Archives for June 2012


Pinterest is an online virtual scrapbook, where people can post and share images (“pins”) from a website or uploaded from a computer. Users create their own topic boards (“pinboards”) and browse those created by others. A pin is a picture, illustration, or video residing on a pinboard, corresponding, for example, to the generic term “horse racing” or more precisely to a named farm or racetrack. Pins can be repined by other users, thereby spreading the content virally, and users may also make comments.

The ambitious mission articulated by Pinterest “is to connect everyone in the world through the ‘things’ they find interesting…a favorite book, toy, or recipe can reveal a common link between two people…”

The company is succeeding in spectacular fashion. Pinterest surpassed 10 million monthly unique visitors faster than any standalone website in the history of the Internet. Pinterest currently attracts over 4 million unique visitors per day, who average 15 minutes on the site. According to Comscore, Pinterest recently referred more traffic to other websites than Google+, Linkedin, Twitter, and YouTube combined.

A search of horse racing topics on Pinterest reveals a wide array of subjects; for instance, I’ll Have Another, jockey silks, and racing in Siena, Italy. The word “Frankel” brings up images of the sensational colt named for Bobby Frankel, as well as pins pertaining to the late trainer’s celebrity daughter, Bethenny Frankel. Several Thoroughbred adoption programs have pictures and descriptions of horses in need of caring owners.

Though Pinterest is in its infancy, it has demonstrated such potential that corporations are experimenting with ways to promote their goods and services globally, and do so in an extremely cost-efficient manner. A company gets “pinned” whenever someone clicks on its products to explore in more depth. Yet Pinterest is so new and revolutionary that the founders have not yet determined the appropriate business model for monetizing the concept.

Opportunities for reaching a female audience are especially promising in that girls and women are responsible for Pinterest’s exploding popularity. While they currently comprise over 80 percent of Pinterest users in the United States, the percentage of males on the site is gradually increasing.

Demographic profiles of Pinterest users vary by country. In the United Kingdom, to illustrate, users are about 56 percent male and they are more affluent than in the United States.

Pinterest enables one to easily find people who have an obvious curiosity about a theme. Thus racetracks, partnerships, farms, auctioneers, bloodstock agencies, and many other racing-related organizations have another powerful social-media portal with which to engage people.

Copyright © 2012 Horse Racing Business

Originally published in the Blood-Horse. Used with permission.


Numerous books about the Kentucky Derby have been published over the years. Consequently, when I saw another one titled The Kentucky Derby (by James C. Nicholson), I wondered how it could provide sufficiently fresh insights. After reading of Nicholson’s background, the answer became clearer.

Nicholson hails from a Kentucky family prominent in the racing industry, grew up on a Thoroughbred farm, and worked in the industry. He is also a recently minted doctoral graduate in history from the University of Kentucky. Thus his work is a hybrid of sorts, a fusion of his equine and academic life experiences.

Nicholson provides the reader with stories of the fast horses and often colorful people who have been involved with America’s most famous race, but does so within the context of the times, such as during the two world wars, the Great Depression of the 1930s, and the tumultuous 1960s. For example, horse racing was shut down by the federal government on January 3, 1945 because of the war effort; a postponed Derby was run on June 9 after the ban was lifted owing to the German surrender in May. Nicholson’s Derby-within-the larger-culture approach is what makes the book noticeably different from others.

In one illustration of how prevailing culture has affected the Derby, Nicholson makes a case that the increasingly rowdy behavior of the infield crowd in the 1960s and 1970s was reflective of what was occurring in the United States, as the younger generation rebelled against establishment mores. The conduct of the infield crowd stood in stark contrast to the traditional old order behavior in the Churchill Downs Clubhouse, and the contrast was a metaphor for the young versus old divisions in the greater society.

Another example: Nicholson explains how the carefully cultivated Old South image of the Kentucky Derby gradually gave way to changing sensibilities about race. Nicholson’s chapter “A Stage for Social Protest and a Site for National Healing, 1960-1980” describes how the Civil Rights movement spilled over to the Derby in 1967. Protestors threatened to hold Derby week festivities hostage in order to advance the cause of open housing in Louisville. Threats turned to action when the Derby Trial was disrupted and the Derby Festival Parade was cancelled. Protestors intended to unsettle or shut down the Derby itself. Civil rights leaders in the end called off a Derby-Day confrontation at Churchill Downs, but, Nicholson writes: “Despite these assurances…twenty-five hundred National Guardsmen, state troopers, and local law enforcement officers were at the track, which resembled an armed camp.”

Nicholson’s method of telling the Derby story is revealed in statements like “Because the Derby is such an important piece of American culture, people want their Derby champions to ‘deserve’ the title and to reflect the salient ‘American values’ of their time. These values are not static; they evolve, disappear, and resurface at the whim of the pervading cultural, social, and political climate.” For instance, he says, “Americans rallied [in 2003] behind ‘America’s horse,’ winner of America’s race, at a time when patriotism was at a fever pitch” due to the horrific events of 9-11-2001.

Nicholson’s book will appeal to aficionados of horse racing in general and the Kentucky Derby in particular, even if one does not live in the United States. However, this is not your garden-variety horse racing book, as it has an intellectual overlay that one would expect from a person who cares enough about history to get a doctorate in the subject. Moreover, it is extensively documented. Yet the book is very readable and entertaining.

James C. Nicholson, The Kentucky Derby (Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky, 2012). List price, $24.95.

Copyright © 2012 Horse Racing Business

Postscript: Reading James Nicholson’s account of Derby Day 1967 brought back a flood of memories. I was part of the “armed camp” he references that made sure the race was run without interruption. My Kentucky Army National Guard unit was positioned in a location very near to the racetrack waiting to be called on should a riot erupt. Fortunately, that did not occur. However, a year later, in May 1968, in the wake of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., my unit was part of a large Kentucky Army National Guard contingent activated for about a week, by the governor, to quell what one publication ranked as number 21 on the list of “The 25 Worst Riots of All Time.” The 1967 and 1968 editions of the Run for the Roses are forever etched in my mind, not because of the actual races, but rather because of their proximity to the societal upheaval in which I had a front-row seat.


According to the Merck Veterinary Manual: “Exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH) occurs in the majority of racehorses and is observed in many other equine sports (e.g., polo, barrel racing, 3-day events) that require strenuous exercise for short periods of time. Epistaxis is observed in a small proportion (~5%) of horses with EIPH. Blood in the tracheobronchial tree is identified in 44-75% of racehorses via endoscopic examination, and hemorrhage is detected by cytologic examination of bronchoalveolar lavage in 93% of racehorses.”

The use of furosemide (Lasix or Salix) on racehorses in the United States to curb EIPH is an issue that evokes passionately-held opinions from informed people in favor of the practice and against.

Following are links to well-reasoned discussions concerning Lasix by highly respected and longtime participants in the Thoroughbred breeding and racing industry, three discussions in favor of the use of Lasix on race-day and three opposed. An effort has been made to provide a representative sampling of expert views.

In favor of race-day administration of furosemide:

Human cardiologist Dr. Mark Dedomenico, racehorse owner and proprietor of The Pegasus Training and Rehabilitation Center for equines in Redmond, WA. [click here]

Article by veterinarians Dr. Thomas Tobin and Dr. Kimberly Brewer from the Winter 2011 Horsemen’s Journal. [click here]

Essay by trainer Dale Romans on . [click here]

Opposed to race-day administration of furosemide:

Claiborne farm owner Seth Hancock. [click here]

Hall of Fame trainer LeRoy Jolley [click here]

CEO of Team Valor International partnerships Barry Irwin. [click here]


Horse Racing Business has a position on the race-day medication issue, but will not articulate it in this particular post in order to maintain editorial balance.

Copyright © 2012 Horse Racing Business