Commentary: The problem with … the race to the breeding barn – Horse Racing News | Pawleck report
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of comments, which will all begin under the premise of “the problem with…” rather than a complaint, however, as the introductory phrase might suggest, the purpose of these articles will be to present the big picture of the main racing issue and create Dialogue about what is best for the future of sport.
The problem with horse racing at its highest level in the United States is that it has become a marketing tool rather than a sport and that the people who have the most power to help the sport grow do not make the actual sport their priority.
In 24 hours, Flightline’s victory at the Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 5 demonstrated the biggest opportunity and greatest challenge American horse racing faces.
First, the greatest opportunity…
Before the Breeders Cup, comparisons were already starting to flow between Flightline and the Secretariat. “Is Flightline the greatest Thoroughbred since the Secretariat?” was the title of The New York Times Article published the day before the Flightline Classic victory.
Flightline resumes Breeders Cup entry: five wins from six furlongs to 1 mile average winning margin over 12 lengths, and its most recent race was a defeat of 19 ¼ of the 2022 Dubai World Cup winner Country Grammer at The Pacific Classic in Del Mar.
“Take a good look at this because you won’t see this often,” announcer Trevor Denman said on the home presentation of his race invite at the Pacific Classic.
Trevor was right in the most literal way. We’ll see this exactly again in Keeneland at Flightline winning the largest margin of victory in Breeders’ Cup Classic history, at 8 in length, made even more impressive as it came on as part of one of the best fields in classic history. All eight runners were first-class winners.
With honesty already in people’s minds, the race was conducted like the 1973 Belmont race. Life Is Good, a talent in and of itself, pressed for the lead in the Classic as did Cham at Belmont. These couples had their own dance floors to themselves. Honesty rose to another level because of Sham, and Flightline did the same because of Life Is Good to produce a victory he will talk about for decades to come. Broadcaster Larry Colmus permeated his plea for the race by declaring that it was a ‘Breeders’ Cup Classic Secretariat style win’.
The comparison has already been made between Flightline and the Secretariat, 2022 Tweet embed The classic ended up reproducing an important element of the 1973 Belmont. The grandeur of honesty and Flightline is enhanced by their dance partner in their greatest race. 1/2 pic.twitter.com/WG4zEK47IQ
– Jonathan Horowitz (@jhorowitz) November 6, 2022
Then, less than 24 hours later, Flightline will retire to the horse competition, and now horse racing is facing its biggest challenge…
Only when the sport gives its best to the world on one of its biggest stages in front of an audience that can include potential new fans do those stars fade away. The previous five horses of the year — Gun Runner in 2017, Justify in 2018, Bricks and Mortar in 2019, Authentic in 2020, and Knicks Go in 2021 — have raced a total of twice in the calendar year after winning the Eclipse award. Horse of the Year award. Gun Runner ran in the Pegasus World Cup 2018 and Knicks Go in the Pegasus World Cup 2022.
This is it. Everyone else was a “candle in the wind”. Imagine if Elton John retired after his first hit in first place. Or if Muhammad Ali hung up his gloves after winning the heavyweight title. Or, if Michael Phelps never swims in a race after his first Olympics. Or, if (choose your favorite sports team) is dissolved after its first championship.
Why did Flyline retire suddenly? We all know the answer, and unfortunately, we’ve become numb enough to accept it as an imperative whenever there is a truly great race horse in America. The value of Flightline is too much for a stallion to risk. On November 7, a 2.5 percent stake in Flightline sold for $4.6 million at a unique auction in Keeneland. That doesn’t make it worth the $184 million as some have suggested, but it’s worth a lot more than the $1 million he brought in in the 2019 sale. His initial stud fee was set at $200,000 for each foal he generates.
Horse racing is now here for owners of historic horses like Flightline, Justify or American Pharoah to cash in on their value after they’ve finished a race. In this sense, racing is there to highlight the value in these horses and market them for what is their true end goal, which is the breeding barn. I lost track of the number of commercials for stallions that aired during NBC Sports’ coverage of this year’s Breeders Cup.
After a year of racing brilliance – whether it’s as a 3-year-old during a Triple Crown as American Pharoah in 2015 or Justify in 2018 or at age 4 as Flightline in 2022 after a pit stop delaying the start of his racing career – owners They choose to retire their stars at a time when the races can grow from the fans these horses attract.
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We (speaking as fans who became addicted as a teenager in the 90s and 2000s by horses like Silver Charm, Daylami and Skip Away) understand that horse racing is a business, but also a sport in need of stability and a message for the future. Instead, owners of this year’s last horses that could captivate current and new fans of the sport’s highest level made a stock market to cash out and then put back the process by investing heavily in the next annual sale.
The bait will be there to take it. Another inexperienced youngster will appear at the first appearance of the stakes, and we will wonder if this horse is the next flying line, Justify or the American Pharoah. In this sense, horse racing has become all about a one-night stand with its stars.
So, what solutions are available to develop a long-term relationship? That’s a long way off: allowing thoroughbred racehorses to be bred to model other racehorses using IVF and embryo transfer. This can allow breeding revenues to be reaped simultaneously while still extending the racehorse’s career.
I get that any attempt to tamper with the status of Thoroughbred breeding, such as stallions set by The Jockey Club to cover 140 mare per year, will meet with the same reaction as the New Coke, but just keep that statistic in mind. Remember how the last five thoroughbred horses of the year collectively fought in two races after being voted on with this award. The last five Arabian horses this year have seen 72 times since their first year, achieving the sport’s highest honor. Two of them — Paddys Day from 2015, 2016 and 2017 and Quick Sand AA from 2018 — are set to compete against each other at the Arabian Stallion Stakes at Lone Star Park on December 10 and compete for Horse of the Year once again.
Paddys Day now has an offspring running and has raced against one of his sons. Paddys Day calls have been gathering on him in the midst of his three consecutive seasons of the year for his horse, and that doesn’t seem to have affected his racing ability.
Seeing familiar Arabian racing stars made the sport even more popular, including among fans of thoroughbred racing. For example, the first time Paddys Day was held in the UAE President’s Cup, the richest Arabian horse race in the United States, in 2016 at Churchill Downs, the race volume was $207,869. On the same Downs After Dark card the following year as the same race number with the same bet list and one lower betting interest, the 2017 UAE President’s Cup handled $275,330.
When Paddys Day and Quick Sand AA matched in the first UAE President’s Cup when the race moved to Preakness in 2020, the race came in at $1,163,255. The following year, the race index rose to $2,367,749 in the same position as the last race on the card with the same number of betting interests. The 2021 race ran in May instead of October, and the handle included $502,973 for the Daily Double and Pick 3 that were not part of the betting list in 2020.
Another solution might be to shed more light on the country-born stars who return to their home paths and develop fan followings year after year after year. For example, the Colorado-born Collusionist capped a five-for-five season at Bally’s Arapahoe Park in 2022 with a remarkable win in the Butch Gleeson Classic on October 4. 2018.
Collusion put an exclamation mark on a perfect season at Bali’s Arapahoe Park, winning the Butch Gleeson Classic on Tuesday’s closing day to claim his fifth win in 2022 and his 13th career win at Arapahoe Park since the Colorado-born began racing in 2018. pic.twitter.com/gphH0rjIlL
– Jonathan Horowitz (@jhorowitz) 4 October 2022
After not being part of the Arapahoe closing day ticket in 2020, the Collusionist competed in the Butch Gleason Classic, the final race to meet, in 2021 and 2022. Dealing with that race in 2021 was $55,184 and in 2022 it was $88,305, although From the 2022 amount that includes $10,133 for Pick 4 and Pick 5 that weren’t part of 2021. The total handling of the two closing day cards featuring the Collusionist increased from $303,963 in 2021 to $327,444 in 2022. These are positive trends .
Sure, the Collusionist can’t hold a candle on Flightline. His success was limited to Colorado. However, he does bring fans to Bally’s Arapahoe Park to see a local star. I dare you to watch his debut ‘Silky Sullivan’ and tell me this isn’t a great horse that you want to keep watching.
Accomplices aren’t even in the picture for most of the race before he unleashed a furious closing kick to offset 20 lengths on his debut at Arapahoe Park. It reminds us of how Silky Sullivan frustrated them Tweet embed. I edited this video which showed them side by side. pic.twitter.com/6NwwEA7zSK
– Jonathan Horowitz (@jhorowitz) 17 July 2018
Other major racing nations also keep their stars more frequently than six times running Flightline in two years. Anamui, who is also 4 years old and resides in Australia for Godolphin, has made 21 appearances and won 11 races, including seven sets 1. He lost his last race on the same date as the Breeders Cup. It’s okay to lose, unless you’re concerned about maximizing the value of the horses, and unfortunately, that’s what primarily affects whether we see American racing stars.
Hopefully the owners and coaches in America will take this approach as Björn Nielsen, John and Tade Gusden did with Great Britain’s Stradivarius. Stradivarius finally retired to study in 2022 at the age of seven.
“He still loves his training and racing, and it’s exciting to have everyone host him for another year,” Taddy Gosden told Racing TV at the end of 2021.
Hopefully this year’s American horse owner and trainer will have the courage to say so in the future.
Jonathan Horowitz is a longtime racing fan and is now an on-track announcer and Thoroughbred off-track actor.
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