Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Economy Brief

I spoke with Donna Keen this morning. I was supposed to go out to her farm today to visit her latest rescue project, Lights on Broadway, who would soon be starting his new career as a racetrack pony at the Fair Grounds. The former racehorse had put on weight and trained beautifully for his new job. Donna had hoped to use him as her own pony but she admits, "He's pretty big; a little tough for me to get on. It involves a little jumping and maneuvering for me, but he's patient."

Anyway, it's cold here in North Texas: 31ยบ F. (Note to all Canadians, New Yorkers, and Yankee "Others": Don't give me any lip by making comments that include words such as "heatwave" or "balmy" or "wuss"). We rescheduled my visit for later in the week, but we briefly chatted about her other rescue projects as well as the development of a 501c3 non profit fund for the Keen's rescue operation, Remember Me Rescue.

"I hated to [ask for donations]," Donna told me, "but we can no longer afford to pay for the rescue operation ourselves. Everything - feed, hay, and help - has gotten too expensive."

This in turn led to a conversation about the economy and its effect on horse racing, a dangerous territory for people like me. Sort of like discussing transmissions with my mechanic. (Note to Economists, Steve Zorn, and Smart Business Types: Please refrain from making comments that include words such as "moron" or "dork" or "bubblehead"). I stated the obvious: Purses are higher at the Fair Grounds than at Sam Houston Retama so racing there should be more lucrative for their operation. However, Donna quickly pointed out that the competition at the Fair Grounds was a whole lot more tougher. She cited a recent maiden special weight, "We're racing our horses against expensive, $600,000 horses." I suggested that given the economy and costs associated with purchasing and owning racehorses as well as purse amounts and reduction in handle and increase cost of beer at racetracks, that perhaps these expensive, half-million dollar purchases could no longer be purchased for a half-million dollars because of Reaganomics or Voo-doo Economics or some other trickle-down-effect political gobbledygook, and the competition would eventually even itself out. And then I could have a nice conversation with my mechanic and instruct him how to repair the transmission.

But Donna pointed out that it wasn't so much the purchase price of a racehorse at the Keeneland Sale that was the horseman's problem, rather an economical factor that I had never even considered. "Where I see a real downturn is in the claims. Nobody is claiming anymore. We end up running a $30,000 claimer for $10,000 because there are no claims at the higher level. There used to be a couple of claims in every race, or lots of claims if a horse is real good," said Donna, "but it's becoming tough to sell a horse."

    1 comment:

    Winston...not really said...

    Question.

    Wouldn't the lack of claims allow one to keep the horse as it keeps winning? If it is not winning at that level AND nobody is claiming it, then it begs the question of the horse running over its head.

    Isn't the claiming game the best example of an open market?