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Symposium to address shrinking foal crop, field size
TUCSON, Ariz. – The annual University of Arizona Symposium on Racing and Gaming opens on Tuesday at a mountainside resort in Tucson with the most pressing issue in racing first on the agenda – the need for racetracks around the world to begin cutting races to maintain field sizes that will be attractive to gamblers.
Pressure on racetracks to cut races is springing from declines in foal crops in many countries, including the U.S., where the foal crop from 2010-2012 contracted 25 percent. Those declines, in most cases, are related to drops in wagering, signaling a troubling worldwide loss of interest in a sport that, despite its long history, has often been criticized for failing to react to shifts in the marketplace.
“Declining Field Size: A Global Issue” will discuss those issues as the first panel on the three-day symposium agenda. Jay Privman, the national correspondent for the Daily Racing Form, is scheduled to moderate.
Though the symposium’s administrators emphasized in agenda materials that declining field sizes are a worldwide concern, the problem is most acute in North America, where widespread purse subsidies from casinos have dangerously skewed the economic incentives for live racing for the past 20 years. At many tracks in the U.S., subsidies from year-round casino operations provide a vast majority of the purse revenues, giving horsemen and tracks little incentive to cut races even if betting on their own product has weakened substantially.
In the U.S., the number of race dates fell 3 percent in 2013, according to data from Equibase, and through November, the number of races held at U.S. tracks is down another 3.8 percent this year. That trend has accelerated in recent months, and racing officials have predicted that the number of races held at U.S. tracks will need to decline by at least another 20 percent by the end of 2015 in order to allow for an average field size of eight horses per race. A contraction of that magnitude appears to be highly unlikely unless racetracks drastically change how they do business in 2015.
Issues related to the decline in breeding and wagering appear elsewhere on the symposium agenda. Immediately following the field-size panel will be a discussion of whether racing and racehorse owners would be better served by alternate ways of distributing purses. On Wednesday morning, a panel will explore the impacts of the strategies many racetracks are expected to employ to deal with the field-size declines, including race cards featuring far fewer races than in the past and a condition book that’s written to get more horses into individual races.
The unstoppable transition to the digital marketplace is also featured in a handful of panels on the symposium agenda. On Tuesday afternoon, a panel will explore how social media has changed “crisis management,” a topic familiar to any racetrack that has faced an outcry over animal-welfare issues. Immediately following is a panel exploring how technology is changing wagering on racing.
The Wednesday afternoon session is devoted to technology issues, with panels on digital marketing, account wagering, and “Making Everything Mobile.”
Absent this year from any prominent place on the symposium agenda are issues related to animal welfare, medication reform, and track safety, topics that have been front-and-center in the industry for the past five years. However, those issues are now getting prominent treatment at the annual Safety and Welfare of the Racehorse Conference, leading symposium organizers to focus the Tucson conference on the issues that are most pertinent to racetrack front offices.
For a detailed list of symposium panels and speakers, go here.
Did anyone else read about the CHRB stewards from the Breeders cup who were at this event, and they tried to have students reassure them that they made the right call in the classic. PATHETIC.
1) Pay out larger % of rake through 6th place. It don't pay to own right now. It costs more per year to have a Thoroughbred on most tracks than to put a kid through a private college (and no financial aid for horse owners, no grants, no loans). 2) Run more 2YO graduate races (allowance and mid claiming). It is only maidens and stakes. You got sound 2YO's across the tracks sitting 3-6 mos. I am largest % owner of one 3 months now. It don't pay to own. Foal crops and fields will keep getting smaller until it pays to be an owner. We are just marks right now for everyone--writing 5 figure monthly checks with little hope of any return. Fun. Fun.
Interesting comments. All good I suppose, except I'd like to add something about the actual subject of this story, which is foal crop size. Bottom line, in respect to people investing in breeding and owning horses, which increases foal crops, this industry needs to come together and pay lobbyist to influence tax policy on horse investments. If the horse investor gets more of a tax break to invest in the industry, ( an industry that provides many jobs), then people will invest their money into breeding more horses. Also, when you do get lucky enough to hit a " homerun" finally, after years of losing money owning and breeding, the U.S. government taxes capital gains at too high a rate. All I can say is this, if somehow, the powers that be, could give tax relief for horse breeding and owning, more folks would step up and breed.
The problem with racing in the States. Each track has its own set of rules and those are left open for interpretation. If you interfere with another horse and cost that horse a placing, you are disqualified and placed behind the horse you interfered with. So when Toast of New York slammed Shared Belief a sixteenth of a mile out of the gate, it wasn't interference. I can understand the no call on Beyern, because it happened the first few jumps out of the gate, but no call on Toast of New York or even a discussion or explanation is ludicrous and that was on the biggest day of racing for the year. Trainers with multiple medication violations get slap on the wrist penalties. Doug O'Neill is serving out his latest and what 9th violation? The take out is too high! The take out is too high! The take out is too high! There are too many tracks with money now due to casinos. Its great for the short term. Ship to Penn National and run for 500K, while the Santa Anita Handicap purse is cut from a million to 750,000. Racing had a great opportunity on BC Saturday to possibly draw some new fans into the game, but they butchered it with a non call in the biggest race of the day. You had California Chrome running and a beautiful weather. If you were attending, watching, playing the races for the first time on Saturday and saw the mess that was the beginning to the Classic, would you want to wager on this sport?
I have a casino and a track 10 minutes from my home. Blackjack has about a 8 % takeout...Roulette 9%....my local bookie is 10%...Rake at a Texas Holdem table 4% And if a bet a Triple in a horse race....33%. Horseracing is living in the days when they had the monopoly on our gambeling dollors and could get away with this joke of a percentage. If they do not change...this industry will die.
Racing is thriving in many parts of the world but dying in North America. The Royal Ascot meet draws 90,000 a day and they race Tuesday-Friday. They run 6 races a day and admission in 20-200 pounds. The crowds in Japan, Sha Tin, and Australia are huge. And one of the main reasons is because they all have a national agency with uniform rules and regs.
Too many Stallions...not enough quality mares...there ya go
I've never heard more nonsense in my life than what I hear from the mouths of people in charge of racing or those who are going to fix it (often one in the same). Forget all your mumbo jumbo about field size, medication and the gambers. When racing starts making it at least feasible for owners to break even or God forbid, make a profit, that's when all the problems will be solved. You'll have larger foal crops, larger fields and a better product to wager on. NO OTHER business model starts out with the proposition that an owner should lose money and have no control on when or where he/she can operate his/he business. Keep cutting race dates and options for where an owner can run a horse and I can assure you that you will have further contraction in breeding and field size. IT'S VERY SIMPLE! Start taking care of the owners and maybe this can grow. Otherwise it's doomed. You can't keep treating owners like an afterthought and that's exactly what happens at most tracks on almost all days.
Right now the horse folks hold all of the power in the situation. If a track makes a change that limits options, the horse folks can just run their horses elsewhere. I do believe a revamping and shortening of condition books would help the situation greatly, but those that operate the tracks walk a tightrope between keeping horsemen happy and present, and making sound business decisions.
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