In horse racing, the first to the finish line wins and, barring a claim of foul, subjectivity and judgment matter naught. Racing is as close as one can get to an equal-opportunity proposition.
A royally-bred yearling that goes through the auction ring for a seven-figure sum eventually has to prove its worth on the racetrack. At the same time, a colt or filly with an unfashionable pedigree, a major conformation fault, and a four-figure sales price can show its true value on the racetrack.
The racetrack embodies and demonstrates the point Bill Parcells made so cogently about professional football coaches: “You are what your record says you are.” This “pretty is as pretty does” code has always appealed to me.
The competitive landscape of the racing industry has certainly changed over the years. Technological advances have added more complexity to the scene and have enabled racing to be far more international in scope. The impact of the digital revolution has been swift and dramatic. Betting sites in the United Kingdom in particular now make up a huge part of the global racing industry; it remains to be seen how racing in America will react. Up until now, regulation and strong lobbying from traditional land-based operators have stifled online gambling activities for better or worse, but the Internet absolutely has the power to shake things up.
Like many longtime horse racing fans I got my introduction to the sport as a teenager in the 1950s, when my father would take me with him to the local racetrack, which was Churchill Downs in my case. He would handicap and bet and I would take in the sights and sounds. Those impressions were vivid and lasting.
Occasionally, in the Spring of the year, my family would drive to Lexington for an overnight trip. The famous farms like Calumet and Spendthrift were in their heyday and were mostly open to walk-in tourists. A visitor could see Citation, Nashua, and other greats up close or just watch a foal scamper after its dam. At Spendthrift, a groom would regale you with the often hyped-up exploits of a stallion he was holding for you to view.
My initial interest in horses was sparked by a pony, Flash, that my parents gave to me and my brother when we were preschoolers. Riding lessons soon followed and eventually we were breeding and showing a few American Saddlebreds on the highly competitive Kentucky circuit. For several summers, I worked on a horse farm or at a stable as a groom and an all-around go-fer. I learned a lot about equine temperament, conformation, injuries, and other intricacies. For a couple of years–after school, on Saturdays, and in the summer–I assisted a veterinarian who specialized in Thoroughbreds…with foaling, de-worming, and other such tasks.
As a teenager, I actually considered apprenticing to become a Thoroughbred trainer. However, a Hall of Fame trainer advised me (and a friend who was also so inclined) to get a college education first and then decide. I listened to his counsel and never took the training route, but my fascination with the mystique, ambiance, and culture of Thoroughbred racing never waned.
After college and upon completing my obligation to Uncle Sam in the military, and working for a while for a Fortune 500 company in sales and marketing, I went to graduate school and ultimately ended up as a university business-school professor, beginning in the early 1970s.
About 1987, I became concerned with how much my favorite sport of horse racing was in decline. Because of my business and academic background in marketing, finance, and entrepreneurship, I thought I might be able to help in some small way, so I began to write, purely as a hobby, for horse-racing publications and have been doing so ever since, mostly in The Blood-Horse. This sideline or avocation was in addition to the academic research and publications that are expected and required of professors in doctoral-granting institutions.
When my academic career was about to wind down, I decided to offer a weekly online publication devoted almost exclusively to the business of horse racing. I intend to provide analysis, insights, and recommendations that might assist someone to improve his or her racing-related business, whether it be a racetrack, a bloodstock enterprise, or a supplier of goods and services to the racing industry. Another goal is to write about the state of the industry per se and some of its companies, especially the publicly-traded ones.
Occasionally, I will have a guest columnist, who will offer perspectives and advice on his or her specialty. No doubt, the website will add content as time goes by.
The only exceptions to my focus on racing commerce may come during the Triple Crown season, prior to the Travers, and in the run-up to the Breeders’ Cup. On those occasions, I might venture off into the slippery slope of how a big race or two could turn out.
How long I will keep doing Horse Racing Business is indeterminate.
If you have an expertise and something you want to say, contact me and I’ll see if it might be useful and appropriate to publish in Horse Racing Business. At the very least, I welcome your comments, pro or con, about material published on the website.
And thanks for visiting. I invite you to come back often.