TOBA Prez Speaks Out

“As president of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, a group that represents exactly what the name suggests, [Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt] has some heartfelt words of warning and advice for the Establishment of racing, not just in his own New York state but through the rest of the country as well.

The major points in Vanderbilt’s immediate bill of particulars are:

1)  Thoroughbred racing is now much too concerned with the betting dollar.

2)  Management is not putting on a good show for customers.

3)  The heavy emphasis on sprints and claiming races overvalues the cheap horse and discourages the breeding and training of classic Thoroughbreds.

4) The officiating at racetracks is uneven, sometimes uninformed and occasionally unfair.”

Vanderbilt Vs. Racing’s Establishment,” Alfred Wright, Sports Illustrated, August 12, 1963.

Plus ça change…

7 thoughts on “TOBA Prez Speaks Out

  1. Taken from an article published in 1963 it shows how little anything has changed in all those years
    One thing tho The tracks need to be more in tune to the better Without them racing goes away Simple as that High take out drives them out esp when they don’t see any improvement to facilities Run down facilities keep people home watching on TV or computer and best way to get new fans is to get them to an actual track to see the excitement first hand Betters want full fields of good horses If that means less days or shorter cards so be it But now feeding TV and and computer 24/7 racing they are not enough horses to make the racing good which although giving betters more opportunity to bet it is also leading to turning them off

  2. One other thing that apparently hasn’t changed: the people largely responsible for leading racing into the ditch can’t find enough other people to blame for it.

  3. Great addition to the conversation, Teresa.

    Alfred Vanderbilt was many things in Thoroughbred racing, and one of those was possessor of sufficient, earned wisdom to have valid opinions. If I wished he had been more critical in this quotation, I would hope states’ dependency upon the revenue produced by horse racing — and now supplanted by lotterys and racinos to the continuing and ironic disadvantage of race tracks — would have ranked up there with his other observations.

    If readers would be interested enough to wade through another’s opinions, perhaps my step-father’s forty-year-old take on Racing’s shortcomings (by Frank E. Kilroe in Sports Illustrated, January 15, 1973) would prove subject-appropriate as they delve from a racing secretary/handicapper’s perspective. Jim Kilroe’s appreciation for older horses’ value to all phases of the business seems to blend fittingly with Mr. Vanderbilt’s biting critique of the industry (Frank E. Kilroe, January 15, 1973)

    The more things change….

  4. Teresa and Marshall:

    Both articles noted here, though 39 and 49 years old respectively are not much different (other than say for purse value) than we have today, except for the fact horses don’t race often enough in my opinion with that being the reason we have so many injuries that we do now.

    I’ve mentioned this before, but what Jeff Gural (new Meadowlands owner and now also joined by Woodbine Entertainment Group) are trying to implement with the bulk of major Harness races by making it so starting in 2015, horses conceived by then-four-year-old or younger stallions would not be eligible to compete in most major stakes events at The Meadowlands, Tioga Downs, Vernon Downs or Woodbine and Mohawk Raceway. This is something the Triple Crown track operators (Magna, Churchill and NYRA) need to implement on the thoroughbred side and expand on, making it so top horses have to race through their five year old season. By making them race through age five (and perhaps further require a minimum of 12 starts per year at three, four and five that would force many top horses to “dance every dance”), it would force major changes to the way horses are bred that I think will strengthen the breed considerably and in the end be far more beneficial for the sport. That might be also what forces a lot of trainers who are perceived to be using illegal matters out more than any legal maneuvering could do.

    • I see your point, Walt, and it would be great to see more horses racing more frequently and for longer. My first reaction is that I’d be pretty uncomfortable telling people what to do with their own property, particularly with major ethical and financial considerations at stakes.

  5. Teresa:

    I’m not thrilled at the prospect either of mandating how many starts, but the fact is, trainers have been racing their horses less and less in recent years and I think it has seriously contributed to the increasing injuries horses have because they do not race enough or as frequently as they should. I attribute it similarly to what we have seen with pitchers in baseball, where to me the “babying” of pitchers has seriously contributed to the severe increase in arm injuries in the past two decades because they don’t pitch as much as they used to, especially with pitch counts now used a lot more than in years past, something Nolan Ryan (who now runs the Texas Rangers) has been trying to get away from by instilling their starters to throw more innings and more pitches in each start..

    A “get tough” policy that forces changes that require horses to race more frequently may be needed for the long-term health of the sport. Such would help in weeding out the weaker parts of the breed and bring back the stronger parts, especially if coupled with something similar to what Jeff Gural is trying to accomplish at his tracks.

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