Horse Racing Commentary: Thursday Thoughts

Mike Stobe

Maybe Belmont’s Pick 6 will carry over again today. Then I’ll have to play it, if only to have a glimmer of hope, or at least hold onto that glimmer until the first race finishes.

Did anyone else notice that the Paulick Report seems to be a tad bit more forthcoming and deliberate with the fact that 90% of their stories are just paraphrasing of another site's material recently? Well, on to my ranting.

Subsidizing Success(es)

In what seems like a semi-annual occurrence, some state makes some semi serious claims as to the productivity of casino or slots income augmenting racing purses. While the, "why do horses deserve these subsidies over any other industry" argument does in fact hold water (despite my obvious biases, the egalitarian/libertarian economic argument of this does ring true), the issue is usually not framed correctly. Typically, the focus rests on the augmentation of purses and in the case of Pennsylvania in the quoted Philly.com article (who are hiring Eagles bloggers left and right, including the great Jimmy Kempski from SBNation's own Bleedinggreennation.com) it is no different:

"Last year, Parx became the first track outside the Breeders' Cup to offer two $1 million races during one event, although not one Pennsylvania-based horse placed in any of the three stakes races that day. In fact, the entire $2.3 million in stakes money was won by non-Pennsylvania owners."

That point is completely invalid. It is not a loss to the state, the tracks, nor the horsemen when non-state or foreign national interests win races. In fact, the event should be considered a grand victory when you draw large enough connections to race in your state. Especially one that considered its racing program to be on par with a "AA" level of competition. But most importantly, they paid taxes on those winnings, they paid trainers, and saddling fees, and bought feed, and paid a van driver, and paid the tolls on the PA Turnpike, and rented hotel rooms, and bought gas, and PARX ACTUALLY GETS PUBLICITY WHICH IN TURN LEADS TO MORE BETTORS, LARGER HANDLE, LARGER TAKE, AND AN INCREASE IN THE BUSINESS OF HORSE RACING. Racing is just the tip of a great iceberg, with trainers, grooms, vets, track employees, handicappers, turf writers, breeders, farriers, feed mills, farmers, et al involved in the operations of the sport.

Racing, unlike many professional sports where there is a tiny core of parties with a direct stake in the profit of the team/sport (how many people directly benefit from the 76ers, for instance? 12 players, 10 coaches, 100 front office personnel, 1000 stadium/parking workers [which are part time jobs]?), has tendrils that extend from the winning connections all the way through the equi-culturalists that breed the horses and includes the 100 smaller industries in between. That state subsidy allocated money, if truly and honestly dedicated to improving the state-bred program can lure thousands of jobs and millions of dollars to any state both through an increase in the quality of racing and through the funding of breeder incentives. That's certainly better than Jeffrey Loria stealing millions from Miami for a purposely substandard product that only a few thousand a day actually enjoy.

Cheaters gonna Cheat

JP quite effectively bashed *alleged* cheaters earlier this year, so I will be brief. I made this point before, but I really do think we could clean up much of the issues by targeting those with the most to lose: Veterinarians. First violation with a controlled substance on horse you treat leads to a hefty fine. Second violation is suspension. Third violation means you lose your license to practice medicine. This is not enforced by the state racing commissions, but instead via the American Veterinary Medical Association. Those censures really mean something. It won't solve the problem, but it certainly would avoid many of the situations like the Jane Cibelli issue down at Tampa Bay Downs.

Rosie Down with KY Downs

After a rough Saratoga meet, Rosie moved her tack from the NYRA circuit west to Kentucky. Seems she's having her share of successes again, seeing that she won 5 races on the September 18th card at Kentucky Downs. NYRA's a tough nut to crack with the jock colony being composed of most of the great riders in the country. I honestly still believe that Rosie is one of the best 3 jocks in the country though, with Joel Rosario and Javier Castellano right there with her. And with all due respect for Gary Stevens, I'll give the edge to the younger riders here. I mean name a bad ride Rosie's put in.

Roids Not the Rage Down Under

I wish the US had the ability to effectively monitor all thoroughbreds in training to ensure that trainers are not using and abusing performance enhancers while not on track. Australia just joined Europe with a complete ban on anabolic steroids, and I applaud them. However, Australia faces a far less daunting task of national random testing than does the United States. Their foal crop is smaller (15,000 in AUS versus 23,000 in US), the country is smaller (although not by that much), their arable land is a smaller percentage than is ours (6% in Australia while in the US it is a whopping 18%), and they don't encounter the jurisdictional issues that we do.  But good on the Aussies.

TruthNicks?

In conclusion, just wanted to link to this old article about how TrueNicks works and trying to dispel some of the myths about the system. Best quote:

"Note that 30% of the Thoroughbred population that rate B or better (B to A++) account for 77% of all stakes winners - of which horses rated B or B+ account for 40%! It's clear that a TrueNicks B rating holds quite a bit of promise, especially where the mating has resulted in several high class horses."

Eh, I just like to actually look at the stakes winners on the cross. I think that gives me a better perspective than the A++++++++ or the 744% rating of the Nick.

Once the sale wraps up, I'll take a look at all of the numbers, but it looks like it will finish up blowing 2012 completely out of the water in every major statistical category. I expect RNAs to be a touch higher than expected, with connections seeing the uptick and trying to capitalize on a strengthening market.

Ok, that's my two cents.

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