Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Sport -- and a Business

For the past few months, the New York Times let some of us in racing participate in their coverage of the Triple Crown, through their online blog, The Rail. The columns I posted there seemed to strike a chord with quite a few readers, judging from the number of comments that were posted. Now that the Times has closed down the blog until next year (though the archive remains available online), I'll be continuing to post my thoughts here.

Like my columns on the Times site, these will be about the business of racing. There's a paradox there, because most of us in racing, believe it or not, aren't in it for the money. There are lots of easier ways to make a living. We're in it because we love horses, and especially the fast, courageous competitive kind of horses that we call thoroughbreds. Still, we're all aware that racing is indeed a business. Or, rather, a bunch of overlapping, competing, mutually supportive businesses; there's the business of standing stallions at stud, and the very different business of breeding mares to those stallions; there's everything and everyone involved with buying and selling weanlings, yearlings and two-year-olds -- the pinhookers, the pedigree analysts, the bloodstock agents; and, oh by the way, there's also -- racing. And, even looking just at racing itself, there's a myriad of constituencies and business perspectives: there's the race track owners and managers, the trainers, the backstretch workers, the jockeys, the handicappers (especially the guys who live in Vegas, Atlantic City or the Cayman Islands and actually make do expect to make a living off the game), and, finally, the horse owners (themselves ranging all the way from multimillion dollar operations like Coolmore and fabulously wealthy individuals like the Sheiks of Dubai to the retirees who race a horse or two from their own backyard and the folks who put up a few hundred or a couple of thousand to join a partnership or syndicate)
. The only people for whom it isn't a business are the fans, the ones that everybody else is supposed to be doing all of this for. Sometimes, these different interests collide. Very occasionally, they work together. I'd venture to say that part of the reason racing is in the state it is today (which is to say: not good) has something to do with the inability of any one organization or perspective to get all these different interests working in tandem.

What I'll try to do on this site is to provide some insights into all of this, insights that the average racing fan, or even, dare I say so, the average horse owner, might not have. I've been lucky enough to find myself on the inside of the business, both as the manager of Castle Village Farm, a partnership group and, for the past six years, as a member of the Board of Directors of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, the body that represents owners and trainers at NYRA tracks. This blog won't be about handicapping, at least, not often and not very much; it will be a view of the business (or should I say businesses) of racing from the inside, complete with some strongly held opinions.


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