Skip to main content

"Give Us the Free Market!"

"They can't tell us what to do with our horses. Get out of my business, because it's my business", is an often heard complaint from horse owners, and horsepeople.

Whether it's about out of competition testing, suspending the horse for positive tests, house rules, commission rules, jail time rules, federal oversight, or whipping rules, the drumbeat is pretty constant. "Don't tread on me."

Being a free market type (don't hate, twitter!) who believes when Adam Smith's invisible hand becomes visible we're a whole lot worse off, I get it. I truly do. But for horse racing, I think the arguments screaming for a "free market" are not only futile, but dangerous.

If you're asking for that free market, you're asking for a few things you might not like much.

A free market means the $40,000 purse at the track you're racing at will immediately fall to $5,000 or less because in a free market slot machine revenue doesn't go into a purse, but into someone elses pocket.

The yearling you're selling doesn't go for $250,000, but half that, because big bad NYRA is run on handle revenue, and big days aren't that big anymore.

The corporate track that owns your raceway isn't there to yell at, because they exist almost solely because they're holding out for (or already have) casino money. Board of Directors and shareholders of stocks in their 401k don't tolerate losses. When the market is "free", owning a horse track doesn't give them any edge, of course.

Twinspires and other entities probably don't look like they do because the UIEGA, passed by Congress in 2006 to protect horse racing, doesn't exist. Yes, handle gets crushed by internet competition, and in the free market handle pays for purses, so they go down too.

The TOC doesn't hold out and lobby for poker money, because politicians say, "why should they get any poker revenue?"

In a free market there's no Canterbury Park to get mad at for raising takeout, because the native tribe who shares market space and $75M for purse money by government decree doesn't have to any longer.

In the free market, your city track is probably Hollywood Park. And no one wants to build a new one to replace it.

The free market is a wonderful thing. Innovation and invention are spurred by it, new drugs and medical techniques that make us healthier and happier and living longer are being invented every day. Worldwide wealth is skyrocketing and poverty is declining. Preach it from the rooftops! It's a great thing!

But for horse racing, grab the collected works of Karl Marx and hug it like a warm blanket. And then embrace the rules, the meddling from the government and commissions, and animal activist do-gooders. It's the world in which horse racing lives, and we should all thank our lucky stars it is. Because although the state of the game ain't perfect, it ensures the sport is a whole lot bigger than the laws of supply and demand say it should be.

Have a nice weekend everyone.

Comments