Establishing a Talent-Based Authority in Racing

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Who would pay to watch amateurs play basketball at the YMCA? Who would pay to watch amateurs play basketball at the YMCA?

(Editor’s Note: For more than 20 years, Lexington advertising executive Fred Pope has advocated a business model for horse racing that collectively puts the owners of the best horses in a position of authority through the creation of a “major league” for the sport. The recent PETA allegations and complaints filed with federal, state and local agencies by the animal rights group have demonstrated how the absence of an authority figure or governing body has paralyzed the sport and rendered it unable to make meaningful change. Pope’s proposal, modeled after sports like the PGA Tour, has been floated before, but in light of the void of ideas from existing industry organizations and their leaders, I think it’s worth a renewed look. You can contact the author at fpope@popead.com. – Ray Paulick)

A former client in the Thoroughbred industry would often respond with a question of his own when someone asked him about a delicate issue.

He would say, “Do you want it with the bark on, or the bark off?” If they said they could take it with the “bark off,” he told the truth, as he knew it.

For more than forty years, I have worked for those getting started and those at the very top of this game. Here’s my answer to the question of Authority in Racing, with the “bark off.”

This time of year thousands, and maybe millions, of basketball fans get fired up by the NCAA tournaments and go shoot some hoops, many at the local YMCA. Some are pretty good, most are not, but their families love them and want them to play.

They may need Advil, Red Bull, or newly legalized weed to prepare and then recover from those games and orthopedic surgeons will be seeing a few.

Some feel every participant, in every sport, deserves to be on television. That it is their right to appear in Madison Square Garden and the very best sporting facilities in America. But, that’s not how sports marketing works is it?

Nobody will pay to see the YMCA level. No companies will sponsor them. No media will show them on television. It is a cruel world for the participants who cannot compete at the highest level.

The recent PETA video is about racing, a sport that puts YMCA level horses on television every day. We present them front and center at Belmont Park, Santa Anita and the best racing facilities in America. We break all the rules of sports marketing because government gave us the exclusive of legal gambling on sport.

Racing used to be a real sport. It was the biggest and most popular in America. Today it is the only sport where it doesn’t matter if the participants are competitive. The New York Times broke the PETA story and has written about racing jurisdictions where owners get a check for putting horses into races despite them being much too slow and too infirm to compete.

Do those casino-fueled races qualify as sport? Do we realize the exclusive that racing has on gambling is at the whims of politicians (you know, the ones elected by the people who read the New York Times and share videos on Facebook)?

I’m a marketing guy, so I’m sensitive to the public image of racing and how fragile our position with the public is right now. Legal gambling on racing is not guaranteed in the Constitution. It’s been taken away before and it can be lost again, state-by-state or banned nationwide, by a knee-jerk act of government.

We are so consumed with enabling YMCA races that medication has become the main issue of authority in racing.  Racing authorities, pressured by tracks and horsemen, tell casinos to race too many days, so medication is the answer.

If appearance-money races were suddenly drug-free by order of the federal government, would it make a difference and qualify them as sport?  Would you take your son or daughter to see them?

We manufactured this problem, which may prove fatal, for a market that does not exist in sports. The best facility in the world has no market for a bad product. You will never hear, “Let’s go to Madison Square Garden to see some YMCA games.”

Why do we run the YMCA races? For money, of course, but if racehorse owners lose money keeping those horses running, then who benefits? That is a “bark off” question for racehorse owners.


Twenty-two years ago in The Blood-Horse, I bought advertising pages to ask the question, “Whose Game Is It?” The answer then is the answer now; it is the racehorse owners’ game.  As the owners of the talent in the game, the racehorse owners should protect, control, and develop it like other sports.

Watching the PETA video, some in our industry are outraged at the trainer’s assistant. But for outsiders – the public – the takeaway is the bad guy is not the foul-mouth grunt doing the work. It is the guy he is talking about, the racehorse owner, who pays them to do the despicable things.

Many owners in this industry are disillusioned and have stopped going to the races unless they have a horse running, or it is a big race day. Breaking the rules of sports marketing has consequences. We can alienate and lose our base.

A few days each year, racing meets the modern sports model of presenting only the highest level of racing.  On big race days people pay regular sports’ admission prices and the atmosphere of major owners and their guests draws in a constituency of bloodstock agents, breeders and fans, similar to major sporting events. Good racing is good sport, for the public and our sons and daughters.

The problem is, the next day at the track is not good sport. As the PETA video showed, both good and not so good, horses are mixed together and treated the same in the current mess of too much racing and presenting all levels together.

Those who commit the bad deeds, from racing authorities to tracks to owners to trainers, could care less about PETA and whether or not racing is structured the right way. Those folks will not change by themselves.

To some the PGA Tour golf mantra, “We would rather lose than cheat,” is laughable. But it is as simple as refusing to tee it up with a guy who cheats. It doesn’t matter how he cheats, you just don’t play with him. That’s what a major league can deliver to racehorse owners who want an alternative to the current mess.

Bad deeds make for good media stories. Bad deeds should respond to authority. But, on medication and cheating, we cannot agree on what is bad. Who is the arbiter? Who is responsible? Who sets the course and steers the ship for U.S. racing?

Dinny Phipps, chairman of The Jockey Club for more than 30 years, is the acknowledged leader of U.S. racing and breeding. He says he is just one individual and is powerless to make decisions on racing rules. Really?

Here’s my opinion: If racing in America was a successful sport and we were having a dinner to honor the one individual responsible for the protection, growth and development of the sport, that person would have to be Dinny Phipps.

But over the past 30 years, with so many business advantages, racing is failing. It is a rudderless ship that is sinking in a sea of successful sports. His talk about eliminating medication has been going on for decades and failed.

In every sport the rules are the first step. But harmony on rules is a basic “one” on a scale of one to 10 in modern sports. Sports with a major league score a “10” by giving the public what they want, the highest level of sport. The major league commissioner holds the talent rights for media and sponsorship, with absolute authority over all participants.

Racing does not have a major league, but we have had two fake “commissioners.” They were installed to defraud this industry into thinking they could do what commissioners in other sports do for real.

As some of you know, I was responsible for both of them.

The first fake commissioner came from the Thoroughbred Racing Associations (TRA) in 1993. The position was announced the morning after I presented the plan for racehorse owners to form a major league called the National Thoroughbred Association (NTA).

The TRA Commissioner lacked both of the powers needed. He did not have the rights to make media and sponsorship contracts, and he did not have authority over participants. He was a fake commissioner and as that became evident, the office closed and the NTA came to the front in 1996.

The second Commissioner came into office in 1997, when the leaders of The Jockey Club started the NTRA.  This commissioner was also a fraud. His claim to the office was betraying the members of the NTA and killing the major league. Over the next several years, the NTRA would spend hundreds of millions of dollars taxing racehorse owners, breeders and bettors. He was popular with track owners for the scheme of giving them back the dues they paid to the NTRA.

The first fake commissioner was paid by the TRA, so that hoax to stop the racehorse owners’ major league was on them. But the second one, the NTRA Commissioner, was much more sinister and punishing. In essence, this was the message to racehorse owners and breeders: “We’re going to give this guy a million bucks each year of your money. He has no authority, is nothing more than a fraud in a stuffed suit, but we’re going to let him spend hundreds of millions of your dollars and he will accomplish nothing. Do not ever test the power of the track owners again.”

There are a lot of things in racing that defy explanation. But in business, partners are more important that customers. If you follow the money, the business relationships provide an explanation.

The TRA is the business partner of The Jockey Club. All profits from their subsidiary businesses go to track owners and TJC. None of the money flows to racehorse owners’ purses, even though racehorse owners’ data is the basis for the business.

Conversely, every major league is a talent-based business structure where revenue flows to the talent and the owners of the rights to the talent. The facilities are paid a contracted fee. Images and data are valuable.

At the time the TRA named its fake “commissioner” in 1993, Mr. Phipps was an influential member of the board of trustees of NYRA, the largest racetrack group in the TRA. In my opinion, he had a large role in the fake commissioner debacle and it is appropriate to ask whether the leaders of The Jockey Club are more allied with the track owners than the racehorse owners in the sport?

In my opinion, The Jockey Club has had the influence to change the definition of horsemen in the Interstate Horseracing Act (IHA) to racehorse owners at any time. But their partners, the track owners, prefer to negotiate off-track wagering agreements with trainers instead of racehorse owners with business experience.

Structure matters.

When television burst on the scene in the early 1950’s, the major leagues in other sports used their talent-based structure to sign national television contracts.

Racing did not have a major league. The individual tracks were not a business unit, so they had no way to join together for a national television strategy. And, they were not going to allow racehorse owners to change the structure of the sport and treat them as simple facilities like the other sports.

It is a sick, helpless feeling in business when technology brings a surprise you are not structured to handle.

Imagine what it was like at Motorola, the U.S. leader in cell phones, when Apple introduced the iPhone. Thousands of people lost their jobs because Motorola could not transition to a smartphone structure. But the iPhone created millions of new jobs to those providing rich content and services that never existed before. There is a lesson coming.

Apple is changing the world because the international legality of property rights protects them and allows them to cross borders and develop their business.

Racing is uniquely poised to benefit from technology and innovation, because the legality of racehorse owners’ property rights can be harnessed into a major league that spans state and international borders for wagering, media and sponsorship.

In every racing state and every racing country, a major league in racing would work in concert with the racing authorities to do what they cannot do for themselves. As we expand into China and other countries, we need a central office to protect the breed and the sport. It can fund research and development that individual countries cannot afford individually.

Here’s how a major league in racing could work.

The major league would hold the original rights to horses of like-minded racehorse owners who agree to abide by the rules of the major league. The trainers and jockeys for those horses would sign a contract with the major league to abide by the same rules. That’s the absolute authority on rules, media rights and sponsorship that are missing today in the current, dead-end, track-based structure.

The major league would then partner with racetracks, media and sponsors to package and present a new brand of racing in the U.S. and perhaps Canada. Those tracks wanting the major league horses would participate and any choosing not to would continue as they are today.

The promise and difference in racing with the major league would be to present a full day of high quality races, perhaps the best race card in America each Saturday under the new brand name. All other racing would continue and perhaps a minor league would start as well.

Like the Breeders’ Cup, the major league would look to partner with favorable racing authorities in those states. Not all of them may chose to participate, but it is reasonable to plan on a major league program in the major markets and across the country. There are more than 5,000 individual horses each year that win or place in stake races. We have the inventory of talent to operate a major league.

With the powerful rights to the best talent in racing, for the first time media and sponsors will have a major league central office to do business. It’s all about property rights to the talent. Racehorse owners own them and have a responsibility to control them in order to protect and develop the sport.

When I created the major league NTA, it was not an idea new to sports marketing. From my experience in media rights and consulting with professionals in other sports, I adapted the major league structure to racing.

The NTA was the last major league to be created in major sports. All other sports had made the transition. Major League Soccer had just started and even though soccer was a minor sport in America, the major league structure was enough to make it successful.

One of the Major League Soccer owners was media giant and racehorse owner, John Kluge. When I presented the NTA to him and asked him to join, Kluge immediately understood how a major league would forever improve the fortunes of the sport. More than 100 of the leading owners in the world signed on with the NTA.

I looked founding members of the NTA in the eye and told them no major league formed by those owning the rights to the talent had ever failed. I wish there was something more I could have done to prevent the betrayal of those sporting men and women.

The fake NTRA Commissioner was a cruel, vindictive act to punish those men and women. It is hard to believe racehorse owners accepted what was done to them by the people they trusted as leaders.

Questioning the motives of our leaders is not part of the social fabric of this industry. Calling a spade a spade just isn’t done. But when the last straw hits the camel’s back, and the PETA video just might be that straw, people start to speak out about the bad taste.

There is talk about increasing big race days in the current track-based structure and while that will be an improvement, it will continue the mess we have today. The PETA video is about both good horses and lesser horses being cared for in this current mess.

We must be smarter. Racehorse owners must be tougher than to be bullied and duped by the paper tigers responsible for killing every idea for racing from the American Championship Racing Series to the major league NTA.

Since the racetracks are not a business unit, The Jockey Club has become the business unit for them. As partners, they generate revenue then distribute profits back to the track owners but none to racehorse owners.

Nobody is looking out for racehorse owners. The breeders, the tracks, the racing authorities, the trainers, the jockeys and The Jockey Club, all ride on the back of the racehorse owner to put on the show.

They have ridden him so hard, for so long, they have forgotten who he is. The lack of respect and contempt for the racehorse owner came through loud and profanely clear in the PETA video.

The golden rule — he who has the gold rules — needs to be rekindled in establishing authority in racing.

Authority in racing needs to come from a talent-based, major league. Please do not try to fake it with major league elements within the current track-based structure. A real major league must hold the original rights to the talent and have contracted authority over all participants, including the facility. If you cannot tell, ask me.

Can a new brand name in racing, a new public face for the sport, be as simple as like-minded racehorse owners forming a major league? Can it save and restore this wonderful sport in a new world of technology, innovation and opportunity?

The “bark on” answer is: “Of course, it has been put together before.”  The “bark off” answer is: “It will come when racing hits rock bottom.”

Will you move before then and save the track owners and their partners from themselves? I hope so. The future of the entire Thoroughbred family depends on it.

© Fred A. Pope 2014

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  • Barry Irwin

    I like me some Fred Pope! He’s no barkless dog, that’s for sure.

    • Lexington 4

      One thing about that PETA video, it has revived the entrepreneurial spirit around here. Another guy who sensed a renewed window of business opportunity was a trainer who wrote a book about drugs in racing but didn’t really know the names of very many.

    • Josh S

      So Barry, if there’s a rumbling of support for major reform out there, where do we start? How do we come together, where’s the dotted line to sign? How do we get this ball rolling. A little less talk a lot more action, put our money where our mouth is.. Get my drift? If we all agree in what we need, who’s going to throw their hat in the fire and give us something to support? Let’s get this change started.

      • johnnyknj

        Josh, I agree. You also win the Paulick Prize for most metaphors in a single paragraph!

        • Jay Stone

          Great line

      • Barry Irwin

        Some action is forming among like minded individuals.

        • Josh S

          Good news, the first follower is always the hardest.

        • Garrett Redmond

          If “some action is forming among like-minded individuals”, can you tell us how other like-minded individuals may contact that group?
          There are more of us around than they may think.

          • Barry Irwin

            Garrett: I would just sit tight for a bit. And I am certain that you are correct about there being many more folk out there.

          • Suzanne

            office@bladerunnersNHRC.org
            Send them email to be added to list. Working with congress to effect change.

      • ginger2000

        Yes! that is the real question. Talking accomplishes nothing.

    • steve

      If he is not barkless, why not actually name these “fake commissioners?”

      • Barry Irwin

        How ironic that a guy unable to use his own full name should make this statement. Reread the piece is my suggestion to you.

        • steve

          I can read it seven times. He never “barks out” the names of these two so called disgraces. Wants strong action but is reticent to name names.

          • Barry Irwin

            Sorry you cannot figure it out.

  • kyle

    “Racing used to be a real sport.” Why? Because it was covered in newspapers? Because owners thought of themselves as sportsmen? It was an Illusion…a patina..a facade…promoted as such to satisfy norms of social acceptance. Yeah, try building on that mirage of a foundation.
    So…owners, trainers and jockeys contract with this new league. Which owners, trainers and jockeys? Ownership and talent is not of the same quality as in professional sports. It’s quicksilver. It’s in a constant state of flux. One day owners are virtually anonymous, the next they wake up to find they own Funny Cide or Social Inclusion. So, what about Manny Azpurua? The new league signing the 85 year-old conditioner up? What about when Sanchez sells the horse from underneath him? He still part of the league? Geez. C’mon. You want racing to be major league? Work to restore it to what really made it wildly popular once upon a time – make it the best gamble available

    • fb0252

      Mine That Bird

  • Hamish

    Pope at his best. Now Fred, please in a one pager, please tell all what you just said so that all will read and comprehend, as there seems to be some merit.

    • Winston Calder

      No kidding…couldn’t finish it but would love to see the executive summary.

  • betterthannothing

    Racing cannot be effectively sold to the public unless abusers of horses and their destructive use of drugs and secrecy are gone and racing is able to stand on solid ground and face the public with a clean conscience. For now, serious damage must be repaired, trust and respect must be earned.

  • Jay Stone

    He must be given some credit for admitting some of the disasters perpetrated in this game came from him. Firstly comes rules and enforcement which he doesn’t really address. I feel he is not watching racing as I do daily throughout this country. If the separation of major league and minor league is as easy as stake races, msw races, and high level allowance races are major league and the rest comprise minors he’s in trouble. Almost 70 percent would become minors. In his world we are looking at contraction of racing eliminating both racing days and horses and workers.

    • fb0252

      very perceptive!

  • Marshall Cassidy

    Mr. Pope,

    You are obviously a master of self promotion and have given Racing’s problems serious thought over a considerable span of time. Both distinctions set you apart for self-confidence and dogged determination while you orbit a once-noble world of eternal optimism that flourishes in imagination.

    Would that your simple solutions could correct our failures with mere acceptance of your thoughtfully planned strategies: Racing’s salvation would become so easy! Unfortunately for your take on our problems, animals’ relative strengths and weaknesses are managed by people, who exhibit an equal array of potential complications; and the different states’ self-serving financial interests in Racing’s various venues effectively trump stakeholders business goals, be they frontside or backside. Horse racing is a bit more complicated than a professional ball team, or that team’s franchise, or that franchise’s league, or that league’s sport. We’re all individual entrepreneurs in this game called horse racing, negotiating a loosely woven fabric of common interest that evolves from the faithful care of horses; certainly not a defined population interested in corporate, athletic savants who are managed by Machiavellian leeches for the major benefit of media giants.

    In my opinion your thoughts — though extremely organized and probably appropriate to the more thoroughly human and not-openly gambling oriented business plans of ball game enterprises — could have been lyrically spoken by the much more entertaining Harold Hill of 1950s Broadway fame as the Music Man!

    • Peter P

      Agree M.C. Pope is no dope but blowing a lot of smoke on this.

      • Marshall Cassidy

        Obviously a smart man, though.

    • Jay Stone

      You have a great way with words Mr. Cassidy and there is much truth to what you said in the beautiful way you expressed it. My humor was brought out for a second when I thought you compared Fred Pope to Henry Hill.

      • Marshall Cassidy

        Which I did, for Harold Hill was the first impression that occurred to me and I couldn’t shake that image.

    • Indulto

      MC,
      Your comment is the most entertainingly appropriate response I’ve seen posted to any article on this forum.

      • Marshall Cassidy

        Thank you, Indulto. High praise indeed.

    • Garrett Redmond

      Mr. Cassidy,
      Before getting into another ’round’ with Fred Pope, can you master the art of writing
      brief, cogent sentences ?

      • Marshall Cassidy

        Yes, when I am not trying to parody Mr. Pope’s complicated thesis.

    • Sal Carcia

      Marshall, I still think there is value in trying find a common thread in this loosely structured system. Or maybe, just trying to understand it at a higher level. In the end, money is the defacto driver in the game. The main issue is NOT much money is being made at all levels.

      Maybe, it should be looked at the other way round. The focus should be on making money and then maybe the horse will end up better off. But, a longterm strategic view would be a requirement.

      • Marshall Cassidy

        Your points are valid, of course. But the subject matter is far too varied and muddied to address quickly.

        • Sal Carcia

          I agree. It’s complex system. And if even it was understood, it would still be difficult to affect change. But, understanding it is still a good first step. I am not claiming I have any clue though.

  • Elliott Ness

    This story is harder to understand, than the rules of racing.

  • Susan Crane-Sundell

    We don’t need leagues. We need sportsmanship and medication reform and owners who sincerely run horses because they care about and get a thrill out of horses. We need trainers who confer with owners. We need syndicates that have to abide by regulations that insure the safety of the horses that they purchase and run. We need claiming reform: rules that mandate that veterinary records for each horse travel from barn to barn upon claiming and are reviewed by independent veterinarians to insure the medication administration and therapeutic concerns and conditions of every horse that is claimed. Essentially, we need to protect the horses. Thus we will protect the jockeys. Owners should have more say and more accountability and control but everyone should answer to a higher authority that puts athletes and their health, safety and conduct first. We need to establish a separate entity that oversees gaming. I believe horseplayers need to be respected and rules in place that make this a fair and lucrative game for them. They keep the sport alive. Purses should be viable and allow owners the ability to make this worth their while. This is not a zero sum game: some faction doesn’t have to lose so that others can win. At present, gaming and the welfare of the horses are often at cross purposes. There shouldn’t be a requirement of live racing to operate casinos. This only jeopardizes the welfare of the horses.They fall victim to the elements, the claiming game and the disrepair of tracks and shedrows that are run really as an afterthought to the casinos.

    We don’t need tiers that separate rules and conduct. Everyone should be conducting themselves with the same propriety. We do need divisions that govern separate aspects of the sport.Those who know best about business aspects are not necessarily those who know best about horse welfare. Both factors can win. But no practices associated with this sport should ever be prioritized above the athletes themselves. There’s only one fair way to play this game:put the horses first.

    • fb0252

      this post should be nominated for Paulick Report Eclipse award, possibly?

  • Tinky

    While Fred remains too owner-centric, I do agree that American racing would benefit greatly from a reduction of dates, and emphasis on higher-class horses.

    • Really?

      Ya and cull all the rest of the horses? Hope you have a nice big green field somewhere.

  • Stephanie

    I thought just the other day that the US might need to do like they do in Japan, where there is the JRA or major circuit and the NRA (I believe) which is lower level horses. Graded quality animals run major circuit and others run in minor leagues. If your horse is good enough it will make it the major leagues. Of course this would also require us to give our horses weighted rankings like they do in every single other racing country in the world, to determine where the horse fits major/minor league wise.

    • Barry Irwin

      Stephanie, this may be the ONLY answer. Horse racing provides a wonderful example of why states’ rights has stopped America from becoming greater than it is now.

      • http://judgebork.wordpress.com Lou Baranello Former Steward

        Barry, You are the first person to mention states’ rights in this forum being at the root of today’s problems and that is an absolutely unimpeachable position. The governors appoint the commissioners, the commissioners approve the stewards and time has proven that these state appointed regulators simply do not regulate. If they had done so, the medication problems would have been curtailed after the second ruling coming from a competent Board Of Stewards. I believe Fred Pope’s proposition has some merit but I also believe it would require some very heavy lifting.

        • Barry Irwin

          A league concept does address states’ rights issues to a great extent and could be the answer. It has been tried, but agents of the status quo killed it and, in the process, cost racing one of its biggest owners, a guy that had as much crap as he could stomach from the so-called “powers that be.”

        • Jay Stone

          Sir, once again the states are the biggest problem. Their lack of regulation by political appointed commissions and stewards have weakened the game probably to a point of no return.

      • johnnyknj

        Oh Barry, you’re gonna bring out the wackos with a States Rights argument. Especially since you are correct.

        • Barry Irwin

          I think they are currently preoccupied with Benghazi and Obamacare.

          • Randy

            Respectfully, Barry, if you had lost a loved one in Benghazi or lost your health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act, you would not be so cavalier.

          • Barry Irwin

            Sorry for appearing that way. I understand. Bad joke.

      • kyle

        You do realize there would be no United States without federalism? I suppose if one is thinking in a vacuum one could say that about any of our founding institutions.

        • Jay Stone

          Yet we still have splinter groups and states like Texas that want to secede

      • Jay Stone

        Agree totally Barry, most don’t believe it but states rights is right now the biggest issue in this whole puzzle. Were the states to bow out gracefully a plan could be put together rather quickly that would work.

        • Barry Irwin

          Other than Indiana, I cannot really think of too many states that have helped racing. Most hurt it. Kentucky at least tries, but many times the support is just not there. California is the absolute worst and I feel sorry for Dr. Rick Arthur for having to be employed by that outfit.

          • Ron Maus

            Isn’t California an at-will employment state? Your beloved Dr. Arthur could always quit, and go to some loftier position. Must not be as unbearable for him as you would posit for all to read.

          • Barry Irwin

            Ron, I guess Rick is just not a quitter.

          • ginger2000

            I am sure that is it. People who want to make a difference have to be strong enough to hang in there. Kudos to Dr. Arthur.

          • Jay Stone

            Barry. I believe Florida trumps them all by their lengthy investigations that result in little or nothing getting done.

    • Really?

      This already exists. Major league horses go to Saratoga, Gulfstream, Del Mar etc. minor league go to other easier tracks.

      The ranking of the horses is outlined in the condition book.

  • Tim Smithsonian

    Fred, i hear sirens. It’s from the #whambulance. Why not share that you were outed out by the FAKE commish because you are like the others – well spoke..b*llsit artist. Go ride off in to the sunset. Thx.

  • togahombre

    No mention of the source of purse monies or handle managment, must not have any bearing on the situation

  • Dave Astar

    Great insight but I fear very few horsemen have the capabilty or desire to understand this issue. Smaller horsemen who operate at 2nd or 3rd tier levels, far from the major leagues, also need a “Major League” authority to begin operating in the best interest of the sport! Only then will consumers be able to recognize both the substance and a brand which should stand for integrity, trust, innovation and fair competition. Very few consumers see this today and in fact existing powers allow all four of these “core sporting elements” to erode year after year, and then wonder why consumers flock to other activities. (Losing 4% per year based upon the Jockey Club study.) The difference between surviving and thriving appears to be of little concern to far too many of the “rich hobbiest horsemen” in power positions. A pity for us all.

  • fb0252

    #1 priority possibly–take sport out of hands of those trying to rip it off for $$$ (at expense of horses etc.), and put it in hands of those who understand, appreciate and love athletics and horses. In the hands of the right people no one would be talking shrinking the sport so a few people can make a buck, and people would indeed be talking about what is best for horses and the sport in terms of raising needed revenue, injury prevention that would curtail use of drugs, and animal husbandry that would take the horses out of their isolated closets and put them in an environment they understand and enjoy.

    There are lots that understand real issues and the solutions, Need to speak up more imo.

  • Marlaine Meeker

    I do not care bark or no bark just get some teeth and begin taking a bite out of the huge mess this industry has allowed to exist for years. It would break my heart not to see the TB’s racing but maybe the time has come since those that benefit the most seem to care the least.

  • Really?

    He lost me when he talked about YMCA level horses being televised and how that’s a mistake. Is a race any less strategic when the mile goes in 1:36 vs 1:41? Of course watching the greats is exciting but those horses have to rise to the top somehow. Are they supposed to run against themselves? Hd also alludes that these YMCA horses which i assume he means are claimers need more medical care. Dumb. Trust me, the most elite barns in the country do the most tapping.

    I see some of these elite breeders sending horses to cheaper tracks to break their maidens. That way their mares value is maintained as she produced another winner. Clement sent horses to Suffolk to run on the grass. So will horses be able to go slumming from this major league.? It takes all kinds to keep this game running.

    As far is the jockey club is concerned I see it as the registration arm. Last year they randomly took away reg priveledges to a handful to excerpt their authority. What was the criteria for that? Every time I hear something from the jockey club it goes back to the LASIx agenda. They have their blinders on to anything else.

  • Sal Carcia

    Fred, this post is beyond my scope. I don’t say it as a criticism. For example, I don’t even know what the NTA is. Also, I thought it was Stronach that started the demise of the NTRA. He refused to fund it, if it became a competitor to his enterprise. The NTRA wanted to endorse TVG exclusively. They also wanted to take on the role as a hub for the ADW services. These issues seemed to cause a lot of controversy among its supporters. But, my view is just based on what I read.

    What mystifies me about your presentation is you blame the horse owners for the reasons behind the PETA video and yet you see the owners as the saviors of the industry. My question is where in your presentation do the owners make the transition from their present mode into a group that can organize and save the game? The owners along with everyone else are stuck in a short term money making point of view. How does this change?

  • Nancy Taylor

    Sorry, Mr Pope. The owners are not the solution, but they are the problem, especially here in California. You think the TOC is pushing for medication reform, optimal takeout rates or full fields? Zero chance of that happening with their self-serving business model in place.

    • Billy Direct

      I’m afraid that is the case. Same thing in England although here non-triers are the main problem rather than doping. In both cases, until there is a complete reversal in the way owners and trainers think, these problems will never be resolved.
      Racing ought to be about determining the best horse. That should mean training him rather than “medicating” him or “getting him handicapped”, and unless we can get back to that way of thinking racing is doomed to stagger from one PR disaster to another. As it is trainers with dubious [even if only anecdotal] reputations as far as medical enhancement is concerned are in much demand in America, so too are “handicap specialists” in England.
      Although only a lunatic would advocate putting Government in charge – on all available evidence they couldn’t run a whelk stall – one of the biggest problems on both sides of the Atlantic is that there are too many people with vested interests too close to the disciplinary process. If taking liberties did not pay dividends then no-one would take them; any competent primary school teacher ought to be able to run racing – if they could overcome resistance from within. Actually that probably applies also to both National Governments!

  • Roger

    Mr. Phipps could get this started by now LISTING ……A – B – C tracks based on HANDLE per race card.
    A tracks = Santa Anita, Del Mar, Keeneland,Churchill , Gulfstream Park, NY tracks, etc.
    B tracks = Calder, Tampa Bay, Fairgrounds , Pimlico, etc.
    C tracks = tracks that HANDLE less than A and B.
    The Jockey Club could then release WAGERING NUMBERS each quarter reflective of each of these Groups separately then an overall number to give the Industry and public a better sense
    of the “numbers” released.
    I understand what Mr.Pope is saying overall but in California the Owners Group (TOC) has too
    much power and seem to answer to no one except in a dispute where the CHRB has to become involved. The problems of Racing seem all the doorsteps of Owners according to Mr.Pope and
    yet he NEVER mentions the CUSTOMER aka racing fan,horseplayer,bettor,gambler,etc. The
    chicken/egg debate in thoroughbred racing….owner/horseplayer – who’s more important. The answer can only be they are EQUALLY important but Owner Groups don’t see it that way and therein lies the DISCONNECT.
    Horseplayers are absorbing the rising cost of Racing Forms that sell at newsstands and at the track that exceed $7 that use to cost 50 cents/75 cents in the 1960′s and $2.25/$2.50 in the mid 90′s.
    The Thoroughbred Industry has yet to really address that issue and the damage LONG TERM to future fans of our sport. Takeout Rates have been a BIG ISSUE in the last decade because the decade before is when the bevy of exotic bets were included in the wagering menus yet
    an Owner Group like the TOC in CA that shouldn’t have the power to CONTROL takeout rates
    has shown very little respect or attention to horseplayer’s pleas/ suggestions….we are viewed
    as the ENEMY.
    The Breeder’s Cup escaped Mr.Pope’s wrath…..why? Where are we 30 years later with the Breeder’s Cup? Lets have a full day Conference on their importance /failures. Breeder’s Cup
    puts on the biggest Show in Racing just like the NFL League Office does with the Super Bowl – MLB does with World Series and the same with the NBA and NHL in their biggest Show. Based on this….why shouldn’t the BC Chairman be Commissioner of the A -B – C tracks that are signed up given they (BC) puts on the biggest Show in thoroughbred racing.
    This sounds good but then you have “problems” because in CA the Owners Group (TOC)
    will be very reluctant to GIVE UP any CONTROL they currently use/ misuse.
    Can we get an AZ student to write a THESIS on the last 20 years of the popular AZ Symposium that brings part / most of the thoroughbred Industry together to discuss
    issues and present solutions / alternatives to the current business model. Lets examine the TOP 3 issues/stories each year that resulted from the week’s AZ Symposium and see WHAT HAPPENED to these issues. Should we expect anything meaningful to result from the annual
    AZ Symposium? Can I suggest one TOPIC at a future AZ Symposium……The Importance Of HANA …..can we have one HANA member on each state Racing Board to ensure the majority fan (bets less than $300) is represented. That would be a good start but someone would have to recommend this HANA member to the Governor to sit on the Board :)

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