Archives for November 2017


Race car drivers and professional football players work in hazardous occupations, but I would argue that jockeys are more at risk of catastrophic injury or even death.  Riding a Thoroughbred in a full field of horses takes nerve, knowing that misbehavior by one horse, or clipping heels, or a breakdown can have a chain reaction with the potential to result in terrible consequences.

The Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund website informs that it “provides financial assistance to some 60 former jockeys who have suffered catastrophic on-track injuries.  Since its founding in 2006, the fund has disbursed over $7 million to permanently disabled jockeys, most of whom have sustained paralysis or brain injuries.”

PDJF states:  “Many of the jockeys we serve were injured while in their 20s and 30s and face decades of living with a disability.  They have lost their income and the opportunity to build a financial cushion sufficient to support them and their families.”

Fortunately, help is coming to injured jockeys from science-fiction-like advances in biorobotics, a branch of science that marries medicine and engineering and can be used to assist people with such neurological maladies as spinal-cord injuries and strokes.

According to the Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMB), “biorobotics encompasses a diverse array of disciplines with a myriad of applications.”  One application with great promise for injured jockeys is rehabilitation engineering.  EMB explains:

“Rehabilitation engineers create methods and technologies to help patients regain cognitive and/or motor function.  Some of these patients might have cerebral palsy or Parkinson’s disease, have suffered a stroke or head trauma or be recovering from a spine injury.  Since much of the work in this area is focused on neurological conditions and physical function, solutions rely heavily on neural, biomedical, and biorobotic engineers.”

To illustrate, the New York Times reported:

“Engineers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab have developed a next-generation prosthetic: a robotic arm that has 26 joints, can curl up to 45 pounds and is controlled with a person’s mind just like a regular arm.

Researchers think the arm could help people like Les Baugh, who lost both arms at the shoulder after an electrical accident as a teenager.  Now 59, Mr. Baugh recently underwent surgery at Johns Hopkins to remap the remaining nerves from his missing arms, allowing brain signals to be sent to the prosthetic.

Mr. Baugh’s custom socket can pick up brain signals to control the arms, known as Modular Prosthetic Limbs, or M.P.L., just by thinking about the movements.”

Everything possible needs to be done to make race riding safer, from installing track surfaces that have fewer breakdowns to preventing breakdown-prone horses from running.  Even with these precautions, some injury-causing accidents are inevitable.  Biorobotics will increasingly be able to help physically disabled jockeys to function and live fuller lives.  The question will be whether the horse-racing industry will come up with the dollars needed.

Copyright © 2017 Horse Racing Business


Horse racing has always been associated with big money.  Whether it’s the wagers placed by racegoers, the purses won by the horses and jockeys, or the sums spent at bloodstock auctions, horse racing is a sizeable business.

What are the most popular races in the world and which are the richest?

This year, the Epsom Derby had a purse of £1.625 million ($2.2 million in U. S. dollars), making it the richest race in British history.  While it’s logical to think that the most popular race in the ancestral home of horse racing would have the largest purse anywhere, it doesn’t.  The Derby is so anticipated that BetStars has already posted odds of 5/1 for next year’s favorite Saxon Warrior, and the race is over six months away.

The Kentucky Derby is nearly a century younger than the Epsom Derby but is certainly one of the most followed races on the planet.  Known as “the fastest two minutes in sports” and “the most exciting two minutes in sport,” the Derby has a purse of $2 million, which puts it slightly less than the Epsom Derby in terms of prize money.  And the money wagered on this race is huge; all-sources wagers totaled $139.2 million in 2017.

The Breeders’ Cup Classic was, for a time, the richest horse race in North America.  First held in 1984, the Breeders’ Cup event (with 13 races in 2017) moves around to a handful of racetracks in the United States, and the 1996 edition took place across the border in Toronto, Canada.  The purse for the Breeders’ Cup Classic is currently $6 million, and it’s one of the most coveted races on the racing calendar, with the winner often being crowned U. S. Horse of the Year.  Even with such a large purse, the race does not have the tradition and cachet of the Kentucky Derby.

The Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France offers a purse equivalent to $5.5 million.  Contested on the Longchamp Racecourse, the Arc is one of Europe’s oldest and most distinguished races.  Previously at $2 million, the purse was in the same ballpark as the Epsom and Kentucky Derbies until the Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club elevated the purse via sponsorship and made the Arc the richest race in the world run on grass.

The Dubai World Cup, held in March at the Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, has a purse almost double that of the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe and, until 2017, was the richest race in all of horse racing.  The guaranteed purse is $10 million.  Even though it’s not the most historic of races (the first running was in 1996), like most things in Dubai, it’s all about the money: “A dirt race for a king’s ransom” is how one commentator described it.

The accolade of “world’s richest race” goes to the Pegasus World Cup Invitational, which in its inaugural year of 2017 offered a purse of $12 million.  It’s another dirt race but held on American soil at Gulfstream Park in south Florida.  This nine-furlong race was such a success that the organizers have already announced that the 2018 installment will have a guaranteed purse of $16 million.

The advent of super-rich races has greatly expanded the opportunity for a horse to have a short-lived career on the racetrack and still retire with astronomical earnings.  Arrogate did not start in his maiden race until April of his 3-year-old year and only ran in 11 races in total until he was retired as a 4-year-old.  Yet he amassed record-setting earnings of $17.42 million.  Of this amount, an incredible $16.8 million was earned by winning the three most lucrative races: the Pegasus World Cup Invitational, the Dubai World Cup, and the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Copyright © 2017 Horse Racing Business


Forbes magazine’s annual ranking of the 500 wealthiest U. S. citizens includes five individuals in 2017 with significant horse-racing interests currently in their families.

(Forbes stated that “A record $2 billion net worth is now required to be counted among the very richest Americans.  That means 176 billionaires were too poor to make the cut, and 13 members of last year’s list dropped off even though they are as rich or richer than they were a year ago.”  Kevin Plank, net worth $1.7 billion, Sagamore Racing, is one of the thirteen because of a huge decline in the stock price of Under Armour, the company he founded.)

John Malone, net worth $8.2 billion, age 76, primary residence Elizabeth, Colorado, 56th wealthiest American.

Thomas Benson, net worth $2.8 billion, age 90, primary residence New Orleans, Louisiana, 288th wealthiest American.

B. Wayne Hughes, net worth $2.7 billion, age 84, primary residence Lexington, Kentucky, 302nd wealthiest American.

Lee Bass (Ramona Bass), net worth $2.6 billion, age 61, primary residence Forth Worth, Texas, 315th wealthiest American.

Brad Kelley, net worth $2.3 billion, age 60, primary residence Franklin, Kentucky, 350th wealthiest American.

Forbes classifies all but Lee Bass as “self-made” rather than being born wealthy.

Copyright © 2017 Horse Racing Business