Archives for January 2019


In 2013, an investigator for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals worked undercover for four months in the barn of a well-known Thoroughbred racehorse trainer.  PETA alleged that the trainer “forced injured and/or suffering horses to race and train.”  According to USA Today, after a year-long review, “the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission discussed the findings of its investigators and agreed neither [the trainer] nor his assistant…had done anything wrong.”

In response to similar investigations, Iowa passed a law in 2012 making it a crime for anyone to go undercover at agriculture-related operations like factory farms and slaughterhouses.  Days ago, in early 2019, a federal judge overturned the law as a violation of the First Amendment.  The Executive Director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund reacted to the ruling:  “Ag-Gag laws are a pernicious attempt by animal exploitation industries to hide some of the worst forms of animal abuse in the United States.  Today’s victory makes it clear that the government cannot protect these industries at the expense of our constitutional rights.”

Undercover investigations can expose inhumane treatment of animals.  On the other hand, the investigators may falsify and sensationalize their findings.

Animal-based enterprises tend to be insensitive or oblivious to how the general public views them.  For example, a recent article in the Lexington Herald Leader reported that:

“Kentucky is the worst state for animal protection laws for the 12th year in a row, according to the annual U.S. Animal Protection Laws Rankings Report.  The 13th annual report, by the Animal Legal Defense Fund was released Tuesday.

Kentucky is the only state that prohibits veterinarians from reporting suspected animal abuse, according to the release…  Felony animal cruelty and animal fighting only covers limited species, according to the release.”

Think about this Herald Leader article within the context of the well-publicized 2016 episode in which a Kentucky-based racehorse trainer and her father were charged with 43 counts of second-degree animal cruelty.  The public hears or reads of egregious episodes like this and are left to wonder why Kentucky, the horse-capital of the United States, is “the worst state for animal protection laws” and “is the only state that prohibits veterinarians from reporting suspected animal abuse.”

The Thoroughbred industry repeatedly shoots itself in the proverbial foot on humane issues. Witness the resistance to strict nationwide medication policy and regulation.

Copyright © 2019 Horse Racing Business

eSports for Cultivating Young Fans?

Attendance at horse-racing tracks long ago gave way to remote wagering.  Now college football and basketball are beginning to experience worrisome drops in the number of people showing up at games, also to some degree due to technology.

It is not a coincidence that as real sports are having more difficulty attracting people to events, eSports have grown (wildly) in popularity.  Keenly aware of the eSports trend, the NBA now has an eSports league.

CNN wrote: “eSports describes the world of competitive, organized video gaming.  Competitors from different leagues or teams face off in the same games that are popular with at-home gamers: Fortnight, League of Legends, Counter-Strike, Call of Duty, Overwatch and Madden NFL, to name a few. These gamers are watched and followed by millions of fans all over the world, who attend live events or tune in on TV or online. Streaming services like Twitch allow viewers to watch as their favorite gamers play in real time, and this is typically where popular gamers build up their fandoms.”

Goldman Sachs provides stunning data about eSports.  The audiences for various professional sports leagues in North America vs. eSports are: NFL, 270 million; MLB, 114m; NBA, 231m; and eSports, 167m.  Goldman Sachs estimates that the eSports audience will be 276 million in 2022.  Moreover, 79% of eSports viewers are under 35 years old and some colleges are offering scholarships to eSports players just as they do to real-sport players.

According to Goldman Sachs, in 2017, viewership for championship events was: The Super Bowl, 124 million; League of Legends (eSports), 58m; The World Series, 38m; the NBA Finals, 32m; and the Stanley Cup Finals, 11m.

eSports revenue (per Goldman Sachs) derive from: sponsorship, 38%; advertising, 22%; media rights, 14%; tickets, 9%; and other, 17%. 

If horse racing is to have a strong future, it must connect with the generation that is increasingly embracing eSports.  It is beyond the scope of this post to elaborate, other than to say that whether horse racing lends itself to the eSports model should be explored; the idea would be to interest younger people in horse racing via eSports and this would lead some of them into becoming fans of real horse racing.

Copyright © 2019 Horse Racing Business


The Eclipse award for trainer of the year may go to Chad Brown, who had a phenomenal 2018 and topped the earnings list, although he did not train the winner of a classic race.  While Brown’s achievements are laudatory, my hands-down pick for the award would be Bob Baffert, who was fourth on the 2018 earnings list.  Here’s why.

Since the unofficial beginning of the American Triple Crown in 1919, 13 colts have achieved the feat.  However, only eleven trainers have won a Triple Crown because James “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons and Bob Baffert each trained two of the 13 colts.  Fitzsimmons won with Gallant Fox (1930) and Omaha (1935) and Baffert with American Pharoah (2015) and Justify (2018).

Logic would dictate that the Eclipse Award go to the man who accomplished in 2018 what only eleven trainers in 100 years have been able to do—win a Triple Crown.  Even rarer–in fact, exceedingly rare–is that Baffert has won two Triple Crowns.  The odds are astronomical for a trainer winning a single Triple Crown, much less two.

Did anyone top what Baffert did in 2018?

Copyright © 2019 Horse Racing Business