In early December the late Kent Hollingsworth, editor of The Blood-Horse from 1963 until 1986, became one of the latest inductees into the National Museum of Racing’s Joe Hirsch Media Roll of Honor.
While reviewing many of Hollingsworth’s columns during his final years at the magazine, we discovered his perspectives 28 years ago on racing and its participants are still relevant. We honor his induction by highlighting a selection of his more salient observations.
“Not since the 1930s, when there were such 5-year-olds racing as Equipoise and Mate, Dark Secret and Faireno, Head Play, Discovery…and Seabiscuit, have we seen so many sire prospects still racing at 5.
“With so many million-dollar opportunities for older horses now, it is well worth waiting for a racehorse to mature. The rewards for keeping a good horse in training, rather than hurrying him off to stud, are great—for both owners and the racing public.
“It gives racing a vital third dimension…It is a change in the structure of racing, and the show is better for it.”—March 15, 1986 [Editor’s Note: The Nov. 2, 2013, Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) included five intact males ages 5 to 7.]
“Racing is a game. It is a business, too, for the IRS requires that players treat it as a business, but it primarily is a game, a competitive sport, a high-stakes game.
“Because it is a game, it must have rules. Because it is a game on which the general public bets, participants in the game must play within the rules.
“For the general public to continue to finance this game, it must be honest in appearance as well as in fact. While a few bettors may be lured to the track because they believe a fix is on and they win some money on this ‘cert,’ the general public will not long support or sustain any interest in a game believed to be dishonest.”—Dec. 28, 1985
“Great material can be ineptly acted, poorly directed, and produced into a dramatic flop—as has happened with Shakespeare and O’Neill.
“A suggestion that horse racing is not great material—just two minutes of horses with no personality running around in a circle, preceded by 28 minutes of quoted betting odds, this times seven, all afternoon—does not embrace the drama intrinsic to competition between racing men.
“To say that a sports fan would not be interested in all the ifs, maybes, and buts contributing to the apprehension and anticipation of a horse race is to say a mystery reader is not interested in all the material leading up to the final page where the murderer is revealed.”—Nov. 22, 1986, on the importance of presenting horse racing’s stories well on TV.
“The purchase of a Thoroughbred is not the purchase of a Treasury note. It only is an opportunity, always has been, for a man who knows what he is doing, to do it.”—Jan. 18, 1986, in a column about the skill of trainer/owner/breeder Hirsch Jacobs, who enjoyed great success with relatively inexpensive stock.
“All (Thoroughbred Racing Associations convention) panelists agreed that more research was needed on the pharmacological effect of drugs on horses, and on drug testing…All panelists agreed that there should be a uniform medication rule for all states.
“The National Association of State Racing Commissioners has recommended for the last six years a racing rule that would prohibit race-day medication. The commissioners like it in convention, but not at home. The only major racing jurisdictions in North America that have adopted the NASRC guidelines are New York, Arkansas, and Canada.
“Tracks pay for drug testing, and pay in lost revenue when the medication issue masks honest racing from the fans’ view. The tracks have the power to exercise leadership on the medication issues when commissions do not.”—Feb. 15, 1986