The good news is needed. This is the year many breeders are taking the big hit from mare reproductive loss syndrome, the devastating and mysterious health crisis that wiped out over 20% of Kentucky's 2002 foal crop. Commercial breeders will feel a cash flow crunch this year, when many of those aborted foals would have been sold as yearlings. An influx of new owners, combined with new tax breaks, can't make up for the lost foals and economic devastation delivered by MRLS, but should lead to a brighter future. BACK TO THE FUTURE The Thoroughbred International Exposition and Conference is something existing and potential owners and breeders should not miss. The June 20-22 event, held in downtown Lexington, is described in greater detail in this issue (page 3156). For more information, visit the Web site at www.tiec2003.com. Since 1991, there has been no major trade show and conference dedicated solely to the Thoroughbred industry, and Cynthia Kohorst has done a remarkable job in putting together an excellent program for this event. Kohorst was the original organizer of a similar show held from 1986-91 in Lexington.
I'm going to assume Visa USA president and chief executive officer Carl Pascarella was not part of the decision-making process that resulted in the credit card company recommending its member banks not allow horseplayers to make deposits in their legal telephone and Internet wagering accounts with a Visa card. Yes, Visa, sponsor of the Triple Crown, apparently has decided there is no difference between legal, state-regulated account wagering businesses like TVG, Xpressbet.com, or Youbet.com and off-shore gambling Web sites the government says are illegal. The irony in all of this, to borrow a term from Visa rival MasterCard, is priceless. Over the last few weeks, many people who have tried to use their Visa card to make deposits in their legal wagering accounts have been denied. Presumably, a number of those people are switching to MasterCard or American Express. If the Visa decision to cut off all non-face-to-face gambling transactions isn't reversed, serious harm may be inflicted on the racing industry. Account wagering is estimated at more than $1 billion a year and growing. It has been recognized as legal by Congress through an amendment to the Wire Act, and is specifically permitted by law in numerous states. For the horse racing industry--as tightly regulated as it is--to be lumped together with businesses that operate in the murky waters of offshore islands is just wrong. Visa, a good friend to the industry, should know better. FOCUS ON OWNERSHIP Thoroughbred ownership has never looked so good. As Belmont day approached, there were a number of stories in the general press about racehorse ownership, from the New York Daily News to USA Today to BusinessWeek magazine. Many of the articles directed people with inquiries to contact either the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association or visit www.thegreatestgame.com, the ownership Web site TOBA operates with the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Keeneland. For the members of the Sackatoga Stable, racing has been the greatest game. On top of that, the tax-cut bill passed by Congress and signed by President Bush included significant new tax benefits for horse owners. And in six weeks, the racing industry will get another boost when the movie Seabiscuit premieres. Based on the most recent trailer and movie industry buzz, Seabiscuit could be both critically acclaimed and a box office smash.