Dan Liebman: Editor-in-Chief

Dan Liebman: Editor-in-Chief

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Commentary: Hall Worthy

“Did you hear the news, Colonel? On April 1, Kent Hollingsworth will be inducted into the University of Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame.”

“Well, I can’t think of a more deserving award for a more deserving person,” Col. Elsworth said. “You know, Kent and I spent many hours discussing the problems facing the horse industry.”

Longtime readers of this column will remember well the back-and-forth banter between Hollingsworth and the fictitious Elsworth, who allowed the editor of The Blood-Horse a different way of expressing his views.

One employee said she had worked for The Blood-Horse for a month before she realized Col. Elsworth was not a real person. But in many ways, he was real, representing those in the industry who would like to sit and debate issues with the trade publication’s editor.

Twenty years after he left the employ of the magazine—after more than 23 years as editor—and eight and a half years since his death, many of the same issues Kent wrote about are still at the forefront: drugs, integrity, transparency.

No one can forget Kent’s longstanding mantra of “Hay, Oats, and Water.” Well, like wishing we would return to the days when you had to visit Atlantic City or New Orleans to play a slot machine, there is no chance this industry is returning to the days of horses racing only on nature.

Kent railed about racing sore horses on medication and opined against racing commissions allowing the use of any foreign substance that could affect performance. He would certainly be interested to know there are still no uniform medication policies, and he would be at the center of the ongoing discussions about the use of steroids in racing and sale horses.

Speaking of auctions, Kent consistently wrote about his distaste for consignors and sale companies for what he termed “deceiving” buyers with incomplete information in catalogs. He would be happy to know the magazine has steadfastly maintained the same stance on disclosure through three subsequent editors. When the Sales Integrity Task Force issued its recommendations last year, Kent would have been insisting, in the name of integrity, that it did not go far enough.

Kent feared whole-card simulcasting of races across state lines would cause most tracks to go out of business, and believed state-bred programs would provide too insignificant an amount of money to just a few people and do little to encourage the actual breeding of better horses. He also disliked restricted races, which he believed were a form of subsidy for those afraid to race their horses against those bred in other states.

It was Kent who authored Kentucky’s Racing Act, which is why to this day the application to become a licensed owner states that racing is not a right, but a privilege.

The late Mike Barry once wrote of Kent: “Racing is based, of course, on difference of opinion. Editor Hollings­worth had to deal with all of these different opinions. He had to comment on the way horses were bred, or sold, or trained, or ridden. His was an impossible job, because whatever he wrote was certain to offend somebody.

“This caution, if he ever entertained it, never gave him pause. He wrote what he thought of breeders and owners and trainers and riders. Also of the way some racetracks were operated, and the rulings handed down by some racing commissions made up of political appointees who didn’t know their eighth poles from a hole in the ground.

“The editor knew how to write, and he knew what he was writing about. Those who read him knew that, too. All he ever wanted was clean racing, honest racing, racing at its best.”

“I know,” an aging Col. Elsworth said, “that The Blood-Horse still wants those things.”

Yes, sir, it does.