MIDEAST ROYALS AND WALL STREET INVESTORS

The most recognizable Thoroughbred owners in both Europe and the United States once hailed from socially prominent families of mostly inherited wealth in Great Britain, France, and the United States.  No longer.  Nowadays, many owners at the top level of horse racing come from the royal families of the Mideast and investors on Wall Street.  The latter are risk-takers by occupation and thus are drawn to owning racehorses.

At the 2018 Breeders’ Cup, for example, races were won by horses owned by Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum and Saudi Arabian Prince Khalid bin Abdullah Al Saud, while other races winners were owned by Martin Schwartz and Sol Kumin, whose wealth came from equity trading.  Similarly, Wall Street billionaire Vincent Viola owned part of 2017 Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and the Aga Khan and Princess Haya of Jordan (wife of Sheikh Mohammed) are prominent owners.

How things have changed can be seen by the fact that a British peer from a well-known horse-racing family with ties to The Jockey Club going back generations, Edward John “Teddy” Beckett, the 5th Baron Grimthorpe, is the racing manager for Prince Khalid.

Finding enough owners is a perennial issue in horse racing.  Absent owners from the Middle East and Wall Street, who have the monetary wherewithal to spend on racehorses and the desire to do so, horse racing in Europe and the United States would be in dire straits.  The future will be brighter still if deep-pocketed owners continue to emerge from developing nations, most notably China.

Copyright © 2018 Horse Racing Business

A WARNING SHOT THAT SHOULD CONCERN THE NORTH AMERICAN HORSE-RACING WORLD

On election night 2018, Florida voters banned dog racing with 69% of those casting ballots in favor of passing Amendment 13 to the Florida constitution.  Florida follows five other states that have outlawed dog racing in the past two decades.  By 2020, Florida’s eleven greyhound tracks will close to racing, which will leave only six greyhound tracks in the United States operating in five states.

Greyhound racing in Florida began in the 1920s at Hialeah.  Dog racing in 2016-2017 accounted for 25% of Florida’s pari-mutuel revenue, though the business has been in a secular decline.

The passage of Amendment 13 culminated some 20 years of advocacy by an organization called GREY2K USA Worldwide.  A major point emphasized in the campaign to eliminate dog racing was that Florida’s Department of Business and Regulation found that 460 greyhounds died since 2013, when Florida began tracking the mortality numbers.

The overwhelming passage of Amendment 13 should send a wakeup message to the horse racing industry.  On a single election night in a future year, horse racing in a major racing and breeding state like Florida could be ended.

Horse racing, you say, is much more humane than dog racing.  Whether you and I agree with this point of view is immaterial.  The only perspective that matters is how the public in general and voters specifically look upon the sport.

It is beyond the scope of this blog post to suggest a strategy for horse racing, other than to say, emphatically, that people in the industry had better put aside differences and come to an agreement on such urgent matters as a nationwide medication protocol, aftercare as an alternative to slaughter, and further progress on curbing breakdowns.  Divisive internal debates about, for notable example, race-day furosemide will be resolved for the industry if there is no racing in prominent racing states like Florida, California, or who knows where else.

Horse racing at Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs (or elsewhere nationally) is permitted by the consent of the public.  This approval can be taken away with alacrity and the outcome would reverberate from racetracks to breeding farms, auction companies, and other commercial enterprises.

Copyright © 2018 Horse Racing Business

WEALTHIEST AMERICANS IN HORSE RACING, 2018

The annual Forbes “definitive ranking of the wealthiest Americans,” better known as The Forbes 400, includes at least seven individuals who particpate in horse racing in a major way.  Six of the seven are racehorse owners and the other owns two racetracks.

John Malone.  Age 77.  Net worth $7.5 billion.  Forbes rank:  #67/400.  Principal source of wealth is cable television.  Owns Bridlewood Farm in Florida and Ballylinch Stud in Ireland.

Daniel Gilbert.  Age 56.  Net worth $7.1 billion.  Forbes rank:  #71/400.  Principal source of wealth is mortgage loans.  Through his casino companies, he owns Turfway Park and Thistledown racetracks.

B. Wayne Hughes.  Age 85.  Net worth $2.9 billion.  Forbes rank:  #280/400.  Principal source of wealth is self-storage facilities.  Owns Spendthrift Farm.

Gayle Benson.  Age 71.  Net worth $2.9 billion.  Forbes rank:  #298/400.  Principal source of wealth is professional sports teams.  Widow of Tom Benson.  Horses run under the banner of GMB Racing.

Lee Bass.  Age 62.  Net worth $2.5 billion.  Forbes rank:  #328/400.  Principal sources of wealth are oil and investments.  Horses race in the name of Lee’s wife Ramona.

Brad Kelley.  Age 61.  Net worth $2.4 billion.  Forbes rank:  #344/400.  Principal source of wealth is tobacco.  Owns Calumet Farm.

Vincent Viola.  Age 62.  Net worth $2.4 billion.  Forbes rank:  #344/400.  Principal source of wealth is electronic trading.   Among other horses, owns part of 2017 Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming.

Three of these billionaires own professional sports teams:  John Malone, Atlanta Braves of Major League Baseball;  Daniel Gilbert, Cleveland Cavaliers of the National Basketball Association; and Gayle Benson, New Orleans Saints of the National Football League and New Orleans Pelicans of the NBA.

Copyright © 2018 Horse Racing Business