By Bradford Cummings
It is amazing what a difference a year makes at the Paulick Report. Traffic has more than doubled, debate is livelier than ever and Ray has pledged to stop talking about jet lag. (I'll believe it when I see it…or don't see it) We made a cross-country trip to the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita and raised $75,000 for two great causes in the process. Ray flew to South Africa on the premise that some horse people actually wanted to hear what he had to say, then later to Japan (where apparently he and David Hasselhoff are quite well known), where he took in some very exciting racing. And we have been blessed to have such a strong stable of supportive advertisers who believe in the mission we set off to accomplish in June of 2008. Perhaps most remarkably, we started a business two months before the largest recession since FDR and we are still kicking.
In what is turning into a tradition (if you can call twice a tradition) we are looking back at the year that was and rehashing the top ten stories based on reader interest. Basically, the more you clicked on these stories, the higher up the list they traveled. So take a trip down memory lane with us and let us know which stories still resonate with you today. Or let us know about a story that touched you we don't have here. Because sometimes even 1.5 million user sessions can be wrong.
In a year where horse racing started to admit it has a drug problem, it was disheartening to learn that Kiaran McLaughlin was a new member on the list of medication violators. A trainer that featured prominently on our American Graded Stakes Standings brought to you by Keeneland, McLaughlin had become a bit of a Paulick Report favorite as a successful trainer who found himself a bit under the national radar. Unfortunately for him, if his standing in Graded Stakes wins didn't do it, our tenth most popular story of the year did.
Perhaps no organization has had the upward trend on the Paulick Report that Equibase has experienced. In what was the most popular story on the Thoroughbred Racing Associations/Jockey Club-owned statistics company, we compared what Equibase provides versus what other major sports give their fans in the way of data. Unfortunately, the comparisons were not favorable as this industry seems content to charge its loyal customers for everything from parking to the very data Major League Baseball, the NFL and the NBA make readily available for its fans.
But whether it was the Paulick Report or an internal struggle that finally made its way to the light of day, Equibase started to get it right and quickly saw their headlines become more favorable. Equibase Takes Step in Right Direction and Equibase Gets It Right is more along the lines of what we'd like to write about. Keep up the momentum.
Any time a jockey is paralyzed, it is an unspeakable tragedy. We saw it first hand on several occasions during our Breeders' Cup or Bust fundraising tour when we had the opportunity to spend time with several permanently disabled riders. In a precursor to our decision to take on such a trip, Rene Douglas, the top rider at Arlington Park, was severely injured in a spill at the Chicago track when a horse ridden by Jamie Theriot brushed his mount in a move that stewards rarely penalize a rider for. Ray's point was that stewards should keep a tighter rein on the race riding that goes on and far too often can lead to clipped heels and spills. By doing the best job they can do, stewards can help protect jockeys from serious injury.
What do you get when you combine a 60-day suspension for your 13th medication violation in Florida since 2004 with a rich stakes program at Calder? An opportunity to start four horses if you are legacy trainer Kirk Ziadie. One of several stories this year that were out there for the picking but ignored by the mainstream Thoroughbred media, people seemed to be drawn to the laundry list of infractions by this trainer who piles up the wins and medication violations in uncommon numbers.
Know and Trust. That's the ironic mantra of this Kentucky-based journalist turned bloodstock agent (hey, he's giving journalism a bad name, if that's possible!). It's also the name of one of the horses that Jim Cullen consigned for his overflowing book of clients who have felt taken advantage of over the last several years. The evidence is too large to encapsulate in this brief recap but judging from the amount of people who read this story, you don't really need a point-by-point description.
The only thing more disturbing than his previous actions was his personal defense, a convoluted web of seemingly nonsensical explanations that never really came close to exonerating him.
We aren't saying he is the Bernard Madoff the horse industry, but there are some folks plenty mad at him. Oh, and Jim, the fact that Know and Trust ran a good race after this story came out is not newsworthy. It only proves that even a blind squirrel can find an acorn from time to time.
It was a rough year for racing's court jester, the sometimes funny and consistently offensive Indian Charlie aka Eddie Musselman. While his legal troubles were probably the most noteworthy news to come out of his newsletter in years, the readers of the Paulick Report really enjoyed reading the Indian Charlie parody being distributed on the grounds of the Keeneland September sale.
Who did the parody? We honestly have no idea. But at least it helped give what was a torturous sale a bit of levity.
The biggest news in Kentucky racing this year was by far the unsuccessful push for slots at racetracks through the state House and Senate. While it got narrow approval in the House, Gov. Steve Beshear's slots bill stalled in the Senate's Appropriations and Revenue Committee, stonewalled by David “Blackjack” Williams and his crew of Republican merry men.
Of course, Ray was there to watch the whole thing happen and reported live from Frankfort. Real time blogging, it's the greatest thing since slots at the racetra…er…never mind.
Not the way any website wants to experience a spike in traffic, but Ray was the first to uncover the absolute travesty that was the lice-infested and under-nourished stable of horses at Paraneck Stables in upstate New York. The pictures are gruesome and the effects of this tragedy are still being felt as horse welfare groups from around the country are trying to find homes for these truly victimized animals.
A man of many talents, Ray Paulick pulled off a feat of unprecedented magnitude…he live blogged the Eclipse Awards without a computer! Transmitting his thoughts and some appetizing pictures (we're all still craving that dessert with the chocolate sticks on top) via his cell phone, Ray was able to give moment by moment updates to all of those people on the “tubes” who weren't able to watch the TVG telecast. And looking at the number of comments and readers, that was no trivial number.
For those of you wondering, Barbara and I have since made up after she took offense to my comment about the shininess of Steve Asmussen. Love it or hate it, we call them like we see them here at the Paulick Report.
At first blush, we were a little shocked that this story was number one. A past-posting incident, while surely problematic, is not the sexiest of topics. But when you consider it potentially hurt the pocketbooks of thousands of horseplayers across the country and the fact that we were first out of the gate with the story, it makes a whole lot more sense. Wouldn't it be nice if the propeller heads at the tote companies were able to figure out how to stop betting when a race begins?
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