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, August 09, 2010

Comment of the Week, Indulto’s Comment No. 5

Indulto is a reader who usually has something good to say and always says it eloquently. The following represents his excellent suggestion for an app for the racetrack:

Indulto says:
05 Aug 2010 at 10:20 pm | #

Since off-track handle accounts for 90% of a track’s total, the most atTRACtive app with the biggest bang for the buck, both for builder and bettor, has to be the “binocular”—similar in concept to the “magnifier” in Windows.

It would allow the viewer to zoom in on any portion of a full-field display image to isolate the horse of choice and display an enlarged image.

It is entirely do-able using high-definition,internet-streamed live video and replays. What are they waiting for, an invitation?

Written by Vic Zast

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Monday, August 02, 2010

Comment of the Week, Tim’s Comment No. 4

Tim's last point in an argument with wmcorrow was to shed light on a reality that NYRA refuses to accept. For that reason, he gets the "Comment of the Week" salute.

Tim says:
27 Jul 2010 at 01:18 pm | #

Here’s something your Number two pencil can’t compute. Attendance has been a disaster and by judging what people were spending for none discretionary items, it is going to be a long hot summer in Saratoga. If you like no lines at the window come on up!

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Comment of the Week, Allan Goldberg’s Comment #8

The following is Allan Goldberg's Comment of the Week, republished in its entirety.

Allan Goldberg says:
12 Jul 2010 at 11:03 am | #

Gambling is only part of horse racing. I am a gambler. I love gambling. I can go years between Vegas visits. I don’t dream of hitting a lottery. You can not convince slot machine player to come to the races because they probably will do better in air conditioned sterilized environment. But you can turn a lot of people to the sport if you have stars on and off the racetrack. I go to the races to enjoy the show. Racecard itself can be compressed into 20 minutes of action. Austin nailed it - seeing your 8-1 shot cross the wire first is better than anything else, including you know what. Watching paddock action and horses coming out on the track, jibing with jocks - casinos can not do that. Horse racing is LIVE and full of life. I watched 12 KY Derby post parades and I still choke on that song.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Missing from Steinbrenner’s Obituary

(SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – July 14, 2010) George Steinbrenner’s involvement in horse racing has gone mostly unnoticed in the obituaries of mainstream media. But this hasn’t stopped the thoroughbred industry from joining other worlds in eulogizing the great man upon his passing. Entities ranging from the NTRA to the NYRA to the Louisville Courier-Journal have used Steinbrenner’s vita as the owner of top racehorses, Kinsman Stud Farms and Florida Downs to cash in on the sudden, and somewhat unexpected, fallen hero worship.

Followers of the saga of Saratoga Racecourse may recall that “The Boss” was a behind-the-scenes player in the failed bid of Excelsior Racing Associates, a group headed by casino developer Richard Fields, to wrest the franchise away from current operators several years ago. Steve Swindal, Steinbrenner’s son-in-law at the time, was an Excelsior front man. Then Swindal was caught drunk, rumors surfaced about womanizing and before anyone could say “Yankees heir,” he was out on his can entirely, en route to oblivion and bachelorhood.

By the way, Excelsior earned the recommendation of a New York State task committee charged with the responsibility of identifying the group which would best accommodate the State’s horse racing interests. Had both Swindal and then Gov. Pecker kept their pants on, we might have had somebody different to complain about. The Billy Johnston family, which owns and operates the harness track Balmoral Park in Chicago, was going to run Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga. For whatever it’s worth noting, Steinbrenner held part ownership in Balmoral.

As for Steinbrenner's charisma, members of the press that were in the Churchill Downs media center for the 2005 Kentucky Derby will recall the flurry of activity preceding the race as newspaper editors began advising the turf writers to write two stories. They wanted one for the front page if his horse Bellamy Road, the co-favorite, won and another for the Sports Section. Steinbrenner’s horse finished seventh, thus lightening the load for reporters. Yet, nobody was happy.

Regardless, if one thinks of Steinbrenner before the death notices were written, his reputation, for the most part, was that of a villain. He was brutal on employees, reckless with money, banned from his sport and pardoned by President Reagan for illegal campaign contributions – a buffoon, as a matter of fact, per Seinfeld, The Simpsons, Saturday Night Live and Miller Lite and Visa commercials.

Some authority like Tom Pedulla, who writes on college football and thoroughbred racing for USA Today, would be a good one to provide proper perspective. It seems the difference between Steinbrenner and Frank Stronach, for example, is that one accomplished his goals through his zaniness. Otherwise, it’s tough to tell them apart. Ah, there must be more to it.

Written by Vic Zast

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Friday, July 09, 2010

Words from the Left Behind

(SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – July 9, 2010) Bethenny Frankel, the daughter of deceased trainer Bobby Frankel and his wife Bernadette, has given permission to her publicists to use the subject of an unhappy childhood to get her name in the media. So far, photos of Frankel and her few-months-old baby girl Bryn have appeared in People Magazine and on because the reality TV show personality has promised that she won’t subject her child to the same abuse that she experienced from her parents.

Bethenny Frankel claims that her family life was miserable and that her father took off for California from New York when she was four. Her mother’s alcoholism and violent behavior forced her to move out of the house and in with him for a year. Eventually, father and daughter were estranged permanently. That said, there’s a lot to suggest that Bobby Frankel’s Hollywood connections, a moneyed lifestyle and exposure to the world of entertainment eventually served to benefit her.

As a matter of fact, it’s possible that exhuming her family with insults is the only way for Bethenny Frankel to bring notice upon herself at this stage of her career. She can’t sing, dance or act. Her wit is rapier sharp; her language foul-mouthed. She pees in a champagne bucket held by a wedding planner while dressed in her gown, seven months pregnant – that’s her schtick. Her aim is to get people interested in experiencing her life vicariously, and there’s no doubt that many people are able to relate with a troubled past.

Bobby Frankel wasn’t a likable man to many people. Nevertheless, the time for saying something such as ”Bobby could be difficult to live with but we always knew he cared for us” came and went with the occasion of his funeral. Isn’t it funny how when even the most despicable person is about to be put in the ground that there’s always a qualified phrase that enables the left behind to send him off with a compliment? If she keeps it up, Bethenny Frankel might be heading for a similar swansong.

Written by Vic Zast

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