As you may have read, the Jockey Club has engaged the services of McKinsey & Company, the world renowned management consultant - efficiency experts, as they were known in older times. The Jockey Club is paying for this fine organization of highly intelligent people to find out where in hell racing is heading, and what its future should be.
A similar study was made in 1975, but the picture was rosy in those days, and God knows it is not now. It is a wonderful idea to launch such a project. In August, at the Jockey Club Round Table in Saratoga their findings will be disclosed, and never in the history of that important event will there have been a more momentous disclosure.
We are all sick to death of hearing how fragmented racing is. But never has it been so fragmented and, in general, screwed up. Thoroughbred racing is presently being battered by the most violent of "perfect storms." The sport and industry is confounded with numerous "catch 22's" and blind alleys and we need a Moses to lead us out of the wilderness.
The nature of Dogwood would make it logical that I would be interviewed by McKinsey representatives a few days ago. I'm sure I am one of many branches of knowledge in our industry that will be sought out. Presumably, around July, the organization will have digested all the pertinent data collected by scores of interviewers, and they will begin to winnow out the wheat from the chaff, and create their report.
The two guys I talked to were predictably bright, and already well founded in the woes of Thoroughbred racing. They asked good questions and clearly absorbed the answers. They asked me to name my areas of concern. Good Lord, where to start?
I've always said I was the luckiest guy in the world to be in the business of racing Thoroughbred racehorses. I still am, but at the moment I'm not exactly brimming with pride over the game's national image.
I plowed into my areas of concern. The first is the fierce competition for the gambling dollar, which is one way of saying the takeout is too strong, and the legislatures are not being stroked enough.
I cited the absence of a universal medication rule; the lack of class and glamour and pageantry that once existed in the presentation of the sport (which is another way of saying that some of the modern day racetracks are the toilet bowls of the world of sports). I lamented that absence of racing news in the print and electronic press. "Why is that," the men asked. "Because editors say that the readers are more interested in table tennis, or curling or bowling than in horse racing." I told them. Though that is certainly not true in Lexington, or Saratoga or Louisville or Hot Springs.
Clearly, when the legislature of the state of Kentucky does not understand the value of horse racing in their state, it points to their collective moronic nature and to the fact that racing has not done a good job of lobbying with state and national legislatures. Often this translates to payola.
But it all boils down to the weary old fact that we have no central point of governance, and I doubt that even McKinsey & Company can tell us how to do that.
Though I was not asked during this phone conference call to venture an answer to the dilemma, I did offer that racing must shrink. Hardly a brilliant revelation, but I stated that there should be less racing days, less sorry, down-at-the-heels race tracks. Less horses being bred and racing. In other words more quality and less quantity.
This is a move that is slowly but surely taking care of itself.
But in the meantime, it will be fascinating and exceedingly valuable to learn what the efficiency experts come up with. There has never been a time when horse racing needed a breakthrough more, nor is more anxious to have one.
This is Cot Campbell and this is my view.