The thoroughbred racing set is not accustomed to protests.
There is a major horse race taking place in Louisville. The Kentucky Derby. The race might be the secondary story because there will be groups demonstrating by the Churchill Downs racetrack. The protesters will bring up the Louisville police shooting and killing of Breonna Taylor. That is not the kind of thing that the thoroughbred horse racing industry ever thought would happen to them. A civil rights protest but the Kentucky Derby is still a big deal even though the thoroughbred horse racing business has seen better days. The demonstrations will not be welcomed by the Churchill Downs set. The interest in horse racing has dwindled. Five years ago, there was the hope that American Pharoah by winning Thoroughbred Racing’s Triple Crown, would help revive the horse racing industry. It didn’t. Justify winning the Triple Crown in 2018 didn’t boost the industry. Times have changed and it is no longer 1950 when baseball was the king of American sports with boxing and horse racing a distant second and third. Within a generation, horse racing’s importance fell as states offered off track betting and lotteries. Betting was made easy.
Attendance and revenues at racetracks didn’t suddenly rise because there were Triple Crown winners in 2015 and 2018. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be no customers at the track. The Kentucky Derby will not have pageantry, complete with stylish hats and bow ties and mint julips. It is a throwback day but state lotteries, off track betting and the availability of all forms of gambling in stores along with casinos sprouting up around the country have taken care of gamblers’ needs. There is a chance that Churchill Downs will be the site or near the site of demonstrations. The horse racing industry. Like all of sports, is not immune from real world problems as people want answers in the Breonna Taylor case.