Economy, Financial Woes Take Toll on The Backstretch Magazine

by Kathleen Adams

The 30 years Sam Ramer spent working on the racetrack as a Thoroughbred trainer taught him how to steel his emotions and handle life's unexpected setbacks.

But when Ramer, now managing editor of The Backstretch, announced Nov. 12 that the Thoroughbred publication was ceasing operations, he didn't try to conceal his feelings.

"I'm sopping up the tears," Ramer said from his Louisville office. "It's a great disappointment."

Published by the United Thoroughbred Trainers of America, The Backstretch was a bimonthly magazine that geared itself toward the general horse racing fan by providing a look at the history of the sport and in-depth profiles of trainers and backstretch workers. It also dealt with issues that affect the Thoroughbred industry.

Ramer said unlike other Thoroughbred magazines that cover the gambling or breeding aspect of racing, The Backstretch took on a wider array of subjects.

"We covered topics a novice could relate to," he said. "Other publications look at the surface issues of the day. We tried to go a little deeper."

Citing slumping advertising revenue as the reason why the magazine folded, Ramer said The Backstretch had been in financial trouble for at least two years.

"Advertising has been down 40% over the last few years," he said. "So it has to do with the poor economy, and we haven't had an advertising salesperson for two-and-a-half years."

Reluctant to say a final goodbye to the 40-year-old publication, Ramer said there is a remote possibility The Backstretch could rise up from the ashes.

"Since making the announcement, I am getting calls from people who might be interested in trying to continue it," he said. "Although, it wouldn't be fair for me to say who those people are at this time."

Writers for The Backstretch won two Eclipse Awards for outstanding magazine writing in the 1990s. And the magazine took nine medals at the most recent American Horse Publications awards ceremony, including one for General Excellence.