Friday, May 8, 2020

Before Long I Expect They'll Be Begging for Horses to Race, Perhaps More than Ever

I have a lot of fun with my pal Greg on the twitter, when, with his team up by an insurmountable lead late in the 4th quarter, he'll tweet "oh my, we're going to blow this", after a second down run for no gain. His twitter-sports team pessimism is the stuff of legend; so much so he even added it to his twitter bio.

But, doom and gloom isn't always a bug, it can be a feature. And it appears we have that about now with the economy, don't we? Jobless rates are skying, and leaving aside the altitudinous equity markets, forward looking bond markets are not complying.

We're learning that 'switching off' some things that are not meant to be shut down, and can't restart the way some seem to think they can (some blue checks on twitter surely need to take a course), is wreaking some havoc. When we add aggregate demand to the equation, it's even worse. It's not pretty out there.

As this next narrative takes hold, the question is moving from searching every nick and cranny of an economy to shut it down, to begging to find areas that can safely open up. And, increasingly this is a tough question. You can shut a steel plant off, but turning it on is difficult. The same goes for a hundred other industries. Even service industries like restaurants - because of demand - are not suited for it, as we are becoming painfully aware.

My theory is, governments will be faced with a question - what businesses are turn-key? What can we allow to happen with minimal risk, that will immediately jolt a vertical? What can we place X into, that quickly returns X+? What business is easiest to get going?

That, I think, fits the racing business to a "t".

Horse racing is turn-key. You can probably race your horse next week, at a track near you. With this agri-sector doing business, tens of thousands are back at work almost immediately. The hay is delivered, the farriers are earning paychecks, the trucks are fuelled for shipping. This is, after all, a labor intensive sport. And there is built in demand for the product.

I understand completely the loss of slots, and cash-strapped governments, and what handle gives to purses. But I think that may be overblown, the more and more I look at these other verticals and industries. Governments north and south of the border are begging for an industry like this, and have already been focusing on the agri-business (Lib's in Canada announced a massive new subsidy; Trump is sending a pile to farmers in the US). "Turning horse racing on" seems like a complete no-brainer to me. It's easy, relatively safe, and from an economics multiplier perspective, valuable to the economy.

The future is messy and difficult to predict. But I believe as governments grapple with economic loss they will be seeking low hanging fruit. I think horse racing is positioned perfectly to take advantage of it.

Have a nice Friday everyone.

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