While attending sales and major events throughout the racing world over the last 25 years, I would often run into the Italian bloodstock agent, Eugenio Colombo, who has as much passion and enthusiasm for the sport and the Thoroughbred breed as anyone I've ever known.
Colombo (pictured, left) got his start in the business in 1969, when he sold to an American syndicate an Italian-bred horse named Bacuco, who came to the United States and finished third in the now-defunct Washington, D.C., International. Ten years later, Colombo himself became a U.S. import, moving his international bloodstock agency first to New York, then to Southern California, and most recently to the Ocala, Fla., area.
His client list reads like a Who's Who of international racing and breeding. It includes some of the most respected owners and breeders in Europe, North America, Asia and Australia. It's no surprise that Colombo's philosophy is to establish and build long-term relationships with his clients.
Like so many of us who love Thoroughbred racing and breeding, Colombo is deeply concerned about the current state of the industry. He doesn't claim to be an expert on simulcasting or Advance Deposit Wagering and isn't offering to mediate the ongoing disputes involving horsemen's organizations, racetracks and wagering companies.
What he does know is horses, and the brief commentary that follows serves as an appropriate reminder of the noble, living and breathing animal that is at the center of this global, multi-billion-dollar business of Thoroughbred racing and breeding. Without the horse, we have nothing.
Colombo's comments seem appropriate as we reflect back on the last 12 months and look ahead to 2009. As this will be the final post from the Paulick Report for 2008, I'd like to take this opportunity to wish our friends around the racing world a new year filled with good health for themselves, their families and their equine and human friends. – Ray Paulick
One of the most important factors in the decline of racetrack attendance is the disappearing culture of the horse in our society, and it is a worldwide issue.
My generation, a 1944 model, and those who came before me, had the opportunity to see horses up close in their everyday lives. This helped develop an admiration for these beautiful animals that I, and so many others, have always loved.
Unfortunately for the more recent generations, horses are no longer part of mainstream society. They no longer are a major part of our culture. Today's kids grow up in front of the television, and even sadder, playing video games.
With few exceptions, such as the “HorseFair” program that the New York Racing Association presented during the week of the Belmont Stakes some years back, the culture of the horse has been overlooked in our sport for far too long. It is our responsibility to help bring the horses back into our society and culture, in every possible way. We should combine racing and other equestrian activities at the racecourse, whether it's polo, show jumping, rodeos, or wagon train races – anything and everything that can motivate people to rediscover the beauty of the horse and enjoy the time they spend at the racecourse. After all, the racecourse should be the horse's kingdom, not just a gambling facility.
While I'm on my soapbox, I have a few other thoughts about the racing and breeding industry.
RACING DAYS. Five racing days a week is too much for any city and it becomes boring and monotonous to many people — not to mention that an empty racecourse is a depressing place to be and short fields are even more depressing. In my opinion, two racing days a week, as Japan and Hong Kong offer, will be a winning formula; we will have full fields with the same handle of five racing days, more attendance and a more enjoyable racing atmosphere, with 12 races a day. Quality versus quantity was and is the name of the game.
THE BREED: The over-commercialization of the last 30 years, along with the culture of speed, has weakened the breed. Overmedication has worsened the selection; horses don't stay or last long enough to create a real lasting champion who can captivate and fascinate the public. We need to make a transition to a long-term racing calendar with more emphasis on races of a mile and a quarter and longer.
MEDICATION: Medication has reached the point of no return, producing obscene veterinary bills, and a very negative image on our society of a sport filled with cheaters and animal abusers. The rest of the world runs on ZERO medication. We must line up with them.
Copyright © 2008, The Paulick Report
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