BOOK REVIEW: THE NOTORIOUS JOHN MORRISSEY

In-person or online visitors to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, NY can find the name John Morrissey (February 12, 1831-May 1, 1878) included in the list of “pioneer” inductees, a bare-knuckles champion.  Morrissey’s name can also be found in the historical rolls of elected members of the U. S. Congress and the New York Senate.  In July and August, thousands of racing fans flock to the racetrack he founded, Saratoga Race Course, located near his adopted American hometown of Troy, NY.

James C. Nicholson, Ph.D. has written a book that cogently (149 pages) explores these and other facets of the remarkable life of John Morrissey (The Notorious John Morrissey, University Press of Kentucky, 2016).

Without revealing too much content, Dr. Nicholson’s book narrates how an Irish boy from County Tipperary (home today to Coolmore Stud) immigrated to the United States with his impoverished and dysfunctional family and rose from illiteracy (he learned to read adequately only after his wife taught him) to become a huge success as a champion boxer, casino entrepreneur, promoter of a regatta that was the forerunner of modern-day NCAA sports competition, politician, and founder of arguably the preeminent racetrack in the United States circa 2016.

Dr. Nicholson’s interesting, informative, and well-written book takes you back to a time long ago when Morrissey engaged in brutal and illegal boxing matches; joined and later turned on William “Boss” Tweed and his corrupt Tammany Hall operation; tangled with the sadistic William “Butcher Bill” Poole and his “Know-Nothing” cohorts in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen; and rose to a position in life that enabled him to attend General Ulysses Grant’s inaugural ball and partner in business deals like Saratoga Race Course with such 19th century captains of industry and pillars of high society  as Cornelius Vanderbilt, William Travers, and Leonard Jerome.

If you travel to Saratoga Springs, NY, you can’t miss passing nearby to places started by Morrissey, most notably the Canfield Casino and the Saratoga Race Course.  You will likely go by the Adelphia Hotel on Broadway, where Morrissey completed his rags-to-fame story when he died at age 47.

Copyright © 2016 Horse Racing Business

James C. Nicholson is the author of two previous books–The Kentucky Derby:  How the Run for the Roses Became America’s Premier Sporting Event and Never Say Die:  A Kentucky Colt, the Epsom Derby, and the Rise if the Modern Thoroughbred Industry.

SO YOU WANT TO OWN A RACEHORSE

The options for owning a racehorse have multiplied since the standard method was to have a single owner.  Cothran “Cot” Campbell of Dogwood Stable is generally credited with setting this change in motion by perfecting and popularizing the technique of partnerships.  Since then, partnerships have proliferated.

Forbes magazine recently (June 29, 2016) published “How to Buy a Racehorse.”  The choices were divided into four types of ownership.

First Class or sole ownership with the vast majority of purchase prices falling into the wide range of $40,000 to $1 million.

Business Class or syndicate with a per-share price range of $1,000 to $40,000.  This gets you a “spot in the owner’s box and a piece of the winnings likely equal to your stake.”

Economy Class (pioneered by Emerald Downs) with a per-share purchase price, for example, of $500 in the Churchill Downs Racing Club.  For this outlay, the part owner received free track admission, access to the paddock and morning workouts, D. Wayne Lukas as the trainer, and no expenses beyond the initial outlay of $500.

(The Racing Club was limited to 200 members and sold out with “overwhelming popularity” (click here for more information), including a share bought by the Louisville Courier-Journal.  The Racing Club’s 2-year-old colt Warrior’s Club ran third in his second start at Ellis Park last Sunday.  A second edition of the Racing Club sold out just as rapidly as the first and the partnership reportedly bought a 2-year-old filly.)

Discount Fare.  This $100 entry point for a share is being promoted by True.Ink magazine under the name Indiegogo Campaign.  (However, this partnership–which the magazine intends to cover as a story–depended on whether enough money was raised to purchase a horse.  In fact, $42,792 or 120% of the targeted amount was raised–click here for more details.)

Partnerships of all sizes have been a boon to horse racing, as single ownership is prohibitively expensive for all but a very small percentage of the population.  Cot Campbell deserves a great deal of credit for his innovation.

Copyright © 2016 Horse Racing Business

RACE RIDING: RISKS > REWARDS

Jockeys have one of the most hazardous occupations among all professional sports.  For the risks they take, the winning jockey in a race receives 10% of what the horse owner gets, and the second and third place jockeys receive 5% each.

According to Forbes magazine (June 29, 2016), the five leading jockeys based in the United States were compensated for race riding in 2015 as follows:

Javier Castellano, $2.25 million from 1,507 starts

Irad Ortiz Jr., $1.88 million from 1,415 starts

Victor Espinoza, $1.68 million from 495 starts

John Velazquez, $1.63 million from 1,001 starts

Joel Rosario, $1.38 million from 1,083 starts

Espinoza’s compensation came from far fewer rides than the other jockeys, but he won the American Triple Crown and the world’s most lucrative race, the Dubai World Cup with a $10 million purse.

Compared to the three major team sports in the USA, leading jockeys earn a pittance, especially considering the risks they incur and the fact that they are independent contractors who must pay for their own health insurance.  In addition, when a jockey is injured, his or her income ceases, whereas injured professional athletes in a league continue to draw their salaries.

The minimum salary is $450,000 for a rookie in the National Football League; $543,471 for a rookie in the NBA; and $507,500 in Major League Baseball.  The average compensation for a jockey pales in comparison to even the lowest paid players in the NFL, NBA, and MLB.

The average salary in two of the three leagues is more than the compensation earned by the top-earning jockey, Castellano’s $2.25 million.  The average salaries are:  NFL, $2.11 million; $NBA, $2.5 million; and MLB, $4.4 million. 

Copyright © 2016 Horse Racing Business