(UPDATED JUNE 3 TO REFLECT A CHANGE IN RECOMMENDATION FOR GEORGE ISAACS)
The 25 candidates running for election to the Breeders' Cup board of Members and Trustees may have different backgrounds, income levels and positions within the Thoroughbred industry, but I think they all share a common thread: a desire to help the Breeders' Cup grow. All are to be commended for their interest in helping achieve that goal, even if their philosophies do not follow the same path.
There are, however, only 13 positions for these 25 individuals on the board of Members and Trustees, whose principal role within the Breeders' Cup organization is to elect the 13 members of the board of Directors at an annual meeting, scheduled this year for July 9. The smaller board of Directors makes all major decisions regarding the operations and governance of the Breeders' Cup and elects a chairman and vice chairman each year.
So who nominators elect to the board of Members and Trustees is critical in shaping the smaller, operating board of Directors. The six individuals whose two-year terms on the board of Directors expire in July of this year are: Reynolds Bell, Donald Dizney, Tracy Farmer, Don Robinson (who served out the remainder of B. Wayne Hughes' term after Hughes' resignation), G. Watts Humphrey Jr., and Robert T. Manfuso. Only elected Members and Trustees may run for the smaller board of Directors.
Fifteen of those running for the board of Members and Trustees submitted answers to questions from the Paulick Report or statements about their candidacy (click here to see their responses in an easy-to-read or print PDF document). Biographies of all the candidates can be viewed here at the Breeders' Cup election web site.
I have covered the Thoroughbred industry for nearly 30 years and have seen a number of these candidates in board-room settings, talked with others about issues of interest to the Breeders' Cup and Thoroughbred racing and breeding in general, and consider many of them friends. Some are or have been advertisers of this web site. In making the following comments and voting recommendations to nominators, I have done my best to remain objective in rating the various candidates without regard to friendships or business relationships.
Here is my summary of each candidate, along with a voting recommendation:
JOHN AMERMAN: Skilled businessman who as retired chairman and CEO of Mattel certainly understands consumer products and traditional marketing. I've not seen great leadership or fresh ideas spring from Amerman in his various industry roles and cannot recommend a vote for him on the board of Members and Trustees.
NADIA SANAN BRIGGS: Daughter of the outspoken but highly successful businessman Satish Sanan, who has played a major role in the Breeders' Cup as chairman of the Strategic Planning Committee. Briggs has her own independent streak and would bring a fresh, young perspective to the board. She is bright, totally committed to the industry, and would make an outstanding member of the board of Members and Trustees. Recommend for election.
JACK BROTHERS: Has played a major if understated role in the success of Frank Stronach's Adena Springs breeding and racing operation after virtually growing up in the horse business. Doesn't claim to have all the answers for resolving the challenges at the Breeders' Cup, but I doubt there would be a more fair-minded or harder-working individual on the board of Members and Trustees. Recommend for election.
BILL CASNER: Few people in the industry have shown the courage to stand up to the failed, old-guard industry leadership like Bill Casner has. He understands racing from the standpoint of the blue-collar horseman and now plays the game at the highest level while not forgetting his humble beginnings. Recommend for election.
CASE CLAY: One of the up-and-coming “next generation” industry leaders, Clay is the son of Three Chimneys Farm owner Robert Clay but was not heavily involved in the farm's operation or the industry until the last five to seven years. I do have concerns that as one of three candidates with close ties to Three Chimneys (see below), there may be an effort to “stack the deck” for a future agenda, and for that reason cannot recommend a vote for election to the board of Members and Trustees at this time.
LINCOLN COLLINS: One of three individuals (along with Case Clay and Tracy Farmer) closely allied with Three Chimneys Farm. Collins has a good reputation for honesty and integrity in his Kern Thoroughbreds bloodstock agency, though seems light on service and industry experience. Cannot recommend a vote for election to the board of Members and Trustees.
DONALD R. DIZNEY: A member of both the board of Members and Trustees and the smaller Breeders' Cup board of Directors, Dizney has done little to distinguish himself as more than a rubber-stamp voter for the status quo. There have been suggestions among some at the Breeders' Cup that Dizney has not been as engaged through his board or committee attendance as others, but a request for attendance records of board meetings from Breeders' Cup secretary Jim Philpott was ignored. Cannot recommend a vote for election to the board of Members and Trustees.
TRACY FARMER: Politically powerful in Kentucky through his work and fund-raising with the Democratic Party, Farmer has been a close ally of Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear and was appointed to the Kentucky Racing Commission, on which he serves as vice chairman. Farmer serves on both the board of Members and Trustees and Breeders' Cup board of Directors, where sources say he has not distinguished himself as an independent voice. The Paulick Report requested minutes of Breeders' Cup board meetings to analyze the involvement of each board member, but secretary Jim Philpott denied the request. Cannot recommend a vote for election to the board of Members and Trustees.
H. GREG GOODMAN: Houston native has been a partner with Lane's End Farm's Will Farish, which doesn't necessarily suggest he will be a “yes” vote for a potential Farish-orchestrated board of Directors slate. However, his non-response to the Paulick Report questionnaire and his vague personal statement on the Breeders' Cup voting web site does not build confidence in his independence. Cannot recommend a vote for election to the board of Members and Trustees.
GEORGE ISAACS:(UPDATED JUNE 3, FOLLOWING RECEIPT OF RESPONSE TO PAULICK REPORT QUESTIONNAIRE) Veteran horseman is well respected throughout the industry for his work as general manager at Bridlewood Farm in Florida. Relatively new to national industry organizations, but in his responses to the Paulick Report questionnaire demonstrated a commitment to adding value to Breeders' Cup nominations and increasing accountability and transparency within the organization. i believe it is also important to have representation among Florida breeders. Recommend for election.
TOM LUDT: One of the most independent-minded, cut-to-the-chase people I've seen in this industry in recent years. Has distinguished himself on the Kentucky Racing Commission, having been appointed by both a Republican and Democratic governor (and without being a major financial contributor to either of their campaigns), on committees at the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, and Breeders' Cup board of Directors. Recommend for election.
REILEY McDONALD: Has many years of experience in the auction arena, most prominently as co-owner of Eaton Sales. Has not been as involved in industry leadership positions as I would like to see for someone with his knowledge and insight, though it is encouraging to see him step up at this critical time. However, I cannot recommend a vote for election to the board of Members and Trustees.
MICHAEL McMAHON: One of the individuals running who is completely invested in the Thoroughbred industry and its future, McMahon may lack in national industry organizational experience but more than makes up for it in passion. My instinct is he will add a truly independent voice who takes his responsibilities seriously. In his reply to the Paulick Report questionnaire, McMahon repeatedly spoke of the importance of increasing participation at the grass-roots level among breeders, by adding value to the program for nominators. Recommend for election.
CLEM MURPHY: Coolmore principals and associates are often guarded in what they say to the media, but I've found Murphy to be accessible and a source of innovative thinking when it comes to both the Breeders' Cup and the racing industry. Recommend for election.
OGDEN MILLS PHIPPS: The phrase “lead, follow, or get out of the way” comes to mind. The Jockey Club chairman has had his opportunities to lead (New York Racing Association declined during his years of power), has not shown much interest in following, and that leaves one alternative. Cannot recommend a vote for election to the board of Members and Trustees.
DAN PRIDE: Believes in accountability and transparency, and has brought fresh ideas and enthusiasm to Fasig-Tipton since joining the auction company from Darley. Pride does a good job representing a younger generation of leaders that have real-world experience. Recommend for election.
ANDRE REGARD: For a relatively young man, Regard has a broad base of knowledge, and I think there is little doubt that he will be a growing influence in future years as he gains experience in the industry and its various organizations. One to keep an eye out for in the future, but at this time cannot recommend a vote for election to the board of Members and Trustees.
RICHARD SANTULLI: An enormously successful businessman, Santulli is a no-nonsense kind of guy who brings independence, integrity and a serious commitment to the Breeders' Cup because of his passion for the Thoroughbred game,first as a fan and horseplayer and later as an owner and breeder. Last year's effort by the old guard to keep Santulli off the smaller board of Directors represented a low point in the history of the Breeders' Cup. Recommend for election.
JOSEPH V. SHIELDS JR. Has served on the board of Members and Trustees and board of Directors, but has not publicly articulated a clear vision for how the Breeders' Cup can grow. Closely associated with old-guard Members and Trustees who have lacked innovation. Cannot recommend a vote for election to the board of Members and Trustees.
JOHN SIKURA: Fiercely independent and driven to build his own business, Sikura has a vision to grow the Breeders' Cup to become an even more important world championship by incorporating horses from different parts of the globe. He is one of those “all in” horsemen who do not look at the Thoroughbred industry as a part-time hobby but as a full-time commitment of his time and financial resources, and his personal success is tied to the growth of events like the Breeders' Cup. Recommend for election.
OLIVER TAIT: Represents Darley USA, one of the most important contributors to the Breeders' Cup in terms of nominations and participation in the world championships. Tait may not be a household name in the U.S. at this stage of his career, but he has accumulated extensive international experience in Europe and Australia. Recommend for election.
DUNCAN TAYLOR: Listening to your customers seems like a logical approach to any business, but I don't think that has been a strong suit of the Breeders' Cup board of Directors or management in the past. Taylor Made has developed into the industry's leading sales agency because of its customer-centric approach, an approach that can only help the Breeders' Cup. Recommend for election.
ROBERT TRUSSELL JR.: Was a member of the Gainesway Farm team when John Gaines created the Breeders' Cup in the early 1980s, so he has a great depth of knowledge and history of the organization. However, it is difficult to grasp where he stands on issues of importance given his lack of response to the Paulick Report questionnaire and the absence of a personal statement accompanying his biography on the Breeders' Cup election web site. (In the original version of this article, I reported the Breeders' Cup web site did not include a biography of Trussell; that has since been added here.) Cannot recommend a vote at this time for election to the board of Members and Trustees.
ROB WHITELEY: If you are in favor of maintaining the status quo, Whiteley is not your candidate. He was an outspoken critic of the decision last December to suspend the stakes supplement program, and I believe his leadership on that issue led to a quick reversal by the board of Directors. Strongly believes in accountability, transparency and fiscal responsibility. Recommend for election.
JACK WOLF: Knowledgeable about the importance of the Breeders' Cup in the industry and bullish on the role the organization can play to increase the popularity of the sport, something it has not yet been able to do. Refreshingly candid, independent and with outstanding credentials both in racing and in the outside business world. Recommend for election.
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