GLOBALIZATION OF HORSE RACING

Just over a 100 years ago, in 1913, the British Jockey Club passed the Jersey Act (named for Lord Jersey) that prohibited the registration in the General Stud Book of any racehorse whose pedigree contained ancestors that had not been registered. This ban was meant to deter Americans from exporting their supposedly impure bloodstock to Great Britain. Wagering on horse racing had largely been outlawed in the United States and owners were seeking refuge. The Jersey Act was not revoked until 1949.

Looking back on the Jersey Act from the perspective of 2014, it is striking how globalized the sport-business of breeding and racing Thoroughbreds has become. The pedigrees of racehorses today are often an admixture of horses that come from many different countries. The great Northern Dancer, for example, was foaled in Canada, raced in Canada and the United States, and was the most influential sire of his generation in Europe and America. His name still routinely appears in the pedigrees of racehorses around the world.

Racing and breeding, circa 2014, are geographically spread out enterprises. For instance, the richest race is held in the Middle East, in Dubai. Hong Kong and Japan are home to some of the world’s most prolific bettors on horse racing. The leading breeding sire in the world, Galileo, a grandson of Northern Dancer, resides in the Golden Vale of Ireland’s County Tipperary, and his recently-retired son, the sensational undefeated Frankel, stands at the farm of a Saudi prince in Newmarket, England. Breeding stallions are frequently shuttled back and forth from nations in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, from Australia to Europe, and the United States. The most prestigious Thoroughbred auction company is Keeneland, located in the heart of the Bluegrass in Kentucky.

Horse bettors at one time were confined to wagering at a single racetrack. Along came simulcasting and the options expanded dramatically. Now, live horse racing betting is offered on the Internet at tracks in virtually all time zones. A bettor can pick and choose among track surfaces, distances, and other handicapping variables.

A huge frontier for horse racing would be mainland China should the government relent and permit gambling on the sport, which was outlawed in 1949 when the communists seized power. The market is immense, the country is becoming increasingly affluent, and Hong Kong and Macau have shown that the Chinese support gaming and pari-mutuel wagering in a big way.

Copyright ©2014 Horse Racing Business

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