Throughout the annual Texas Thoroughbred Association's awards dinner Saturday night, there was a common theme: the ongoing push for video lottery terminals at the state's racetracks.
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas told the group at the Horseshoe Bay Resort that winning is important, but he wasn't just talking about winning races.
"The quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to his commitment," Lukas said, quoting Vince Lombardi. He recounted how, when he won the first of his four Kentucky Derbies in 1988 with Winning Colors, he figured out thst he had devoted more than 150,000 hours of training to get to the winner's circle in the Churchill Downs infield.
"How many of you are willing to make the commitment of 150,000 hours?" Lukas asked. He said three things are necessary to be successful--energy, enthusiasm, and intensity. "All successful people have all three," he said.
The night's two biggest award winners, Helen Groves and Gene Palmieri, also spoke of how desperately the state needs VLTs.
Palmieri received the Allen Bogan Memorial Award as the group's Man of the Year for 2004. A TTA director, Palmieri has been working feverishly on the grass roots effort to explain the industry's need for VLTs to the citizens of Texas.
"This award isn't mine, it's yours," Palmieri said. "I'm just the coach, helping lead the effort. We need to keep having the 'energy, enthusiasm, and intensity' Lukas spoke about. We're making great strides, but now we need to move it up a notch," Palmieri said.
The Texas legislature is currently meeting in special session, and the Thoroughbred industry is hopeful it will be the source of needed revenue for the state's education system.
Groves, a descendant of the famed King Ranch, was awarded the T.I. "Pops" Harkins for lifetime commitment to the TTA and racing and breeding in Texas.
"I have to be honest, I don't like slots," Groves said, "but I've seen what they can do. It is now fun again to go to Delaware Park."
Lukas had earlier said how in racing, you have to try and beat friends in races. Groves picked up on that message. "Racing is a big family," she said. "The greatest part of this business is the family."
Leaving on My Mind was named 2004 Horse of the Year and champion 2-year-old and his dam, Sudden Attraction, by Rare Performer, was Broodmare of the Year. Leaving on My Mind, by Valid Expectations
, was bred by and races for George Wolff.
The evening's other award winners:
- Berdelia, champion 2-year-old filly, bred and owned by Ro Parra
- Charming Socialite, champion 3-year-old male, bred and owned by Paul Sutton and William Pettit
- Native Annie, champion 3-year-old filly, bred and owned by Stonerside Stable
- Yessirgeneralsir, champion older horse, bred and owned by Jim Jackson
- Fleeta Dif, champion older filly or mare, bred by Tom Warren and owned by Tom and Patricia Warren
- Brian Wallis, Joseph Straus Sr. Award for the member who has recruited the most new members
- Blood-Horse Breeder of the Year, George Wolff
- Thoroughbred Times Leading Freshman Sire, Magic Cat