The horse racing industry has come a long way since its days as the “sport for kings.” Events still attract thousands of fans and sponsors. But countries and states are increasingly closing down racetracks. Worse, animal rights activists are keen on shutting down the entire industry.
A lot of people who make a living through horse racing aren’t sure what the future has in store. Will activists win? Or will the industry get its act together and regain its reputation as a top sport?
A Global Sport
Although horse racing was one day the sport of the royals and rulers, it never spread worldwide. In fact, it’s confined within a handful of nations in the west: Australia, Europe, the UK and North America. Some horse racing investors want to change this.
Over the past decade, there have been efforts to introduce horse racing in South America, the Middle East, Asia and Africa to make it a global sport. One of the reasons is to run horse racing in areas with few animal activists.
However, there are also breeders and fans interested in seeing the sport grow worldwide. In Qatar, for example, there’s a significant increase in the number of people who watch races and participate in local events. In Japan, there are over 20,000 horse races held every year while the sport is also catching on in Dubai, where some racecourses accommodate up to 60,000 fans.
Sponsored by Betting Companies
Sports gambling companies have been increasing their dominance in the sports industry left, right and center. A decade ago, sportsbooks mainly targeted top European football leagues. Now, they also sponsor hockey, baseball and horse racing events.
Top British and European sportsbooks spend up to $10 million on sponsorship deals with racetracks, trainers and jockeys. They do it because horse racing attracts millions of fans on TV and stadiums. And that means they have millions of people to target by placing adverts at racetracks and on TV networks that broadcast live events.
According to studies, sports advertising actually works. Lots of people in the UK have migrated from betting at shops in the high street to betting online. Are there any advantages? Go to islandecho.co.uk. They have a guide comparing the benefits of betting online versus at physical shops.
Horse racing critics won’t go away anytime soon. Quite the contrary, there’s a lot of growing scrutiny on the industry following the increased number of deaths at major racetracks in the past few years. In the US, Los Angeles’ popular racetrack Santa Anita Park attracted global headlines in 2019 after reports showed 30 horses died at the park within six months.
In Kentucky, where horse racing is somewhat of a religion, racetrack executives have been under sharp criticism since 2018 when studies showed horse injury rates at Churchill Downs and Keeneland were catastrophic.
In light of that information, horse racing in the near future will continue to be under the scrutiny of activities and government leaders. Activists want trainers and jockeys to do more work in securing the welfare of thoroughbreds. And they won’t stop calling out breeders and trainers until the industry improves.
Advanced Racing Equipment
As criticism for the horse racing industry deepens, breeders and trainers will invest more in high-quality equipment. The goal is to improve the safety and wellness of horses and riders. And in doing so, they can reduce the level of scrutiny the industry is receiving.
Fortunately, investing in quality equipment is something everyone in the sector agrees is important. That’s why there seems to be new products on the markets every year. For example, most racetracks demand that all horses run on aluminum plates. This is an improvement from the traditionally heavier and uncomfortable steel plates.
Race plates aside, other equipment that owners and jockeys are invest in include breast girths, nosebands, bridles, collars and wraps. There is also veterinarian equipment like MRI scanners that can help prevent injuries and reduce deaths in the sector.
Let’s face it. Horse racing has had better days. There was a time when racing events would attract up to 100,000 viewers on stadiums. Back then, the prize pools in the industry were enormous, sometimes hitting in excess of $50 million.
These days, the biggest racing events attract a lot less money. In the UK, winners of the Epsom Derby take home £283,550. The prince of Wales’ stakes provides the biggest payouts at £750,000 to winners. The Diamond Jubilee comes in second at £600,000 while most events pay up between £250,000 and £500,000.
The prize pools for horse racing is expected to reduce in the near future due the impact of COVID-19. Last year, for example, the prize money for top 10 flat races reduced from £10.3 million in 2019 to £3.8 million. The figure could increase slightly this now there are vaccines for the virus. But with the government reinstating lockdowns, the prize pools will still be low.
A Sport for Streamers
After COVID-19 shutdown racetracks throughout the world last year, breeders negotiated a way to resume races without fans. That didn’t mean no one was watching the racing, though. Fans of the sport turned to streaming apps and websites to watch their favorite thoroughbreds.
This is something experts believe will continue to happen even post COVID-19. Fewer people will visit racetracks in favor of streaming events. The explanation is that although racetracks provide immersive experiences, they’re expensive and not always conveniently located.
By comparison, streaming a race is convenient and time-saving. What’s more, you can watch multiple races no matter where they take place, sometimes free of charge.
Depending on who you ask, the future of horse racing is dim or bright. Jockeys, breeders and owners who’ve experienced the wrath of animal rights activists fear the sport they so much love could be canceled sooner or later.
However, some people are hopeful there’s a future for horse racing. It’s not guaranteed but it will come at the cost of investing in better equipment and health for animals, lower prize pools and fewer fans at racecourses.