One of the staples of the Jockey Club Round Table Conference on Matters Pertaining to Racing, to be held this Sunday in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., is a report on the activities of the Jockey Club, whose primary responsibility to the industry is registering Thoroughbreds and approving the names horses are given.
Of course, the Jockey Club wants to do much, much more than that, and its executive team, led by president Alan Marzelli, has focused on building the organization's “family of companies” to include the collection and commercial sales of racing, breeding and auction data, the sale of handicapping information, software development, and technology services to racetracks, farms and other businesses in the industry. Either Marzelli or chief administrative officer James Gagliano will report on Sunday that every branch of the company is doing an outstanding job.
What you won't hear in the report is how the tentacles of the Jockey Club and some of its individual members strategically reach into various organizations and businesses in an effort to exert control throughout the Thoroughbred industry.
To quote from the book, “The Right Blood: America's Aristocrats in Thoroughbred Racing,” by Carole Case: “This is a story about money and power, and about a particular group of rich and powerful Americans—the men (and a very few women) of the Jockey Club. With its founding in New York City at the turn of the twentieth century, the Club took the reins of Thoroughbred racing in the United States, and it has never entirely let them go. For more than a century, then, the Jockey Club has dominated horseracing in this country.”
For better or worse, the Jockey Club, which has been ruled since 1982 by chairman Dinny Phipps and vice chairman William S. Farish, has considerable power over the Breeders' Cup, Keeneland, National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association and its American Graded Stakes Committee, Bloodhorse magazine, and the New York Racing Association, among others.
Here's a quick rundown.
— William Farish's son, Bill, is the board chairman of the Breeders' Cup, which before its governance was changed a few years ago, had been tightly controlled by the senior Farish and his longtime friend and horse business partner G. Watts Humphrey. The battle over control of the Breeders' Cup board has been detailed by previous articles in the Paulick Report..
— The senior Farish replaced Ted Bassett in 2006 as one of the three trustees who oversees Keeneland's operations. Keeeland's president, Nick Nicholson, is a former executive with the Jockey Club. There is some speculation that one of the senior Farish's goals is to expand Keeneland to the point where it can bid to become a permanent host for the Breeders' Cup, making it the Augusta National of the racing industry.. An expansion is on the drawing board now, with Keeneland making a possible Breeders' Cup bid as early as 2011.
— The NTRA board is populated by several Jockey Club members, including Humphrey and Robert Clay, plus Jockey Club president Marzelli, and three racetrack executives — Nicholson of Keeneland, Bob Elliston of Turfway Park (owned in part by Keeneland), and Charles Hayward of the New York Racing Association, which has been controlled by Phipps for more than 30 years. At one point, the NTRA and Jockey Club shared office space in New York.
— The Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association has had some semblance of independence from the Jockey Club in recent years, through its chairman, Bill Casner, who is not a Jockey Club member but has been asked to speak at Sunday's Round Table. Casner was recently succeeded by Reynolds Bell, currently a steward of the Jockey Club and a bloodstock agent whose major client is Farish's Lane's End Farm. Dell Hancock, whose family's Claiborne Farm boards the Phipps family mares, served as chair of the American Graded Stakes Committee until recently being succeeded by Peter Willmott. Steve Duncker, currently the board chairman of NYRA, was a previous Graded Stakes Commiteee chair.
— Stuart Janney is chairman of Bloodhorse magazine, whose board also includes Bill Farish, G. Watts Humphrey, D.G. Van Clief, and Antony Beck—all Jockey Club members with the exception of Beck, who is very close friends with Bill Farish. Janney is a Jockey Club steward, a cousin of Dinny Phipps, and chairman of Bessemer Trust, the company founded by Phipps' great-grandfather. He succeeded Humphrey as chairman, who in turn succeeded Bayard Sharp, Farish's late father-in-law.
— The New York Racing Association's close relationship with the Jockey Club is no secret. Its tracks serve as playgrounds for many Jockey Club members, most notably Dinny Phipps, who has the most desired finish line boxes at the NYRA tracks. The Jockey Club even has offices at the New York tracks. The Jockey Club once officially ruled New York racing, but lost its official control when a horseman named Jule Fink went to court after being denied an owner's license. NYRA's board is populated with Jockey Club members, and its chairman, Steve Duncker, like most chairman before him, is a member of the Club as well.
The tentacles clearly reach into breed associations, regulatory agencies and other organizations throughout racing and breeding.
What isn't clear is why the Jockey Club, led by its chairman and vice chairman, wants so desperately to control the industry, and what they plan to do with that control.
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