From the standpoint of key business metrics, the 2019 two-day Breeders’ Cup event was a success.  However, post-event indicators—the average and median sale prices at yesterday’s Fasig-Tipton November Sale–may reflect bloodstock buyers’ dampened optimism about American racing’s future in the wake of so many high-profile horse fatalities. 

The most important measure of performance, betting handle, increased for the Breeders’ Cup by a robust 10.5% over 2018.  All-sources handle exceeded $174 million.

Announced attendance was 41,243 for the Friday card and 67,811 for Saturday.  Announced attendance for sporting events may differ from actual attendance, as event executives tend to count liberally.

The television result for the Breeders’ Cup finale, the Classic, was consistent with past years.  The TV rating for the 8-9 PM (in the eastern U. S. time zone) program was 0.3, which equates to 2.08 million viewers.  The Breeders’ Cup has an almost impossible task in driving up television ratings because college football season is in full swing.  The college football telecasts that were opposite the Breeders’ Cup telecast on network TV (as opposed to cable) drew ratings of 0.7 and 0.8.

Three days after the Saturday Breeders’ Cup, the Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner, Blue Prize, sold at the Fasig-Tipton November Sale for $5 million and the Turf Sprint winner, Belvoir Bay, sold for $1.5 million, both as broodmare prospects.  At the sale, a weanling sold for $750,000.

While these figures demonstrate some buyers’ optimism, the overall sale results were markedly down from 2018.  The average sale price was $531,336, a decline of 16.9% from 2018, and the median price was $300,000, a decrease of 8.4% from 2018.

One can’t read too much into a one-year drop in sale prices, as a number of factors could have accounted for the declines.  It could be that the quality of horses offered was not nearly as good in 2019 as in 2018.  Yet it makes one wonder if the withering criticism that American horse racing has come under in 2019, reinforced by the Mongolian Groom breakdown in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, had an effect on buyers’ expectations for the industry.  In a buoyant economy (with stock market prices at all-time highs, record-low unemployment, increases in real wages, and tepid inflation), a 16.9% fall off in the average sale price does not comport with what would be expected.

Copyright © 2019 Horse Racing Business