Bill Christine

Bill Christine, whose first Kentucky Derby was in 1968, covered horse racing for 24 years for the Los Angeles Times. He covered every Triple Crown race from 1982 through 2005, and also reported on the first 22 runnings of the Breeders' Cup. Bill has won two Eclipse Awards for turf writing, five Red Smith Awards for best Kentucky Derby stories, two David Woods Awards for best Preakness stories and the National Turf Writers' Association's Walter Haight Award and Pimlico's Old Hilltop Award for career contributions to racing. He was part of the Los Angeles Times team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 1995 for its coverage of the Northridge earthquake the year before.

Bill is a former president of the National Turf Writers' Association. He has worked for the Thoroughbred Racing Associations, where he was assistant to the executive vice president, and is a former sports editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He wrote Roberto!, a biography of the Hall of Fame baseball player Roberto Clemente, in 1972. Bill, who lives in Redondo Beach, California, is working on a history of Bay Meadows. Contact: bill.christine@yahoo.com

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Frank Stronach’s Unprepared Remarks


LOS ANGELES, June 15, 2010--A former Magna employee has leaked to me a rough draft of Frank Stronach's opening statement at a meeting of the California Horse Racing Board at Hollywood Park on June 22. Since the leakee does not want to see the leaker wind up hip-high in bilgewater, I had better say that my source was not Lou Raffetto, Joe De Francis, Jim McAlpine, Chris McCarron, Ron Charles, Doug Donn, Rick Cowan, Cliff Goodrich, Corey Johnson, Brant Latta, Jack Liebau, John Perrotta, Lonny Powell, David Romanik, Scott Savin, Donald Amos, Michael Neuman, Thomas Hodgson, Mark Feldman, Jerry Campbell or Ken Dunn. My apologies to the few I have missed.

If the rough draft holds up, Stronach will say something like this:


"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, distinguished members of the California Horse Racing Board, friends of California racing, horsemen. . .

"And my good friend Chilly.

"Right?

"I am honored and indebted to members of the racing board for giving me this opportunity to speak about free enterprise.

"Right?

"Over the years, whenever I have attempted to talk about free enterprise, I have looked around the room and noticed a yawn or two.

"But it is free enterprise that was the bedrock of California racing decades ago, when Doc Strub at Santa Anita, Bing Crosby at Del Mar and Mervyn LeRoy at Hollywood Park were the pioneers who put the great game on the map, and it will be free enterprise that will pull this great game up by the bootstraps during these dire times.

"Right?

"I have been asked many times what I mean by free enterprise, and I think the best answer is to look to the United States Constitution, which spells it out.

"Free enterprise, by my definition, in a nutshell, is the ability of a businessman to open his store at times when he has the most customers.

"Without free enterprise, racing will not survive in California.

"Right?

"There have been some of you who have been critical in recent weeks of my company's announcement that Oak Tree is unlikely to run its fall dates at Santa Anita anymore.

"Nothing is forever. All good things must eventually come to an end. It's always darkest before the dawn. Santa Anita will survive without Oak Tree and Oak Tree will survive without Santa Anita. I promise you this.

"Right?

"I met at breakfast this morning with Sherwood Chillingworth of Oak Tree--I like to call him Chilly--and we broke bread like two men with common goals ought to do. I had a plain bagel, with a schmeer of cream cheese, Chilly had a prune Danish, and we shared a pot of decaf. We both had tasters in the room who sampled all of this before we dug in, but I digress.

"I told Chilly that Oak Tree leaving Santa Anita was not the end of the world, and as I recall he then suggested a physical impossibility before picking up what was left of his Danish and asking for the check. Right?

"This was only a preliminary conversation. The wheels of free enterprise sometimes grind very slowly. Right?

"I believe Chilly understands that Magna will need time to install a new surface at Santa Anita, and that would preclude Oak Tree from running its traditional dates at our place. We were unable to begin work on the new surface after our meet ended in April because we needed time to conduct more studies about what is safe for the horse and what will be fair for the horsemen and the bettors of California.

"Right?

"Racing surfaces are like ice cream. Some of us like chocolate, some of us like vanilla, and some like strawberry. But that doesn't mean that Neopolitan works for everybody. Racing surfaces can also be a lot like soup. You need so much salt, so much of this, so much of that. But it's the right flavor that's important. If you will allow me, I will tell a joke I heard the other day about soup. The man says to a waiter, 'Is there a fly in my soup?' And the waiter says, 'Quite possibly, sir, our cook used to be a tailor.' Sorry, ladies.

"We live in a free society, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't eliminate the entrepreneurs. They are an obstacle to the free market. Life goes on, but it's nip and tuck. I'm working on perfecting an electric automobile, and you don't have to be a scientist to know that that's what drivers all over the world need. It's a lot like racing. Electricity is what makes the mare go.

"Right?

"Some have called me an entrepreneur, but I say foo. I'm just an average guy who worked hard for a long time. I'm still not quite sure what I want to do when I grow up.

"I'm sure many of you have questions, but before that I want to announce some exciting news that is guaranteed to revitalize racing in California. Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger will be joining the Magna organization soon. Arnold and I talk the same language, we're from the same part of the same country, he's going to be out of work soon, and my team at Magna is confident that he will be a perfect fit. You may not know this, but Arnold knows as much about running a racing organization as I do. He feels that this will be just one more way that he can uplift the state of California.

"Right?

"Now, if there are any questions. . . Yes, I think I see Chilly over there, raising his hand. . . "

Written by Bill Christine

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