A REASON FOR HOPE? - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report


By Ray Paulick
What’s this, good news on a Tuesday? Most Paulick Report readers expect to have to wait until “Good News Friday” for their weekly dose of positive developments from people, places and things in the Thoroughbred world. But some things just can’t wait.

This will be a brief summary, but here is today’s good news:

– First, that’s not a typo you see at the end of the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale results sheet from Monday night. All economic indicators were up from the first night of the 2008 sale. The gross receipts of $25,470,000 was up 40.3% from last year, the average of $335,132 increased by 10.7% and the median of $250,000 increased by 6.4%. Better still, the percentage of horses not sold declined to 28% from 29.4% in 2008.

The physical presence of Sheikh Mohammed, friend of the sale company’s new Dubai owner, served as both an economic and morale boost for breeders and consignors of sale yearlings. He supported his own stallions and was the leading buyer—no surprise there—accounting for 21.6% of the total. But his first-night purchases were only slightly higher than what he bought in absentia in 2008 when agent John Ferguson spent $3.1 million to buy yearlings in the sheikh’s name (16% of the first-night total). In other words, this year’s price increases were not caused by one-man.

In the current climate for both the general economy and the Thoroughbred industry, the absence of double digit declines is considered a big win for a horse sale. No one has even considered double-digit price increases. Can they hold up on night two?

— Second, the New York Racing Association has released statistics showing a very positive start to the 2009 Saratoga race meeting. While it’s true that weather plays a big part in the success or failure of the upstate Spa, I think the statistics for the first 12 days (attendance up 4.8%, on-track handle up 8.3%, all sources handle down just 1.7%) can be attributed to more creative and aggressive marketing, a continuously improving Internet strategy and platform compared to years past, and, of course, good racing, with larger fields than the first 12 days of 2008.

As a NYRA press release pointed out, the 1.7% decline is much less than the national 13.4% in July and 10.9% drop since Jan. 1

On the bad news side, the Belmont Park spring meet was not good, with all sources handle down 13.9% and on-track attendance falling 17.2% from 2008.

— Finally, Del Mar got off to a quick start in on-track business, with some new promotions and a record crowd on opening day. Ongoing concerns with breakdowns continue to plague the Southern California track, and off-track business hasn’t reflected the strong on-track numbers.

Still, we’ll take all the good news we can get.

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