News and Notes for May 11, 2018

The Thoroughbred industry is facing serious problems, bordering on a crisis.

According to the Jockey Club, the North American foal crop is projected to be 21,500 in 2018 compared to 35,274 (-39 percent) in 2008. North American handle was $11.5 billion last year compared to $14.3 billion (-19 percent) in 2008. A 2011 McKinsey study found that just 46 percent of surveyed racing fans, defined as someone who bets or attends the races at least three times a year, would actively recommend others to follow the sport. For comparison, baseball fans recommended their sport at a rate of 82 percent, football fans at 81 percent and for poker players, 55 percent.

While significant efforts have been made to market the sport, the customer base is aging. Racetracks are closing. The industry, as a whole, fully recognizes these problems, but remains largely siloed. Each of the many impacted constituencies – owners, gamblers, fans and tracks, among others – are surely contemplating solutions, though there is little interchange of ideas, or regular cross-constituency cooperation.

Better service, transparency and pricing are keys to improving the sport for current participants, all of whom choose to actively participate in racing. Innovation is required to reach new gamblers, owners and fans. We believe the availability of content and data are key to growing the sport, and a path to finding commonality between the sport’s biggest contributors – owners and gamblers.

The Thoroughbred Idea Foundation (TIF), a non-profit organization, has been established to create an active forum for the exchange and curation of ideas which will improve the overall prospects for the Thoroughbred industry, its stakeholders and fundamentally, the horse.

Our goal is to tackle major issues facing the Thoroughbred industry, endeavoring to find ways to improve the economics and sustainability of the business. In the long-term, this could include a not-for-profit business that funds horse charities and purses. We will be independent and transparent. Compromise is a necessity to improve our business, and with that in mind, we will bring people with naturally opposing views together to find common ground.

The only guaranteed funding for our business is through wagering. Purse supplements from other forms of gaming are helpful, but often fleeting. A huge opportunity is wasted if such supplements do not coincide with development and improvement of racing and wagering. With legal sports gambling imminent, the rise of eSports and rampant competition for customer attention, it is imperative that our business modernizes content, improves wagering menus and its pricing model.

The Thoroughbred Idea Foundation is not looking for a seat at the table – we have no intention of creating another silo. The ideas and concepts offered will not have pride of ownership. We hope they are adopted freely, by racetracks and industry stakeholders that can implement them for the good of the business.

TIF will be headquartered in Lexington, Ky. We will be funded by owners, gamblers, fans, breeders, stallion farms, and other stakeholders. We will not seek or accept funding from industry organizations. Our launch phase will continue over the coming weeks, and we look forward to hearing your ideas. Engage on Twitter @RacingIdeas and use the hashtag #RacingIdeas. The time is now.

Thoroughbred Idea Foundation Board of Directors: Craig Bernick, Lesley Howard, Paul Matties, Justin Nicholson, Gary Stevens, Jack Wolf and Texas Thoroughbred Association Director Corey Johnsen.

The Jockey Club has announced that a colt born February 19 at WinStar Farm, is the first foal to be issued a digital certificate of foal registration. The transition to digital foal certificates from hardcopies begins with the 2018 foal crop and was first announced at the Round Table Conference on Matters Pertaining to Racing on August 14, 2016.

Breeders, as well as those who act as agents for breeders, who do not have an Interactive Registration account should sign up for one at so that they can access their certificates of foal registration.

Among the expected benefits of digital certificates of foal registration include:

  • Users will be able to access digital certificates any time on computers and mobile devices.
  • Owners and agents will not have to worry about losing or damaging certificates.
  • Operations will be streamlined, whether in the racing office, on the sales grounds, while transporting horses internationally, or when executing private transactions.

Additional useful enhancements are expected to be rolled out in the future as various local and national racing entities incorporate their authentications to the certificate.

NOTES: Congrats to the Austin woman whose successful $18 pick five wager at Retama Park on Derby Day turned into $1.2 million…Invitations for the June 23rd TTA Annual Meeting and Awards Luncheon are in the mail, with a June 11 reservation deadline…The Spring 2018 issue of American Racehorse magazine is now available and includes a veterinary article by TTA member Megan Tracy Petty.