Archives for October 2016

THE BEST BREEDERS’ CUP RACE MAY BE ON THE FRIDAY CARD

When the 2016 Breeders’ Cup is over, it could very well be that the most memorable race turned out to be run on the Friday four-race undercard rather than on the Saturday eight-race main event.  The Longines Distaff at 1 1/8 miles on dirt is the last Breeders’ Cup race on Friday and offers a stellar field to behold (puns intended) and handicap.

Barring injury or illness, the Distaff will pit the undefeated 3-year-old Songbird (10 wins and earnings of $2.8 million) against the 4-year-olds Stellar Wind and I’m a Chatterbox and the 6-year-old Beholder, who won the 2013 Distaff and has lifetime earnings of almost $5 million.  The Distaff should attract only a small field because of the presence of these formidable fillies and mares.

Songbird was the most expensive of the four in terms of auction prices at $400,000.  Beholder sold for $180,000, Stellar Wind for $40,000 and $86,000, and three-time Grade I winner I’m a Chatterbox for a bargain-basement $30,000.

The 1988 Breeders’ Cup Distaff is one of the most exciting races in Breeders’ Cup history, as Personal Ensign rallied mightily to catch Kentucky Derby winner Winning Colors at the wire.  It is doubtful that the 2016 edition of the Distaff will have this kind of historical footprint, but one never knows about a horse race.  At any rate, the 2016 Distaff has the look of a race to remember.

Copyright © 2016 Horse Racing Business

SELF-INFLICTED PR WOUNDS

On September 17, 2015, Rick Kissell in a Variety article said:  “The National Football League may have had its share of off-the-field distractions in recent years, but its TV ratings have never been higher…With an average audience of 19.9 million viewers for games last Thursday, Sunday and Monday, the NFL saw its largest-ever Week 1 tune-in, according to Nielsen.  The previous high of 19.6 million came for the 2013 Kickoff Weekend.”

Fast forward to October 4, 2016, when Brandon Katz wrote for Forbes:  “It seems likely that the numerous #BoycottNFL online campaigns and fan outrage aimed at the National Anthem protests in the NFL have taken a toll in terms of viewership this season.  Additionally, cord-cutting continues to eat into traditional TV’s ratings at an alarming rate…We’re barely a year removed from the NFL setting all-time records in viewership, yet now the league is on pace for its lowest ratings in years.  That’s a sharp and unexpectedly sudden turn.”

Katz believes that “football fatigue” among viewers also accounts for some of the ratings decline, and he may be right.  However, the extremely negative publicity that the NFL has received over player protests during the National Anthem surely is a major contributing factor, as he clearly points out.

The NFL is a prime case-in-point of how to damage a terrific brand via self-inflicted wounds that turn off a sizeable portion of fans.  North American horse racing wrote the textbook on this technique and, to its detriment, continues to add chapters.

For example, in the early days of simulcasting, Luddite executives at many racetracks resisted embracing the communication and information technologies that would provide convenience for their bettors.  Currently, the sport persists in not rallying around a federally-mandated uniform system for regulating medication usage and for sanctioning offenders.

Copyright © 2016 Horse Racing Business

THE “OVER-BREEDING” CANARD

Critics often assign blame to commercial and backyard horse breeders for enabling the business of horse slaughter.  The standard charge is “over-breeding.”  Overproduction creates an imbalance or disequilibrium between supply and demand that overwhelms rescue and aftercare facilities.

The Thoroughbred breed is less vulnerable than other registries to legitimate concerns about excess supply because The Jockey Club’s rules pertaining to how procreation can take place are far more restrictive than in other breeds.  The Jockey Club does not permit horses to be registered as Thoroughbreds if they are the product of artificial insemination, not even if a stallion and mare bred to him are physically on the same property.  Advanced reproductive techniques like embryo transplants and cloning do increase the number of foals born but these methods are also banned by The Jockey Club.

Thoroughbred stallions with very large books of mares are said to be major contributors to over-breeding.  On the contrary, highly sought-after stallions do not increase the size of the foal crop as there are a finite number of mares available to breed in a given year.  Whether these mares are bred to stallions with large books or small books has no effect on how many foals are born.  Moreover, there is a physical limit to how many mares a stallion can cover, unlike in the artificial-insemination approach allowed by most breed registries.

Copyright © 2016 Horse Racing Business