TOWARD VASTLY REDUCING U. S. HORSE FATALITIES IN RACING AND TRAINING

The British Horseracing Authority in January released horse fatality statistics for 2019.  The five-year rolling average fatality rate is at an historic low.  In 2019, in British racing there were 173 fatal injuries from 91,937 runners for a rate of 0.19%.

Compared to North American racing, British racing is safer by a wide margin.  This indicates that a vast reduction in the number of North American horse fatalities is achievable. 

If one were to build a statistical model with the objective being to identify the factors and their respective importance in explaining annual horse fatalities on American racetracks, several predictor or independent variables would no doubt be of importance, starting with track surface.  The Jockey Club Equine Injury Database has demonstrated that synthetic surfaces are safest, then turf, and lastly dirt.  Put concisely, whenever a dirt racetrack is replaced with a synthetic surface, the fatal injuries will decline.  It is not a coincidence that the vast majority of British races are run on turf.

Other factors would almost certainly include medication policies, prerace veterinary inspection, training methods, and possibly excessive inbreeding. Perhaps even modifying the claiming rule that ownership changes as soon as the gate opens to after the race is over might have a salutary effect.

The Jockey Club and several racetracks, including Churchill Downs and the much-maligned Santa Anita, have recently advanced the cause of safety through initiatives that pertain to some of the aforementioned causal variables.  On the other hand, racetracks in the United States have mostly refused to install the safer synthetic surface that has been proven to mitigate horse fatalities.

The hypothesis here is that widespread adoption of synthetic surfaces, more turf races as a percentage of total races run, standardized medication policy across racing jurisdictions and centralized enforcement authority, and modification of when a claimed horse changes hands, would be a multifaceted approach that would significantly reduce horse fatalities at U. S. racetracks.

Copyright © 2020 Horse Racing Business

THE AINTREE GRAND NATIONAL IS COMING UP ON APRIL 4, 2020

Tiger Roll assigned top weight for the Grand National

The formidable Tiger Roll will have to overcome weight of 11 st. 10 lbs. (164 lbs.) if he is to record an unprecedented hat-trick of three consecutive wins in the Aintree Grand National. Tiger Roll’s owner, Gigginstown House Stud, has warned that the stable’s star chaser will not run if it believes the gelding has been unfairly treated in terms of weight.  The 10-year-old Tiger Roll has been raised 11 lbs. in the official ratings but will be carrying just 5 pounds more than last year.

Once the dust has settled, it seems almost certain that Tiger Roll will run on April 4.   He finally reappeared on track over hurdles at Navan in February, racing keenly until tiring in the closing stages to finish fifth. Yet trainer Gordon Elliott was delighted with that run, considering it to be a prep for the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham, which he will try to win for a third straight year.  If all goes to plan, Tiger Roll will certainly start as the favorite in his quest to become the first horse in history to achieve a three-peat in the Country Chase.  His 2019 win was by an easy 22 lengths.

Gigginstown House Stud also entered Delta Work in the Grand National, who it believes has a realistic chance to win the 2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup on March 13.   Delta Work has been allotted the same weight as Tiger Roll.

Magic Of Light up 7 lbs. from last year

2019 Grand National runner-up Magic Of Light and fourth-placed Walk In The Mill have been raised 7 lbs. and 6 lbs., respectively, for the 2020 race.

Magic Of Light, a 9-year-old mare, made a costly mistake at the final fence in the 2019 Grand National, so she has a shot at turning the tables on Tiger Roll.  The last mare to win the race was Nickel Coin way back in 1951. Magic of Light has already won at Newbury and Ascot this year.

A recent run over hurdles has kept Robert Walford’s Walk in the Mill on track for Aintree.  Walk in the Mill’s prospects were covered in late January by HorseRacingBusiness.com. A recent run over hurdles has kept the gelding on schedule for Aintree.

Multiple factors go into finding the ideal bet for the Grand National. To assist in handicapping the race, the Grand National Guide provides extensive analysis and betting trends as well as best bets. Last year, the Guide forecast two placed horses from four headline selections and the experts will once again be doing their homework to predict the 2020 Grand National winner.

Burrows Saint a strong tip from Ireland

Stamina is certainly a key factor in finding the Grand National winner and there is no better trial than the Irish Grand National.  Willie Mullins sent out Burrows Saint to win the race last year and a repeat has been his target ever since.  The horse is now 12 lbs. higher but is only seven years of age so could still be improving. Mullins’ entries finished 1-2-3 in the 2019 Irish Grand National.

Another to watch is Potters Corner, who stayed on to win the Welsh Grand National in heavy ground in December.  Trainer Christian Williams believes his horse can be effective on faster ground but the more rain the better for his supporters. Williams rode Royal Auclair to finish second in the 2005 Grand National so a victory as a trainer would be a significant addition to his resume.

Grand National betting is hugely popular in the United Kingdom and bookmakers will be offering special enhanced terms for the big race. These can include each-way betting down to sixth or even seventh place. If a bettor places an ante-post wager on the Grand National, he or she should make sure that the bookmaker is offering the “Non-Runner/No Bet” guarantee.  This ensures that if the horse wagered on is withdrawn for any reason, the bettor will be reimbursed.

Copyright © 2020 Horse Racing Business

IS THE HORSERACING INTEGRITY ACT WORTH PASSAGE INTO LAW?

The “shot heard round the world” was the name given to arguably the most famous home run in baseball history.  Coming in the bottom of the ninth inning with one out, the New York Giants Bobby Thomson hit a 3-run blast to beat the Brooklyn Dodgers in a 1951 pennant playoff game at the Polo Grounds and sent his team to the World Series.  Herman Franks, a Giants coach in 1951, claimed on his deathbed that he was stealing the Dodgers catcher’s signs with a telescope in center field and Thomson was tipped off on what pitches were coming. 

Whether Thomson was the beneficiary of sign stealing is likely, but debatable. What happened in the 2017 World Series is not in question: one of the biggest scandals in baseball history.  Alex Cora, Carlos Beltran, A. J. Hinch, and Jeff Luhnow, all of whom were part of the Houston Astros organization in 2017, were fired for their role in an elaborate sign-stealing scheme, which helped the Astros to win playoff games and to defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series.  (When the cheating became public in 2019, Cora lost his job as the manager of the Boston Red Sox, Beltran was terminated as manager of the New York Mets, and Hinch (manager) and Luhnow (general manager) were suspended and then fired by the Astros.)

As periodic incidents in Major League Baseball, cycling, track and field, and other sports have demonstrated, some athletes will cheat to win.  Horse racing has had its share of high-profile scandals, from rigging of the betting system in the 2002 Breeders’ Cup Pick-6 to medication disqualifications, including in the 1968 Kentucky Derby. 

Having a fault-free sport is an ideal objective that can never be attained in practice.  Somebody, somehow will find a way to game the system.  Nonetheless, especially in a sport like horse racing that depends on wagering, fans must be confident that rigorous procedures are in place to detect and punish rules violations.  People involved in the racing industry would widely agree with this assertion.  The divergence of opinion occurs when it comes to how to police the industry.  One camp believes that federal legislation is needed to replace the hodgepodge of state regulations pertaining to medication, whereas another group, for various reasons, is opposed to a centralized bureaucracy, citing, for example, that a central authority did not prevent cheating by, say, the Houston Astros or Lance Armstrong in cycling.

A federally-mandated organization to regulate medication (i.e. the Horseracing Anti-Doping and Medication Control Authority)  would not be a panacea.  The question is whether it would be a significant improvement over the status quo, a time in which racing’s image among the general public has been badly tarnished.   With American pari-mutuel wagering in secular decline, and the sport under attack, the federally-mandated option seems worth the risk.

Copyright © 2020 Horse Racing Business