[image url="http://cdn.bloodhorse.com/images/content/rpaulick_large.jpg"]Ray Paulick[/image]
Ray Paulick has been editor-in-chief of The Blood-Horse weekly magazine since May 1992 and oversees all editorial products for Blood-Horse Publications, a 90-year-old Lexington-based company that also encompasses the monthly horse health magazine, The Horse: Your Guide to Equine Health Care; The Blood-Horse MarketWatch, a newsletter for Thoroughbred industry investors; annual souvenir magazines for the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup World Championships;Keeneland magazine; the Eclipse Press book division; a library of annual statistical references; and BloodHorse.com and TheHorse.com web sites.
Paulick spent eight years in the Los Angeles office of Daily Racing Form working as a handicapper and editor, then moved to Kentucky in 1988 to become managing editor of Thoroughbred Times, leaving that position in 1991 to help launch the now-defunct Racing Times daily newspaper. His path toward horses and Thoroughbred racing began on a small family farm in Northern Illinois and picked up speed in the 1970s in Chicago while working as an editor with a newspaper syndicate that counted the late Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder among its stable of columnists. For a short time, Paulick worked as ghost writer for “The Greek” when he was at the height of his popularity as a member of the CBS Sports NFL broadcasting team.
As editor of The Blood-Horse, Paulick has had the opportunity to attend more than 10 international race meetings throughout Asia, Australia, Europe, North, and South America. He has participated in numerous conferences here and abroad, and appeared as an industry expert on NBC, MSNBC, CNN, National Public Radio, ESPN, and dozens of local television and radio broadcasts. For the past three years, Paulick has been the “industry representative” on the American Association of Equine Practitioners’ board of directors. He is the author of Sunday Silence - part of the Thoroughbred Legends series of biographies published by Eclipse Press; and also contributed to Thoroughbred Champions: Top 100 Horses of the 20th Century and Horse Racing’s Top 100 Moments, and other titles in the Eclipse Press library.
Paulick writes the weekly “What’s Going on Here” commentary in The Blood-Horse and also contributes frequently to Japan’s leading weekly magazine, Gallop.
Paulick and his wife of 22 years, the former Carol Rust, have two children, Chris, 18, and Margaret, 14. He hasn’t owned a horse since leaving his family’s farm in 1971.
Hello, Ray. I'd like you to know that I subscribe to The Blood-Horse and look forward to it every week! (We don't get a lot of horse news here in Memphis.) I wonder if you'd tell us about meeting Secretariat at Claiborne Farm. Thanks.
You must have watched the ESPN Classics show on Big Red, where I talked about seeing Secretariat! I moved here in 1988, having had only one brief visit to Lexington beforehand. One of the very first things I did when I moved here was to visit Secretariat out at Claiborne Farm and have my picture taken with him. He had just an unbelievable presence about him and surely was the most photographed horse in history. The farm staff was always so accommodating to Secretariat’s fans.
This crop of 3-year-olds impresses me more than any crop in a long, long time. Starting with Barbaro and his enormous potential on both grass and dirt; then Bernardini comes along and shows equally enormous potential. Discreet Cat beat Invasor in Dubai and won in ridiculous ease the other day at the Spa. Bluegrass Cat is as solid as they come, and Henny Hughes could be any kind. When you have seen a group this good? People talk about how the horses of yesteryear were superior to today's horses, and I often find myself in agreement. But the five I've mentioned are serious racehorses and could hold their own with a lot of the very good and even great horses of the past. What do you think, Ray?
You state a strong case for this crop, and it’s refreshing to hear, since the game is mostly full of knockers. I hold to the theory that you can’t really judge the quality of a 3-year-old crop until they start racing against older horses in the fall.
Cedar Rapids, IA:
Hello, so nice of you to take time out to talk to us fans! It is very much appreciated! I read where you contributed to Horse Racing’s Top 100 Moments and Top 100 Horses of the 20th Century, I was wondering what your number 1 picks were and where they ended up in the books? Thank you.
I was not on the panel, though I contributed several chapters. I would have put Secretariat No. 1.
Hello Mr. Paulick, I was just wondering if you and/or one of your staff members would consider doing an article or a "look back" on the brilliant 2-year-old Grand Canyon? His performance in the Hollywood Futurity (gr. 1) was something special. Thanks for your time.
That was a sad thing. Laminitis, if I remember correctly, is what got him--after an assortment of leg injuries. One of Overbrook Farm’s earliest successes, he epitomized the (trainer D. Wayne) Lukas juggernaut at the time, winning early and often but not lasting. He was a brilliant horse, but I’m not sure there’s enough there for a magazine feature.
Do you feel the racing media provides objective and sufficient coverage of issues related to the catastrophic injuries that occur to horses during races and workouts? What is your response to those that criticize publications like The Blood-Horse for failing adequately address the issue because they do not want to draw the ire of the racing industry or focus too much on a negative aspect of racing?
I think the Thoroughbred industry trade press--The Blood-Horse, Daily Racing Form, Thoroughbred Timesand various state publications--covers it from an objective standpoint, but probably has not covered it in sufficient depth. Speaking for The Blood-Horse, we aren't going to cover it in a sensationalistic fashion. Objective stories on this kind of subject often result in numerous comments from people who criticize us for "negative" articles.
Sugar Land, TX:
What do you think about handicap races, do we want our superstars to be defeated by lower quality horses?
Frankly, there are very few handicap races anymore where horses carry a significant amount of weight. Who's the last horse to carry 130 in a grade I handicap? I think the concept of handicaps is no longer a valid one--especially in grade I races--and most racing secretaries are very conservative in the few handicaps that remain.
Clifton Park, NY:
Ray, Thanks for taking everyone's questions. I enjoy The Blood-Horse and learn something about the industry in just about every issue. Sometimes, however, the publication comes across as cheerleading, which is not a bad thing in and of itself. Unlike most journalistic publications, however, it seems rare when a writer will ask tough, critical questions of an interviewee, nor the magazine take an editorial position that might seem critical to one interest group or another. There are aspects of the industry that need to be cleaned up, and much is underway. How come The Blood-Horse is not taking a greater leadership position through a little more critical investigative journalism? Thanks for taking my question. P.S. Your website is great, too.
Fair question, but based on the people who have been POed at me at one time or another for things I’ve written (racetrack management, owners, breeders, veterinarians, consignors, sales companies, racing organizations), I disagree that we offer nothing but pablum.
TBH editorials have pushed for ethics reform in the bloodstock market; freezing of test samples and out of competition testing of horses; a ban on steroids in young horses. A recent feature on steroids was very thorough; features on controversial trainers like Rick Dutrow or Doug O’Neill did not avoid the things that make them controversial.
One challenge we face is getting people to say things on the record. For years, people have complained about alleged fraud at sales but would not go on the record. It took a Jess Jackson to put his name on the allegations to shed light on it.
Give me a call. I’d like to hear some specific suggestions on what to cover: 859 276-6757 is my direct line.
Marco Island, FL:
Why are jockeys not permitted to have licensing contracts with companies for advertisement displayed on their caps, boots, sleeves or even riding pants? The logos would not have to be distracting or numerous. The showcase races of the year are all sponsored by one company or other, and they mostly have nothing to do with racing. In Golf, surely one of most elitist of organized sports, golfers wear logos on their hats or equipment on every telecast. Proceed could go not only to the rider not all of them are millionaires) and by arrangement to the jockey fund. Thanks for your fine publications both print and computer.
In my mind, horses are the equivalent of the golfers you refer to, and the horse owner should be the one with advertising opportunities. The jockeys are the equivalent of the caddies.
San Francisco, CA:
In a Blood-Horse column from February 28, 2006, T.D. Thorton says that "Today's most engaging conversations about racing's most searing issues are all happening online...in loosely structured groups and forums." What sites do you read for alternative content and what forums do you visit for such engaging conversations?
I'm a big fan of Equidaily.com for links to non-traditional racing press. I scan blogs and some forums, which often can be useful for news leads. Frankly, the state of horse racing blogs is pretty sad compared to politics or other sports. Some bloggers go weeks without posting a comment (they'd never work at BloodHorse.com!). Bloodhorse.com has dropped forums because of the actions of a few individuals who post irresponsible and damaging comments. We can't justify hiring a 24-hour babysitter to monitor it.
Diamond Bar, CA:
Mr. Paulick: I've read both Sunday Silence and Thoroughbred Champions: Top 100 Horses of the 20th Century. They're both fantastic books! My favorite horse of the top 100 is Alysheba! Do you have a favorite? Or do you like them all?
Favorite horse I ever saw was Affirmed, followed closely by John Henry, though the best performances I’ve seen were Spectacular Bid’s California sweep. Best race was Sunday Silence-Easy Goer Preakness. I have a feeling if I’d seen Secretariat race in person, he would have been my favorite.
Where do you see the sport of Thoroughbred racing in 5 years? 10 years? Status quo? Better? Worse?
That depends...the decision on the New York franchise could be huge. Another big factor is the future of Magna, which controls many tracks but is not a very robust company from a financial standpoint. One key to future growth is for major tracks to charge a higher price for their simulcast signal (say, 6 or 7% instead of 3%). If that occurs, the big tracks will get stronger, making the highest-quality racing more successful. That will attract more owners to the game. If that occurs (i.e., if there is more consolidation of racetrack ownership), the 1990s vision of a small group of "supertracks" could come true.
With or without that occurring, big days (Triple Crown, Breeders' Cups) will get bigger and weekdays will get smaller or disappear in some cases, depending on the horse population.
What is the biggest problem facing the Thoroughbred industry today? Will racing ever return to its golden days of the '30s and '40s?
The biggest problem is the absence of a common vision among the most important stakeholders. I wasn't around in the '30s and '40s, but a return to the 1970s and early '80s would be good enough for me. I don't see it happening without development of a common vision and the commitment to carry it out.
Ray, what is your take on synthetic racing surfaces? It seems to me that, for example, California moved way too quickly in mandating that all major tracks in the state. Polytrack at Turfway seemed to have a lot of problems with kickback, and I wonder about future respiratory problems in horses because of that kickback.
How many more breakdowns do we need before we change? We keep hearing "rumors" about respiratory problems, but vets our reporters have spoken with say they haven't occurred. The numbers at Turfway Park (injuries pre- and post-Polytrack) speak for themselves.
Mr. Paulick, we have talked many times online, and I thank you for your correspondence and professional attitude on all endeavors. My comment, as much as I think Bernardini is something special, how can Barbaro not be included as the champion 3-year-old and Horse of the Year? We should not punish a horse for an injury. Don't you think both Barbaro and Bernardini should be included as perhaps two of the greatest three-year-olds we have seen in many years?
Championships are decided on the racetrack; unfortunately, Barbaro was active less than half a year, and he won’t have the chance to prove himself against older competition, as Bernardini can try to do.
Hi, Ray. My compliments on your commitment to your readers. You've answered every email I sent you. You helped me track the pedigree of my T-bred, and I learned a little more why no other owner wanted their horse around him. The Blood-Horse has survived while many other publications have vanished. Why do you think that is? What ideas are being discussed to keep the mag on the cutting edge?
The Blood-Horse has always been an industry-owned publication, so in good times and bad times there is a commitment to the industry the magazine serves, whether the magazine is profitable or not. I think some privately owned publications have to have a stronger commitment to their shareholders.
Keeping us on the cutting edge means taking advantage of the technologies that have emerged. More news and interactivity online; more feature articles and visually pleasing material in print.
I was wondering if you visited Gulfstream Park in 2006 and what you thought of the new facility from a fan and horseplayer's perspective?
I didn't like it. I saw nothing seriously wrong with the old Gulfstream as a racetrack. But the new track incorporates slot machines, a necessary evil to compete in some markets. One thing that is greatly improved (from my conversations with horsemen) is the turf and main track at Gulfstream, compared with the old track. I may not agree with everything Frank Stronach does, but he is committed to save racing surfaces. I'd like to get his take on synthetic surfaces.
I was a great fan of a colt named Timely Writer. I feel that he and his accomplishments have been mostly forgotten. Why do you think that these horses that die tragically are mostly forgotten?
I'm not sure I agree with you. Ruffian is far from forgotten (there will be a movie and book by William Nack on her next spring). Go for Wand isn't forgotten. Timely Writer was a good horse but not quite to their caliber. His death was very tragic.
I adore your publication and couldn't live without it. How are you lucky enough to be in a line of work that involves being around Thoroughbreds AND telling everyone how great they are??
I think Allen Paulson was one of those who said "the harder I worked the luckier I got." I am extremely fortunate to be one of The Blood-Horse's five editors over the past 90 years.
SL Green Realty Corp., the largest owner of retail space in Manhattan, just joined Empire Racing. Who is next, New York's largest mushroom farm so Empire can prove they have a place to dump all the manure? Is SL's association going overboard?
Empire has to be admired for the team-building they've done. We'll have to wait and see what the ad-hoc committee thinks.
Thank you for taking our questions, Mr. Paulick. I watched Bernardini today. He is so graceful you almost feel like you're watching a champion ice skater. Besides the "big horses" like Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, Spectacular Bid, Cigar and the like, what/why are a couple of horses that made a big personal impression on you?
Miesque was poetry in motion in her two Breeders’ Cups. I loved A.P. Indy, who was a running machine with his head-bobbing style and could go the distance. I’ll never forget Landaluce drawing off in the Hollywood Lassie to win a six furlong race by (I think) 23 lengths. I covered Go for Wand’s Juvenile Fillies win at Gulfstream Park and was just sick when she broke down at Belmont Park in the Distaff. Those are some of my favorites. Affirmed’s at the top of the list, though. He was tough as nails.
Why hasn't The Blood-Horse or any other publication investigated the carve out "cop out" in the Internet gambling prohibition bill? In reading the bill, it is obvious that the state lotteries DID indeed get a carve out and the interstate simulcast/Internet for horse racing was forced to include the DoJ's disclaimer. Our lobbyists obviously took the easy way out. This will come up each session. Now was the time to make it happen. Ridiculous.
This is a very complicated issue, and the Department of Justice wasn't going to give a free pass to the industry. From my understanding, the wording they went into the bill was the best the industry could get. The NTRA and its lobbyists believe they got as much as they could. Apparently they are confident the DOJ's position will be proven wrong.
As far as I know, horseracing is the only professional sport where women compete with men and do so on even terms. They also win on a regular basis. One of my favorite jockeys of all time was Julie Krone. Why do you think the industry has not embraced this fact to attract more women (and men, for that matter) to the sport?
How about Michele Wie? It's true she hasn't made a cut in a PGA event, but how many 16-year-old boys have? Some smaller tracks have a room full of female riders, though other than Julie Krone and a few others it's been tough for them to crack a major circuit. I think there are biases among some owners and trainers. I don't buy the argument that women aren't strong enough physically...look at Shoemaker. He was as tough as they come mentally, but he didn't have brute strength.
Hi Mr. Paulick, it's always good to write to you and receive back your words of wisdom. We now know that Ohio will be the first state to test for both pre-race Milk shaking and EPO use. In truth, who uses EPO on a $5,000 Ohio-bred? Why does the NYRA stay asleep when the same group of four or five trainers on the NY circuit have every horse in their barns run like rockets once they're acquired from other barns? I need not mention any names--we all know which trainers are suspected. Will the NYRA continue to hide their hands in the sand when the situation is obvious to the everyday racing fan?
I think we should be saluting Ohio regulators for being progressive, not questioning them. As for New York, they are taking more aggressive steps than most jurisdictions, and the horseplayers I talk with in NY feel the playing field is more level today than before. Every circuit has trainers who suspiciously move horses up off the claim (or private purchase, or trainer switch), but not all of them are taking the steps NYRA (or Ohio) has.
Los Angeles, CA:
Who is the best horse you've ever seen?
Spectacular Bid as a 4-year-old. From the seven-furlongs of the Malibu to the mile and a quarter races, he was amazing.
Las Vegas, NV:
In your opinion, what can racing's marketers do attract new fans and generate even a fraction of the participation and interest that poker now has?
The interactive aspects of racing (online watching and wagering), and new ways to graphically present an actual race as a video game can bring in younger players. My son and a group of his friends had weekly poker games (inspired by the World Series of Poker on TV). They went to Keeneland one Friday and my son (an avid handicapper) said most of the guys didn't understand how to handicap and felt it was too hard to learn. So even though poker and horse racing handicapping can be mental challenges, one is apparently much easier to learn. As for me, I don't know a "river" from a "flop." But seriously, efforts by the NTRA to make handicapping less intimidating and easier to learn have been dropped for whatever reason.
Great magazine. Could you share your reason for not owning a horse?
One of my predecessors, Kent Hollingsworth, took a strong stand against magazine staff members owning horses for ethical reasons. Today, we permit staff to own horses or bloodstock interests but require anyone on staff to disclose that interest to management. Personally, I just wouldn’t feel comfortable owning a horse or a stallion share or participating in a pinhook partnership that could ever be construed as a conflict of interest.
Mount Morris, MI:
Thank you for taking the time to answer questions today! I know that it's easy to get bogged down with the negatives of a job, but what's the best part about being the editor of The Blood-Horse? Also, what is your opinion on artificial insemination in Thoroughbreds? Do you think it's a good measure, or one that warrants reviewing?
The best part is the feeling you get when a great issue like our Derby results or Breeders' Cup results issue comes out, and you can appreciate the sum of all the individual efforts that went into making it happen. Similarly, there is a great feeling when something that's been published in the magazine results in positive change in the industry. With or without the recognition, it's a good feeling knowing that The Blood-Horsemade a contribution.
I'm opposed to AI, but I also wish there was a way to limit the number of foals one stallion can produce each year.
Why in Santa Anita the races on 6 1/2 furlongs are covering usually in around 1m12 seconds, and being the track record 1m11 11/100, it is something far to see in any other racecourses in the world, and in others distances, in Santa Anita, the times are within the commons of others racecourses. Apologizes for my bad English writing. Thanks indeed.
I think you are talking about the 6 ½ furlong turf course, which is a downhill course that begins with an unusual right-hand turn. The times running the first half-mile on that course are very fast because the horses are running downhill.
Why do you feel there isn't a stronger approach/penalty by the Jockey Club in doping?
The Jockey Club is not a regulatory authority in this country. Penalties are written and enforced by state agencies, although the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium is working on "model" penalties that it hopes will be adopted by all state regulators. Those penalties would be tougher in many instances than they currently are, and would add trainers, horses, and owners to the mix--not just trainers. That might get some owners to move their horses from trainers who live on the edge of the medication rules.
Do you know if Dance in the Mood plans on running in the Breeders' Cup? Do you know if the 2YO Desire to Excel is injured? Thanks for your help.
Sorry, don’t have the answers off the top of my head. Suggest using our search engine at BloodHorse.com.
What are your thoughts on the the Jocks Guild and its new leader Dwight Manley?
I'm afraid the Guild still has some rebuilding to do, and I'm not confident Dwight Manley is the person to do it. From my lone conversation with him, I believe he is well-intentioned, but I think the Guild erred in not hiring someone with industry knowledge.
When you were named editor-in-chief in 1992, what do you recall being your major concern for the industry that you wanted to address?
I think it was the lack of a cohesive national strategy for the industry: marketing, television, uniform regulations. The TRA racetracks tried hiring a commissioner a few years later, and that didn’t work. The NTRA came close to succeeding, but didn’t quite get the support it needed from some racetracks. The NTRA is surviving, but it’s a shell of what many of us hoped it could be, especially from a marketing and “league office” standpoint.
How good do you think Bernardini really is?
I have great respect for Tom Albertrani, who's had his hands on some champions while in Dubai and as an assistant to Bill Mott. His comments suggest Bernardini is something special, but I'd like to see him defeat some more accomplished runners before I'm ready to call him "great." I love the horse's tractable speed and professionalism. He obviously has a lot of class.
What's the best way of promoting Thoroughbred racing and the Thoroughbred industry? Are there any new mechanisms on the horizon to create additional exposure for the sport other than the existing ones that are already in place?
There are some good opportunities, most notably the Internet. If we can keep Internet wagering on pari-mutuel races legal, lower takeout, and improve the quality of the product (larger, more competitive fields), racing can be very attractive to online gamers. A tracking system that automatically charts horses and creates a video-game type of visual can make watching a race a lot more fun than seeing two-inch brown horses going in circles on a TV or computer screen. Technology is our best opportunity, but we can’t afford to overlook the lessons of Barbaro: the horse is a beloved animal. Some part of marketing and promotion has to capitalize on the love people have for horses.
Hi, Ray. 2006 remains a tough year for our sport with the plane crash, Saint Liam, Lost in the Fog, and Barbaro, etc. Anyhow, looking forward to the Eclipse Awards, my hopes are getting behind Bernardini for Horse of the Year. But is there any doubt that Barbaro has had the biggest impact on racing in '06. He's national news; no other horse will likely be so this year. Maybe they can split the HOY and the 3-year-old championship? Maybe they can share it? I wonder if anything this bizarre has ever happened.
The story of the year isn’t necessarily the Horse of the Year. Barbaro will be the story, especially with the general public, but it remains to be seen who will be Horse of the Year. Bernardini is in the driver’s seat, in my mind, but he’s got to win a couple more races.
St. Peters, MO:
First off, TBH is my bible. Can't live without it. What do you think is racing's biggest problem besides low attendance, and what can the industry do to try to fix its image with the general non-racing public who thinks every race is fixed and horses break down all the time?
I answered the first question earlier. I think the industry needs more disclosure in every area, whether it's the medication horses get (and perhaps with disclosure they'll receive less of it) or the number of horses injured during a race meeting or the actual buyer and seller of a horse at public auction. Full disclosure means you have nothing to hide. If we have reason to keep things hidden, we need to work on the "why."
Ray, I think there is some message in the great and continued interest in Barbaro. Look at the record number of internet activity at BloodHorse.com, TimWooley stable and other sites. Can the NTRA learn something from this?
We all can learn something from this…namely, that millions of people are animal lovers and that horses are one of the most noble, admirable animals on earth. How does that translate into increasing interest in horse racing, and, in particular, increasing pari-mutuel handle? That’s the ultimate goal, because handle drives purses (at least in states that don’t have slot machines) and it drives the economic engine of racetracks. Higher purses are needed to encourage horse ownership, and all you’ve got to do is look at declining field sizes in some major markets to see horse ownership is in decline.
Turning a horse lover into someone who bets on horses is a long-term project. Do you recall early NTRA market research that defined “light” fans, “lapsed” fans, etc.? They’ve known there are millions of “light” fans out there—people who love horses or love the sport’s big events—but the challenge has been developing them into people who push money through the pari-mutuel system.
Check out the NTRA’s annual budget, particularly the amount set aside for marketing. It’s not nearly enough to get that job done, and that budget is shrinking instead of growing.
Do you have any mixed feelings on how the Breeders' Cup has affected fall racing, relegating some great Grade 1 races to prep status?
I do have mixed feelings about some races that are gone or forgotten (DC International). But I think the positives of the Breeders' Cup greatly outweigh the negatives.
New York, NY:
Ray, Has a 3-year-old in the Classic ever beat a 4-year-old and what does it take to do so?
Proud Truth won it as a 3-year-old in 1985; Sunday Silence and Easy Goer were both 3 in 1989; Unbridled in 1990; A.P. Indy in 1992; Concern in 1994; Cat Thief in 1999; Tiznow in 2000. A good example of a good 4-year-old beating a good 3-year-old was Ferdinand over Alysheba in 1987. It depends on the strength of the divisions of 3-year-olds and the older horses. I like the chances of a 3-year-old winning it this year; the older division isn’t particularly deep.
Do you ever see a day when steroids will be banned from the sales ground of major organizations such as Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton or will they find a way to by-pass this issue to appease the sales agencies and breeders?
By banning it from the sales grounds, I assume you mean banning horses from sales if they test positive for steroids. This will only happen when breeders who give steroids to young horses heading for a sale understand the damage they are doing to the Thoroughbred breed. Breeders and consignors run the sale companies (I say this based on who is on their boards of directors). It’s going to take a few courageous and strong-willed breeders to take a stand that may be unpopular with their peers.
Should you accept this mission, Ray, one last question, if you can answer it: What's it like to have dinner with Kenny Mayne? I love Kenny, but is he always on?
I had dinner with Kenny Mayne once some years back. He had no juice at Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami Beach. The only way we got a table was to say we were friends of Daily Racing Form’s Joe Hirsch, a fixture at the restaurant. Kenny who?
I've noticed in your column in The Blood-Horse you use a variety of portrait photographs, yet all make you look handsome, rugged, and thoughtful. Since I am in need of glamour photography for my job, I was wondering if these photos were professionally done, and if you could forward information on the photographer. Thank you for talking with us.
“Handsome” … ”rugged” … “thoughtful?” Mom, I told you not to interfere with our online chat! There are many good photographers in and around Lexington, but Blood-Horse Publications uses Lee Thomas for many studio or interior shots, including the type to which you are referring.
New York, NY:
Will there ever be a charge to use the BH website in the future, I sure hope not?
I would never say never, but I doubt we would charge for access to the news section. Would we consider subscriber only sections or areas where we might charge a fee for someone to do research? Certainly.
Do you think that the Triple Crown will ever change?
I do think it could change, particularly the timing of the three races—though I suspect the Kentucky Derby will always be rooted to the first Saturday in May. Like it or not, trainers have changed how they handle their horses and how they space their races apart. Also, without some legislative help in Maryland, or even with slots added to the mix, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Preakness move to Laurel or perhaps another Magna track. Pimlico needs serious recapitalization. Finally, the New York Racing Association claims to own the trademarks to all of NYRA’s stakes races. If another entity winds up with the franchise beginning in 2008, the name “Belmont Stakes” might not be available. Wouldn’t that be something?
Not all of the stories that appear in The Blood-Horse are on your Web site, and some stories that are on the Web site are not in the magazine. What kind of decision process do you go through to make those determinations?
By virtue of the economics of printing and posting, we are limited in the magazine to a specific number of pages each week, so at the end of a typical week we end up with more news posted on our Web site. We simply don’t have room for everything in the magazine that we post online. Conversely, many of the longer feature stories and accompanying photographs appear only in the magazine, in part because the Web doesn’t lend itself to long articles. Computers can’t replace a magazine in every respect.
Thanks for talking to us. I was wondering: how did your "What's Going on Here" column originate? How long has it been around for?
Regular editorials began with founding editorial Thomas Cromwell and continued through the long tenure of editor J.A. Estes. They both wrote some fascinating and hard-hitting editorials. But the “What’s Going on Here” title for the editorial page began with Kent Hollingsworth in 1965 and continued through his tenure and that of Edward L. Bowen, who succeeded him. It’s been a great privilege to carry that tradition forward.
Thanks for doing such an awesome job with The Blood-Horse. I was just wondering, at this stage of his career, what great horse of the past you think Bernardini might be compared to in terms of potential, running style and accomplishments?
Thanks for the comment, but it’s a dedicated staff that does an awesome job week after week.
Bernardini? Let’s see, he’s had two grade I wins in his entire career. I’m going to have to hold off on comparisons to some of the greats of the past until he’s accomplished a bit more as a 3-year-old and as an older horse, particularly since he didn’t race at two. He’s flashy, has a beautiful and efficient stride, and has shown a lot in a few races. But let’s see that quality sustained a while longer before putting him in the Hall of Fame.
Many times it is much easier for the public to keep up with the jockeys rather than with the horses. Who were some of the jockeys you especially enjoyed watching over the years and what were their strong points? Thanks so much for your time. I look forward to reading your perspective on this.
I never saw Eddie Arcaro ride, but I love watching videos of his riding style. When I lived in Southern California in the late 1970s, we had Bill Shoemaker, Laffit Pincay Jr., Chris McCarron, Eddie Delahoussaye, Sandy Hawley, Darrel McHargue, the underrated Fernando Toro, and Don Pierce. That was quite a jocks’ room. Guys like Steve Cauthen and Angel Cordero tried but couldn’t make it there.
It was just a tremendous privilege to see Shoemaker. He had magical hands that allowed him to communicate with horses like no other jockeys I’ve ever seen. I had the chance to play golf with him once in 1988. As you know, he was one of the smallest jockeys around, and he didn’t hit the golf ball very far, though he took a whack at it. But the closer he got to the green, from 100 yards in, he was very good. Again, it was those hands that gave him a tremendous touch…he would have made a great surgeon. To me, Shoe was and is “the greatest.”
Ray, how would you grade the NTRA in terms of meeting goals set when established? Could they do something to place Bernardini—who really looks very special—more in the focus of general sports fans and the public at large in the weeks ahead?
I give the NTRA a D- or F on marketing; though, as stated above, there’s inadequate money available for that and there always has been. I give them an A on lobbying; a B to B+ on corporate sponsorship; a B- to C+ on television (mediocre production quality, but there have been recent improvements). Since the NTRA was established, some critical changes and decisions have hurt them, including pressure from tracks not to create an industry-owned online betting hub; the development of Magna and Churchill Downs Inc. as entities attempting to create a brand of their own. It’s too bad the Triple Crown tracks wouldn’t cede negotiating rights to the NTRA, and it’s too bad the NTRA does not have any authority for scheduling of races, making it tough to put together a meaningful series of races. But that’s the reality…it’s not a league office like the PGA Tour, NFL, or other professional sports. It’s a trade association that relies on the cooperation of its members. And some members are far more cooperative than others.
I loved your book on Sunday Silence. Why do you think Sunday Silence lost the Belmont Stakes, Was it because Easy Goer loved Belmont?
Someone told me after the fact that trainer Charlie Whittingham admitted he may have overcooked Sunday Silence with long gallops leading up to the race. It was pretty hot and humid in New York, and Sunday Silence had been through a hard campaign. I don’t think that beat him, though. Sunday Silence was a nimble horse who had a big advantage on Easy Goer on a mile track - like Churchill, Pimlico, and Gulfstream - where he beat Easy Goer. He excelled on the turns of those tracks while Easy Goer struggled. But Easy Goer was superior at Belmont Park, with its wide, more gentle turns.
Just wanted to say "Thank You" for putting into words the profound sense of loss that hangs heavy over the Bluegrass in your editorial this week. It somehow helps to see it expressed with such eloquence and sincerity.
I appreciate your kind words. Writing about tragedy isn’t easy and certainly isn’t something I enjoy. There was and still is shock and sadness as a result of Sunday’s plane crash, but I have been moved by the spirit of the Central Kentucky communities that suffered losses.
Cliffside Park, NJ:
Ray, as much as the positive features of the BH far outweigh any of its shortcomings, why is so much of its recent writing "tired" - cliché-infested, all too often infused with the limp spirit of "same race, same place, this-is-what-we-wrote-last-year, change-the-names-and-dates-and-we're-good"?
Thank you for your observation. Just like some horses are better than others, some writers are better than others. We are constantly trying to improve the quality of writing in the magazine, whether it’s by a staff member or the freelance contributors who write most of our race stories. I’d be interested in your comments on which race stories or writers you think are infesting the magazine with clichés: please drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org
What do you think the future holds for racing in California? Between the short fields and loss of trainers and jockeys to other circuits, uncertain futures of Hollywood Park and Bay Meadows, issues with race-day medications, and continued political wrangling, are there just too many issues for CA racing to ever regain its former prominence?
It’s a real crisis. When land developers own one of two tracks in the North (Bay Meadows) and one of three in the South (Hollywood Park), there’s a big problem. There aren’t enough owners competing above the claiming ranks, so the quality of racing is being dragged down, and the resulting short fields lead to decreased handle. Just as troubling is the level and tone of fighting out there involving horsemen, regulators, unhappy individuals, tracks, and TVG. It’s gotten ugly, and it’s created a climate that is counterproductive to finding a solution to the many challenges the industry faces there.
Mt. Gretna, PA:
Hi Ray, I wanted to let you know how much I enjoy The Blood-Horse magazine. It is great! I would like to ask about your thoughts and opinions regarding the UAE's impact on Thoroughbred racing, breeding, and purchases of horses in the U.S. Will their bloodstock eventually become as great as ours in the U.S.?
The Maktoums have invested more money in horses and farms over the last 20 years than anyone. They have been a dominant force in European racing, and they are emerging in the same role here. I don’t think the major victories by Darley, Godolphin, and Shadwell in the past few months were a fluke.
Your coverage of Barbaro was excellent and continues to be. How did that game plan take place???? Thanks.
Thank you for recognizing the hard work of our staff, which included the resources of our sister publication,THE HORSE: Your Guide to Equine Health Care. We recognized immediately the importance of the story; traffic to our Web site was so high it virtually shut it down in the hours after the Preakness. We were fortunate to have a writer like Deirdre Biles who went to the New Bolton Center in Pennsylvania and our editorial team worked hard putting together our Preakness results issue while providing continuous updates and background information on Barbaro. I want to emphasize that we couldn’t have done our jobs without the cooperation of Dean Richardson and his team at New Bolton and the University of Pennsylvania. I think they set new standards in providing information on a difficult subject, through press releases, video, and great photographs throughout this process.
William Nack, who sometimes contributes to your post-Breeders' Cup issue, was extremely critical of the event in a previous Talkin' Horses forum. Do you share his opinion that the event is bad for racing and why would the magazine have a writer so opposed to an event cover it?
I answered earlier that the positives of the Breeders' Cup greatly outweigh any negatives it's created, and I believe Bill Nack's positive contributions to the sport through his brilliant writing over four decades should land him in a Hall of Fame for racing writers if ever one existed. He's more than earned the right to express his opinions on racing--whether or not they are controversial--and I'm proud that he's part of our team. There's nothing wrong with contrary opinions, especially when they come from such a credible source.