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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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Thursday, December 16, 2010


On the Fourth Day of Christmas, Unification


(CHICAGO, IL – December 16, 2010) It was just a little over a dozen years ago when horse racing’s power brokers adopted a collective approach to solve their individual problems. Perhaps someone emerged who could read the writing on the wall, someone who understood that horse racing would wither as spectator sport if it wasn’t introduced properly to new audiences. Or, maybe the shift in ideology just happened - as do osmosis or chain bonding or any of those other scientific miracles that few understand.

In any case, just as the ad slogan “Go, Baby, Go” was becoming the impetus for a new consumer awareness, the movement to work in concert for common good disappeared. Any dream of uniting the horse racing industry died when the National Thoroughbred Racing Association began losing its charter to engage in advertising and marketing on behalf of its members. Today’s NTRA is but a shell of its once-formidable self – the industry-funded marketing machine that produced Tim Smith as de facto commissioner and Lori Petty as the uncommon party girl with a get-lucky attitude.

Key industry players such as Churchill Downs Incorporated and MI Developments have abandoned the NTRA, choosing to go it alone for the short term instead of sharing in the sport’s long-range development. Churchill Downs, Santa Anita, Gulfstream, Calder, the Fair Grounds, Arlington Park, Delaware Park and Penn National don’t contribute with dues or perspective. Unfortunately, these tracks further the problem that horse racing has always faced – that, despite different markets, each entity believes it competes with the others.

Moving in opposite direction, industry members never make a decision in “the best interests of the sport.” They’re so busy with the present that they can’t serve the future. Consensus is rare. Change occurs at a crawl. If ever the sport had a need for an individual to take charge, it is now. Unifying the sport for the second time by implementing the NTRA is an opportunity that’s politically improbable. But, if people really wanted, it’s not totally unfeasible. Those who don’t believe in Santa Claus, well…they’ll find a lump of coal in their stocking. Those, who do, may find presents they never imagined.

Four days down and eight to go in the run-up to Christmas. Read along every day to learn what horse racing's biggest wishes for the future might be. For the "Third Day of Christmas, hit http://bit.ly/eFcrsI.

Written by Vic Zast

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