Monday, July 11, 2022

Horse Racing Needs Vibrant & Growing Populations & Economies

Chuck Simon has been on fire on the twitter lately, joining quite a few discussions, two of which involve numbers. That's something we like here in the blog, and two of these discussions work nicely together, in my view. 

First, in response to a poll question about 'what sport an average Joe or Jane has the best shot at competing with a pro', Chuck chose tennis. He wasn't looking at opinion or the qualitative, it was about populations and math. 

I think that's the right way to look at it. If you take a 5'4" woman, or 5'7" man, there is a chance they can excel at tennis, because the sport is wide open to many populations. Shorter than average women, and men, have won myriad tennis tournaments over the years. They just have to be good at their craft, not special or an extreme outlier like a Wes Welker or Mugssy Bogues. 

It's just numbers. 

Meanwhile, back at the horse racing ranch, there is an intense discussion about contraction of the sport and Chuck was again front and center. 

The contraction argument has been around forever, driven mostly by us, the bettor. Field sizes have fallen, and five horse fields makes for a terrible betting product at 20% juice. We lament slot tracks taking entries that should be raced at high handle tracks to make for a better product. We abhor it all. 

But fewer horses, as Chuck alludes, means less of a horse population to draw from, less capital investment, fewer owners and lower supply, and in turn, fewer points of supply (racetracks will close).

The sport worries about slots cancellations. The quickest way to eliminate slots in Ohio or Pennsylvania is to contract race dates and make residents race somewhere else. Slots will go away if pols see no one is racing and breeding in their backyard. 

When we think purely about the math, how is that possibly a good thing?

Even the intra-population issues in the sport are a big red flag. 

We complain about short fields in stakes, and the horses owned by few people. Some people even want fewer Graded Stakes. That in itself is a problem, even to suppliers. 

Chad Brown has 3 of 5 horses in a stakes race for $400,000 and they are all 2-1, with the other two (sorry, people) owners at 20-1. The purse for one of the horses and owners, if he wins, is $400,000. For the second Brown owner, who is racing for 20% in second money, is really racing for a purse one third of owner one. The third Brown owner is racing for a purse 1/6th of the winning owner. 

It's not a $400,000 stakes race, it's much less. It's just a purse cut. They don't want this kind of thing either. 

I read a book recently where the economist author said the most important thing for governments to do is to foster economic growth, and he supplied countless examples of its merit. When you grow you have more money for education and health care and technology changes and fighting things like poverty or climate change. 

In my view, closing racetracks can never be considered growth. Closing racetracks is just admitting defeat. 

Have a great Monday everyone. 

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