This is so easy. It’s so easy because it is so totally screwed up. You really can’t go wrong. Once things get to the point where horse racing is today, you can’t make it any worse. There is nothing to lose. The only thing you need to fix it, is one thing: COURAGE.
As all the politicians say, “let’s be clear.” Well let me be absolutely clear. The sport of horse racing is in a death spiral. Further denial of this downward spinning phenomenon will only accelerate the demise.
As just witnessed on May 6th, the first Saturday in May, the Kentucky Derby is total cluster f**k. And no, I’m not going to call it “The Kentucky Derby Presented by (oh please) YUM! Brands”. Make no mistake, Always Dreaming won and deserved his victory. It’s pretty clear he was the best horse. But it’s really no longer a horse race. It’s been turned into a cheap media event, a circus actually. Horse racing is doing a horribly bad job of trying to imitate The Super Bowl and Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus is going out of business this month. The horses are merely an excuse for what is a week long party that ends anti-climactically with a group of 20 inexperienced 3-year olds trying to lay claim to a blanket of roses and what was once sports immortality.
Churchill Downs could care less about the horses. If they cared even a little bit, they would limit the field to 14 horses. ONE starting gate. It’s smarter on every level. Plus, it’s safer for horses and jockeys, prompts true competition, gives real contenders a fighting chance to run their best race and it’s more fair to the betting public.
The racing Gods need to create a more consolidated list of sanctioned Kentucky Derby prep races that either provide points or earnings to qualify for entry to the Derby. This way real contenders can mix it up a little bit and sort themselves out. Inexperienced horses like maidens and horses with 3 starts are generally junking up the field. These lightly raced horses are winning faux stakes races to gain entry. They should instead be gaining real world racing experience by running in allowance races and graduating to stakes. Having only 3 or 4 starts prior to the Kentucky Derby should be the exception, not the norm. Want me to back up my point of view? Always Dreaming and Lookin At Lee had legitimate Grade I racing credentials and experience. They finished one, two. (I have corrected a previous mistake, here on numbers of starts for several horses. But my point does not change)
Management at Churchill Downs thinks a cavalry charge of 20 mostly undistinguished horses is an exciting frenzy!! They are wrong. It’s nothing more than a dangerous mess. It’s merely a vehicle to perpetrate this charade that once used to be called “The Greatest Two Minutes in Sports”. Some day, maybe soon, Churchill Downs is going to learn this lesson in a very ugly way.
Additionally if Churchill Downs Corporation (NASDQ: CHDN) gave a flying fig about the actual legacy of this race, not to mention the well-being of horses, owners, trainers, jockeys and the actual real people involved, the Kentucky Derby (again, no YUM! Brands) purse would be at least $10Million. The current purse of $2Million is a national embarrassment. It’s dog puke for the stature this event has in the history of sports culture. If YUM! Brands (NYSE: YUM) were actually paying market price for their exposure in the Kentucky Derby, YUM!Brands should put up my entire proposed $10Million purse – and pay Churchill Downs millions more for these marketing and sponsorship rights. They pay Churchill Downs a pittance for this sponsorship deal, exactly ZERO goes to the purse. If Churchill Downs had a competent marketing department who actually knew how to spell horse and sell the sport, they could present a deal that could demonstrate to many potential advertisers the real value of branding sponsorship exposure for a marquee international sporting event.
Here’s another dirty little secret. Churchill Downs puts up very little money for the Derby. Most of this money, if not the lion’s share is generated by the owners paying nomination fees, supplemental nomination fees, entry fees and starting fees. Churchill Downs only guarantees the purse not to be LESS THAN $2Million. The horsemen and horse owners are in effect just running for their own personal cash.
Churchill Downs, Inc. makes tons of money off the horsemen who are so egotistically driven to run is this race. CHDN is not sharing back, directly with the horsemen, one single penny of the $100’s of millions of dollars this event generates for CHDN and their shareholders across the board on so many levels. The purse structure and stakes race funding at every race track is generated by a varying percentages of the betting handle. According to the industry trade journal, Bloodhorse, Saturday’s Derby Day card generated $209Million in wagering handle around the country. Churchill does not disclose on track pari-mutuel wagering figures. Why? Some transparent accounting should really be in order. Churchill Downs always hides behind unverifiable dollar amounts of renovations since 2005 or 1905 or something to justify how much money they are putting back into the game. The Churchill Downs Corporation is surfing on your backs boys. You’re being used and screwed at the same time. It’s kinda like President Trump says, “It’s like a magic act.”
Time to fix this mess and this sport. The sport of horse racing today is a complete disaster. The Kentucky Derby is nothing more than an over-hyped, luster-less race for a bunch of ego driven owners with more dollars than sense, who are enabled by a bunch of trainers who have never learned how or are too scared to say no. Who do I think I am to say no to an owner who thinks they should run in the Kentucky Derby? I did it. The horse in question, Saint Ballado, was far better off for not having run in the Kentucky Derby in 1992. The late Kentucky Derby historian, columnist and author, Jim Bolus wrote an article about it:
Think I’m just making noise? Ranting and raving? It’s as easy as taking Kentucky Derby time – two minutes to read this:
So, I just straightened out The Kentucky Derby. Next, I’ll clean up the entire sport. Stay tuned!