Archives for November 2013

(OFF TOPIC) NOVEMBER 1863 AND 1963

This week is the anniversary of two of the most important events in American history. One-hundred- fifty years ago, on November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg address at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery established for the men who fought and died in the turning-point of the Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania on July 1-3, 1863. Fifty years ago, on November 22, 1963, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated by a craven Communist named Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas, Texas, who shot from the Dallas Book Depository.

One cannot understand American history without knowledge of the significance of the carnage and sacrifice at Gettysburg. Had the Confederate forces under General Robert E. Lee, one of the greatest military leaders of all time, prevailed, the United States would likely not have survived as a unified entity. This eventuality would have had global consequences down to the present day. A victorious Rebel army would have been free to take Washington, DC or Philadelphia and New York, and a negotiated peace would have followed.

Lincoln was not the featured speaker at the cemetery dedication; that honor went to noted orator Edward Everett, who spoke for two hours. Lincoln’s address followed Everett’s and lasted about two minutes. Part of what became one of the greatest speeches in history read: “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.” He was wrong. While Lincoln’s address is well known to this day, many Americans, regrettably, don’t know what happened at Gettysburg or why it matters.

Less than a year and a half later, Lincoln would “belong to the ages” when actor John Wilkes Booth shot him in the head at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC, on the night of April 14, 1865. Lincoln succumbed the next morning at a boarding house across from Ford’s Theatre, less than a week after Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox, Virginia.

One of the men buried in the Soldiers’ National Cemetery was George Nixon III, who died on July 10, 1863, of a wound suffered on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg. His great grandson, Richard M. Nixon, would become President of the United States in 1968, on his second try at the office. The man who edged out Nixon in his first attempt in 1960 was John F. Kennedy.

Kennedy had a brief tenure as president but almost surely would have been reelected in 1964. He went to Dallas in November 1963 to reconcile political differences between two factions of the Texas Democratic Party, though he had been warned not to go by UN Ambassador Adlai Stevenson because of hostility that Stevenson had experienced on a trip to Texas.

Anyone old enough to remember November 1963, as I can, is likely to recall vividly what he or she was doing when word spread of the Kennedy assassination (very similar to the tragedy of 9/11/2001). The gunning down of the young and charismatic president put the nation into mourning and contributed to the tumult in the United States in the Vietnam War era.

Every American child should be able to visit: the consecrated cemetery at Gettysburg and walk the immortal path of Pickett’s Charge to Bloody Angle; Ford’s Theatre and the boarding house where Lincoln died; the Dallas Book Depository where Oswald carried out his dastardly plot; and the Kennedy grave at Arlington National Cemetery. He or she would have a deeper appreciation for the meaning of being an American, with more emphasis on responsibilities than privileges, as reflected in Jack Kennedy’s admonition in his Inaugural Address to “ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”

The week of November 17, 2013 sees the American people deeply divided over issues. Reflecting on the lives and premature deaths of two martyred presidents, one a Republican and the other a Democrat, might help bridge this divide, if only for this hallowed week in 2013.

Copyright © 2013 Horse Racing Business

THE BREEDERS’ CUP SITE-SELECTION DECISION

The Breeders’ Cup was founded with the idea that it would be an annual year-end event held at racetracks in assorted geographical locations for the purpose of reaching out to fans and showcasing the very best in horse racing. Since its inaugural in 1984, the Breeders’ Cup has moved among ten racetracks located in eight different North American cities. Santa Anita has hosted the Breeders’ Cup four of the last six years and will again in 2014.

Notwithstanding the original concept of alternating sites, there is strong sentiment in the U. S. racing industry for the Breeders’ Cup board of directors to establish a permanent site at Santa Anita, where the races can be run in warm-weather against a scenic backdrop and the Classic can be telecast in prime time on the East Coast without the use of artificial lighting. Dissenters from this point of view often cite the fact that the Breeders’ Cup has had its best attendance and handle figures at Churchill Downs. Others cite the need to take the event to New York, the hub of the premier racing in North America.

In deciding between revolving sites or a permanent location, Breeders’ Cup directors are faced with the inherent trade-off between transparency and discretion in decision making. On the one hand, there are compelling entertainment-related reasons for establishing a permanent venue, and such clarity would also allow for better planning on the part of everyone concerned, including executives of the host site, owners, and trainers. On the other hand, the Breeders’ Cup organization would give up the discretion it currently has to adapt scheduling to contingencies.

Whether intended it or not, the Breeders’ Cup board has, by its actions, already designated a quasi-permanent home site, Santa Anita, with occasional visits to other racetracks. This seems like a reasonable compromise that provides a high degree of transparency without completely taking flexibility away from the Breeders’ Cup management and board.

Copyright © 2013 Horse Racing Business

A CALL TO ACTION FOR RACING BUSINESSES ON VETERANS DAY

President Dwight Eisenhower and Congress in 1954 designated November 11 as the day to pay tribute to the men and women, past and present, who serve honorably in the armed forces.

Down through the years, countless owners, trainers, and others in racing have heeded the call of their country. To name a few exemplars, the late C. V. Whitney was a decorated combatant of both world wars and the first assistant secretary of the Air Force, and his cousin John Hay Whitney was a prisoner of war; G. Watts Humphrey Jr. received the Silver Star, the nation’s third highest military award for valor, “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action” in Vietnam while wounded by shrapnel; and Richard Santulli is chairman of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund that provides “financial support for the dependents of United States military personnel lost in performance of their duty.”

To commemorate Veterans Day 2013, businesses associated with racing can resolve to help remedy a national disgrace—an elevated unemployment level among veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2012, the average unemployment rate for veterans aged 18-24 was 20.4%, or five points higher than for non-vets in the same age range. Post 9/11 veterans between 45 and 54 years of age had an unemployment rate of 7.7%, compared to 6.2% for non-vets. While these figures have improved somewhat in 2013, as employers addressed the problem, a new wave of veterans will enter the civilian job market in 2014 when troops leave Afghanistan.

Former military personnel need job opportunities to transition into the civilian society that remains free and safer because of them. Many bring traits and skills that private-sector employers seek, such as discipline, responsibility, perseverance, and leadership. The next time there is a job opening at a racetrack, on a farm, in an auction company, or elsewhere, it would be good for business and good for the country to give a leg up to a veteran.

Copyright © 2013 Horse Racing Business

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The award-winning turf writer and Vietnam veteran Paul Moran passed away in Saratoga Springs, NY on November 9, 2013, at age 67. May he rest in peace.