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 Editorials

Thoughts from our editor, Joe Clancy. For archived editorials click here.

Maybe it’s happenstance, but when a Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale goes well, Boyd Browning gives regional director Paget Bennett the honor of talking to the media afterward. When things don’t go so well, or are a little off for one reason or another, the Kentucky-based president and CEO takes the reins.

Browning spoke after the fall yearling sale in October, summarizing statistics that – while far from disappointing – didn’t live up to the speedy pace of the last two years in Timonium. Browning talked about everything: a smaller catalog, lower gross, lower average, shifting participation levels from various segments of the industry. At some point he stopped himself and went another direction.

“I continue to be amazed that in the world we live in, the men and women that participate in this game have a pretty ferocious appetite despite sometimes our best efforts both as an industry and as a country to dissuade anybody from doing anything,” he said. “You read today, we just ousted the Speaker of the House. Nobody knows what’s going to happen there. Interest rates are higher than they’ve been. The stock market is . . .”

He let it all hang there. 

About a week later, Hamas attacked Israel to ignite another international fire that – as much as it seems far, far away – will leave an impact in the United States. Stir in Russia’s war in Ukraine, an 80-year-old president, four criminal indictments against his most likely challenger in the next election, a changing climate and rising costs of pretty much everything. 

Closer to home, racing seems to be stuck in another maelstrom of safety and integrity issues, a shrinking base of horses, wild ideas from left field and underwhelming solutions. Any thoughts on what’s going to happen with Maryland racing? How is the sport’s betting model going to compete with ever-expanding sports wagering? Where will the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority be in five years? Can national owner/breeder Mike Repole really create a meaningful new association of industry participants?

It might be easier to predict how long Jim Jordan or whomever lasts in the Speaker’s chair.

In the face of that and more, you’d think more people might lose their enthusiasm for owning/breeding Thoroughbred horses, or at least continuing to invest in a pursuit that counts on long-term stability for its future. 

Browning was having none of it. He pinned the success of his company’s sale, where $7 million worth of yearlings changed hands, on the stick-to-it mentality of the people involved in the Thoroughbred industry.

“It defies all logic, but it also shows you the love, the passion and the desire,” Browning said, “and how much people love the game and how much they’re committed to it.

Somehow, he’s right. Don’t get me (or him) wrong, the industry needs to be ever-mindful of the business conditions it operates within. Breeders, sellers, buyers, owners, trainers and so on will adjust to those conditions and I hear plenty about adjustments. Consignors at Timonium wondered about what seemed like fewer trainers among the bidders. Buyers wondered where all the horses went. Racing might want to plan for a future with bumpier sales results, smaller catalogs, shorter racing schedules, foal crops that continue to decline and even more uncertainty when it comes to racing regulation. 

But racing isn’t going away anytime soon.

Credit that logic-defying commitment Browning mentioned. People breed, raise, train, sell, buy, own, train and ride because they’re committed. Like any business, there will be high times and low, booms and busts – and we should probably stop causing our own problems – but the core business of Thoroughbred racing ought to survive it all.

Even if it doesn’t always seem like it.

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