Archives for February 2018


The website of The Water Hay Oats Alliance (WHOA) states that the organization “is a grassroots movement of like-minded individuals who support the passage of federal legislation to prohibit the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the sport of horse racing.  The appointment of an independent anti-doping program run by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) will resolve the problem of widespread drug use in American racing and put U.S. racing jurisdictions in step with international standards.”

WHOA recently released a letter signed by 64 active and retired Thoroughbred racehorse trainers, from North America and Europe, in support of WHOA’s mission (click here for an article from The Paulick Report with the names of the signees).  The letter reads in part:

“Passage of the Horseracing Integrity Act will help revitalize the horse racing industry and will protect horses and jockeys from those individuals who would seek to win races at any cost.  We encourage like-minded colleagues to join us and to add their voices to the clamor for change by simply including their names on WHOA’s roster.  Support of WHOA’s efforts will send a message to our fans and our legislators that clean sport is important to our industry.”

While the letter aptly articulates an admirable point of view, it lacks sufficient clout and gravitas because it is does not include the names of the vast majority of North America’s premier horse trainers.  Thus the “clamor for change” does not appear to extend to the upper-echelon of the trainer fraternity.

The continuously-updated Equibase list of the 100 leading Thoroughbred racehorse trainers in North America is based on the amount of money won by the trainers’ stables.  As of this writing, the list for 2018 [click here for the current standings] included only two trainers who signed the WHOA letter, Neil Drysdale at 85th on the Equibase list and Patrick Gallagher at 97th.

It is highly speculative to attempt to discern the motivation of others, in this case the motivation for why 98 of the leading 100 racehorse trainers in North America did not sign the WHOA letter.  Surely, at least some of them were asked.

Whatever the reasons, the important point is that there is a glaring division within the North American racing enterprise pertaining to medication policy and regulation.  One or more provisions of the Horseracing Integrity Act is deeply troubling to virtually every leading trainer.

It is unlikely that the U. S. Congress can be persuaded to enact a bill into law when the industry sponsoring the legislation does not present a united front.  The absence of the names of 98% of North America’s foremost trainers on a document supporting the bill is an overwhelming negative.

It may be that many of North America’s best trainers are adamantly opposed to any sort of federal oversight of medication in horse racing…and their minds can’t be changed.  However, to my knowledge, no one knows for sure.  If they have not already done so, proponents of the Horseracing Integrity Act like WHOA might be well advised to consult top money-earning trainers to ascertain what, if anything, could be done to assuage their concerns so they would affix their names to a letter in support of federal regulation that could be sent to members of Congress.

Copyright © 2018 Horse Racing Business


(Continued from “Horse-Race Betting and Rationality:  Part 1” published on February 21, 2018)

When Bob, who was making his first ever trip to a racetrack, heard the track announcer introduce the horses to the assembled audience, he immediately had his exacta picks.  As an avid ice hockey fan, he chose Power Play as soon as the announcer uttered the words.  He then selected Game Changer for the bottom of the ticket because that is the moniker of his favorite mobile app for keeping track of breaking sports news and scores.

Bob’s picks were certainly unscientific but they did not violate transivity for the simple reason that he had little or no confidence to begin with about the order in which the horses should finish the race.  Moreover, in Bob’s view, his actions in choosing horses to bet on were perfectly sensible; he was at the track for relaxation and entertainment and if he lost his budget of $5 per race so be it.  He was out for a good time and if he happened to hit some longshot bets that would be icing on the cake.

Alex, the experienced handicapper, felt strongly before the race that the order of finish was most likely to be White Lightening, Power Play, and Game Changer, in that order, and he agreed with the odds on the tote board.  Yet he bet a straight exacta with Power Play over Game Changer.  Even though he felt that Horse A was more likely to win than Horse B and that Horse B was likely to finish ahead of Horse C, he still bet a ticket in which he preferred both Horses B and C to Horse A.

Ask Alex for his reasoning and he might come back with the oft-heard answer from handicappers, “I was trying to beat the favorite.”  Alternatively, he could say, with credibility borne out by statistics, that putting a 4/5 favorite on top in an exacta is an underlay that likely will not be profitable over a long series of bets.  Or he may say, for example, he had non-public information (a tip) from an insider at the White Lightening stable that the horse was not training well and on a downward trajectory, and hence the owner was trying to get him claimed.

One or more reasons like these for not betting White Lightening could be true, which would make Alex’s bet rational in his own eyes.  However, when bettors decide to act counter to their own reasoned judgment about transivity (i.e., Horse A is better than Horse B and Horse B is better than Horse C), it is easy to come up ante-race or post-race with explanations why the illogic was justified.

Real people in real-life decision making routinely make choices that are contradictory.  The racetrack is no different.

Copyright © 2018 Horse Racing Business


The annual gathering for the Festival and races at Cheltenham is less than three weeks away.  The March 13-16 event attracts the best National Hunt horses, jockeys, and trainers from the United Kingdom and Ireland.

An intriquing development is that the once-formidable Faugheen will be competing in the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.  The amazing horse won the race in 2015.  (Winning the 2016 Irish Champion Hurdle is considered to be the best performance of his career; for which he was rated the best 2-mile hurdler of this century.)   When he meets the Nicky Henderson-trained Buveur D’Air at Cheltenham, who won last year’s Champion Hurdle, what can be expected?

Looking at his defeat at Leopardstown, Faugheen does appear to be far off his best coming up to the Festival.  That was his second consecutive loss, which has never before occurred in his storied career.  His subpar performance at Leopardstown was an improvement over his previous race, when he was pulled up before entering the stretch.  With consecutive disappointing outings, it may be that age has caught up to the old champ.

Rich Ricci, Faugheen’s owner, said:  “We’ll have to keep carrying on.  Hopefully, he’s got one last good one in him.”

Winning the Champion Hurdle would be difficult for Faugheen, as no horse has ever attempted to win the race after a gap of 3 years.  Currently, the favorite is Yanworth followed by defending champion Buveur D’Air.

Faugheen’s most recent defeat was a considerable setback for his trainer extraordinaire Willie Mullins, although Mullins’ other horses did very well in the new Dublin Racing Festival.  Mullins has a strong hand at Cheltenham with five horses for the mega Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The Cheltenham Festival brings together people from all strata of British and Irish society.  The full fields of races provide plenty of opportunity for upsets at attractive odds.

Copyright 2018 Horse Racing Business