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Horseplayer Bible? I Think That's Long Gone

I remember when we were chatting about the HANA boycott of California racing. Was it the right thing to do? Did the members support such an initiative? Would the all-volunteer organization have enough time to put into it? Could a horseplayer group get the industry press to notice it?

After chatting about it for a long time, it was decided - after a member survey where the vast majority said "yes", and the crew that would have to work their asses off said "let's follow the members" - that it would be spearheaded.

In terms of the industry press, it was felt HANA would be up against it. Steve Byk's show? Not a chance. The Bloodhorse, despite excellent journalists like Jack Shinar and Tom LaMarra, get their shoes shined with industry advertising. That was a likely non-starter.

But there were some outs. Seth at Equidaily usually reports news without a slant, Paulick tends to dislike anything horseplayer if it interferes with horsemen issues and was no HANA fan at all, but he'd probably at least report on it, Frank Angst at the Thoroughbred Times is a straight shooter, and social media - filled with long suffering horseplayers - would certainly spread the word. Pricci and Fotias have been huge horseplayer supporters for many years.

As for the big one, the Daily Racing Form? The "Bible for Horseplayers"? The paper that in the 1930's and 40's would take any customer issue to the wall? Well, one may think they'd be an easy sell to help spread the word, but it was thought there was no way they would touch it. They were selling PP's from California racing, and they were now an ADW. Promoting to their customers that someone was telling them to protest a takeout hike that would make them not download PP's and not bet the races in California?

As time went on those assertions proved pretty accurate.

Seth at Equidaily probably linked dozen or more stories about it, as is. Like he usually does.

Paulick was Paulick, but he certainly didn't ignore it. How could he? Handle was falling no matter what spin he was getting from the tracks and the TOC. Despite early on writing some tangential things about HANA's President, he did ask some tough questions to the powers that be in California near the end of the Santa Anita meet.

Frank at the Times was solid. Reporting both the track spin and horseplayer replies as straight as an arrow. He was no lap dog for anyone.

What was interesting was getting blindsided by the reporting of the Bloodhorse. They not only told the story sans spin, people like Lenny Shulman on his video show talked about how stupid raising prices was at a time like this. There were a dozen or more stories or comments on the Boycott. I gained a huge respect for that organization as a fan, horse owner and bettor; and found fondness for its writers like Jack and Tom. They played it almost 100% down the middle, and never tried to bury anything. It was all that anyone who loves this sport could ask for from a trade press publication.

The DRF. Well, the thoughts were about right on. There was nary a peep. They might have not liked the idea, or the people involved, or whatever. But who knows? It wasn't even reported on in any meaningful way, for debate, or discussion.

No one can deny it wasn't at least horseplayer focused news, worth reporting, can they?

Sour grapes? Maybe, but in my defense I will say no, because I think it's a pattern, not an isolated instance.

Of late we've seen stories on race-day Lasix with an insider slant in the DRF (with, as Paulick pointed out, a completely dichotomous conclusion). We've seen the recent explosion of negative press from the Crist and Hayward discussion (most of the negative comments are now wiped clean under the piece I see). The stories and opinion on the New York Times expose, and the worshipping of dirt only, add to the status-quo, don't rock the boat, narrative of late.

We don't see a horseplayer bible any longer. We're seeing, in my opinion, an industry megaphone. And that's everything the Daily Racing Form editorially never was.

Sid Fernando on twitter recently said along this topic line (paraphrasing), 'yesterday's revolutionaries are today's establishment'.

I think that's exactly what we're seeing with the Form. And I wonder if its cutting edge, customer-centric journalism is gone forever from its pages.


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