AVID RACING FANS LOOK FORWARD TO THE “DOG DAYS OF SUMMER”

Ancient Romans referred to the sultry days of summer as dog days; they associated hot and humid with the “Dog Star” Sirius, the brightest star in the constellation. While July and August in the United States can be sweltering, ardent fans of horse racing see the two months as a time to delight in the best array of races of the entire year.

The main attractions are east and west, at Saratoga Race Course in upstate New York and Del Mar near San Diego, California. Daily cards at these venerable tracks offer bettors (as well as people who just want to watch) one competitive race after another to wager on. To illustrate, The Whitney last Saturday at Saratoga set a record for the amount of money wagered and the winner of the race, 4-year-old McKinsey, trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, became the early favorite in the Breeders’ Cup entries for the Classic at Santa Anita on November 1st and 2nd.

The winner of the Travers, the “Mid-Summer” Derby, at Saratoga on August 24, 2019, will also be likely to be pointed to the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Omaha Beach, the 2019 Kentucky Derby favorite who was scratched after suffering an entrapped epiglottis, is reportedly training sensationally for the August 25th Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar. If the colt stays healthy, he will join the cast of serious contenders in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Saratoga and Del Mar get most of the attention, but other racetracks have some premier events–notably, the Haskell at Monmouth Park and the Arlington Million at Arlington Park in Chicago. The Grade 3 “summer” derbies in Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, and West Virginia make for some interesting match-ups. Mr. Money easily won the West Virginia Derby Saturday for his fourth-straight Grade 3 win, and appears capable of moving up to Grade 1 company.

Monmouth Park on the New Jersey shore in Oceanport has been around almost as long as Saratoga Race Course and offers racing fans a welcoming summer ambiance and competitive races to watch and bet on. Monmouth Park’s long and storied history dates back to July 30, 1870, when the track opened. In its early days, Monmouth had such high-quality racing that it was known informally as the “Newmarket of America,” which was a reference to the renowned original home of horse racing in England, Newmarket Race Course. Over the years, Monmouth Park experienced financial ups and downs and today is operated by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which purchased the track in 1986.

In addition to Del Mar and Saratoga, far less publicized racetracks in cities throughout the USA are places for fans to spend a relaxing hot and humid day or night while non-racing fans are left to complain about the Dog Days of Summer.

Copyright © 2019 Horse Racing Business

PURSUING A BRITISH-LIKE REGULATORY PROTOCOL IN THE UNITED STATES

The principal difference between how racing is regulated in the United States and Great Britain is decentralization in the former and centralization in the latter. In America, regulatory authority rests with the individual states, whereas in Great Britain all of the racecourses are under the regulatory jurisdiction of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA). As a result, there is much more uniformity of rules, regulations, and policing in Great Britain.

The Jockey Club controlled English racing from the 19th century until 2006, when the British Horseracing Regulatory Authority took over governance. In 2007, the British Horseracing Authority was founded with the merger of the British Horseracing Regulatory Authority and the British Horseracing Board.

The BHA states that it “aims to represent and promote the best interests of racing with one clear voice.” It performs a variety of functions, such as licensing, leading on health and welfare of humans and horses, regulating racecourses including medication use, race scheduling among the 58 licensed racecourses in Great Britain, and promotion of the sport.

Since ceding regulatory matters to the BHA, the Jockey Club focuses on promoting racing and welfare of horses and humans. It owns 15 racecourses, which encompasses such premier facilities as Newmarket, Epsom Downs, Cheltenham, and Aintree. It also owns The National Stud and the Jockey Club Estates at Newmarket.

Between the BHA and the Jockey Club, there is a unified force to promote and regulate horse racing.

The Horseracing Integrity Act of 2019 in the United States Congress is an attempt to copy an important element of the British system by centralizing medication oversight. It reads in part:

“This bill establishes the Horseracing Anti-Doping and Medication Control Authority as an independent, private non-profit corporation with responsibility for developing and administering an anti-doping and medication control program for (1) Thoroughbred, Quarter, and Standardbred horses that participate in horse races; and (2) the personnel engaged in the care, training, or racing of such horses.

The Federal Trade Commission shall have oversight over the authority. An interstate compact may be established after five years to take over the authority’s duties.”

Because most of the top racetracks in the United States are owned by NYRA, Churchill Downs, and the Stronach Group, the United States could achieve some of the centralization of the BHA if the three entities were to join forces on regulation. While antitrust law would prevent any attempt to coordinate business strategies and tactics, the racetrack organizations would almost surely be permitted to cooperate on safety and welfare matters.

In the highly likely event that the Horseracing Integrity Act fails to become law (only 4 percent of bills actually become laws), cooperation among the racetracks is about as close as governance of American racing is going to get to the British system. If Penn National, Keeneland, and Del Mar were to join NYRA, Churchill Downs, and the Stronach Group, a significant number of racetracks in the United States would be in the compact. The tracks would have to cope with state regulatory authorities, but that is not an impossible task.

Meanwhile, the Jockey Club could continue its invaluable efforts to promote racing via the empirically-based intitatives recommended by McKinsey & Company, such as scheduling of grades stakes races among racetracks to optimize betting handle .

Copyright © 2019 Horse Racing Business

STRINGENT SAFETY MEAURES FOR THE 2019 DEL MAR MEET

The 2019 race meet at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club started last week under inordinate public scrutiny owing to the recent rash of horse fatalities at Santa Anita in Los Angeles. In 2016, Del Mar also attracted unusual media attention over the 17 horses that died during the meet. Last year, Del Mar experienced six horse fatalities and had five in 2017. Much better by comparison to 2016, but still an unacceptable number of fatalities.

According to an article by Chris Jennewein in the Times of San Diego, Del Mar took remedial action once the 2016 season was over:

“…Del Mar remade its dirt track in both banking and composition with the help of former track superintendent and consultant Dennis Moore. Del Mar also found ways to test the track’s surface using impact-gauging technology designed by Michael Peterson, a professor at the University of Maine and the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory.

Along the dirt track’s backstretch, Del Mar installed a radiology and ultrasound facility for immediate testing of possible injuries. In addition, Del Mar instituted four separate veterinarian inspections on the day of a race for each horse, ensuring that they are in peak racing condition.”

Now, for the 2019 meet, the California Horse Racing Board has reportedly retained the services of five veterinarians and experts in horse safety to evaluate every entry at Del Mar with the authority to scratch a horse they believe is at-risk and should not run. Del Mar has also instituted the most demanding international standards on therapeutic medications, increased random medication testing, and added security staff in the stable areas. Lastly, more veterinarians have been retained to supervise morning training.

Conceptually, Del Mar deserves high marks for its preventive measures. At the end of the 2019 meet, the number of horse fatalities will provide empirical evidence of the efficacy of the processes.

Copyright © 2019 Horse Racing Business