Dollars and Sense: Texas-Sized Returns

 

At last thrown a relatively small bone by state lawmakers two years ago, Texas racing is taking full advantage.

In September 2019 Texas lawmakers approved legislation that would commit an additional $25 million to the state’s horse racing industry, split equally between Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse purses. Texas has made the most of that small investment.

While Texas is surrounded by racing states that boost purses with money from added gaming—Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico—it has found a way forward behind its equine and racing tradition along with a pair of quality tracks in major metropolitan areas built in the 1990s in Lone Star Park, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area; and Sam Houston Race Park, in Houston.

 

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Louisiana Horsemen Assess Storm Damage

Louisiana horsemen were spending the morning of Aug. 27 checking in on one another and assessing any damage after Hurricane Laura battered the state’s coastline overnight.

Karl Broberg, who has finished as the leading trainer by wins in North America multiple times, said his farm near Delta Downs in Vinton, La., sustained heavy damage but no workers or horses were injured. He said there was significant flooding, but the turned-out horses were fine on higher ground.

“It’s draining pretty fast, but there’s still about a foot of water on some parts of the property,” Broberg said. “There’s extensive damage, but all things considered, we’re alright. It just seems that we’re seeing more and more of these powerful hurricanes.”

According to multiple news outlets, the hurricane was listed as a Category 4 storm as it reached landfall near Lake Charles, La., and as of 9:30 a.m. Aug. 27 a number of news sites said the storm was still at Category 2 level as it traveled inland.

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Racing Sees Bump in Overall Handle in June

Horseplayers are supporting racing that’s available.

Like all sports, racing is facing challenges because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but with extensive coverage on national television, fans are finding the sport.

Those fans wagered nearly $1 billion on available racing in June 2020 as handle for the month actually was up 0.76% to $998,448,300 when compared with June 2019. That bump in handle occurred despite a near 40% reduction in race days to 300. While race dates have been lost as tracks adjust to COVID-19 restrictions, fans are supporting available racing as average wagering per race day jumped 68% in June to $3,328,161.

The available racing product is an upgrade for fans as tracks have spread out their schedules to fill available days—like Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday cards. And, a reduction in racing opportunities has helped increase average field size, up 14% in June to 8.11 starters.

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Racing Loses a Legend: A.P. Indy Dies at 31

Classic winner A.P. Indy was the 1992 Horse of the Year.

 

A.P. Indy, the 1992 Horse of the Year and one of the world’s great stallions, died peacefully Feb. 21 at his longtime home at Lane’s End near Versailles, Ky.

Bill Farish of Lane’s End said everyone at the farm was leaning on one another on a difficult Friday. He noted how much A.P. Indy meant to his father, William S. Farish, who bred A.P. Indy with William Kilroy and later came back to own the horse as part of a partnership.

“Anytime Dad visits the farm, his first stop is to go visit A.P. Indy,” Bill Farish said, adding that Friday was a tough day for his dad.

A.P. Indy, a son of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, was the leading sire twice, leading broodmare sire once, and among the leaders on both lists multiple times.

 

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Purses Up, Pari-Mutuel Handle Down in 2019

Decline in pari-mutuel handle ends a four-year stretch of gains.

For all of racing’s problems in 2019, there certainly were plenty of locations where horsemen had reason for optimism behind strong purses. But, there most assuredly are numbers of concern in the year-end economic indicators released Jan. 6 by Equibase.

Fueled by strong purse growth in Kentucky—specifically Churchill Downs—purses for races in the United States increased 4.5% in 2019 to $1,167,921,650 compared with 2018. It’s the second straight season of strong growth for U.S. purses as they improved 3.5% in 2018.

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Jockey McMahon Earns Milestone Victory

C.J. McMahon earned his 1,000th career win Jan. 1 at Delta Downs.

 

Multiple graded stakes-winning jockey C.J. McMahon celebrated the new year with a milestone win Jan. 1 at Delta Downs.  Riding 3-5 favorite Cavallotto in the fourth race Wednesday, McMahon delivered a front-running score in the one-mile claiming event to secure the 1,000th victory of his career. Cavallotto is trained by Karl Broberg, who in 2019 finished as the leading conditioner by wins in North America for the sixth straight season.

Broberg regularly calls on McMahon and in 2019 the pair teamed to win 132 races from 489 starts, including a victory in the Bluebonnet Stakes with Ima Discreet Lady in April at Lone Star Park.

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Thoroughbred Idea Foundation Calls for Affordable Data

Group said free, or reduced-price data would spur interest in ownership, wagering.

 

An industry group focused on improving horse racing, especially for gamblers and owners, is calling on the industry’s data collector, Equibase, to share more information for free or at greatly reduced prices. In a White Paper issued March 11, the Thoroughbred Idea Foundation said Equibase should consider the collection and distribution of racing data as a marketing expense and distribute it for free, or as open as possible. The White Paper argues that this approach would attract and retain gamblers while empowering owners to make more educated decisions.

TIF board member Tom Reynolds, an active handicapping tournament player who has become a horse owner through Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners after spending more than three decades as a sales and marketing executive for Pepsi-Cola North America, believes such an approach to racing’s data would help increase interest in ownership and wagering.

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Jockey Tim Thornton Registers Career Win 2,000

Last year Thornton ranked second in wins among all North American riders.

 

Jockey Tim Thornton, who in 2018 posted more wins than any rider except Eclipse Award winner Irad Ortiz Jr., secured the 2,000th victory of his career in the sixth race Feb. 16 at Delta Downs.

In the milestone race Saturday, Thornton sent M and M Racing’s She’sgotthebeatto the lead along the rail, opened that advantage to two lengths in the stretch, then held off a late charge from longshot Theboyzblues to win by a half-length. She’sgotthbeat is trained by Robertino Diodoro.

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Underpressure Back for Premier Night Championship Try

Last year Underpressure finished second in the LA Bred Premier Night Championship.

 

After coming up just short in last year’s Louisiana-bred Premier Night Championship Stakes at Delta Downs, Underpressure will try to earn a trip to the winner’s circle this year against an expected nine state-bred rivals in the 1 1/16-mile test Feb. 9.

The $150,000 Premier Night Championship is one of six stakes for Louisiana-breds that will award a total $675,000 in purses. The card also features four starter stakes that will award another $220,000.

In last year’s Premier Night Championship, Mallory Greiner’s Underpressure launched a strong rally from sixth but would be edged for the win by Mobile Bay, who prevailed by a nose. Underpressure, a son of Birdstone , will be making his first start as a 5-year-old after closing last season with a 3 1/2-length score over state-breds in the Louisiana Champions Day Classic Dec. 8 at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.

Trained by Chris Richard, Underpressure boasts three stakes wins and seven stakes placings as he enters his fourth season of racing. On Saturday he’ll start from post four with jockey Corey Lanerie aboard.

After a stakes win and an allowance-optional claiming victory sprinting at Fair Grounds, Valene Farms’ Givemeaminit will stretch out Saturday while Brittlyn Stable’s Magic Vow will try for a second consecutive stakes win after a four-length victory in the off-the-turf Louisiana Champions Day Turf Stakes Dec. 8 at Fair Grounds.

The field also includes the second- and third-place finishers from the Louisiana Champions Day Classic in runner-up Grande Basin and third-place finisher Mageez.

In the other five stakes for state-breds on Saturday’s Louisiana Premier Night card:

Bill Aims to End Export of Horses for Slaughter

Similar legislation was filed in 2017 but stalled in committee.

 

Bipartisan legislation filed in the United States House of Representatives Jan. 30 aims to halt the shipping of horses to Canada or Mexico for slaughter.

Representatives Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat, and Vern Buchanan, a Florida Republican, reintroduced Wednesday the Safeguard American Food Exports Act, which would prohibit horse-slaughter plants from operating in the U.S. and end the export of horses across the border for this purpose.

Marty Irby, executive director of Animal Wellness Action, said the act is a permanent solution as opposed to the current de facto ban in place since 2006, which is accomplished by not funding regulatory appropriations to allow such plants to operate. Irby noted the bill includes 219 co-sponsors in the 115th Congress, more than half the House.

Similar legislation, the Safeguard American Food Exports Act of 2017, stalled in committee despite having more than 200 co-sponsors.

“Horses have a special place in our nation’s history, and these majestic creatures were not raised as food for humans,” Schakowsky said. “The SAFE Act would prohibit any horse slaughter plant from opening and also end the sale or transport of horses and horse parts in the U.S. and abroad for the purpose of human consumption. I am proud to reintroduce this bill and work with Congressman Buchanan to put an end to this practice.”

“The slaughter of horses for human consumption is a barbaric practice that has no place in America,” Buchanan said. “I will continue to lead the effort with Congresswoman Schakowsky to ban domestic horse slaughter and end the export of horses abroad for slaughter.”

National Thoroughbred Racing Association president and CEO Alex Waldrop said Wednesday he has not read through the entire bill yet, but one potential concern would be that the legislation could hinder transport of horses to Mexico or Canada for legitimate reasons, like racing or breeding.

U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, and Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, intend to introduce a similar bill in the Senate soon.