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Trainer Magazine - the horse racing magazine for the training and development of the thoroughbred racehorse. Europe and North America.

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Alan Balch - CTT Column - Achtung!

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Now there’s a word to get your attention.  For those of us of a certain age, it comes freighted with emotions from our parents, who fought World War II.  As well as from countless movies and books whose characters would shout it at hapless suffering minions.

But it’s really a simple German word meaning just that, “attention,” although sometimes translated to carry “danger” along with it.  Here, I mean it both ways.

During this championship season in America every year . . . and the northern hemisphere . . . we’re treated to such definitive racing, including the Arc and British Champions Day.  Then the Breeders’ Cup, while still not really the “world championships” worthy of genuflecting, is a wonderful showcase of the sport.  Ending the calendar year gives us a chance to take stock of where we stand, what has changed, what hasn’t, and where we’re going...

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Alan Balch - CTT column - Self-interest rightly understood

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Is that really in the best interest of the horse or the breed?  Is it justified by anything other than economic interests of the few as opposed to the many?

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When Viscount Alexis de Tocqueville journeyed from France to philosophize about “Democracy in America” in the early 1800s, he didn’t have racing in mind as he developed his observations on that distinctly American virtue of self-interest rightly understood.  Over the last half-century, however, I’ve often thought of them as I’ve observed the evolution of our racing, particularly in California, first from the standpoint of track operators, and lately from the standpoint of horsemen.

I was originally a suit with responsibilities of marketing and managing Santa Anita, later adding Golden Gate Fields and Bay Meadows.  I brought a perspective to my work that began with horses, since my earliest profession in the sport was handling their cleanliness and bodily functions.  As with so many of us.  I always wondered at and about the majesty and attraction of racing to the masses, over centuries, which seemed to survive and prosper despite our many gross mistakes and calamities in its management.

Wherever in the world you look, racing has been a regulated sport from its very earliest days.  Which is to say that governmental authorities learned almost from day one that complete freedom in its operation would lead inevitably to scandal and swindle involving one participant or another.  Most often, the “public” would be victimized; this led to regulations constantly citing the “public interest” upon their promulgation.  And that, in turn, led to innumerable scandals and swindles based on various official scoundrels reaping their own harvests off unsuspecting victims, always in the name of the “public interest.”

I cite this sordid history not to entertain but to educate:  what is loosely referred to as “the free market” doesn’t exist in contemporary racing.  If it ever did, in fits and starts, it was squashed, altered, or hindered.  By statute, regulation, and rule.  Even the vaunted principle of caveat emptor, which is the mother’s milk of buying and selling horses, has been under assault by regulators and governments forever.  Yes, the buyer should beware, but first let us accord him the government’s “protection” in all kinds of ways (just read the fine print in any sale catalogue), and provide him access to courts if he still claims to have been unaware of his risks.

And then there’s the routine interference in the “free market” by stud books themselves, and their own rules.  Let’s see now . . . requiring live cover?  Is that really in the best interest of the horse or the breed?  Is it justified by anything other than economic interests of the few as opposed to the many?  The very idea that there are true free markets even for our breeding and selling is sheer nonsense.

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Keith Desormeaux - Trainer of the 141st Preakness Stakes winner - Exaggerator

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Alan Balch Column - Is perception reality?

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Alan Balch - Complacent?

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CTT - The Alan Balch Column

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In our sport -- the greatest of them all -- we have many creatures of various descriptions and talents who actively join together in the teams competing in each race.  Unique among them is the amazing non-human who naturally and instinctively competes.

Meet leading trainer Mark Casse

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Alan Balch - CTT

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Does advertising work?  How can you tell?  What makes it good?  How much should we spend?  Why should we spend anything at all?  Whatever we budget, how should we spend it?