Auctions of Thoroughbred horses are well known for ringing up million-dollar sales. In fact, it has become so routine at premier auction houses in the United States and Europe that most people are not fazed when they see a report of a yearling or broodmare changing hands for millions.

But it got my attention when a reader of from Sweden sent me an article from The Guardian about how two buyers from China got into a bidding competition in a two-week online auction for a five-year-old racing pigeon and sire, named Armando, in which the winner paid the equivalent of $1,452,000 U. S. Reportedly, Armando’s new owner intends to stand him at stud in China, where he is to be bred to the owner’s prize brood-hen.

While horse racing is subject to cheating by various means, skullduggery is also evidently a threat to honest pigeon racing. According to the article in The Guardian:

“Last year, two professional pigeon racers in China were sentenced to three years in jail for cheating in a 466-mile (750km) race by smuggling their birds on to a bullet train to the competition’s finish line.

The men, Gong and Zhang, had earned €140,000 in prize money for winning the 2017 Shanghai homing pigeon race before their fraud was discovered.”

This brought to mind another famous case of cheating in racing, when Rosie Ruiz in the 1980 Boston Marathon jumped into the race about a half mile from the finish and won the female title, only to be disqualified eight days later.

Wonder if there are rules in world-class pigeon racing about race-day medication or a dispute about the need for a national oversight board to regulate drugs? Are pigeon races ever decided by a beak?

If a racing pigeon can sell for close to $1.5 million to Chinese buyers, imagine what potential there is for horse racing in mainland China if pari-mutuel wagering is eventually legalized.

Copyright © 2019 Horse Racing Business


Arthur Blank is the co-founder of Home Depot and owner of the Atlanta Falcons of the National Football League. He announced that, effective March 10, 2019, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where the Falcons play home games, is a completely cashless place for all sporting events and almost every concert, and the first major entertainment complex to ban cash transactions. On March 28, Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rays of Major League Baseball, will also go cashless.

Cash won’t be accepted for game tickets, concession items, and merchandise, with the rationale being to speed up transactions and curtail long wait lines. Credit card transactions will have no minimum charge amount and reverse ATMs will be available for fans who do not have a credit or debit card. For a fee, a customer can feed a machine cash and receive a Visa debit card in return.

To a significant degree, wagering on horse racing already operates on a cashless basis. Patrons of advance deposit wagering firms must have an electronic balance in their accounts before betting. And it is not unusual to see racetrack customers betting from their seats via smartphones and the internet, especially on crowded race days.

If and when racetracks will join the incipient trend toward cashless sports and entertainment venues is unclear. Whereas some bettors don’t want to leave a record of their wagers, many fans would appreciate the ease of not having to withdraw and carry abnormally large amounts of cash or wait in long lines at the Triple Crown races and Breeders’ Cup.

In an age when debit cards, Apple Pay, credit cards, and other methods of doing transactions are commonplace, racetracks are likely to go at least partially cashless, if not in totality, to make the experience more convenient for patrons.

Folks without smartphones and credit or debit cards will find it increasingly difficult to make routine transactions in all kinds of shopping experiences. Instead of the old inquiry, “Do you accept credit cards?” the new query is fast becoming “Do you accept cash?”

Massachusetts and the city of Philadelphia have passed laws requiring merchants to accept cash. Philadelphia allows for some exceptions such as rental car companies, hotels, and parking garages.

Copyright © 2019 Horse Racing Business


On February 3, 2019, Blood-Horse magazine ran an article titled “Shelbe Ruis, Santa Anita at Odds Over Wet Track Scratch.” In retrospect, what Ms. Ruis had to say in early February about unsafe track conditions contradicts claims made by track management. She also alleged that she was “bullied” and “harassed” for scratching her horse.

In part, the article reads:

“Trainer Shelbe Ruis indicated Feb. 2 that she felt track management at Santa Anita Park put undue pressure on her to run 3-year-old colt and scheduled first-time starter, C Falls, on a wet main track she felt was unsafe.

Ruis, who trains for her father Mick Ruis’ Ruis Racing, took to Twitter Saturday after C Falls’ scratch was reported mid-card for the eighth race and said Santa Anita racing secretary Steve Lym ‘harassed’ her.

‘I was harassed from the new racing secretary for scratching my horse for unsafe conditions,’ Shelbe Ruis said on Twitter Saturday. ‘They don’t care about horse safety at Santa Anita.’”

Click here to read the Blood-Horse article.