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Bob Barry: In Search of a Path Forward
Thursday, January 28, 2016 RSS Feeds

Courtesy of the Bloodhorse

For too many years the stated interests of horseplayers—lower pari-mutuel takeout and effective drug testing—have been at odds with the presumed best interests of Thoroughbred owners.

The conventional wisdom said relief for bettors could come only at the expense of owners, and vice versa. You would think the two groups had never met, even though their futures are inextricably linked. Bettors and owners share a common problem: an ebb tide in betting handle causing all boats to run aground.

Like many other vast undertakings, American racing comprises various distinct groups, ranging from low-paid grooms and hot walkers on the backside to highly compensated CEOs and racing secretaries in the corner offices. The top tiers of racing's "talent pyramids" also do very well while journeymen jockeys and trainers combine with racetrack middle management and members of the Turf press to form racing's own version of a nervous and shrinking middle class.

If these groups—the racing connection aside—are quite disparate, they all receive one important benefit from the game: a paycheck. Outside of the occasional unadulterated joys and the regularly occurring crushing heartaches, the only guarantee that racing provides to both horse owners and horse bettors is a loss of capital.

"There are two groups in racing whose rights should be considered," Hall of Fame trainer Jim Fitzsimmons, by way of Red Smith, said in the New York ??

Herald-Tribune in 1963. "There are people who furnish the actors for the show, the owners with the costly stables. And there is the public that furnishes the money. Both of them got to lose, no chance in the world to break even." ?

While this world has seen many amazing improvements over the last 50-odd years, the overall unprofitability of horse owning and horse betting is not among them. Statistics show that the wealthy do still enjoy a tendency to become even wealthier over time, which must help to soften the blow when increases in purses fail to keep pace with the rising cost of hay, oats, and workers' compensation. But until the arrival of that magical time when racetracks start donating "take-in" rather than exacting takeout, horseplayers as a group will never be profitable.

For racing to thrive once more, it's important that owners and horseplayers recognize a shared goal: big purses attracting large fields of drug-free horses sparking massive betting pools with low takeout allowing for better payouts while the larger handle keeps purses healthy. Blended takeout rates have effectively doubled since the days of "Sunny Jim" Fitzsimmons.

The goal may seem dubious, but allowing horseplayers to lose money as slowly as they once did is the key to racing's future.

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The CBA works democratically on behalf of every consignor and commercial breeder, large and small, to provide representation and a constructive, unified voice related to sales issues, policies, and procedures. The Association’s initiatives are designed to encourage a fair and expanding market place for all who breed, buy, or sell thoroughbreds.