Saratoga Springs, NY – The Jockey Club Round Table Conference that was held yesterday covered a number of important subjects. The one of most interest here was the McKinsey & Company report on how to reverse the longtime downtrend in horse racing, and in particular in pari-mutuel handle. The McKinsey & Company consultants were quite candid in characterizing racing’s current metrics and trends as awful.

A detailed consideration of each of the strategies recommended by McKinsey & Company is beyond the scope of this narrative. However, my overall impression of the report and the promised Jockey Club follow-through is highly favorable. In fact, this report and the Jockey Club’s commitment to implement its recommendations are the best reasons for optimism that I have seen in the sport and industry of horse racing.

From my background of having conducted and written many similar reports and having read countless others, I would rate the McKinsey & Company report as being strategically sound and eminently doable. Commendably, the consultants conducted in-depth research among bettors ranging from neophytes to whales. While many of the report’s recommendations are not new, for the first time many of the suggested initiatives will have the considerable force of Jockey Club funding behind them.

McKinsey & Company drew on its in-house bench strength in statistical and quantitative analysis to derive data-driven recommendations. Indeed, this was a report long on numbers and refreshingly short on armchair theorizing about what to do about racing’s ills. For example, McKinsey & Company was able to calculate that the practice of multiple racetracks’ scheduling of graded stakes at approximately the same day and hour and minute causes a certain suppression in handle as compared to what handle would be if the stakes were spaced out more. Similarly, the consultants found that rebates to large gamblers are superior to a general cut in takeout because not all bettor types have the same price elasticity of demand.

Any successful plan has to incorporate strategy and tactics and supply the resources to achieve them. McKinsey & Company provided the brain-power and creativity regarding the strategy and tactics and the Jockey Club is stepping up to fund efforts like getting racing a better footing in social media.

How many of the McKinsey & Company strategies will prove to be successful, only time will tell. The consultants correctly called for innovation and the strategies boldly fall in that domain. With innovation, there will always be a certain number of winners and losers.

Another topic at the Conference was the Equine Injury Database. Using data from thousands of races, the researchers are statistically beginning to identify the elements that increase the probability of a racehorse suffering a catastrophic injury. This ongoing study has much promise for reducing the incidence of breakdowns.

It is heartening to see some of horse racing’s pressing issues being put to rigorous analysis.

Copyright © 2011 Horse Racing Business

Click here to access the slide show and video replay of the Jockey Club Round Table Conference