Every year, usually around the Triple Crown season, a writer or two pens a column on how horse racing is a dying sport. Racing, in fact, is often put into the same category as boxing.

Then the Kentucky Derby turns in outstanding attendance and handle figures and another dying-sport article does not appear for a while.

The boxing-is-dying thesis was put to the test last Saturday night in a junior middleweight championship fight.

According to ESPN, the match at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas between Floyd Mayweather Jr. (the winner) and Canelo Alvarez broke the previous all-time pay-per-view dollar record, attracting 2.2 million buys and grossing $150 million. The 2007 fight between Mayweather and Oscar De La Hoya attracted 2.48 million pay-per-view buys and $136 million (valued at $153 when adjusted to 2013 dollars).

Mayweather-Alvarez revenues from all sources (the live gate, merchandise etc.) topped $200 million. Mayweather’s cut is at least $41.5 million.

While horse racing and boxing are not what they were in their halcyon days, they are far from dead, but writing that they are evidently attracts readers.

Copyright ©2013 Horse Racing Business


  1. I agree Bill, when the word “dying” pervades every article the media writes about horse racing, people eventually buy into it and it becomes a self-fulfiling prophecy. Nobody wants to be part of something that is “dying” and is without a future. The fact of the matter is that it is contracting, there is no doubt about that. But this should be expected in light of the fact that horse racing, for a long time, was the only legal gambling option available; now, with the plethora of lotteries available, an increased number of casinos outide of Vegas, slots at tracks, and especially the endless number of gambling options on the internet, there is a ton of cheaply run gambling competition out there. Horse racing enjoyed a relatively gambling free environment for a long time, things have changed drastically, so some level of contraction is likely. Whether the contraction eventually finds a sustainable balance or contracts itself into extinction remains to be seen, but to call it “dying”, as with boxing facing increased competition from MMA, is a bit presumptuous.

  2. Horse racing has not evolved properly over the past 20 years. It is a given and proven fact that $$ is down in many areas of the industry and will continue to to fade as the “elder” do also.
    There are 1561 casinos in the USA and it is easier to press a button than handicap a race where there could be a 30% takeout. If an establishment is NOT tribal it needs a pari-mutal venue [usually] to obtain a “VLT” license and proceed from that point on. The horse racing industry is watered down with low talented horses at low end tracks running year round, IE:-Mountaineer-Charestown-Penn Presque-and so on. Another factor is the industry caters to a “low” end clientele which is uncomfortable for some. Mutuals funding is 72% below middle class. There is an old saying, where you find women, you will find a successful operation, :IE-Resturaunts-lounges-night clubs. Limited seasons like Saratoga, Del Mar and Keeneland produce quality racing with a high % of women and incomes. In the same breath Beuleah, Pimlico, Mountaineer, Northfield, Calder, and other class “B” tracks are a disgrace to the name “horse racing”. Even Aqueduct, Thistle, Delta, and most “OTB’S fall into this realm of being filthy, no personality, terrible food and more.
    I am a horse photog and have been all over the world [not bragging-no ego] and have seen the sport fall apart. There is more to do in 2013 than watch a bunch of cheap claimers run counter clockwise.


  3. Bill Shanklin says

    What you say about on-track is right on. That is why the future lies in racing at boutique meets and online. Poor food, rude pari-mutuel clerks etc. don’t matter online. Like you, I see a restructuring coming and the closing of some of the tracks you are referring to.