Hancock: A Proud ‘Elitist,’ And In Good Company

by | 03.14.2016 | 8:28am
Arthur B. Hancock III, owner of Stone Farm in Paris, Ky.
Arthur B. Hancock III, owner of Stone Farm in Paris, Ky.

I was a bit puzzled when at a recent HBPA conference a radio host by the name of Stephen Byk referred to those of us who are trying to clean up our sport and protect our horses as “elitists.”

I have been fighting this battle against the liberal use of drugs in horse racing for a long time, and if an elitist is a person who lives and breathes horses, who worries about them 24/7, and who works with them every day, then I accept Mr. Byk's accusation.

Mr. Byk should also recognize that in calling me and other like- minded people elitists, he places us in good company, since every person in every other country in the rest of the entire world races their horses without the widespread drugging policies that are prevalent in America!

Is it elitist to support a bill that would put the United States Anti-Doping Agency in charge of policing our sport, thereby attaining national uniformity?

Is it elitist to attempt to protect our horses and our breed?

Is it elitist to want the sport of Thoroughbred racing, to which we all dedicate our lives, to be clean, above board, loved and respected?

Is it elitist to yearn to once again be proud of our sport?

Is it elitist to care?

If that is the case, I would say to Mr. Byk, yes I am an elitist and damned proud of it, too.

Arthur B. Hancock III is the owner of Stone Farm in Paris, Ky.

  • Munson

    Mr. Hancock, Byk’s use of the term ‘elitist’ goes much deeper under the surface. As a biased 21st century ‘journalist’, Byk inserts his politics into everything he does. He’s constantly on the side of the ‘little guy’ – which in this case are drug abusing trainers who are exploited (in his mind) by rich owner/breeders. He simply cannot take merely reporting on newsmakers without trying to make some news himself to satisfy his ego – and he’s accomplished his mission in this instance. He’s now likely emboldened and will ramp up the rhetoric against you elites like any good little community organizer.

    Keep fighting the good fight against drugs and don’t give him the attention he so much craves. Only the amateur pharmacists who fancy themselves trainers, and their mouth breathing fans, listen to his ramblings anyway. I was emboldened to see in an earlier Paulick story about his remarks that he hold such little sway in this game, as it should be.

    • Quilla

      Whoa, Munson, inserted some politics in your own reply, did you not?

      • tony a

        Oh, code words huh? Unbelievable.

  • kcbca1

    I guess I’m with Arthur Hancock III.

  • Well at least Arthur is not a Communist!

  • Horses first

    The sad truth is that many trainers are incapable of training without drugs, yet the rest of the world can.

  • Thinker

    By the time you reach the $3,000 claimers…drugs, blocks and the vet bill are an everyday normality. The sad truth in my opinion is that until every trainer/owner can afford the luxury of being an elitist…the sport of kings continues on the same path.

    • Linda Parker

      All I have is $3,000-$5,000 claimed and I can assure you none of them have “drugs, blocks and the vet bills” you refer to.
      Please don’t generalize, we are not all dopers or cheaters.

      • JohnB

        Well said Linda. A level playing field is what I think everyone wants.

    • Beth Wolpert

      I have friends who are not rich nor privileged, and who operate in the world of the $3K claimers. One wrote a book on drug free racing and the other runs her horses so naturally that they don’t even wear shoes. And guess what? They’ve even won a few. The key is – they are good people who are not greedy and do what they do for the love of the horse. Sadly, they are the precious and rare ones. But they show that it CAN be done. No matter what anyone tells you. It CAN be done.

  • Nathan Prather

    Keep up the fight. As a horseplayer that puts money into this game, I want to not have to handicap Veterinarians. It’s hard enough handicapping horses performances. Super Trainers = Super Dopers. AKA Lance Armstrong diet for horses.

  • Peter Scarnati

    Byk’s commentary is nothing more than yet another indication of the bizarro world we live in today. Up is down, black is white, good is bad, bad is good.
    Whenever I here the words of those who continue attempting to define this bizarro world — which so many misguided souls believe we have become — I simply tune it out and rely on my own good instincts and plain common sense to determine where the real truth lies.

    • Northern Dancer

      Sadly, the racehorses are the victims of this bizarre world that you refer to.

  • Northern Dancer

    My farm in Paris, KY was close to theirs. Back in 1999 I attended many owner conferences at the Hilton in Lexington.
    I can attest to the fact that Mr. Hancock and his wife are not only horse lovers, but they were very active in preventing the widespread use of drugs in horse racing.
    Sadly, we are all being drowned out by a small minority who has made regular doping (therapeutic or otherwise) business as usual.
    As for Steve Byk? I bet you he has never mucked a stall, smell and felt the sweat from a horse that just ran its fanny-off, hotwalked, rubbed and wrapped sore legs, held a horse to comfort it etc etc.
    Another thing about the Hancocks and also Claiborne Farm they treat everyone equally. When we visited their farms we were always treated with respect even though we didn’t have the millions that many people spend.
    What I find so disturbing about some of Steve Byk’s radio sessions that I listened to is he actually argued for racehorses breaking down and dying as if this was an acceptable practice.
    It’s not acceptable, and the chronic use of drugs greatly contributes to this very sad scenario.

    • Jocke Muth

      Mr Byk represents the people racing would so much better of if they would be run out of the sport, unfortunately the HBPA has racing in a strangle hold thanks to the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978.

  • tony a

    Steve Byk is a pompous, pretentious, jerk. His show really is nothing more than a platform to shill something.

  • Barbara Bowen

    Mr. Hancock is elite in the best sense of the word. He is always honest and compassionate to horses and those who love them. “Take care of the horse, and he will take care of you.”

    Tells you what he knows, doesn’t pretend when he doesn’t know, and treats everyone well. The day I first met him over 20 years ago was not an easy day as an important horse had been lost, and his response was to ask me if I would like to walk through a field of babies and mamas with him. That transcendent day is one of the reasons I still have some faith left in the sport of horse racing today.

    • whirlaway

      I hope for racing there will always be members of the Hancock family in the sport, not to mention what their bloodlines and dedication to breeding has done to benefit others breeding horses worldwide,

      • Bourbon Man

        I tend to be more of an Arthur fan than of Seth

        • whirlaway

          I like him too, he inherited a small parcel of land and built his breeding farm by acquiring additional land, and he was the first of the Claiborne family to breed a Ky Derby winner. He may have been born into this racing family but much of his success was his own efforts and thankfully
          Sunday Silence that helped keep the farm moving forward. The horses bred by this family will continue to benefit breeders for the future and the
          story of this family staying in the game for over a century is amazing in any business today in America.

    • IrishMick

      Well put….ABH III is a true horseman – Steve Byk is a gambler who has a piece of a few partnership horses. Big difference!

    • Charles Smith

      Steve Byk is a snail compared to Arthur Hancock. Byk has turned his obscure satellite radio program into a platform from which to spew venom at those who disagree with his desire to shield and protect the interests of horsemen who are benefiting greatly from permissive medication rules. Byk represents so much that is wrong about this sport. He just looks like a fool when he throws mud at the likes of Arthur Hancock.

      • Barbara Bowen

        Arthur Hancock is one of a kind. But I don’t think eviscerating Byk serves a purpose. He seems like a nice enough guy and while he panders to his frequent guests (he has to keep them coming back to fill 3 hours a day), I don’t recall that he spews venom? Agree he is a horseplayer and radio show host with very little actual hands on horse experience or natural affinity for the animals, or a historical perspective on the sport or the people in it unless they appear regularly on his show….

  • BILL CASNER

    Staci and Arthur Hancock have been stalwarts in the relentless pursuit of clean racing in America–I would consider that the noblest of endeavors. Arthur grew up with a farm work ethic fostered by his father Bull Hancock. Arthur spent considerable time in the racetrack trenches working under Eddie Neloy who was famous for demanding the best from his employees. Arthur is one hell of horseman and a pretty darn good Bluegrass picker not to mention the breeder of TWO Ky. Derby winners–Gato Del Sol and Sunday Silence. Nothing was handed to him–he had to work like hell for what he has accomplished
    Staci and Arthur Hancock are two people who I have great admiration for–They are my hero’s

    • johnnyknj

      Nice to hear. I don’t know him but always admired his straightforward views and the fact he was a bit of a black sheep. Certainly did not toe the company line. Byk, on the other hand is much like the end of the horse that does not eat.

    • Bellwether

      Why would ANY decent law abiding human being not want H.R. 3084 passed for the sake of “The Greatest Sport On This Planet”???…

      • Jocke Muth

        Simple when passed the HBPA will no longer be the “top dog”, and it is much harder to “blackmail” the Fed’s then track owners with “withholding simulcast signals”, try that crap with the Fed’s and they might just cancel the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978. that gives the HBPA that power.

        • Bellwether

          HBPA sure helped put the screws in the coffin once known as Colonial Downs but the owner’s of the track put their share in also…

        • Northern Dancer

          Their monopolization of signals via the Interstate Horseracing Act has got to go, and the HBPA will go it.
          Let’s celebrate.

    • togahombre

      2 1/2 derby winners, fu peg too

      • BILL CASNER

        I stand corrected

    • Northern Dancer

      Not to mention the fact they brought back one of their beloved stallions from Europe to ensure he didn’t meet the same fate as Ferdinand. Sorry, but the name escapes me right now.

      • Elle D

        That was Gato. I went out to the farm to see him once after he returned to Kentucky. I’d have to go back into my mental archive for when it was. I only recall it was the week of a Churchill Breeders Cup.

      • C Hogan

        Exceller

    • AP Indys Missing Nut

      I have mad respect for Arthur Hancock but to say “nothing was handed to him” is so idiotic it hurts. While he had troubles in his past just being a Hancock and growing up at Claiborne shaped his life and much of his success.

    • Convene

      Mine too. As are you. You stood behind your vow to race Lasix-free.

    • Larry Ensor

      Bill, completely agree. But to say “Nothing was handed to him” is a bit of a stretch. His last name is Hancock, That was handed to him. The name alone commands a bit of respect and certainly opened a lot of doors that wouldn’t be opened to the average horse “guy” on the street. But those same doors can and will close if you can’t do the walk also.

      A lot of this industry is made up of those with family connections. Some who are quite capable and a lot who are not.

      No disrespect intended my comment is based on a lifetime in the business and sport. And someone that was fortunate to be handed a “name”.

  • meaghanedwards

    Arthur’s among the best out there.

    • Tinky

      For future reference, when referring to one of the elite, it’s best to use “amongst”.

      • Barbara Bowen

        You are such an elitist, Tinky:-)

    • Elle D

      He is that — and he plays a mean banjo.

  • tony a

    Byk sounds like the elitist, he’s pompous and pretentious and intolerant of any opposing views.

  • Bellwether

    Hope like hell they pass H.R. 3084 Mr. Hancock as do the majority of ALL “T-Bred Horse Racing” Freaks/Fans…Thank You Sir for standing up and being counted!!!…

  • Jackmw

    There is a chasm in the manner in which these two individuals view the sport. The main difference being that Hancock is an advocate for the animal and Byk for the public that supports these animals each time they step up to a betting window.

  • Garrett Redmond

    Mr. Hancock: Well said and in plain English. If only the rest of us ‘Elitists’ would step forward it would help our just cause. Any who have not yet taken their first step can do it now by joining WHOA.

  • Jocke Muth

    Well stated Mr Hancock.

  • C Hogan

    Thank you Mr. Hancock. You are one of the best to represent horse racing.

  • nucky thompson

    Well said sir ! A true gentleman of the sport. Indeed Mr. Hancock’s elitist heritage can be traced all the way back to the days of the French Revolution when Arthur Hancock I said to King Louis XVI “let them eat hay and oats”

  • Matthew Weaver

    There are two parts to this.. The first part is dealing with the actual plan of letting an agency like the USADA take over all testing for horse racing and taking the jurisdiction away from the individual states and giving that power to the federal government. When we look at any area of federal legislation whether that be the environment, education, or healthcare, in which the federal government takes control, we all can see how those areas become run in a incompetent manner. The other part of this is the actual laws that are wanting to be changed by some. I am in the medical field and I can tell you that Lasix on its own is not a performance enhancer as some suggest. It may indirectly cause a horse to run faster because the loss of body fluid makes a horse lighter. But unlike substances like steroids , Lasix does not have any anabolic effects. In my opinion the benefits greatly outweigh the risks because it prevents bleeding in many horses. I do agree that beyond Lasix drugs like clenbuterol, which does have anabolic effects, and the indiscriminate use of pain melds to mask lameness need to be eliminated. The ban of Lasix will only help one group in horseracing…. The Elites. The reason is they can afford hyperbaric treatments for a bleeder, they can afford unconventional treatments that the rest of the horse owning community can not. I believe that is who Steve Byk was referring to. Common sense must prevail. Leaving all testing to an organization that has never tested one animal is not the answer.

    • Barbara Bowen

      If you can afford a racehorse, you can afford those treatments. Do you think Lasix is free? Besides, if Lasix goes away, the market cost and access to those natural therapies will be less as more trainers use them. Basically, you are saying that the “non-elites” can’t afford to give a horse time off? But running on Lasix requires more recovery time between races, too. Lasix has created pedigree trees of horses predisposed to bleeding. (The better argument is that US dirt racing requires speed throughout the race, and we provide a very different training environment than the rest of the world.)

      The elimination of Lasix will reduce the horse population available to race in the near term, and therefore there will be less races and less tracks, but that is already happening. It will help the sport long term. Sometimes resisting the future of any industry is futile and it leaves you on the sidelines when you refuse to get on board at multiple stops along the way.

      The USADA is a last resort measure because the sport is fractured among state regulatory agencies and its inherently selfish, small minded, and divisive forces.

      • Matthew Weaver

        Lasix is $10 an injection. Hyperbaric treatments ( and you need many for bleeders) cost in the thousands of dollars. Totally ridiculous to say that a smaller claiming operation should be able to afford. Again grouping all meds together is just plain dumb.

        • Larry Ensor

          Depending on location a Hyperbaric treatment can cost as little as a few hundred dollars. Most who use them buy a “package” which reduces the cost. Depending on the horse and or the trainer most horses incorporate a treatment X days before a race. So, in fact it does not cost thousands in the areas that I am familiar with. Given the fact I have received “pre-race” vet bills in excess of $500+++ I don’t see Hyperbaric treatments expensive. I am not sure if the “science” is exact and or proven. But I know trainers that swear by it.

          If Hyperbaric Chambers were installed by the race tracks as a non-profit convince. I am sure the start up cost would be regrouped quickly. Even with a very low treatment fee.

          I completely agree with Barbara’s comment;

          “If you can afford a racehorse, you can afford those treatments”

          I also feel that owner/trainers should be required to give horses R&R after X amounts of starts and or months/years of constant racing and training.

          I say this as a “little guy” who barely makes ends meet in the horse business these days.

          • Matthew Weaver

            I am sure you are a very involved owner but next time you have a horse tell your trainer not to give Lasix before the horse trains. Because I am sure you realize that all horses, even overseas, use Lasix on non race days for training. Then when your horse bleeds watch how the horse chokes on his/her own blood . I have been there and it is traumatizing to a real horse lover and to the horse. Then we will see how you feel about using Lasix to prevent bleeds. You can’t use a hyperbaric chamber until the horse has already choked on their own blood.

      • Matthew Weaver

        Also the racing programs in the U.S. Are much different. With the number of racetracks , the U.S. Races a lot more than internationally with a wider array of horses. We have more levels of racing( many more claiming races). This means that our horses do have less recovery time and many race year round. As far as breeding goes, do you not think the elite breeders like Stone Farm don’t know who the sires who bled are?? They still stand them because they equal big money. Which is another way in which breeders speak out of both sides of their mouth. I do agree that bleeding is a genetic factor in the breed. Maybe these big time breeding farms should not market stallions who bled during their racing careers. You never hear that though do you?? I wonder why??

        • Barbara Bowen

          We shouldn’t race year round. Horses and people need to rest. Stone Farm hasn’t stood stallions in many years. Other farms stand valuable bleeders because they all run on Lasix, so who knows who the bleeders are now? No one wants to go out of business before the playing field is leveled. If a horse wins Gr. 1 stakes he becomes a stallion, regardless of masked flaws inherent in our over medicated and non uniformly regulated sport.

    • Katie

      Hate to point this out, Matthew, but YOU are an animal. So is Lance Armstrong. So is Maria Sharapova. Drugs testing is drugs testing, no matter the subject of the blood draw or urine sample. Somehow, I’m a little suspicious of the medical expertise you claim. A government organization like USADA would be quite capable of taking on the job – human athletes are at least as persnickety as horses and their owners/trainers – but frankly I don’t think USADA should have to police this sport. Racing will clean itself up in this country, or it will probably – and deservedly – decline.

      • RayPaulick

        USADA is not a government agency.

      • Matthew Weaver

        Absolutely. Let the government do the job. The other federal government agencies do such an efficient and wonderful job why not empower another to take over horse racing. You are a government dreamer. This is not the solution. The private sector can handle this in a more efficient manner and it will cost much less. The tracks like NYRA should withhold their simulcast signals until partner tracks adopt uniform med rules is one “out of the box” solution. Relying on the government to solve problems is why this country is where it is.

      • Matthew Weaver

        By the way . I have a advanced medical degree and I can guarantee I know more on this subject than you do. So you really shouldn’t doubt ones knowledge until you can prove it.

  • Matthew Weaver

    And by the way, Ray Paulick has made himself such a spokesman for these changes yet has not one dime invested in the ownership of a racehorse . It’s easy to be critical when you have no skin in the game.

    • LostInTheFog

      That’s such a trite, tired and elitist argument you make. For example, using your logic sports writers aren’t justified in criticizing drug rules or testing in the NFL, MLB or NBA unless they also own a piece of one of the teams? And consumers of products aren’t justified in critically questioning the actions of a corporation making those products unless they also own shares in that company?

      • Matthew Weaver

        It is fine to be critical and obviously we are all entitled to our opinion. Especially those who portray themselves to be an expert when they know extremely little on the subject like Ray. To group Lasix in with all anabolic and other illicit drugs is absurd and shows a lack of understanding of the subject.

        • RayPaulick

          When and how did I “group Lasix in with all anabolic and other illicit drugs”? And if you note the byline, this piece was written and submitted by Arthur Hancock, not me (though I share his sentiments and respect the lifetime he has dedicated to breeding, raising, racing and caring for some of the best Thoroughbreds we’ve ever seen).

          • Matthew Weaver

            Ray, you have grouped the ban of Lasix with the other drugs numerous times in previous statements you have made in the past. To claim otherwise would be ridiculous. If you do disagree and believe that Lasix should not be included in the list of banned substances , I would love for you to state that for the record. Every tweet, quote , and other related published article , whether written by you or just put out on your website, states the contrary.

          • RayPaulick

            I support the Thoroughbred Horseracing Integrity Act co-sponsored by Reps. Barr and Tonko, primarily because it takes the government out of regulating medication rules, testing and enforcement and creates a national, independent body to oversee this important aspect of the game.

            I am disappointed that American Thoroughbred trainers are unable to do what trainers in England, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, United Arab Emirates, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and several South American countries do, which is run horses without the need of race-day medication.

            However, it is far more important to put in place the independent, non-governmental regulatory oversight that Barr-Tonko creates than push for a Lasix ban.

          • Bellwether

            I think what will come down one day is races with Lasix and races without Lasix as it seems Horses like Cal. Chrome/Run Happy and others just don’t have to have it…

          • Convene

            Well said, Ray. One could call it a step in the right direction, setting us on a better path – that hopefully will lead forward.

          • larry

            lm still waiting for an answer from you on owners appealing inquiries. You ask us to submit are questions but no answer so far. For all the talk about integrity l would like someone in this industry to explain how creating two outcomes from one race is integrity?

    • Katie

      That’s exactly why he’s the kind of individual who is entitled to be critical: it’s called disinterest. People who have no conflict of interest, and who have expertise, are the ones whose judgement counts the most in questions where wealth is at stake. Do you ask a pesticide manufacturer to evaluate the cancer-causing capabilities of a chemical, or do you ask a biochemist with no vested interest in the question? Geez. This is something that should not have to be explained.

  • gus stewart

    Anyone advocating for no drug use on horses is ok with me. That family in horse biz a long time thanks for that..when it comes to ridicoulous statements which is this guys rant, take a look at hired employee of drf watchmaker today saying 3 rides on weekend stakes, yes stakes races were questionable.. i mean this guy gave award away a few years ago at nac in vegas, another time warped employee in racing biz. Riders were mike smith mario guterriz and some jock at tampa,, wow in stakes

  • Kingturf

    Sure, take a cheap shot at Steve Byk. Steve has provided many of us who are not well known enough to rub elbows with some of the wealthy owners, breeders and quite frankly snob -ss people who control the racing industry. For years we were relegated to reading news articles in the racing form and was given a half hour recap on some of the biggest races in America on the 4 letter network. Over the past 6 years I learned more about the inside of the running of this industry thanks to Steve who has allowed Breeders, Owners, Jockeys and Veterinarians to give their input into today Thoroughbreds news. I want a level playing field so when I make a bet I am not trying to figure out who is cheating to win. All racing jurisdiction should have one drug enforcement rule nation-wide. The only reason Mr. Hancock is answering the challenge, maybe due to what Steve stated was “Truth”. I love Thoroughbreds from having the chance to visit the farms, racetracks and yes making a wager. I can name only a few of the major people in this industry that was very warm heart in meeting them over the past 35 years. Just greeting someone and shaking their hand by giving a compliment is the most that I do. I don’t ask for autographs or picture taking. But, I will add elitist people I see at the racetrack don’t want nothing to do with us normal race track goers as they come off we are fortunate they are in this game. Leave Steve Byk alone, he draws more people to the game than many would never know.

  • Convene

    Count me in as elitist too. Well said, Mr. Hancock!

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