(Excerpts from the Saturday edition of “The Daily Racing Form)

I went to Eastern Kentucky University in the mid-1970s, and I had the good fortune of having some great instructors, professors and other highly educated professionals that instilled some great principals, rules, guidelines and ethics in each student that they had in their journalism class rooms.

I wish the likes of Carol Wright and Glen Klein and Libby Fraas were still around to give the same instructions to those that pretend to be part of the pretend media these days. They could use some lectures — of both the instructional kind and the stern version.

Upon graduation, I got the opportunity to work at “The Lexington Herald-Leader” for 11 years. While there, I had the opportunity to work some of the best professionals in the history of the art form, all of whom required you to be correct, thorough, fair, equitable and on time.

I wish the likes of Stuart Warner and Jim Green and Barry Forbis were still around today to give the guidance to those that claim to be writers or journalists in today’s most challenging world of news organizations. If they were, we may have a better press. For that matter, we may have a press. Period.

I once asked my boss, Mike Johnson, the Herald-Leader’s Sports Editor at the time, a very stupid question. I wondered aloud, mind you, if he wanted my story to be good or to be on deadline.

He responded quickly and without a smile:

“I want it to be both.”

He was right. And, from then on, I tried to ensure that it was both.

The first year that I got the chance to over the Kentucky Derby, the mammoth press box that sat high above the Churchill Downs track like a penthouse was jammed from pillar to post with some of the greatest writers of all time.

Each year, they would gather in Louisville, KY for a week or more to report on the “Greatest Two Minutes in Sports.”

And, from the crack of dawn to the setting of the sun, you could hear the clickity-clack of the typewriters echo throughout the entire building.

There was Furman Bisher, from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution sitting there, a pipe in one hand and a thought dangling like a participle in the other.

There was the Miami Herald’s John Edwin Pope, who always sat at the back of the press room near the Lexington Herald-Leader contingency. He was polished in everything he did, from his tie to his periods.

There was the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Christine, a consummate professional with wing tips for boots and a sports coat of impeccable design and cloth for a brisk Spring day in Kentucky. He never seemed to get cold or show a drop of sweat.

There were Dave Feldman, from the Chicago Tribune, and Joe Hirsch, from the Daily Racing Form. There were Bill Millsaps, from the Richmond Times-Dispatch and Gene Guidi, from the Detroit Free Press — both of whom became great friends over the years.

I looked up to most. I admired them all. I was great friends with some. They were all pros. They took pride in their product. They demanded much of their brains that bled words to their fingers.

Most of all, though, whether it was a youngster or a withered and worn veteran, we all had a deep respect for the profession and the ethics that went along with the creation of each sentence that we delivered as proudly as a server at Jeff Ruby’s steakhouse would present a bone-in ribeye.

My first Kentucky Derby, I couldn’t wrestle a seat in the main press room. I was given a chair on the balcony. When I went out to squeeze into my tiny, metal chair that rocked due to over-use and an uneven concrete floor, I noticed the man sitting quietly in a similar chair to the left of me. It was none other than the legendary great Walter Wellesley Smith. You may know me better as “Red.” He would have wanted you to know him as “Red,” since he hated his birth name. You may have known him as a Hall of Fame journalist / sportswriter who did his best penmanship for the New York Tribune, and, later, the New York Times.

I wanted to ask him for an autograph. I wanted to ask him about his harsh criticism of the Louisville great, Muhammad Ali. I wanted to ask him about his famous quote about being a sportswriter and if it was true. In 1946, it was reported that Red Smith said this about writing about sports:

“Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed.”

But all I did was sit there and try not to infringe on his personal space. And, try not to squirm too much. Until, finally, Smith must have sensed my uneasiness and tried to relieve me of the awkwardness. The quiet gentlemen asked me a question.

“Are you from around here?”

I nodded, too afraid to muster an answer.

“Do you know much about horse racing,” he followed up.

“I grew up around it and I think so,” I muttered.

“I thought so,” he answered back. “If you don’t mind so much, can you tell me who is going to win this year’s Derby?”

The Derby was still seven days away. The sweat popped on my forehead. I didn’t know what to say, and I stumbled to find an appropriate response.

But before I could formulate an answer of any sense, Mr. Red Smith smiled and tapped me on the leg. “That’s OK,” he said. “I figured if you could answer that question honestly, I may have a scoop. And, my first winning bet.”

We sat side by side in silence the rest of the day.

But, for me, I had made a lifetime memory and a friend.

The world sure has changed a lot since those days. I don’t even know if the press box still exists, and, if so, how big it is. Used to be that the old, nearly hidden elevator took two races to just transport you from the ground floor to the designation. But if it does, it doesn’t hold 200 or 300 writers any more. It just holds a lot of dust and memories.

Newspapers are all but gone, and most of the writers that I knew are mostly gone the way of the original Hermes 3000 manual typewriter. Dust to dust.

The “news” we get today seems to be tainted, slanted, and, most certainly, opinionated.

On Saturday, I picked up a copy of “The Daily Racing Form,” which I never do anymore. I get all my past performances from the most credible of all sources — Brisnet.com. I get all my information from on-line sources, or from my occasional strolls along the backsides. I can always rely on the media teams at the major racetracks to deliver a solid lead, and a story of interest. The best reporters in our game today are the teams assembled at our own tracks. No joke.

I seldom, if ever, believe much that I read from today’s periodicals and their respective journalists that are either dedicated to the Thoroughbred industry or occasionally show up for the big race days.

Yep, it’s gotten that bad.

But even I was shocked, and, to be honest, embarrassed by the reporting in Saturday’s edition of “The Daily Racing Form.”

Yep, it was that bad.

In the lead story, on page 3, reporter Marcus Hersh wrote an advance piece on the G2 Elkhorn Stakes. The first paragraph read like this:

“Bold Act was just finding himself when he came to Keeneland as a 3-year-old last fall and beat older rivals in the Sycamore Stakes. A half-year later, the competition will find 4-year-old Bold Act too much to handle Saturday in the Grade 2, $350,000 Elkhorn Stakes.”

Never mind that a horse can’t “find himself” or devise a way to “come” to Lexington, either. Apparently, that’s too picky, these days. Obviously, that would be asking too much.

But how in the hell does a news story contain a statement like “…Bold Act (will be) too much to handle Saturday…”

How in the hell does a copy editor of any merit allow that type of opinion to be dropped into a “news advance” as if it is fact.

My God, this is awful.

And, if that wasn’t bad enough, all one had to do was flip over to page 8 and read Hersh’s advance one the Ben Ali Stakes. The 4th paragraph read like this:

“While Kingsbarns is the name horse in the Ben Ali, it remains to be seen if capability aligns with reputation. He’s a favorite worth playing against and many will gravitate toward War Campaign.”

Again. This is a “news story.” This is an “advance” on the race. Just give the facts. That’s what the job entails. It does not require or even ask for editorial comment. If you want to do that, then label the story as “Opinion” and call it such. To infer that this coverage is unbiased, fair, equitable and balanced is simply a lie.

My God, this is awful.

This type of reporting may be acceptable in today’s world, but it is a true embarrassment to those that came before — like the likes of the Racing Form’s Dan Liebman and Hirsch and Cliff Guilliams. It is a joke to those that held their job and their credentials in high regard. It is a slam in the face of the Dave Kindreds, Billy Reeds, and the Jennie Rees’ of the world.

And, to make matters worse?

If that’s even possible?

Bold Act did not win.

Kingsbarns did win.

Hersh was a perfect 2-for-2 in the “wrong department.”

The industry deserves better.

The world deserves more.

The profession should demand better.

That’s my thought of the day.