Mike's Derby Picks

Why Justify’s Premature Retirement Threatens The Future Of Horse Racing

August 3rd 2018

My latest US Racing article Why Justify’s Premature Retirement Threatens The Future Of Horse Racing can be accessed on the hyperlink below: 


The article was edited for length and probably should have been a two part feature. So I will use this blog to expand on some areas.

“They did the right thing”

Judging from some of the comments I received from those in favor of retiring Justify, aka the “They did the right thing” crowd, first it needs to pointed out that Justify has not been officially diagnosed with an injury. Inflammation in the joints of performance horses is extremely common. A good article on the causes can be found by clicking HERE

Plain and simple, Justify was retired because he was worth more in the breeding shed than on the race track. It begs the following questions:

Can’t Buy Love or a Triple Crown

You’ve heard the old saying that you can’t buy love? Well, you can’t buy a Triple Crown winner either. Both are just fate combined with a little luck. As I noted in my article how Secretariat’s progeny fared, if you want another example of the other side of the pond, how about Lammtarra?

Lammtarra won all four career starts, three of which were Group 1 turf races in 1995 with his biggest being the prestigious Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. His breeding rights were sold to Japanese investors for $30 million at the end of his 1996 breeding season. This would equate to $48 million US dollars today. Lammtarra’s best progeny were two Grade 3 Japanese winners. His stud fees plummeted from £30,000 (~$39,300) to £2,500 (~$3,275).

However, examples like this doesn’t stop the foolish spending and attempts of buying a future Triple Crown winner on genes alone.

More Emphasis On Fan Experience

As I noted in my article, with the recent Supreme Court decision on sports betting, Joe American will have more options when it comes to betting. And handicapping an NFL game is easier than handicapping a ten horse field. So the sport of horse racing is getting more competition in the future and will need to focus more on improving fan experience at events.

One of my biggest beefs is selling tickets to get into the Walking Ring area. Selling tickets for seating in the Walking Ring area, I understand. However, having to pay additional for a pass to even get in the area is just wrong and greedy. You have to allow every fan in attendance an opportunity to be up close to the stars of the sport. Not try to capitalize on every potential dollar that you can make off them.

As I noted in my article, the 2016 Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Santa Anita was a very disappointing experience. Why? Because the Breeders’ Cup LTD organization oversold tickets to capitalize on California Chrome’s popularity. While this event did set Breeders’ Cup attendance records (45,673 on Friday and 72,811 on Saturday), the Breeders’ Cup is supposed to be the Super Bowl of the sport. It was everything except.

At the Belmont Stakes this year, I had great reserved seating but it was a long walk, needing your ticket for clearance to get through security, to get to a place where you could buy a Long Island Ice Tea on Long Island. Then factor in poor cell phone reception and absolutely no docking stations for patrons. Fortunately, Belmont Park treats media like gold as they had media stations everywhere with outlets and I was able to recharge my phone.

Come Out of The Dark Ages

As I noted in my article, docking stations to recharge your cellphone, they are now becoming more commonplace at sports venues. They have them at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. This is an example, along with others noted in my article, of what other sports do today to attract and retain fans. Especially the tech-savvy younger generation whom this sports needs to market more to.

Overall, I love the sport of horse racing. I want the sport to reclaim some of its former glory and success. However, many key people within the sport need to take a long look in the mirror and get out of their cushy suite and experience an event as a regular fan.

This sport needs to come up to speed with technology and fan experience if it wants to compete with other professional sports in the future.