Archives for March 2012


This is a tough time for Oliver Wills. He can’t sleep. His annual review is approaching and he will be asked to grade his own job performance last year, then to present his plan for the next two to five years.

Oliver Wills’ job is to protect the Thoroughbred breed in North America.

Most people don’t know Ollie. He is an industry veteran who works in the background. His performance isn’t easy to judge, it plays out over generations.

For the past three decades, Ollie’s job has been increasingly difficult. With the legalization of Bute, then Lasix and other meds, the ability to “prove the breed” has been clouded, if not completely blurred.

There is no Oliver Wills, is there? There is no job to protect the Thoroughbred breed in North America.

Most would say it is The Jockey Club’s job to protect the breed. Of course, they maintain the breed registry and affirm parentage, but they don’t protect the breed in North America, because they have no role in racing.

[*Editor’s Note: See a comment at the end of this article by the president of the Jockey Club concerning race-day medication.]

Thoroughbreds are performance-based. Breeding theories must be proven on the racetrack; around the world it is done with the best 2-year-old and 3-year-old races.

When I started out at the Thoroughbred Record in 1972, the saying of the day was, “We are trying to improve the breed.” That conversation is still going on in other countries, but I haven’t heard it here in a very long time.

This isn’t about our past. This is about our future.

The current series of articles in the New York Times will bring intense scrutiny and perhaps federal intervention to stop performance-enhancing drugs in racing. As the Times points out, the greatest abuse is in states with racinos at the lowest levels in various horse breeds.

A federal ban on performance-enhancing drugs would go far in cleaning up racing, but would it go far enough to “protect the breed”? In the sausage making of legislation, would bleeding meds be allowed as therapeutic?

The Times has additional pieces in this series. With the Kentucky Derby on the horizon, publicity and politicians will converge on the issue and there will be a degree of chaos in the industry.

In the midst of the coming storm, the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA) and its American Graded Stakes Committee (AGSC), will meet in a couple weeks and discuss whether alternative strategies should be used this year to ban all meds and peds in 2-year-old graded stakes.

On March 17, I made my case for a new TOBA strategy (click here) that could do the unthinkable. It could bypass state regulatory approval, by requiring racehorse owners to make their 2-year-olds eligible to receive graded status. Sanctioning would be between only TOBA and the racehorse owner.

When they meet, TOBA trustees will discuss many issues. Without question they will be caught in the swirl of emotion and media coverage around the Times series and the efforts for federal legislation to ban drugs from racing.

Although it is a theory, I believe the trustees can walk and chew gum at the same time. They can meet the deadline, fast approaching, of the first 2-year-old graded stakes with a new strategy that achieves the drug-free objective AND they can start discussing and working on a future in all racing without drugs.

To walk the talk, how about every TOBA trustee who continues as a trustee, make their 2-year-olds eligible for graded status in 2012? That sends a clear message that TOBA is stepping up to protect the breed.

So, in the absence of anyone already having the job to protect the Thoroughbred breed in North America, I nominate TOBA’s AGSC.

If you agree, then please contact the six TOBA members on the eleven member AGSC, because if they vote to require racehorse owners to make their 2-year-olds eligible for graded status, which means they will be “super-tested,” then it is a done deal for 2012.

The AGSC will have achieved its objective: Every 2-year-old in North America earning graded status in 2012 will have been free of medication and performance-enhancing substances.

Breeders will start the process of proving the breed by culling out bleeding traits and open our market to international standards. We will not only be in harmony with the other countries, but in addition, the 2012 graded stakes will be apples to apples with the 2-year-old Breeders’ Cup races.

Then in 2013, the AGSC will lead the way in protecting the breed through all the 3-year-old graded stakes leading to our classic races.

The job performance of TOBA and the AGSC will be reviewed annually and like everyone with accountability knows, they may have some sleepless nights.

It will take all of our wills to change racing in a way that is meaningful for breeders.

Let’s mark 2012 on the calendar as the year TOBA and its AGSC did move to protect the Thoroughbred breed. And once again in North America, have a conversation about improving the breed.

Copyright © Fred A. Pope 2012

The six members of TOBA on the American Graded Stakes Committee are:

David Richardson, M.D., Chairman
John Amerman
William Farish, Jr.
Seth Hancock
Mike Levy
Peter Willmott

*Note: The following statement was released today by the Jockey Club:

“The Jockey Club continues to believe that horses should run only when  they are free from the influence of medication and that there should be  no place in this sport for those who repeatedly violate medication  rules.”

James L. Gagliano, President, The Jockey Club


(The views expressed by guest authors are not necessarily those of Horse Racing Business.)


The adage that history repeats itself appears to be true for horse racing in the United States. One hundred years ago, racing in the sport’s epicenter of New York was in retreat—in fact, shut down–owing to laws that banned gambling.

In 1908, New York governor Charles Evans Hughes and the legislature instituted the Hart-Agnew bill that outlawed wagering. The New York Times reported that “the anti-race track gambling law… ‘will seriously cripple, if not absolutely destroy, thoroughbred racing of high class in this state,’ is the fear expressed by the State Racing Commission…”

New York racetrack owners continued to operate in 1909 and 1910 by using a loophole that permitted “oral wagers” among patrons and another loophole that racetrack owners were not personally responsible for bets made on their premises.

A New York Times article said: “New York’s measures are merely anti-gambling measures, and if the racing associations continue to claim that the Directors of racing associations should not be held responsible for gambling on their premises it is a fair confession on their part that racing without gambling in New York state is impossible. If that is the case either the Constitution of the State or the institution of racing must go…”

The article went on to say: “Any one who knows the facts knows that the five tracks in New York City are not necessary for the better breeding of horses or testing the speed of horses, and that the amount of money now invested in those tracks would never have been invested in them but that the presence of protected gambling at racetracks under the Percy-Gray law made such investment not only safe but enormously profitable.”

The New York legislature added laws to close the aforementioned loopholes in Hart-Agnew. In particular, racetrack owners were made criminally responsible for any wagering that took place at their tracks. This had the effect of terminating New York racing from 1911-1913. A favorable court decision permitted New York racetracks to open for business once more in 1913, though several tracks never did.

A century later, New York is again the epicenter of a challenge to racing (from a series of New York Times articles) that is roiling the sport nationwide and has the potential to relgate it to the dustbin of history. This time the brouhaha is over the evils of drugs and racetrack safety rather than over the evils of gambling.

Despite predictions to the contrary, the events of 1908-1913 did not set New York horse racing back for a protracted period of time. If this history is a reliable guide, the sport and business of racing in the United States can institute the necessary reforms to keep it viable in the 21st century.

The Times is betting this won’t happen: “as with previous reforms in this disreputable industry, it faces long odds.”

Suppose a person in 2112 looks back over the past two centuries of horse racing in America. She reads of the threat to horse racing’s very existence in 1912 and again in 2012 and of how racing survived the 1912 challenge.

But what did she read about 2012?

This answer depends, of course, on the history that the contemporary men and women of the horse racing fraternity are about to write.

Copyright © 2012 Horse Racing Business


Fact: Aussies bet more money on horseracing and poker machines than any other country in the world per capita.


The Golden Slipper Stakes is easily the richest horse race in the world for 2-year-olds. Since 1957, the race has been one of the most followed races in all Australia and has produced some of the greatest champions in horse racing. This year’s event kicks off on April 7, 2012 and has a prize pool of $3.5 million. Today we will take a look at the history of this event and what to expect in this year’s race.

The Golden Slipper started in 1957 and was originally a race for just 20,000 pounds. The inaugural event was won by Todman and since that time, numerous records have been set on the 1,200 meter course. Jockey R.S. Dye currently holds the record for most consecutive wins in the Golden Slipper after winning from 1989 through 1992. His four wins also ties him for the most Golden Slipper titles won by a jockey. He shares that record with Jockey R. Quinton who won the race in 1982, 1983, 1985, and in 1987.

The current Golden Slipper is actually part of Golden Slipper Day, which includes five total Group 1 races. The other races are the Arrowfield Stud Stakes, Queen of the Turf Stakes, George Ryder Stakes, and The BMW Stakes. Sepoy won last year’s event in a time of 1 minute and 10 seconds. The horse with the fastest winning time in Slipper Stakes history is Dancing Hero who took the event in 2004 in just 1 minute 8.6 seconds.

When Australian online casinos first released odds on this year’s Golden Slipper, All Too Hard was originally looking to be the favorite to win. After taking the Talidert Stakes in February and then the Pronto Pronto earlier in the money, there was a lot of hype surrounding the 2-year-old. However, now the horse has slipped to a tie for second behind the now favored Samaready. Samaready won the Blue Diamond stakes and currently sits at 4.80 to win.

There is still a chance that All Too Hard may be pulled out of the Diamond Slipper as co-trainer Wayne Hawkins is looking to improve the horse’s stud value. He believes that any Group 1 win will help improve the prestige of the horse and may try and find another race to accomplish this goal in.

For those looking to place a wager on the event, approximate odds are listed below. Right now, oddsmakers seem to favor Samaready to win with Pierro and All Too Hard to complete the place and show spots. This is provided that All Too Hard is now pulled out of the event. Raceway is not too far behind at 7.00.

This year’s Golden Slipper could be an epic race. Will All Too Hard’s record be put on the line or will Samaready become the latest 2-year-old to take the storied event. We will find out in less than two weeks.

Horse and Odds to Win (information is correct at the time this article was posted)

Samaready 4.80
Pierro 6.50
All Too Hard 6.50
Raceway 7.00
No Looking Back 9.00
Snitzerland 10.00
Hussousa 13.00
Drieftein 13.00
Faustus 17.00
Epaulette 17.00
Shelford 21.00
Calvary Rose 26.00
Later Gator 26.00
Kuchinskava 26.00
Pure Hustle 26.00

Copyright © 2012 Horse Racing Business