Ray Paulick reminds me a lot of those old men that sit around the barbershop all day and swap stories of yesterday, and opinions ranging from what’s wrong with today’s youth all the way to why the country is going to hell.

Grumpy, to the core, the spokesperson of the moment complains as to the problem du jour. Never offering a solution. Forever offering criticism. No doubt, each word spoken is crafted with conviction and emotion from a lifetime spent weaving memories and dreams into a single garment of thought. It is just too bad that memory loss clouds and confuses the two these days.

Unfortunately, the finished product is not based on any proven premise or any foundation of fact. They are just words bound together by either ignorance, hatred, prejudice and confusion – or a combination thereof — more than punctuation, commas and prepositional phrases.

Opinions without basis and not supported by facts are just tirades. Easily interpreted. Easier to dismiss. Just like the sermons from the Courthouse preachers and the barbershop quartets, who have been reduced now to solo acts.

They have simply become simpletons.

Which brings us to Ray Paulick, the publisher of “The Paulick Report,” an industry on-line newsletter.

Just a few days ago, he wrote an editorial criticizing Keeneland and Churchill Downs for submitting an application to the Kentucky Racing Commission for a license to build, own and operate new racetrack facilities in Southeast Kentucky (Corbin, KY) and Southwest Kentucky (Oak Grove, KY).

He called the idea “ill conceived.”

Never mind that the two institutions together have combined to prop up the entire racing and breeding industries in the Commonwealth for over 100 years;

Never mind that these two giants of the industry – who have invested billions in this sport — are renown world-wide for their individual and collective successes in the Thoroughbred industry and host the world’s most noted and historic race (the Kentucky Derby) and the world’s most successful sale of equine athletes (the Keeneland Selected Yearling Sales & the November Breeding Stock Sales);

Never mind that these two giants of the industry joined together for this project – for one of the first times in history – to create new jobs; more racing opportunities for the Standardbred industry which sorely needs it and the Quarter Horse industry that desperately needs it; new tourism attractions in two of the more remote areas of the Commonwealth where economic development is sparse;

Never mind that the two racing entities were exercising their rights under the current statutes that govern the Horse Industry in the Commonwealth, and attempting to increase exposure to the sport, and, ultimately, more purses to each and every owner of a competitive horse;

Never mind all those factors, Ray Paulick decided to publicly declare the concept was “ill conceived.”

Ok, it’s a free country. The U.S. Constitution still defends the right of Free Speech, despite the attempts of a guy like Donald Trump to stomp that nasty notion from the hymnal of most American beliefs. (But that’s another column for another day).

So, go ahead and tell us, Ray. Why is the idea “ill conceived,” in your very humbled opinion? All we have to go on are the words that you wrote. So let’s review:

First of all, Ray declares, the two major racetracks are simply attempting to “poach” on the fertile territory that is owned in whole, or in part, by Kentucky Downs and that the new Churchill Downs-Keeneland entity simply wants to infringe on that Tennessee market just north of Nashville to beg, borrow and/or steal would-be gaming customers away from the beautiful, little, down-home country racetrack that is Kentucky Downs.

Ray opines: “…That’s why it was so disheartening to see the Keeneland Association and Churchill Downs Inc. teaming up in what seems an obvious attempt to cut into Kentucky Downs’ business with the recent announcement for plans to build a new gaming facility in Oak Grove, KY, located just off Interstate 24, less than an hour northwest of Nashville, Tenn.”

Unfortunately, Ray, that argument is simply not based in fact. In so many ways, you are wrong.

The site for the proposed track – in Oak Grove — is projected to be located outside of any “protective radius” defined in statute that surrounds Kentucky’s existing licensed racetracks.

In fact, the proposed new racing facility would be located only 10 miles closer to Kentucky Downs than Keeneland is located from Churchill Downs.

Secondly, despite the fact that Kentucky Downs was the first track to attempt historical racing, and the first to do so near the Kentucky-Tennessee border, it does not have an “exclusive right” to either the product or the proximity to a population of people that certainly appear to appreciate the game.

Don’t the fine folks in West Tennessee deserve the chance to travel close to their homes and jobs to enjoy all the amenities that both live racing and historic racing have to offer as the people in Central Tennessee?

Or do you think Kentucky Downs, somehow, deserves a monopoly on the sport and games? And, if so, from which mythical border to what magical line does this monopoly exist? Does it extend from Knoxville to Memphis? Chattanooga to Jackson? Clarksville to Cookeville?

The fact is that I drive right past Oak Grove, KY. on the way to my lake house nearly every weekend in the summer, and, at the very least, once a month the rest of the year. And, the fact is there is no easy way to get from Oak Grove, KY. to Franklin, KY. And, the fact is that it is probably easier and faster to get from Oak Grove to Henderson and Ellis Park than it is to travel to Franklin.

In other words, the newly proposed facility does not pose a threat to the market area of Kentucky Downs. Pure and simple. But, if you and the fine folks from Kentucky Downs are so convinced that it would or could, then why don’t you provide the data. Where is the economic impact study? And, if you have one, what firm provided the details to show that such a facility in Oak Grove will have any measurable impact on Kentucky Downs? What are their credentials to provide such a report?

The truth is, Ray, you don’t have any data. You don’t have a report. If you did, you would be quoting from it. Instead, this argument is not based on any collection of economic findings that have been garnered, studied, analyzed by any arbitrary third party. There is no way to verify any part of your statement, or validate it in any way.

Let’s be honest. Your opinion is not based on any facts. It is pure conjecture. It is simple speculation.

The next point that you attempt to make, Ray, is that the announcement to expand racing opportunities and create new sources of purse money for owners of all breeds should not be considered at this time. You fail to mention when you think the time is right; but you contend that now is not that time.

You write:

“Even without the attempt to undermine the success of Kentucky Downs, the Oak Grove-Corbin announcement seemed tone deaf and ill-timed. Kentucky Horse Racing Commission Chairman Franklin Kling and Vice-Chairman John Roach issued a statement saying the commission had previously notified Kentucky racetracks it would not be considering any new licenses in the near future.

“The Churchill Downs-Keeneland announcement is also seen by some stirring up the “religious right” and conservative lawmakers, including influential Republican State Sen. Whitney Westerfield, whose district includes Oak Grove. Westerfield, running for sate attorney general in 2019 against incumbent Democrat Andy Beshear, issued a statement in opposition to plans to bring gambling to Christian County.”

Wow. Those two paragraphs are so full of simplistic inaccuracies – both from grammatical and factual perspectives – it would take awhile to dissect fully, but let’s take a quick stab to set the record straight.

First of all, in my previous editorial regarding this matter (and, oh, by the way, did you first read about this application in “The Pressbox,” since we broke the story?), I pointed out that it doesn’t matter what Mr. Kling and/or Mr. Roach think or communicated.

The two racetracks acted upon their individual and collective statutory rights to make an application for racetrack licenses that are available under the law as it exists today. And, in our opinion and the opinion of others far smarter than I, the Chairman and the Vice Chairman – along with the balance of the members of the Kentucky Racing Commission – have an obligation, under the oath of their appointment, to consider the application; review it for accuracy and merit; pose it before the body as a whole, and, then, act upon the matter before them.

To do less, would be a dereliction of duties that both of these fine gentlemen voluntarily agreed to uphold. Just as concerning, though, is the total lack of transparency, public debate, and full disclosure. For a member of the press, Ray, that should be concerning to you and others. And, one should not encourage that behavior. You are a member of the press, aren’t you? If so, don’t you think your journalism professor would be concerned in your stance? Or did you get a degree in journalism?

Secondly, by their own admission in their press release, Mr. Kling and Mr. Roach acknowledge that they have told others that they should not submit applications for new racetrack licenses.

Who? Doesn’t the public have the right to know who has inquired about building new racetracks in the Commonwealth and been told, off the record, not to even consider it? Where were those tracks to be located? Perhaps those licenses were in close proximity to some of the existing tracks in Kentucky, too? But how are we to know? Maybe someone should compel the Chairman and Vice Chairman to disclose that information, as well.

The Kentucky Racing Commission has a fiduciary responsibility to the Commonwealth and to the industry in which it governs. They may decide, in their collective wisdom, to deny any and all applications. They may have legitimate reasons to decline, reject, and refuse. But they owe it to the applicants; to the industry; and to the Commonwealth, as a whole, to entertain the issue in full view of the public. And, they owe all of us an answer as to why.

The second paragraph that you write to defend your position that this is not the right time to consider expansion of the industry is even more confusing and perplexing.

Recently, the Kentucky Racing Commission decided it was the right time to issue trainer Patrick Biancone – who had been prohibited from training in Kentucky since 2007 after snake venom was discovered in his tack room — a license to operate in Kentucky again.

But now is not the right time to consider a license application from our Commonwealth’s lynchpin racetracks?

You write: “… is also seen by some stirring up the ‘religious right’ and conservative lawmakers…” Who, exactly, is “some,” Ray? You? The folks at Kentucky Downs? Whom? But do you really believe that backing off an application at this time, or any other time in the next 100 years, will be long enough to convince either Sen. Westerfield or the “religious right” that they are wrong and they should have a Damascus Road experience? (For the record, Sen. Westerfield has announced that he, indeed, is running for Attorney General. Your assumption that he will be running against current AG Andy Beshear is a bit premature, though. The latter may end up running for another higher purpose. Yet, we digress.)

Ever since the concept of historical racing was first considered, Stan Cave and the Family Foundation have fought loud and long about the perceived ills associated with the game. Truth told, that combination would seek to repeal pari-mutuel wagering in all forms and do away with every type of horse racing, if they could.

Yet, to be truthful, you might not know that, Ray. Over the past 29 years that I have spent in Frankfort, I don’t think I have ever seen you at one committee hearing. And, although you made your long journey up to Pennsylvania to follow the trial of racing corruption in that state, I don’t think I have ever seen you at one of the Kentucky court hearings, either in Franklin Circuit Court or at the Kentucky Court of Appeals, where the issue was discussed orally, and briefs were filed.

If you had been, you would know this first and foremost. There is no right time for the zealots. They have deep-rooted convictions that they are right. And, to wager – in their opinion – is wrong. No matter when. No matter where. No matter who.

That is their right, to believe what they want. I’m not sure of it, but if I were to guess, or, better yet, bet on it, I would say that the “religious right,” also doesn’t believe in drinking. Just a hunch.

But that doesn’t keep Brown Forman from opening up a new distillery, does it? That doesn’t keep Woodford Reserve from wanting to sell more product out of its’ gift shop, does it? That doesn’t keep a person from ordering a nice bottle of wine for dinner, as long as they are in a legally “wet” territory, does it?

But the real argument that you try to make here is this: It is OK to be a little bit pregnant. It is OK to have historical racing games at Kentucky Downs. And, maybe, at the Red Mile. And, perhaps, at Churchill Downs’ newly proposed entertainment venue in Louisville.

But, for the sake of everything righteous, we should never, ever, ever consider a new racetrack, which would offer live racing and historic racing?

The “little bit pregnant” argument doesn’t hold water, Ray. That water, too, breaks. Once again, your arguments lack facts to support them.

In closing your commentary, Ray, you quickly dismiss Churchill Downs’ interest in these projects by stating that its’ singular mission in life is to “…maximize value by growing revenue. If it means undercutting a competitor, so be it. That’s business.”

One if left to assume, again, that Kentucky Downs – somehow – is the competitor that you reference. Never mind, for the sake of this argument, that Kentucky Downs races a total of 5 days a year (as in, FIVE); has no dirt track; doesn’t offer any year-round stabling or provide any kind of training facility, and, on the other hand, the combination of Keeneland and Churchill race for a total of 100 days a year; provide year-round training facilities and stalls; and provide more in purses in one week than Kentucky Downs does for a year, tell us again – really, for the first time – how this application “undercuts” them?

Where is the data to support your contention, or is it simply conjecture?

Where are the facts, Ray, that support your proposition, or is it only your guess?

What is the percentage of loss revenue that Kentucky Downs will see, Ray? What will it do, Ray, reduce their live dates to 4? Perhaps, even, 3?

And, what if there is some way to hold Kentucky Downs current purse structure harmless, just in case, by some sheer coincidence, that Kentucky Downs does see a downturn in business? What if there was a way to ensure that their revenues never dip below those current tides and trends.

Tell us, Ray. What say you then?

But better yet, is your closing. You more than suggest that Keeneland – long the defender of everything right in the horse industry – now, suddenly, suffers from a crisis of conscious. That it has lost its’ way on along life’s path. That by associating with sinners like Churchill Downs, that Keeneland now, too, must wear the scarlet letter.

You write: “This partnership with Churchill Downs suggests Keeneland is heading n a new direction, and not an entirely welcome one.”

I, for one, am thankful that Keeneland and Churchill Downs have embarked on a mission together. What better forces to align than the world’s most noted racetrack – the legendary home of the Kentucky Derby – and the world’s most noted sales auction company and architects of one of the world’s most beautiful racing venues. What better way to grow this industry and lift it higher than on the shoulders of the world’s most historic and successful Thoroughbred operations? Who else carries more significance in this industry?

Name me, Ray, one state that would not welcome this collaboration; this offer to build, invest, own and operate; this opportunity? I have contacted some already. Most didn’t want to speak on the record; but all indicated that they would be honored to consider an application from either of the two tracks – much less a joint venture of them both.

I, for one, love the idea that two of Kentucky’s most revered institutions have locked hands to take this industry – which has laid dormant for way too long – in a new direction, alright. On a direction to new heights.

It should be welcomed. With open arms. With hearty handshakes and congratulations. With applause.

After all, what if they are successful, just like Kentucky Downs has been. What if they are able to generate huge amounts of new purse money, and able to attract new owners to the game and more game to the state? What if they are able to raise Kentucky racing to the level of Kentucky breeding?

That would be one hell of an ill-conceived idea, now wouldn’t it, Ray? That would give you and your buddies something to really talk about next week at the barbershop.