Randy Rosenberger, associate professor of management, is one of Juniata’s business faculty, but he also is an avid follower of the sport of kings—horseracing. In fact, after he earned his MBA, he worked as a hot walker and assistant groom at the Philadelphia Park racetrack for a short time. After the incredible success of long-shot racehorse Mine that Bird, the filly Rachel Alexandra and jockey Calvin Borel, we thought some illumination on the intricacies of racetracks was in order.
This season a gelding (Mine that Bird) a filly (Rachel Alexandra) and a colt (Summer Bird) won the Triple Crown races. What are the reasons a horse owner might geld a horse?
Gelding a horse helps focus the animal for the trainer. There’s a fair amount of inbreeding in thoroughbred racing and some horses can be very difficult to handle and gelding helps some horses settle down.
How is it that so few fillies are competing in Triple Crown Races?
I think it’s the same as in human sports, women have a hard time competing against men. To some extent it’s physiological, it’s a rare filly who can physically compete with colts and some of those (Eight Belles and Ruffian) break down when they do.
As racing has become less popular as a leisure activity, has the focus for owners become centered on selling the breeding potential for a champion?
I don’t think that has become more of a factor than it has been in the past. The practice of breeding fees and breeding syndicates goes back to the 19th century and has been common since the 1970s. Racing has started a bit of a comeback now because some older tracks and new tracks are tied in with casino gambling.
Much ado came from the success of jockey Calvin Borel on Mine That Bird and Rachel Alexandra in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. How much of the success of a racehorse comes from the jockey.
Probably 20 to 25 percent. There are some horses that are so good the jockey doesn’t matter and there are some horses with a unique style or an ability suited to a specific racetrack or condition where the jockey can make a difference. You could probably put me on a horse like Secretariat or Cigar and they would still win.
How knowledgeable do you have to be to be successful betting or at least enjoying a day at the races?
A lot of people go out and bet based on the name of the horse or the color and I think those people are having fun and probably win occasionally. I really like the analysis of horseracing, which is fun for me. Of course analysis isn’t foolproof because horses have good days and bad days just like we do. A good way to familiarize yourself is by looking at the odds, which are a pretty good rating of how the public perceives the horse.
–John Wall, director of media relations