What do you hope for? By Bernard Kroviak, CDC Gaming Reports January 20, 2022 at 5:32 pm Horse racing is like a lot of other aspects of life in that, at year’s end, many publications, writers, websites and television stations produce a retrospective of the events of the past 12 months. If you want the highlights of horse racing in 2021, I suggest visiting Bloodhorse.com for that information. I’d instead like to look forward and give you a few of my personal impressions of the upcoming year, along with a few attendant hopes. 2019, 2020, and 2021 were, of course, years that Covid-19 both dominated the news and affected the lives of people across the entire nation. Like most people, I was hunkered down inside much of the time. It sometimes felt almost like being in jail. So let me start there. My hope is that jail, or prison, is where the people who have harmed horses, or horse racing, ultimately land. Several owners, trainers, and veterinarians have already recently been arrested, charged, and convicted of criminal offenses in this regard, and some have already begun serving sentences for their actions – a few are looking at as many as 5 years in prison, along with huge monetary fines for offenses that not only went against the rules of racing, but also violated criminal statutes. Further investigations are still ongoing, and it’s my hope that they will produce results that make horses safer and racing in general better for everyone who loves this sport. The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA), passed by Congress in December of 2020, goes into effect this July and includes new guidelines for all racing, as well as, for the first time, adding a Federal Commission to enforce these regulations. With any luck, these measures will prove to be the beginning of the end of much of the shameful activity that has marred racing in recent years. The author at Pimlico in the 80s The Kentucky Derby and other famous races were run the last two years with just a few fans in attendance due to the ongoing pandemic. My hope is that 2022 will see a return to the past, with 150,000 people again enjoying the Run for the Roses in person. Probably unsurprisingly, after 33 consecutive years of attendance, I’ve personally missed the last two Derbies, and for various reasons I’ve opted to pass on it again in 2022. Instead, I am looking forward to seeing my first Preakness, the second jewel of the Triple Crown, in person. I’m also hoping to once again make my annual trip to Gulfstream Park this spring, after missing it the last two years. I’m also relishing the hope that 2022 will be the year that I get back to Saratoga, the gorgeous track in upstate New York. Drive north for a few hours on I-87, turn left on Union Avenue, and you truly do feel as though you’ve essentially traveled 100 years back in time to enjoy the finest horse racing in the country. I also hope that Keeneland Race track in Lexington, Kentucky will again be on my itinerary, because it is another of the historic racing palaces where the dreams of many owners take their first steps toward fruition, as they watch their young horses begin careers that might lead to legend. My hope is also that Pimlico, outside of Baltimore, follows through with its current plans to rebuild that venue, thus leading to a more stable and permanent home where racing enthusiasts can enjoy the Preakness Stakes for years to come. I know that Turfway Park in northern Kentucky is also undergoing extensive renovations to allow for improved winter and spring racing, and Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas has already made many improvements and continues to thrive. I was American Pharoah at Oaklawn, 2015/photo © Bernard Kroviak fortunate to witness American Pharoah win the Arkansas Derby there on his way to the Triple Crown (see photo at right) and I hope to return to that city at some point in the future. Meanwhile, Belmont Park in New York has just signed an extensive deal with Fox to extend its coverage of their races, which includes the third leg of the Triple Crown. And, in keeping with the ongoing boom in sports betting, wagering on horses across the country is way up, another great – and hopeful – sign for the sport so many of us so passionately follow. My hopes may be misplaced – Covid, of course, continues to be a issue, and the racing industry unfortunately hasn’t done itself too many favors in recent years – but I refuse to be pessimistic about either horse racing or society at large. We as a nation have weathered many storms in the past, and I am confident we will get by this one, as well. Things may not be exactly as they used to be, but being negative never was a path for a successful recovery, and I for one will always refuse that course. My wish for everyone is to get vaccinated, be safe, and once again live life to its fullest. In that vein, what do you hope for in 2022?