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Horse Racing


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Sunday Silence wins Preakness Stakes by a nose

On May 20, 1989, Sunday Silence edges by Easy Goer to win the closest race in the 114-year history of the Preakness Stakes by a nose. Sunday Silence had already beaten Easy Goer in the Kentucky Derby by two-and-a-half lengths, putting the horse one victory away from winning the ...read more

Secretariat

Secretariat was a legendary thoroughbred racehorse whose name reigns supreme in the history of racing. The stallion with a chestnut coat, three white “socks” and cocky demeanor not only became the first horse in 25 years to win the Triple Crown in 1973, he did it in a way that ...read more

Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby, first held in 1875 at Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville, is the longest-running sports event in the United States. Dubbed the “Run for the Roses,” the Derby features three-year-old thoroughbreds racing a distance of 1.25 miles. Today, some 150,000 ...read more

7 Expressions You Might Not Know Came from Horse Racing

Across the Board In contemporary usage this phrase indicates the inclusion of everyone or everything in a given scenario—such as across the board price cuts or across the board layoffs. At the track, an across the board bet is a wager on the same horse to win, to place and to ...read more

8 Facts About Secretariat

1. Secretariat’s fate rested on a coin toss. In the fall of 1969, stable owners Ogden Phipps and Penny Chenery met in the offices of the New York Racing Association for what turned out to be one of the most important coin tosses in sports history. The winner would receive the ...read more

Horse Racing’s Triple Crown: 10 Fast Facts

1. Sir Barton was the first Triple Crown winner in 1919. Even though he was the grandson of 1893 English Triple Crown winner Isinglass, Sir Barton was a most unlikely thoroughbred to become the first to win the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont. Sir Barton was ...read more

Jockey Sandy Hawley wins record 500th race

On December 15, 1973, Sandy Hawley becomes the first jockey to win 500 races in a single year. Born in Ontario, Canada, Hawley began working at Toronto race tracks when he was a teenager. He won his first race in October 1968 at Toronto’s Woodbine race track and quickly racked up ...read more

Big Red sets record at Belmont Stakes

On June 12, 1920, Man O’ War wins the 52nd Belmont Stakes, and sets the record for the fastest mile ever run by a horse to that time. Man O’ War was the biggest star yet in a country obsessed with horse racing, and the most successful thoroughbred of his generation. Man O’ War ...read more

Irish race horse stolen

Gunmen steal the champion Irish race horse Shergar from a stud farm owned by the Aga Khan in County Kildare, Ireland. The five-year-old thoroughbred stallion, named European horse of the year in 1981, was worth $13.5 million and commanded stud fees of approximately $100,000. On ...read more


California Horse Racing

In horse racing there has always been a east coast west coast rivalry more specifically California vs New York. So why should the origin of horse racing in North America be any different? It is documented that a one mile oval was constructed at Pleasanton in 1858 which would predate Saratoga Race Course by five years making it the oldest track in the United States.

The modern history of horse racing in California began in 1933 when pari-mutual wagering was legalized. Again the California Fairs led the way when the San Joaquin Fair in Stockton became the first California Track to offer wagering in August of 1933.

Soon after pari-mutual wagering was legalized existing tracks Pomona Fair and Tanforan were running meets. By the end of 1934 new sites Bay Meadows near San Francisco and Santa Anita near Los Angeles were opened for business. Within a few years additional tracks sprang up Del Mar near San Diego, Hollywood Park in Los Angeles and Golden Gate Fields in Albany.

With the demise of the New England Fair Circuit California stands alone in running the only extended fair meets in the country with racing at seven venues in the summer months in Northern California.

The state also has a racetrack at Los Alamitos that runs quarter horse races. Harness racing was also introduced at Golden Bear Raceway now called Cal-Expo in Sacramento. Some of the major tracks like Hollywood Park and Bay Meadows ran harness races at one time but they never seemed to catch on.

Except for the World War II period when most of the California Tracks used for military purposes most are still conducting racing with the exception of Tanforan which burned to the ground in 1964 and Bay Meadows which closed in 2008.

In 2011 racing remained status quo in California, but racing seemed far from solvent. Shorter fields and fewer days were more the rule in 2011. In fact if not for the poor economic climate both Hollywood Park and Golden Gate Fields would probably have been sold for development. Even historic Santa Anita Park is fighting for it's survival as developers keep chipping away at it's boundaries

If you don't live or spend a lot of time in California, it would be quite difficult to see live racing at all the tracks in the state. It's not even that easy to do the "I was there" thing, but California keeps trying to make it easier, they have closed four tracks in recent years.

Say you were starting from San Diego, (after visiting all the tracks in Arizona) you could probably do the Southern California tracks in a day, without staying long for live racing if any at all. Del Mar is about a half hour from San Diego, from there it's about an hour and a half to Cypress, the home of Los Alamitos. Now you would have to decide if you wanted to spend the two hours to go to the site of Hollywood Park and then to Fairplex Park in Pomona. Both tracks are closed for good and Hollywood Park might not have a sign that it ever existed, at least Fairplex will still have a grandstand. From Pomona, it's a short half hour to Santa Anita, which they make you think is a mountain resort but is really in the middle of a residential area. That does it for Southern California, now off to the Bay Area.

The most logical route would be to head for Fresno, which is about four hours from Arcadia, but remember this is California, times may vary. I would suggest if you only get to do this once, to take Route 1, the scenic ocean route to the Bay Area. From Fresno the next stop is Stockton, about two hours away, after that your about an hour away from the rest of your stops in Sacramento, Vallejo, Pleasanton, San Mateo where Bay Meadows, once existed, you might consider missing this one. The only thing there is a side street named Baze Road, whether it's named after Russell Baze or just a coincidence, who knows, certainly not me. Whatever you decide Golden Gate Fields would be the next stop, then finish up at Santa Rosa and rest for the last leg, if you get there early enough you can drive some golf balls in the infield.

All you have left is a four hour ride to Ferndale, for the Humboldt County Fairground. From there you can just keep going into Oregon, it's a long way back to San Diego. If you follow the route above you will have deprived yourself a seven dollar toll to go over the Golden Gate Bridge, actually if you only go over it going North it's free.

Obviously the big news here is that the old Hollywood Park Site, will be the home of the Los Angeles Rams in 2020. So if you never made it there, you missed your chance, although there is still a Hollywood Park OTB on the original property, only cost you six bucks to get in. Hollywood Park hosted the first Breeders Cup back in 1984. Up the coast a bit, you also wont find Bay Meadows Race Track, but you will find Bay Meadows Village. To round out the closures, the fair at Solano terminated horse racing, as well as the Los Angeles Fair at Fairplex, or as it was originally known as Pomona. Both of the fair sites still have their grandstands. Other changes were made to compensate for these loses.

Los Alamitos Race Course in Cypress, completed an expansion to it's racing surface and took over the Fairplex dates, as well as a short summer and winter meet to race some of the Hollywood Park schedule. At Del Mar they added a winter meet named after track founder Bing Crosby. As for the California Fair tracks there has been some date shuffling, but with the exception of Solano, they are still running. One significant change was the transfer of the Oak Tree meet a long time fixture at Santa Anita over to the Pleasanton Fairgrounds. As for Santa Anita, it and Golden Gates have picked up dates from local closings. The later only staying in business after Cal-Tech rejected it as an expansion site. California racing does seem to be on the decline, so if you haven't been to some of these places, don't dally!

As for harness racing, California has the only meet west of the Mississippi. It once looked like it was finished but Cal-Expo is still alive and well. Over the years harness racing was conducted at most of the major California tracks.


March News: The Louisiana Derby during the 1918–1919 Spanish Flu pandemic, a visit to the old Louisiana Jockey Club clubhouse, and recognition for a Virginia turfman

The Louisiana Derby during the 1918–1919 Spanish Flu pandemic: The 108th Louisiana Derby will be run on Saturday, March 20, 2021, at the Fair Grounds, which has been closed to general spectators during the 2020–2021 race meet last year’s Louisiana Derby was also run without …


Tracing Your Horse’s Past

The Equine Line of the Jockey Club Information Systems can provide you a variety of pedigree options for your horse and/or a variety of race record options. Samples are available to help you choose. These are the official records of your horse. By using a charge card, you can order on-line and receive your product printed out to you immediately. Go to: www.equineline.com.

Please note: You must have your horse’s racing name to order. Records are NOT filed by tattoo number. If you only have your horse’s tattoo number, please, read the section on Tattoo Research.

Tattoo Research

If you do not have your horse’s Jockey Club papers and do not know your horse’s racing name, you can still learn about your horse’s history through his tattoo. The tattoo is on the inside of the upper lip. It will begin with a letter of the alphabet followed by 5 numerical digits. There is a code to this alphabet with each letter of the alphabet standing for the year of birth. For example, a horse foaled in 1991 will have a tattoo that begins with the letter U followed by 5 numerical digits. A horse foaled in 1992 will have a tattoo that begins with the letter V followed by 5 numerical digits and so on. The numerical digits are the last 5 digits of your horse’s Jockey Club registration papers. Please note: If your horse does not have a tattoo, then your horse did not race at a parimutuel track. This does not mean that your horse was not on the track and did not have race training including official timed works. Any number of circumstances (illness, injury, lack of funds to continue training, death of owner, etc.) might have prevented your horse in full race training from ever being entered in their first race, therefore, causing them to leave the track without being tattooed.

Using a flashlight and perhaps the help of your veterinarian, write down the alphabet letter and the 5 digits of the tattoo to the best of your ability. The Jockey Club Information Systems offers a tattoo research for a reasonable fee. Once you have your horse’s racing name, you can obtain his race record and/or pedigree. For more information on obtaining tattoo research visit their website or call them on the phone. They are most helpful and cordial! Go to: www.tjcis.com or call: 800-333-1778.

Win Pictures and Racing Win Videos

Whether you desire a win picture or a video of your horse’s winning race, you must have the following information first: Horse’s racing name, track where the win took place, date of win and preferably which race number of that date. Win pictures and videos are not kept indefinitely. The more recent the win, the more likely it is still available.

The front page of your horse’s Jockey Club registration papers will show a listing of any WINS during your horse’s racing career. Only WINS are listed on the Jockey Club papers. Horses earn purse money for placement through fourth place so even with limited or no wins, your horse could still have earned money while racing.

If you do not have the Jockey Club papers but have done a tattoo research and have a copy of your horse’s official race record, you can obtain this information from that document provided it is the detailed race record which includes dates, track abbreviations, etc.

If you know a track abbreviation but still do not know which track applies, you can go to www.ntraracing.com/tracks for an explanation of the abbreviations.

To obtain a copy of your horse’s win picture, you must call the track where the win took place and ask for the track photographer. Provide them with the date, your horse’s name, and if possible, the number of the race for that particular day. Discuss payment options at that time.

To obtain a copy of your horse’s win video, you must also call the track where the win took place and ask to speak to the video company. Provide them with the date, your horse’s name, and if possible, the number of the race for that particular day. Discuss payment options at that time.

My Horse Didn’t Win, Can I…

If your horse never won a race but his racing record indicates that he came in first or second or even third by a very close margin (a nose, a neck, even a length), you might still get a photograph of him in action by buying the win picture of the horse that DID win! How well you will see your horse is a gamble. Sometimes, depending on whether your horse was on the outside or the inside, you might be able to see your horse even better than the winner. (For example, if the winner is at the rail and your horse running a close second was on the outside, your horse will be more visible to the camera than the winner). If you do this, be sure and ask the track photographer to NOT GIVE YOU A SPLIT SCREEN PHOTOGRAPH. YOU WANT THE ENTIRE 8 X 10 PHOTOGRAPH TO BE OF THE HORSES CROSSING THE FINISH LINE ONLY. Why have half of your photo taken up with the winner’s circle shot of a strange horse.

Second or even third place “win” pictures of your horse are still quite thrilling to own but remember, this will only work in a close race and hopefully with your horse in the outside position.

Toobtain a copy of such a picture, see instructions under Win Pictures and Racing Win Videos.

If your horse never won a race and never even placed in a race, you can still buy a full video of his entire race. You will need the name of the track, the date of the race, your horse’s name and preferably what race it was that day. Maybe he didn’t win, but it sure is exciting to hear the announcer calling out your horse’s position as they break from the gate and cross the finish line!

To obtain a copy of a racing video, see instructions under Win Pictures and Racing Win Videos.


As early as 1140, the first of a long line of kings named Henry tried to improve Hobby horses--pony-sized Irish horses--by importing Arab stallions to give them more speed and stronger power. Throughout the Crusades, from 1096 to 1270, Turkish cavalry horses dominated the larger English warhorses, leading the Crusaders to buy, capture or steal their share of the stallions. After the War of the Roses, which decimated England's horse population, King Henry aimed to rebuild his cavalry. Both the king and his son, Henry VIII, imported horses from Italy, Spain and North Africa, and maintained their own racing stable. Henry's Hobbys, as they were called, raced against horses owned by other nobility, leading the word "hobby" to mean a "costly pastime indulged in by the idle rich." It also lends credibility to horse racing being labeled as the Sport of Kings, although this phrase's origination comes later, as found in Part II.

Henry used tax revenues to maintain his stables, claiming that by breeding winners with winners he could improve the quality of the cavalry. While certainly a landmark philosophy in horse racing, Henry was unable to apply its practice his Master of the Horse, the title of Henry's racing stable director, was not a professional horseman and recklessly crossbred the entire stable. The stable consisted of a variety of international horses with an even wider mix of genes, so well mixed they earned the moniker "cocktails," our current word for a mixed drink. It is not known for sure, but this may be the oldest piece of evidence linking horse racing with drinking!

Anyway, Henry's daughter, Elizabeth I, drastically improved her father's stable during her fifty-year reign, dispensing of horses not qualified for racing or the cavalry and moving the best horses to new barns at Tutbury near Staffordshire. Elizabeth kept a close watch on matings and systematically recorded pedigrees. On the advice of her Master of the Stable the Queen added more Arabian horses to the stable, breeding Arab stallions to Hobby and Galloway (Scottish) mares. When Elizabeth I died, James VI of Scotland, son of Mary, Queen of Scots, and his son, Charles--who became king in 1625--expanded both the palace and royal racing stables at the track of Newmarket. In 1647 Oliver Cromwell's army defeated Charles' Cavaliers, forcing Charles back to Scotland and allowing Cromwell to capture the royal stables at Tutbury and take inventory he swiftly sold most of the Royal Mares, keeping fewer than 100 to breed stronger, lighter horses to replace the slower, heavier ones no longer suited for warfare due to the development of gunpowder.

Cromwell's focus was on the cavalry, not racing. He even passed several laws prohibiting racing and went so far as to confiscate horses and cause pedigree records to be ruined. Royalists and Cavaliers were either forced out of England or in retreat to their country estates where they could do two things: maintain their records of horses bred for stag hunting and racing, and wait for the end of Cromwell's repressive religious throne. When Cromwell died and Charles II became king, the wait was over.


Horse Racing in History

    American Johnny Longden becomes thoroughbred racing's winningest rider, breaking the record of 4,870 wins by British jockey Sir Gordon Richards rides Arrogate to victory in the Del Mar Handicap

Event of Interest

1960-06-15 Ángel Cordero Jr. wins his 1st of over 7,000 horse races

    Bill Hartack becomes 8th jockey to win 3,000 American thoroughbred races Dual Melbourne Cup winning Australian jockey Pat Glennon rides French colt Sea Bird to victory in the Prix de l'Arc De Triomphe to claim an impressive double after the thoroughbred's English Derby win Tuesdee Testa becomes the first female jockey to win a race at a major American Thoroughbred track when she takes out the 3rd race at Santa Anita Park aboard Buz On Ruffian leads all the way to win the Coaching Club American Oaks at Belmont and clinch American thoroughbred racing's Triple Tiara for fillies Davona Dale wins the Coaching Club American Oaks at Belmont to clinch American thoroughbred racing's Triple Tiara for fillies Affirmed wins $500,000 Hollywood Cup, 1st horse to win $2 million Bill Shoemaker becomes the first jockey to win a $1 million thoroughbred horse race when John Henry takes the inaugural Arlington Million by a nose over The Bart 17 year old gelding Behavin Jerry, the oldest winning racehorse in modern times, sets record for most career starts by a thoroughbred, 307 40 year old Puerto Rican jockey Ángel Cordero Jr. wins his 5,000th race with a victory in the last race at Belmont 4th jockey to achieve milestone Largest harness racing purse ($2,161,000-Nihilator wins $1,080,500) John Henry becomes 1st thoroughbred to win $6 million Mom's Command wins the Coaching Club American Oaks at Belmont to clinch American thoroughbred racing's Triple Tiara for fillies

Horse Racing - HISTORY

The Decline of America’s First Pastime: Horse Racing’s Descent into Irrelevance

SPOILER ALERT: Horse racing’s storied place in American culture is gone and never coming back.

In his expansive 1964 book, The History Of Thoroughbred Racing In America, author William H.P. Robertson describes a portrait of horse racing in America that is barely recognizable today. It is the most popular spectator sport in the country. People know the names of the top horses and their backstory. Large new tracks are being built that are considered state-of-the-art for sports. And the sport is growing — in attendance, wagering and influence. In fact, the great Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and many other world-renowned horses and performances were yet to come.

The forward to that 600-page tome begins by noting that:

Horse racing has grown astoundingly in scope and in popularity since the early settlers brought to these shores a native love for such contests of speed and stamina, and so permanently injected it into our way of life that today racing is America’s number one spectator sport. Modern racing is a highly organized, thoroughly controlled and jealously guarded industry of coast-to-coast proportions, and an integral part of the revenue-producing machinery of more than half the United States.

Horse racing in America today, on the other hand, is marked by decline. Decline in the number of tracks, total attendance, number of horses bred and racing, owners, purses paid to those owners, wagers placed by the bettors and the number of people employed by the horse racing industry.

According to the 2015 Harris Poll of America’s Favorite Sport, Pro Football easily ranked as the most popular, distantly followed by baseball and college football. Horse racing? After experiencing a 3% overall decline in the poll from 1985–2015, horse racing now ranks as tied with women’s soccer, women’s college basketball, women’s pro basketball and men’s tennis in overall popularity. In fact, the popularity of horse racing is now so low that when the Business Insider produced the following chart of the Harris Poll results, horse racing wasn’t even included.

And unlike the other low-popularity sports, horse racing has been beset in recent years with negative publicity. As animal-welfare consciousness has grown in the United States, horse racing has been continually challenged to justify its existence. Scandals within the industry involving the improper drugging of horses, and public spectacles of stakes-level horses being injured or dying on the track have further eroded the public’s interest and enthusiasm for the sport.

The lifeblood of racing has always been the wagering dollars pumped into the sport by both committed horseplayers and everyday gamblers. Those dollars keep going down. Even with the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years occurring just two years ago, American Pharoah’s triumph has had little impact on horse racing’s bottom lime. Figures published by the Jockey Club show that from 1990–2016, pari-mutuel handle for United States horse racing peaked at around $15 billion in 2004, and has steadily fallen to less than $11 billion by 2016.

The national exposure of the sport has also steadily evaporated. From today’s vantage point it’s easy to look back and credit the developers of the National Football League, to use one obvious example, for their early understanding of the importance of capturing and holding a national television audience. And while horse racing faces unique challenges in marketing that other sports do not, it’s striking to consider what a poor job the industry has done in developing their product for the modern television (and now internet) age. National audiences in the U.S. are mostly unaware that horse racing still exists, save for a handful of events each year: the Triple Crown races featuring the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes, and the Breeders Cup.

Particularly when compared to other major sports, the lack of evolution in the product offered to audiences is telling. Races at major tracks often overlap on starting times, have inconsistent and confusing wager options for people new to the sport, and the tracks themselves can seem unsafe and dilapidated. Add to that the constant legal battles among track owners, online wager companies, the state regulatory boards, and on and on. Even many of the tote boards used to display the live odds, results and payoffs appear to have been manufactured before computers were commonplace.

While beset by many negative outside forces, the people who run horse racing have also contributed to its problems. The horse owners, trainers, state regulatory boards, track owners, jockeys and even horseplayers put the U.S. Congress to shame when it comes to gridlock. These groups can’t come together on even the most basic improvements that could benefit the sport — think regulating the rampant medicating of their race horses, to name just one important example. Part of the problem is structural — horse racing has more than 30 governing jurisdictions in the U.S. But a large part is also the rampant we’ve always done it this way-ism.

By infighting and competing with each other rather than reaching any basic consensus, the industry has ceded control of the sport to the few large gaming corporations that now control it. And in reality, these corporations would be happy to be rid of horse racing altogether if they could replace it with more lucrative gaming options. They simply want the gambling profits, which can be more easily be obtained from slot machines, card tables, video terminals, etc. Having to maintain, feed and medicate large stables of live animals does not always efficiently serve the corporate bottom-line. Not to mention the potential for bad publicity when a horse publicly breaks down on the track, or PETA releases a secret video of horses being mistreated.

As a result, CDI, the company that owns various tracks including Churchill Downs where the Kentucky Derby takes place, has been more focused on their gaming development in recent years. Just last month NPR Morning Edition ran a report titled As Interest In Horse Racing Declines, Track Turns To Other Options. They noted that:

Racing just isn’t where the money is. Fewer people are going to races across the country. And that’s led to fewer races being run. There were 15,000 more races in 2006 than there were last year. To bring in more revenue, some race tracks have turned away from horses. Now, Churchill Downs makes its money this way.

In 2014, Churchill Downs bought Big Fish Games, which runs web-based platforms like ‘Jackpot City Slots,’ ‘Sunken Secrets’ and ‘Bush Whacker 2.’ Though the company says its anchor is still the Kentucky Derby, it attributes a jump in revenue last year to its acquisition of Big Fish. Cameron McKnight, a Wells Fargo analyst who tracks the gaming industry, says Churchill Downs has become a leisure company.

According to its annual SEC filings, Churchill Downs Inc. now only gets about 25 percent of its profits from the four racetracks it owns. And the company’s stock is trading near an all-time high. In addition to the addictive phone and computer games, Churchill Downs reaps much of its revenue from five casinos across the country and an online horse betting service called TwinSpires. Alex Waldrop, president of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, says Churchill Downs’s diversification is still bringing money back into the racing industry.

With gaming corporations exerting increasing influence over the sport as a whole, their lobbyists have been busy in the state legislatures weakening the racing industry even further. Texas, a state with a long history of live horse racing, has essentially de-funded the industry over the past few years. One theory that would explain the state’s curious lack of support for their own tracks, horsemen and horseplayers: the casinos lining the Texas borders would prefer to be rid of the horse competition, and they contribute to politicians willing to help with this goal. Similar efforts in Illinois and Florida now threaten the future availability of horse racing in those states, usually at the expense of further casino development.

Ironically, these declines continued after what could have been a turning point for the sport just two years. When American Pharoah crossed the finish line at the 2015 Belmont Stakes a jubilant crowd of 90,000 wouldn’t stop standing and cheering. People in the stands said it was one of the loudest sustained cheers they had ever heard.

American Pharoah had become the first horse in 37 years to win the Triple Crown races that include the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes. And in an unusual twist for the racing industry, the horse had no negative stories, rumors or associations plaguing his quick rise and ultimate triumph. A similar phenomenon had occurred just one year prior when the engaging California Chrome just missed winning the Triple Crown at Belmont.

If anything would give horse racing the jolt it needed, it would be these two great, charismatic horses supported by scores of horse racing fans, right? Not so much.

Even before California Chrome’s run for Triple Crown history, Dan Packel in the New Republic presciently argued that:

Even if California Chrome becomes the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978, it won’t be enough to arrest horse-racing’s inexorable decline. Once at the apex of the American sporting landscape, alongside boxing and baseball, horse racing has been hobbled both by cultural forces beyond its control and internal problems that it has been slow, or entirely unable, to fix.

A decade after Smarty Jones’s failed bid, it’s too late for any single horse to revive the sport as one that inspires raised voices year-round — from the wider public, that is, as opposed to the declining pool of die-hard bettors still shouting at banks of televisions at racetracks or off-track betting parlors.

The trouble is, the number of “racetrack people” dwindles by the year, and the negative stories swirling around horse racing aren’t going to win the sport any new diehards. The subject of many of these stories is one familiar to fans of America’s most popular sports: performance-enhancing drugs.

The racing industry is also plagued with problems that aren’t self-inflicted. Casinos, once found only in Nevada and New Jersey, now exist in 38 states. Elsewhere, there’s the lottery and bingo. Why would a novice gambler take the time to learn to decipher the complicated, almost runic numbers and symbols in a racing program when there are easier ways to get some action?

Horse racing also faces an existential threat in the form of land re-purposing. Imagine if NFL stadiums started disappearing because the land they were sitting on became too valuable. That’s exactly what’s happening to both minor and major tracks in the U.S.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the legendary Hollywood Park Racetrack closed in 2013 after 75 years to make way for a new NFL stadium and casino. In a recent interview the owner of Los Alamitos Race Course estimated that he’ll only be able to stave off developers wanting his prime land for another 10 years or so. Fewer venues could actually help stabilize the industry in the short term but they also undermine the regional appeal of the sport. Without the chance to attend a local race, how many young people will ever bother to watch a race on TV or visit a track in another state?

Is it fair to label a sport that still generates over $10 billion in revenue obsolete? Or is Triple Crown-winning trainer Bob Baffert correct when he says the sport is fine and just needs more stars? The trend-lines strongly suggest that the sport is in peril, with no obvious path towards future growth and stability.

Horse racing faces seemingly insurmountable obstacles both internally among its own stakeholders, and externally from both cultural forces and regulatory pressures. Will there still be major U.S. racing in 20 years? Will people stop what they are doing to watch the Kentucky Derby? Maybe, but by then the event is more likely to be kitsch, a spectacle of hats devoid of any larger meaning or purpose.


Bay District Racing Track

By the late 1800s, racing had become a part of the Californian culture and a spate of racecourses opened in the second half of the century. Despite the sport&rsquos popularity, the early tracks enjoyed mixed fortunes, beset by rising land values, anti-gambling crusaders, and bitter rivalries. The Bay District Racing Track was one such example.

In 1873, a group of wealthy San Franciscans banded together to establish Bay District, a one-mile circuit in the Richmond district at the northwest corner of the city. Its founders had grand ambitions, and large sums were spent to create a lavishly appointed facility. Some two months after opening in September 1873, the track ran a $25,000 race, a purse then unprecedented in America.

Nonetheless, Bay District quickly met with difficulties. The surging growth of San Francisco was creating mounting demand for land for residential development. Meanwhile, a crash in the silver market swiftly ended its founders&rsquo initial largesse, and the track&rsquos physical environment soon sunk into a steady decline.

However, Bay District found a saviour in the young and enterprising Thomas Williams. In 1890, he purchased the course, and pioneered its comeback. Whereas it had previously specialised in harness racing, Williams changed its focus to the Thoroughbred, and for six years the track rang with the thunder of hooves.

Bay District, though, was not to last. As early as 1891, local residents were clamouring for its closure, arguing that its acreage should be opened up for housing. Moreover, in 1895, another obstacle arrived in the form of a rival track, opened by Williams&rsquos one-time friend Ed Corrigan.

Corrigan, a Chicago businessman and owner of Hawthorne Race Course in Illinois, had previously patronised Bay District. However, after a virulent quarrel with Williams, Corrigan sought retaliation by building his own racecourse, Ingleside Race Track.

Bay District was doomed. It held its last race on May 27, 1896. Two years later, residential streets were being cut across its infield.


History

Equibase Company LLC, a general partnership between The Jockey Club and the Thoroughbred Racing Associations of North America (TRA), was formed in 1990 to establish a single Thoroughbred-industry-owned database of racing information.

Prior to the formation of Equibase, the Thoroughbred industry’s historical racing records had long been controlled by a third-party publisher. With Equibase, the goal was to put racing information back in the hands of the industry so that it could be made as widely available, attractively presented and affordable as possible.

Under the direction of a management committee consisting of leaders from the racing and breeding industries, Equibase began full-scale operations on Jan. 1, 1991. Through a network of chartcallers, Equibase began collecting past performance information from all Thoroughbred tracks in North America.

The information was processed, stored and made available for retrieval in the company’s database within its Lexington, Ky., headquarters. Access to Equibase’s historical racing records enabled tracks to develop new formats and distribution networks for their daily programs and enabled the industry as a whole to facilitate the growth of simulcasting through accurate and affordable program information, which significantly boosted pari-mutuel handle nationwide throughout the 1990s and into the new millennium.

In 1997 the TRA announced Equibase as the Official Database for Racing Information and Statistics, and in 1998, when the company reached an agreement with Daily Racing Form by which Equibase became the official data supplier to the venerable publication, Equibase became the sole collector of Thoroughbred past performances. This agreement to standardize racing’s statistics eliminated the duplication of effort and resulting confusion from the maintenance of two databases of racing information.

That year also marked the issuance of the first dividend checks to Equibase’s partners following the retirement of the original startup loan extended by The Jockey Club. Dividend distributions are issued annually and are shared among the TRA and its partner racetracks (67%) and The Jockey Club (33%).

Throughout its history, Equibase has sought to leverage emerging communications technology for the overall growth and betterment of racing. The company established one of racing’s first websites in 1995, delivering racing information to fans via this new medium. As the Internet became a larger part of everyday life, equibase.com became a daily stop for fans surfing the web. After re-launching the site with full e-commerce capabilities in 1999, the company quickly emerged as a leading provider of value-added information and services to the electronic and interactive marketplace. This position was strengthened by the July 2000 acquisition of TrackMaster, a premier provider of electronic handicapping information. TrackMaster is a wholly owned subsidiary of Equibase and maintains a website at trackmaster.com.

At the turn of the century, Equibase implemented eBase®, a field collection system that lets chartcallers work directly in the central database, thus streamlining the collection and quality control of results information. This resulted in mutual payoffs becoming available on equibase.com within minutes after the race was made official and a full chart electronically published within 30 minutes.

Equibase.com has long offered a comprehensive menu of free entries, results and race charts as well as a complete line of premium handicapping products for handicappers of every skill level. Among its many other offerings are Virtual Stable®, the popular free e-mail notification service that keeps customers apprised of racing activity that is important to them and Stats Central, where fans can find expanded horse, jockey, trainer, owner and track statistical profiles as well as complete racing leaders from 2000 to current, all free of charge.

Just as Equibase offered one of the industry’s first websites, so too did it offer one of the industry’s first mobile platforms. Since 2003, fans have been able to follow the sport in real time from the convenience of their mobile devices and the platform was later redesigned to capitalize on emerging smartphone technology.

Equibase is also serving the rapidly growing mobile web market through apps including Today's Racing™, and iPP's by Equibase, - along with mobile-friendly products - engaging a wide audience from casual fans to seasoned handicappers by making the information more accessible and portable.

With a focus on maintaining the comprehensiveness, quality and timeliness of its data collection and distribution, Equibase has achieved and, in many cases, surpassed virtually all of the goals set forth in 1991. Equibase will continue to leverage information to serve the fan base and help promote the sport, regardless of the medium through which fans access information.


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