Horse Ownership and the Health of the Game

I saw this tweet this morning:

This is not breaking news to anyone, but it certainly strikes a chord, doesn't it? And to me it shows just how unhealthy the game has gotten.

For systems to thrive (and price things correctly) there is an immutable truth - the volume of buyers and sellers is the KPI. Whether we are buying a stock on the Nasdaq, bartering at the farmer's market, or visiting our local proprietor selling every day goods, we want lots of buyers and lots of sellers. It's how a healthy system rolls.

In horse racing we used to have that.

Leaving aside the big dogs in the runners, as Crunk details above, I was thinking about harness racing in this vein recently. 25 years ago when I was hanging around the track, watching baby races or qualifiers, chatting with bettors and owners, the conversation in the late spring and early summer went a little like this -

"Burns has a nice two year old for Shipp"

"Fritz has three good ones that should take a beating in the sires stakes"

"Kopas has a bunch of New York breds that are all good"

Doug Arthur...... Ben Wallace..... on and on have a some stock  ....."

There were dozens of trainers and dozens of owners who were all active at the sales, looking for a good one.

Last night - and again, this is not unlike any MSW in Thoroughbred racing now - we saw the Dream Maker for two year olds, and we sure as hell didn't see this. We saw two barns, with a half dozen now two year olds with yearling prices ranging from $120,000 to $340,000, and then everyone else. The everyone else was racing for fourth.

Flip open the program to the Meadows, the Meadowlands, Yonkers, Tioga. It's all the same. It's concentrated power.

As with most of this blog since forever, it's observational, and most of these issues are well above my pay grade; I'd offer, perhaps, many don't even have a solution. But, the declining breadth of ownership and the lack of interest in people wanting to take a shot at glory in this business surely is troubling.

Have a nice Wednesday everyone.

The Horse Racing Immaculate (and Perhaps Surprising) Success Story

I read a story this morning about a whack of members of the Florida Marlins baseball team testing positive for COVID-19. Baseball season just started, and boom just like that we see a story placing it in peril.

This is nothing new, and no, we should not be surprised if baseball continues for their "season". I made a beef stew last week after months of meat packing plants being COVID-19 hotbeds; the stew was filled with delicious veggies from places like Florida, where one run of recent tests for farm workers produced positive rates of 40%. Our system is built to bring products and services to market and it tends to overcome the hiccups, eventually.

While most businesses have had a tough time navigating these virus inflicted waters, one business that has had relatively smooth sailing is this one - horse racing. Yes, this twenty-seven headed fiefdom, raise juice, 900 rules for 900 jurisdiction, protectionist, tend-to-do-the-wrong-thing-all-the-time horse racing.

When New Orleans coach Sean Payton tested positive for COVID in March at Oaklawn the doomers were in full force. But the meet was not doomed. It carried on, and was (by almost all counts) successful.

Not long ago, the Big A was planned to be used for tent hospitals; instead NYRA - in New York no less - has driven handle, a Saratoga meet, and delivered the shortened Belmont Stakes.

As for harness racing, last evening I played Grass Roots trotters from Rideau, glanced at Georgian; last week watched a thrilling Meadowlands Pace, and this coming fortnight will watch the Hambo, with gates open at 25% capacity.

Sure we've seen hiccups like a rider or driver testing positive (as is probably obvious with a highly infectious disease), but it didn't burn down the industry; it didn't stop moving forward. For me and you as stay at home horseplayers - if we're being completely frank - I bet we barely even notice a difference from July of last year.

Compare that to casinos, where for example Vegas is in trouble. There's a hell of a lot more incentive to get those slots and table games churning and being fed Benjamins, but alas, they can't seem to pull it off.

We all complain vociferously about the sport, and most of the time it gives us a lot of material to work with. But this time, all hail the Sport of Kings. Whether through serendipity, happenstance, shit luck, or precise planning, it has pulled off a real beauty.

Have a nice Monday.


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