Some people think I'd do just about anything to not get on an airplane. One of those folks is Brad Cummings, my partner in the Paulick Report. A couple of weeks ago, knowing that I've had my fill of bad experiences with commercial airlines, he asked if I'd be driving out to the Breeders' Cup from my home in Lexington, Ky., to Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif.
“Are you nuts?” I asked. I told Brad I was in the process of booking a flight but then, for some reason, said, “Why don't you drive out there with me.” We had just been discussing our disappointment in not being able to get a group of people together from Central Kentucky to fill a chartered bus and attend a Chicago-area fundraiser Oct. 25 for apprentice jockey Michael Straight, who was seriously injured in a riding mishap at Arlington Park this summer. Brad had really been hoping to show that people in Kentucky had the young jockey in their thoughts and prayers, but understood that giving up a Sunday and Monday to attend the event was a tall order for many folks.
“Maybe we can put together our own fundraiser,” I told Brad, stopping at tracks along the way, and somehow raising awareness and money for not just Michael Straight but for all the injured riders who depend on the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund. It's an organization that provides sorely needed financial assistance to more than 60 jockeys who have suffered some form of paralysis, head trauma or other debilitating injury.
From that lunchtime meeting in Lexington came the idea for BREEDERS' CUP OR BUST: A FUNDRAISING ‘DRIVE' that gets under way at Keeneland this Wednesday (Oct. 28), continues at Hawthorne in Chicago on Thursday (Oct. 29), Remington Park in Oklahoma City on Sunday (Nov. 1), Zia Park in Hobbs, N.M., next Monday (Nov. 2) and Turf Paradise in Phoenix, Ariz., next Tuesday (Nov. 3). We'll stop at a Las Vegas racebook next Wednesday (Nov. 4) and then arrive at Santa Anita Park on the eve of the Breeders' Cup.
We made a few phone calls after our initial discussion, including one to someone at the Breeders' Cup to see if the organization was interested in partnering with us on this crazy idea. To my astonishment, they were immediately supportive. So was TVG, the racing network and account wagering company, which will help promote this fundraising effort on both their telecasts and online through the TVG community as our exclusive media partner.
Breeders' Cup Charities officials suggested we branch out and consider a second charity to benefit from this drive, specifically The V Foundation for Cancer Research, founded by ESPN and the late North Carolina State basketball coach and television commentator Jim Valvano. Coach V, who died from brain cancer in 2003, gave the foundation its motto, “Don't give up…Don't ever give up,” during an unforgettable speech at the inaugural ESPY awards when he received the Arthur Ashe Courage & Humanitarian Award, just eight weeks before his death.
We've all lost friends or loved ones to this disease, and the absence of stricken Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel from this year's Breeders' Cup will serve as a sad reminder of how devastating cancer can be. The V Foundation has funded vital research into unraveling the mysteries of cancer over the past 15 years. It ranks among the top 2% of all charities ranked by the independent organization, Charity Navigator, for maintaining extremely low administration and fundraising expenses.
While these two organizations deal with serious medical issues, we plan to have some fun while raising money on behalf of Breeders' Cup Charities and the two organizations. We'll be raising awareness for them, too, chronicling each stop on the zig-zagging, 2,835-mile road trip with live blogs detailing our experiences.
We hope you'll stop by the Paulick Report, beginning Wednesday when BREEDERS' CUP OR BUST starts at Keeneland, where the jockey colony will be autographing Breeders' Cup caps and I'll be participating in a one-on-one handicapping challenge with local radio personality Tom Leach, the voice of the Kentucky Wildcats. Breeders' Cup is staking us to a bankroll that we hope to increase throughout the trip with help from the TVG community and handicappers and horseplayers at each track.
Other promotions along the way include a race pitting the two traveling partners of the Paulick Report against members of the Remington Park jockey colony riding big, bouncing rubber balls. I think I'm at least 50-1 to win that contest.
You'll have an opportunity to support the ‘drive,' too, by pledging a specific amount per mile at the Breeders' Cup Charities secured web site and making a tax-deductible online donation. Please click here to donate now.
In addition, for each of the six segments of the drive, we are soliciting individuals, businesses or charitable foundations as sponsors willing to donate a minimum of $2,000 to the charities. Please email us at
It's been less than 18 months since the Paulick Report launched as an independent source of news and commentary for the Thoroughbred industry. As many of you know, in our early days we were sustained by the support of readers like you who contributed during National Public Radio-style fundraising drives. Since then, we've been blessed with overwhelming growth in both readership and advertising support from businesses throughout the racing and breeding communities.
Because of that support, we feel privileged to be able to put our energies toward something that truly is a worthy cause. We are asking you to give again. Please join us in supporting Breeders' Cup Charities to benefit the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund and The V Foundation for Cancer Research.
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