Archives for February 2014


The ongoing and often heated debate within the American horse-racing industry over the race-day use of the diuretic furosemide to inhibit bleeding finds well-meaning people on both sides of the issue. However, whenever articles appear on the subject, the online comments usually contain some passionate and belligerent invectives that cross the line of civility.

A recent article in the well-respected sport-horse magazine Chronicle of the Horse demonstrates that such ill will is nothing new and is not confined to horse racing. A revelation in the article by a current member of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission is truly stunning.

Edward S. “Ned” Bonnie is an attorney, an equestrian, a member of the Jockey Club, and a long-time activist for enacting meaningful drug rules in all kinds of equestrian sports. Author Sara Lieser profiled Mr. Bonnie in the Chronicle of the Horse (February 10, 2014 issue). The Chronicle correctly referred to him as a “horse-welfare trailblazer.”

Mr. Bonnie told Ms. Lieser about the physical threat made to his horses in the late 1970s when he was campaigning against the use of reserpine in show horses:

“They [some unnamed proponents of reserpine] threatened to kill our horses at a show in St. Louis. The people in Chicago who were a rough bunch, I knew them, so I called them up and said: ‘I understand you all are going to either hurt or kill our horses when my wife shows in St. Louis.’ This guy said, ‘Oh, Ned, you know we wouldn’t do that.’ I said, ‘Let me tell you, if it happens, you’re going to be the first stop. I’m coming after you.’ As you might imagine nothing happened.”

Mr. Bonnie added about his crusade to rid horse sports of illicit drugs:  “It wasn’t an easy road…I’m kind of a stubborn SOB. The only reason I haven’t been killed is that I’m a little too high profile.”

Let that last sentence soak in.

Horse racing in general and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission in particular is fortunate that Mr. Bonnie obviously has had the courage to pursue his convictions. The octogenarian is still working intrepidly to rid horse racing of unsavory characters and practices that damage the image of the great sport. Whether you agree with him or not, there is no question that he has the best interests of the sport at heart…and he certainly is not intimidated.

Carry on, Sir.

Copyright © 2014 Horse Racing Business


The four-day Cheltenham Festival is a much-anticipated racing and social gathering on the National Hunt calendar. Among the attendees at the 2013 edition were Prince William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

The Cheltenham Festival 2014 at Cheltenham Racecourse will be commence on March 11 and conclude on March 15. Post time for the first of six or seven races each day is 1:30 PM and the last race of the day goes off at 5:15 PM. Cheltenham is located in Gloucestershire in southwest England.

March 11 is called Champion Day and features the most important hurdle race of the season, the Stan James Champion Hurdle. March 12 is Ladies Day and highlights the two-mile Queen Mother Chase. March 13 is St. Patrick’s Thursday and combines racing with Irish entertainment. The St. Patrick’s Derby is a charity race held that day to benefit Cancer Research UK. March 14 is Cheltenham Gold Cup Day and includes three grade 1 races.

The £550,000 (about $919,000) Grade I Cheltenham Gold Cup will be run over a 22-jump course of 3 miles, 2 furlongs, and 110 yards. The race has 26 entries including last year’s winner, Bobs Worth. The defending champion is trained by Nicky Henderson, who has been the leading National Hunt trainer three times. Bobs Worth most recently won the Lexus Chase at the Leopardstown 2013 Christmas Festival in Ireland. His impressive performance is why he is currently the favorite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup at odds of about 2/1.

Silviniaco Conti is the second choice at odds of around 7/2. The Paul Nicholls-trained entry comes to the Cheltenham Gold Cup off a win in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day 2013. Nicholls has strong credentials, as he trained the winners of four Cheltenham Gold Cups.

At the other end of the betting spectrum are horses like Vino Griego and Teaforthree whose odds are over 80/1.

The last 14 winners of the Cheltenham Gold Cup had previously prevailed in one or more Grade I races. Favorites or near favorites have done exceptionally well—five favorites have won in the past 11 years and 11 of the past dozen winners have come from the top three horses in the betting.

One concern with Bobs Worth is his age. Only one winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup since 1992 has been older than nine. At 9-years-old, Bobs Worth is right on the line.

While the Cheltenham Gold Cup is the feature of the Festival, the four-days of racing offer a diverse portfolio of the best in steeplechase events.

Copyright © 2014 Horse Racing Business


Just over a 100 years ago, in 1913, the British Jockey Club passed the Jersey Act (named for Lord Jersey) that prohibited the registration in the General Stud Book of any racehorse whose pedigree contained ancestors that had not been registered. This ban was meant to deter Americans from exporting their supposedly impure bloodstock to Great Britain. Wagering on horse racing had largely been outlawed in the United States and owners were seeking refuge. The Jersey Act was not revoked until 1949.

Looking back on the Jersey Act from the perspective of 2014, it is striking how globalized the sport-business of breeding and racing Thoroughbreds has become. The pedigrees of racehorses today are often an admixture of horses that come from many different countries. The great Northern Dancer, for example, was foaled in Canada, raced in Canada and the United States, and was the most influential sire of his generation in Europe and America. His name still routinely appears in the pedigrees of racehorses around the world.

Racing and breeding, circa 2014, are geographically spread out enterprises. For instance, the richest race is held in the Middle East, in Dubai. Hong Kong and Japan are home to some of the world’s most prolific bettors on horse racing. The leading breeding sire in the world, Galileo, a grandson of Northern Dancer, resides in the Golden Vale of Ireland’s County Tipperary, and his recently-retired son, the sensational undefeated Frankel, stands at the farm of a Saudi prince in Newmarket, England. Breeding stallions are frequently shuttled back and forth from nations in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, from Australia to Europe, and the United States. The most prestigious Thoroughbred auction company is Keeneland, located in the heart of the Bluegrass in Kentucky.

Horse bettors at one time were confined to wagering at a single racetrack. Along came simulcasting and the options expanded dramatically. Now, live horse racing betting is offered on the Internet at tracks in virtually all time zones. A bettor can pick and choose among track surfaces, distances, and other handicapping variables.

A huge frontier for horse racing would be mainland China should the government relent and permit gambling on the sport, which was outlawed in 1949 when the communists seized power. The market is immense, the country is becoming increasingly affluent, and Hong Kong and Macau have shown that the Chinese support gaming and pari-mutuel wagering in a big way.

Copyright ©2014 Horse Racing Business