Curlin Owner Jackson Says Racing Economic Model Broken

Friday, 23rd January 2009

Prominent US owner-breeder Jess Jackson (proprietor of Kentucky's Stonestreet Farms & majority owner of the world's top-rated horse Curlin, who retired in 2008 as all-time leading earner among North American-based thoroughbreds with US$10,501,800 prize-money) has triggered major debate in the US by telling thoroughbredtimes.com: "The industry has a broken economic model. It concentrates on 2YOs & 3YOs. And then there's a race to the breeding shed." (A direct link to the whole interview is in The Great Debate panel on the right-hand side of this page.) Among other controversial opinions, Jackson declared:

  • "I would've loved to have raced Curlin another year, but there wasn't any venue or sufficient compensation for that. . . . . The owner has the risk. And insurance probably would've exceeded a large part of what he could have earned. . . . . I would've loved to have raced him if there had been adequate purses & more races for him to enter. . . . . I'd love to see them race in, let's say, a 4YO series of classic races which would endear the fans to champions & ingrain more spectators as a marketing lure for the industry. . . . .The racing industry has been lacking marketing skills. . . . . But if we had bigger purses & more races, more people would be inclined to race as we did (continue racing champions as 4YOs)."
  • "The industry's been breeding too many horses of mediocre talent. Probably the whole industry, given the economics, will be curtailing the number of foals that are developed. There are simply too many of mediocre quality. We should get back to shorter books & higher quality."
  • On synthetic tracks: "Good for training, poor for racing! It allows the breeders to continue to breed weak-boned horses. As an industry we should honour turf & dirt, the natural surfaces that horses have run on for centuries. . . . . California is at a disadvantage now by having so many false surfaces. Although I have to admit, it has helped a lot of horses. If we're going to continue to breed weak horses, then we will continue to need Polytrack or whichever kind it is."
  • On banning use of steroids: "I hope they adopt even more stringent requirements. And more importantly, enforcement. The issue is largely one of enforcement. There's no uniform enforcement throughout the US. . . . . The lack of enforcement of our rules, even though we have high standards, makes us a laughing stock in certain circles overseas."
  • On sales integrity: "We need transparency in the auction sales. For instance, we should eliminate false bidding & hidden identities."
  • On the current economic down-turn: "The breeders are finally getting a break. A lot of the sire prices are going down. . . . . It's healthy for the industry to see the breeders get a break. They have huge investments in their mares, but with the sire fees too high they can't expect, with the volume of foals going to the market, to get a reasonable return. Now the industry is adjusting. I think the current recession will continue to last for a while, maybe 2 or 3 years. But that's going to give the breeders a chance to have better cost-benefit ratios. Maybe more of them will breed less, and breed better, and help the whole industry."
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