Archives for February 2020


Expanding incidents of coronavirus infections and deaths have led to panic on the world’s stock markets, quarantining of cruise ships and huge cities, closing schools in Japan, banning of international visitors to Saudi Arabian holy sites, and many other severe measures.  Rumors of the possible cancellation or postponement of the Tokyo Olympics have been rampant, although the organizers have denied they are considering doing so. 

British bookmakers are even taking bets on whether the upcoming four-day Cheltenham Festival (steeplechase racing) will go on as planned.  Recent odds have risen from a 28% chance of cancellation to 42%.  The British Horseracing Authority announced that, if necessary, it will implement contingency plans.

Churchill Downs stock (CHDN) has been pummeled by the plunge in the overall stock market.  CHDN is particularly vulnerable should the coronavirus wreak havoc in the United States because its primary revenue sources are Kentucky Derby weekend and casino traffic.  Investors have reacted accordingly, knocking nearly 25% off CHDN’s all-time high, about double the percentage plunge in the overall stock market.

Since coronavirus is a mammalian virus both humans and animals are at risk.  For example, a dog in Hong Kong has tested positive for the virus.  The Triple Crown races are therefore exposed to risk from contagious humans and racehorses…and people’s fear of crowds in the midst of a pandemic.

Medical experts caution that the extent and severity of the contagion is largely unpredictable. Whether a vaccine can be developed quickly and reproduced in mass quantities complicates predictions.

So executives at Churchill Downs, the Stronach Group (Pimlico), and NYRA (Belmont Park) are in the same position as everyone else, not knowing what the situation will be like in May and June.  However, prudent preparation would necessitate that they anticipate the possibility that May and June won’t be business as usual.  Two undesirable scenarios–cancellation or postponement–should be in their contingency plans. 

On a personal note, I don’t know what the five-week period of the Triple Crown would be like without the Triple Crown races.  I have tickets for the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby and am optimistic that I will be able to use them.  Whether that optimism is justified or not by reality only time will tell.  But, for now, the hope is to join the usual raucous crowd in Louisville on May 2nd. If not, and the race is postponed, we have never experienced a Triple Crown beginning in the late summer or early fall.

(Full Disclosure: I am a CHDN shareholder.)

Copyright © 2020 Horse Racing Business


The 2020 Cheltenham Festival has nearly arrived.  Between March 10 and 13, the British and Irish horse racing worlds will be focused on Cheltenham. The famed race course will offer four days of the best national hunt racing of the year, with plenty of betting opportunities.

Highly competitive fields at Cheltenham always challenge bettors to pick winners. An important first step is to determine the right bookmaker to patronize. However, it’s not a cut-and-dried decision. As with the increasingly popular sports betting in the United States, bettors in the UK have an array of choices and selecting the right bookmaker requires due diligence.

Don’t Just Join One Site

For starters, joining more than one site is a good idea. Plenty of special offers are extended for the Cheltenham Festival; therefore, it is potentially profitable to find out what is being promoted and by whom. Different bookmakers offer a range of prices on the chasers, so registering with more than one is wise.

Check Out the Offers

Online bookmakers tender various types of welcome offers to entice new customers. To illustrate, a bettor might see the first deposit matched up to a certain amount. Another offer is a risk-free first bet wherein the bettor is indemnified by cash back or a free bet if the initial wager with the bookmaker is a loser.

Then there are the enhanced odds offers. For example, there may be enhanced offers on the favorite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup with extra winnings paid as free bets.

The fine print describing the terms and conditions of welcome offers needs to be read. Not all are as good as they sound and some come with conditions such as high wagering requirements or restrictions on how free bets can be used.

So delve into the promotions a site has to offer, as there are many available. These include, for instance, money-back, enhanced odds, and extra payouts.

Get Reliable Advice

To be sure, there are lots of great options when it comes to choosing Cheltenham Festival betting sites. To narrow the possibilities and sort the good from the bad, a website that reviews online bookmakers can be a go-to source for bettors. Especially, a bettor can learn of a variety of welcome offers and which are most attractive.

Join a Site You Can Trust Financially

Knowledge of the trustworthiness of an online bookmaker is imperative in order to avoid fraud. An online bookmaker should have a UK Gambling Commission licence, which mandates strict regulatory compliance.

Doing business with a site that has an assortment of payment methods is also a must. Moreover, a bettor is well advised to find out how long a bookmaker takes to process withdrawals.

Odds and Markets

Odds quoted by bookmakers can and often do vary, which is another reason why it is prudent to sign up with more than one site. Additionally, look to register with a site that offers plenty of plays. That way, a bettor can wager on, say, who the top jockey or trainer will turn out to be or how many Irish-trained horses will be winners.

A site that has an easy-to-navigate app full of relevant information is a particularly useful benefit to seek. Another feature is the amount of support and guidance a site provides, not just for queries pertaining to offers but also about blogs and statistics that can help a bettor to handicap.


The British Horseracing Authority in January released horse fatality statistics for 2019.  The five-year rolling average fatality rate is at an historic low.  In 2019, in British racing there were 173 fatal injuries from 91,937 runners for a rate of 0.19%.

Compared to North American racing, British racing is safer by a wide margin.  This indicates that a vast reduction in the number of North American horse fatalities is achievable. 

If one were to build a statistical model with the objective being to identify the factors and their respective importance in explaining annual horse fatalities on American racetracks, several predictor or independent variables would no doubt be of importance, starting with track surface.  The Jockey Club Equine Injury Database has demonstrated that synthetic surfaces are safest, then turf, and lastly dirt.  Put concisely, whenever a dirt racetrack is replaced with a synthetic surface, the fatal injuries will decline.  It is not a coincidence that the vast majority of British races are run on turf.

Other factors would almost certainly include medication policies, prerace veterinary inspection, training methods, and possibly excessive inbreeding. Perhaps even modifying the claiming rule that ownership changes as soon as the gate opens to after the race is over might have a salutary effect.

The Jockey Club and several racetracks, including Churchill Downs and the much-maligned Santa Anita, have recently advanced the cause of safety through initiatives that pertain to some of the aforementioned causal variables.  On the other hand, racetracks in the United States have mostly refused to install the safer synthetic surface that has been proven to mitigate horse fatalities.

The hypothesis here is that widespread adoption of synthetic surfaces, more turf races as a percentage of total races run, standardized medication policy across racing jurisdictions and centralized enforcement authority, and modification of when a claimed horse changes hands, would be a multifaceted approach that would significantly reduce horse fatalities at U. S. racetracks.

Copyright © 2020 Horse Racing Business