Double Down - By Evan Hammonds

There’s no question that the Thoroughbred racing business is a risky proposition. The stories published in the general media these days focus on the number of equine fatalities and not the snappy comments a trainer makes in the winner’s circle after a major stakes event. 

However, there are positive signs. In the last few weeks we’ve learned that Churchill Downs Inc. has purchased Turfway Park, which will invest in constructing a new facility that will strengthen the year-round circuit in Kentucky. We’ve also kept a keen eye on the goings-on in Maryland, where racing groups and city officials in Baltimore seem to have come up with a plan for a revitalizing Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course, home of the Preakness Stakes (G1).

In the face of uncertainty, these groups are “doubling down” on the sport. So, too, is BloodHorse.

While it’s been in the works for some time, BloodHorse announced this week that we’ve expanded its editorial roster with the addition of a pair of aces in Jay Hovdey and Byron King.

Hovdey, a multiple Eclipse Award winner, returns to the fold. His initial missive here, a revitalized “The Final Turn,” appears on page 74 of the October 19, 2019 issue of BloodHorse. He’ll also work his craft twice weekly in BloodHorse Daily.

Hovdey, formerly the executive columnist with Daily Racing Form, was a correspondent for our print edition from 1992-98, winning an Eclipse Award for his reporting on the 1994 Triple Crown series. He’s also the author of a pair of books under the The Blood-Horse imprint: Whittingham and Cigar: America’s Horse.

Prior to joining BloodHorse, King was a longtime Turf writer and handicapper with Daily Racing Form.

We worked side-by-side with King back in the mid 1990s in the DRF office when King was just out of the University of Arizona. Smart as a whip at the time, he’s since sharpened his game and bolsters an already strong editorial staff. His first feature for the print edition, the cover story about Santa Anita and Breeders’ Cup’s plans for the Nov. 1-2 World Championships, “Safety First,” appears on page 34 of the October 19, 2019 issue of BloodHorse.

While new hires are noteworthy, it’s important to celebrate the hard work of a veteran staff. Our parent company, The Jockey Club, does a better job than we used to as far as recognizing the achievements of employees’ tenure with a Service Awards lunch. At a gathering this week, we honored six BloodHorse employees with “milestone” years of service. Allow us to acknowledge those who have dedicated their professional lives to serving the needs of the readers of BloodHorse,, and BloodHorse Daily.

Mark Cooper and Kristi Heasley both have notched 35 years of employment with the company. For anyone who has read a stakes report, looked at a pedigree, and read the family notes, they can thank Mr. Cooper. He also spearheads most of the “research” functions of the print edition, especially the Stallion Register, of which he is the lead writer, researcher, and proofer. Ms. Heasley, who began her career here as a typesetter in the old days of paste-up work, has been serving the marketing and advertising end of the industry for more than three decades.

Debbie Tuska has been with BloodHorse for 30 years, but she has been an invaluable player for longer than that. She came to the company just out of high school, left to start a family, and then returned. The glue that holds the editorial staff together, Ms. Tuska, as the assistant editor,  proofs every inch of copy, and has an extensive vocabulary that fails to contain the word “No.” She also herds racing secretaries across the country for our National Stakes Condition Book.

Also enjoying 30 years of service is Paul Gregory, who headed the research department at one time and now is the main writer on Stallion Register picture pages.

At 20 years of service is Eric Mitchell, who has found his groove as bloodstock editor, heads BloodHorse MarketWatch, and sits at the top of the masthead when it comes to the Stallion Register.

The baby of the bunch is Courtney Bearse, who celebrated 15 years. The title “director of technology” means a lot to anyone who runs a business, and Bearse does a masterful job of keeping the trains running on time.

We’re thrilled about the new hires and excited to bring them to the team…on the double.

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