John R. Gaines, the man who created the Breeders' Cup and also was behind the start-up of the National Thoroughbred Association, which many believe was the impetus for the formation of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, delivered some pointed words to Magna Entertainment chairman Frank Stronach and the NTRA while accepting an award from the University of Arizona during its Racetrack Industry Program's Symposium on Racing last Thursday.
Gaines, former owner of Gainesway Farm in Lexington, originator of the Kentucky Horse Park, and one of the Thoroughbred industry's foremost innovators and entrepreneurs, received the Clay Puett Award for outstanding service to the industry. He used the occasion to speak about the differences between the NTRA and Stronach, who has said he will pull his seven tracks--including Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita Park--out of the NTRA at year's end. Following is the full transcript of his remarks:
"Since the industry is now convening in the booming state of Arizona, I think it is appropriate for all of us to buckle up, let the fresh air in, and rumble over the landscape in Senator John McCain's Straight Talk Express. It's getting late, it's getting critical, and it's getting boring. This is the place and now is the hour to tell it like it is.
"The on-going public exchanges between the NTRA and Frank Stronach are totally unproductive. They only serve to further polarize an industry that is yearning to stand tall on common ground. In my view, the current debate has more to do with the Theatre of the Absurd than with the unforgiving realities--economic, political, and competitive--facing our sport in the modern world.
"To tone down the cacophony, each side needs to concede at least one thing. Frank Stronach should respect the empirical fact that the collective investment of all the constituencies represented by the NTRA is countless times larger than that of the chairman of Magna Entertainment and the master of Adena Springs Farm. On the other hand, the investments of Mr. Stronach and the enterprises he controls make him the largest individual stakeholder in the entire industry, and the NTRA should honor such an undeviating commitment.
"At this point, what we do NOT need are any more calls for unity or any more pleas for a common agenda. Neither do we need any more lectures on entrepreneurship or any more sermons on democracy.
"What we DO need is an act of statesmanship on the part of both parties. The NTRA must accept the validity of Mr. Stronach's concern that the industry's history of too many self-perpetuating bureaucracies, accountable to no one but themselves, is a recipe for disaster. And Mr. Stronach must accept that the splintering of our industry threatens a way of life that is precious not only to him but to many thousands of other stakeholders in our industry.
"Economics are critical, but a way of life is precious. Nothing less is at stake here than the treasured way of life afforded to us all by racing and breeding. How can both the NTRA and Frank Stronach not recognize that they are natural allies, not natural enemies, in preserving this priceless heritage?
"In my view, Mr. Stronach, without hesitation, should join the NTRA's board and participate fully in decisions it makes about racing's future. I believe this is the best, and the only, way for him to accomplish his goals and achieve his unique vision for our sport.
"At this critical moment, Frank Stronach has the opportunity to benefit an entire industry with an act of statesmanship. As a model for what needs to be done, I suggest he heed a call issued by one of America's greatest patriots--Benjamin Franklin--at the Constitutional Convention held in Independence Hall in the City of Brotherly Love 220 years ago.
"Faced with a convention exhausted from months of wrangling, subterfuges, selfishness, pontifications, partisanship, and compromises, Franklin said: 'As I gaze out the great window at the end of this hallowed hall, I am unable to discern whether the sun is setting or the sun is rising over our great republic. But of one thing I am sure. Without the good will of every single one of us and our desire to serve the common good, the republic will not survive.' "