Archives for July 2016


A day at the races is usually a relaxing escape from the events in the world going on around us. The dreaded exception is when a racehorse suffers a catastrophic breakdown and/or a jockey is injured.

About a month ago, the 2016 Welfare & Safety of the Racehorse Summit was held to consider what strides have been made in curtailing the number of in-race horse fatalities and what can be done to achieve further improvements.

According to statistics presented from the Equine Injury Database pertaining to horse racing in North America, in 2009, there were 2.0 fatal injuries per 1,000 starts, whereas in 2015 the rate dropped to 1.62. Fatal injuries per-thousand starts by surface were as follows: turf, 1.94 in 2009 and 1.22 in 2015; dirt, 2.10 in 2009 and 1.78 in 2015; and synthetic, 1.49 in 2009 and 1.18 in 2015.

Whenever these findings are shown, the fact always jumping out is that the overwhelming majority of races in North America are contested over the least safe surface, dirt. The reason for this is tradition: trainers and bettors in the United States in particular are used to training over and handicapping dirt races. Keeneland, for instance, uninstalled a synthetic surface and replaced it with a less safe dirt track in order to attract the 2015 Breeders’ Cup.

While it, inarguably, would be desirable from the standpoint of horse safety to have all races on synthetic surfaces, in reality it won’t happen. Thus the effort to make even greater progress in reducing catastrophic injuries will have to be the result of other areas that were discussed at the Summit. For example, Dr. Larry Bramlage of Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital cited overuse of the analgesic and anti-inflammatory drug Depo-Medrol for treating joints and arthritis as a probable cause of breakdowns.

Improvements in reducing catastrophic injuries in recent years are evident and highly qualified professionals are working on even better outcomes.

Copyright © 2016 Horse Racing Business


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.


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