It is time again for my annual Thanksgiving holiday blog. Knowing that I tend to get caught up in the fun – family, friends and food – I like to take a few minutes before it all begins to express my gratitude too.
Here is my list of things in the horse industry for which I am grateful.
Horseplayers. Always, you are at the top of the list. Without you, there would be no horse racing. You are the passionate voices who want this game of ours to be more than it is – safer, fairer, cheaper and easier. For you, the NTRA works every day—to change antiquated tax laws to help you keep a little more of what you earn for your efforts; and to make sure racetracks have the best procedures and policies in place so that they may conduct the safest racing possible.
Fans. You are the ones moved to write the letters. You bring the carrots and other treats. You demand better treatment for our athletes before, during and after their racing careers. 2010 was the year that retirement and retraining finally began to get the attention it deserves. 2011 promises to be even better.
Owners. Without you, there would be no competition. Special thanks to Ann and Jerry Moss for giving us another year of Zenyatta on track and in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. What a generous gift to racing. I also can’t forget Jess Jackson, Barbara Banke, and Harold McCormick - owners of Rachel Alexandra – for her efforts on track this year. Perhaps Rachel was not as impressive as a 4-year-old, but racing her again this year was a wonderful sporting gesture nonetheless. As a group, owners invest more than anyone else in racing. With returns harder and harder to come by on track, owners continue to support the game mainly because they love it. A special shout out to the “Young Turks” of the Breeders’ Cup – Bobby Flay (More Than Real), Mike Repole (Uncle Mo), Kevin Plank (Shared Account) and Mansour Albaroudy (Eldaafer) who each won Breeders’ Cup races this year. Congratulations!
Breeders. You invest your hard-earned money in breeding stock to produce some of the top Thoroughbreds in the world. In spite of the toughest economy in nearly a century, you continue to try catch lightning in a bottle by breeding the best (that you can afford) to the best (that you can afford) and hoping for the best (and maybe a little profit). Special thanks to Claiborne Farm for 100 years of dedication to doing what is right by the horse. What a fitting tribute to your efforts and integrity that you were rewarded this year with a horse like Blame. Here’s to another 100 years of success there in Bourbon County, Kentucky.
Trainers. You are the “coaches” who take care of your “players” 365 days a year. There are no off-seasons or vacation days for you—not even on Thanksgiving. Occasionally you are lucky enough to bask in the glory of the winner’s circle. More often, you toil in relative obscurity. But your dedication is unequaled by anyone—except, perhaps, by the hard-working grooms and assistants who you employ.
Riders. Whether you ride in the afternoon or just in the morning, you are some of the best athletes in all of sports. You take risks every time you get a leg up. We are quick to blame you when you lose, but we too often take you for granted when you win. I am grateful that you do your jobs each day across the country. All of us in this business need to be reminded that without you, there would be no racing.
Vets. You are sometimes maligned and misunderstood, but you are the advocates for the horse. You endure long hours and bad weather to give horses some of the best care provided to animals anywhere.
Horses. It goes without saying that without you, there would be no horseracing business, period. You are not simply the “product.” You are literally the life blood of racing. You are some of the last athletes on the planet who run purely for the thrill of the effort. And we love you for it. As an industry, we owe it to you to make your safety our highest priority.
NTRA Colleagues. You are the hardest working, most dedicated, yet underappreciated people I have ever been associated with. Day in and day out, you find ways to do more for the industry despite having less money and staff to do it with. And you do it honestly and willingly because you love the business and the people who make it so great. It’s an honor to work with each and every one of you.
That’s my list. What’s on yours? Let me hear from you.