03/14/2011 1:21PM

Jockey Club seeks report on state of racing industry

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The Jockey Club has commissioned a consulting firm to produce a report examining the state and direction of the U.S. racing industry, with the results to be presented at the organization’s Round Table Conference on Matters Pertaining to Racing in August in Saratoga Springs, according to a letter sent to racing officials seeking their cooperation.

The consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, has been asked to “examine the current course of the sport and where it would be over the next 10 years without change,” while providing recommendations to improve the short-term and long-term prospects of the industry. According to the letter, the study will include examinations of takeout rates, international markets, marketing efforts, and the industry’s efforts to address safety issues.

“The Jockey Club’s board of stewards firmly believes this study will illuminate the best opportunities for bringing sustainable, positive change to our sport and create a credible frame of reference for building consensus among breeders, owners, racetracks and other constituencies to move this sport forward,” the letter states.

The racing industry has been in a protracted state of decline for three years, following a long period of stagnation. In the past three years, handle on U.S. races has declined nearly 25 percent, to a level not seen since 1995. In addition, the foal crop has begun rapidly falling for the first time in 20 years, in concert with a crash of the bloodstock market brought on by the effects of the recent recession.

Most racing officials expect the foal crop declines to lead to pressure on tracks to reduce race dates by a significant amount over the next three years. Although race dates declined in 2010 by 7.75 percent, the financial struggles of many horsemen and the number of racetracks whose racing licenses are tied to slot-machine licenses, which require a minimum number of race dates, have provided resistance to significant efforts to slash days from the schedule.

Bob Curran, a spokesperson for the Jockey Club, said on Monday that the letter went to a cross-section of individuals in the racing industry, including racetrack executives, owners, breeders, trainers, horseplayers, regulators, media representatives, and racing consultants and advisers. The letters went to approximately 200 people.

The Round Table conference is scheduled this year for Aug. 14. The conference typically features presentations on the most significant issues facing racing.