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, a columnist for the Illinois Racing News and has written on racing for, 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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Monday, April 23, 2007

Churchill President Alive and Kicking

It was startling to read in the Wall Street Journal the deadliest newspaper on the planet that Churchill Downs president Robert Evans was alive and kicking.

Horse racing is moribund in tradition, irrelevancy and lack of product development. Evans, one of six CEOs chosen by the Journal because their companies are facing declining markets, represents an organization like all organizations in horse racing - that believes its progressive, but isnt.

Clearly we are less interesting than we were 20, 40, 60 years ago, Evans said. He called for racing to find new ways to bet on the same old races, experiment with technology, emphasize human-interest aspects, and hire horse racing novices to bring the sport out of its morass. His most helpful advice, however, might have been to act fast, before you think of reasons why the idea you liked in the first place wasnt a good idea after all.

The problem with Evanss conclusions is that hell need to hire people who dont become paralyzed when confronted with creativity. True innovation renders the weak-kneed immobile. Right now, most people in positions of power at the NTRA, the Breeders Cup and the racetracks are candidates for arthroscopy.

Written by Vic Zast

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BallHype: hype it up!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

FREE for the Dumb and Dumber

Whoaman, Im a lucky guy. Now I can access the Moss Pace Figures to go along with the Beyers and the Tomlinsons and all the other confusing and superfluous information from the Daily Racing Form. Not fair, the Form is in competition with other information resources and must plow as much detail into its past performance lines as humanly possible I understand. Mea culpa, racing buddies. Mea culpa.

But hear me out, dog (now where did I hear that line?). Picking winners isnt a straight-line left-brained exercise. And if it were, guys like Andy and Lil Andy and even our own Honest John would be better at it.

So how about a dumbed-down version of the Form for casual fans with limited analytical ability like the Metro or the Palo Alto Daily News or the Red Eye of the Chicago Trib? Not a program. Not the same PPs that you get in the long version, but a new set of PPs that are reader-friendly. You know, a primer to the serious courses that lie aheadmaybe offered for FREE or at a lower price to help broaden the audience, increase the circulation of the long form Form and make things easier for the people who are out to the track for a good time but dont have the time to do calculus?

Written by Vic Zast

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BallHype: hype it up!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Jumping Fences

Forty runners, ages eight through 12, faced the starter in Aintrees Grand National this past Saturday. But after 4 miles and 30 fences, only 13 horses finished. More than 150,000 fans packed the stands to witness the Worlds Most Famous Horse Race, an event first run in 1839 for a purse of 100 guineas. This year, $790,000 went to the winner, who, by the way, was named Silver Birch, a 10-year-old gelding that triumphed at 33-1 odds.

The reason steeplechasing doesnt catch on in the USA is because the sport we call steeplechasing here isnt steeplechasing. Its long distance racing or horses with stamina over a few simple jumps. The huge payoffs that result from the large fields in Europe come about because in the races there anything can happen. The risk is delicious something the American horseplayers find daunting. You can make money there by betting a handful of runners to increase your chances.

Racetracks on this side of the world are draining the variety out of racing to wit, Polytrack. Our level-surfaced ovals make jump racing, with right and left turns and up and down hills, out of the question. Pretty soon guessing which vets are using what drugs will be the only sport left for the bettor.

Written by Vic Zast

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BallHype: hype it up!

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