Horse Racing Question

This thread http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?threadid=85956 about the price of race house stud fees inspired me to ask the following question.

I am a grown man who has never been to a horse race (camel race yes, but that’s another story). The only time I really see race horses mentioned in the media is during the derby series and occasionally when I see a television news story that this or that horse sold for millions of dollars typically with a background shot of vast stable facilities.

In 2001 are there millions of people going to race tracks willing to spend billons betting on a sport that rarely cracks the mass media radar screen? I ask this because I would imagine for horses to be worth millions they have to be capable of generating multiples of that in winnings.

I don’t want to seem clueless but I really do wonder at how a sport can throw that kind of money around unless it would have more sustained popular appeal than racing seems to have. It racing really a huge sport but just quiet?

Just curious.

Wrong forum sorry. Moderator move at will.

Horse racing is not as big a sport as gambling. I think you’ll find that’s where the money comes from one way or another.

Long of the short of it: Yes. In fact, more people will attend the tracks in this upcoming year than any other sport (a statistic I read a while back in the LA Times). Yes, the Derby can have an attendance of over 140,000 people, but just daily attendance on regular non-stakes days easily number 10,000 at the large tracks. It isn’t unusual for weekend attendance–at just one track–to be well over 30,000. I have been to Santa Anita on days when over 75,000 of us were there. I don’t know who these thousands of people are who come to the track in the middle of the workweek, but they’re there.

A great deal of the money awarded in racing does come from the betting, but a good deal is also in the race nominations and starter fees (as well as supplemental entries in certain restricted conditions). Also, tracks do promote themselves…out here in Southern CA, Hollywood Park has night-time racing on Friday nights. They offer $1 beers and hot dogs to further incite the interest of the younger crown they seek. There’s also Family Fun Days at Santa Anita, and KROQ, a major rock station out here, regularly hosts concert events in their infield. (Usually there’s beer tasting, too…so it’s all a big party scene: beer, rock, and gambling!)

The sport is working to make itself more known in the media. Fox Sports West has live coverage daily, and ESPN2 has one major race profiled every weekend. ABC and NBC cover the major events–the Triple Crown (Derby, Preakness, Belmont) and the World Thoroughbred Racing Championships (formerly known as the Breeder’s Cup).

I am, of course, a complete FREAK of a fan, and have been for nearly 20 years. Fire away any and all racing questions, I’m game. :smiley:

That should be the younger crowd they seek. No crowns involved.

As far as gambling goes, it is not all that is to the sport. In fact, for those actually IN the sport, it has nothing to do with their operations, be they trainers, jockeys, owners, or breeders. I, as a nearly rabid fan, never bet. It actually seems to spoil the fun.

However, as said in my previous post, it is a large source of revenue for the tracks. But it isn’t the only source.

This is by no means true.

Now, the horse breeding business is never easy to understand, but certain rules apply, and one of these rules concerns blood lines.

The thread you refer to mentions Storm Cat, and one of Storm Cat’s progeny, which is Giant’s Causeway, a five time Grade 1 winner in Europe last year, and just touched off in the Breeders Cup.

This Giant’s Causeway wins a lot of money at the races, and is now most valuable as a stallion. I do not recall the syndication fee, or how much a nomination to Giant’s Causeway costs the owner of a broodmare, but it is a great deal of money, whichever way you look at the matter.

Now, the fact that Giant’s Causeway is by Storm Cat greatly increases the horse’s worth, as this is an established bloodline, and Storm Cat produces many winners over the past few years.

Which is another way of saying that Giant’s Causeway can win as many Grade 1 races as it does last year, but if the sire is not as fashionable as Storm Cat, it’s value is not so great.

Someone, I think it is Ruffian, says that there are not many Storm Cat offspring which race in Europe, and this is true. Ruffian mentions also the European equivalent of Storm Cat is Sadlers Wells, which sires the Epsom Derby winner this year, which is Galileo. So, both of these stallions are hotter than a stove at the moment, and a horse by either of them, especially a colt, is generally regarded as a good investment.

Galileo retires this year, after visiting the US for the Breeders Cup, and joins Giant’s Causeway at stud. So, what is important to keep in mind is both Galileo and Giant’s Causeway are expected to continue the success of their respective bloodlines, which makes them worth a very large sum of money indeed.

A final word about Giant’s Causeway. It is a long time since I see a horse with more courage, and when I see it race last year, the hair on the back of my neck stands up.

…Very well said, Nostra. :slight_smile: I’m assuming you’re in Eurpose and a racing fan? Hooray! I’m all for meeting more fans, esp. those overseas, and talking racing with them.

Anywho, as Nostradamus said, breeding is a factor as well. Allow me to describe the breeder’s Holy Grail, also known as last year’s Kentucky Derby winner, Fusaichi Pegasus.

FuPeg was:
[ul]
[li]A physically gorgeous specimen. Sales managers for the Keeneland Select Yearling Sales grade horses based on physical appearance, with an A rating the unattainable ideal. Most horses are a variation of C (and there are many very strange variations, like C-!, C–?), etc. FuPeg is the only horse they have ever given a B to.[/li]
[li]A blueblood of the highest order. He was by the now deceased Mr. Prospector, North America’s leading sire for several years (before Storm Cat unseated him), out of an amazingly bred mare named Angel Fever who had other winning offspring.[/li]
[li]A $4,000,000 yearling. He was the sales-topper of his generation–the above two factors played into this.[/li]
[li]A Kentucky Derby winner. Not only that, he was the first favorite to win the Derby in 21 years–and he won with amazing ease.[/li]
[/ul] Despite being second in the Preakness, his value reached astronomical heights. He ran only twice more, with a win in a smaller graded stakes and an embarrassing unplaced performance in the Breeder’s Cup Classic, won by Tiznow (and Giant’s Causeway second). He was sold for over $60 million–a new world record–to a breeding facility, and stands for what I believe is an outrageous $150,000 stud fee. He may be gorgeous and well-bred, and even a talented runner, but it seems quite a gamble to spend that kind of money on an unproven sire. Of course, he’s being bred to mares of the highest order, so that will help things.

Re: Giant’s Causeway…D. Wayne Lukas, a veyr successful trainer, said that horse had the most phenomenal performance of any in last years Breeder’s Cup. Despite it being his first time running in America, running on the dirt, making the long journey, etc, he lost by just one hard-battled neck. IMHO, he is a far more proven runner than overhyped FuPeg.

If I remember the Blood Horse article correctly, Nostradamus, GC stands for the equivalent of about $115,000.

Another note…few horses sell for millions, and few horses make millions. Most horses are basically blue-collar geldings, just trying to earn their keep.

Okay, I need to stop. Someone got me talking horses again… :wink:

Ruffian, what you say makes a great deal of sense, and I am delighted to know that someone else on these boards is extremely fond of horse racing. If I wish to know anything about the US racing scene, I know who it is I should ask.

I am most interested in your remarks about Fusaichi Pegasus, and correct me if I am wrong, but does the horse stand at Coolmore in Ireland?

The newspapers over here comment on the big US races from time to time, and we have the Breeders Cup beamed live by satellite.

I am disappointed with the injury to Point Given, as a race with Galileo and Point Given is something to savour, but the US is bound to have some horse which will test Galileo, or beat it, since the European record at the Breeders Cup is far from impressive.

I do not know what else we are sending over to you this year, but when I find out I will assess their chances, but this is not to say you should bet on my selections.

Incidentally, Galileo demonstrates the same fighting qualities as Giant’s Causeway in the Grade 1 King George Stakes in July, this race being our showcase event for all-aged horses.

He is headed and looks beat by Fantastic Light, but comes back at Fantastic Light and wins a shade cosily at the finish. This is over 1 mile 4 furlongs.

These two horses meet again tomorrow in Ireland over 1 mile and 2 furlongs, and Galileo is two to one on to repeat the dose, at a 5lb disadvantage at the weights.

I stop before I fill up the database. Horse talk I also find very addictive. :slight_smile:

FuPeg does indeed stand at a Coolmore facility, but it’s “Coolmore America.” He stands at Ashford stud in Versailles, Kentucky, although he is one of their “shipping” stallions that they send off to the southern hemisphere (I believe Australia) for their breeding season.

Yeah, it really disappointed me that Point Given went lame. He ran so greenly in his races; I always felt we weren’t seeing the best of him. His retirement stinks. :stuck_out_tongue:

I think the Breeder’s Cup has entirely too many home court advantages to entice, as well as benefit, the European runners. Put any horse on a long flight, adjust to the time schedule, adjust to running on a new surface, and handle the joys of quarantine, and see how well they perform. One of these years, they need to run the series in Europe!

Ruffian, I consider that one of the reasons a Breeders Cup event, or something which resembles this, is never held in Europe is because Europeans may have a problem finding so much stake money!

Furthermore, I am never sure that US trainers and owners wish to race over here. There are valuable races to win, such as the Epsom Derby, the French and Irish equivalents, the King George, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, and several more, which are worth the trip over but the US seldom comes.

Maybe this is because you have your own pattern system, where there are enough good races for all top class horses to compete in, without the travelling. Personally I look forward to the day when competition is more international, and year by year I think we are getting there.

The US jockeys I see riding here over the years are very impressive, none more so than Steve Cauthen, who is born with a clock in his head. I never see a finer rider from the front, unless it is Lester Piggott, but the comparison is a close one.

Also, Gary Stevens is impressive when he is here for a short time a couple of years ago, and I regret that he has problems which necessitate his return home.

I am interested in the configuration of US tracks, as all those I see on television are flat, oval, left-handed circuits of maybe a mile and a quarter, and the surface is predominately dirt. Do you have exceptions there?

In England, Wales and Scotland, there is a total of 59 tracks (60 if the second course at Newmarket is included) and each and every one differs in character. They race right and left-handed, uphill and downhill, on sharp tracks and galloping tracks, and every which way you can imagine.

I think this is another reason why your horses do not come. :wink:

AFAIK, all US tracks are as you described: oval, left-handed turns, and flat. Nearly in all cases, the dirt track encircles the turf track. The only mild exception that comes to mind is Santa Anita’s turf course–it has a “hillside” start gate for certain races. The horses run downhill the first quarter, and actually cross over the dirt track onto the main turf track from this kind of starter’s chute.

I don’t quite understand why US trainers don’t race in the European classics, but then again, there haven’t been all that many European horses that have run in the US Triple Crown, either. It seems the only thing that entices anyone to travel is money. Otherwise, who’d want to ship a horse to Dubai?

I envy the variety of track shape and race distance in Europe. It’s so much more exciting to me when there are so many other factors to consider, and it really brings out the true racehorse when they overcome each of the variables. I’m also not a big fan of the gradual shift toward speed-focus in US racing–what about stamina? Isn’t that a virtue in a racehorse? I’d LOVE to see a major 2-mile race, but they just don’t exist anymore here.

Considering this, I have to wonder if we haven’t prevented any future Kelsos from making their name on the American track.

Most tracks in the US are as you described: dirt, oval, level, etc. While the track is usually about 1 mile in length, the race length is adjusted by moving the start (so that the race always finishes in front of the grandstand.)Many tracks ALSO have a turf track – usually just to the inside of the dirt track, but for whatever reason turf racing (and steeplechasing which is also done on the turf) are far less popular than dirt. I’m not very knowledgable about turf (or about dirt, but I guess more than the average person) but the only “big” stakes turf race is that the Breeders Cup turf race. Big in the sense of having any chance of being broadcast on television, thereby coming to the attention of the general public.

Nostradamus, in the UK do people take Thoroughbred horses off the track for pleasure or competition mounts (some horses which do not have speed or inclination for racing, for example, but are otherwise sound)? There are a number of agencies in the US which facilitate this “change of career.”

I do not remember Kelso personally but I know of this horse, as he wins Horse of the Year five times hand running in the early 1960’s, and in these years he is successful five times in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, over two miles as you say.

The emphasis on speed over stamina is based on fashion of course, as there is no practical reason why a horse is penalised in stud value because it is a stayer.

There is one Grade 1 race over 2 miles 4 furlongs here, which is the Ascot Gold Cup, and there are a couple of Grade 2 events over a 2 mile trip. The winners of such races do not tend to attract much interest as stallions, more is the pity.

However, in the UK there is a great deal of interest in jump racing, which predominates in the winter when the turf flat racing season finishes.

Races are run over fences and hurdles with a minimum trip of 2 miles and a maximum of about 4 miles 4 furlongs. Some of the horses stay in training for many years, which adds continuity to the scene, instead of contesting maybe 10 races at 2 and 3 years old before being retired to stud, as happens on the flat with top class animals. You probably know this already.

In so saying, it is important to know that many of the jumpers are geldings, so their stud value is necessarily limited!

I think that Kelso was a gelding, but irrespective of this, it is doubtful you will see his like again.

Hello, rmariamp, and I see you are another Doper with an interest in this noble sport, which is excellent news.

When you say pleasure and competition, if you mean Eventing or Show Jumping then I think this happens but only very rarely. In truth, I do not know a great deal about the provenance of such horses, but I do not think there is a wholesale transfer between the two sports.

If the horse is a mare, and it is from a good bloodline, I imagine the animal is often used for breeding purposes, even if it never races at all. If the horse is a, well, a horse, the connections may first try the animal over hurdles before making a decision about its future.

I can vaguely remember instances of racehorses which prove useless on the flat, which then come good in the jumping game, but these instances are by no means widespread.

Of course, the ultimate fate of a very bad racehorse is too terrible to contemplate, because it ends up in a tin!

Well, Fantastic Light wins by a head, following a protracted struggle from the two pole, and it seems both horses now have the Breeders Cup Classic in their sights.

The connections of Galileo are disappointed, and they think they get their tactics wrong, but Fantastic Light pleases Godolphin more than somewhat, and there is no doubt this 5-y-o is a class act.

We shall see.

Mick Kinane should be disappointed in himself. He had trouble switching his whip to the right hand - (it got caught in the reins) - by the time he got a good crack on the right side of Galileo, the momentum was lost.

A great race! Neck and neck throughout the stretch! Really exciting stuff.

If 50 tracks run on a particular weekend day (not unlikely) - and an average of 5000 people show up, that’s 250,000 people - not bad. That wouldn’t include the number of people watching at Off Track betting parlors, of which there are a lot.

The million dollar horses rarely get the money back from purses - they make their big money in the breeding shed, which is (sadly) why few top horses run past their 4 year old season.

Some of these horses get upwards of $25,000 for a live foal, and that’s the stud fee! You do the math as to how many mares a stud can cover in a day x $25,000 = tons of money.

rmariamp, there are also several throroughbreds who retired from racing and went on to polo. Apparently, they’re used to being bumped around during races, and don’t mind it so much in polo. I don’t know for certain, but I imagine that this would be as common in the UK as it is in the US.

Gazoo, I don’t think a stud covers more than one mare a day. From what I remember, a mare will be brought to a stud, and he’ll cover her twice in one day: once in the morning, once in the afternoon. There’s a few days’ rest between bookings for a stud, too. Even so, stud service is a good way to make money…for the owner and the horse :slight_smile:

(Like Secretariat said, “They’re paying 8 million bucks and all I gotta do is that?”)

The breeding industry world wide is headed for a fallout. The ridiculous prices payed for bloodstock at the moment are back to the 80’s and Robert Sangster.

Look at Fusaichi Pegasus, a winner only once at G1 level, less than 10 career starts, badly beaten at second attempt at 10f, untried at 4, stud fee $150,000.