(Vallozzi’s Versailles Italian Restaurant / Photos From Facebook)

Department of  “Really Good”…

Vallozzi’s Is Magnifico:

If, by any chance, you are looking for a magnificent Italian meal any time soon, then gander no farther than Versailles, Ky, my good friends.

Jon Rabinowitz, who somehow and some way escaped a catastrophic car accident last year, and his great friend, Charlie O’Connor, have joined forces, yet again, to open a most wonderful new restaurant in Woodford County’s biggest city. The duo — along with some amazing architects, designers, and construction crew members — reconfigured the old Versailles Police Offices into a historic, rustic and beautiful facility than now houses some of the best culinary dishes that one can ever have the pleasure to taste and test.

Recently, my beautiful wife, Leigh Ann, and I met up with WKYT’s Hall of Fame broadcaster Dave Baker, and his lovely wife, Donna, to dine there.

Simply put, it was magnifico.

The insalata was delicious and fresh to the core.

The Pappardelle Bolognese was the best main course I have been served and had the opportunity to enjoy at any restaurant, anywhere. Andy time. So good. So damn good.

And, the deserts? OMG. We sampled both the bread pudding and the chocolate cake. Of course, those two delectables had to be topped with another bottle of the best red wine East of the collection Italian islands.

When Jon isn’t working his day job at Morgan & Morgan, or moonlighting as the Chairman of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, you can find him at the restaurant, too, either toasting his friends or getting his “To Go” order for the family.

When Charlie isn’t booking mares and selling stallion shares at his day job at Ashford Stud, you may find him bellied up to the bar with a decanter of “red,” or a glass of the best Irish whiskey from his bar next door.

If they are there, enjoy a robust conversation on the state of the Thoroughbred industry, and their top picks for this year’s 150th Kentucky Derby. They are great guys, and worth the meet and greet. Both full of life and stories that could fill a stud book.

If they are not there, enjoy the hell out of a great meal, if you can find a table.

It is worth the trip. Believe an old, fat man, who didn’t get this way without eating. LOL.

Department of  “Sort of Good”…

NTRA “Almost” Got It Right:

At this year’s Super Bowl pre-game press party – which lasts over two weeks mind you – the National Thoroughbred Racing Association came up with a good idea.

The organization decided it was a good idea to send a “racing analyst”  to join the mass of sportswriters and sportscasters and provide some “sidebar” interviews for all the folks who had gathered to get a quick player or coach interview and then look for Taylor Swift.

It was innovative. It was clever. It may have provided Thoroughbred racing with an opportunity to share “our” news on “live microphones” up and down media row.

Well done, NTRA.

But, before we congratulate too much, the NTRA missed their own “boat launch.” Instead of selecting a bright, new, energetic look and sparkling voice of reason to represent our industry at the world’s largest media dance, the NTRA chose to send NBC horse racing broadcaster Randy Moss as our representative.

Are you kidding me?

We sent Randy Moss?

Never mind that I am not a fan of the NBC broadcast team; Moss’ racing opinions; or Moss’ broadcast acumen, the Thoroughbred industry sent our biggest stereotype to the biggest “coming out party.” We sent an aging, Caucasian, bald, man. We sent a representative of the same old, tired demographic that has been bumping the rail since the dawn of the game.

Instead?

Why not select the young, vivacious, multi-talented and very knowledgeable Kaitlin Free to work the tables?

This young lady may be the most genuinely friendly person I have met in our game in years. She is sincerely nice.

This young lady can handicap a horse race better than any old fart, who has been around the game for years, and can tell you why in a nifty twist of words that both convince and entertain. Her words are worth hearing, and digesting.

This young lady is attractive, to be sure, but more than that, she attracts. She is exactly what our sport needs: a young person who can open doors with a smile and educate without offending. That’s the definition of talent.

And, Kaitlin Free is a real talent.

Department of “Both Good & Bad”…

Why Can’t We Get a Vet School in Kentucky?

Why Can’t We Have the Best Testing Lab in Kentucky, Too?

We Desperately Need Both!

Recently, Rep. Richard Heath and a host of others from West Kentucky have been pushing, plugging, and praying that they can pass enabling legislation that would permit the possible creation of the first Veterinarian School in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

House Bill 400, if ultimately passed and signed into law by Governor Andy Beshear, would allow Murray State University to establish a veterinary medicine doctorate degree and would make the “Home of the Racers” (ironically enough) eligible to create such a program.

Praise. Be.

It has never, ever, ever made sense to me that Kentucky — the self-acclaimed Horse Capital of the World and the home of the greatest race ever run — would have three (count ’em) Law Schools and not a single (not even 1) School of Veterinarian Medicine.

You want to sit around on a Saturday and scratch your head some. Think about that, for a second or so. We pride ourselves on having the greatest Horse Industry in the entire world, and we don’t even have a school to educate Veterinarians. That, my friends, is the epitome of stupid. Stupid.

Thank goodness that the Board of Regents at Murray State University and its’ current President, Dr. Bob Jackson, (a former State Senator, in his own right) have the, er, guts to step up and address a growing problem in this State and this country. If you have not noticed, there is a nation-wide shortage of licensed veterinarians.

In Lexington, right now, I’m told there are truly only two practicing veterinarians that make racetrack and training track “house calls.” Two.

If you think that is inhumane and potentially catastrophic, try finding a veterinarian in West Kentucky that will come to your farm and treat cattle.

If you think that is troublesome, try finding a Veterinarian hospital in East Kentucky that will help fix a cat or dog problem on a Sunday.

Thank goodness, the bill passed the Kentucky House of Representatives by an overwhelming majority of 82-6.

Praise. Be. II.

 But that was on Feb. 15. And now, the critical measure sits idle in the Kentucky State Senate. Just idle.

Why?

Why haven’t the Veterinarian Clinics in Lexington lobbied for the measure? Why haven’t the racetracks lobbied for the passage? Why haven’t the horsemen’s groups come out in favor of giving Murray State this opportunity to educate our young people right here in the Commonwealth?

Where is the Kentucky HBPA, and the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association? Where is the Breeders’ Cup and the NTRA. Where is the high and mighty The Jockey Club?

Can’t they give us an answer on this major topic?

Well, we will get to that in just a sentence or two.

But now, there’s more to add to this story…

At nearly same time as the Vet School debate roared to a halt, almost, there has come another development in the world of higher education that has resulted, unfortunately, in lower standards.

Recently, both the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority and its’ affiliated Horeseracing Integrity & Welfare Unit have announced that they are launching an investigation into the University of Kentucky Equine Chemistry Laboratory, after it was announced that the center’s lab director had been reassigned.

Ugh. Ly.

On March 5, it was reported that the two agencies were meeting with UK officials to “discuss concerns with the performance” of the lab.

“At this time, HISA and HIWU were informed by the university that it was conducting an ongoing personnel investigation relating to Dr. Scott Stanley, the director of the UK lab, and Dr. Stanley was not permitted to be in direct communication with the other staff at the laboratory. The university also expressed staffing concerns related to the laboratory’s operations,” the agencies said in their statement.

It is critical that this Commonwealth have the highest standards and the most critical attention to detail in both of these medical spaces.

With the Kentucky Derby and one of the world’s best racing products being conducted in Kentucky these days, it is critical that Kentucky have the best, most highly-equipped, and most renown scientists working on validating and confirming all post-race drug tests to the highest degree possible.

With the Kentucky Derby and one of the world’s best racing and breeding products being offered in this Commonwealth these days, it is critical that Kentucky have the best, most highly equipped and most renown veterinarians working on and for our horses – both on the farm and on the track – to ensure they all have the most modern, accurate and best treatments and care.

Our horses deserve no less.

Our industry cannot survive without both. Both.

We need more veterinarians. We need more horse veterinarians. We need more racetrack veterinarians. We need a Veterinarian School.

We need a first class, top-notch testing lab to ensure the credibility of every single race run in the Commonwealth. We cannot afford anything less.

So, what do these two events have in common, other than the timing — which is now?

Well, it seems that the University of Kentucky could be complicit, at fault to some degree, and knee deep in both situations.

According to several sources, the University of Kentucky lobby team and some of its’ highest advisors are quietly telling key legislators to not support and pass HB 400 and let the measure pass quietly in the night. Seems as if some of the University of Kentucky school administrators are concerned that Murray State may “siphon off” money that could be spent – or is it misspent – in Lexington, instead.

For the record, here are the facts:

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that 86 of Kentucky’s 120 counties are facing a shortage of licensed veterinarians.
  • The American Veterinary Medical Association reports that the need for veterinarians nationwide will grow more than 20% before 2026.
  • Auburn’s College of Veterinary Medicine (which Kentucky has relied on to educate some of its’ veterinarians in the past) had a total of 130 slots available. Last year, there were 1,217 students to apply for those.
  • Murray State’s pre-veterinary program is the largest in the Commonwealth of Kentucky with approximately 450 students currently enrolled.

In short, there’s a real easy solution to these problems.

If the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville – both of whom get millions of dollars from the General Assembly to benefit programs aimed at the horse industry, alone — don’t come out and publicly support the efforts at Murray State University, shame on them. They should be called out. Lectured. Sternly. And, money should be diverted to Murray State to help fund the initiative.

In short, if the major veterinary clinics in Lexington and across this State don’t come out and publicly support the efforts of Murray State University, shame on them, too. They should be called out. Lectured. Sternly.

In short, if the Kentucky General Assembly does not support the efforts of Murray State University and pass HB 400, shame on its’ members, as well. Truly, an opportunity to address a serious and mounting problem will have been lost to petty college politics.

This shortage of veterinarians has already reached a crisis situation. We don’t have enough educated and trained experts to help our animal population right now. Today.

At the same time, the members of the General Assembly should be concerned about this on-going investigation at the University of Kentucky’s testing laboratory, as well.

Perhaps, the leadership of both the House and Senate should call the leadership at the University of Kentucky in before the respective oversight Committees to hear testimony on why things have gotten bad enough that an investigation by HISA is warranted. Maybe this program can be diverted to Murray State University, as well.

This is truly a crisis, too. Of the highest degree.

But if we don’t do something about it – like helping fund this program at Murray State and resolving the testing lab debacle – then we can add another crisis, too.

A crisis of character.

Finally…the Department of “More Muck”…

This past week, there was a race at Gulfstream Park that was delayed — for some reason — 15 to 16 minutes past the originally-scheduled post time.

For over 8 minutes, the horses headed to the starting gate where detoured and paraded in a circle behind the starting gate.

And, there was no report of why there was such a delay, leading one to suspect it was simply to milk more money out of the wagering public.

That length of delay is truly inhumane treatment and warrants a serious investigation by HISA.

With a full public report to the general public and the wagering patrons on the outcome.