May 31, 2017
To All TOC Members
RE: Field Sizes
Dear TOC Member
As you may know, California racetracks have been besieged by diminishing field sizes in recent months. For example, the average field size at the current Santa Anita meet is down 6.1% from the same period last year, from 8 horses to 7.5 horses per race.
The natural outcome has been a decline in our wagering pools, which has had a detrimental effect on purses. The average daily generation of purse money is down nearly 5% as compared to the same period last year. This situation now threatens the very future of Thoroughbred racing in our great State.
There are many possible reasons for declining field sizes. Commonly cited are weather, track conditions, horse injuries and illness, declining foal crops, and more. As owners, these are not conditions we can easily influence.
But there is another factor that we can control – how often we choose to run our race-ready horses. I would ask you to consider a startling fact: of the 2,200 horses three years old and up stabled in Southern California right now, approximately 1,100 have not made a start in a race in 60 days. Many of these horses show multiple works during that time.
There seems to be a sentiment among many owners and trainers of only wanting to run in races where they can win. While we agree it is important to place your horses in competitive races, it is also important to remember that only a third of races are won by favorites – which means two thirds of races are won by non favorites! And the purse money from finishing second or third in a race will pay the horse’s bills for a couple of months.
What’s wrong with this picture? Over 2,000 foals were born in California in 2014. If half, or over 1,000, were fillies, how can a $200,000 race for 3-year-old Cal bred fillies get only seven nominations – as happened a couple of weeks ago at Santa Anita?
As thoroughbred owners in California, our responsibility is to provide the inventory for the racetracks, and they provide the venues. When the racing office cards a stakes race and gets only four, five or six starters, the track takes a serious beating in handle. As I am writing this, I am informed that the GI Beholder Stakes with a $400,000 purse has only seven nominations with fewer expected to enter. Even if you don’t think your filly or mare can win this race there is $80,000 for 2nd, $48,000 for 3rd, etc., plus graded black type. How can we expect the tracks to continue to offer these kinds of opportunities if we don’t give them full fields? You can’t win if you’re in the barn.
We are partners with the California tracks and we are not holding up our end of the bargain. It’s up to us to keep California racing vibrant. Please encourage your trainers to enter and run your horses when they are ready.
If you have any questions or comments, TOC staff is always available and happy to speak to you. Please call our offices at (626) 574-6620 at any time.
Wishing you the best of racing luck,