Blood On The Tracks - By Dan Liebman

After reading Bill Farish’s pointed attack at Kentucky Senate President David Williams, it is easy to say the Farish family, staunch Republicans, has decided the fight for video lottery terminals in the state is about business, not politics. But speaking during the Keeneland September sale the day after his letter was published, Farish said that is not the case.

“This is not about business,” Farish, the general manager of his family’s Lane’s End Farm near Versailles, Ky., said emphatically. “This is about an entire industry.”

Farish insisted there was no grand plan to the timing of his op-ed piece, but it was e-mailed to media outlets just days after the announcement of the drop in the size of the foal crop and in the midst of the Keeneland September yearling sale where commercial breeders were taking a beating.

“The size of the foal crop will drop more next year and that affects everyone,” Farish said.

By “everyone,” Farish means every person that breeds, races, and sells Thoroughbreds and every person that trains, grooms, or hot walks a Thoroughbred. But, he pointed out, he means many more people than that; he means people who sell fencing, gates, and trucks; people who own hotels, gas stations, and feed stores; people who plant trees, build barns, and operate vans; professionals such as veterinarians, farriers, and equine dentists.

In Kentucky alone, it is estimated upward of 100,000 individuals—in a state with a total population of about 4.25 million—are dependent on the horse industry for their livelihoods.

The ripple effect, however, goes much further than the borders of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Horses bred, raised, and sold in Kentucky race around the world. Horsemen from every state and countless countries ship their mares to be bred to Kentucky stallions. Kentucky’s tourism is a thriving industry, partially thanks to the thousands who flock to the state each year because of the state’s horses.

The state, by the way, collects 6% sales tax on stud fees, receives revenue from pari-mutuel wagering, and has numerous businesses that would not exist if it were not for the nutrient-rich water and soil that make the lush pastures of the state such a great place to raise horses.

As Farish pointed out, a recent poll by the Kentucky Equine Education Project found 70% of Kentuckians favor expanding gaming in the state. But the addition of video lottery terminals is being held political prisoner by Williams, who has said he does not believe the machines are in the best interest of the state and its citizens.

But rather than one who comes across as truly looking out for the best interests of his constituents, Williams, through his bottlenecking of alternative gaming legislation, is seen as the worst kind of bully, one with an ego.

Imagine how difficult it is for a person like Bill Farish to so disparage the state leader of his party. Remember this is a man who worked for President George H.W. Bush and his father was appointed the Ambassador to Great Britain.

“I never thought I would see such dire straits for the industry,” Farish said. “He (Williams) is deciding people’s livelihoods. He has no idea how upset people are with him.”

Many members of the horse industry, Republicans and Democrats alike, recently supported Democrat Robin Webb, who won a special election for a Kentucky Senate seat. They are poised to help other candidates, from both parties, who publicly support alternative gaming.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Farish said. “Who knows where the industry is going.”

Who knows how far the foal crop can drop?

“The other Republicans are feeling the heat,” Farish said. “They’re scared right now.”

In his rebuttal to Farish, Williams calls the addition of video lottery terminals a “band-aid” for the industry.

If you don’t apply the band-aid, the wound keeps bleeding.

David Williams needs to understand Bill Farish, and every other member of the horse industry in his state of Kentucky, is bleeding.


Leave a Comment:

Tim G

Here, Here!

Go get em Bill, we're behind you 100% This is a bipartisan issue, an issue of the PEOPLE.

The bleeding that we witnessed at the sale will just get worse.

If Williams doesn't think a Band-Aid helps? Next time he cuts a finger let him bleed out.

As someone who applies 'Band-Aids”' for a living? Owns race horses for the love of it?

I'd have to say slots are more like a tourniquet for a traumatic amputation at this point in time. Much more than a simple laceration that's bleeding now.

Hopefully we can perform reattachment surgery if we get the slots done SOON.

29 Sep 2009 2:50 PM
steve from st louis

It's incredible to me sitting here today in the throughbred  state of misery (you pronounce it "Missouri") that the people of Kentucky and their representatives can't get legislation to help, not hinder, the thoroughbred industry in the state. But politicians, both sides, are the same all over.

29 Sep 2009 4:34 PM
Mary-Ellen Donovan

Steve:  So right. Look at what we're dealing with in Ohio. Tracks have anted up big bucks to apply for licensing with no refunds. Yet the (convenience) of slots and casinos will win. TB Breeding in Ohio is a lost cause if this thing passes. Talk about getting "pinched" ! (Thanks, too for your nice comment on my "Final Turn" article. That WAS SOME AMAZING day, and always a fond memory for us).


29 Sep 2009 5:09 PM

I am in full agreement with the Farish viewpoint - politicians are looking out for themselves and their own egos - I would go so far as to say that the moment they get into office, their actions are are rooted in the desire to be re-elected...not to help the people they were elected to represent.  For too long we've seen shades of gray invade the party lines as politicians seek their own agendas.  And it applies to all political parties.  I say emphatically - YOU WERE ELECTED TO REPRESENT THE PEOPLE...NOT YOURSELVES.  YOU WORK FOR US!  Anyway, that's the way it was intended...and how far away we've slipped into the realms of socialism where the government believes they know what's best for you...  A sad sad time for horse racing.

29 Sep 2009 5:19 PM
Nancy Perry

I've been out of the game for a long time.  I swung off my last thoroughbred in 1985 at Belmont Park and hung em up.  Nothing I miss more than my 29" blue jeans.....

I read Williams rebuttal and I gotta say, it made sense.  I"d like to read a point by point rebuttal the the points he made.

the overall impression I was left with from Williams is that it hasn't worked anywhere else and the funds aren't really there to subside it (remember No Child Left Behind?).

If that is true, are we seeking short term gains resulting in long term loss? ... and calling it a bandaid?

29 Sep 2009 5:34 PM
Tim G

Obviously you haven't seen what it's done for New Mexico, particularly Sunland Park?

I don't see much of anything valid in Williams points.

Read up a little on what he has done TO KY, not FOR KY.

This issue had the votes on the Senate floor to pass, he killed it. It is partisan politics of the WORST kind. Dictator syndrome.

As long as Indiana has casinos (which Williams has been spotted at by the way), if Ohio GETS casinos then the gambling $ will go there. Right across the river or DOWN THE RIVER. If NO neighboring states have gambling then we have a fighting chance. That's not the case.

Maybe what Williams is saying is that politicians can't keep their word? The lottery was supposed to go to education,yet is used to cover every budget shortfall.

"Slots will not “save” Kentucky’s budget." It isn't designed to save the State's budget, the take out should help them though.

What it WILL do is save a bunch of jobs of people who pay taxes to support that 'budget'. If things go the way they're headed now? All these guys will pull up stakes and go somewhere they can get some incentives for breeding and running. (it's already happening as we speak) Not to mention the loss of property tax etc.

He thinks gambling is a taxation on the poor? What the he** does he think DRIVES horse racing? Maybe THAT is his agenda, do away with it all together since his particular counties are not interested in it for their own reasons.

How many more POOR are we going to have here with the racing/breeding industry pulling out of the state or becoming an afterthought?

Take a lesson from the governor of NM. ASK those horsemen what racinos did for NM, better yet, Chip Wooley already TOLD everyone what it did.

Nancy, you've been out of the game too long. It's NOTHING like it was even 10 years ago. We won't have a 'long term' if something isn't done soon. THAT is the fact in the age those of us in racing are living in NOW.

29 Sep 2009 9:19 PM
Shawn P

This internet site sums up David Williams:

"Senator Williams's Friends View All Friends   |   Total Friends: 0 Senator Williams does not have any Friends."

29 Sep 2009 9:29 PM
Karen in Indiana

I have to say that it's not working here in Indiana the way that the pro-gaming lobby stated. The horsemen here are saying they are coming out on the short end of the stick after the casinos opened at the tracks - that the fees the casinos are having to pay the state are so high, there's less left for them than there was before.

29 Sep 2009 9:47 PM
steve from st louis

What is amazing to me are the people who are so quick to label and brand others with different opinions as "socialists". The same people are quick to take full advantage of medicare or medicaid or the veteran's administration, which are all pure socialist programs. It's only nefarious when it infringes upon MY right to "socialized" medicine's piece of the pie. Shameful hypocrisy.

29 Sep 2009 10:57 PM

I have said it many times, but I'll say it once again ... I'm sick of politicians trying to legislate morality.  It's never worked in the past and it won't work in the future.  David Williams is a hypocrite and a liar, and I firmly believe he is taking, indirectly, money from the casinos, especially in Indiana, which he is known to frequent, to keep the VLT's from the KY tracks.  He is a travesty and complete embarrasment for the Commonwealth of KY!  

30 Sep 2009 12:38 AM

It hasn't worked anywhere?  Huh.  In every state, the horse racing industry has increased big time when the slots have come in.  States such as Iowa, Indiana, and West Virginia (to name a few) were low level players on the horse racing totem pole.  Now they are in the middle of the road.  Fairgrounds used to be a clear number 2 behind Gulfstream.  They are able to raise purses from the slots and now are on par or even a bit better than Gulfstream.

Sure there have been mistakes made by states but it doesn't mean that Kentucky has to make the same mistakes.  

30 Sep 2009 11:57 AM
steve s

NO TO SLOTS IF TAKEout rate is still the same for the bettor.

Slots haven't helped the anywhere that i see.

no to slots if it dont help me(the bettor) with an extra bet

30 Sep 2009 1:53 PM

Call it want you want, but apply the bandaid NOW.  Next Farish and company(meaning everyone else) must focus on creating legislation on the state and federal level which will reinstate equine lending and spending--be that tax incentives or banking requirement to lend money to help horse farmers.  Without equine lending and new cash flowing in, nothing will right itself at this point.  We have to promote spending in  this industry to right this economy, meaning the horse economy.  

30 Sep 2009 2:00 PM
steve s

If Tim G is for slots then I am against it-it wont help the bettor anyway-might actual be a raise in take out

30 Sep 2009 2:06 PM
steve s

WHY is the take out rate higher in states that have slots?

NO NO NO TO the slots

30 Sep 2009 2:10 PM
Tim G

Well steve, thought you lived in Cal so how will it affect you?

It DOES help the gamblers because it increases the purses, therefore filling the races and bringing a better quality of horses back to the track.

Look at the last CD meet, excluding the Derby.

I live in KY, own and breed race horses. The takeout IS from the SLOT revenue.

30 Sep 2009 4:37 PM
Tim G

steve, you might want to do a little research so your bias against people you don't even know shows a little less ignorance.

The takeouts at tracks with racinos is pretty comparable to surrounding states WITHOUT racinos.

17-19% on straight bets. Although some states WITHOUT racinos like Arizona have 25% takeouts on straight WPS bets.

THAT State has Native American Casinos just like California. NM also has those and race tracks APPARENTLY cannot compete for the gambling $'s with those casinos without slots, which have saved racing in SEVERAL states.

Once again I AM absolutely HONORED that you disagree with me. However it should be based on substance, not the fluff that resides where your brain should be.

This site should help you evaluate it as an ADULT:

By the way, your wannabe status just slipped a notch. Dray is also FOR slots.

30 Sep 2009 4:57 PM

Actually, Steve, VA and Medicare benefits are "paid into" policies you make premium payments on for years (like 45+ years of payments deducted  for medicare) as a future benefit, like Life Insurance, short/long term disability insurance, etc.

I think the slots benefit IF administered properly, again going back to the integrity or lack thereof of elected officials...

New Mexico works because they administered it as designed to be a success.

01 Oct 2009 8:28 AM


03 Oct 2009 4:28 AM
Kim in KY

I just have to say that Williams is definately not taking in the picture here. I know the state of the industry- I was working in it for the past year after 18 years of working another career to save enough money to move to KY- my lifelong dream to firsthand experience both the good and the bad of horse racing. Last fall the barn I worked at was full to overfull and now its nearly empty. All the wonderful people I worked with are gone, only 2 remain from a barn crew of 8. I am one of the "laid off". Fortunately for us it's okay, we had other means to live. But what of the rest? How do they feed their families or pay the bills? Does Mr. Williams even care??  He should, 'cuz those people are REGISTERED VOTERS. I am sure when the time comes a lot of people like my friends from the barn will remember Mr. Williams.  

Secondly, his whole argument of "it will corrupt our poor into gambling" is bunk. You want to gamble? Go over the state line, LOTS of people do- and that is revenue lost for here- where it is needed. You can't reform someone because YOU want to, people only reform if THEY want to.

We live in a "dry county" here in KY. You think people just don't run one county over and get their alcohol? You think they don't bring it back by the case for thier friends?? You think no one here dies because of drunk driving? Think again. This whole slot issue and Mr. William's morality is nothing more than the continuing hypocrisy of bureaucrats.

04 Oct 2009 2:42 PM

All the money these horse breeders have made through the years and they have the NERVE to cry poverty. Look where these people live--look at how they live,  like kings on these plantation type breeding farms. Where's my violin.? STOP breeding so many horses for the kill pens and get a real job.

04 Oct 2009 4:22 PM

I can tell you that slots have made the tracks better. I live in Maryland but I have been to the slots upgrading tracks such as Charlestown, Penn National and Delaware Park. How can anybody say that slots have not helped any track?!!!! All three of the above tracks would have already been out of business without slots. Charlestown and Penn National used to have $3,500 purses. Now $25,000 per race is not unusual. I am a big horse racing fan but every racing jurisdiction needs slots. Slots are what the dumb bettor needs. A faster way to lose their money. Horse racing is lucky to have slots because without slots, you may have Saratoga, Keeneland and Southern California racing and that is it. Typical of a politician such as Williams to be spotted at an Indiana Slot Place. What is he doing there? We had the same problem here in Maryland with politicians taking money from probably West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware before we finally got slots passed. So much for representing your home state. If slots don't pass in Kentucky, look for Ellis Park to close and Turfway to run a very limited meet. What is politician Williams out to destroy Horse Racing in Kentucky? Slots have also helped New Mexico racing, Pennsylvania racing, Iowa racing, Hello politician Williams. Do you want to see more jobs in your state be lost?

04 Oct 2009 6:15 PM

What a sorry state racing is in! This once great game now is dependent upon slots,etc to survive.

Now,why is that? How come  the popularity of thoroughbred racing has dropped so dramatically? Baseball and horse racing were, at one time, the most popular sports in this country.

Look around. The sport is failing. Fans, like me, don't go as much. The sport has lost the confidence of people like myself. Drugs and the ineffective punishments have caused this lack of confidence. As long as trainers are able to continue in this sport despite multiple "positives" is ridiculous.

In the old days the aforementioned were suspended for periods of six months . . . and then ruled off!

Today an increasing number of positives leads to acquiring more owners.

Clean up the sport . Make trainers responsible and if they continue to cheat, get rid of them.

In almost every sport athletes are better today. Such is not the case in horse racing. The horses were faster, raced for longer distances, stayed active beyond the age of three, and were sounder.

05 Oct 2009 1:58 PM
Barry Irwin

Is one supposed to believe that if Kentucky had VLTs that the Keeneland sale would have had a better result? It would seem that the reason the sale was down had everything to do with the fact that the economy is in recession and when recession hits, the horse business suffers the most because it relies on investor's extra money.

06 Oct 2009 4:31 AM

I can't argue your point about the recession affecting the Keeneland sale.  That's a given. However, IF KY had VLT's investors might have been more willing to snatch up some real deals on KY-bred yearlings, so that when a couple of years down the road, with VLT's, their purchases could reap the benefits of higher purses and higher incentives from KTDF and KBIF. As it is now, it seems to me people want horses bred in states with larger purses, and we all know where they are.

Face it, KY needs expanding gaming or we will lose all tracks except for CD and Keeneland, and that's a shame.  

07 Oct 2009 1:50 AM
Maine Mike

Kentucky Republicans should be ashamed.  Republicans are supposed to be grand supporters for keeping free enterprise moving and getting government out of our way.  

But when Republicans need to protect "their" moral beliefs they have NO PROBLEM of stopping free enterprise and making sure they get government in the way.

VTL's in Kentucky are a must for American Horse Racing to survive.  

07 Oct 2009 12:32 PM

I think that both sides have some merit to the position they are taking, however, to make a situation like this a promising venture, the state and the horse industry should get together and look at what is at stake here, many lives are being affected by this indiscision, with barbs going back and forth.  Maybe the Governor should commission a study that would look at the Lessons Learned from other states identifying both the positives and negatives  experienced.  This needless chatter back and forth does not remedy the situation and in the meantime businesses are downsizing, people are being let go and families suffering, and that's all because egos rule the roost. What a shame, what is Kentucky is heading for.

07 Oct 2009 3:51 PM

Is Farish's dad still one of the largest shareholders in Churchill Downs?  Maybe it is about that.

11 Oct 2009 10:14 AM

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