7 May 2008

How To Fix Breeding And Help Horse Racing Immensely

With all the talk about the tragic breakdown of Eight Belles right after she ran her heart out in the Kentucky Derby, one thing being repeated really makes sense, the idea that horses prone to injury, are dominating the stud business and have been for a few decades.
Northern Dancer was arguably the top sire and grand sire in history, but he retired due to unsoundness, at least that is the story.
Breeding wasn't that huge back then, so it is probable that Northern Dancer had real issues. But you have to think that his lack of longevity as a race horse has passed down to his line.
And of course, since Secretariat's early retirement at three, we don't even know how many of the big named studs would have done if their career was longer.
We do know that the top sires were able to make it to three, but we don't know if they would have been a force at five or six.
Mares too, are retired very early for the most part.
I don't knock the people retiring and syndicating these top performers. Money talks. It is almost crazy not to take the green while you can get it.
However, the industry is the big victim here.
Horses who break down in races that possibly could attract new fans is devastating to the growth of horse racing.
Lets face it, it happened twice now in 2 years, where top horses have died, possibly because the bloodlines of horses today have created more fragile individuals than ever before.

The solution:

Horses should not be allowed to enter stud until they turn at least six. Mares must be at least 5 years old before they can breed.

This means that trainers may not drill the heck out of horses out in the early portion of their careers. Perhaps too, we will only see horses in the Derby that are bred to go a mile and a quarter, and who have at least a couple of mile and eighth races under their belts. But in the next decade if this rule is implemented tomorrow, we will most likely know that the sire and dam of most of the top horses had longevity going for them.
Buyers will lean towards buying for longevity, and breeders will be forced to breed for longevity.
If a horse goes bad at 4 (can't compete as a Stake horse, or gets too sore to run), they probably won't be the most popular horse in the breeding shed, male or female, but especially the males.
The bloodlines will correct themselves in a hurry. Breeding for longevity. What a novel idea!
The pressure will be a good pressure. Owners of horses who did well at 3, will be forced to continue to run the horses against top competition at 4 and 5, or risk a very low syndication price. Horses that don't cut it, will be taken out of the gene pool eventually.

But the best thing that will happen if my rules become reality is that fans can actually follow a race horse for more than 6 months to a year.

How many new fans did the awesome careers of Forego and Kelso create? Too bad they were geldings, horse racing badly needs their longevity in the bloodlines of todays race horse.


G. C. said...

Possible takeout increase driver as an increased bureaucracy will be needed to enforce these new mandates on the population. More government means more taxes and more takeout.

The only thing racing in North America needs to do is prohibit raceday meds and run over safer dirt surfaces with well engineered drainage systems.

Anonymous said...

Race day meds are a huge issue, but we are dealing with a more fragile breed now, more than ever before.
As far as increased takeout goes, my idea will cost less than nothing, and because there may be some really good rivalry developed, new fans will start to show up and lose money hopefully.
In Ontario, the government only gets 1.3% of every bet, and they are able to function OK on that.
But takeout is the biggest issue. If they want substantial growth in the fan base, racing needs to collectively lower takeout rates drastically.

Anonymous said...

Good thoughts, Cangamble -- I've mused on this topic myself and come to somewhat similar conclusions.

Two thoughts: 1) I don't agree that trainers will stop "drilling the heck out of" young horses, for the simple reason that the Derby and Triple Crown series are what it's all about in American racing. The pressure to go there and win those races will still be enormous, which will still take a toll on young horses.

In fact, it's possible that even under your proposal, many top horses would be retired young, since, for studs, a bad season diminishes their younger accomplishments (not so true for mares).

As for the "big government" issue, I don't see it that way. The Jockey Club already has the authority to enforce the archaic (and breeder-protecting) requirement that thoroughbreds must be produced by live cover (unlike, say, harness racing, where artificial insemination is the rule). Why not another rule -- live cover by a stallion of at least five (or six) years old?


Anonymous said...

Frank, I think a few other things could be implemented, like reducing purses for two year old races. And perhaps (I know this is unrealistic) move the first Saturday in May to the first Saturday in July.

Here is a comment from a thread I started on Pace Advantage by a forum member named Nacumi:

Cangamble, you've pointed out some suggestions I firmly believe will help affect positive reform. Part of the problem with shortened careers is the rush to get juveniles graded earnings, and pushing them too hard, too often while their frames aren't even fully developed. I've said it many times, but it's worth repeating; racing venues need to stop writing 7 figure races for 2 yos. Period. Ergo, less incentive to pay absurdly inflated prices for yearlings and 2yos. in training, and thus, slowing the race to get that money back and recoup the ROI. Gee, wouldn't it be nice if you incentivized people to keep horses in training and racing longer by rewarding the handicap division with bigger purses instead? Then, the superstars might actually hang around to run some more seasons. It's exponentially backward right now, and it's the breeders who breed to breed, not to race, that are driving the bus. They don't retain the skin in the game long enough to care whether a sale horse ever makes it to the races.
In addition, raising the age limit on when horses/mares can enter the stud is a good idea, though it does deal a blow to those folks who have unraced stock, due to injury or otherwise. But raising the age to enter retirement would stem the tide of the rush to the shed at age 3, that's for certain.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you about these. Well someday Ill create a blog to compete you! lolz.