(Covfefe and her assistant trainer at the barn of trainer Brad Cox / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

One of my most favorite songs from my youth still rings in my ears from time to time. The melody is calm and comforting. The lyrics soft and tender, like a wonderful chocolate shake from your most favorite Dairy Cheer. You know the places that used to exist in your little home towns. You could pull the car up to the door. Order from the window, and some of your neighbors would bring a cup of cheer to the door. Soothing.

Truly, as you get older, it’s hard to imagine that you can remember the words to a song that you have not heard in years, but you can’t remember the password to your computer? Right?

But, in so many ways, I’m so glad that I woke up this morning humming this tune that I remember Dionne Warwick singing so beautifully in the summer of 1966. Don’t know where it came from, but it was there. Just like a record playing in the jukebox.

“What the world needs now is love, sweet love…It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of…What the world needs now is love, sweet love…No not just for some but for everyone…

“Lord, we don’t need another mountain,…there are mountains and hillsides enough to climb…There are oceans and rivers enough to cross…Enough to last till the end of time…

“What the world needs now is love, sweet love…It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of…What the world needs now is love, sweet love…No not just for some but for everyone…”

It goes on from there. Every word just as relieving as a warm shower on a cool Fall day. Every thought-provoking word causing memories to spring and smiles to grow.

And, it is exactly what the world of horse racing needs to hear, too.

Without a question, 2019 has been a bit turbulent. Too much has been troublesome.

Some of the crazy crap has been self inflicted. When the troubles surfaced at Santa Anita early this year over a faulty racing surface, the track should have been shut down. In February. Should have been dug up. Down to the very root of the problem. And, it should have been rebuilt from scratch. Even if it was not the issue. Should have been done to ensure that a safe racetrack was going to be the most important priority. Had to be done to show everyone that the industry demands the very best. No, not just for some, but for everyone — including our most important partners in this sport — The Horse.

Some of the crazy crap has been instigated by some “purists” within in the industry, who have taken advantage of the awfulness to push their own agendas. The catastrophic injuries that have occurred truly have nothing to do with the use of riding crops by jockeys; absolutely nothing to do with the debate over whether we should be racing over some artificial, greased-up wax clippings from a landfill or God’s own dirt and grass; and, truly, these issues have absolutely nothing to do with the use of a therapeutic mediation like Lasix. If so, the spike in injuries would not have occurred — for the vast majority of the time — in one jurisdiction.

And, truthfully, some of the crazy crap has been heaped upon us by the vultures that seemingly lurk on every tree limb these days. There they sit. And, wait. Not for the good, mind you. Not something to crow about, pun intended. That will never happen.

They just sit. And, wait. Hours and days on end. For something bad to happen. Then, they swoop in and pick away, as if they have been ordained by The Almighty to “clean up” the problems. You know who you are, PETA. You know who you are, the Tim Sullivans, Joe Drapes, and Pat Forde of the world. God only knows that you all need a little love. The greatest gift on Earth must have been withheld from you all at an early age. Must be the reason you have all grown up to be so bitter.

No matter the causes, though, the effects are now upon us all. And, we are faced with some serious issues. And, decisions. What to do next? Where to turn next? Who is to lead next?

Not the perfect scenario, granted.

But, perhaps, the perfect opportunity.

Not to die, mind you.

To thrive.

It is my strong opinion — and hope, too — that the Horse Racing Industry now has the perfect opportunity to do some really creative things. Good things. Needed things. Things we should have been doing for years. Things we can certainly do now to make our sport better. Things we can do to make our love for the horse better known.

Out of a crisis comes some energy and synergy that may have been lacking in the past. Certainly, I hope so. And, I believe so because it must be so.

Here are three suggestions that I hope someone, somewhere will give a thought and a consideration. Not because they are mine. Who cares where they come from, after all. Seriously? I hope they are considered because I think they can help. Truthfully.

First:

The horse industry desperately needs a national advertising and promotional campaign. Right now. One that is sponsored and paid for by us all. One that is so well-funded that it can penetrate every market, every household, every jurisdiction. A powerful one.

People, we have great stories to tell. Yet, no one is telling them.

We have great people to talk about. Yet, no one knows their names.

We have unbelievable horses that have achieved unbelievable accomplishments. Yet, no one believes because no one knows.

The story of Belvoir Bay is something that even Disney cannot dream up. Not even on its’ best day. Nearly burned to death in that horrific fire that engulfed San Luis Rey. Lost for two days. Hope turning into ashes. And, out of the dust, rises the Phoenix. She is found. She is nursed back to health. She is allowed to return to racing.

And…low and behold…this 6YO Miracle Mare wins the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint? Against the colts?

Move over Secretariat and Seabiscuit. This is the movie I want to see. This is the tear-jerker that will turn PETA into PETTY. This is our story.

The Breeders’ Cup should have had this 30-second advertisement ready to launch on SportsCenter that weekend no matter how she ran. Our promotional team should have had Belvoir Bay and all her connections on “Good Morning America” on Monday. Our industry should have made sure that her name, game and story was “The Story” on every possible venue.

But we didn’t. Opportunity missed, sadly. Our story. Our amazing story. Untold.

When the right to bears arms was under severe attack in this country years ago, the National Rifle Association was born. And, funded. Very well funded. No matter what your politics are today, you have to recognize the amazing work that Association has done to not only protect the industry, but to enhance it. We need that same commitment.

When the health advocates turned on beef years ago and began to raise serious questions about the negative consequences of meat, the Beef Cattle Association and others went on a national advertising campaign. “Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner.” Remember? Steaks are not on the decline today. Not in the grocery store. Not in the premium restaurant market, either. We need that same commitment.

Image is an important thing. Public perception is more powerful than truth. And, today? Today, we are allowing others to define who we are. Today, we are letting the vultures pick away; cast disparaging images and thoughts. Today — this very moment in time — we have to tell our stories and story. If we do? I am convinced, we win.

Second: 

The horse industry desperately needs to steal a page out of the playbook of Kentucky’s very own success story — Sen. Mitch McConnell. The longtime member of Congress has achieved some of the most remarkable political victories in the history of our country. Seriously. What the man has done is both historic and amazing. No matter what your political affiliation or thought-process may or may not be, you have to give the man credit and plaudits.

And, how he has done it bears both review and repeat — especially for the horse industry today.

You see, when Mitch McConnell first ran for public office, Kentucky was a Commonwealth completely controlled by the Democratic Party. Completely. Absolutely. From the top of the state capitol building in Frankfort all the way to the halls of Congress. A Republican had about as much chance of beating the great Secretariat as, well, a horse named Onion.

McConnell — a young, aspiring Republican — figured out a way. He developed a game plan built on polls and data. He created a platform that resonated with the general public and the voter. Truly, he invented the whole concept of  “opposition research.”  His team made a science out of discovering every, single, little detail of each and every political foe. And, he took no prisoners.

In 1986, he was the first Republican to win a statewide election in Kentucky since 1968.

Today, after the November elections, the Republican Party holds every Constitutional office in the Commonwealth, except the position of Governor.

Today, the Republican Party commands a super majority in both the Kentucky State Senate and the Kentucky House of Representatives.

Today, out of the six members of Congress that Kentucky sends to Washington? Five of them are Republicans.

There are many reasons to point to when dissecting Kentucky’s greatest transformation in political history, but the short and most accurate answer is Mitch McConnell.

And, the horse industry should copy much of that strategy, too.

We need to do polling and collect data. We need to build a game plan based on what the general public wants and likes. We need to do opposition research. And, we need to take no prisoners.

Especially with those that have one objective, and one objective only. And, that’s not to be objective.

Has anyone ever done a “deep dive” into PETA? Who are they? How are they funded? What do they do with the funds? Do they operate “kill shelters?” Really? Are you serious? We need to know. Right now. And, we need to expose.

Has anyone ever done a “deep dive” into the likes of Tim Sullivan, Joe Drape, Pat Forde and these so-called columnists? Who are they? Why did Tim Sullivan get fired in San Diego? Did he ever cover horse racing there? Anywhere? What research has this guy ever done on synthetic surfaces? Why did Pat Forde get suspended twice while he was at the “Louisville Courier-Journal.” What did he do to deserve that treatment? Do any of these people have credibility?

Seems to me that they have done a lot to delve into our sport. What have we done to delve into their credentials, or lack thereof? Seems fair to me. All’s fair in love and war, right boys?

Game on.

Third: 

Seems to me that if we are going to base many of the future, major decisions in our sport on statistics and analytics, we need to develop a spreadsheet that captures all the data that we possibly can and have scientific results that can either support our position, or argue for a change. Accurately.

The detractors want to point to statistics that occur only at the racetrack in the afternoons. They want to detail every injury or catastrophic result with the amount of horses that perform only in races. Any time one points to other “information,” the Timmy Sullivans write — at the top of their little lungs — “that’s anecdotal information.”

As we all know, each horse goes to the racetrack every day. Most gallop or jog.

As we all know, each horse normally gets a workout about once a week. Most breeze. Some go faster.

Normally, all of these daily exercises are performed over traditional, dirt race surfaces.

And, for the overwhelming majority — overwhelming — this is both fun and safe for all. The horse. The rider. The all.

The industry needs to collect all the information that it possibly can in order to either support or dispel theories. The industry needs to collect all the data to counteract the use of statistics that only our opponents want to use. The industry needs to know before we can know.

And, we need to do it now.

Fourth:

And, the industry needs a little love, too. The same kind that we give to our horses each and every day. Not when the cameras are on. Each and every day.

“What the world needs now is love, sweet love…It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of…What the world needs now is love, sweet love…No not just for some but for everyone…”

Every horse.

Every horseman.

Every day.