Time for financial fundamentals

horses racingTurning local horse racing around won’t be easy for the simple reason it’s been operating on too many fiscal fallacies for too long.

Firstly, the industry’s investors have been put to sit at the back of the bus for so long they struggle to recognize the injustice. FACT: Breeders, owners and punters are the backbone of horse racing as, collectively, they provide every dollar from which all others earn. Yet breeders’ incentives are disparaged; owners’ purses are plundered by leeching industry professionals; and the punter is treated with utter contempt as a massive 30%+ of his stakes is sucked from the win pool by the promoter before dividends are declared.

This must stop. Breeders’ Bonuses, widely criticized as undeserving, are fundamentally important. It’s no secret the breeding industry is in deep financial trouble. Without breeders, racing would depend on imported horses, which is fiscally unsustainable. Right now, breeders are being kept afloat by yearling sales to Trinidadians and Barbadians, but that’s a double-edged sword as our best horseflesh is exported to bolster another country’s product while our racing and breeding standards plummet.

Breeders’ bonuses aren’t gifts. They’re a means of incentivizing the industry without making government dip into the consolidated fund. So, straight-line-logic arguments like “But they sell the horse already” or “why pay breeders bonuses to 5-year-olds” miss the point.  The logic of it lies in the industry’s urgent need for incentives and not in any sale and purchase contract.

Then we come to the poor owner who proves the rule that there’s a sucker born every day. Owners pay huge monthly bills only to see the beneficiaries of those payments flocking to plunge their sticky fingers deep into his purse payments as well. Trainers are rewarded with 15% of owners’ purses when the highest worldwide trainers’ bonus is 10%.

Jockeys get 10% of purses. Why? Picture this hypothetical scenario. Your horse, patiently prepared by the trainer for months at your expense, is given no chance by a jockey who spends the race with his feet firmly braced against the dashboard. So fit is your nag that it can’t help finishing 3rd. The stewards report the jockey to the Commission which warns him off for corrupt practice. Yet, that jockey is still entitled to 10% of your third place purse.

In civilized countries, jockeys are paid 7.5% of winning purses only except in Graded Stakes races. Jamaica is the only country in the world where a groom is given a 5% bonus from purses. None of these professional recipients of bonuses (despite having been paid separately for their services) consider there’s any problem with these payments but fulminate against the breeders’ bonus because “Dem sell de horse already!”

Punters must be spared these extortionate 30%+ takeouts. Ideally, win/place takeouts should be no more than 15% and exotics 20-25%. The more money you hand to a bettor is the more he’ll bet thus permitting the “churn effect” to turn less into more. The solution has everything to do with government co-operation (reduce Pool Betting Duty to circa 1%; rely on back-end taxes from racing’s many spin-offs); a move towards online wagering to replace most of the OTBs (3 or 4 OTBs can remain in city/large town centres); and the introduction of an I.T. Department (led by a young computer programmer who can write code) mandated to maximize merchandising and other miscellaneous revenues including selling affordable subscriptions to online form and live racing broadcasts. There’s a market for tips from professional tipsters (which would exclude any of our currently practicing public tipsters).

There’s no limit to what can be done to improve this wonderful industry. All it takes is imagination and will.

DEPARTMENTS:

  1. Clocked In

A quick review of the abbreviations: TV is “Track Variant” (effect of all track conditions on official times); TVs are in fifths of a second; “minus” means a fast track; “plus” means slow (e.g. -2 means fast by 2/5ths of a second); variants beside an individual horse’s name represent the difference between its official time and the grade standard.

The drop to 1400m and booking of journeyman A. Sybble ought to have tempered enthusiasm for notebook horse Coded Secret on May 13. Predictably, he blew the start; went miles wide 400m out; then stayed on one-paced to be 5¾ lengths 3rd. Turned out quickly on May 23 with in form apprentice D. Dawkins and stretched out another 100m, he made no mistake winning at 4/5.

Another notebook horse, Yolove, was atrociously ridden by Aaron Chatrie. Drawn 10 of 10 in a 1820m race, he was soon rushed to the fore;  careened wide first turn; shuffled back to 9th; rushed again to be chasing leaders from 1300m out; headway from 1000m; 3rd straight; no extra final 400m but kept on final 200m. He’s to be kept on the right side as losses are only lent. Notebook horse, Lightning Lily saved our blushes with an emphatic win on May 21 at 6/5. .

Let’s see if we can add two more race days to the notebook:

May 20, 2017 [TV -1.15 per 200m (Rd); -3 (str)]

DYSFUNCTIONAL (-13) Returned to form with a vengeance (R8; 4yonw3; 1600m; TV -9) in a strong field beating Wartime (-11.5) by 1 1/2l. The winner’s corrected time of 1:41.3 is 3/5ths of a second faster than the nw3/0T average so he should follow up.  Corrected time for the 2nd (1:414’) is 2 1/2l better than the nw3 average so compensation awaits.

May 23, 2017 [TV -0.2 per 200m (Rd); -0 (str)]

ZI BEAST (-7) took advantage of a substandard field cut up by the withdrawal (not eligible) of Saturday’s winner Peeping Tom and two more late scratches (R3; 3yomsw; 1100m; TV -1) and cantered all over rivals winning by 7l in 1:07.1. His corrected time of 1:07.2 is still 3/5ths of a second faster than the nw2 standard so, with improvement likely (this was only his third career start), he should have no trouble repeating if turned out reasonably quickly. It’s been 3 months since his second start.

  1. Overseas Betting Opportunities (OBOs)

The Victoria Cup selection was scratched but our Swinton Hurdle pick, OPTIMUS PRIME, finished 2nd at 12/1 so each way backers were handsomely rewarded. Also, a second consecutive notebook horse won immediately as MORI obliged at Ascot on May 12 (the day of publication) at 5/4.

In this issue, we’ll look at the Irish 2,000 Guineas (May 27) and 1,000 Guineas (May 28) as well as Epsom’s Oaks (June 2) and Derby (June 3)

It seems only an act of God can prevent impressive English 2,000 Guineas winner Churchill from completing a Guineas double in the Irish version but, at 4/11 currently, there’s no point in backing him, so an each way flutter on 2016 Vintage Stakes winner WAR DECREE (currently 25/1) with fingers crossed for at least 8 starters (3 places) could be the way to go.

Ireland’s 1,000 features another O’Brien hotpot, Winter, who beat stable-mate Rhododendron to win the English 1,000 Guineas, heads the betting. But she was a shade fortunate at Newmarket as Rhododendron was hindered at a crucial point. That was Winter’s sole win on turf from four tries so she could be vulnerable to the likes of REHANA (likely leader; could prove hard to catch on fastish ground) or HYDRANGEA who beat both (Winter, head 2nd; REHANA another 3/4l 3rd) in the Leopardstown Guineas Trial (good to soft) but flopped in the English 1,000 on good to firm while REHANA bounced back to win the Group 3 Arhasi Stakes at Naas on good to firm. Wait until ground conditions are known, then it’s REHANA on good or faster; HYDRANGEA with give in the going.

Rhododendron is all the rage for the Epsom Oaks but I’ve long had a liking for John Gosden’s CORONET, a daughter of Dubawi and half-sister to the very smart Midas Touch, who showed a blistering turn of foot when winning the listed Zetland Stakes as a 2-year-old.  She wasn’t discredited on reappearance in the Group 1 Prix Saint Alary at Deauville when soft ground blunted her ability to quicken but she stayed on for 3rd.

I expect Gosden to land an Oaks/Derby double once rain stays away as CRACKSMAN, withdrawn from the Dante due to soft ground, would have enjoyed watching Permian (who he beat in the Epsom Derby Trial) win.

Good Luck!

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