Following are a dozen gifts I’d ask from Santa Claus for horse racing in North America.

1.  Healing for injured jockeys and the utmost safety for those active in riding.

2.  A better life for backstretch employees and their families.

3.  Humane treatment for all racehorses, during their careers on the track and afterwards.

4..  Plenty of horse owners for the sport.

5.  A surge of new fans.

6.  A plethora of new bettors and a turnaround in pari-mutuel handle.

7.  Markedly reduced takeout percentages on wagers, so racing can have a competitive value proposition.

8.  Buoyant bloodstock sales.

9.  Precise and uniform rules for stewards pertaining to what interference mandates disqualification of a runner.

10. Uniform medication rules.

11. An escalation of positive social media buzz for showcase racing events.

12. A super-talented and durable 2-year-old colt about to turn 3-year-old that finally ends the Triple Crown drought in 2015.

For the larger troubled world, my wish is for peace on earth and good will toward all.

Copyright © 2014 Horse Racing Business


The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crimes Report historically placed animal-abuse in a catchall “all other offense” category, along with an array of lesser crimes.  The FBI recently announced that animal abuse will be upgraded to a Group A felony and reported in a classification of its own, similar to crimes against society like arson, assault, and homicide.  (Click here to see a  listing by the Animal Defense Fund showing when felony animal cruelty provisions were enacted in each of the 50 states.)

The FBI’s elevation of animal abuse to a top-tier felony should help in seeing that convicted abusers of racehorses and other animals receive penalties that fit the crime.

During 2015, the FBI will modify its National Incident Based Reporting system so that it can acquire and store statistics about animal-abuse episodes and arrests submitted by law enforcement agencies throughout the United States.  Then, in January 2016, the FBI will actually start to collect data.

The FBI defines animal cruelty as “Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly taking an action that mistreats or kills any animal without just cause, such as torturing, tormenting, mutilation, maiming, poisoning, or abandonment.  Included are instances of duty to provide care, e.g., shelter, food, water, care if sick or injured; transporting or confining an animal in a manner likely to cause injury or death; causing an animal to fight with another; inflicting excessive or repeated unnecessary pain or suffering, e.g., uses objects to beat or injure an animal. This definition does not include proper maintenance of animals for show or sport (emphasis added); use of animals for food, lawful hunting, fishing or trapping.”

The FBI’s actions are intended to raise public awareness about animal cruelty and to assist prosecutors in gaining convictions.  To illustrate, part of the FBI’s definition of animal abuse—“transporting or confining an animal in a manner likely to cause injury or death”—depicts the manner in which some former racehorses are reportedly conveyed to slaughter houses.

Copyright © 2014 Blood-Horse Publications.  Used with permission.

Postscript:  The personal conduct code announced this week by the National Football League specifically identifies animal abuse as a violation.  It is gratifying to see animal abuse beginning to receive the attention it needs by influential organizations like the FBI and NFL.


Whenever disputes and controversies arise in sports, fans get most of their information from conventional media and social media.   They generally are not privy to inside first-person accounts in which the content is unedited.

Horse racing fans, for example, got only a glimpse of jockey Mike Smith’s displeasure over the notorious start of the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic and on how he feels deep down about the stewards’ non-ruling.

The concept of providing athletes’ unvarnished views directly to fans is the raison d’etre for Derek Jeter’s unique new website “The Players’ Tribune.”   The recently retired New York Yankee shortstop wanted to have “a place where athletes have the tools they need to share what they really think and feel…  with no filter.”  Jeter says, “I do think fans deserve more than ‘no comments’ or ‘I don’t knows’’”

To illustrate, The Players’ Tribune is the forum that golfer Tiger Woods used to publish a lengthy and scathing rebuttal to an article about him in Golf Digest.  A sampling of Woods’ blunt words demonstrate Jeter’s no-holds-barred approach:  “Did you read Dan Jenkins’ interview with me in the latest Golf Digest?  I hope not.   Because it wasn’t me.   It was some jerk he created to pretend he was talking to me.  That’s right, Jenkins faked an interview, which fails as parody, and is really more like a grudge-fueled piece of character assassination.  Journalistically and ethically, can you sink any lower?”

Such candor by sports insiders has the potential to build a closer bond with fans, to generate interest in a sport, and to call attention to things that need changing.

Horse racing might be able to benefit from a forum like The Players’ Tribune, especially during the Triple Crown season and in the weeks before and after the Breeders’ Cup.

Copyright © 2014 Horse Racing Business