BOB BAFFERT: IN THE GOAT CONVERSATION

In organized sports, elite achievers throughout their careers are voted into a Hall of Fame, or will be enshrined once they retire.  These are the greats whose names are immortalized.

However, reaching a consensus on the GOAT, or the “Greatest of All Time” is an impossible task, as greats from different eras can’t be compared against one another with any degree of certitude.

For example, who is the GOAT in their respective sports:  Vince Lombardi or Bill Belichick, LeBron James or Michael Jordan, Joe Montana or Tom Brady, Muhammad Ali or Joe Louis, Sandy Koufax or Cy Young—or somebody else?  A preponderance of horse racing experts believe that Man o’ War and Secretariat are the two best racehorses in American turf history but have differing opinions about which horse was the GOAT.

Bob Baffert’s attainments make him a legitimate contender for the GOAT title in training racehorses in North America…and his work is unfinished.  Baffert’s astounding achievements include having his horses win a Triple Crown, five Kentucky Derbys, six Preaknesses, two Belmonts, fourteen Breeders’ Cup races, with three Breeders’ Cup Classics, and three Dubai World Cups.

Were Baffert to send out the winner of another Kentucky Derby, he would tie Ben A. Jones for the most wins.  At age 65 and with owners wanting to send him outstanding prospects, that seems like a realistic possibility.

Baffert also has a reasonable shot with Justify, or perhaps a future star, at joining Jones and James “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons in training two Triple Crown champions.  (Fitzsimmons conditioned Gallant Fox and Omaha and Jones trained Whirlaway and Citation.)  Baffert came ever-so-close to winning a Triple Crown with Real Quiet in 1998 and then did so with American Pharoah in 2015.

Like all exceptionally successful individuals in any field of endeavor, Baffert draws criticism, often from envious people.  But an objective observer, looking at the facts and leaving emotion aside, would conclude that he is among a handful of the greatest American racehorse trainers.  In the words of NFL Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells, “You are what your record says you are.”

Copyright © 2018 Horse Racing Business

KENTUCKY DERBY 2018 FACTS AND THOUGHTS

Despite the rainiest Kentucky Derby ever and the TwinSpires betting site malfunctioning for 20 minutes in the hour before the race, all-sources wagering on the Derby itself and the Derby-day card broke all records.  Betting on both the Derby ($149.9 million) and Derby-day card ($225.7 million) rose 8% over the previous record set in 2017.

The $311.2 million bet during the six-day Derby week was also a record, up 9% from 2017.  The Kentucky Oaks card on Friday saw a record-breaking 14% increase in betting handle over 2017 and handle on the Kentucky Oaks race soared 18%.

The Derby telecast had an overnight rating of 9.1% (down by 13% from 2017) with a 21 share (down 8.7% from 2017).  The race portion of the telecast had a rating of 10.9 and a 25 share.  (A show’s rating is the percentage of all possible TV households or viewers in the country and its share is the percentage of households or viewers actually watching TV at the time.)  The explanation for the ratings declines was competition from the NBA playoff telecast between Boston and Philadelphia.  The Derby telecast had the best Saturday television rating since a Winter Olympics telecast on February 17, 2018.

Hedge-fund founder Sol Kumin had a weekend for the ages.  He had an ownership interest in Kentucky Oaks winner Monomoy Girl on Friday and ownership interests in Kentucky Derby winner Justify and third-place finisher Audible on Saturday.  It has been nearly a century since an individual owned both the Oaks and Derby winners in the same year.

Eddie Olczyk Jr.—a former National Hockey League player and coach and currently an NBC commentator on the Kentucky Derby telecast–advised viewers to “box 5, 6, and 7”—Audible, Good Magic, and Justify.  That suggestion was worth $69.60 on a $2 exacta box and $282.80 on a $2 trifecta box.  Eddie reportedly has a clean bill of health after battling Stage 3 colon cancer and said that the Kentucky Derby is “the best medicine I’ve had in a long time.”  Wishing that Eddie has many more years covering the “Run for the Roses.”

When the NBC telecast showed the rows and rows of private jets parked at Louisville International Airport, it demonstrated with a single picture what a huge attraction the Kentucky Derby remains after 144 years.

Copyright © 2018 Horse Racing Business

HEDGE FUND FOUNDER HAS A FORMIDABLE HAND FOR THE DERBY

Solomon Kumin has a big chance to win going into the 2018 Kentucky Derby, with part ownership (under the name Head of Plains Partners) of two of the favorites, Audible and Justify.

Mr. Kumin was born in 1975 and graduated from Johns Hopkins University.  He bought his first racehorse in 2014 and his most well-known horse is Lady Eli.

Like many owners attracted to horse racing, Mr. Kumin has a background in risky businesses.  He worked a decade for Wall Street legend Steven Cohen’s S. A. C. Capital Partners and rose to Chief Operating Officer before leaving in 2014.  In 2013, Mr. Cohen’s firm, known for its extraordinary performance, was fined $1.8 billion by the Securities and Exchange Commission and shut down for failure to control insider trading.  Mr. Kumin was not implicated and went on to found his own hedge fund, Folger Hill Asset Management.

Mr. Kumin’s experience with the extreme highs and lows of the hedge-fund business should prepare him for the adrenaline-rush that he will surely feel Saturday at Churchill Downs when the University of Louisville band strikes up My Old Kentucky Home.

Copyright © 2018 Horse Racing Business