Archives for July 2019


The principal difference between how racing is regulated in the United States and Great Britain is decentralization in the former and centralization in the latter. In America, regulatory authority rests with the individual states, whereas in Great Britain all of the racecourses are under the regulatory jurisdiction of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA). As a result, there is much more uniformity of rules, regulations, and policing in Great Britain.

The Jockey Club controlled English racing from the 19th century until 2006, when the British Horseracing Regulatory Authority took over governance. In 2007, the British Horseracing Authority was founded with the merger of the British Horseracing Regulatory Authority and the British Horseracing Board.

The BHA states that it “aims to represent and promote the best interests of racing with one clear voice.” It performs a variety of functions, such as licensing, leading on health and welfare of humans and horses, regulating racecourses including medication use, race scheduling among the 58 licensed racecourses in Great Britain, and promotion of the sport.

Since ceding regulatory matters to the BHA, the Jockey Club focuses on promoting racing and welfare of horses and humans. It owns 15 racecourses, which encompasses such premier facilities as Newmarket, Epsom Downs, Cheltenham, and Aintree. It also owns The National Stud and the Jockey Club Estates at Newmarket.

Between the BHA and the Jockey Club, there is a unified force to promote and regulate horse racing.

The Horseracing Integrity Act of 2019 in the United States Congress is an attempt to copy an important element of the British system by centralizing medication oversight. It reads in part:

“This bill establishes the Horseracing Anti-Doping and Medication Control Authority as an independent, private non-profit corporation with responsibility for developing and administering an anti-doping and medication control program for (1) Thoroughbred, Quarter, and Standardbred horses that participate in horse races; and (2) the personnel engaged in the care, training, or racing of such horses.

The Federal Trade Commission shall have oversight over the authority. An interstate compact may be established after five years to take over the authority’s duties.”

Because most of the top racetracks in the United States are owned by NYRA, Churchill Downs, and the Stronach Group, the United States could achieve some of the centralization of the BHA if the three entities were to join forces on regulation. While antitrust law would prevent any attempt to coordinate business strategies and tactics, the racetrack organizations would almost surely be permitted to cooperate on safety and welfare matters.

In the highly likely event that the Horseracing Integrity Act fails to become law (only 4 percent of bills actually become laws), cooperation among the racetracks is about as close as governance of American racing is going to get to the British system. If Penn National, Keeneland, and Del Mar were to join NYRA, Churchill Downs, and the Stronach Group, a significant number of racetracks in the United States would be in the compact. The tracks would have to cope with state regulatory authorities, but that is not an impossible task.

Meanwhile, the Jockey Club could continue its invaluable efforts to promote racing via the empirically-based intitatives recommended by McKinsey & Company, such as scheduling of grades stakes races among racetracks to optimize betting handle .

Copyright © 2019 Horse Racing Business


The 2019 race meet at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club started last week under inordinate public scrutiny owing to the recent rash of horse fatalities at Santa Anita in Los Angeles. In 2016, Del Mar also attracted unusual media attention over the 17 horses that died during the meet. Last year, Del Mar experienced six horse fatalities and had five in 2017. Much better by comparison to 2016, but still an unacceptable number of fatalities.

According to an article by Chris Jennewein in the Times of San Diego, Del Mar took remedial action once the 2016 season was over:

“…Del Mar remade its dirt track in both banking and composition with the help of former track superintendent and consultant Dennis Moore. Del Mar also found ways to test the track’s surface using impact-gauging technology designed by Michael Peterson, a professor at the University of Maine and the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory.

Along the dirt track’s backstretch, Del Mar installed a radiology and ultrasound facility for immediate testing of possible injuries. In addition, Del Mar instituted four separate veterinarian inspections on the day of a race for each horse, ensuring that they are in peak racing condition.”

Now, for the 2019 meet, the California Horse Racing Board has reportedly retained the services of five veterinarians and experts in horse safety to evaluate every entry at Del Mar with the authority to scratch a horse they believe is at-risk and should not run. Del Mar has also instituted the most demanding international standards on therapeutic medications, increased random medication testing, and added security staff in the stable areas. Lastly, more veterinarians have been retained to supervise morning training.

Conceptually, Del Mar deserves high marks for its preventive measures. At the end of the 2019 meet, the number of horse fatalities will provide empirical evidence of the efficacy of the processes.

Copyright © 2019 Horse Racing Business


In May 2019, the Breeders’ Cup announced a new corporate sponsor. Per a multiyear contract, a race will be renamed the Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. The Lexington, Kentucky-based company is a prominent manufacturer of lighting and huge fans for a variety of industries, including agriculture and equine, so the sponsorship makes business sense.

Some folks may take offense at the Breeders’ Cup association with the nomenclature Big Ass Fans, but most people will likely find the sponsorship to be innocuous and amusing. How the commentators for the Breeders’ Cup telecast will refer to the race on the air will be interesting. More interesting yet will be future sponsorship decisions that event producers like the Breeders’ Cup may wrestle with owing to a recent U. S. Supreme Court ruling pertaining to federal trademark registration.

In a 6-3 decision, the Court in June struck down federal prohibitions against trademark protection for “immoral” or “scandalous” material. Such restrictions were found to be unconstitutional under the free speech provision of the First Amendment. The case involved a clothing brand named FUCT, an abbreviation of “Friends U Can’t Trust.” Officials at the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office judged FUCT to be obscene and vulgar and therefore refused registration.

Two other beneficiaries of the Supreme Court ruling were the Washington Redskins of the National Football League, which previously had its trademark deregistered, and an all-Asian band by the name of The Slants, who had been denied trademark registration.

When a potential corporate partner with a risqué or controversial name or trademark offers to put up cash to sponsor an event, officials of the event will have to decide whether to take the money or to turn it down for reasons of decorum. Consider, for example, the possibility of a lucrative deal for The FUCT Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. How does that double entendre resonate?

Copyright © 2019 Horse Racing Business