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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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Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Co-owners’ Cloud over Curlin


It didnt take long for the dirty laundry of Curlins connections to become a topic in the racing world.

In the May 28 edition of Sports Illustrated (out today), Tim Layden wrote that Midnight Crys Bill Gallion and Shirley Cunningham, Jr.s 20 percent ownership in Curlin might be at risk because of charges that they, as lawyers, misappropriated clients settlement funds. Now, the popular Triple Crown Web site, http://www.thedowneyprofile.com, carries a synopsis of and links to newspaper stories about their troubles.

The Downey Profile also reminds its readers that Curlins trainer Steve Asmussen served a six-month suspension recently and re-ignites the controversy surrounding Curlins majority owner Jess Jacksons legal battles with thoroughbred bloodstock agents.

Dick Downey, author of the Internet site, is a practicing attorney and member of the bar from Bowling Green, Kentucky. Hes protective of his profession and sensitive to matters that reflect poorly on lawyers. He loves racing, too, and realizes that the sport needs to avoid as many ugly mentions in the press as possible. But in the age of sport cover-ups, its intriguing that someone authoritative like Downey isnt afraid of that invisible line that other journalists wont approach.


Written by Vic Zast

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Monday, May 21, 2007


When More Hockey is Better than Less Horse Racing


The 5.4 Neilsen rating which the Preakness earned wasnt the reason why the sudden death overtime period of the Buffalo Sabres vs. Ottawa Senators Stanley Cup playoff game was abandoned on NBC Network Television. No, the reason was that the television contract between the NTRA and NBC required the network to switch to Preakness coverage precisely at 5 PM.

Its a common complaint of horse racing fans that key races often get replaced by other sporting events that run into overtime or face rain delays or have some complicating factor that causes them to run longer than planned. Thoroughbred horse racing rarely gets higher TV ratings than another sport, but the NHL has its problems, too.

The ratings for the hockey game did a 1.2 in the Neilsens good enough for the Versus cable network, but not good enough to force a contractual squabble. Too bad for hockey fans the Senators won 15 minutes into the Preakness telecast, while the Preakness went at least 30 minutes too long with content that nobody cared about.


Written by Vic Zast

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Friday, May 18, 2007


New York Politicians - No Friends to Racing


Politicians do a lot of harm to people under the pretense that they have the publics interest at heart. It was predictable nearly two years ago that Gov. Eliot Spitzer and the New York Legislature would extend NYRAs franchise to run New York racing past its December 31 expiration date. Their own incompetence and inability to focus on racing as an issue has left the sport with time running out and no new legislation to help it along. The last ones the politicians will blame for racings demise in the state are themselves.

Meanwhile, ambitious groups such as NYRA, Excelsior, Empire Racing and Capital Play have been put through hoops to keep their bids alive. The prize must be mighty big for them to spend money like they are in order to maintain their intentions. But just what is the prize? The most recent rumors are that Saratoga and Belmont will be split into two operating entities and Aqueduct will be closed.

Racing fans have suffered enough. How long has it been in New York since the horses was the topic instead of mass confusion? People in elected jobs are out for themselves and not for the sport. Remember that.


Written by Vic Zast

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Friday, May 11, 2007


Street Sense to Arlington Needs Candy from the Colonel


Luring Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense to race at Arlington Park in July would be a real coup for the Colonel, which is what racetrack staffers call U.S. Marine officer Roy Arnold, the new man in charge.

Weve got to keep the momentum going, said Dan Leary, Arlingtons Director of Communications. The Northwest suburban Chicago track enjoyed an opening weekend that was 58.6 percent up in handle and 31.6 percent in attendance.

Theres nothing definitive. The thought has occurred to us, Leary said, when asked what the chances were that the track might provide some incentive to Jim Tafel, the Chicagoan who owns Street Sense, in exchange for a re-appearance of Street Sense at Arlington. Sweetening the deal is a Chicago tradition, and it wouldnt be the first time a man with a super horse was encouraged by some candy. Street Sense ran third in the Arlington-Washington Futurity and broke his maiden at Arlington for peanuts.

As a Grade 2 turf stakes for $250,000, the American Derby isnt much. But boosted to $1 million for this year alone, and moved to Arlingtons new Polytrack, the July 21 stakes might be the Travers prep that it was in the past, when horses such as Damascus, Buckpasser, Round Table, Native Dancer and Citation came to the Windy City and won it.


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Friday, May 04, 2007


Has-beens


Someone ought to offer a prize to anyone who can identify five of the 200 celebrities that are supposed to attend this years Kentucky Derby. Now, that would be a contest!

If I was an agent for any personality past his prime, getting my geezer of a client to go horse racing seems to be an easy way to earn my money. The sport will jump on anyone who ever appeared on television. It treats has-beens as if they are headliners.

Queen Elizabeth II is a star worth promoting. And the Queen isnt being paid to show up like the others are. She wont say anything stupid either, like This is the first time Ive been to the racetrack.

Clearly, someone whos not the same person that he was a few years ago is Larry Birkhead, the nations most famous sire. A couple of years back, Birkhead was taking snapshots of the stars at the Barnstable-Brown party as a working photographer, now hes an honored guest.

Asked which filly he likes in the Oaks today, Birkhead said, Im on Dreaming of Anna. Hmm, I guess he was. But does that make him any different from the next guy?

Written by Vic Zast

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