by | 11.17.2010 | 12:47am
By Ray Paulick
The Paulick Report is giving its first annual
Chutzpah Award to Don and Mira Ball of Donamire Farm near Lexington, Ky. The Balls, well, they have the balls to be hosting a fundraising reception at their farm July 28, one week from tonight, “honoring Kentucky's Senate Republican Caucus and benefiting the Republican Party of Kentucky's Senate Trust.”

The Senate Republican Caucus the Balls want us to “honor” is the same one that killed legislation desperately needed by the Kentucky horse industry during a special session of the general assembly last month. Don Ball is a good friend of Senate President David “Blackjack” Williams, who orchestrated the death of House Bill 2, which would have permitted slot machines at racetracks and substantially increased purses. The bill was approved by the House of Representatives but killed by the Republican-controlled Appropriations and Revenue Committee in the Senate, denying it a vote before the full Senate.

Williams is the guy who enjoys visiting casino boats in Indiana and Mississippi, according to numerous sources. We don't know if Ball likes to gamble on the riverboats or in Las Vegas casinos, but we do know he is adamantly opposed to Kentucky racetracks and horsemen having the ability to compete on a level playing field with tracks in states like Indiana, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Florida, Louisiana, New Mexico, New York, Maryland and others, where slot machines are in operation or have been approved to benefit purses and breeding programs.

And because Don Ball is one of Kentucky's largest political donors (he and his wife have given $243,317 to state and federal Republican causes since 2002), folks in office tend to listen to him. So in some ways, he may be the person most responsible for killing House Bill 2.

The state's Republican Party shares in this award, because it had the nerve to send the invitation addressed to “GOP Friends” to numerous people in the Thoroughbred industry. Included in the invitation was an urging to “help us to strengthen the Senate Republican Majority and maintain balance in Frankfort.” Can I get an amen on that?

For $500, you, too, can attend. It may actually be worth the money, just to tell the Balls and the Republican State Senators likely to be there what you thought of their opposition to House Bill 2. To RSVP, contact Brittany Dowell at the Republican Party of Kentucky, at (502) 875-5130, or send her an email at [email protected].

On second thought, why not just call that number and send an email explaining why you won't be supporting most Republican candidates for Kentucky's state Senate in the near future—even if you've been a lifelong Republican. (Please note: Tom Buford of Nicholasville was the only Senate Republican to support the bill in the A&R Committee vote; he deserves industry support.)

This outrageous invitation comes to Kentucky breeders and owners at a time when they are just learning how much of an economic beating they may be taking in the yearling marketplace. The first day of the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky yearling sale on Monday saw 49% of the yearlings catalogued go unsold as buy-backs or withdrawals. Prices for the horses that sold, despite being buoyed by significant spending from Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai (whose associate bought Fasig-Tipton last year), were down 33.3% in median and 23.8% in average. And it's only the first inning of a long ball game.

Keep in mind breeders are selling yearlings in 2009 that were conceived through 2007 stud fees based on an “up” market. In many cases, the yearlings were produced from mares purchased by breeders in more bullish times.

But the Balls and their Senate guests at the Donamire shindig probably will be oblivious to the pain many Kentucky breeders are feeling. The Senate Republicans will marvel at the architectural beauty of Donamire and its 13,000-square-foot residence. They'll wonder how the horse business can possibly be struggling when it has such a beautiful showplace farm. Of course, they'll have no idea that Donamire is the antithesis of a typical Kentucky Thoroughbred farm that is struggling to get through difficult economic times and facing an even tougher economic climate down the road as the industry continues to be weakened by external forces (i.e., states that can offer higher purses and better breeding incentives through slots revenue).

Donamire Farm and its owners do not depend on a healthy Thoroughbred industry to survive; the farm was funded through the thousands of homes built by their
Ball Homes LLC. In fact, some suggest Ball Homes will be even more profitable if the Thoroughbred industry fails and farm land is sold cheaply for residential development.

Now a final word about our Chutzpah Award winners, Don and Mira Ball. They've won many other, more prestigious awards for the good work they've done in the Central Kentucky community. Mira Ball has been active in supporting higher education, substance abuse programs, Kentucky Educational Television, and medical research, among other endeavors. Don Ball is a former president of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association and is a director emeritus of that organization. They breed to race and support Kentucky racing that way. They've opened their farm to many, many other worthwhile causes and fundraisers over the years.

Don and Mira Ball are not bad people, but when it comes to Kentucky politics and the horse industry, you have to give them credit: they have a lot of chutzpah.

Copyright © 2009, The Paulick Report

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