SMITH: Okay. This is Kim Lady Smith. It is August 1, 2007, conducting
a second interview with David Switzer, um, here in Lexington, Kentucky,
at his office at the Horse Park. Um, this is for the University of
Kentucky project, uh, on the state's horse industry. Okay. Uh, I did
go back and, and listen to the interview, and, and I will be getting a
copy to you in a couple of weeks of both of these. Um--
SMITH: And, uh, one of the things we were talking about last time was
your work with Calumet as one of the three musketeers I believe it
SWITZER: (laughs) Yeah.
SMITH: So tell me. How, um, how did John Ward get involved with, uh,
how was he asked to be involved with Calumet?
SWITZER: One of the, uh, financial institutions that was deeply involved
or in debt with or Calumet was in debt to, they wanted to find someone
00:01:00to save the farm; save the bank, too, actually. Uh, and so they, uh,
they talked with various people in the industry.
SWITZER: I think it boiled down to two people. I think it was Mr.
SWITZER: --Mr. Bob Courtney, um, who, um, I think declined--I don't
know why, but I'm going to say because of age maybe--uh, and then, and
John Ward. Now if there was anybody else that was in the mix, I wasn't
aware of that.
SMITH: Now those two people are horsemen--
SWITZER: Oh, yes.
SMITH: --more than business.
SWITZER: Well, yes, although Mr. Courtney had a banking background.
His family was in banking. I believe it was, uh, First National or
Citizens many years ago. Um, John, um, he has a degree in, in ag econ
from the University of Kentucky, but he managed his own business--his
00:02:00training stable--so he had that as a background for managing business.
I think it was important that there be someone who had a knowledge
of the horse industry particularly because of pedigrees and values, et
cetera--(clears throat)--and, uh, so John was offered and he accepted.
I think, and he was--(clears throat)--trying to manage Calumet Farm's
financial situation and at the same time run his own business which
took an awful lot of time. He didn't have much spare time in between.
SMITH: Now when, when they asked, um, Mr. Ward to become involved was
there an understanding that J.T. Lundy would be stepping down?
SWITZER: Oh, yes.
SWITZER: Yeah. Uh, in fact, I think Mr. Lundy and some of the other
members of the family or other folks that were associated with Calumet
Farm walked out the gate one day and John walked in the gate the next.
SWITZER: Type thing.
SMITH: Did Robey know about--not Robey. I'm sorry. Um--
SWITZER: No. Robey was once one of the advisors to, to J.T. Oh, yeah.
It was all--I mean, they, I'm sure the bank, one of the financial
institutions--I'm trying to think which bank was in the lead at that
time, um, on this and I'm, I'm drawing a blank--but they had met
with the family and the trustees and they said, "Look, things aren't
working. We got a problem. We're going to bring in our own management
SMITH: So how soon after, um, Mr. Ward took over did you get involved?
SWITZER: Oh, probably within a month, I would say. Uh, again, our
friendship, relationship, um, and the fact that I had an insurance
agency and was doing some bloodstock work, he had confidence in me and,
and, uh, trust.
SWITZER: So, uh, he asked if I would join he and Ron Sladon in, uh,
trying to figure this thing out, and I was, I was on board to deal
00:04:00with the insurance and some of the bloodstock work. Um, the insurance
part was, uh, was a, uh, a challenge because there weren't very many
insurance companies that wanted to go on this risk without having some
guarantees that premiums were going to be paid. Um, we were fortunate
that I had a very good working relationship with the owners of American
Livestock Insurance Company and, uh, the trust there as well, and, uh,
they agreed to take the risk when others, many others didn't even want
to talk to us.
SMITH: Now was this to reinsure some of the horses or, or what, what
was--what were you asking them to take on?
SWITZER: We were asking them to take on the, uh, mortality insurance
on all the livestock. In the event that one died there would be
insurance to offset that value of the horse. That's an asset that
the banks had, and so the banks basically agreed--the creditors that
00:05:00were heavily in debt there--they agreed that they would put up x
number of dollars to help with the funding of the insurance. Now let
me go back a little bit. That really didn't occur until we filed for
bankruptcy. There was insurance in place prior to filing bankruptcy.
The only problem was nobody was paying premiums, and of course I'm
probably going to have my time frames off a little bit, Kim, but, um,
we actually thought we were going to be able to save the farm and not
have to go into bankruptcy when we first took over--John did--when
he looked at the books and he looked at the value of the animals we
had there, et cetera, and supposedly the debt was less than a hundred
million dollars. Well, the debt kept growing every day, and it finally
got to a point where the assets, there wasn't any way it was going to
00:06:00cover the debt and, um, we had no cash flow. So how do you try and
stop the bleeding there and continue to still operate and try and find
a buyer for the farm, a buyer for the bloodstock, the horses. Uh,
and so it was determined that the only thing we could do was file for
bankruptcy. That's when it then became a little critical about could
we obtain insurance, uh, because everything started at ground, at zero
forward there for, uh--and that's when we were able to, to negotiate
with the creditors, with the bankruptcy courts that they would be
able to put money toward insurance, and American Livestock was willing
to take that risk. You have to go back also to the death of Alydar.
There was always a question there of was that accidental or was it
not accidental. Were some of the employees that were still around at
Calumet still there? And so was there a concern about could more foul
00:07:00play occur, and I think that's where a trust came in to play between
John, myself and the insurance carrier that agreed to take on the risk.
SMITH: Um, let me back-track a little bit here with your insurance
background. Now Alydar was, uh, insured for a huge amount of money.
What was it? Thirty-five million I think I wrote down somewhere here.
SWITZER: I'll have to go with your notes, Kim. I don't remember.
SMITH: Thirty-six point five million was what it stated in the, in the
book, um, now that's pretty amazing, isn't it? Isn't that pretty high?
SWITZER: Well, yes and no. One of the things that got Calumet Farm into
their trouble is that they sold seasons to Alydar years in advance,
and so that was revenue that was going to be coming in and so they had
00:08:00to have this insurance to offset in case something happened to Alydar,
they were not able to fulfill their obligations on the seasons. And if
they were prepaid seasons then they were going to owe that money back
to whoever bought them. So they had to have that type of insurance.
Um, you know, $36 million back in--that was the '92, '93 era there--
um, that probably wasn't out of--it might have been a little high but it
wasn't out of line. We did discover that there were a number of horses
that we felt were over-insured to what their real value was. Uh--
SMITH: But not necessarily Alydar?
SWITZER: But not necessarily. Yeah. Although that kind of money,
that thirty-six million dollars possibly, uh, could have helped the
farm stay afloat a little bit longer or something, but it was--I would
have to say, in my opinion--it was just managed so poorly that it was
00:09:00never going to recover, unfortunately. They say that, uh, the first
generation builds a business, the second generation maintains the
business and the third generation goes to the country club and drinks
the business. This was the third generation.
SMITH: Yeah. Well, there may be some truth to that. Um, in the
insurance world, uh, I mean, I have read of instances where horses
were purposefully killed in order to collect insurance. That wasn't
particularly common or--did you ever have an experience like that as an
SMITH: --where there was anything suspicious?
SWITZER: No. I never, and, and, uh, part of that is because of the
clientele that I dealt with, uh, but sure. Any business, uh, house
00:10:00fires purposely set, barn fires purposely set, warehouses purposely
set. Uh, there have been some in our documentations of, uh, horses that
were killed to collect insurance money. They generally get caught.
SMITH: Is that sort of possibility what fed the rumors that Alydar had
been killed for the insurance money?
SWITZER: Yeah. I think so. I'm sure.
SWITZER: I'm sure. But it was, uh, it was never proven, and, um, the
manner in which he, uh, you know, broke his leg--which ultimately led
to his death I think, um, people could show that it actually could have
been an accident. Getting that leg behind that door and then thrashing
to get up broke his leg, and then we run to the problem of how do
you tell a horse to lay down and be quiet for six months. It's only
happened with one horse that I'm, I can recall at the moment, and that
00:11:00was a horse by the name of Nureyev.
SMITH: Oh, really?
SWITZER: And he was such, such an outstanding horse and a, uh, big
exception to the rule that he was able to be saved from a, uh,
fractured hind leg and bred horses. They built a sling for him, a
special hospital over here at Walmac Farm in Lexington, and, um, his
temperament was such that, uh, he--that's the big problem is the, um,
high strung Thoroughbred. Uh, it's difficult to tell them to lay down
and be quiet.
SWITZER: Of course, you know, and even by putting them in a sling
problems still arise as happened with, uh, Barbaro.
SWITZER: Uh, but Nureyev was quiet an exception. Alydar was just the
SMITH: Okay. Well, we'll go back to, um, uh, your working with Calumet.
00:12:00Now this was supposed to be part-time for, for a year? You were
working, still working--
SWITZER: Well, I was, I was still handling my book of business, my book
of insurance business and still doing some of my bloodstock business.
SMITH: But you were getting paid by Calumet as well.
SWITZER: I was being paid by Calumet based on the insurance.
SWITZER: They had no money to pay me. So by me managing the
insurance--and I did it in conjunction because I wanted to make sure
it was a hands-off relationship here as best I could--uh, I did it
in partnership with Cromwell Insurance Agency which was owned by
Mr. John Bell, um, and, um, his, uh, his neph-, his son-in-law, Joe
Nicholson, who is still in the business, insurance business, who is
the person who ended up buying my book of business when I came to the
association. Um, they basically managed, uh, our insurance account.
00:13:00They were also writers for American Livestock Insurance Company that's
why I chose them to work with me on that. So we shared in the premium
the commission that comes off of a premium, and that's what I did in
everyday life and so we made the arrangement that that would be my
compensation for the, for Calumet business.
SMITH: So, uh, reading Wild Ride, it didn't seem like it was very long
before you discovered you had to go into bankruptcy.
SWITZER: Right. Probably a month or not much more than that, I wouldn't
SMITH: Was that, um, was that surprising to the three of you? I mean,
had you expected--
SWITZER: Well, no. We expected that we had--when we were told the
amount of money that the debt was, it was really only the debt locally.
And then the, the banks in Texas and the banks in Washington D.C. and
00:14:00the banks in New York, they just all started coming out of the woodwork
and filing claims, and it just mounted and mounted and mounted.
SMITH: And you were telling me last time about how you couldn't make
payroll. You told me one story. Now so was that also a surprise when
you, they came into this that there was just no cash flow? Were they
SWITZER: Um, you know, I have to think that, that John felt that there
was some revenue streams there. I mean, we could have sold off some
of the horses to create some revenue but then we were losing our, what
assets were still available. We couldn't borrow money, uh, so we just
went looking. As I said, the one time it was the Crown Victoria, an
automobile that, I think, brought in seventy-five hundred dollars and
00:15:00we made payroll on a Friday, then we started working on Saturday to
figure out how we were going to make payroll the next Friday.
SMITH: So how did the bankruptcy work? How did that, um, solve some of
those issues at least temporarily?
SWITZER: Well, it solved all the creditors, uh, hounding us, wanting
their money and what we were going to do, and so putting it under a
bankruptcy judge then all the creditors have to do their filings and
you fight for your piece of the pie. And, um, our concern was to keep
the farm open, maintain the, the animals and care for the animals until
such time we would have a dispersal of sale and a sale of the farm and
then we were out of there. Then it was up to the bankruptcy judge to
decide, okay, from those assets the money that came in from the horses,
the money that came in from the sale of the farm is going to get
divided amongst the banks or the creditors.
SMITH: Okay. So at what point did the three of you realize that there
was not going to be any saving the farm? Is this when you filed for
bankruptcy or later as more of the--
SWITZER: Oh, no. That was before we filed the bankruptcy. We knew that
it wasn't going to happen and so they went to the attorneys and they
talked about it. I was not involved in that part of it. That would
have been John and Ron Sladon, um, that--
SMITH: Okay. So what were your responsibilities then?
SWITZER: My responsibilities were just the insurance part really and
then if we were going to sell any seasons to some of the stallions or
we were going to sell some of the stallions to generate funds, once
we went into bankruptcy you couldn't just sell something. You had a
long--you had to go to court to ask permission to sell for an asset and
then all the creditors had to sign off on it if that were the case, and
so we didn't have to do that. Uh, the creditors actually put up more
00:17:00money to keep the thing afloat in time so we could sell--
SMITH: What you, uh, um, you've told me one of the stories. What do
you remember about that time period? Um, are there any particular
experiences that kind of stick out in your mind as, uh--were you there
when they, uh, sold the horses?
SWITZER: Yeah. I was in that, involved with that and, and then I was
there the day we auctioned the farm, and that was a, that was a very
interesting--we did not have a buyer until twenty-four hours before
the absolute auction was to occur. Had no buyer. Uh, the concern was
the, that developers were going to buy the land and turn Calumet Farm
into Calumet subdivision, Calumet, uh--there was, uh, in fact, one of
00:18:00the bidders on the farm was a developer who had an idea of doing, uh,
some estate type housing in there, uh, and a golf course and maybe turn
the, the office into the clubhouse, uh, have apartments in some of the
barns. Uh, these were things that we later found out about, but I, I
believe it was a call by Walt Robertson who, um, is an auctioneer that,
I think Walt--I may have this a little wrong. You'll have to check on
it with Walt about this, and he's another interesting person that you
need to have on your list.
SMITH: He and I have been playing, uh, phone tag for two months trying
to set up a time.
SWITZER: Yeah. Well, it'll be even worse here for the next three weeks.
SWITZER: Because he'll, he'll be in Saratoga Springs, New York, 'cause
they have their real big sale then.
SWITZER: But they made a phone call to Mr. de Kwiatkowski in the
00:19:00Bahamas and said, "Are you aware that Calumet Farm is going to be
auctioned tomorrow?" And he shows up the next day and buys the farm,
and there are some great stories about Mr. de Kwiatkowski then that
floated around about how he, um, was in the military, rode horses and
all kinds of little different things. Uh, I think he made his wealth
in the, in the, um, airline business, cargo, um, but, uh, we, we did
not know of the buyer. I did not know we had a buyer until the auction
occurred, I think Johnny and, and, uh, and Ron got the tip that there
would be somebody there to bid but we didn't know how far he was going
to bid either. Uh, the day of the auction, um, they had, uh, muck
sacks, pitchforks, tack boxes, uh, from the training stable, hats, all
00:20:00kinds of--buckets that were auctioned. It's amazing what people paid
for those things; uh, much more than what their real value was--
SWITZER: --you know. Uh--
SMITH: The Calumet legend.
SWITZER: Yeah. It was. Um, that was a, it was an interesting day. I,
I lived, grew up, uh, about a mile and a half from Calumet Farm, and I
have a, had a picture of my grandfather and myself when I was about two
years old standing in front of a little, one of those jockey statues in
front of a Calumet barn.
SWITZER: So that would have been 1947 I think, um, and Calumet Farm--and
00:21:00if you're in the horse industry particularly--it's the jewel. It was
the crown jewel of our industry. It's the only farm that had both
Hamiltonian winners and Kentucky Derby winners bred there, um, so there
was a little bit of, uh--oh, I don't know--pride maybe, it might be a
thing that John asked me to be involved in that because I had lived,
grown up in the neighborhood and John had, too. I mean, John grew up
just on the other side of Keeneland, uh, and, and so for us to then end
up there at Calumet Farm trying to do something good, you know--
SMITH: I imagine, uh, it was difficult when you realized you couldn't do
everything you wanted to do.
SWITZER: Right. Right.
SMITH: What do you think about, um, what happened to Calumet and how
would you describe that in terms of its impact on the industry or what
00:22:00it might say about the industry when it collapsed?
SWITZER: I don't think it had any, any impact, uh, negative or positive
on the industry really. I think that if there was anything, it was the
death of Alydar.
SMITH: Okay. He was the leading sire still at that time?
SWITZER: Um-hm. Um-hm. Um, fortunate that the other stallions that
had some value to them--Wild Again, um, Secreto, et cetera--got placed
at other farms was beneficial, uh, but I don't think, you know, people
looked at it as a business. Maybe the insiders were very disappointed
that the family, Mr. Lundy, let it occur; let this happen.
SMITH: Um-hm. Um-hm. And then, of course, the impact on the family was
SWITZER: Yeah. That was an absentee ownership situation unfortunately.
The children were kept well-removed from any decision making down
there. Mr. Lundy made them all and then to see the family have to
SMITH: Well, this is kind of an aside, but where is he now?
SWITZER: He's here. He's out of prison.
SMITH: Okay. And he works in this area now?
SWITZER: Don't know what he's doing, uh, but I have seen him at the
SMITH: Interesting. Okay. Well, um, something else that come up, um,
when I was looking at the book, too, uh, I don't think this was related
directly to Calumet but it involved Robey and others in the industry,
and that was, um, and maybe this is part of BOPTROT--when that, there
were lobbyists for the horse industry, um, who were accused of bribing
00:24:00legislators. Was that happening around the same time? Do you recall
SWITZER: No. No. That--BOPTROT was--hmm.
SMITH: Uh, late eighties, early nineties.
SWITZER: I want to think that it was prior to the Calumet problem, and
that was when a gentleman by the name of Jay Spurrier was part of the
Racing Commission and was a lobbyist for the Standardbred industry.
Um, BOPTROT was not about the Thoroughbred industry. We got drug into
it because we're in the horse business.
SWITZER: Um, and Lyle Robey was, um, he was the chairman of the Racing
Commission if I'm not mistaken.
SMITH: Right. The Racing Authority at that point.
SWITZER: Well, it was commission then. They changed the name authority
just this year or just this administration. Um, Governor Fletcher, you
00:25:00know, in a move to get a resignation of all the commission members did
away with the commission and created an authority. But, um, um--
SMITH: But Robey was chair of that?
SWITZER: Lyle was chairman of the Kentucky Racing Commission during the
SMITH: Okay. Okay. And that was then why--
SWITZER: And they never found anything that Mr. Robey, if I'm not
mistaken, that he did any wrong-doing at Calumet Farm. He was legal
counsel, um, for them, but the only people that I think were charged
were J.T. and Gary Matthews.
SMITH: Okay. And both of them served some prison time.
SMITH: Is that correct? Okay. Okay. Well, we'll move on from Calumet
then. But if you think of anything, um--for those of us, you know,
'cause you were kind of outside the industry Calumet does have this
00:26:00sort of, um, amazing legend to it.
SWITZER: One of the things that we did even while we were in the
bankruptcy when we went to sell all the horses is we walked the horses
to the sales grounds. Now not many farms live that close to Keeneland
that can do that but to save money, um--again, no guarantee that the
van companies were going to get paid--so we hand-walked all the horses;
took down the fence and walked through the pastures across the road to
the sales grounds.
SMITH: Hmm. People that worked, uh, at the farm, um, do you know what
ever happened to some of them? Did they get dispersed to other farms?
SWITZER: Oh, yeah. In fact, uh, the one person that I got to know
because of Calumet Farm was Sandy Hatfield. Uh, Sandy was broodmare
manager--(clears throat)--at Calumet Farm, and she's now the stallion
00:27:00manager at Three Chimneys Farm.
SMITH: Okay. I think she's on my list actually.
SWITZER: She, um, Sandy went from Calumet--if I'm not mistaken--she
went from there to Gainsborough Farm, um, managed the stallions at
Gainsborough and then from Gainsborough went to Three Chimneys Farm.
She's quite a, quite a, a great horsewoman. She's originally from
Oklahoma. She brought her horse and came to Murray State University
and, and, uh, went through their equine program at Murray State, um,
and started from the ground up in this industry, it's what she wanted
to do, and now she's one of the most well-respected, uh, horse people
in our industry.
SMITH: Is it unusual for a woman to be a stallion manager?
SWITZER: It is. Yes. In fact, I think that, um, that Sandy is the
only one in Central Kentucky. There may be a, a lady in Florida. I'm
00:28:00not sure about that, but I'm quite sure that Sandy was the first. I'm
pretty sure about that. She may correct me, but, um--
SMITH: All right. Well, I'll, uh, I'm pretty sure she is because
somebody else mentioned her as being a stallion manager.
SWITZER: Yeah. Most of the other folks that were at the farm Mr. de
Kwiatkowski kept on. Uh, and most of them were the maintenance-type
people and stuff. Uh, when all the stallions sold you know there was
no need for a stallion manager at the farm so, uh, I guess, I think
Sandy was probably the only one in a management position that moved on.
SMITH: Okay. Okay. Had she been there very long?
SWITZER: I don't remember how long Sandy had been at Calumet.
SMITH: That's a question for her.
SWITZER: Yeah. And actually the person that hired her at Three Chimneys
Farm, Dan Rosenberg, worked at Calumet Farm, but that was prior to,
SMITH: Okay. Okay. And Calumet today, um, it's being maintained by--
SWITZER: By Mr. de Kwiatkowski's children. Uh, he has the one daughter
who, uh, resides there.
SMITH: Is it, uh, an active Thoroughbred farm--
SWITZER: Oh, yeah.
SMITH: --at this point?
SWITZER: It is and, uh, it's doing more commercial than private.
Calumet Farm was always a private farm. They didn't take on boarders.
That's their--J.T. did when he got involved with some of the folks
like Mr. Miglietti and Mr. Gotti and a few other folks--but it was
mostly just going to be a private ----------(??); commercial in the
fact that they did have some stallions, Secreto and, uh, Alydar, Wild
Again. Uh, Mr. Allen who was the owner of Wild Again kept mares there
at Calumet Farm, and, uh, Secreto was owned by, um--hmm, can't think
00:30:00of it--but anyway, that person had some mares there at the farm. So
it was semi-private, commercial. Uh, today, it's more commercial as a
boarding industry, a boarding business, excuse me.
SMITH: Okay. Is that more common now than, I mean--it seems like as
I've been reading my history of that you've gotten more into that and
more away from private farms.
SWITZER: Private? Oh, yeah. Yeah. Commercial is, uh, um, much more
prevalent. I'd say it's 90, 95 percent of the industry.
SMITH: Hmm. Okay. Okay. We'll, uh, move off of Calumet and, um, talk
about what happened to you next. So you finished up with Calumet. Is
that pretty much after the sale of the farm?
SWITZER: Um-hm. And it was right after that that, uh, John Ward
contacted me to see if I would be interested in applying for the job of
executive director of this association.
SMITH: Now was John on the board?
SWITZER: John was on the board. John is one of the original board
members. That's how much respect the industry has for him and has
stayed on him. Uh, we tested our friendship, um--I have to think back
here--two, four years ago. Um, John would had never served as the
president of this organization even though he was one of the founders
and had been on the board for, forever and ever, and I convinced him
it was time that he did that. He said, "Now we're going to test our
friendship really now. Here we go again." (laughs) But, of course,
we got along fine and, uh, he served two years as our president, and,
um, I'm trying to think if we had anything real controversial going on
during his administration. Um, I don't remember.
SMITH: Four years ago?
SMITH: Yeah. Um, now is it, uh, do you have other--I think I, I saw
00:32:00the list of your board members, and I saw Alice Chandler was still on
there. Now she was one of the original as well, so is this longevity,
uh, common for this group?
SWITZER: Well, it is, and actually, uh, it creates a bit of a problem
for us. Uh, and I've tried to figure out a way to get new blood into
our board, uh, young people in particular. Uh, we do have a democratic
elected board, uh--
SMITH: Elected by the membership?
SWITZER: It's selected by the membership, and, um, sometimes it's
difficult to get people to run for the board because they're concerned
that they may not get elected and then they're embarrassed. Uh, some
of the organizations will, uh, have nominations for, uh, places for ten
people and they'll run ten people, um, and we don't do that. In fact,
00:33:00our by-laws say that we have to have, um, one person to run against
each incumbent. So each year we'll have five owners and let's say that
they're current board members. We will have to find five non-current
people who aren't on our board to run against them.
SWITZER: Um, and with all--like in politics--it's very difficult to
unseat an incumbent.
SWITZER: Right? It's no different with our board. It's also, um,
difficult to get the young people elected to our board because they
don't have the name recognition, they haven't been around as long,
uh, and because our membership is worldwide, uh, at a little bit
00:34:00disadvantage. You know, 80 to 85 percent of our membership is right
here in Kentucky, but we do have members in all but about five states
in the United States and we do have members in, uh, Australia, New
Zealand, South America, South Africa, France, England, Ireland, uh,
and, and they may or may not be as connected with the up and coming
folks. Um, so about four years ago, five years ago I proposed to the
board to do a new class, another classification of directors and that
would be a person who has never served on the board before, and they
run for the full board but the top two that are not elected to the
board fall into that new category.
SWITZER: Okay? So that's a way of trying to get fresh young people in.
Then they serve for three years and then they have to run for a regular
seat. I'll say that word regular seat. A different classification,
a class one, two or three position. It's, it's difficult to get them
elected to those positions, too, the same thing even though they can
put on their bio that they've served the past three years on the board.
SMITH: It's still tough to--
SWITZER: It's still tough. It's still tough to do, and there are some
wonderful people out there that, uh, been able to get in for those
three years but then they're not getting re-elected that, uh, are
gonna be the future of this industry. So that, that's, that's my
biggest concern today, you know. Um, I don't know when I'm going to
retire. Uh, I'm sixty-two years old, so it's not, it's in the realm of
00:36:00possibilities that three, four, five years I might. I, I may carry on
like Mr. Bassett. (Smith laughs) If I would be so lucky, I don't know,
uh, but who's coming up behind me? Who's coming up on our board to take
this industry on down the road, um, and I don't have the answer.
SMITH: Um-hm. Does most of the turnover come when somebody resigns?
SWITZER: No. No. The turnover is, uh, if you don't get re-elected, and
it, it's quite unusual that an incumbent doesn't get reelected.
SMITH: Um-hm. Or that they resign?
SWITZER: Or that they resign and, and, uh, gosh--I'm trying to think--
have we had a re-, we may. I can't think who it is but we may have had
one resignation in my fourteen years.
SMITH: Oh. Well, then these people seem to feel pretty committed to
SWITZER: They are, um, and they are the people who have been the movers
and shakers and decision makers and stuff, but, but still they're
getting along in the tooth like I am.
SMITH: That's right. Well, I think that's probably not unusual in other
areas as well, but, uh, trying to bring new people in when you have
such a stellar group of, um, accomplished, committed older generation.
SMITH: It's, um, kind of a lap there. Do you think you'd lose some of
the interest of the younger people?
SWITZER: No. I don't think at this point in time it's losing. Uh, we,
we do have a couple on our board right now that, uh, I think are going
to be leaders down the road. Um, I actually believe that the younger
generation today--and not just in our industry--are not wanting to take
00:38:00on leadership roles, leadership responsibilities.
SMITH: Hmm. Why is that?
SWITZER: And, and I think, it'll evolve. I mean, it's going to, tell
you what will bring this thing together is unfortunately a catastrophe,
an MRLS like we went through. That woke a lot of people up. A lot of
people jumped, raised a lot of money, raised over a million, million
two to do research on what we had no idea what was causing our problem,
but everybody jumped in the canoe together. After they realized that
they weren't the only one having this problem--there was a fear factor
SWITZER: Everybody jumped in the same canoe and, um, some of the younger
people as well, of course. The, uh, the organization--and, and I take
00:39:00this as a compliment--that they give me a pretty free hand to not just
run the association but make decisions for the association particularly
when it's dealing with legislative issues or industry issues that we
need to get involved in, and I think part of that is because of--I
would hope--a respect that I've been around this industry fifty-plus
years and I have a knowledge of it where my predecessors did not, um,
and they do now. I don't make decisions unless my executive committee
at least knows all about what's going on. We can't always get, call a
board meeting in a timely manner, so we use the executive committee to
do a lot of that. We use committees on an as need basis. Now maybe
I've created the problem by not having more committee meetings, putting
the people in the industry--not necessarily board members but non-board
00:40:00members--on the committees which I have done from time to time, on
some issues, uh, so that then we can get more involvement of the board
members and the industry members and stuff.
SMITH: Would the, uh--I've been reading about your new, uh, task force
on, um, oh, shoot, sales integrity.
SWITZER: Sales integrity? Um-hm.
SMITH: Is that, now that was created out of this group?
SWITZER: No. That was created out of the Thoroughbred Owners and
Breeders Association, the national group.
SMITH: National group.
SWITZER: Right. Um, we have representation on that task force, once
again, John Ward, he's--(laughs)--he's in so many of 'em. He's like
me, he doesn't know how to say no. We sometimes need to learn to say
that word. Uh, but, uh, I mean, John is on it. Our past president,
Bill Landis, is on that, uh, integrity task force. I'm trying to
think of some other directors that might be there. Stuart Brown is an
00:41:00advisor, Dr. Stuart Brown, so, you know, we're involved in that.
SMITH: Okay. But, um, well I guess since you didn't create that
committee that wouldn't be a good example of, uh, an instance where you
bring some of the other people, non-board members into the process?
SWITZER: No. An example of that would go back to the MRLS situation
that we had in 2001, 2002. Uh, we decided that we needed a task force
to deal with the issue and that we needed a wide range of expertise
on it, so we brought in farm managers to the task force that were not
necessarily on our board. We, we brought in veterinarians. We brought
in USDA folks. We brought in, um, state vet's office. We brought in
folks from the diagnostic lab, folks from the Gluck Center, four from
00:42:00the College of Agriculture, uh, ag communications, um, and developed
this task force that just in a few hours' notice we could convene.
And that group, uh, worked for about a year and a half during the MRLS
crisis, um, dealing with the different issues and, where are we heading
here and where are we heading there? Stuff like that.
SMITH: Um, let's talk a little bit about that. Um, you mentioned before
that that was one of the most serious issues you've ever had to deal
SMITH: Um, when did you realize that this was going to be a crisis?
SWITZER: The Sunday morning after the Kentucky Derby that Monarchos had
won. Monarchos was trained by John Ward.
SWITZER: (laughs) He keeps popping up, doesn't he?
SMITH: But that's okay.
SWITZER: We, my wife and I, uh, went to a brunch at Jonabell Farm,
and when we walked in--I didn't know anything about it, hadn't heard
00:43:00anything on the news--but when we walked in, I was greeted by, um, I'm
not sure who at this point that said, "Are you aware that we've got a
problem with abortions?" And I said, "No. What's--tell me." "Well, we
don't know." Blah, blah, blah. So, that was my first introduction to
MRLS was at that Derby brunch. It was a solemn occasion even though
John and Donna Ward and the Oxleys that owned Monarchos attended the
brunch and everybody was pleased for them, this that and the other,
there was a, a bit of, uh, apprehension in the air, a bit of concern.
Early on, um, as I found out later, there was a reluctance to talk
about mares that were aborting on, on individuals' farms because they
didn't realize the, uh, the magnitude of it. They thought it might
00:44:00have been just isolated at their farm, and they were concerned from an
economic standpoint that they would lose their boarders, blah, blah,
blah, I think. And so once the veterinarians started talking to each
other, uh--this practitioner works farm A, this practitioner works farm
B, et cetera. Once they got to talking to each other because they were
on the front line and farm managers and farm owners were saying, what's
wrong doc? And doc didn't know, that created, uh, friction for one
thing. But anyway, the practitioners started talking to each other,
and they realized that this was not an isolated situation. This was
happening all over Central Kentucky. So then there was a little bit of
a feeling among the farm managers and owners that, uh, we're all in the
same boat. We need to work together and, and, uh, it's not an isolated
situation, and, uh--
SMITH: The task force that was created here, was that the, the only
coordinating group that was put together during that crisis?
SWITZER: Yeah. It was. Uh, we, we broke off into smaller groups
such as folks in the diagnostic lab in the Gluck Center, I met with
them weekly. Um, all the time we were trying to figure out what the
unknown is; what, you know, what is happening. Uh, I spent more time
on television, national television--uh, which is something I wish I'd
never had to do but we did and part of it was, uh, and I took a course
from the ag communications department on how to talk. That was one
of the biggest problems that we had was lack of communication, uh, and
00:46:00what to say and maybe what not to say.
SWITZER: Um, the message that I was delivering was, "We don't know
what the problem is but we've got to handle it. We're going to get a
handle on it, and you should not be concerned about your mares being in
Kentucky," because there were people sending, uh, advertising, spending
money, advertising dollars in our trade publications say, "Get out of
Kentucky." We don't have this problem in Florida. Or we don't have
this problem. Whatever's happening up there, get out. Well, there's
going to be a heck of an economic, negative economic impact. In
fact, one study that the University of Louisville did on it was a five
hundred million dollar negative impact on our industry by losing 23
percent of our foal crop.
SMITH: Oh, my.
SWITZER: Uh, but, uh, it--you don't realize the significance of this
industry until you start getting calls from NBC, CNN, New York Times
00:47:00for interviews, et cetera, that a little old place down there in
Kentucky that does nothing but raise horses, they're having a problem.
So we are significant. That shows it, that we're a significant
industry, so I spent an awful lot of time during that period, uh, being
interviewed, uh, unfortunately by the national media and stuff on the
issue. Um, calls from people telling us, here's what the problem is.
It's the jet stream. Uh, it's the, uh, telephone towers. Uh, I saw
two people walking out into a field of--and they would give some kind
of an ethnic background.
SWITZER: Uh, it's in the water. Um, God got involved in it. Um, all
these, these different things, and of course, you know, we said, "Look,
00:48:00we've got to do this from a scientific way." People were so concerned-
-and this is the way, you know, it's said that sometimes a catastrophic
situation brings the industry together--is that we had, we had no money
to pay for research. I say no money. We did not have a foundation
for example. We wanted to start getting some research done, and you've
got to pay somebody to do that research. We had about twelve guys get
together and raise $1.2 million dollars in a period of weeks so that we
and, and we had a meeting, uh, with those fellows and the dean of the
College of Agriculture, and one of the farm managers got up and said,
"Dean, you got to start this research, and our farm will guarantee the
money," knowing that we were gonna probably, the industry was going to
come together and we'd raise that money. So they immediately started
00:49:00with, uh, doing some research and trying to figure this thing out.
Um, to this day we don't know definitively what causes it. We're 99
percent sure that we know that the eastern tent caterpillar plays a
role in it such that we can manage now the eastern tent caterpillar
should we get another big population growth of the eastern tent
caterpillar which we will in about eighteen more years.
SWITZER: It's a cycular thing.
SWITZER: Uh, that we can deal with it.
SMITH: Hmm. So even though you know that there's a cause and effect
there, but you don't know exactly what?
SMITH: Interesting. They still doing research on, into it?
SWITZER: We are. We, we've got one project left that we're dealing
with because now that we, the folks feel confident that we can manage
the situation--in other words, keep the mares out of the fields or
00:50:00control the caterpillar--um, we are, we are, uh, funding some research
to develop a natural occurring virus that is naturally occurring in the
eastern tent caterpillar and that's what keeps the populations cycular.
And we have, um, this year we didn't have very many. Um, we're
trying to develop that virus such that we would be able to inject that
virus into a tent caterpillar nest. It would spread throughout the
canopy of the tree, and it would keep the population down. Um, it's
my understanding that they have done a similar project or developed a
similar virus in Brazil that deals with a similar-type caterpillar that
00:51:00infests the, uh, soybean crops.
SWITZER: So we--this is our last project. Now it's going to be a long-
term type thing because develop the virus, then we've got to go through
all the regulatory processes and the FDA and the environmental regs and
the USDA and this, that and the other, but, uh, it's something that our
folks that, um, oversee our foundation think that it's worth the, the
effort so we're doing that.
SMITH: What was the, um, I don't know if you know how many mares were
impacted by this?
SWITZER: We lost 23 percent of our foal crop.
SMITH: Twenty-three percent.
SWITZER: And we produce 30 percent of all the Thoroughbreds in North
America here in Kentucky, so we produce between ninety-five hundred and
ten thousand foals a year. So we lost twenty-three hundred, twenty-
five hundred foals.
SMITH: Now you said that U of L had estimated what the economic impact
00:52:00was. Can you put that in more, um, practical terms? Did, what did this
do to some of the farms or to the industry as a whole?
SWITZER: Um, I don't think we lost any of our farms. Uh, I know that a
few of the farms lost some permanent boarders, and they're slowly but
surely starting to get those boarders back because our mare population,
uh, today is back where it was prior to 2001. But it was just that,
uh, you know, you lose twenty-three hundred, twenty-five hundred foals
which is your cash crop, so we had folks that in 2002, 2003 did not
have a yearling crop to sell.
SWITZER: They didn't have their total yearling crop.
SWITZER: You know, they didn't, I don't know that anyone lost a 100
percent. Now there were some owners who boarded their horses here
and they might have boarded two or three and lost all of them, so
they lost a 100 percent of their crop to sell. One of the things that
came out of this is in working with, uh, the American Horse Council in
Washington, horses are not considered for--eligible for disaster relief
that the cattle industry is if there's a drought. Uh, the citrus
growers this year got relief because they lost part of their crop--
SWITZER: --um, of oranges, grapefruits, et cetera in Florida,
California. Horses have never been eligible for that. With the help
of Senator McConnell, uh, we were able to lobby Congress to make some
emergency loans available to some of our folks. Unfortunately, only
five people qualified because the requirements were so stringent. In
00:54:00order for us to get it passed, it ended up that only about five people
qualified for it, but we helped five people. To this day, we are still
trying to get language in the, um, the Ag Bill in Congress to make us
eligible for disaster relief. Um, has created a, an interesting segue,
I guess--I don't know maybe segue's not the right word. Uh, my wife
accuses me of killing the English language, Kim, which is another story
that I, I'm going to throw in here and you can use it any way you want
to, uh, in a minute--but we have had to deal in our industry with the
issue of the slaughter of horses for human consumption.
SWITZER: Um, I'm making myself a note here.
SWITZER: And in dealing with that issue, it's, it's, it's quite a,
um, divisive issue within our industry. Uh, it becomes an emotional
00:55:00issue. Um, our board is split fifty-fifty really on the thing, and
if you get down and talk about, um, the real nuts and bolts, there are
those that don't want to hear about those nuts and bolts. Um, but,
what one of the things that trying to get the federal disaster relief
language in the Ag Bill is I've been approached by members of Congress,
a member of Congress, who is not from Kentucky who, uh, says, "David,
your membership and your industry is sending a mixed message. You're
saying that you don't want horses to be able to be slaughtered for
human consumption, but you want federal disaster relief the same as the
livestock industry gets. You can't have it both ways." I said, "Well,
00:56:00I want it both ways." (laughs)
SWITZER: Please. What can we do here? Um, and I'm sure that there are
people, uh, that support the legislation to ban the slaughter of horses
for human consumption that feel more passionately about that than being
able to get federal disaster relief over here in the event that we
have another MRLS which we're going to have another something. We're
SWITZER: Uh, and yet there are those over here who lost an awful lot on
MRLS who think that's a much more important priority than the slaughter
issue. What is the answer? I don't know what the answer is. Um, but
that's where one piece of, uh, legislation can affect something else
over here that--
SWITZER: You know?
SMITH: Yeah. I've, um, the issue of horse slaughter, I've, I've talked
00:57:00with most of the people I've interviewed about that, and you do have
some very strong feelings one way or the other. It seemed to focus
mostly on, on just the emotional reaction to the idea of a horse being
transported in terrible conditions and then killed for food.
SWITZER: It's true, uh, and unfortunately there's some mis-, um,
misinformation out there. Um, just last week I was talking with the,
uh, my counterpart with the Association of Equine Practitioners who
went with a couple of his members to Mexico to the border to witness
horses being transported from the United States into Mexico for the
purpose of being slaughtered. They were all delivered from Amarillo,
Texas, where there is a holding stockyard for these animals. They were
all transported on single-decked trucks. They're being transported
00:58:00based on legislation that we were successful in getting passed about
four years ago that dealt with the transportation of animals whether
it be to slaughter or whether it be to a rodeo that there are certain
specifications that they have to meet. They also have to be offloaded
after a trip of so many hours, fed and watered.
SMITH: Oh, okay.
SWITZER: That information is not being disseminated. People that still
think they are being shipped in double-decker busses or trucks and that
there's animals that have broken legs, et cetera, and that it's not
very humane. Well, there's laws to hopefully prevent that, but the
problem is that we don't have law enforcement officers, enough of them,
that they're out there trying to find the bank robbers and don't have
00:59:00time to stop every, um, livestock truck going down the road to check to
see if those are horses and being humanely ----------(??). So there is
some information that's not being disseminated. It is a very emotional
thing. The horse was very important to the founding of this country.
Uh, the cow--was the cow? Yeah. The cow was a food product.
SMITH: That's right.
SWITZER: Um, so, I mean, we just--they just had language put into a
bill, um, the Ag Appropriations Bill for 2008 appropriations, 2007/2008
appropriation that was going to, uh, un-fund USDA inspectors at all
equine facilities in the United States. The purpose was to stop USDA
01:00:00inspectors from inspecting horse meat going to slaughter or being
slaughtered; therefore it can't be shipped out of the country. No
country will take it unless it's been federally inspected in the
United States, but that's not what it did. It would have shut down
our quarantine facilities that allow import and export of horses, all
horses, in the United States. It would have stopped the Breeders'
Cup. It would have stopped the Kentucky Derby because foreign horses
weren't, aren't going to come. Uh, fortunately it's just a one-year
appropriations bill, uh, so if we don't get it defeated, um, this horse
park would lose 50 percent of its business.
SMITH: Oh. What will they do for 2010?
SWITZER: Well, because it's a single year appropriation, we're not
concerned about 2010, yet. We'll have to deal with that in the next
appropriations bill, uh, but those are some points that we made to our
01:01:00congressional delegation. Well, the intent, um, was to deal with the
slaughter issue, but they threw the baby in the bath-water all together.
SMITH: That happens--
SWITZER: Yes, it does.
SMITH: --more often than not.
SWITZER: Uh, quite a shock to members of the Kentucky Congressional
Delegation when we pointed this out to them, and I'm not going to pick
on any one but two of them sat on the subcommittee of appropriations
when this language was presented to 'em.
SMITH: Hmm. Well, you've got your work cut out for you then? (laughs)
SWITZER: Well, at the moment we have an understanding that it was not
supposed to be any broader than the slaughter issue, so Congressman
Whitfield who was a big proponent on the slaughter deal has issued an
amendment that would take all the language out of Section 738 of the
Appropriations Bill and insert language, and the insertion language
01:02:00is dealing with the inspection of the animals going to slaughter; that
there would not be--
SMITH: Okay, so it's more specific?
SWITZER: Yeah. There would not be funding for those inspectors from
the USDA. That's where we are today. Now if that amendment fails,
we're back to square one, and the people who are opposed to the bill
to not allow the slaughter of horses will try and defeat Congressman
SWITZER: And if they do then we either--then they're going to try and
remove all the language in Section 738 so it's a non-issue on both
sides of the front. Well, the Humane Society of the United States is
not going to like that, so the dangerous thing that we're dealing with
is that we could end up with the current language in there that would
01:03:00stop three hundred million dollars worth of exports is what we do from
SMITH: Oh, my. (laughs) Even for one year that's--
SWITZER: That's--yeah. Well, that's right.
SMITH: --that's huge--
SWITZER: I mean, that's one year. That's exactly right, and we have, we
have put an awful lot of sweat and, and, and, uh, sweat equity and work
into, uh, building our international market over the past five years to
that degree. Um, so hopefully the--
SMITH: Hopefully wiser heads will, will figure it out.
SWITZER: Exactly, yeah. Exactly.
SMITH: Um, let's go back to when you first came to KTA when, when you
took the job. What was the job you were expecting? How would you
describe what, what you thought you were getting into?
SWITZER: I have no idea. (laughs) I knew I was going to get paid twice
monthly. (Smith laughs) No. Um, I knew the background. I had been
01:04:00a member of this association while I was an insurance agent, uh, and
a bloodstock agent, and I knew that, uh, many of the past people like
Mr. Nuckols who I had mentioned earlier who was kind of a person
that I learned an awful lot from, from, about the industry, uh, John
Greathouse, um, that was--or are you asking who are some people that
might have influenced me--his daughter, Mr. Greathouse's daughter and
I went to school as Mr. Nuckols' daughter and I. We were all in the
same class, uh, and so I knew some background and, and the fact that
this association got involved in things that were important to the
industry and had such strong board members at that time, I mean, Alice
was active, Alice Chandler, was active. Dr. Gary Lavin was their,
was their current president. Claiborne Farm was represented through
Dale Hancock. Uh, Dan Walden, um, which is young Ben Walden's father
01:05:00whom I had, uh, through my association with Dr. Thomas when I first
got involved in the business, he and Ben Walden had a, uh, yearling
consignment for a couple of years together so I got to know Mr. Walden
a little bit there. A little story I'll interject here, one of the
first letters that I wrote to our board after coming on the board on
an issue, I received it back from Ben Walden. He was now living in
Florida--in California but still he was, uh, emeritus status because
he was a past president of the association, so e-mailed this letter
or sent this letter out to the board and I get it back with more red
marks on it than I had ever gotten on a high school English paper. The
grammar--and I am terrible to this day, and I'm not ashamed to say my
01:06:00wife edits almost every letter that I send out today and part of it
is because of what Mr. Walden--he was an English major. And he put
on the bottom of the letter, he said, "David, before you send another
letter out to the membership of the board, send it to me first and I'll
be more than happy to edit it for you."
SMITH: Oh, I bet that was crushing.
SWITZER: Well, it was in a way, but, you know, I--(laughs)--so that
is one of my fond memories of Ben Walden. There are others, but, uh,
that is, that was a fond memory of him. But I felt like, uh, you know,
I, I was interested in taking the job because I thought I could give
something back to the industry that had been good to me, and I knew I
would have strong support. I was probably on the telephone the first,
oh, first six months almost weekly with Charlie Nuckols. Um, help me
here. What, what do we need a position here? I took the job and the
very first day there was a strike of racing at Turfway Park, and, uh,
01:07:00we had to, we got involved in that even though my president, Dr. Lavin,
said, "David, you haven't been around here long enough in your position
to get involved. You know, I'll, I'll try and handle this thing."
Well, that's not my way of doing things. I had to jump in there, and
thank goodness we got things worked out. But there was such strong
leadership here that, you know, a monkey could take this job, I think.
SMITH: What were the issues when you came on board? What were the key
issues at that time?
SWITZER: Once again it was the, uh, between the KTA and the Kentucky
HBPA. The Kentucky HBPA led the strike at Turfway Park and they led a
strike at Ellis Park during my first two years being in here. Uh, and
SMITH: Now do they have strong membership at tracks?
SWITZER: Again, they say that their membership is anyone who's licensed
whether you want to be a member or not, and, uh, because they will--they
01:08:00can't publicly now because we have it in contracts to boycott racing-
-but it just seems that it's folks that follow them and their board
members that tend to boycott the entry box at racetracks when they're
trying to prove a point. Our group will never boycott, and maybe
because of that we don't have a strong negotiating arm. But we feel
that our political influence is a strong negotiating arm. We're not
going to stop racing in Kentucky, so that's the big difference between
the two organizations and that's what I fell into when I first started.
SMITH: And their reasoning for stopping racing is from a negotiating
SWITZER: Yeah. Yeah.
SMITH: Um, the HBPA is, uh, how old is that? That's an old--
SWITZER: Oh, it's real old. Yeah. And then they have membership--when
I started they had membership in every state--now they have competitors
as well as, uh, the KTA in this state. The other states, there's
only, there's another horsemen's group and there's not the HBPA. The
HBPA does some good, good things. Uh, people that, uh, need medical
assistance, people that are down on their luck, uh, maybe have lost
their job and need something to tide them over until they get to the
next job, they provide the benevolence for that--
SMITH: Um-hm. Um-hm.
SWITZER: --which is very good. Uh, our organization, I guess, for
the past at least eight years, um, have contributed part of our
revenue from the racetrack back to the HBPA to help fund some of those
benevolence projects. We don't get credit for it, but that's okay.
You know, I, I've got a sign behind my desk that says, "It's amazing
what you can achieve when you don't care who gets the credit." I, some
01:10:00of my board members don't--they understand it, they understand me, but
they think that we need to pat ourselves on the back a little more and
toot our horn. But, you know--
SMITH: Yeah. No. I understand that quite a bit. Um, so how would you
describe the difference--I mean, if you read the mission statements of
KTA and KTOB and, um, any other organization--(laughs)--uh, they seem
pretty similar. How would you des-, what do you see as the difference,
the main difference?
SWITZER: The fact that we have an international membership and that we
have an international business.
SMITH: Okay. That's the key?
SWITZER: I think that's what separates us from--my counterpart in
Florida does a wonderful job in Florida, um, doesn't have near the
export business that we do; same with New York and California. They're
all involved in legislative issues within their states and do get
involved in some of the issues in, Fl-, in, uh, Washington; uh, maybe
01:11:00not as much as, as we would. Um, the, the issue that I just spoke
about on the appropriations of, uh, revenue to the USDA, I spent, um,
all of one Friday dealing with that issue only with members of Congress
and started back on Monday and Tuesday with the same thing, and I would
say that my counterparts might have sent a letter. And the reason
is it's such a big impact in Central Kentucky in the Thoroughbred
industry. Now I know that members of the American Quarter Horse
Association and some of the other breeds got involved in it as well,
but when there's a big thing dealing with the horse industry, J. Hickey
from the American Horse Council, he picks the telephone up and he calls
me and says, "KTA needs to get involved in this." Blah, blah, blah.
"Here's what we need to do. Here's our game plan."
SMITH: Now when, um--let me back up a little bit on two fronts here.
What I wanted you to address, um, again, how KTA was formed and, um-
-shoot. Now, I lost the other question. (laughs) So start there and
it'll come back to me.
SWITZER: Well, the KTOB was started, what? In the sixties?
SWITZER: You told me that.
SMITH: Yes. (laughs) That's what it says on the Web site.
SWITZER: Yeah. Uh, and, and it was the breeders got together and said,
we need to have a, an organization to represent us in the state capitol
and eventually in Washington, uh, to protect our industry; protect
us because of legislation, good, bad legislation, and then, uh, we
need to expand our market so we need the organization to help promote
it. Um, some of my prior, my predecessors--uh, the most recent was,
01:13:00uh, Mr. Gene McClain who came from the Lexington Herald Leader and
they thought that we needed a, he might be able to help with a better
presence in the media of getting our messages out. Uh, the perception
that people have of this industry is unfortunate, is wrong, but it's
a perception and we have to deal with it. Um, prior to that was,
uh, Nick Nicholson who is the president of Keeneland now, um, past
executive director of The Jockey Club. That's where he went from the
KTA/KTOB. Uh, Nick was, uh, on staff with, uh, Senator Ford, and, um,
I'm not sure who made the first contact--Henry White or whomever with
Nick. They thought they needed someone to manage the association that
had a good political background, and so they hired Nick and, uh, very
successful with the organization for his tenure. Um, prior to that
01:14:00was--yep I'm probably going to lose it--Dave Hooper, I believe, uh, and
Dade--Dave had, uh, an industry background as well as a communications
background. All of these people only spent about four years, five
years in their positions. I think I'd mentioned that earlier that I've
been here now fourteen. There's something wrong with the equation.
SMITH: (laughs) Or something right.
SWITZER: Yeah. And then in the, in the, uh, 1970s there was a, um, an
attempt by the Kentucky HBPA to stop the simulcasting of the Kentucky
Derby which is the same thing as a boycott, and the Kentucky Derby
being the signature race in America if not the world, um, a past
chairman of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders, Warner
Jones, who was chairman of the board of Churchill Downs came to this
board and asked for some assistance here. And because there's a
01:15:00federal law that deals with the majority horsemen's organization,
uh, there would be a representative group to speak on behalf of the
industry with racetracks. Uh, at that time, it was the Kentucky
HBPA. This organization decided to form the Kentucky Thoroughbred
Association to separate themselves from the breeders' organization and
focus toward the racing side of the industry, and they were successful
in getting sufficient signatures from the owners of horses that
were going to race on Derby day at Keeneland to become the majority
spokesmen's group and they stopped the boycott of the simulcast and
the Derby was simulcast. Simulcasting today represents 84 percent
of our industry's handle. It was in its infancy back then, but, uh,
it could have killed what we, what we enjoy, enjoy today, so we try
01:16:00and today with the two organizations we have the same membership.
All our membership is dues paying, um, which is different than the
Kentucky HBPA which they just recognize anybody that's a licensed
owner or trainer to be a part of their membership whether you want
to or not. But we have a dues structure. Uh, the KTOB still deals
with, uh, the breed issues. When I write letters dealing with Congress
or dealing with a breed issue, it goes on KTOB stationery. If it's
something that's dealing with a racing issue it goes on KTA stationery,
uh, but there's really not a whole lot of difference between the two
organizations. The governing body is pretty much the same.
SMITH: Okay. Now when, um, uh, I thought of my second question. Now
Warner Jones, you were saying was, uh, um, and others involved with
01:17:00this group felt that you needed somebody with some political savvy.
Uh, that seems to, when you came on board did you appreciate the how
much you would be involved in the political end of the industry?
SWITZER: Really didn't, and I didn't realize how involved I would be
politically but, um, fortunately, I guess, I'm a people person and
so--and I'm not uncomfortable talking with strangers whether it be
politicians or not and that's what being a lobbyist is all about is
building relationships, um, with your elected officials. And so I
have no problem going up and just speaking with a total stranger that's
newly elected to the thing, and I think the fact that I've got gray
hair on my temples now, it helps, too. (Smith laughs) Uh, it, it is
sometimes the most frustrating part of this job.
SMITH: Um-hm. Do you think that has, since you started, have you taken
01:18:00it to another level there in the political world as you've become more
involved? Is it more active from a political sense than it was before?
SWITZER: Yeah. I have, I have at least with the past two governors, uh,
had a cordial and a good working relationship with both of them; uh,
with current governor, Governor Fletcher--excuse me--and, uh, Governor
Patton during his administration. Uh, Governor Patton was, um, very
helpful to the horse industry. Uh, we shared, um, economic development
trips together and, um, have done the same with Governor Fletcher.
Uh, neither one of them have a problem picking up the telephone and
calling me. A lot of times it was for contributions or help me get
some contributions--I don't, I'm not going to say that. But no, they
were calling to say, "David, what do you think about this idea, um, et
cetera." So from that standpoint I think, yeah, I've stepped up a little
01:19:00bit. I'm not just dealing with the House and the Senate members.
SMITH: Um, from a political standpoint in terms of legislation when you
first came on board, what were some of those issues?
SWITZER: Hmm. Gosh. You're making me tax my mind here to go back
fourteen years, uh, what were some of the issues.
SMITH: In the nineties?
SWITZER: You know, I think on a state and federal level both were
environmental issues, and one of the things was dealing with waste.
That's not a real attractive thing to have to talk about, but let's
talk about manure. (Smith laughs) We create an awful lot of it,
and, uh, uh, we spent an awful lot of time in Washington dealing with
concentrated animal feeding operations which were supposed to be about
feed lots, dairies, swine operations and poultry operations. As I
01:20:00mentioned earlier, we're not eligible for disaster relief because in
some instances we're not considered livestock, but they sure threw
us in on that one, on livestock. Spent two years trying to educate
members of the USDA that were writing these regulations on concentrated
animal feeding operations about the horse industry and how we're
different than a stockyard, how we're different than a feed lot. We
do graze our horses. They do, they are confined for about fifteen
minutes a day each day but only to bring them into the barn to look at
them to see if there's any injuries or illnesses, this, that and the
other and then back out into the fields. Well, they originally, the
way they wrote their language that fifteen minutes over a period of a
week constituted a confinement such that we would have been subject to
01:21:00these concentrated animal feeding operations and how we dealt with our
manure. Um, we were impacted by, by the regulations because we now
have to fence off our water sources.
SWITZER: We can't, the horses can't drink the water that's going through
the streams--not supposed to. But yet a cow can poop in a pond and
drink out of the pond, and they don't say anything about that. But
anyway, so that was, uh, that, that has been, that was a, a major thing
that we were able to get ourselves written out of those regulations,
and it saved our farmers a considerable amount of money. Many of them
don't know what all we went through to, to get that accomplished, but
again, we don't need that credit. Uh, the same thing with the water
quality regs in Kentucky, how they impacted us. Um, I think one of
01:22:00the big accomplishments that this board had done in the past, uh, three
or four years is that we are one of thirty-one states that have passed
uniform medication rules so that all our medication--which used to be
very liberal in Kentucky for racing--uh, is now the same as what is
done in New York and Florida and California major racing jurisdictions,
and that was a battle.
SMITH: Now, why was the, why was the--
SWITZER: Again, our friends at the Kentucky HBPA thought that our
medication rules were actually the best even though no one else had the
same liberal rules that we did. They felt that giving medication on
race day, uh, the non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, there was nothing
wrong with it, and so they, they fought it and will still fight it.
SMITH: When I first started doing research and you go online and
find all these interesting, odd little things, and I found a letter
that, uh, Seth Hancock had written, um, and several other people,
uh, you know, major owners had signed it saying that he didn't that-
-complaining about how awful our rules were; they were too lax and
practically threatening to, you know, not race in Kentucky and, uh,
because they were so bad. Um, was so--
SWITZER: It, it was actually Arthur.
SWITZER: Arthur Hancock that did that. He's Seth's brother, older
brother. He's very passionate about it. Um, but we were successful in
getting those regs passed through the process here in Frankfort.
SMITH: But was there a split within the industry as to what--
SWITZER: The only split--
SWITZER: The only split were some of the members of the Kentucky HBPA
01:24:00just didn't wanna do away with it. I think the owners are happy. Um,
we're not having any problem with racing in Kentucky. We'd like to
have a few more horses running. Um, we've got the Polytrack surface
at Turfway Park and at Keeneland. Have--they've shown to be very
horse friendly, very few break-downs than what we were occurring. I
think eventually everyone will be on a synthetic surface. May not all
be Polytrack of course, but it, it's going to be, it's going to be a
SWITZER: Um, we're going to be pushed toward that. The medication, uh,
it's--along with the Polytrack--they don't need the medication as much
as they used to. I think that's, that's probably been most recent,
a, a real big feather in the industry's cap, being able to get those
medication laws changed.
SMITH: And KTA's role in that, in making those changes?
SWITZER: Well, we had to talk with legislators in order to get the regs
changed, and, uh, you know, there were a few that, that, uh, opposed
what we were trying to do but that's because their constituents are
members of the Kentucky HBPA that called and were vocal on it.
SMITH: Um, now there are all these other horse organizations out there
but, from what you're describing, KTA seems to be the leading voice
at least in the political realm for horse-related issues. Is that
SWITZER: In Kentucky?
SWITZER: Yeah. I'd say that, uh--you know, I'm not going to say that
the Kentucky HBPA doesn't have some friends in Frankfort--
SMITH: Oh, certainly.
SWITZER: --because they certainly do, but yeah. I'd say that, uh, when
we talk about the Thoroughbred industry it's--
SMITH: And that's a role that you've cultivated, that you've--
SWITZER: Well, I think--
SMITH: --it's a mission for you?
SWITZER: It's just grown. I mean I think it started as that seed. That
was the idea when Charlie Nuckols and Alice Chandler and Warner Jones,
01:26:00et cetera, started this organization. That's where they wanted some
presence in the political realm.
SWITZER: And they've done that. Um--
SMITH: Prior to that, who was the voice of the industry in Kentucky?
SWITZER: Uh, the John Bells of this world, the Warner Jones, the
Charles Nuckols, but it wasn't unified and that's what this did is that
brought more than just John Bell, Charlie Nuckols, Warner Jones into
the mix. Um, John Bell was very active in the formation of Interstate
Horseracing Act in 1974 in Congress. Um, then--and it didn't hurt
us that we had Thurston Morton in the Senate who was a friend of the
industry's. Um, Wendell Ford when he was there, he became a friend of
01:27:00the industry. Of course, he was more tobacco, but he's, he's a friend
to the horse industry. Um, we have a lot of respect, our, our senators
and, uh, congressmen that don't, don't, uh, come from congressional
districts that have Thoroughbreds in it like Ron Lewis or, um, um,
Ed Whitfield, and, uh, but Senator McConnell and Senator Bunning
are friends of ours and, um, Hal Rogers and, of course, Ben Chandler
because of being right here in Kentucky or in Central Kentucky. We
have good relationships with all of 'em.
SMITH: But before you all became unified it was basically individual
SMITH: What about--of course, it's got different names, the Kentucky
Horse Council, uh, no, not that one, the state organization, what is
now the Racing Authority and what was once a commission? Um, how does
that work with the industry, how does that work with KTA?
SWITZER: Well, we'll lobby the Racing Commission on rules and
regulations that they may want to try, they may want to pass and they
may want to make changes. For an example, right now we're dealing with
one dealing with, uh, claiming rules, and they'll have a public hearing
on the regs the 28th of, of August and we will be there to express our
opinion on those claiming reg changes.
SMITH: Okay. So they're the, sort of, official state entity that works
with these issues, and then you work through--with them?
SWITZER: Yeah. Um, the, um, I guess the thing that's on the front
burner with us now here in the 2007 gubernatorial race is the gaming
issue. Uh, not unlike the slaughter issue, there actually are people
on both sides in our industry on the fence on that issue.
SWITZER: Uh, but, uh, I think that, um, we are supportive of the
Kentucky, uh, Equine Educational Project, the KEEP program. Nick
Nicholson and I have talked for a number of years that we need a year-
round advocate in Frankfort doing nothing but spending 100 percent of
their time talking about the equine industry. We haven't gotten there
yet although we were close and then KEEP was formed, and the purpose
of KEEP is to educate the people on the, uh, significance of the horse
SWITZER: Uh, so and we support that. Now the, the big issue in our
industry for the moment is the gaming issue, uh, and we will be
proponents, uh, on, on, the issue. It's interesting. In 1994 or '96,
01:30:00uh, when the issue first started, this organization was totally opposed
to expanded gaming.
SMITH: I've read that, in, uh, different places.
SWITZER: Uh, and we, we spent, uh, money bringing in experts to speak,
uh, economists, uh, and this board just didn't want to hear it.
SMITH: What changed their mind?
SWITZER: I think the realization that New York, uh, was going to
be a strong competitor for us because they had passed gaming. Now
they've passed gaming but they haven't implemented it as far as the
Thoroughbred industry is concerned, yet. Um, Pennsylvania is online,
and they're going to have, uh, fifty to sixty million dollars in
breeders incentive programs. Is that going to lure horses away from
Kentucky? Uh, I think that's probably the thing.
SMITH: So what is KTA's official position on it?
SWITZER: We support, uh, alternative gaming at the racetracks, uh, with
the understanding that there may have to be one or two or three other
facilities as well.
SMITH: Um-hm. Is that, uh, pretty much standard across the industry at
this point in terms of what they would support?
SWITZER: Yeah. Those that are in supportive of the issue. There are
those that don't, do not support the expanded gaming at all.
SMITH: Any organizations or individuals?
SWITZER: No. Individuals.
SWITZER: Individuals. Um, so that's going to be interesting to see how
that plays out here in this gubernatorial race because, um, Governor
Fletcher has made it, you know, it's black and white. He's opposed to
it, and, uh--
SMITH: But he wasn't really before.
SWITZER: No, he wasn't. He was, uh, neutral on--he, he personally
did, he personally has never supported the concept, but he has said
01:32:00he would not interfere in allowing the people to have the opportunity
to vote. Uh, now he, since, uh, Steve Beshear has come out in support
of the gaming, um, Governor Fletcher feels that by taking the complete
opposite that draws a line in the sand between the two.
SMITH: Um-hm. Um-hm.
SWITZER: And so then we've come the conservatives against the liberals.
SMITH: Has that made it much more difficult for the industry to work
with Governor Fletcher at this point on other issues?
SWITZER: Well, it, it is difficult when he's not supporting what your
all's position, what our position is. Um--
SMITH: But it's not as though--I mean, he has been in supportive of, of
your other issues.
SWITZER: Depends on which issue you're talking about there, Kim.
SMITH: (laughs) Okay. He went to Chile and he got--
SWITZER: No. Well, we did, we went--
SMITH: --the breeders incentive.
SWITZER: Exactly, and that's another thing that people in the industry
01:33:00don't really realize is he is actually the person that got us the
breeders incentive program. I don't care what anybody else wants to
say. It basically happened on a paper napkin in a concierge floor
of a hotel in Chile, um, but again it's amazing what you can achieve.
Uh, I was very disappointed that he vetoed our capital project for the
renovation of our diagnostic lab which is such a key facility for not
only our industry but the bovine industry as well.
SMITH: Now is that at UK?
SWITZER: Right. And it's, it's a, it is the front line of defense
against a infectious disease, and it is so antiquated. Um, some of our
board members and myself went with the associate dean of the College
of Agriculture about three years ago and we visited, uh, Ohio State's
laboratory and we visited the laboratory at Purdue. Um, we visited,
01:34:00um, one other one--Ohio State, Purdue. I guess we did two in Indiana-
-and, um, they're, they're modern and yet they don't have anywhere
near the number of admissions that we do or submissions that we do
here. So we looked at a twenty-two million dollar renovation of the
facility. We had to get the money out of the General Assembly, and we
worked with, um, Representative Moberly who chairs the Appropriations
Committee in the House. We needed the twenty-two million. He asked
us if we could take half or a portion of it in one year, fiscal year,
and come back the next budget year, two-year cycle, and, and get the
rest, and that's the way it was going to pass so we agreed to it. You
know, hindsight twenty, twenty we might have been a little bit more
forceful because we got the first eight and a half million dollars, and
then in the next budget cycle, uh, there was sixteen, I guess sixteen
01:35:00million. Uh, my math's not right. There's thirteen and a half million
for it, and Governor Fletcher vetoed that along with sixty-six other
capital projects which are sixty-seven that were on the special call.
Uh, he vetoed it, and really, I was really disappointed in that, very
disappointed because we had worked so hard to, to get it passed through
the House, passed through the Senate and then to go over there. And,
uh, he was concerned that, um, doing all of those projects would have
affected our bond rating in the state and our borrowing power and
the interest rates would be higher, uh, and so he said, "I had to cut
some things." And it was not the number one priority at that time for
the University of Kentucky. The pharmaceutical building was, and Dr.
Todd, you know, he said, "David, I'm--the pharmacy building is our
01:36:00first priority. You're number two." Actually, we were number seven
on the list of capital projects for the university. Uh, he got his
pharmacy money and then he elevated us up near the top and said, "We'll
go after it here," and then it gets vetoed. So here we are, um, the
horse capital of the world, the most significant industry to Kentucky--
and I'm quoting Governor Fletcher when I'm saying those things--and then
he vetoed that project and it was pretty disappointing. And it doesn't
look like it's going to be on the, uh, the next special session call
in August. I guess they've made their agreement; they're only going to
deal with one issue, so it's become a political ping-pong ball now.
SMITH: Um-hm. So you've got, uh, that to deal with in the next session.
SWITZER: Have to deal with that in the next session and now the cost
has gone up 10 percent a year and so we're three years behind our first
estimate, so we're now 30 percent under what we're going to need so
we've got to figure out a way to go back to Representative Moberly and,
01:37:00and explain again, "Okay. It's not thirteen and a half million we need
now. We need eighteen million," or whatever we decide that figure is.
Yeah. Um, so, you know, Governor Fletcher, yes, he did give us the
breeders incentive, but he didn't give us the diagnostic lab and now
he's not supporting the gaming and so people in our industry are mixed
SMITH: So do you enjoy working the political area?
SWITZER: There are, uh, some very frustrating days. There really
are, and I, I think one of the most frustrating things--and, and I
mentioned I was in Philadelphia just a few days ago for a legislative
conference--and I was talking with a, a national park ranger who was
telling us about the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the
Constitution and the fact there were fifty-five people in the room and
01:38:00I think forty-nine signed it, uh, et cetera. And, and he asked why I
was in town, and I told him I was there for a legislative convention.
And he said, "You know the difference between members of government
back when we finally did the Constitution, Declaration of Independence
and today?" And I do have an opinion on that, and we ended up agreeing.
We don't have statesmen anymore. We have people--and even more so
I see a difference. When I started we had, we did not have annual
sessions. We've evolved into annual sessions--that's full-time jobs-
-and we have more people that are interested in maintaining their job
than doing what I think is best for, for the commonwealth. And I know
it's very difficult sometimes. Statesmen would do what's in the best
interest of everybody. Legislators will do what's in the best interest
01:39:00of getting re-elected. Now people will argue with that and say, well,
they're doing what their constituents want 'em to do. We're forty-
eighth in education. This is a sore spot for me. We have not improved
in the fourteen years that I've been over in Frankfort. Oh, yeah.
We've passed KERA. We're still forty-eight. We got the CATS scores.
We're still forty-eight, and, it's, I think it's partly because there
are people in our state, House, who they say that education's important
but they don't vote that way. And it's not just education although
education is a very, very important thing. We're blessed to have a
good education program in Fayette County, Jefferson County, Northern
Kentucky, but--so I guess my point being is that I'm--the frustration
that I have in dealing with legislators and members of Congress as well
01:40:00is that we have few statesmen.
SMITH: Um-hm. Um-hm. Yes. I understand that.
SWITZER: See, just go back and read that. "We the people." We, not me.
SMITH: Now when you started with the legislature you had that was back
when, uh, probably Eck Rose was head of the Senate.
SWITZER: Um-hm. He was.
SMITH: And who was head of the House? That Clark or--
SWITZER: Uh, Clark.
SMITH: Okay. Who are some of the people you've worked with over there?
SWITZER: Well, Eck Rose became a goo-, became a friend, uh, and
actually, uh, mentored me a little bit about some of the things to do,
some of the things not to do, showed me some ways to get to the capitol
without anybody seeing you, going through some little corridors;
things like--I'll, I'll never forget about that. Eck was, that was
at the time, uh, when the gaming issue was first evolving. Eck was
not supportive of that. He could not understand why anybody in our
industry would want to bring the devil into our playground, and, uh, I
was walking with him from his office over to the, uh, uh, the capitol
01:41:00one day and we went through the tunnels and stuff and back through the
boiler rooms and this, that and the other. I'll never forget that. I
didn't have as much to do with, uh, Representative Clark, uh, over on,
on the House side there. Um--
SMITH: Now you worked both chambers, though?
SWITZER: Oh, yeah. Well, you have to work both, and, and again it's--as
I said earlier--it's all about building relationships and being able
to talk to them. And, and I've been mentored by Judy Taylor who is
a, uh, professional lobbyist. I don't consider myself a professional
lobbyist. I'm just an association director that happens to be a
lobbyist type thing, but, uh, Judy took me under her wings. Uh, she
lobbies for the Keeneland Association, and we have the same issues
and so, uh, she has mentored me and still mentors me to this day. Uh,
01:42:00she's not, uh, short on telling me I did something wrong or if I do
she'll let me know it. (clears throat) Do something right she says,
"You did a good job there," or something like that, but, uh, it was
very important that, uh, that I would meet each of the members of the
General Assembly, introduce myself. Um, when I do lobby on an issue
I present both sides of the issue. That's Judy had taught me that.
Now, yes, I'm going to be a little more thorough on the side that I,
our organization supports, but I think it's important that they hear
both sides; that they know what the opposition is going to say before
maybe they hear the opposition say it. Um, it's very important. Trust
is very important. Uh, one member of the House that I got to know
very well and still do to this day is Roger Thomas who, uh, ended up
chairing Ag and Natural Resources, so we have a lot of things in Ag
and Natural Resources. Working today with Drew Graham. Drew Graham is
01:43:00now with the University of Kentucky College of Ag. He was a, the, uh,
chair of Ag and Small Business or Natural Resources when he served in
the legislature. Um, so you'll have some of your favorites and stuff,
but important to always try. And I failed this year, and I apologized
to a member of the House just the other night, a freshman that I had
not been to visit him, uh, because generally in January of each session
that's what I would spend my time is to go introduce myself to the
freshmen, give my business card and say, "If there's anything dealing
with the horse industry or agriculture and if you have any questions,
please don't hesitate to call," and do that type of thing. There's
a lot of good people over there in Frankfort actually, you know. Um,
01:44:00it's funny. They all come in with aspirations of being governor as
their freshmen legislators.
SMITH: (laughs) A lot of state employees have that same--
SWITZER: I bet. I bet they do.
SMITH: --same attitude. Um, so if you were to describe your job--you
said, you know, okay you're not a professional lobbyist but you spend
an awful lot of time in that, that realm--um, how would you describe
your job today?
SWITZER: Well, I'm a, I'm a manager so I've got five other people on
our staff and so I have to manage that. I have to create a budget.
Um, I represent the industry, uh, as a spokesperson. Uh, one of
the things that, that I have done, uh, is get involved in community
activities, and it's a selfish reason for part of it. Part of it
is I enjoy giving something back to this community. I serve on
an, I've served on a number of boards--United Way, Lexington Arts
01:45:00Council, uh, Commerce Lexington's Legislative Affairs Committee, I'm
currently on the board of the Bluegrass Domestic Violence which is a
organization that, uh, serves seventeen counties, and I've taken on
the responsibility of campaign chair--which I hate raising money--and
we're looking, trying to raise nine and a half million dollars so that
we can expand this facility because we were over capacity thirty days
after we took over the facility out in rural Fayette County. Um, so
I do those things to give something to the community, but at the same
time it gives me an opportunity to meet people that I may not meet
and eventually the subject of the horse industry comes around and I
get to tell the real story; not the perception. You know, we're not
01:46:00all rich and wealthy people, and I've banged my head against the wall
for thirteen years trying to figure out how I can counter that. I've
got a demographic study or we have a demographic study, uh, that was
done independently by, uh, Dean, Dorton and Ford, an accounting firm
here in town--financial firm here in town--that shows that the average
income is fifty thousand dollars, the average size of the farm is three
hundred and fifty acres. Uh, at that time, they had three--we, uh,
they interviewed, uh, five banks in Central Ke-, in Lexington that had
three hundred and twenty million dollars on loan. So these aren't rich
people. Rich people don't borrow money.
SMITH: (laughs) No. Not that much.
SWITZER: You know, not that much. They were gonna, they can--well,
they, they may leverage it, use somebody else's money better than their
own, but the perception out there is that everybody's rich, wealthy
and this is a hobby. I decided last year that I was going to try a new
01:47:00tact, and I was gonna s-, and any time that is brought up I'm going to
say, "You're right. There are a lot of wealthy people in our business,
and we ought to be awful glad that they are because, you know, they
could be buying, buying yachts. They could be buying chalets in the
south of France. They could be buying a cabin in Aspen. They could
be involved in the NFL or the NBA, but you know what? They chose to get
involved in the horse industry, and that's why we have a $3.4 billion
dollar economic impact on the Commonwealth of Kentucky."
SMITH: That's exactly right.
SWITZER: Now that's my new story. I haven't said it enough times to
find out if it's gonna, if it's working or not, yet, but you know,
and so they don't--by human nature, if you say something enough times
you'll eventually start believing that it's the truth. And so if your
perception is that it's rich and wealthy, rich and wealthy, you're
not going to change that perception so agree with it. So we're gonna
01:48:00try, we're trying that tact. But it gives me an opportunity to sit
in a board meeting and, or after the board meeting in conversations,
and people will start asking me about your industry, your business. I
may ask a person that's with Lexmark, "Tell me about Lexmark." And so
I learn about them, but it gives me an opportunity to talk about the
horse industry to people who then, if they buy into my stories, they're
gonna spread the word.
SMITH: It also sounds, though, like you, uh, involved with organizations
that you have a particular, uh, passion for or appreciation for what
SWITZER: Well, I do, I do that. Uh, I, I'm, I'm blessed that there's
not been any domestic violence in my life whether it was my parents
or with my wife. Uh, I don't know of any, yet by being on this board
I have learned that one out of three people that you meet have had
01:49:00exposure to domestic violence. That's--wow. That really caught my
attention. Um, I was asked to serve--it's interesting how I was, I got
involved in the Domestic Violence board. I was serving on the United
Way board, and I was in charge of the cabinet that deals with fund
distributions. And we were having trouble with the agency that was
dealing with domestic violence in Fayette County. They had mismanaged
their money. They had no organization, and it was a shame. And it
was the YWCA which--while I was growing up--the YWCA was a very strong
organization. I had to go meet with their board on a couple occasions
to try and straighten 'em out or tell them, "Here's what's going to
happen if you don't meet these certain benchmarks," and it ended up
that I had to go back to the United Way board and make a recommendation
01:50:00that we withdraw funding from the YWCA.
SWITZER: It wasn't a fun thing to do.
SMITH: No. No.
SWITZER: But they weren't fulfilling, they weren't using the money
that they were getting from the United Way the way that it was meant
to be used. So that meant we didn't have domestic violence which
that wasn't really something that was on my radar screen. Uh, so the
Kentucky Domestic Violence Program in Frankfort helped develop what we
have now serving seventeen counties here in Fayette County, and their
executive director called me and said, "You know, you were involved
with the United Way. You went through the YWCA. We'd like to invite
you to serve on our board." Go back to--I need to learn to say the
word no more often--you know at that time I was rotating off of the
for United Way board. I was rotating off the Arts Council board and so
01:51:00I, uh, agreed to do it. Now that's how I got involved on that board.
The Arts Council board, I got involved on that because we had a thing
called Horse Mania, and we underwrote that program, the association
did. We guaranteed the cost of those fiberglass horses which, as it
turned out, was a no brainer.
SWITZER: You know, it was--and we're going to do it again--
SMITH: Well, good.
SWITZER: --in 2010.
SWITZER: They're going to have, uh, another Horse Mania thing. So I was
asked to serve on the Arts Council board. Well, I learned about public
art, uh, which I've got an idea to, to take to them even though I'm
off their board now from my trip to Philadelphia. They've got murals
all over that community depicting different things that happened in
those various, uh, boroughs or parts of town. Uh, so that's how I got
involved with that. Uh, United Way is a large board and somebody from
01:52:00the horse industry. I also try to get people on our board to serve
on, on some of these things, and, uh, we have a past, our assistant
treasurer was past chair of Commerce Lexington then it was the Chamber
of Commerce, Commerce Lexington. We had, because of him we now have an
agricultural representative on the Commerce Lexington board, something
that we really need so that we can talk to developers and builders and
retail people about the horse industry. And, you know, you take it for
granted. It might not be here someday if we don't do certain things.
SMITH: I think it's, um, there's a history of people within the horse
industry being community leaders, um, and probably there's a need for
even more involvement.
SWITZER: Well, you know, there is, but you're right. There are a lot
of people from our industry that are serving on different community
boards and stuff and they're very quiet about it. They don't do it
SWITZER: Uh, and that's one of the things that we get accused of being,
uh, insular, that we only care about things that are gonna benefit,
uh, the needy in our industry; not, not so but, you know, that's okay.
We've gotten involved in Habitat, Habitat for Humanity. We did our
first build last year, and this was a result of Sheikh Mohammed. Uh,
I had met with, uh, um, Grant Phelps who is the executive director
of Kent-, Lexington's Habitat for Humanity. One of his board members
who was a friend, they wanted the horse industry to get involved and
maybe do a build or something, and I said, "Well, we'll think about
that." And, uh, it turned out that Sheikh Mohammed told, uh, his
general manager or president of Darley here in America, Jim Bell, that
he wanted to do something for this community, and it turned out that,
let's build a Habitat house. So last year Darley, Sheikh Mohammed,
01:54:00took the lead along with us. We helped organize it, and we built a
house. This year we're building two. We brought in two more large
farms that wanted to get on board and do it, um, and it's not just the
farms. It's some of the businesses that work with our farms or provide
services to our farms that are involved in it, and I won't be surprised
to see if we don't do three next year.
SWITZER: So, and that, that's just a way--and we call it a Thoroughbred
Build, and, um, my wife goes with me on the days that we're working on
the build and she gets satisfaction out of it, too.
SMITH: My husband's worked on some of those. I can't say that I have.
But you're right. Some of those things are fairly quiet, um, and
people don't know that the industry leaders are, are doing. Um, we're
going to run out of time here, and, uh, I'm not sure. I have a few
more questions. Um, a couple of things I want to ask you and then,
01:55:00um, then what I think I'd like to do--and see what you think of this
idea--we hope this is going to be a three-year project. You know, we,
we'll wait and see. Still hopeful. Um, that say next July or say a
year from now I would come back and interview you again, um, to some
extent about the session and the accomplishments or challenges that you
see yourself in at that point. Would that be okay?
SWITZER: If I'm still here.
SMITH: Okay. All right. (Switzer laughs) If we're both still here,
we'll do it. How's that? Okay. Um, a couple of things. Uh, we
haven't really had a chance to talk in depth about the number of
organizations that there are in the industry, and you've been involved
with the Thoroughbred Club of America, the Kentucky Horse Council,
National Thoroughbred Racing Association, a variety of different
organizations and there are so many you know that I'm still trying to
01:56:00learn what their differences and missions are. Um, do you see this
kind of fragmentation in the industry not just in Kentucky perhaps but
even nationally as a, as a problem or is this something that's just a
reality of how the industry works or both?
SWITZER: If I had my way we would have a national league office just like
the NBA and the NFL does, and we would have one person or one entity
up there dictating, if you will, how our industry is going to function.
Now that's not going to happen unfortunately because every horse farm,
every racetrack is a business of their own. It's their little kingdom,
thiefdom, um, and they're not going to give up their autonomy; more so
01:57:00with the racetracks than it is going to be your breeding farms. The
only thing, your breeding farms are all competing with one another--
SWITZER: --which to some extent causes, you know, some problems, but,
um, you know, competition is good and we can agree on legislation and,
and regulations that are going to benefit all. So it's more toward the
racing part of it. If we don't have a strong racing industry, we don't
need the breeders. Uh, if we don't have a strong breeding industry,
there's no place for the racetracks to be, but I think there's so much
fragmentation particularly in the racing part of the industry that
we need a, a, uh, a league office and I actually thought that that's
where we were heading with the NTRA, the National Thoroughbred Racing
Association, when it was formed, what? Six years ago, eight years ago,
something like that. I thought that might be where, where this thing
was heading, but, but it hasn't happened. No.
SMITH: Is it something that could still occur within that group?
SWITZER: No. I don't think it's going to happen because what I said
earlier that the racetracks themselves are not going to give up their
autonomy; Churchill Downs, Magna, uh, hell, even Keeneland, Del Mar,
Oak Tree. They're not going to let the current leaders over at the
NTRA tell them how to run their business, unfortunately.
SMITH: Well, I guess that is just sort of a reality of how the industry
SWITZER: Yeah. And, and too, there are some of our other associations
that unfortunately don't have that men-, mentality of, it's amazing
what you can achieve when you don't care who gets the credit. And they
want the credit, and they sometimes go off on their own little tangent
to get their little feather in their hat and not thinking about the
repercussions it might have over here for another organization. Um-hm.
SMITH: That's something Ted Bassett and I had talked about. I came
01:59:00across an article on the internet that he had, you know, a lecture that
he had given in the early nineties, and it was something that he was
very concerned about was the fact that there is not a unified voice at
a national level for the industry. Uh, the other thing is you talked-
-I think you may have touched on some of this in, in the interview but-
-of all the things you've accomplished with KTA, what, what are you most
SWITZER: Hmm. Most proud of. I guess this uniform, getting the uniform
medication rules passed. We've worked on that for four years.
SMITH: Um-hm. That was a big one.
SWITZER: And, uh, now the, the objective is to maintain it. We had, we
have some good discussions in our board meetings, but over this issue,
02:00:00um, we darn near lost a president on a resignation.
SMITH: Really? Can I ask who that was?
SWITZER: No. I, uh, Alex, yeah. I don't mind saying it because he
says it. Alex Rankin was the, the president, and there was a strategy
to get this uniform medication done and passed and we couldn't really
talk about it. There was a small group of the board that knew about
this strategy, and we couldn't make it public because it would derail
the whole thing if we did. And there were some members of the board
that didn't think we were doing enough, and, um, a couple board members
got very critical of Alex and, um, it was very frustrating, very, very
frustrating for him. He's from Louisville. There is a demarcation
02:01:00line between Louisville and Central Kentucky called the Kentucky
River; 502 versus the 859, and it was a group from the 859 that were
SWITZER: And it all worked out. It all worked out, and part of it was
because I was able to, oh, smooth things out a little bit with those
people who thought we weren't doing enough. And as it turned out,
we got what we wanted in the end which is the important thing. Uh,
so that was the, the medication issue was not an easy thing. Uh, it
wasn't that they were opposed. They wanted the medication issue; they
wanted the uniform medication. It was just that they wanted to get
credit for it, and those who were opposed to the medication rule, the
Kentucky HBPA, was out front getting articles written in the trade
02:02:00magazines and this, that and the other and we were just working very
quietly behind the scenes with the legislature and the regulatory and,
uh, that was a, that was an unusual board meeting. That wasn't one of
the common things. So I guess the medication, uh, really getting that
done, 'cause I think it is in the best interest of, of the industry.
SMITH: Best interest of the horse?
SWITZER: Yeah. Um-hm.
SMITH: Okay. Um, one final question then. Uh, you've worked with an
awful lot of, uh, agents, uh, industry legends to some extent over the
years--I mean, Warner Jones and some of these individuals, um, that
you've been associated with. Who do you, when you think back on, on
some of these people, maybe some who are no longer with us, maybe some
who still are, who do you think have been some of the most influential
02:03:00in terms of moving the industry forward?
SWITZER: Well, I'll put Mr. Bassett right up there at the top. I
mean, he's been a great ambassador, um, and is a good thinker with the
exception of he was quite, he was a bit wrong when he said the mythical
armada. I don't know if that came across in any of your conversations
SMITH: Oh, yes. Yes, it has.
SWITZER: We're dealing with the river boats, and he spoke in front of a
legislative committee and talked about the mythical armada because at
that time Keeneland was very much opposed to the gaming issue as well.
SMITH: Right. He had mentioned that, uh, that he has to live that down.
SWITZER: (laughs) Yeah, he does have to live that down. Um, Charlie
SMITH: Yeah, I've heard a lot about him, and of course I'm sorry that
he's not with us.
SWITZER: Yeah. You know, Henry White. You got to get to him quick,
though. His health is not doing good.
SMITH: Yeah. I listened to the interview that Keeneland had with him.
It's pretty good, but there's still some places--some things you've
02:04:00mentioned, like his involvement with KTA and you mentioned you worked
for an uncle of his, so I don't know much about the family--so I will,
he's on my list to do--
SWITZER: --you really got to--
SMITH: --in the next couple of months.
SWITZER: He, he is, uh, if you can step it up, he's failing. Um, he
still comes to our board meetings regularly where, you know, those
who are past presidents particularly, they don't tend to come after
they've served their term, come to the board meetings as regularly,
uh, but Henry still does. And Henry will call me on occasion and but,
uh--(clears throat)--on issues and has over the fourteen years, but I
can see him slipping an awful lot.
SMITH: Is his mind still fine?
SWITZER: Yeah. Well, that's it. That's part of it. Uh, age is, is
starting to show there, but Henry would call and offer advice or offer
assistance or I'd call him. Um, he's well-respected in the industry.
Um, well, you've talked with Alice of course.
SMITH: And Penny Chenery.
SMITH: Not so much Kentucky as much as--
SWITZER: Well, but, you know, you take a person like, um, Denny Phipps.
Now Denny Phipps isn't from Kentucky. He lives in New York and
Florida, uh, but he has roots here in Kentucky because they've raised
horses at Claiborne Farm for years and years. Um, he's a person that
knew all of these folks and still knows some of them. Um--
SMITH: And, of course, the Hancocks.
SWITZER: Yeah. The Hancocks, I wish I could get them a little more
involved in issues. They tend to, um--
SMITH: Now Dell is on your board.
SWITZER: Dell is. She's a past president. She was, um, second
02:06:00president when I came on board. Um, I'm trying to think of some
folks that are still with us. On our wall in our board room we have a
picture of all of our past presidents--
SMITH: Oh, okay.
SWITZER: And they're sitting up there. Um--
SMITH: That's okay. I'm sure you'll think of some. And I guess--
SWITZER: I probably will and wouldn't. I'd kind of like to listen to
these tapes. Uh, you said you might have them together in a few weeks
so I could listen to them myself--
SMITH: --sure, absolutely--
SWITZER: --and see if there are some points that, you know, maybe I've--
because we've rambled--
SMITH: Yeah. You do that in oral history interview.
SWITZER: --you know quite a bit.
SMITH: That's, uh, and, and you'll, you'll hear that some things you
said in the first one you say in the second one in different ways, and
I mean, that's just part of the process. It's not a perfect--
SWITZER: A person, a person that's not of emeritus status yet but, uh,
02:07:00is Robert Clay. Robert, Robert gets involved politically.
SMITH: Okay. He's on my list.
SWITZER: He gets involved in an awful lot of, uh, industry things. Um,
well, you know, I call on Robert quite a bit, and, and he'll do the
same with me; try and bounce some things off each other. Um, a person
that, uh, has been involved around this industry for quite some time
is, uh, W. T. Bishop, Buddy Bishop the attorney. Um, his father was
general manager of Keeneland. He grew up on Keeneland's grounds. Back
where the clubhouse is today was where he lived, um, and Buddy knows a
lot of people, well-respected. Uh, his clients are the Maktoums, uh,
Sh-, Prince Abdullah and many, many, many others and stuff.
SMITH: Well, I will get these tapes to you, and, um, and you know,
we can talk again at any time that you have time. But I would like,
again, if we're both here a year from now or even two years from now
to, to do a follow-up. That's, um, one thing somebody was looking at
the list and said, "You have too many people that are younger," your
age, my age, you know, and, uh, instead of thinking they always think,
they had to be in their eighties or late seventies. And but history
is what's happening now, and a hundred years from now somebody's really
going to want to hear what you have to say about the issues of today,
not necessarily what happened way back in the fifties or the forties.
So, um, I think that's an important part of what this project needs to
capture as well.
SWITZER: Well, and I didn't notice--do you have the Taylor, any of the
Taylor boys on there; Mark or, uh, Duncan Taylor?
SMITH: I don't have that list here--
SWITZER: These are kind of our young up-and-comers.
SMITH: Mark and Duncan?
SWITZER: Um-hm. Either Mark or Duncan Taylor. Duncan's the oldest
brother. There's--and then another one and this is who I have on
our board right now and want to try and keep is a fellow name of John
Greely. It's John Greely IV. His, his family farm is, um, Wintergreen
Farm. I'm hoping that he's going to be one of these take-charge young
SMITH: Um-hm. Um-hm.
SWITZER: And his issue right now, I would say if you sat down with him
and asked him what his number one issue is, he'd say trying to get
a vaccine for Af-, African horse sickness so we can exchange shuttle
stallions between South Africa and the United States.
SMITH: Huh. Oh, okay.
SWITZER: We've been trying to work on that.
SMITH: I hear a lot about the South Africa, uh, with the Saddlebreds.
There seems to be a big connection there.
SWITZER: There is.
SMITH: So. Okay.
SMITH: All right. Well, we'll go ahead and stop this for now, and then,
uh, and I'll get back with you real soon. Thank you.
[End of interview.]