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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


“[I] used to contribute horse racing opinions here, now I occasionally visit, like a dog returns to his vomit, to get a good laugh, and for the genius of a few of the commentators who have something to offer. Run by a leftist, censoring, tightwad, who’s beliefs regarding horse racing and politics are driven by which way the wind blows, it is not [sic] surprise where all the conservative and honest persons have gone.

“Chalk up another loser for Pricci, especially if the inquiry is unsuccessful.”

As the Church Lady, created by Dana Carvey for Saturday Night Live back in the day often said, “well, isn’t that special?”

I bring this up because it comes on the heels of a YouTube video in which the publisher of the Paulick Report, Ray Paulick, stated that the comment section on his popular Thoroughbred website has been temporarily suspended while he and staff evaluate whether or not to reinstitute it.

The policy decision, even if temporary, proved unpopular with many Internet regulars who, especially with respect to horse racing, love the give-and-take on, with apologies to The Jockey Club, matters pertaining to racing.

And the Deity knows there certainly is no shortage of material which racing fans and horseplayers can #hashtag over.

In his remarks, Paulick spoke about how much he enjoys reading the comments himself, that it has been a forum for ideas, whether ultimately good or bad, illuminating or not; funny or not-so-much, but now has grown weary of negativity for negativity’s sake.

Race-tracker trolls are, after all, not limited to the Twittersphere.

On balance, Paulick Report steers clear of politics, a subject which was included on PR’s comprehensive list of commenting policies for its site.

For its part, HRI has basically one commenting policy: No pointedly foul language and no personal attacks. Otherwise, have at all of it. No subject, preferably intelligently discussed, is out of bounds–and that includes politics.

The next comment appeared on HRI this morning, beneath the headline “Updated: Selection for Today’s Cigar Mile at the Big A” in the featured Latest Columns section.

In response to the HRI critical comment was this comment from another HRI regular, posted December 8, 2020 at 10:10 am:

I would ask that we all keep HRI a place where politics are not discussed. This space is open for horseplayers and racing fans to discuss the sport without political commentary.

“There are plenty of forums to discuss politics, can we please have ONE place, HRI, where we can avoid any political discussion.”

Prior to the non-defensive response above concerning HRI’s editor in particular and HorseRaceInsider policy is general, I posted this rejoinder to the ne’er-comment-well author quoted at the top of this post from 9:26 am today:

“John Pricci – On the Line says: “The people decide what they decide, they will be the judge.”

Fair-minded HRI readers, even when disagreeing with op-eds, generally commend HorseRaceInsider for providing space for a free exchange of ideas, acknowledging that we monitor comments when this privilege is abused vis a vis foul language and/or personal attacks.

Paulick spoke of his impatience with a handful of commenters with agendas that “ruin it for everyone.” I couldn’t agree more.

As the owner/publisher of, I make no apologies for any political commentary I choose to engage in. First and foremost, it’s family first. Next, for me personally, comes the nexus between my love of the game and for the democracy of my youth.

A hopeless romantic, I will always strive to find truth, justice–and a more perfect union. I can separate church from state. What I can’t separate is America from the rule of law.

Agree or not, it is my opinion that anyone who does not believe the current administration in Washington is little more than a criminal enterprise is either blind to the autocratic politics of division, where might is always right, or is narcissistically self-serving beyond the pale.

Does that make me judgmental? Damn right.

If my opponent has no wish to fight fair citing facts, if he chooses alternative truth to support his views by allowing talking points to blur the boundaries of conscience, I will allow him to tell that story walking. If, however, his weapons are fairness and truth, making a compelling argument, I will defer, as I often have.

The part of the criticism at the top that set me off–albeit not to the degree of eliminating the vox populi principles of a website that chooses to be an arbiter for fact-based truth–is that my views  are “driven by which way the wind blows” is shamefully dishonest and a distortion of reality.

I am unabashedly and unapologetically progressive, a left-of-center pragmatist who will defer if your point is better than mine, if your solution makes more sense. Handicapping horses isn’t the only discipline that humbles a man. Responsibility and experience are excellent overseers, too.

Indeed, it is not surprising “where all the conservative and honest persons have gone.” Back into their bubbles, where truth finishes a bad second to hollow cries of “fake news.”

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⚠ Before you comment

Our staff likes nothing better than to engage with the HRI Faithful and provide a forum for interaction on horseracing and sports. In that spirit, please be kind and reasonable; keep the language clean, and the tone civil. Comments from those who cannot comply will be deleted. Thank you.

31 Responses

  1. Don’t let the drive-by pot shots get you down, JP.

    I’m sure many others share my respect and gratitude for your determination and efforts to maintain this oasis of true fact-based enlightenment, entertainment, and camaraderie for those of us who can still remember Kelso. I hope more of them will weigh in.

    IMO the primary factor in the Paulick Report’s success was that it provided the opportunity for a wide range of racing interests to read opinions from other component groups. As time went on, though, I found fewer articles that dealt with the need and/or strategies for industry reform. Eventually regular comment contributors I respected besides Tinky and Barry Irwin faded from sight.

    Apparently the level of discourse achieved there recently hasn’t been worth the effort to keep it on track. I hope the PR rethinks its position regarding its comment section, but the trolls can be expected to continue their disruption encouraged by this recognition of their impact. The only way to deal with them is to chase them back under the bridge with vigilant editing and URL suppression.

    1. I hope so too, vis a vis Paulick Report, because I often have learned something from its more qualified or experienced observers. In the meantime, we’ll keep this little popcorn stand open… and we’ll keep trying. Thanks for the encouragement; appreciated more than know. A wink is as good as a nod to a blind handicapper.

  2. I just jumped on here from PaceAdvantage. Where do I talk about my theory on horses being run with illegal substances and at the same time avoid being blasted for conspiracy or whatever

    1. You’ve come to the right place, welcome aboard, Paul. Here you will find many who agree and disagree.

      But be warned that the editor doesn’t broker in paranoia.

      Make your point, but make it carefully. Try to keep me from going in front of the judge in some libel case, OK?

  3. This is a great site to discuss and get info. There will always be an action / reaction to any sensitive issue brought up in a course of a civil discussion. If it is a racing subject which can be debated, it will be with civility.
    Once a writer uses a sarcastic hit, or camouflages his views about subject outside the periphery of racing, he is inviting debate(especially opinionated horseplayers.)
    At the track I would certainly discuss politics with my racing companions only if they open the door.

    1. Well reasoned response Mark, thank you for that.

      But please don’t be too hard on those using sarcasm, which, if I might borrow a popular phrase, People who never thought about this before are now saying that being sarcastic is my stock in trade.

      Put another way, without sarcasm, I’m out of business…

  4. A Thoroughbred website that does not allow readers to comment is simply a one-way street. If I can’t comment, pro or con, on the subject presented or on another commentator’s comment, I’m not interested in the site anymore. Improper comments can be deleted, but careful thought must be given to the considered deletion(s).

    HRI has interaction between those who comment and the contributors which creates a degree of warmth and appreciation.

    BTY, I haven’t visited the PR site in a very long time; just didn’t find the information presented of any use to me – to much data, no depth, exuding no feeling, and rarely a reply to a comment submitted.

    1. WMC, Mr. Paulick and I have different target audiences.

      I will disagree with you on this; many stories there are of interest, and Ms. Voss, IMO, is one of racing’s top journalists.

      In fact, the industry stories PR covers occasionally are grist for my mill, whether I agree or not.

      And, as you might expect, being disagreeable is more fun — but only if you believe that truth is on your side.

      You know something about being curmudgeonly sometimes, yes?? I know I do; comes with age.

      1. I agree completely with you completely, John, and especially about Natalie. She really has established herself as a first-rate journalist.



        1. Welcome aboard, Tink!

          I only wish It didn’t take the shuttering of another comment section for you to find us.

          Always enjoyed your observations at PR and at other sites, and hope you will find a topic that inspires to discourse here as well.

          There’s always room for well-intentioned lovers of the game…

  5. For each action or opinion there is usually a separate but equal reaction to the subject matter. (and sometimes even an overreaction).Unfortunately there are those that get there kicks filling space like the dieter who chooses to eat empty calories then brag about how good he feels. Thereby cheating themselves, cheating the world and cheating nature.

    You have a good product John. It’s backed by investing in and writing about a lifetime of experience in a profession we all love and care about. I come to this site to offer opinions on racing not judgement on what political side of the aisle someone is on. The mere fact this person comes back here, whatever his reasons, is telling. It says on this site nothing is off limits. It says all are welcome. It also says you make no apologies for the man you are.
    You’ve spent a lifetime defending horse racing and you should be proud, you’ve done it well. Family and country is a priority. I believe everyone on this site would not argue the point. Keep going, don’t ever stop. Loyalty above all except honor John. Your loyalty to the game can’t be argued and your honesty can’t be questioned. Now let’s go get those bad guys!

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Vincent, and that’s why we’re here, to get the bad guys.

      When you occasionally volunteer your handicapping opinions, you always say “let’s go get the bad guys.”

      We try to kill both of those birds but neither comes easily. Your support is appreciated, thanks again…

  6. John: You don’t need me for moral support, but you deserve credit for running this website ( at no charge ), for all of us interested in racing. I loved reading your column in Newsday, after I moved to Nassau, in 1991( Also loved Mr. Moran and Mr. Berner). With you now living in South Florida, I will always miss the Spa Diary. It was must reading for all of us downstaters who could not reside in the Spa City for the season.
    Please keep up the good work. I prefer to ignore the haters on here, Twitter, etc ( I will never join Facebook). The haters are the “old School” equivalent of someone screaming into a bullhorn on the street corner. One might be startled by the noise, but the content is immediately ignored.

  7. Fram, thanks for the encouragement and support.

    You know, I try to trot out the Spa Diary every year and do for the big days, but not being there on a daily basis doesn’t give me quite enough insight needed to keep the Diary at the same level.

    Racing on television is great, but less so for old school racetrackers. It’s the backstretch I miss and as of now, media is not permitted on the backsides of TSG properties. It just is what is.

    Here’s hoping…

  8. The rules we all need to live by in a civil society, and our current world in which all of us reside behind a keyboard wall of anonymity, are quite well captured in the preface to the HRI comments section. “Our staff likes nothing better than to engage with the HRI Faithful and provide a forum for interaction on horseracing and sports. In that spirit, please be kind and reasonable; keep the language clean, and the tone civil.”
    It all reverts back to the simplicity and lessons of what we learned in kindergarten. We all know the difference when being mischievous vs invoking the malicious. Civility simply requests the former approach when challenging or disagreeing with another’s point of view. There’s one old timer curmudgeon out there who comes to mind as I type, who handles most of the implied balance of the good vs evil comment concept quite well. Not always mind you, but most always. I for one most often enjoy reading his verse.

    Anyhoot, at the end of the day as they say, all that John asks of us is that we all at least think before we commit. Pretty simple really. We all tend to forget at times the basics of acceptable behavior that we all learned so early in life. “I was so much older then, but younger than that now.” Indeed.

  9. In the spirit of your tagline, McD, I offer: “All we are saying, is give peace a chance.”

    Thanks very much for a reasoned remarks, per usual…

    The Management

  10. Indy, Back to your opening lines, “don’t let the pot shots get to you”, I’ll add another. “Don’t ‘let the shots at pot’ pass you.” All legal where you live is all…Lol. More seniors on line at the distribution centers than any other demographic.

    Some of it just might help with restoring civility on the message boards as well. and also allow a new approach to funding the AWD accounts by simply trading in ETF MSOS. Tons of money changing hands is all. Legal everywhere soon in the U.S. as the money is needed to fund the nation’s pension liabilities and deficits. As long as conversing drugs I-Man, purchasing an investment in pot is also as simple as wagering on a Baffert favorite, considering all the race day meds involved mind you.

    Now there’s some progressive liberal thought for debate. None of it directed at red or blue, with America itself on center stage.

    1. So that’s how you maintain your magnificent mellowness, eh McD?

      I don’t begrudge anyone the right to use it medicinally or recreationally, but sure wish others could avoid being put at risk by some operating vehicles, etc. under the influence. A long-tme friend was killed recently under such circumstances.

      Like Bill Clinton, I couldn’t inhale, anyway. LOL

  11. John, my answer to your headline question is “No.” I appreciate your HRI articles and the welcoming inclusion of “civil” commentary.

    Too bad that other racing websites such as Blood Horse, DRF and now, Paulick, have chosen to jettison the golden opportunity to hear from their readers. Big, big mistake. How does one get feedback / blowback on any discussion without hearing from the audience ??? In fact, Paulick’s article (12/8 2020, entitled “Ask Ray: Where Did The Comments Go?”) should have allowed comments. Ray would surely get an earful from the crowd on this topic. I say keep the comments section and ditch the nasty commenters.

    I will admit that I often browse the HRI comments section before reading the article to see who’s offering their opinions on the topic of the day. You have a fine group of followers in here – that is, when we remain on topic and not choose to browbeat one another or the website owner, author and maestro.

    Thanks for taking my comments.

  12. This endorsement especially means a lot. Richard and I are on polar ends of the political spectrum and we can have discourse without being disagreeable–a good thing (although I saw a Rush take on Twitter and for once thought he might be on to something: Secession!

    (My problem is that I live in a red state but can’t take the cold anymore. What to do?

    Anyway, thank you, and rest assured. We have the temerity to bill ourselves as the “conscience of Thoroughbred racing.” There would be no need for that if there weren’t horseplayers and fans to speak up for. And how we would know what to say unless we give them a voice?

    Can’t remember exactly when, maybe close to 10 years now, when I reasoned that racing was doing everything it could to control the message… it was relative to some press credentials flap or another–not mine, a colleague’s.

    Eliminating the comments section certainly makes it easier for racing media and other stakeholders to do just that.

    Watch out for the topspin…

    My conservative friend, you tilted the playing field: The HRI comment section is here to stay.

    1. Thanks, John. I’m pleased to throw my two cents into the HRI comment section and, perhaps, stir up some response from your regulars and irregulars.

      I would certainly like to hear from some of the HRI distant voices of the recent past. Like most of the HRI Faithful, I looked forward to Tom Jicha’s Thursday commentary. While he has chosen to give us the silent treatment, let me say that his contributions would again be most welcome in these pages – even if done on an infrequent basis. Just a guess that Tom, Mark Berner and lots of others who have dropped out from writing or commenting in recent months still choose to drop in here to see what’s happening. If so, let us know what it’s like on the outside.

      For sure, we can get on each others nerves from time to time. That’s OK by me – in moderate doses, of course. But if we silence the voices of some of your sharpies (and I’ll name just a few: WMC, TTT, Indulto, McD, Vin), then the world becomes a boring place, indeed.

      Keep writing and be well !!!

  13. And thank you Richard.

    The only thing I can think of, beyond politics, is people who, say, overcome personal demons, do not want to put themselves in potentially harmful situations. Otherwise, I don’t know what to say.

    Maybe it’s as simple as Tom walked away from the game and wants to stay away. If I don’t see him, say, on Pegasus Day, then I’ll know for sure.

  14. Indy, very seldom do I ever smoke cannabis, and never have I even purchased a “nickel bag”. what got my attention recently were the number of senior friends driving from NY to Mass to buy it. At that point, I realized there was easy money to be profited by investing in pot, Peter Lynch used to say look at what. your kids are buying,. Now I say flip the coin and say look at what the old folks are buying,

  15. Mr. Pricci/Mr. Moore: Gosh, I used up almost all the tissue in the container on my desk. I sense an acceptance of defeat in the air.

  16. Mr. Ed: Took, what, eight to ten years to get you to chuckle? Maybe I should bring back Larry Lunchbucket and Danny Dinnerpail. But, I gotta maintain my title of ‘Curmudgeon’, so forthcoming will be a few things I still have not understood within the Thoroughbred industry after six decades.

    Mr. Pricci: Is it my computer? The only blue headings that are easily readable at this site are Lawrence, Sports, Harness, and HRI staff; all the others are faded to almost unreadable.

  17. WMC, et al

    The darkening of the tabs at the top are the result of safeguarding the site against spammers, vis a vis the use of Captcha, the anti-robot application. That is what my tech gurus are telling me, and I don’t have the expertise to further elucidate.

    What happens is that they are all brightly lit, once clicked upon, they default to a darker color but are still operational.

    At the height of the spam attacks, I was getting about 80/day. Fortunately most went to older posts of a year or more but still had to be dealt with. All in all, the situation has been rectified and this inconvenience is a small price indeed.

  18. Same problem with the color (or lack of) on my PC as well Wendell. Color comes up fine on my Google 4A cell phone but not so much on the desktop. My boys had a good laugh by the way on my upgrading recently to an android cell after all my years on a flip phone. I am actually enjoying the tech change. I worked for 25+ in the Engineering Landline infrastructure group at VZ, and almost every cell tower order in the downstate NY Lata was designed and distributed to field forces was processed through the discipline that I worked in, both Outside Plant and Interoffice Network. I worked on designs for quite a few towers, but somehow managed to get by with my steady Eddie flip phone. Must have some of the curmudgeon in my makeup as well.

    Could it be the lack of color might be saving us a few bucks?

  19. Perhaps my explanation was incomplete… just want to reinforce the point that those darkened, barely visible links are still there and viable. If you click on a category it will take you where you want to go and you can read the latest post in that section. Again, once it’s clicked on, it goes into a darker mode but still works…

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