Archives for June 2017


The most divisive issue in American horse racing is drug policy.  While virtually everyone involved agrees, at least publicly, that the sport needs to improve its methods of testing and sanctioning for illicit medication use, there is widespread disagreement on how to achieve these objectives.  Most notably, some people want federal government involvement and others don’t.

Earlier this year, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas gave a speech in which he devoted part of it to medication.  His overall perspective was bettor-centric, which is precisely where it should be in that bettors are the lifeblood of the sport and business of horse racing.  In his conception, racehorse trainers and owners are taking on a number of investors when they run a horse, even though most of the investments will last fifteen minutes or less until the race is over.  A trainer’s job is to protect his or her investors “at all costs” or to “give them the best chance” to have a positive payoff.

Lukas is exactly right, in my opinion, that the trainer has a fiduciary responsibility to bettors who wager on his or her horse in a race.  Further, he said that medication comes “front and center” when bettors are correctly looked upon as investors.  The bettors/investors deserve a race that is not decided by performance-enhancing drugs.

The solution, in Lukas’ view, is straightforward.  Each racetrack should support a rigorous drug testing lab (to Olympic standards) with a percentage of pari-mutuel revenue.  Once performance-enhancing drugs are classified and a violation occurs, the horse owner in question is ruled off for a period of time.

Lukas stated that this penalty will cause owners to do more due diligence in hiring trainers.  Moreover, they will put pressure on trainers to never embarrass them.

The idea of trainers’ fiduciary responsibility to bettors is strategically sound.  Once adopted, the answers to racing’s drug problems crystallize.

Copyright © 2017 Horse Racing Business


Genuine Risk in 1980 became the second of three fillies to ever win the Kentucky Derby.  Following her racing career she had only two foals that lived…and neither of them made it to the races.  One of the offspring was named Genuine Reward, a colt by Rahy.

Genuine Reward, born in 1993, is one of the eight featured animals in a Parade magazine (June 25, 2017) cover story titled “The Rescuers.”  Parade’s subtitle described “…stories about people, the animals they love, and how they saved each other.”

Genuine Reward stood at stud beginning in 1997, first as a Thoroughbred sire and later as a sire of polo ponies.  In 2015, his owner was attempting to find the horse a caring home by listing him for sale on the Fort Collins, Colorado Craigslist for $500.  Lauren Hillenbrand, author of the bestselling books Seabiscuit and Unbroken, became aware of the listing through a post on her Facebook page.

The post “distressed” Ms. Hillenbrand, as she was concerned that the $500 asking price would attract a buyer who would send Genuine Reward to slaughter.  According to Parade, she called Michael Blowen, founder of the retirement facility Old Friends Equine in Georgetown, Kentucky and said “I’ll pay transport, keep, whatever it takes to get him if you’ll take him.”  Mr. Blowen agreed and Genuine Reward resides at Old Friend’s Equine today.

Parade reported that, including Genuine Reward, Ms. Hillenbrand has rescued 15 horses since her first rescue 37 years ago when she was 13 years old.

Ms. Hillenbrand had great success writing about the racehorse Seabiscuit–who was sold off by Hall of Fame trainer Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons, only to become an all-time great—and Olympic distance runner and World War II veteran Louis Zamperini, who survived atrocities as a POW of the Japanese.  I would say that she is not only a master chronicler of redemptive life stories, but is an exemplary and extraordinarily caring person.

Genuine sums it up.

Copyright © 2017 Horse Racing Business


1. Horse racing benefits with the involvement of talented people from younger generations who want to devote their skills and bring enthusiasm to the industry and sport.  The Darley Flying Start program, for example, has educated numerous millennials who have transitioned into all sort of occupations in racing and breeding.

In early June, 2017, The Jockey Club announced the first recipient (Julianna Witt) of The Jockey Club Scholarship that supports a qualified college student in the amount of $15,000 per academic year.  The base requirement is that a student is seeking to earn a bachelor’s degree or a graduate degree and intends to pursue a career path in Thoroughbred racing.  The Jockey Club also awards The Jack Goodman Scholarship for $6,000 in an academic year to a student at the University of Arizona’s Racetrack Industry Program.  The RTIP recipient for 2017-2018 is Scott Little.

The Jockey Club membership and staff are to be commended for making investments in the educated human resources needed to shepard horse racing in the future.

2.  Janet and Craig Duchossois and the The Duchossois Foundation donated $100 million to University of Chicago Medicine for “an institute that brings together immunology, microbiology, genetics, and big data” to “develop a new science of wellness.”  The generous family is prominent in horse racing and is the largest shareholder in Churchill Downs, Inc.

3.  Parx Racing in Philadelphia has aggressively addressed the sordid fact that it had 55 purse redistributions in 2016 owing to medication violations and hidden horse ownership.

Effective June 1, 2017, a trainer who has three medication violations within a 365-day period that culminate in a fine or suspension, or two violations resolved with suspensions, will be required to vacate his or her horses from Parx.  The eviction occurs when the trainer has run out of appeals with the Pennsylvania Racing Commission.  Moreover, a horse that has a medication violation goes on the racing secretary’s list for 45 days and is prohibited from racing.  During that period, if the horse is sold or transferred to another trainer, it must be removed from Parx.  Finally, a trainer participating in hidden ownership of a horse will be banished from Parx and his or her horses must be removed.

4.  The Equine Injury Database continues to show immense progress in reducing the number of racing-related horse fatalities.  In 2009, there were 2.0 fatalities per 1,000 starts (aggregating data from the three types of racing surfaces), a figure that declined to 1.54 in 2016.  The fatality rate on dirt surfaces decreased by 19% between 2009 and 2016 and the fatality rate on turf dropped by 44% over the same span of time.  The fatality rate per thousand starts on synthetic surfaces (the safest surface of all) ranged between 1.0 and 1.2 between 2010 and 2016.

5.  The North American horse racing industry has made commendable progress recently in transitioning racehorses to second careers or retirement facilities rather than having them sent to slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico.  Numerous caring individuals and organizations are responsible for the progress in humane treatment of retired racehorses. (However, the problem will never be solved in a major way until a percentage of pari-mutuel revenue is allocated to the cause, as is done in Ontario.)

6.  Sue Finley has written an article of the kind not usually found in a Thoroughbred publication.  It is titled “Day of Days” and is in the June 2017 TDN Weekend.   “Day of Days” pertains to D-Day on June 6, 1944, when so many heroic Allied Forces military personnel stormed the beaches at Normandy…and many made the ultimate sacrifice.  Sue provided the narrative and Zuzanna Lupa contributed the photography. Click here for the link.

Copyright © 2017 Horse Racing Business