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.

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