Stacy Bearse, the short, rotund and mustachioed strongman at Blood-Horse Publications has a problem with Jack Werk, the tall, lanky and bearded Californian who’d developed the popular Werk Nick Rating (eNicks) and runs Werk thoroughbred Consultants, Inc. They are studies in contrasts, both physically and philosophically, with horse racing and breeding the only common ground they share. Some time ago, when Jack was publisher of Owner-Breeder, they skirmished on the journalistic front as well, but that ended after I sold the breeding journal for Jack to pedigree guru Alan Porter, one of Jack’s competitors and a friend of mine — I have to straddle the fence when it comes to Jack and Alan. (Owner-Breeder has since been purchased by Blood-Horse and is probably viewed as a trophy by Stacy; Jack, however, was probably the only one who made money with the publication.)
After years of trying to get Jack — there’s personal animus here; once, he called Jack pond scum, or something like that — Stacy had his big opening a couple of years back when Alan approached him with the idea of marketing a competing nicking system to Jack’s high-flying eNicks. With this product, Stacy figured, he had an opportunity to hunt down a longtime nemesis and make some money in the process. Therefore, Blood-Horse Publications became a 50 percent stakeholder in what is now called TrueNicks, a nicking system that has cleverly copied the A, B, C, etc., letter ratings that Jack had originated with his rating system. And, by extension, Blood-Horse entered into a new business: that of pedigree recommendations for money.
This was conduct unbecomming for a respected journalistic enterprise. For years, the magazine had dutifully analyzed and reported on the various systems and products out there for its readership. Now, the publication is a provider of a product that will get no negative press in reviews in its own pages — how can it as a money maker?
As Frank Mitchell described in the post below, Stacy is strictly a money man; he’d never given a rat’s behind about journalistic integrity at Blood-Horse in the first place, but he was maniacal about making money and was a self-promoter and ladder climber of the highest order. He’d already offered the editorial voice of the publication — once the most highly respected in the business — as a mouthpiece for TOBA leaders (TOBA owns the magazine). And he’d diluted the essence of the magazine with spin-off products, anyway.
No doubt you’ve heard about or read Stacy’s letter to TOBA leaders about supporting The Blood-Horse with advertising dollars instead of its competitors, the TDN and Thoroughbred Times. The gist of his appeal is that TOBA members should support the house organ — their publication. But this plea apparently is directed at only some TOBA members. Jack is a member of TOBA. In fact, he’s a $1,000 member. Yet he has been banned the last few years by Stacy from advertising in any of the Blood-Horse publications, even though Jack for years before that was a longtime advertiser in many of the Blood-Horse publications, including its stallion register.
It’s fairly obvious now why the ban was put in place. With Alan’s product now up and running, Blood-Horse Publications was targeting its product to its readership. This is evident in the advertorial that Dan Liebman wrote yesterday — obviously at Bearse’s gunpoint — which touts the TrueNicks system in the hallowed space of its “What’s Going on Here” column.
Indeed, what’s going on here? And when is this wall going to crumble? It’s up to the TOBA leadership to decide.