Archives for November 2022


A recent CNBC headline caught my attention: “How a horse breeder launched the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, by volume.” 

In 1966, Dr. Cyrus Poonawalla founded the Serum Institute on his Thoroughbred breeding farm in India, extracting serum from his retired racehorses.  The Serum Institute is currently the world’s most prolific vaccine manufacturer, with Adar Poonawalla as CEO.  Both the Serum Institute and Poonawalla Stud Farms are subsidiaries of the Cyrus Poonawalla Group, which encompasses businesses in horse racing and breeding, biotechnology, engineering, hotels/real estate, finance, and energy.

The Poona Stud Farm in India was founded in 1946 by the late Soli A. Poonawalla.  Today, it is known as the Villoo Poonawalla Greenfield Farm (also called Poonawalla Stud Farms) and is the leading breeder of Thoroughbreds in the country, with about 110 broodmares and 3 stallions.  Two of the stallions have Coolmore Stud lineage (sired by Galileo and Holy Roman Emperor) and the other stallion has English bloodlines (sired by Pivotal). 

It is truly a unique situation to have under the umbrella of a single company the foremost serum manufacturer globally and the leading racehorse entity in an entire nation.

Click here to access a 9-minute CNBC podcast on the Serum Institute.

Click here to access the Villoo Poonawalla Greenfield Farm website.

Click here to access the Cyrus Poonawalla Group website.

Copyright © 2022 Horse Racing Business


Betting favorites in horse racing win about 30% to 35% of the time, which is a high degree of accuracy given that the average field size is 7.38 runners per race. This varies by track, type of race, the number of entries, and other handicapping variables. 

In the 2021 NFL season, favorites won 64% of 272 games, not considering the point spread.  Over the past five years, NBA favorites won regular season contests 67% of the time.

But what about political elections?  In predicting event outcomes, sports or elections, I’ve always watched what people do with their money rather than what they say.  How did this heuristic work out in the November 2022 American elections?

Betting markets on political elections work as follows (using a direct quote from one of the betting websites): “Each share is priced somewhere between $0.01 and $.99 apiece.  If the event comes true (the bet taker) rewards the holder of yes shares with $1 less fees.”  So, if candidate X has a value of, say, $.75 and wins the election, the bettor wins $.25 per share less fees.

On the day prior to the November 2022 elections, the Cook Political Report listed 23 of the 35 Senate seats up for election as being “solid,” meaning that each seat was judged to be safe for a Democrat or Republican candidate.  Indeed, these seats went 100% as forecast and bettors had the winner as the heavy favorite in each and every race.

Cook listed 8 of the 35 seats up for election as “likely/lean.”  These seats were projected as being in play but one party had the clear advantage.  All of these seats went as forecast and bettors favored the ultimate winner in every case.

This left 4 of the 35 seats in Cook’s “tossup” category.  One of these seats (Georgia) is still unresolved and will be decided in a runoff in early December because no candidate received 50% of the vote.  On the day before the election, bettors favored the Republican candidate in Georgia (64 cents) to his Democratic opponent (41 cents).  In fact, the Democratic candidate garnered more votes.  In two other states (Nevada and Pennsylvania), bettors turned out to be wrong, favoring the losing candidate.  Finally, bettors split evenly on the Arizona race, with half favoring the Democratic candidate and half favoring the Republican. 

Removing the Arizona race, where the bettors split, and the Georgia race, which is unresolved, bettors were correct on the outcomes of 31 of 33 Senate seats for a winning percentage of 94%. 

How did bettors do in wagering on who would win control of the Senate and House of Representatives?  In the Senate, bettors favored Republicans (68 cents) over the Democrats (37 cents) and were wrong.  At best Republicans can have a tie in the senate at 50 votes for each party if the Georgia runoff goes their way, but Democrats would have control because the (Democrat) Vice President casts a vote to break tie votes on legislation. In the House of Representatives, bettors favored Republicans (90 cents) to Democrats (6 cents) and were correct in the outcome. 

Bettors would have won by choosing the favorite in the vast majority of Senate races, but the payoffs for doing so would have been small.  However, in the tossup races, bettors fared poorly.  While bettors were right about Republicans taking control of the House of Representatives, it was a closer outcome than the public opinion polls and the wagering predicted.  And bettors favored the wrong horse in the Senate.

“Follow the money” is often a reliable guide to how an event will turn out.

Copyright © 2022 Horse Racing Business


The 2022 Forbes 400, which identifies the wealthiest Americans, includes the same four racehorse owners as in 2021: John Malone (Elizabeth, CO), Tamara Gustavson (Lexington, KY), Gayle Benson (New Orleans, LA), and Vincent Viola (New York, NY).

A discernible pattern on the Forbes 400 is the number of major sports-team owners on the list (Jerry Jones, Dan Gilbert, David Tepper, Shahid Kahn, Stan Kroenke, Robert Kraft, and others).  Likewise, Gayle Benson and Vincent Viola are sports-team owners.

John Malone, age 81, is the 66th richest American, with a net worth of $9.7 billion. He is the largest land owner in the United States and has racehorse farms in Florida and Ireland—Bridlewood in Ocala and Ballylinch Stud in County Kilkenny.  Malone’s main source of wealth comes from cable television.  He holds an earned doctorate in Operations Research from Johns Hopkins University.

Tamara Gustavson, age 60, is 83rd on the Forbes 400, with a net worth of $8.1 billion.  She is the daughter of B. Wayne Hughes, who died in August 2021.  He pioneered the concept of self storage.  Tamara Gustavson and her husband Eric Gustavson own Spendthrift Farm.  She earned bachelor and masters degrees from the University of Southern California.

Gayle Benson, age 75, is number 224 on the Forbes list, with a net worth of $4.7 billion.  She is the widow of Tom Benson and owns the NFL’s New Orleans Saints and the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans franchises.  She races under the name of GMB racing.

Vincent Viola, age 66, is number 310 on the Forbes 400, with a net worth of $3.6 billion.  His source of wealth is electronic trading.  Viola owns St. Elias Stable and the National Hockey League Florida Panthers and was a partner in 2017 Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming.  He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy.

Brad Kelley is one of the largest landowners in the United States, and his holdings encompass the legendary Calumet Farm.  Yet with an estimated net worth of $2.5 billion, he comes in at only number 1,163 on the Forbes list of wealthiest Americans.

Copyright © 2022 Horse Racing Business