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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Sunday, July 04, 2010

Comment of the Week, Jeff Rosen’s Comment #2

There was a short list of comments submitted last week, but Jeff Cohen's Comment #2 would have stood out if there had been a thousand. Here's his "Comment of the Week" in its entirety:

Jeff Rosen says:
28 Jun 2010 at 05:54 am | #

There’s definitely something to be said for contraction. I remember as a teenager (when I had to ask adults at the gate to say I was with them to get in) when NYRA’s season went from April to October. Opening day at Aqueduct was a big thing. For winter racing you had to go to Florida. (For compulsive gamblers the trotters were year round) For some reason we enjoyed the spring season more. Like the old saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder”. I fear that by increasing the Saratoga meeting every few years it will dilute the whole Saratoga experiance. It already has in part. By the way, here are 2 links of the Morning Telegraph cover page for the earliest NYRA opening day which I scanned: (It is also the very last Morning Telegraph ever, the next day the racing form was on sale at Aqueduct for the first time, that’s why I saved it)

Written by Vic Zast

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Thursday, July 01, 2010

Lookin at Lunacy

(SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – July 1, 2010) When the Queen attends the horse races at Royal Ascot, she arrives in a horse-drawn carriage and sits in the Royal Enclosure apart from the madding crowd. The same arrangements await her at Woodbine for the Queen’s Plate on Sunday. Only there in Toronto her procession will be led by a horse guard of Royal Canadian Mounties and a few clubhouse boxes will be outfitted royally to accommodate her seat.

The last time Queen Elizabeth II graced Woodbine was 1997. In that year, Awesome Again, owned by Frank Stronach, won the Queen’s Plate, North America’s oldest thoroughbred race. A homebred from Stronach’s breeding farm Adena Springs named Mobilizer will try to unite the king of car parts with the Monarch of the British Empire in the winner’s circle again. It's not that crazy - even Mother Theresa shook the hand of Stalin once.

Ironically, Mobilizer is from the first crop of the English sire Motivator, the 2005 Epsom Derby winner that stands at The Royal Studs in Sandringham, England. The Royal Studs is owned by the Queen and this presupposes that she’ll be wagering her loonies on a horse owned by a loony. Good luck to her.

Some nice horses such as Dance Smartly (1991), Kennedy Road (1971), Northern Dancer (1964) and Victoria Song (1960) have won the Queen’s Plate. But, in recent years, some real clunkers like Not Bourbon (2008), Mike Fox (2007), Edenwold (2006) and Wild Desert (2005) have had their names called first across the finish line.

Eleven Canadian-foaled colts and two fillies are entered in Sunday’s Queen’s Plate, led by Hotep, a son of A.P.Indy trained by Mark Frostad for SamSon Farms. Hotep finished 11th in the Grade II Louisiana Derby and 10th in the Grade II Risen Star at the Fair Grounds before dropping off the Kentucky Derby trail. But maybe a restricted stakes will suit him better.

Written by Vic Zast

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

John’s Comment of the Week, #43

It was not a coincidence that John's Comment #43 put a stop to the insults and inane remarks expressed by some readers in comments to last week's TrackWords. John's Comment of the Week defined the standard that all arguments should respect. The following is the comment reprinted in its entirety. For the other 50 comments submitted last week, go to Vic Zast's TrackWords of Monday, June 21.

John says:
22 Jun 2010 at 11:00 pm | #
Sorry Vic, but you made your bed, now you have to lie in it.

No matter what you tried to correct in Cliffnotes’ paragraph 3 and 4, you earlier had no problem in describing Rachel Alexandra’s Woodward “a race for the ages”, but then you mentioned that Zenyatta had to make a franatic dash to win the BCC, then threw in some doubt about her win by who wasn’t there.

Vic, most of us caught these subtle digs against Zenyatta.

Before this “frantic” description you also brought up some notion about Zenyatta’s mettle.

Another dig at Zenyatta.

..."Classic, her fans considered that feat a crowning achievement.”

You make it sound like Zenyatta’s fans are a bunch of brain dead zombies that can’t think for themselves.

Vic, do I care to remind you that prior to the race that perhaps all of the 230 voters had set their minds and votes on Rachel Alexandra as HOY.

And after this incredible race, perhaps the greatest and most dramatic horserace since Secretariat’s 73 Belmont, an incredible 99 voters changed their minds and votes.

Then the famous “taking the easy way out” routine.

Vic, Zenyatta took the harder path in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Rachel Alexandra didn’t show. Zenyatta showed up for the Apple Blossom, Rachel Alexandra didn’t show.

Vic, do I have to remind you that Zenyatta has beaten the winners of 45 Grade 1 races, the winners of over 80 stakes races, five divisional champions, four Eclipse Awards winners, two Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic Champions. Zenyatta has, after her maiden win and an allowance win, has run in fifteen straight Grade 1 or Grade 2 races.

No Vic, she has not taken the easy way out.

Your dig should be aimed at Rachel Alexandra, a horse that doesn’t wear her crown very proudly.

Written by Vic Zast

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mine That Bird’s Comeback

(BUFFALO, NY – June 24, 2010) D. Wayne Lukas has never been short of optimism. Yet, after his newest trainee – the 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird - returned from his fifth workout following an excruciatingly long layoff, Lukas revealed a reserve of emotion that was rare for even him. “We’re going right into the deep end,” Lukas told anyone who’d listen, targeting Saratoga’s Whitney Handicap on August 7 as his main objective.

Mine That Bird has looked good to Lukas from the day he stepped hoof in the Hall of Fame trainer’s Churchill Downs barn. Built up to a bigger size and well-rested from lengthy inactivity, the popular gelding seemed to have benefited a ton from the time off and long gallops that his former trainer gave him. That former trainer would be one Bennie L. “Chip” Woolley, Jr., who, two years ago, for one day in spring, was the luckiest man in America.

If the number of races won is a standard by which you judge trainers, Lukas has it all over Woolley. But both Woolley and Lukas have some things in common worth noting. For example, they are trainers that have worked long spells with quarter horses as well as thoroughbreds. They represent themselves and their sport generously. Moreover, they have shown an unusual willingness to take chances when everyone else says it is hopeless. Lukas once said, “If there are only one or two horses that are better than yours in a race, you run.”

But, here’s the key question now. Who gets the credit if Mine That Bird turns into a bona fide threat in the handicap division? Should things go as planned, a new and improved Mine That Bird will start back on the comeback trail over the 4th of July weekend. Once that prep is done, Quality Road awaits Mine That Bird in the Whitney. The re-engineered model will race closer to the pace, and maybe better, under Lukas’s guidance. But had Woolley not given his horse time to recuperate, he’d be in no shape to compete in the first place.

Written by Vic Zast

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Karen’s “Comment of the Week”

For a complete reading of Karen's Comment #5 - last week's "Comment of the Week," read on.

Karen says:
14 Jun 2010 at 08:16 am | # 5

I agree with you. The Olympics have kind of gotten out of hand as far as money spent to create a spectacle goes, BUT that spectacle draws people in and interests them. When you watch Olympic coverage, they spread outside of just the Olympics and give info on the history and beauty of the area and its people. When I watch racing from overseas, it’s not just the racing that draws people in, it’s the celebration - of the event, the horses and the people. If you look at racing in Asia and in Dubai, those are Events. Now if we had a facility like Dubai’s, there would be no question of where Breeders Cup should be held. But we don’t. And I can understand why financially it makes sense to have it at one place or the same place two years in a row. But why not celebrate, not just do, what it was intended to be from the beginning? Have it at different venues and reach outside the box for fans? I know people would come out for something different in their area IF they know they will be in for a celebration. But not if it’s the same old thing.

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