A record crowd of over 170,000 people attended the Kentucky Derby which gave the impression that racing in the United States is in good order. The major meetings especially for the Triple Crown races always attract excellent crowds but some people say racing is dying in the US while others believe it is merely changing. Last year the track at Suffolk Downs closed which means there are now five fewer tracks operating than in 1990.
In the UK jumps racing is struggling even though the big festivals at Cheltenham and Aintree are flourishing. In any racing country it’s a challenge to get the right balance between offering high prize money for the best horses and maintaining economic levels further down the hierarchy. The major races are the shop window but the grassroots of the sport must be sustainable.
Over 72,000 races took place in the States in 1990 but that total had fallen to 41,000 by last year. Betting turnover has increased but slower than inflation and the foal crop has almost halved. The average field size has fallen from about nine to eight. The record crowd at the Kentucky Derby contradicts these trends and although 122 tracks are still open overall crowd levels are in decline.
News for the 2015 Kentucky Derby.
The US Triple Crown
The Triple Crown is made up of three races for three-year-old thoroughbred horses. Winning all three which can only be done in one season and is the greatest achievement in racing in the United States. The term is derived from a concept in England by which horses of one gender can only win three of the five Classics. Sixteen horses have won the Triple Crown in England dating back to 1853 but not since 1970.
The American Triple Crown is made up of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes run over distances from 1.9 km to 2.4 km. Eleven horses have won the Triple Crown in America from1919 to 1978 when Affirmed won each of the three big ones ridden by Steve Cauthen and trained by Laz Barrera. Jim Fitzsimmons is the only trainer to win two Triple Crowns, with Gallant Fox in 1930 and Omaha in 1935.
Since 1932 23 horses have won the first two legs but could not win the Belmont Stakes. This has happened six times in the new millennium including twice in the last three years. California Chrome won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness last year but failed to complete the treble. The result prompted his owner to complain that the race should be scheduled later in the season as those horses going for the Triple Crown are not at a huge disadvantage.
2015 Kentucky Derby
The 2015 Kentucky Derby broke the record for betting turnover which indicates that punters will bet on the top prestigious races despite wagering less further down the scale. American Pharaoh won the race ridden by Victor Espinoza but the race was marred by excessive use of the whip by the jockey. The horse was the fourth winner of the Kentucky Derby for trainer Bob Baffert and the third win for Espinoza.
The horse is now 5/6 with bovada.lv to win the Preakness Stakes, which is run on May 16th at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. Maryland. American Pharaoh is 4/1 to win the Breeders Cup Classic and 9/4 to complete the Triple Crown. The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is the other racing Futures market on the site in which Treve will be trying to win the race for an unprecedented third time in as many years.
If American Pharaoh wins the Triple Crown racing in the United States would receive a huge boost. The achievement would be covered in the general news pages and programmes and not just in the racing press and media. However, the coverage may not do a great deal for the greater good of the sport at the grassroots level which in some respects is in decline. The key figures from US racing are not encouraging but are misleading.
Closure of Suffolk Downs
The reasons for the closure of Suffolk Downs are not typical and there were signs of decline in the 1980s. A racing writer’s memoir summed up the general demise which dates back 30 years. He wrote: “Even by the mid-1980s, management indifference, frequent race-fixing scandals and the overall poor quality of horseflesh had earned Suffolk Downs the well-earned reputation as the worst-run thoroughbred facility in the country.” However, the recent closure of the track could be unrepresentative of the sport.
Despite the doom and gloom green shoots do exist. The Racing Post is the trade newspaper in Britain and in a recent feature the US racing expert highlighted some positives in writing: “Though significantly lower than in the 1970s heyday, TV ratings for the Kentucky Derby have held steady at around 15 million viewers for the last decade or so”. The columnist continued:
“Numbers were up at the recent Santa Anita meeting, a four-month fixture that posted a three per cent increase in overall pari-mutuel turnover and a four per cent hike in on-track attendance. The total number of tracks has gone down by only five over the last 25 years” All is not totally rosy but there is some cause for optimism. The proliferation of state lotteries has not helped and more casinos and slots are competing for the gambling dollar.
There is a major problem with race day medication and the reputation of the American thoroughbred has declined internationally in recent years. However, the top meetings and major days are as popular as ever. Race fans at Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby would agree but regulars at Suffolk Downs may not concur with this view.
For a full range of horce racing odds please visit 888Sport