Archives for August 2009


The proposition advanced in this discussion is that the winner of each race in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships should automatically earn the Eclipse Award for his or her division. This procedure would remove the voting–and therefore the politics and subjectivity–from the Eclipse Awards, except for Horse of the Year, which would continue to be elected.  The end result would be to elevate the overall quality of the horses in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships because an owner of a top horse would not be able to skip the event and still count on his or her horse winning in the Eclipse voting what was not earned on the racetrack against the best competition.


Jess Jackson, co-owner with his wife of Rachel Alexandra, has stated that the sensational filly will not run in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup World Championships because the host track, Santa Anita, has an artificial surface. Jerry Moss, co-owner of the brilliant filly Zenyatta, is of a different mind.

Ray Paulick of the Paulick Report commented on the situation:

“Jackson doesn’t owe the fans anything. He’s put up his money and can do whatever he chooses with his horses. But for him to boycott the 2009 Breeders’ Cup with the sport’s biggest star, despite evidence that Rachel Alexandra has performed well on synthetics over Keeneland’s Polytrack, reminds me of the spoiled kid who didn’t like the way a game was going and decided to take his ball and go home.”

Jay Privman on quoted Moss, as follows, on the Rachel Alexandra/Zenyatta debate:

“The Breeders’ Cup was created for this kind of circumstance… I’m not sure where else to have this meeting. The national press usually centers around the Triple Crown and the Breeders’ Cup. I’m conditioned to respect the Breeders’ Cup…  I didn’t pick the place where the Breeders’ Cup is run. We’ve run in the Breeders’ Cup in all types of weather all over the place. If the Breeders’ Cup was run in New York or Churchill Downs, we’d be all over the country.”

This Rachel Alexandra/Zenyatta “calling out” raises questions about the importance or clout of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships in deciding who has the best horse in a particular division.

Assume for sake of discussion that the Breeders’ Cup World Championships really are the world championships. Now, say, an American-campaigned 2-year-old colt wins the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and is acclaimed to be a world champion. Should he not also, ipso facto, be the Eclipse Award winner based on what he did on the racetrack in the world championships?

Jess Jackson’s Curlin won two Eclipse Awards in 2008–for Horse of the Year and Older Male–even though he finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Curlin’s recognition makes sense because the two horses that beat him in the Breeders’ Cup Classic were foreign-owned and raced. But what about American-based longshot Volponi in 2002? He won the Breeders’ Cup Classic but Left Bank was awarded the Eclipse for Older Male and the mare Azeri was voted the Eclipse for Horse of the Year. If Volponi was truly the world champion how could he not be the best in his own country in his division and therefore worthy of the Eclipse Award, regardless of his record prior to the Breeders’ Cup?

If a real-life Rocky Balboa (a human version of Volponi) lands a lucky punch and wins the World Heavyweight Championship, then he is the world champion in spite of the fact that he has always been a journeyman fighter. Buster Douglas’ shocking knockout of Mike Tyson in his prime is an example.

Suppose that Rachel Alexandra does not contest the 2009 Breeders’ Cup. Whoever wins the Breeders’ Cup Distaff is putatively the world champion in this division. Ergo, if the winner is an American filly or mare, most likely Zenyatta, how could Rachel Alexandra be awarded an Eclipse for being the best in this division and perhaps Horse of the Year in 2009?

Switch sports for the moment and consider a hypothetical. A speedy and quick finesse team like the Indianapolis Colts of the National Football League is built for competition in its domed stadium, whereas a muscular “grind-it-out” team like the New York Giants is tailored to outdoor competition, especially in inclement weather late in the NFL season. Further, consider that these teams win their respective conferences and are slated to meet in the Super Bowl, which will be contested in a domed stadium, Ford Field in Detroit. The powers that be with the Giants decline to participate, in spite of the fact that they have the best record in pro football, because the deck is stacked against them, so to speak, as the Colts have a decided advantage indoors. The Colts win the Super Bowl by default since the Giants don’t show up. Later, sportswriters vote the Giants rather than the Colts as the NFL Team of the Year, cutting them slack for their actions.

Ludicrous, you say, and could not happen. Agreed, not in the NFL, but very possibly in horse racing. Yes, indeed, this kind of bizarre and incongruous outcome could eventuate: The owners of Rachel Alexandra bypass the Breeders’ Cup and then she is subsequently voted the Eclipse Award as best filly/mare for 2009 and maybe Horse of the Year to boot.

If this were to happen, one could reasonably surmise that either the Breeders’ Cup races are world championships in name only or the Eclipse Awards voters are in a world of their own. How can a racehorse be a world champion and not the champion of his or her own country, including Volponi in 2002?

The view here is that legitimate championships in any sport can only be won and lost in head-to-head competition, on the playing field, in the arena, in the pool, on the tennis court–or on the racetrack. College football has no playoff system and there is usually controversy over what teams deserve to be in the title game, which is determined by an arcane computer ranking.

If American racing and its year-end showcase the Breeders’ Cup World Championships are to be taken seriously in crowning champions, the racetrack, in lieu of  Eclipse voting, is the place to decide who is best. An owner can race his or her horse anywhere and anytime, but to be a champion the horse has to show up and win when it counts most, irrespective of previous conquests, no matter how impressive.

If this were only true. In reality, a Rachel Alexander can be a no show and still have a high probability of winning an Eclipse Award or two, and in particular if the chief competitor, in this case Zenyatta, were to lose her Breeders’ Cup race. So a horse that does not compete wins the Eclipse Award over a horse that does compete and loses. Something is badly wrong with this picture. 

The Breeders’ Cup World Championships are prestigious but hardly world championships, as evidenced by the disconnect between the Eclipse Awards results and the Breeders’ Cup outcomes and the fact that some of the best horses in the United States and Europe are not entered. For instance, the arguably best turf horse in the world, Sea the Stars, will likely not be brought to the United States for the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

Tacking on the nomenclature World Championships to Breeders’ Cup is an advertising/public relations attempt to communicate to the general public that the Breeders’ Cup is an important event. However, those in the know know that world championships is a bit of puffery, to say the least. Jess Jackson, unless he has a change of mind, may be counting on this when it comes time for Eclipse Awards voters to be asked to confirm or reject what actually transpired on a plastic racetrack surface in California.

A way to strengthen the Breeders’ Cup World Championships and take most of the politics out of the the Eclipse Awards is to stipulate that the winner of each of the Breeders’ Cup World Championship races will have earned the Eclipse Award for his or her division. Eclipse voters would still cast ballots for Horse of the Year. This way, if a terrific racehorse, say a Triple Crown winner, were to be injured and unable to compete in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, voters could recognize him/her with the award for Horse of the Year.

Copyright © 2009 Horse Racing Business


Thoroughbred Charities of America (TCA) was founded in 1990 by racehorse owners Herb and Ellen Moelis, of CandyLand Farm in Delaware, and the late Allaire duPont, who campaigned the great gelding Kelso.   Mr. Moelis is a retired New York CPA and tax attorney.   Mr. Moelis and Mrs. Moelis are still actively involved with TCA, as the president and secretary, respectively.

TCA’s mission statement is concise and unambiguous:   “To provide a better life for Thoroughbreds, both during and after their racing careers by supporting retirement, rescue, and research and by helping the people who work with them.”

More specifically, TCA makes grants in five sectors:

  • “Thoroughbred rescues, rehabilitation, retraining, adoption, retirement, and euthanasia.
  • Backstretch workers, including disabled jockeys, farm and track employees with little or no medical coverage and child care for them while working.
  • Equine educational organizations, including those who provide equine-based scholarships and those who utilize Thoroughbreds in their educational programs.
  • Therapeutic riding programs, which include the use of Thoroughbreds in their programs.
  • Research into equine diseases and ailments.”

TCA specifies that its “primary” focus is on the first item above and its grants are made accordingly.   In 2009, TCA awarded $879,547 to 86 nonprofits.  Last year, it provided nearly $1.6 million and of this 46% went to the rescue and care of retired Thoroughbreds.   Since its inception, TCA has given over $15 million to some 200 nonprofits in 36 states.  To illustrate the diversity of the recipients, a sampling of these nonprofits are the Backstretch Education Fund,  Belmont Child Care, Fieldstone Farm Therapeutic Riding Center,  New Bolton Center, New York Horse Rescue, and Race Track Chaplaincy.   TCA’s widespread geographical outreach makes it a truly national organization.

TCA is sustained by gifts of money, items, and services.   However, the bulk of its cash flow comes from an annual stallion service and art auction.   The 20th edition is scheduled for December 7-9, 2009 at Keeneland.   Donors offer stallion seasons and art objects that TCA sells.   The past three years have resulted in gross proceeds of $1.3 million in 2008, $2.3 million in 2007, and $2.1 million in 2006.

In 2008, TCA became an affiliate, or supporting organization, of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.    Earlier this year, the Jockey Club instituted a matching-funds program that supplies money to TCA and the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation for the care of retired racehorses.   The Jockey Club matches, up to $200,000, the funds collected through its voluntary check-off option on foal registrations.   The Breeders’ Cup announced in June that it will assist TCA in its fundraising efforts by promoting TCA and encouraging fan contributions during the 2009 World Championships at Santa Anita Park. 

The tried and proven philanthropic model employed by TCA is the United Way approach, in which a central charity raises funds for allocation to other nonprofits that fall within its mission.   This procedure frees individual and corporate donors from having to personally delve into the worthiness of various charities that call upon them.   With TCA, racing-industry participants can delegate the due-diligence task to a trusted charity.

For example, in 2009, TCA assumed day-to-day management of Fasig-Tipton’s Blue Horse Charities and accredits its grants.   Blue Horse Charities, started by the late John A. Hettinger, gets its funds from voluntary contributions by Fasig-Tipton buyers and sellers, which are 100% matched by the auction company.   Blue Horse Charities this week announced awards of $218,685 to 52 non-profit Thoroughbred adoption and retraining centers.  These grants were awarded on the basis of the number of newly retired racehorses a nonprofit  placed into permanent homes.

TCA is a highly efficient steward of its financial supporters’ contributions.   The organization has only one paid employee, its executive director Elizabeth Harris, who is leaving shortly to become the vice president of communications at Churchill Downs, Inc.   By severely limiting overhead, TCA is able to grant 96 cents for every dollar it receives.   This is an outstanding percentage as compared to the vast majority of philanthropic institutions.

The TCA 18-person board of directors is comprised of very capable individuals, with longtime interests in the Thoroughbred enterprise, who volunteer their time and expertise.   Although TCA is headquartered in Midway, Kentucky, near Lexington, not all members of the board reside in the Bluegrass state.  

IRS-certified 501 (c) 3 groups seeking grants from TCA must make written applications and then are thoroughly vetted.   The TCA board begins to review applications in April and decisions are made and funds distributed before the end of June.

TCA has been eminently successful in making for a better life for countless former racehorses and numerous people who work in the racing industry.   This has been possible, of course, because of the generosity of individuals and companies that have contributed their money, possessions, and time.

TCA’s monetary support might assist:   a Down-Syndrome child to enhance his or her sense of self-esteem in a therapeutic riding program that also gives a new lease on life to an otherwise unwanted horse; or a permanently disabled jockey desperately in need of the wherewithal to get by; or a prison inmate who learns to trust and care by grooming a retired racehorse.  

Outcomes like these are the raison d’etre for Thoroughbred Charities of America.

Copyright © 2009 Horse Racing Business


Contact Information: 

Thoroughbred Charities of America, P. O. Box 3856, Midway, KY 40347


(Special thanks to Liz Harris ( for providing information for this profile.)