Thoroughbred Idea Foundation executive director Pat Cummings joined the TDN Writers’ Room podcast presented by Keeneland Wednesday to discuss a wide-ranging assortment of macro issues the sport is facing, and how it can be more efficient post-pandemic. Calling in via Zoom as the Green Group Guest of the Week, Cummings was asked about last week’s #FreeDataFriday white paper posted by the TIF, in which he focused on the shockingly small percentage of purse money that is derived from wagering dollars.
“It’s been happening like this for a very long time and the situation has really just worsened bit by bit year after year,” he said. “I think as an industry, the topic has generally just kind of been kicked down the lane, and it didn’t help that most jurisdictions have been supported with some sort of revenue from casinos … You look at a place like California and it’s a jurisdiction that has not had any influence of casinos. Even still, they’ve made things work over the years, [but] only about 4.4% of total handle actually goes to prize money.”
Cummings went on to say that he thinks the internecine arguments racing has been having for the last several decades have gotten bogged down in medication discussions and missed the point on what matters most: building a sustainable business model.
“At some point, we get to a tipping point. We get to a point where racing can no longer ignore this broken financial model, and we wonder what it’s going to be,” he said. “I tweeted something earlier this week. It was a link to the YouTube video of the 1990 Kentucky Derby broadcast on ABC. Dave Johnson and Al Michaels were on the roof of Churchill Downs, and they’re talking about this new study that was released by the Jockey Club that said Lasix may be a performance-enhancing drug. Now, that’s 30 years ago … It’s time to focus on other things that are wrong with our sport because we have a lot of problems, and we haven’t solved a lot of them over those 30 years. As much as Lasix and permissive race-day medication are important, we’re talking about how we fund the business … We’re talking about how do we make the day-to-day operations of racing continue. I think that the fundamental business model of the sport maybe takes a little more precedence over do we allow permissive anti-bleeder medication or not.”
Elsewhere on the show, the writers previewed the action-packed stakes weekend coming up at Oaklawn and, in the West Point News of the Week, analyzed the implications of the decision by Fasig-Tipton to condense all of its summer yearling sales into one auction. Click here to listen to the podcast or here to watch it on Vimeo.