owners, veterinarians, or state regulatory officials, to name a few--put their self-interest before the 'greater good' of the game. Sometimes they remind me of 12 male dogs meeting for the first time--all kicking dirt to establish their territory. Why can't they understand that by working together we can achieve far more than we can by working separately?

"In recent years, I have heard criticism of the NTRA. Some of it may be justified...but some of it is not.

"Without the NTRA: We would not enjoy the increased television programming and exposure we have today. We would not see television ratings for horse racing increasing year over year or related increases from new corporate sponsors. We would not see the dramatic spike in Web site visits and online awareness of our sport...with the NTRA, Breeders' Cup, and Equibase working in conjunction. And we certainly would not have benefited from the favorable legislation in Washington that has come our way...with the NTRA in our corner.

"In my eyes, it is time to give the NTRA more power--especially in the area of pooled television rights, standards of excellence, and unified public relations for the entire industry.

"The organization cannot exist as a paper tiger; it needs real teeth. Only then you can truly judge the success of the NTRA, or lack thereof.

"Secondly, I want to publicly applaud Gary Biszantz for the speech he gave on medication at The Jockey Club's Round Table Conference in Saratoga a few weeks ago.

"The facts are simple. Our fields are smaller and our horses run less. Race-day medication has caused this, and until we rectify our past mistakes, these trends are not likely to improve.

"Who can tell me with a straight face that unraced maiden 2-year-olds in April need Lasix? While I am not a scientist, I do have years of experience in this great industry, and it is my belief--not based on scientific data--that the effects of our medication policies have reached our mares and stallions. We are breeding horses which are softer and more fragile. And we are going down a trail which leads to failure.

"I haven't seen horses running faster. I haven't seen horses running on average 12-15 times a year. I haven't seen horses carrying 130 pounds. And I saw all of those things during my early years in racing. These are issues that need to be resolved--and resolved jointly--by all of those groups I referred to earlier.

"Our ultimate benefactor--the racing fan--deserves a clean, modern, and distinctive sport, a sport that provides excitement and builds not only stars, but credibility too."

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