Archives for January 2015

ECLIPSE AWARDS 2014 HIGHLIGHTS

The Eclipse Award for 2014 Horse of the Year went to California Chrome, a modestly bred colt owned by people who have to work for a living.  The final vote from the members of the Daily Racing Form, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters was a landslide win for California Chrome.  The first four top vote getters were:  California Chrome, 143 votes; Main Sequence, 53; Bayern 36; and Shared Belief, 12.

The Horse Racing Business post of December 26, 2014, was titled “2014 American Horse of the Year by the Numbers” (available in the archives).  I used a point system to predict 2014 Horse of the Year that I developed in 2010 to evaluate the hotly debated Horse of the Year contest between Zenyatta and Blame (the point system correctly predicted that Zenyatta would win).  The value of a point system is that it removes emotion and also gives equal weight to what a horse has done all year, thereby eliminating the psychological tendency of recency bias, wherein the most recent information is given more weight.

Following is a verbatim quote from the December 14 post:

“…point totals for 2014 HOY are:

California Chrome = 110 points (including wins in four G1 races and over two different types of surfaces in G1 races)

Main Sequence = 100 points (including four G1 races and a win in the Breeders’ Cup Turf)

Shared Belief = 95 points (including four G1 races and only one career loss)

Bayern = 90 points (including two G1 races and a win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic)”

It is gratifying to see that the voters in the aggregate made almost the same exact rankings.

Now, getting into the area of pure opinion rather than numbers, I thought that the Eclipse Awards webcast was very well done.  Jeannine Edwards did a smooth job as master of ceremonies, like the television professional she is, and the Gulfstream Park setting made for a germane and stylish backdrop.

Especially appropriate was the presentation of an Eclipse Award to Jose Arias for being the 2014 Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association Handicapper of the Year.  As Steve Crist of the Daily Racing Form said in his introduction, folks like Mr. Arias make the entire horse racing industry a viable commercial endeavor.

As a columnist for Blood-Horse, I was particularly pleased to see writers for the magazine win two Eclipse Awards in the media category.

The vast majority of people are not likely to watch an awards broadcast from start to end, and the Eclipse Awards webcast made it easy for a viewer to drop in and out.

Copyright © 2015 Horse Racing Business

THE RUSH TO JUDGMENT ON STEVE ASMUSSEN

On March 18, 2014, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) received a letter from the organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) that requested an investigation into the alleged misconduct (during the period April 2013 through July 2013) by trainer Steve Asmussen, his assistant Scott Blasi, and KDE Equine.  The charges were basically of animal cruelty and the illegal administration of a prescription drug to a horse.   PETA also asked for an investigation into whether prominent trainer D. Wayne Lukas and jockeys Calvin Borel, Ricardo Santana Jr., and Gary Stevens may have possessed or used an electrical device on racehorses, or knew of someone who did.

After an exhaustive review by the KHRC (encompassing a detailed examination of each of PETA’s allegations), on January 15, 2015, the KHRC stated that no evidence was found of rules violations by any of the named parties.

Further, the KHRC said that even though PETA requested the inquiry, it would not give the Commission access to PETA’s 285 page report and seven hours of video.  Rather, PETA supplied several photographs and videos lasting about 22 minutes.   The KHRC stated:  “The videos are extensively edited and audio has been overdubbed.  PETA presented conversations out of context and contrary to the substance of the conversation as a whole.”

(Click here for the KHRC website and then select the appropriate link to see the complete report.)

Based on the PETA allegations alone, with no due process, consider what transpired:  The National Museum of Racing & Hall of Fame removed Mr. Asmussen’s name from the Hall of Fame ballot for 2014 and at least one owner with lots of horses fired him as a trainer.  Mr. Blasi’s employment was terminated.  The Kentucky Derby telecast was marred by terrible publicity when NBC sports anchor Bob Costas interviewed Mr. Asmussen on television about the PETA allegations.  These were just a few of the indignities emerging from the PETA affair, including a black-eye for horse racing during the showcase Triple Crown season.

Predictably, some folks in the horse-racing industry piled on Mr. Asmussen et al. as though the PETA assertions must be true.  Never mind waiting until the KHRC investigation was complete.

The KHRC report is thorough and specific, as there is plenty of dispassionate analysis and no obfuscation or white washing of the facts.  The conclusions illustrate that several people’s reputations were tarnished by unfounded accusations supported by tampered-with evidence.

Naturally, PETA will no doubt defend itself by attacking the integrity of the KHRC, notwithstanding that PETA thought enough of the KHRC to ask for the investigation to begin with.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of the countless people who heard or read about the supposed animal abuse exposed by PETA won’t ever know that Mr. Asmussen (and the others) were vindicated by the KHRC report.  That is what phony accusers know and depend on–sling enough mud and some will stick.

Many “angels of mercy” work diligently and quietly to take care of animals who are abused or neglected.  Support them and avoid the extremists with a radical agenda.

Copyright ©2015 Horse Racing Business

TRANSPORTATION SAVINGS FOR HORSE OWNERS IN 2015

With expenses for maintaining racehorses almost always rising, owners in the United States have welcome news for a change:  Their costs of transporting horses via truck and plane should level off, if not decrease, as a result of the burgeoning world oil supply made possible by horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing in the United States, as well as unabated production by OPEC, in particular Saudi Arabia.

The Energy Information Administration estimates that U. S. crude oil production will surge to a 45-year high in 2015, reducing demand for imports and lowering prices.  Imported oil should decline to 25% of total production by 2016, down from 60% in 2005.

U. S. crude oil prices have plunged by about 40% since the summer and gasoline prices at the pump have followed.   Price declines of this magnitude matter greatly for tractor-trailers that routinely haul horses over distances like the 1,300 miles separating Belmont Park and Gulfstream Park; and the fuel savings for a cargo plane flying horses 2,800 miles from coast to coast (or abroad) are even more significant.  The International Air Transport Association projects that the world’s major airlines will see $12 billion in fuel-cost savings in 2015.

While horse-transport companies improve their profit margins when fuel prices decline, competition among carriers is likely to result in them passing on some of the savings to customers.   At the very least, it will be increasingly difficult for carriers to justify raising their prices, owing to fuel costs, in a business climate of flourishing oil production and downward pressure on gas and diesel prices.

Dramatically reduced gasoline prices should also have a salutary effect on the demand for sports and entertainment enterprises like horse racing.  Goldman Sachs estimates that the current decline in gas prices is equivalent to a $125 billion tax cut for consumers.

Copyright © 2015 Blood-Horse Publications.  Used with permission.