Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Back to the Track

Almost daily we're seeing more and more tracks open, or be given a firm start date. Barring anything too crazy from here on out, you and I will be betting and those who work in the industry will be racing at near normal numbers.

I've seen a few posts or thoughts that maybe, just maybe, we'll also be able to go to the races soon; back to enjoy the racetrack setting and the camaraderie and the sights and smells. Leading with the immutable fact that other than staying at Holiday Inn Express last night I don't know much, this seems problematic.

A WSJ article today talked about "superspreader events" for this virus, and it made for a compelling case. Scientists believe that enclosed events where many people are in close contact for a long period of time - soccer matches, large parties and yes, they specifically mention horse races - are very detrimental to beating the virus.

As time marches on we gain knowledge, and rather than earlier where people were spreading sometimes insane information that was begging to be discounted, things are definitely getting better. And on this point, according again to people who are smart (and not overly political), it just seems right, doesn't it?

If this view is indeed correct, it is highly probable the Breeders' Cup, or the Derby, the Jug, or various racing events that do draw large crowds, might not even have a limited entry attached to them for this year.

From a revenue perspective, fortunately - other than the Derby (where the day is huge in terms of seat sales etc) and to a lesser extent the BC - on-track crowds really don't add a whole lot to the overall bottom line of this sport. It depends more on you and I buying horses and betting them. For that we don't have to be at the track, we can simply watch like most of us always do, from afar.

The sport is set up pretty well from the distribution side where it can be delivered with barely a hiccup and with only a slight increase in cost. In many ways, its distribution is near recession proof and that's a very good thing. 

Regardless, I can't help but think of my trip to Mountaineer several years ago for an evening at the races (it's actually a decent place if you have not been, the hotel is great and it's a mere walk to the track). When I walked in the grandstand I immediately said to myself "where is everyone?". I dodged some construction apparatus and strolled to the tarmac where me, two barn cats and a groom watched the first. It was an odd experience.

To think that same experience might happen this summer at Saratoga, or on Derby and Preakness Day is hard to get my head around. But by the looks of it, it could be a new reality for this year at least.

Have a nice Wednesday everyone.

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