SeaWorld opened a theme park in the Cleveland, Ohio-area suburb of Aurora in 1970 and permanently closed it in 2000.  The land on which the park was located was dormant until now, when it is about to be developed for residential and commercial use. 

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals recently sent a letter to Aurora City Council asking for permission to erect a memorial on the site to 10 dolphins that PETA alleges died prematurely at SeaWorld Ohio due to a variety of causes, such as systemic infection, lung disease, and gastrointestinal disease. (The city replied that it does not own the property.) PETA’s principal assertion is that dolphins were and still are mistreated.  Its letter read, in part: 

“While dolphins are no longer held captive at this location, at other SeaWorld parks across the country, 140 of them are squeezed into just seven small tanks, where they can’t escape attacks from other frustrated, aggressive dolphins.  They’re forcibly bred—sometimes after being drugged—and they’re used in cruel circus-style shows in which ‘trainers’ stand on their faces and ride on their backs like surfboards.”

A PETA spokeswoman referred to the former Ohio SeaWorld facility as an “abusement park.”  SeaWorld answered by labeling the quest for a memorial a “publicity stunt.”

Whenever a person resorts to an inflammatory term like “abusement park,” it immediately signals that having a rational conversation with the individual is unlikely, at least as the conversation pertains to a memorial to deceased dolphins or to animal-use ethics in civilized society.

The PETA website unambiguously reflects the creed underlying the PETA spokeswoman’s coarse choice of words:

“Animals are not ours to experiment on, eat, wear, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way.” 

Captured in this single sentence is PETA’s ambition to eliminate animal use for virtually any purpose, including, for example, livestock farming/ranching, feeding people, all forms of horse sports (hunting/jumping, dressage, racing, showing, etc.), crafting leather-made products like shoes, and advancing medical science.

Some of the most generous benefactors to equine and animal welfare organizations and efforts are deeply involved in horse sports, encompassing people who make monetary donations as well as caregivers.  Yet from reading the aforementioned PETA doctrine, the only logical conclusion can be that, in PETA’s interpretation, these folks are wittingly or unwittingly engaging in animal cruelty.  This is an extreme position and a highly inaccurate and insulting portrayal of many kind animal owners, trainers, and caretakers.

The vast majority of owners and trainers in horse racing (and other horse sports) acknowledge that substantive reforms are necessary to ensure better safety for human and equine athletes; incidents like the recent horse fatalities at Santa Anita are unacceptable. And the racing cohort has taken remedial actions, as acknowledged on PETA’s own website, and is pursuing others.

But, if you take PETA at its written word–that animal entertainment is in and of itself abusive–no amount of reform will suffice.  PETA’s desired end-result is the abolishment of all horse sports, of which racing is the most visible genre.

By contrast, the Humane Society of the United States works with equine participants to derive and implement humane initiatives.

Copyright © 2019 Horse Racing Business


Never had a Standardbred yearling been sold at auction for a million dollars, until October 1, 2019, at the Lexington (Kentucky) Selected Yearling Sale, held at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion.  On the opening night of the five-day auction, two trotting colts broke the barrier.

Maverick, by Father Patrick (career earnings, $2,558,133) and out of Designed To Be (career earnings, $656,166) brought $1.1 million.  The dam has produced two foals, Maverick and his full brother Greenshoe, who earned over $960,000.

Damien, by Muscle Hill (career earnings, $3,266,835) and out of Danae (career earnings, $529,099) went under the hammer for $1 million.  Damien is Danae’s seventh foal.  He is a full brother to the World Champion Propulsion (career earnings, $3 million) and a full sister to Dream Together (career earnings, $703,567).  His half sister D’Orsay earned $445,732. 

Overall, the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale shattered records, grossing over $46 million for 762 yearlings sold.  The average auction price was $60,997.  This was a 7.7% increase over 2018, when 702 yearlings sold for an average of $56,562.

In the wake of the New York Times story about 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify testing positive following the Santa Anita Derby, I wrote on September 12, 2019 about the eye-popping numbers coming from the Keeneland Yearling Sales of Thoroughbreds: “If the people buying horses at Keeneland are worried about the future of horse racing, their bidding behavior sure doesn’t show it.”  The same goes for the folks at the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale of Standardbreds.

The optimistic bidders could be wrong, but watching what people do with their money is usually more reliable than listening to perspectives from the media and critics.  The people betting large sums of money on totally unproven Thoroughbred and Standardbred yearlings seemingly are confident that horse racing has a good future.

Copyright © 2019 Horse Racing Business


Organized partnerships have brought countless new owners to the sport of horse racing and have resulted, most notably, in two Kentucky Derby winners, Animal House and Justify. High-profile syndicates receive considerable attention in the racing media, such as West Point Thoroughbreds’ purchase at auction in 2019 of a $2 million 2-year-old in training and a $1.5 million yearling.

At the opposite end of the partnership spectrum are two ventures for the masses, the Churchill Downs Racing Club, sponsored by the racetrack, and Empire Racing Club, sponsored by the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association. Both are chartered as not-for-profit 501 (c) (3) social clubs (and are not a federal-tax deduction). In the case of Empire Racing Club, for instance, in keeping with its non-profit legal status, any excess funds (earnings) will be distributed to a non-profit aftercare organization.

The Churchill Downs Racing Club debuted in 2016 with two groups of 200 people each, with a participation fee of $500 per individual and no additional assessments for horse care and training. Of the $100,000 raised from each group, about $50,000 was set aside to purchase a 2-year-old horse with the other $50,000 budgeted for expenses. D. Wayne Lukas selected and trained Warrior’s Club for one of the groups and the horse became a Grade 3 stakes winner with $856,504 in career earnings. The Churchill Downs Racing Club is sold out for 2019 and there is a wait list for 2020.

The Empire Racing Club launched in 2019 with former NYRA announcer Tom Durkin as the manager with the goal of 200 members paying $500 each plus $500 annually for expenses. The partnership is to lease a filly from Spendthrift Farm and have her trained by Todd Pletcher.

Churchill Downs reported that 60 of 700 members of the Churchill Downs Racing Clubs subsequently became owners in regular partnerships that have profit potential.

Copyright © 2019 Horse Racing Business