Archives for May 2019


The English Derby—officially the Investec Epsom Derby—is always run on the first Saturday in June, similar to how its American cousin, the Kentucky Derby, is held on the first Saturday in May. The race began in 1780 and the 2019 edition will be the 240th consecutive running.

Epsom Downs has been the host except for 1940 through 1945 when the race was temporarily moved to Newmarket owing to World War II. Records indicate that horse racing at Epsom occurred as early as the 1640s and possibly even in 1625.

Legend has it that the 12th Earl of Derby, whose estate was known as The Oaks, had as his house guest Sir Charles Bunbury, and the two flipped a coin to see if the race would be called the English Derby or the English Bunbury. The 1780 race was contested at a distance of a mile, but the distance was increased to a mile and a half in 1784 and remains so today.

Although entries won’t be finalized until May 30th, the famed Coolmore Stud of Ireland plans to start eight horses, including the present favorite Sir Dragonet, who the stable got into the race by paying a supplementary fee of £85,000. Trainer John Gosden is likely to start three horses. So two trainers will account for eleven of the entries in what is expected to be a fifteen-horse field.

If Coolmore were to win the race, Aiden O’Brien would be tied with three old-time trainers at seven wins for the most in Derby history. Lester Pigott is the winningest jockey in Epsom Derby history with nine victories.

The sentimental favorite will be the Andrew Balding-trained Bangkok. He was purchased by the late Thai billionaire Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, who owned Leicester City soccer team of the Premier League and was killed in October 2018 after taking off in a helicopter from the King Power Stadium in Leicester.

Post time for the 2019 Investec Epsom Derby is Saturday, June 1 at 4:30 p.m. British time or 11:30 a.m. New York time.

Copyright © 2019 Horse Racing Business


Jeffrey Cannizzo, Executive Director of the New York Breeders Association, wrote a very informative fact-based article for the May-June issue of New York Breeder on how the American racing industry can immediately address the fatal breakdown problem that has caused a crisis. He answers the realistic question “Could racing go the way of Sea World or Greyhound racing?” with “I assure you it’s naïve to think not and dismiss the thought outright.”

Mr. Cannizzo notes that in the wake of the rash of breakdowns at Aqueduct in the winter of 2012, the Governor’s Task Force on Racehorse Health and Safety crafted a plan that “incorporated the establishment of safety best practices, improved methods of identifying horses at increased risk of injury, implemented protective factors to reduce the risk of injury, enhanced information sharing and communication, and improved the general health and welfare of the horse.”

As a result, in 2018, “the incidence of fatal breakdowns in the state was 1.29 per 1,000 starts, the lowest in the state in decades and well below the national average of 1.68 per 1,000 starts.” Aqueduct, for example, reduced fatalities per 1,000 starts from 2.27 in 2009 to 1.57 in 2018.

Mid-Atlantic states that have followed the New York protocols have also experienced a decline in horse fatalities and, given the recent epidemic of fatal breakdowns at Santa Anita, a coalition of racetracks accounting for 90% of U. S. wagering are likely to adopt many of the same now-proven safety measures.

(Click here for the May-June New York Breeder and see some of the specific features in the New York model on page 6.)


One glaring statistic that most of the American racing industry chooses to all but ignore in practice is that dirt racing surfaces are the least safe choice, with 1.86 fatalities per 1,000 starts on dirt in 2018 compared to 1.23 on synthetic surfaces and 1.20 on turf courses. Del Mar, Keeneland, and Santa Anita, in fact, all removed synthetic racetracks and reinstalled dirt. Consequently, public relations releases from the same racetracks ring hollow when the tracks claim to put horse and rider safety first. Dirt racetracks are worst practices not best practices.

Copyright © 2019 Horse Racing Business


Between 1948 and 1973, no horse won the Triple Crown. The drought was even longer between Affirm’s Triple Crown in 1978 and American Pharoah’s in 2015. But these 25-year and 37-year gaps are misleading because Triple Crown victories have come in bunches. Three horses won the Triple Crown in the 1930s, four in the 1940s, three in the 1970s, and two more in the most recent four years. That’s twelve of the 13 Triple Crown champions.

One hundred years ago in 1919, Sir Barton became the first colt to sweep the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont, although the terminology “Triple Crown” did not emerge until the 1930s. Thus Sir Barton was crowned a Triple Crown winner in retrospect, but not at the time he actually achieved the feat.

How challenging is it to win the Triple Crown?  There are two ways to look at it and they yield much different answers.

First, 100 years of Triple Crown history transpired between Sir Barton’s initial Triple Crown win in 1919 and Justify’s in 2018. Thirteen Triple Crown winners in this span of time computes to a success rate of 13% (the percentage is higher, of course, if an adjustment is made for the years in which the Kentucky Derby winner did not compete in the Preakness and/or Belmont). Most people would agree that a 1 in 7.7 chance of winning anything constitutes uphill odds but certainly would not qualify as extraordinary. Thirteen percent does not equate to a unique accomplishment, though it seemed that way when no horse conquered the Triple Crown for 25 years (1948-1973) and then 37 years (1978-2015).

The second way to look at Triple Crown success makes it seem to be an almost impossible task. Jockey Club records show that 2,076,789 Thoroughbred horses were registered in North America between 1916 (when Sir Barton was foaled) and 2015 (when Justify was foaled). This does not include foreign-bred horses that ran in American Triple Crown races, but that number is relatively insignificant. Therefore, only 13 horses from about 2.1 million horses registered between 1916 and 2015 won the Triple Crown (.0000062). This is rare beyond rare. Even if one assumes that half the registered Thoroughbreds were fillies, who don’t ordinarily run in Triple Crown races, 13 Triple Crown champs from 1.4 million male foals is a very, very small percentage.

If someone asks how difficult it is to win the Triple Crown, the answer depends on how you do the math.

Copyright © 2019 Horse Racing Business