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Tom Jicha

Tom Jicha grew up in New York City and worked with John Pricci at the short-lived revival of the New York Daily Mirror. Tom moved to Miami in 1972 for a position in the sports department at the now defunct Miami News.

Tom became the TV critic in 1980 and moved to the South Florida Sun Sentinel in 1988. All the while he has kept his hand in sports, including horse racing. He has covered two Super Bowls, a World Series and the Breeders’ Cup at Gulfstream Park.

He's been the Sun Sentinel’s horse racing writer since 2007 as a staff member, and continues to this day as a free-lancer.

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Wednesday, January 01, 2014


Saying goodbye and looking ahead



Thoughts, complaints and suggestions to improve racing in 2014 and beyond

Miami, Jan. 1, 2014--Clearing the decks of random thoughts to get a fresh start on the new year:

How sadly ironic is it that fewer than three days after Calder unveiled its 2014 stakes schedule, it had to cancel the LaPrevoyante Stakes last Saturday for lack of interest. Stakes are canceled everywhere from time to time for lack of entries, usually inconsequential dirt races. If there ever has been a graded stakes on the turf jettisoned, I can’t recall it. “This was a business decision based entirely on economics,” Calder general manager John Marshall said. How Churchill Downs is that? Looking ahead, the 2014 stakes schedule amounts to more of a wish list than a game plan.

Speaking of wishful thinking, it would be great if someone who cares about racing made Churchill Downs Inc. an offer it can’t refuse to rescue the most cherished name in racing from the bottom-line vultures who have alienated everyone in the game; horsemen, media and, especially, fans.

The legislation that gives horsemen’s organizations the power to deny simulcast rights to racetracks on any whim has to be amended or repealed. Among other abuses, it is being used to keep the Breeders’ Cup from experimenting with a ban on race day medications. Tracks and the Breeders' Cup should be able to operate within reason without fear of being extorted by horsemen acting like thugs. The law was passed when no one had any appreciation of how simulcasting would become critical to the existence of the sport.

Go to any track on any racing day and just about every horse on the card will be running on Lasix. This means that every horse in North America is a bleeder or the drug has uses that have nothing to do with its supposed benefit.

I’m still waiting for the hammer to come down on Eric Guillot for his meritless claim that Luis Saez used an electrical device in the Travers. If Guillot doesn’t suffer serious sanctions for his irresponsible behavior, no jockey should ever be fined for a frivolous claim of foul. Those impact only one race. Guillot struck at the integrity of the game on one of its biggest stages.

The computer geeks who concocted the infamous Fix Six at the 2002 Breeders’ Cup, are out of jail. Why not give them a chance to redeem themselves by putting them to work on the Obamacare website.

I’ve always wondered how much simulcast business Del Mar loses because of its atypical 2 p.m. first post, which is 5 p.m. in the East. We might get an indication with the new fall meet. The onset of dusk after daylight savings time ends will dictate an earlier first post.

Saying goodbye to Hollywood Park, any race track, is sad but I won’t miss the addition of Betfair to the track’s name. The first time I saw BHP in a workout line before the amended name became commonplace, I had no idea what it referred to. I thought it was a training center. Same goes for the new BSR for Fairplex/Pomona. The Racing Form should serve the public, not the egos of corporate racetrack owners. Think of where this could lead: NYRABel, TSGSA and CDICrc (or the even more absurd CDICD).

Dear fellow racing media: Please consign “on the other side of the pond” to the trash compactor of history. It was cute the first 750,000 times it was written but it has become the cliché of choice of lazy journalists.

If you do that, I promise to no longer report the quotes of owners and trainers, who say they see no reason why their 3-year-old, bred to be a sprinter and built like a sprinter, can’t get the Derby distance.

A Triple Crown winner would be great for myriad reasons, not the least of which is it would put a stop to all the cockamamie columns and letters suggesting ways to revise the best thing racing has going for it.

Nothing motivates people to get involved more than self interest. There has to be a way for the Breeders’ Cup to join with a brewer, car company or supermarket chain to distribute free lottery-type scratch-off cards tied to the results to bring people to racing’s second biggest day? (Nothing tops the first Saturday in May.)

NYRA CEO Christopher Kay is the undisputed winner of the double-talk of 2013 award. Speaking at the year-end University of Arizona symposium, the camera-ready executive said, “Attendance doesn’t spend money, people do.” Huh? Is this guy a member of the National Rifle Association? If I’m interpreting him correctly, you have to wonder why NYRA continues to have giveaway days at Saratoga, which goose attendance figures by including thousands of people who aren’t even on the grounds for the racing program.

My wish list for 2014 will be fulfilled if a way can be found to get Hialeah back into the South Florida thoroughbred rotation.




Written by Tom Jicha

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