Vic Zast

From the perspective of being an owner, an industry pioneer in corporate sponsorship, a track president and fan, Vic Zast writes the "Destinations" column for The Blood-Horse. His five-star ratings of international events have shed light on racing in all corners of the globe - from England, Australia, Hong Kong, Dubai to Japan.

Vic is a regular contributor to MSNBC.com, a columnist for the Illinois Racing News and has written on racing for ESPN.com, National Public radio and The Age, Australia's leading daily.

Vic makes his home in Chicago and lives in Saratoga Springs in August.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Slings and Arrows


There are many targets at which to sling arrows for the lousy television ratings recorded by last Saturdays Belmont Stakes. The 3.1 overnight rating on ABC-TV was the events lowest rating ever. The audience for the dreadful two-hour telecast was down 14 percent compared with last years overnight rating of 3.6. A little more than two million households a drop in the proverbial feed bin - were tuned in.

Start with the fact that the Belmont Stakes has become insignificant outside racings inner circle when theres no Triple Crown on the line. On-track attendance at Belmont was off nearly 75,000 fans from the 2004 race in which Smarty Jones tried to capture the elusive sweep. This June, with Street Sense, the Kentucky Derby winner on the sidelines, most fans felt that the Belmont was a walkover for Curlin, the Preakness winner, and you know how famous the Preakness winner is NOT!.

Nevertheless, anyone who tuned in by accident must have left in a hurry. If ABC-TV keeps producing telecasts as meaningless, downtrodden and mistake-prone as the dirge that it offered on Saturday, horse racing will be seen by fewer viewers than archery.


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Monday, June 04, 2007


Scent of Larceny Surrounds Curlin


Those legal problems nagging Curlins part-owners Bill Gallion and Shirley Cunningham, Jr., reported here two weeks ago, are now a bigger issue than before. The 400 clients, who are suing Gallion and Cunningham for defrauding them of $46.6 million in the settlement of a diet drug (fen phen) case, are claiming that Curlin was purchased with their money and therefore they, not Gallion, Cunningham and the other people listed as Curlins owners, are, in fact, the Preakness winners owners.

A federal grand jury has begun to investigate if there was criminal wrongdoing arising from the settlement, and if a court so deems that there was, Angela M. Ford, an attorney who represents the clients, believes that the horse belongs to them. She claims that Gallion and Cunningham originally purchased the horse with money taken from her clients illegally. Ford claims that Gallion and Cunningham had no right to sell 80 percent of the horse for $3.5 million, as they did in February, to Jess Jackson, Satish Sanan and George Bolton, who are now listed as Curlins part owners along with Gallion and Cunningham.

News such as this, made public in today's New York Times by writer Joe Drape, "A Great Horse, but Who Takes the Winnings?", makes one wonder if horse racing would receive any coverage at all, if it werent for scandals, traumas, and disputes. There has always been a intoxicating scent of larceny lingering around the racetrack, but this horse racing development simply stinks.


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Sunday, June 03, 2007


Round One of Perlee vs. Hayward Could Result in Knockout


Acrimony passes very quickly around the racetrack. Horsemen must act civil to management who must befriend disingenuous legislators despite adversarial viewpoints on crucial business-dependent issues.

Usually, when arguments are ended, everyone goes around pretending he likes everyone else, and peace returns to the operation. Nevertheless, the recent volley passed over the bow by Jeff Perlee, titular of Empire Racing Associates, the horseman-based group trying to wrest control of New York racetracks from NYRA, at Charlie Hayward, NYRAs president, might have residual effects that could result in an end that Perlee never imagined.

Its always been said that not all New York horsemen stand behind the Empire effort. In fact, one influential New York horseman, trainer Gary Contessa, is a principal in the Excelsior Group, competitors for the franchise.

Should NYRA and Excelsior hook up and prevail on the franchise, as Perlee has suggested, does this mean that Contessa ultimately will lead an insurrection of other New York trainers now linked to the existing horsemans group in New York to form a new one?


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Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Heady Stuff, Not Stuffed Bikinis


In its desperation to make the sport fun, thoroughbred racings marketing gurus have gone wild. They have the right intentions, but a bass-ackward approach to creating excitement. http://deadspin.com/sports/bikini-racing/we-hoped-you-nailed-the-exacta-264035.php

Racing wont become more engaging to fans by adding on gimmicks like bikini races and rock concerts to the product. Its the product that needs to be altered. What is more boring than having the same thing happen over and over? The horses parade to the post, they enter the starting gate, and the fastest one wins its been that way for 200 years!

People dont have fun at the racetrack. They get their dopamine pumped by the small victories they encounter along the way to defeat. Horse racing is like video games or golf intellectual engagements that can never result in complete satisfaction; thus, the intrigue.


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Thursday, May 24, 2007


Loony Birds are Pit Bulls


Theres no reason for anyone to read the story about cruelty to animals in the horse racing game that is a headline story on todays AOL.com home page. Most of whats written is old, convoluted thinking that stretches a point to make an argument. The rest is pure drivel, like the comparison of horse racing to Michael Vicks favorite pastime pit bull fighting.

Thoroughbred racing is diligent in making sure that the sport is safe and humane. The Barbaro incident focused the industry on animal health like no previous on-track tragedy. But it also gave the loony birds and publicity seekers something to write about.


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