Archives for April 2013


One hundred years ago, on May 10, jockey Roscoe Goose closed in the stretch with Donerail to win the Kentucky Derby in 2:04 4/5 at the longest odds in history. Donerail went off at over 91-1 and paid $184.90 for a $2 bet. The next biggest payoff was Mine That Bird in 2009, with a $2 wager returning $103.20.

Goose was born near Louisville, Kentucky (Jeffersontown) in 1891 and died in Louisville in 1971 at age 80. He was nicknamed “the Golden Goose.”

Goose is one of the jockeys who have won both the Kentucky Derby and the Kentucky Oaks. He rode the filly Kathleen to victory in the 1916 Oaks.

Following his career as a jockey, Goose was an owner, trainer, and bloodstock agent. He mingled with rich and poor alike and did much for the needy. One of his friends was J. Graham Brown, a well-known Louisville entrepreneur and racehorse owner. The famous Brown Hotel was the centerpiece of his empire and a popular gathering place for visitors during Kentucky Derby week, then as now.

Goose’s brother Carl went by a different last name, Ganz, which was the original spelling of Goose. Carl Ganz won the 1913 Kentucky Oaks on Cream. In 1915, he was killed in a racing accident at Latonia (now Turfway Park), located in Northern Kentucky near Cincinnati, Ohio.

Donerail was owned and trained by Thomas P. Hayes. Donerail’s career record was 10 wins, 11 places, and 10 shows from 62 starts. His earnings were $15,156; this is approximately equivalent to $356,354 today. Donerail, by McGee out of Algie M. by Hanover, was inbred on his dam’s side to the renowned 19th century sire Lexington.

Roscoe Goose is buried in Louisville’s grand Cave Hill Cemetery. In 2012, the house where he lived for a good part of his life at 3012 South Third Street, not far from Churchill Downs, was designated an historical landmark by the Louisville Metro Landmarks Commission.

Copyright © 2013 Horse Racing Business


No one would want to see or hear a headline that screamed “Kentucky Derby Marred by Pileup Shortly After Start.”

If that kind of mishap were to occur, especially on the congested first turn at Churchill Downs, the outcry and recriminations would immediately ensue. Critics would zero in on the unwieldy 20-horse field size and how Churchill Downs management had to know that it was an accident waiting to happen.

The repercussions would undoubtedly result in a perfunctory investigation of how the Derby could be made safer and ultimately perhaps a limit on the number of starters. This would be a classic case of closing the barn door after the horse has escaped.

A streamlined field size mitigates the risks of a traffic-related episode and puts Churchill Downs in a more defensible position should such an incident take place. In virtually every Kentucky Derby, the primary contenders are far fewer than the customary 20 starters. Thus a field of 12 to 14 entries would normally allow in all of the main contenders, and still leave room for plenty of outsiders with a shot to win the race.

Besides addressing the all-important safety issue, a smaller field would reduce the likelihood of horses being compromised by poor racing luck. Currently, a favorite that draws the rail must put in a Herculean effort and have ample luck to overcome the obstacle.

Another alternative for improving the race is to seed the starters rather than leaving post-position assignments to a random draw, similar to how the NCAA seeds teams in its annual basketball tournament in order to reward teams with the best credentials. The connections of the horse with the highest total in the Churchill Downs point system would get first choice of post position and this merit-based procedure would proceed until all of the post positions were filled.

The Eight Belles breakdown in the 2008 Kentucky Derby did lasting damage to horse racing’s image. Whereas that misfortune was unavoidable, safety hazards pertaining to field size can be lessened, while concomitantly increasing the prospects that all of the horses will have a clear path to victory.

Copyright © 2013 The Blood-Horse. Used with permission.


Suggestion for the NYRA board: Immediately quit interviewing CEO contenders. The kind of CEO you really need now is almost certainly not in your pool of candidates.


In the fall of 2012, the state of New York took over the New York Racing Association and reorganized the board of directors. NYRA has had a litany of well-publicized and often embarrassing problems, which prompted Governor Andrew Cuomo to take the action he did.

For approximately the past six weeks, the reconstituted NYRA board has been screening candidates for chief executive officer. The strongly held view here is that the board should abort this search. Instead, seek out an interim (for several years) turnaround manager to address the NYRA mess and put it on a path to success before retaining a CEO for the longer term. My perspective derives from long experience in both researching/studying corporate turnarounds as a business-school professor and, more importantly, having actually worked as part of a turnaround team brought into a nearly bankrupt publicly traded company by the board of directors, which I eventually joined.

The successful turnaround managers I’ve known have a procedure they initiate when they arrive in a troubled company and many of the decisions and actions they take are highly unpopular (the steps in the procedure are beyond the scope of this article). One such CEO told me he had his house shot at and his children went to school and back with a security guard.

Similarly, the new CEO of NYRA, if he or she is capable and willful in doing what is necessary, will offend plenty of people with vested interests in one position or another. Since NYRA is a political entity, this is certain to provoke complaints to the governor, legislators, and the NYRA board. (In contrast to NYRA’s many constituencies, a private or public company in a turnaround mode mainly has to please just the board of directors, the largest shareholders, and often the biggest creditors.)

One type of CEO personality and skill set is best suited for circumstances in which the executive can build the organization by, for example, innovating and improving market share. Another type of CEO is a wartime general, the individual who thrives in a difficult environment wherein the company is under attack. He or she makes the arduous decisions needed to turn around the organization in spite of the chorus of criticism that ensues.

The turnaround CEO knows that his or her time in the company will be short, several years at most. At that time, the company will either sink or swim.

At the present time, NYRA needs a skilled and thick-skinned turnaround CEO, who would bring in his or her own proven team of specialists, to get NYRA on a solid foundation and position the organization for a successful future, regardless of the vitriol sure to come from folks whose oxen get gored. The NYRA board would have to back this individual to the hilt.

Once the NYRA ship was righted, the turnaround group would go onto another crisis and a captain for calmer seas would be brought aboard.

Copyright © 2013 Horse Racing Business