Archives for July 2013


Forbes magazine recently pointed out the heavy toll that cable television channels, the Internet, and DVRs have taken on the primary American TV networks: “There has been a 50% collapse in broadcast TV audience ratings since 2002; programs that once easily pulled 15 to 25 million viewers now see 12 million or fewer.”

Whereas network television has been losing viewers in the 21st century, the Triple Crown telecasts have generally held steady. Over the past decade, the average audience size for the Kentucky Derby was14.7 million viewers. The largest number of people watched in 2009 (16.1 million), 2010 (16.5 million) and 2013 (16.2 million). The 2010 Derby attracted the most viewers since the Sunday Silence/Easy Goer race in 1989.

Since 2004, the Preakness has averaged 9.32 million viewers, approaching the 9.7 million who watched Oxbow win the 2013 race. The biggest TV audiences came in years when a particular colt or filly caught the public’s fancy: Smarty Jones in 2004 (11.6 million viewers), Barbaro in 2006 (10.1 million), and Rachel Alexandra in 2009 (10.9 million).

The popularity of the Belmont on television predictably has depended on the prospects for a Triple Crown winner. Hence in the past 10 years, the largest audiences were in 2004 (21.9 million) and 2008 (13.1 million). The average viewership since 2004 for the race portion of the telecast was 8.54 million.

Aggressive promotion by NBC and its affiliates in the weeks leading up to the races, particularly the Kentucky Derby, has been a boon. NBC’s Kentucky Derby telecasts from 2001-2013 averaged 2.3 million more viewers than the ABC telecasts over the preceding 12 years.

Copyright © 2013 Horse Racing Business


Bartholomew “Bat” Masterson (aka William Barclay Masterson) gained fame as a lawman on the wild and wooly American Western frontier, albeit he was born (probably in 1853) in Henryville, Quebec, Canada, but raised mostly in Kansas on a farm.

As a young adult, Masterson was a gambler, buffalo hunter, Army scout, saloonkeeper, and lawman. In Dodge City, Kansas and Tombstone, Arizona, Masterson became a close friend of Wyatt Earp, who is arguably the most recognized lawman of the old American West, owing to 19th century dime novels, the 1955-1961 television series The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp (starring Hugh O’Brian), and a couple of full-length movies. Like Earp, Masterson also had two brothers who were lawmen in Dodge City.

Masterson’s first shootout occurred in 1876 in Sweetwater (Wheeler County), Texas, and his last shootout was in 1881 in Tombstone, Arizona. Masterson was not the pure hero depicted by most writers, as his activities included being on both sides of the law at various times. Masterson reportedly killed at least a dozen men in gunfights, but he never confirmed that number.

From 1905-1907, Masterson was a deputy U. S. marshal in southern New York state, appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt. Subsequently, he took up a career as a writer and eventually became a columnist and the sports editor for the daily New York Morning Telegraph, which was founded in 1897. Masterson died at his desk of a heart attack in 1921.

The New York Morning Telegraph billed itself as “America’s Oldest Authority on Motion Pictures, Theatre, and Turf.” In 1971, The Morning Telegraph became the Eastern Edition of the Daily Racing Form.

From 1958-1961, Gene Barry played Masterson in the television series Bat Masterson. He was also depicted in movies by actors Randolph Scott, George Montgomery, Joel McCrea, and Tom Sizemore.

The prominent names that one associates with the Morning Telegraph or the Daily Racing Form include Charles Hatton, Joe Hirsch, Steve Crist, and others. They are all descendants, so to speak, of a renowned larger-than-life character from the Old West turned sports writer.

Copyright © 2013 Horse Racing Business


Begin with the main ingredient of a Kentucky-born colt, Never Say Die, whose name derived from the oddity that his life was saved at birth by a shot of bourbon. Three years later he shocked the racing world, particularly in Europe, by winning the 1954 Epsom Derby at odds of 33-1.

Sprinkle in the Beatles, several Aga Khans, the best jockey in contemporary British turf history, a Bluegrass horse breeder from a prominent Pittsburgh industrial family whose fortunes went south, two founders of the Singer Sewing Machine Company, one a conventional businessman and the other an engineer in his professional life and a bigamist in his personal life. This eclectic mix is a recipe for a fascinating historical journey.

Adding to the intrigue is that an heir to the Singer fortune, and Never Say Die’s owner and breeder, was accused of participating in a scheme to overthrow an American president, and not at the ballot box.

Author James C. Nicholson, Ph. D., the grandson of one of the main characters in his book, has meticulously researched the circumstances surrounding Never Say Die’s improbable victory in the Epsom Derby. What he found made for a story that goes well beyond a mundane biography of a horse.

Dr. Nicholson’s thesis is that the victory was critical to launching the “rise of the modern [international] Thoroughbred industry,” which continues to this day with the dominance of the Ireland-based Coolmore and the Dubai-based Darley.

The foreword to the book is written by the original drummer in the Beatles, Pete Best, who was eventually fired and replaced by a fellow named Ringo Starr. Best’s mother wagered most of what she had on Never Say Die in the Epsom Derby.

James C. Nicholson, Never Say Die, The University Press of Kentucky, 2013. His previous book, with the same publisher, was The Kentucky Derby, 2012.

Copyright © 2013 Horse Racing Business