by Cot Campbell

(Reprinted by permission from dogwoodstable.com )

When a year comes to an end, it brings out everybody and his dog to begin reflecting, reminiscing and prognosticating.  So why not me?   I am old enough to have seen Man o’ War on three different occasions, so surely I, too, am a candidate to reflect and/or prognosticate.


I do not welcome the downturn in the economy, but a low tide does lower all boats, and some good will come from that.  In Thoroughbred racing, this recession will facilitate some changes in our industry and sport that inevitably need to come about.


Stud fees are being reduced, and deals can be made on almost any big name horse.  And stud fees needed to come down. There will be less of a demand for new stallions now. Therefore, some of the marginal racehorses that are rushed off to stud will stay on the racetrack and pursue that which is truly the end use of a racehorse: to compete, win races, and earn money. The name of the game more and more recently has been for a horse, at the first perceptible blush of class, to be retired, and, hopefully begin producing other horses that can sparkle for a bit, then retire… and on and on and on.


The truth is, all of racing needs to be downsized.  Less would be better, and would result in being more.   I’m not going to carry on about a central governing body–a czar to control all aspects of racing, ala the NBA, MLB, PGA, and NFL.  Nevertheless, that is exactly what we need, but we’ll never get it unless the federal government steps in and mandates it. And that prospect is terrifying to many.


At present, we have marginal racetracks struggling in states where racing is on the decline. Soon the wheat must be separated from the chaff.


While we need less stallions and less mares making babies, and, thus, fewer race horses, we certainly need a smaller number of sound, but financially rewarding racetracks at which to compete.  Right now, South Florida racing seems to be going to hell.  California–north and south–is undergoing some serious shaking out.  Ohio is in trouble.  Maryland has been dead for a long time and just wouldn’t lie down.  But maybe now, with the legalization of slots, they will come out of intensive care. So, simply stated, in racing we need more quality and less quantity.


Okay, stud feeds are going down, and even before that has an impact, the cost of buying a racehorse is suddenly spiraling downward. You can bet that the pinhookers awaiting the imminent two-year-old sales will substantiate that prognostication!


Could purses possibly go up?  They might, with a lesser number of healthy racetracks in existence.  And, establishing a central point of control for the industry would really maximize the chances of better purses.


More than ever before, this is a time when it would be nice and smart to be able to ease the financial burden on the horse owner.  In many ways it is going to cost less for the owner to operate, but right now the question is whether the poor guy or gal is going to have less to operate with.  As I said, “a low tide lowers all boats.”


This is Cot Campbell and this is my view.


Editor’s Note:  W. Cothran Campbell formerly served as chairman of Burton-Campbell, Inc., one of the South’s largest advertising agencies and pioneered the concept of racehorse partnerships through Dogwood Stable.  He is the author of three racing-related books and is a member of the Jockey Club.  Each year the Dogwood Dominion Award honors a man or woman who is truly an unsung hero of the Thoroughbred racing industry.


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January 31:  When Kentucky Awoke


February 14:   Racing’s Misguided Muhammad Ali Philosophy of Publicity