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Under each of its revered chairmen The Jockey Club has made invaluable contributions to racing. The first of these, back in 1896 under August Belmont, was the acquisition of the American Stud Book (which was first published in 1868) from Colonel S. D. Bruce, who had discovered publication costs too expensive. The Stud Book, as much a part of racing as the tracks themselves, is a complete and thorough record of every American Thoroughbred, and its publication by The Jockey Club at once gave it the authoritativeness that was needed. The maintenance of the official records has always been an integral function of The Jockey Club, and over the years it has accumulated a file of owner certificates, occupational contracts and a complete listing of every owner's racing silks. Jockey Club members themselves don't undertake this thankless but vital chore, but have always lent their support to such tasks with the knowledge that if racing does not keep its own house in order it is hardly worthy of public confidence.
And if August Belmont inspired confidence in a group which was looked upon with some suspicion in the 1890s, William Woodward's 20-year term of office as chairman (1930-1950) was probably the greatest era The Jockey Club has ever known. In those pre-Fink days The Jockey Club still had its power to control New York racing and William Woodward was a man who, on balance, used his power both wisely and influentially. To many people Woodward appeared to be a stubborn man—and yet he had a considerable sense of humor. When he was first informed that owners (as well as trainers and jockeys) would be required by law to take out licenses in New York, he is said to have replied, "I'll be damned if I'm going to take out a license just like a damn peddler." Upon being told that there was no way out—even for the chairman of The Jockey Club—his retort was, "Oh, very well then, but I'll be damned if I'll pay any lawyer to legalize the thing." Woodward was an impressive, handsome man who left a lasting impression on the American racing scene. "I think he taught me more about racing than any man I know," said Marshall Cassidy not long ago. "He was shrewd, smart and compassionate, and he used his legal training in the proper analysis of a thousand things he never knew about before. Fifteen minutes after I would tell him something, he knew more about it than I did. He was the only man I ever met who was like that."
If Woodward, as a member and later steward and chairman of The Jockey Club, was a guiding force in the improvement of American racing standards and management, it has remained for a nonmember and paid employee of the club, Marshall Cassidy himself, to build this tradition into a lasting monument to The Jockey Club's unswervingly high ideals. Indeed, it is quite likely that no man in the history of racing anywhere in the world has devoted his life so energetically as has Marshall Cassidy to the perpetual improvement of the over-all efficiency of the sport. The reason is simple: Cassidy knows the sport as no other man because he has lived with it for most of his 65 years. As a teen-ager he served as assistant starter under his father, and today he holds the post of director of racing of the comparatively new Greater New York Association.
In the course of his career Cassidy has naturally made many enemies because he has rapped many a knuckle. He has been accused of selfish prejudice in favor of innovations which he himself nurtured from an idea to a reality: for example, The Jockey Club's first unchallenged horse-identification system (developed in cooperation with the Pinkerton Detective Agency) over the more widely used lip tattoo system; or putting increased stress on the value of the film patrol because, as one of his critics points out, "he was the first man to film a race." Although his position as executive secretary of The Jockey Club has made it necessary for him to enforce many judicial decisions which not all horsemen agreed with, Cassidy's life has been dedicated to building up the sport—and today he can proudly point to a score of Jockey Club-sponsored ideas which have contributed more to Thoroughbred racing than anyone would cafe to estimate. For one, The Jockey Club pioneered the nationwide adoption of saliva and urine tests (which the various state racing commissions have now seen fit to take under their charge). The Jockey Club has recently announced a new program of typing the blood of Thoroughbreds as an aid not only in the future safety of blood transfusions but also as a surefire check on the identity of foals of double parentage.
A training ground
And, of course, Cassidy will be remembered forever for his role as the unofficial president and headmaster of The Jockey Club School for Racing Officials. An on-the-job training program for promising future officials—whether they are paddock or patrol judges, horse identification supervisors, examining veterinarians, clerks of scales or even licensed stewards already—the Cassidy school has grown in 12 years from an idea into a most unique organization. Hundreds of the most important racing officials in the U.S. today have done a tour of duty at a New York track under the best-trained men in the business—and always under the direct supervision of Cassidy himself. His students work on a rotation system around every vital race track post, and graduates are in constant demand to accept responsible jobs at major tracks in other states. The Jockey Club makes no charge or the service of training an official and, to date, men have come to learn under Cassidy from every racing state in the country as well as from Canada, Cuba, France, England, Australia, Argentina, Brazil and New Zealand.
Despite its many contributions, The Jockey Club today is faced with a stern challenge for survival in the future. American racing has in the 63 years of the club's life outgrown the need for one group of 65 men to dictate the rights and obligations for all. Efficient racing commissions are revising and enforcing the rule book. But most important of all, times have changed and so has the outlook for racing's future. The Jockey Club will continue to safeguard the Stud Book, but it can do racing a service by looking ahead instead of into a past that can never be reincarnated. The Jockey Club was once born of necessity because racing had no control whatsoever in that part of the country which needed it most. The men who founded The Jockey Club refused to recognize that racing was a betting game; their only concern was for the conduct, the character and the rules of the sport. Similarly, the founding fathers were men who knew nothing about public relations and cared even less. "When they ran anything," says James C. Brady, currently The Jockey Club secretary and treasurer, "whether it was a railroad, a steel mill, a gold mine or a race track, they grabbed it by the neck and really ran it. And if the public or the press didn't like it, that was just too bad."
In a modern, complicated world where racing is truly a big business involving millions of dollars annually even The Jockey Club has learned the value of good public relations. Whether they have learned all there is to know about public relations is, however, open to debate—for if there is one valid criticism of current Jockey Club thinking it is that those members who serve as trustees of the Greater New York Association have failed to show as much acumen as a group as they have individually. The GNYA, which, in effect, is nothing more than an executive committee of The Jockey Club, has an obligation to a faithful racegoing public. To a certain extent this obligation has been unfulfilled, and to those outside The Jockey Club sphere of influence it seems a little ridiculous that so much collective brain power has not yet produced an efficient working organization.
In the meantime, The Jockey Club is steadily going ahead doing what it deems necessary to maintain the prestige of which it has always been so proud. For the last five summers The Jockey Club has held a round-table conference where certain of its members meet with representatives of every other branch of the racing industry for a few hours of valuable exchange of ideas. This week Chairman Widener and Executive Secretary Cassidy will play host at the first Jockey Club International Seminar in Washington. There will be a good deal of talk about furthering the cause of international racing, and one of the highlights of the two-day junket (at which The Jockey Club expects visitors from England, France and Ireland) will be a formal Jockey Club call on President Eisenhower.
As the daily double player at Jamaica might have said, "Man O man, if that Widener guy can get Ike out to Jamaica some Saturday—that would really be something, eh?"