(Oak Grove Racing held its’ first meet last year / Photo by Gene McLean)
Every so often, we will be addressing a few things: comments, decisions, people, whatever that – for one reason or another – should be tossed into the literary “muck pit.”
It is in the spirit of cleanliness, recycling, and protecting the environment that we offer this service of “addressing the muck” – free of charge. After all, someone has to do it, right?
And, it didn’t take long for us to find a few pounds of, well, manure — thanks in large part to our great friend and counterpart in the world of Thoroughbred racing and breeding blogs, websites and opinion spinners — “The Paulick Report” and its’ publisher “Please Spray” Ray.
“Please Spray”Ray not only fell into “The Pit” this week, as he is want to do from time to time, but on this occasion? He’s wallowed around in it. Head to toe. Toes to nostrils. And, to be honest, “Please Spray”Ray has come out smelling a bit on the ugly side.
Anyone got the Febreze? Handy?
Here is a look at our at the next edition:
Paulick’s Biggest “Foul?”
The biggest “foul” — and that is still up for debate, and reserve your judgment into you read the “Rest of the Story” — came early on Thursday morning when, at 1:20 a.m., Paulick published an opinion piece that was entitled: “View From the Eighth Pole: A Coup D’Etat of Kentucky Horsemen.”
Truth be known, Paulick should have stuck to opining on the horse — Tom’s d’Etat, who will race at Saratoga on Saturday in the G1 Whitney Stakes.
The horse looks good. On paper. In the flesh, too.
The “story” that Paulick pecked on his laptop about his supposed “d’Etat?”
Not so much. Not on either paper or computer screen.
And, here’s why:
You see, from the opening sentence to the finishing salvo, Paulick is wrong. His facts are wrong. His presumptions are wrong. His allegations are not true. His insinuations are false.
If that is not bad enough?
Apparently, Paulick did little to verify, validate, substantiate, or ensure that his “conspiracy theories” — which he must have gotten from one (and only one) source, who just so happens to be engaged and involved in the controversy — were right.
If he had? He would have known better. He should have done better.
So, in an act of fairness and fact, please allow us an attempt to set the record straight for you and “Please Spray” Ray:
First of all, Paulick alleges that the Kentucky Racing Commission, a rather prominent member of the Commission, Churchill Downs and the Red Mile all conspired to mastermind a plot to create a second horsemen’s organization to represent the Harness Industry in Kentucky.
The reason for such a move, Paulick opines, is to create an “in-house union” that would agree to anything that the tracks want — including a division of income from Historical Racing Machines and future purse allocations at both The Red Mile and the new Oak Grove Racing venue in West Kentucky — and to check the box on the Federal Horse Racing Act of 1978, which requires the horsemen’s approval for simulcasting purposes.
Paulick wrote: “…it wouldn’t be that much of a stretch to say Churchill Downs Inc. and The Red Mile have masterminded a quiet coup d’etat of an existing harness horsemen’s organization and that the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission obsequiously rubber-stamped, giving legitimacy to a nebulous entity called the Kentucky Harness Association.”
Later, in his piece, Paulick wrote: “…The organizers do this to retain profits from casinos, card rooms or simulcasting and they don’t have to share as much of that revenue with the sham horsemen’s organizations as they would with a legitimate group. Can this happen in Kentucky? I wouldn’t bet against it.”
Paulick makes the allegation. He offers the motive.
Then, he outlines how the attempted “murder” took place.
Paulick alleges that Churchill Downs’ Director of Racing, Mike Ziegler, and Churchill Downs’ lobbyist John McCarthy (both of whom are friends of mine, by the way) conspired with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission through a series of emails to put the plan in motion.
Paulick offers them as “proof” — since the Kentucky Harness Horsemen’s Association obtained them through an “Open Records Request and must have transferred them along to Paulick for his use.
Unfortunately, for both the KHHA and Paulick?
The emails are no “smoking gun.”
The first email in question does not reference a conversation or exchange of proposed regulations involving John McCarthy, who Paulick later calls — and I concur — a “…powerful lobbyist in Frankfort…”
It does reference John Forgy, the former legal counsel to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission — who was charged with the responsibility of drafting many regulations for the government oversight Board in his tenure.
Truth be known?
It is not uncommon, unheard of, or illegal for any government agency — or its’ leadership and staff — to solicit input from the industry groups impacted when drafting any potential regulation that may govern the industry in question.
Happens all the time. Across the globe of regulated industry groups.
Simply put, it helps all develop a set of guidelines that are best crafted and created, and helps reduce “unintended consequences.”
The second email in question is an acknowledgement that Churchill Downs supports the new group as “an” association. Not “the” association. Not “the only” association. It simply stated that Churchill Downs supports the new group as “an” association that could potentially represent owners, trainers and horsemen in Kentucky.
Here’s an interesting fact and perspective for you to consider, too. This isn’t the first time Kentucky has had multiple horsemen’s organizations that operate in the Commonwealth. Although “Please Spray” Ray conveniently ignores this fact.
Far from it.
In 1988, I got the grand opportunity to become the Executive Vice President of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association. It was a horsemen’s group that was created just a couple of years in advance of my tenure as an “alternative” to the Kentucky HBPA.
At that time, there was tremendous tension in contract negotiations with the Thoroughbred tracks. So much so, in fact, that the simulcast of the Kentucky Derby was often brought into question and was threatened to be withheld.
As a result, a group of horse people wanted to create another Thoroughbred horsemen’s group to help alleviate some of the personality issues and create a better line of communication and cooperation. And, why not? It was their right to do so then. It is their right to do so now.
In my short time at the KTA, we were able to work collaboratively and collectively with both Churchill Downs and Keeneland. Contracts were developed and signed. Tensions relieved. Relationships bettered.
It was not long before we found a way to work collaboratively and collectively with the HBPA, too.
In fact, I became very good friends with many people in the KYHBPA and the National HBPA. Then. And, now.
I love Pete Salmen, the former President of the KYHBPA. Truly, I do. Love his daughter, Susan Bunning, too.
I have always enjoyed a great relationship with current KYHBPA President Rick Hiles, and I respect him immensely today.
And, I cherish the relationship I developed with Executive Director Marty Maline, and long-time HBPA Board members Frank Jones and Buff Bradley.
Together, I think we all helped make Kentucky Thoroughbred racing and breeding better. We may have disagreed from time to time, but we were all better for the discussion. At the very least, I was.
And, there’s no reason why the same can’t happen in the Standardbred industry. Absolutely no reason why it can’t work out. Just the same.
Later in his story, Paulick questions the motives of long-time Standardbred owner, breeder Ken Jackson — who serves on the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission — and his brother-in-law Bob Brady.
Brady is one of the people that organized and helped develop the new horsemen’s organization. Jackson — who also co-owns a highly successful Standardbred auction company — serves on the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.
After Paulick noted that Jackson voted in favor of recognizing the new “group,” and also made the motion to approve a collaborative effort between Churchill Downs and Keeneland to build, own and operate a new racetrack in Oak Grove, Paulick writes:
“…This is about as incestuous as you can get.”
I don’t know Bob Brady. Never met him. Can’t offer an opinion as to the man’s character.
But I do know Ken Jackson. I know him very well. I can offer you an opinion on this man’s character and class.
Ken Jackson, an attorney, is smart.
Ken Jackson, a owner-breeder-auction owner, is highly successful in a sport where many are not or have been in the past.
Ken Jackson, a member of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, is beyond reproach. He has never hidden his love of the sport, or shied from his commitment to the Standardbred industry. He has never once hidden his occupations or alliances. Always worn his impressive resume on his sleeve. And, he has volunteered his time and money to serve in many capacities to promote the very industry he loves.
Ken Jackson is a person that you want on the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. Because he is a man who wants the industry to survive and excel. He works every single day to do just that.
And, the Kentucky Standardbred industry — for the first time in nearly 40 years — is about to do just that, too.
The new racetrack in Oak Grove may be the finest and best new facility built for Standardbred racing in the past 40 years. It will offer new and more race dates to Kentucky Standardbred horsemen. It will offer more purse money to help Kentucky horse farmers make a living. It will offer a Historic Racing Machine venue that is state-of-the-art and first class. It will promote Standardbred racing to the same high degree as the Red Mile in Lexington.
Soon, Kentucky may actually have a full Standardbred racing circuit much like the Thoroughbred industry does today.
And, Ken Jackson has played a significant role in making that happen. Cheers to him. Cheers to him.
On Thursday morning, the Interim Committee of the Licensing & Occupations Committee heard testimony about a proposed regulation that will permit a second Harness Horsemen’s racing organization. Both the proponents and the opponents got a fair chance to speak to and with the Committee Members.
The Committee Chairman, Rep. Adam Koenig, did a masterful job of chairing the meeting.
At the very beginning, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission addressed Ray Paulick’s opinion piece. Didn’t shy away. Addressed it full on.
One by one, systematically, the board’s new legal counsel — Jennifer Wolsing — dismantled Paulick’s less-than-stellar and less-than-accurate report.
She pointed out the inaccurate comments and statements.
She pointed out the flawed opinions and allegations of inappropriate behavior.
She defended the Commission, the Commissioners, and the process.
She offered answers and accuracy.
When she was done, representatives from the KHHA took their turn. Unfortunately, they regurgitated much — if not all — what Paulick had reported.
Instead of welcoming the input of others, they challenged their credibility and credentials.
Instead of offering to work collaboratively with others inside their own industry for positive change and better tomorrows, they referenced a “race to the bottom” and a sense of “doom and gloom.”
Instead of wanting more options, they made an argument why they should be a “monopoly.”
Instead of acknowledging that it was them — their group — that wanted someone else to build, own, operate the new racetrack in Oak Grove (so much that they reportedly entered into a premature contract to do so), they wanted to remain as the exclusive representation to negotiate a contract with Oak Grove Racing.
Sorry guys. That isn’t the way life normally works.
And, instead of Ray Paulick acknowledging that Oak Grove Racing is a collaborative effort with Keeneland, too; and instead of acknowledging that Red Mile has a joint agreement with Keeneland to operate the HHR venue, too; he intentionally kept the narrative directed at Churchill Downs — his version of “The Evil Empire.”
No mention of Keeneland.
All arrows at Churchill Downs.
Paulick was wrong. His facts were wrong. His ethics were even worse.
It’s called “Journalism 101.” Make sure of the facts. Check the record. Verify “the source’s” allegations. In short, measure twice and cut once.
After all, your name and credibility are on the line, right?
You owe an apology.
Paulick’s Foul #2:
Last week, if you can remember back that far, “The Paulick Report” ran a lengthly letter from former trainer and current lawyer Darrell Vienna. That letter was the first public acknowledgement that Mick Ruis — and his legal team, headed by Vienna, of course — had reached an agreement to settle a lawsuit challenging the official results of the 2018 Santa Anita Derby.
(Editor’s Note: If you will remember, the 2018 Santa Antia Derby was won by Justify. It was latter found that the colt had tested positive after the race. But the CHRB, at the time, took no official action after a closed-door session to discuss legal issues due to the fact that several positives on that same day may have been impacted by feed contamination. Ruis, the owner-trainer of runner-up Bolt d’Oro, later filed a lawsuit challenging the ruling of the CHRB, and the lack of a disqualification.)
In last week’s lengthly letter, Vienna goes on to gush over the “agreement” and the professionalism and credibility of current members of the California Horse Racing Board.
Critics of the past CHRB members alleged that the Board members had conflicts of interest, due to the fact that they had ownership ties with horses and trainer Bob Baffert, who conditioned Justify.
And, those critics included Vienna, Ruis and others.
After that “Letter” appeared in the “Paulick Report,” we wrote an “Exclusive” story following up.
We detailed the fact that the current Vice Chairman of the Board — Oscar Gonzales — once worked on the racetrack for trainer Darrell Vienna. According to a story in a trade publication last year, Gonzales worked for him for 3 years.
We simply wanted to know if either Gonzales or Vienna reported that as a potential “conflict of interest,” as well.
We also detailed that the “agreement” had not yet been finalized or signed.
Third, we sought comment from the CHRB as to the nature of the negotiations and the possible “conflict of interest” questions.
Fourth, if you will notice, Darrell Vienna is a long-time advertiser on “The Paulick Report.” In fact, his logo is on the website.
If transparency is what you ask, then it must be what you want. Right?
To date, “The Paulick Report” has yet to respond or report on the follow-up story.
Seems less than fair and credible.
But I guess you can write about and allege potential “conflicts of interest” in Kentucky and California when it benefits you, yet ignore it when it includes you?
To quote a great American author:
“…This is about as incestuous as you can get.”
Anybody got that bottle of Febreze.