U.S. vs. Europe - Which Racing is Better?

You have total amnesia. All you are told is your name and that you loved Thoroughbred racing, but you don't know why and cannot recall actually following the sport. You don't even know if you live in the United States or Europe. You have to start taking baby steps and learn to love racing all over again. You decide to spend a year in the States and a year in Europe and then decide which racing you like best and where you want to live.

It is now two years later and here are the conclusions:

- A big advantage to Europe to start off. The beautiful, lush grass courses, the maze of white railing, uphill and downhill runs, and horses, without lead ponies, turned out in impeccable condition, escorted by well-dressed lads (grooms). Whether at Royal Ascot, Epsom on Derby Day, Glorious Goodwood, or small tracks like Salisbury and Bath, racing in England is a canvas of gorgeous colors and images. And there is nothing as dazzling to the eye as the Longchamp's magnificent grass course or the vast expanse of the Curragh.

Several of the American tracks do present spectacular backdrops, such as the San Gabriel Mountains beyond Santa Anita and the miles of gentle rolling hills beyond Keeneland, and those tracks with scenic infields, adorned by lakes, flowers, and a variety of greenery and birdlife. But the racetracks themselves cannot compare with those in Europe. And the American horses, leaning on their lead ponies as if they were security blankets, are not as pleasing to the eye as the Europeans as they ramble down the stretch after being let go by their lads, striding out magnificently on their way to the starting gate.

- Once again, the advantage goes to Europe.  No medication, standard shoes, strict whip laws, stiffer penalties, and less tolerance for riding infractions make European racing far less tainted than American racing and more of a true sport. By racing on the grass (and rarely is it as firm as in America), you have much fewer catastrophic injuries. The safety advantage in Europe also is helped by the nature of the sport, where the horses go far slower for the first three-quarters of the race than they do in the States.

American racing is going through rough times, a good part of it due to its image following several high-profile fatal breakdowns in Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup events. The inability to determine whether those injuries were caused by the racetrack or unsoundness or overuse of medication hasn't helped, opening the door for fanatical organizations to condemn racing and demand its abolishment.

Also, American stewards are known for their inconsistency. Different rules and tolerance levels apply at different racetracks, and fans are often left bewildered at some of the decisions. The British stewards also face the wrath of the public on occasion, but England at least has a ruling body (British Horseracing Authority) to regulate the sport and enforce its rules, which keeps the game consistent. England has had a governing body for 250 years. Each track and each state in America are entities unto themselves, establishing their own rules. That has become evident recently by the vast discrepancies in suspension time for the same medication violation, and the Marx Brothers-like craziness in California.

And to Europeans, it is appalling to think that almost every American 2-year-old first-time starter runs on Lasix, which originally was meant to be given only to horses who had previously bled. Now, babies get Lasix first crack out of the box. That, along with permissive medication like Butazolidan, is one of the reasons Europeans over the years have referred to Americans as "doped-up horses." But it must be pointed out that every European starter in last year's Breeders' Cup raced on Lasix and/or Bute, with the first two finishers in the Classic racing on both. Conduit and Eagle Mountain, one-two in the BC Turf, raced on Bute only, as did BC Mile winner Goldikova.

And England had its own high-profile drug violation this year when trainer Nicky Henderson not only had a horse come up positive for a prohibited substance, but a horse owned by The Queen. He was handed a three-month suspension by the British Horseracing Authority. High-profile drug suspensions, however, are much more commonplace in America.

- Although no one loves to bet more than the English, who have bookmakers of all kinds to turn to, and off-track betting was a fixture in France before it came to America, the American horseplayer still has it so much better than the Europeans. In Europe, you basically have to know the horses and must rely on published reports from the gallops as to how a horse is training. The past performances (if you can call them that) in the Racing Post and Paris-Turf provide little pertinent information to analyze, especially compared to the morass of statistics in American past performance lines.

In America, where there are more types of bets, one can decipher all the data and have a pretty good idea how a race is going to be run - who will be where, how fast the pace will be, etc.

Getting back to training, American horses are an open book, with their works listed each day online and in the Daily Racing Form, and in a horse's past performances. You can have a dozen works listed for a first-time starter, whereas in Europe young horses are judged by the buzz coming out of the yard. During the Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup, the media scrutinizes over the works of all the participants and provide daily reports on how the horses are working. TVG and HRTV also have works shows each day, so the average fan can watch them on TV and make their own judgments.

In Europe, horses are cloistered away in private yards, with the trainer being the ultimate ruler of his domain. No one gets anywhere near his horses without an invitation. Works can be conducted over the expansive gallops at Newmarket or on private property, such as Ballydoyle, or in the vast network of training tracks at Chantilly. Aesthetically, training at Newmarket and Chantilly is far superior to American horses training on the racetrack, but the latter provides more knowledge and information to the bettor and is so much more accessible to the media, who then go back to the barns and discuss the works with the trainers. Fans attending "Breakfast at Belmont," for example, can watch the works and gallops right next to the trainers who congregate inside and outside the café each morning. Fans at Santa Anita can do the same at "Clocker's Corner." This is where Europe and America are truly separate worlds. From a fan's and a media member's perspective, America wins this hands down.

- As mentioned before, beauty-wise there is no comparison, but for the fan/bettor, watching the race is far more enjoyable in America. The horses are closer to the fans and easier to see and there are fractions posted to tell you how fast or slow they're going. American horses have more of a distinct running style, so you know if they are running their race or a being forced to deviate from their normal style of running. Horses make their moves at different points in the race, making for more excitement throughout the running and more strategy.

In Europe, there are races where the fans in the grandstand cannot see the horses at all early on, or the horses are so far away (like on the Newmarket straight) they are nothing more than specks in the distance. Individual horses also are more difficult to spot, because the fields normally are so tightly bunched all you can see is a cluster of jockey helmets. It's all about waiting and waiting, and then unleashing your horse's run at the right time, usually between 1 1/2 and two furlongs out. In Europe, you can often tell the winner a long way out by how much hold the rider still has on his horse. That happens less frequently in America, where horses are able to make long sustained runs and are under pressure much farther out. Many stretches in Europe are so long you can't get a good look at the horses as they turn for home. But those long stretches do favor the European bettors, because horses have more time to extricate themselves from traffic problems or recover from bumping incidents. And as everyone knows, European finishes as a whole are much closer and you rarely see the kind of romps you see in America.

So, all in all, this category also goes to America.

-- This, of course, is pure opinion and difficult to say, considering most of America's best horses run on dirt and all of Europe's run on grass. Because of the advent of synthetic surfaces in America, it has divided the sport as we knew it, and determining who the top horses really are has become more difficult. By going from two outlets - dirt and grass - to three, it has diluted the talent even more, or at least our perception of talent.

Each place has its core of super heroes from the past. Each also has its own problem of finding new ones, due to the early retirements of its classic winners. The days of the true sportsmen racing their best horses for three or four years are gone. There is so much money at the upper levels of the sport and such a craving for multi-million-dollar stallions, racing in America and Europe has become more of a stopover on the way to the breeding shed, where new well-bred and lightly raced horses are churned out to perpetuate the cycle. Like moving in a constant circle, it just leads right back to where it started. To further their gluttony, some major breeders in America and Europe send a good number of their stallions to the Southern Hemishpere to be bred. Unlike the past, when stallions basically were bred to 40 mares a year, some are now bred to several hundred.

Europeans can boast of their dominating record in the Breeders' Cup Turf over the years and their success in the BC Mile. And now with the one-two finish of Raven's Pass and Henrythenavigator in last year's Classic over a synthetic surface, you can bet they will return in droves to Santa Anita this year with horses for both the turf and "dirt" races. Will America find another Tiznow to restore its reputation in the Classic?

America returned the favor this June when Wesley Ward took six horses to Royal Ascot and really stuck it to the Europeans right in front of The Queen, winning two stakes and just getting beat a head in another - the group I Golden Jubilee. And he did it with dirt horses. So, let's just say that the two worlds have become even closer since last fall and call this category a wash. The Euros are better on turf and the Americans are better on dirt.

- When it comes to being able to see live racing, Europe has a big advantage, but only because each country is much smaller than the U.S. and fans, especially in England and Ireland, are no more than a few hours drive or a relatively short train ride to any track. Because a racing fan from England, for example, can drive or take a train to the Derby or the Guineas or Royal Ascot, you have to give the edge to Europe.

So, what is the decision? Do you go with the sheer beauty, purity, and accessibility of European racing or do you prefer the vastly superior information provided by American racing, along with the easier viewing of the races and access to the trainers?

Not being much of a bettor and interested more in the sport itself and the horses, I think for the most part I will spend the mornings on the backstretch in America and then hop in my private jet and go to the races in Europe in the afternoon. I'm not a jump follower, so it's all U.S. in the winter. After the Triple Crown, I will spend all my time in England during the Royal Ascot meet and then catch the Irish Derby. And I can't miss Glorious Goodwood in July or the King George at Ascot. During August, I will spend all my mornings and afternoons at Saratoga (cannot pass up breakfast at Beverly's). In mid-September, I'll spend most mornings at Chantilly (the most heavenly spot on Earth for horses and cathartic for humans) and go to the races in England and Ireland, then return to France for Arc day (nothing like it) before heading back to America for the Breeders' Cup.

What? You say it can't be done? Hey, it's only a silly blog. I can do anything I want.


Leave a Comment:


Excellent article Steve filled with some honest opinion and very informative as well. I think the sport in Europe is much more noble and proper. They are very traditional overseas and have a storied history. There horses are treated like royalty it seems like. The Euros record in the BC races far exceed anyyhing the American horses have ever accomplised across the pond. I think Tom Rolfe finished 6th to the great Sea Bird in the 1965 Prix de Arc de Triomphe. Tom Rolfe was by Ribot who was one of Europe's greatest champions.  I believe Ribot finished his career undefeated. Ribot sired many brilliant stakes winners in America incuding not only Tom Rolfe, but Arts and Letters and Graustark. I only wish we could see more European horse racing televised. The pageantry alone is quite a spectacle. Obviously we need to make some changes over here and in a hurry or our sport will go the way of the dinosaur.............    

26 Jul 2009 9:21 PM
steve from st louis

Steve: great piece, as always. My sense is that Japan racing is a terrific compromise between U.S. and European racing, incorporating the best of both. Am I on or off target (never having been to the Land of the Rising Sun). Agree on Chantilly. And the only time I was at Saratoga, I drove all night from Chicago through storms to get there just in time to bet Temperance Hill in the muddy Travers. I slept good that night.

26 Jul 2009 9:28 PM
Mary Pitt


For the most part, your comments hit the mark exactly, and I agree with the majority of what you've said about both US and European racing.

As an American who has lived in England for the past dozen years and goes back and forth frequently, here are some of what I consider the pluses and minuses of (mainly British)racing:

Pluses: The horses look better and, being trained at individual yards and not on the track, have more time to be horses. Jumpers get the summer off. It isn't unusual for the Grand National winner to win the big race and then be turned out in a field the next day.

Horses are more accessible. There are several racing clubs scattered across Britain, and most host stable visits to trainers yards for members. One one particular club's visit, they saw, and were able to pat and get pictures with, 1997 Grand National winner Lord Gyllene a week after he'd won the race. Flat yards will also invite racing clubs along for stable visits.

Minuses: This is a big one - the cost. Going to one of the premier British tracks on a big racing day will easily set you back $50 or more, and that's without a seat or a program. Most racecourses have restauarants and some seating, but the majority, even the newer ones have stands. If you want to watch the racing, whatever the weather, you do just that, you stand.

There is still an element of snobbery and exclusivity on British racecourses, such as in the different enclosures. I find the atmosphere on American racetracks much more casual and friendlier. Having said that, Irish racetracks are very welcoming.

The betting mindset seems to be completely different, too. The British seem to rely more on tips from experts, while Americans want to figure things out for themselves.

There are aspects of both that I enjoy, and that includes jump racing.

26 Jul 2009 9:50 PM

Would take Europe in a heartbeat with the glorious lush tracks (turf fan here!) and stricter medication rules and penalties.  I would rather "pass the buck" (wagering) for those reasons listed above.

26 Jul 2009 10:02 PM

I'd definitely take European racing over American for the first two points stated, the former a bonus rather than a necessity.

American racing will continue to roll downhill unless it adopts a model similar to the Euro's, with a governing body that puts the horse first- not the trainer or owner. No medication on race days and stricter penalties that are actually enforced will clean up American racing quite well.

26 Jul 2009 10:40 PM

I have never been to Europe and would love to go. I have only been to 3 tracks in America; Portland Meadows(my hometown track), Del Mar and Hollywood Park. I'll be adding Santa Anita in Nov for BC. While Europe sounds great I guess I would stick with America. I wish we would adopt some of their ideas though (esp. medication and a governing body). I like all of the info and the availability of the people connected to the horses. I am "just a fan" and I have spoken to some of the biggest names in racing, that is a HUGE draw for me. And I like the diversity of surfaces.

Steve from StL...I agree about Japanese racing. I like watching it alot when they show it on TVG. I think it is very cool how ALL of the connections(including the groom) are feted after the race. I am also a huge fan of Sunday Silence and those Japanese races are FULL of his descendents.

26 Jul 2009 11:05 PM

And their track announcers and quality of the camera work over there are SO much better too.

That video of Zarkava's run in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe with the english announcer was magnificent.

I even dubbed the audio to my MP3 player (along with Chic Anderson's 73 Triple Crown work) so I could relive it at will.

Can't see doing that with this years Kentucky Derby.

26 Jul 2009 11:17 PM
Paula Higgins

Well, I just learned a ton from your article Mr. Haskin. Thank you for that. I had no idea how much different it is over there. We clearly have room for improvement.

26 Jul 2009 11:42 PM

Another great piece Steve! Thanks for a glimpse into something many of us will never see.  I am not a big fan of turf racing - probably because all my favorite horses have run on dirt (or mostly anyways), but I would love to make it to England some day and see the races!  Sounds like it is really something!  Also, I love the history of this great sport and there is definitely history there!

27 Jul 2009 12:20 AM

Excellent piece and in the thought process may give a good indication of the underlying problems here in the US.  There is a lot to thing about here-particularly in terms of fundamental issues.  Thank you Steve.

27 Jul 2009 12:23 AM
Jim P

Great writing, Steve. I've drooled over Euro racing and find ways to follow it. Getting there is a Bucket List thing. You have, however, made some strong point for US racing as well.

I do like seeing more of the fillies and mares running in Europe's big races. I watched Zarkava's Arc in TV. People there tell me the post-race was a zoo of zoos, but it seemed lacking in the interactionn for such a popular winner. I've never seen anything hit my soul like the "victory laps" of Calvin Borel on Street Sense and Mine That Bird.

Which country has the best paddock experience? That's a part of racing I love; to see the horses up close. I'm a better handicapper combining the form and the eyeball.

If I were to work in the industry I'd probably choose Europe. Seeing those great horses in their stables and on their gallops would be about all I'd need. Youtube has a beautiful but brief morning gallop of Zarkava before the Arc.

I'm particularly excited to see the advancement in German racing as they probably have the world's strictist standards in racing and breeding. Bless Lord Derby for breeding Ouija Board to Monsun.

Here at Portland Meadows we have the "People's Horse" program so we can get the total experience of ownership. I love the backstretch. This year we're all a part of Maria Margarita.  

I would have loved to have met Anabaa before he died; should have been in France.

Adusting to snobbery would be hard for me; I've got the spirit of the Western high prairie in my blood. We break but we don't bow.

Oh, nice touch Steve, buying all your bloggers breakfast at Beverly's. Can you save me a window seat?

27 Jul 2009 12:26 AM
Ted from LA

As it relates to European racing, hum a na hum a na hum a na...

27 Jul 2009 12:37 AM

I love North american racing better. But all horse racing is great to watch. I love the sport.

27 Jul 2009 12:41 AM
Majella from Ireland

Great article! I agree with everything, both have good and bad points. Even cheap horses are well turned out here but one of the best turned out horses I have ever seen was Conduit on Saturday.

I like the way that in America you can meet people like Bob Baffert quite easily. I'm not sure about other yards but big yards like Ballydoyle are extremely strict about who they let in for visits etc. I've also noticed that in America you can take tours of stud farms, I'm not sure if that happens in Europe.

27 Jul 2009 3:49 AM
Scottish Racing

Great article Steve. Agree with most of what you have to say except I would head down under for the Melbourne Cup after the BC and then on to Hong Kong for the International races before heading to SA for boxing day. I can only dream.

Mary Pitt is so correct about the cost in the UK and Ireland. Totally different in France. I printed off a sheet of paper from the web last year and me and 7 friends got into Longchamp on Arc day for nothing. The most you would pay is $8. Don't get me wrong, they charge you $6 for a beer in there. The French tracks are a Tote monopoly and don't have any bookmakers taking money out of the game.

I'm going racing on Saturday to watch claimers at Hamilton in Scotland. $30 for Clubhouse type tickets. A disgrace.

I've been to Epsom on Oaks day, BC at Arlington, Belmont day for Smarty Jones and the Arc four times. If I could pick out the best parts of each of those visits we would have a product to really get excited about. Facilties of Arlington Park, turf course of Epsom, dirt track of Belmont, quality of turf racing at the Arc, entry price and proximity of the city at Longchamp, lights of Manhattan after the racing and the roar of 120,000 that was evident at Belmont that day. No drugs either. Tom Durkin calling the races and the same betting choice as you have at Epsom.

We can only dream. I'm off to York races for the first time next month and hope to Sea the Stars. If this guy is as good as we think he is, you'd be best looking for the horse for the exacta in the Classic already!!!

27 Jul 2009 4:08 AM
Phil Rynn

What a great question!...So much to offer on either side of the Atlantic...Been to all the Parisian tracks, also many tracks in Germany.  In the U.S., been to just about every track on the East Coast, from Suffolk Downs to Gulstream/Calder, and everything in between ...and Arlington Park, Emerald Downs, Bay Meadows, Golden Gate, Santa Anita -- even Ruidoso and Sunland Park.  I've missed out on Kentucky, and Louisiana/Arkansas/Eastern Texas...

So, with that resume, I say:  "Apples and Oranges" - both styles of racing have their place.  If you want beauty/style/elegance, go to Europe....if you want the adrenaline of the quick action and the betting transparency, the U.S. is the way to go.  For the horses...they all should want to be in Europe...much kinder on them.  

I believe that U.S. racing is quickly reaching a tipping point...the drugs are killing the "sport", and the gambling is all that may remain...and it won't hold up to casinos and slots.  Take the shred of sport and elegance that might remain in U.S. racing away, and we are doomed.  

Before the end of this year is out, I intend to visit Hong Kong, and this might be the subject of your next comparison blog...I hear great things about the two tracks there...combine British style/governance/traditions, with Chinese penchant for maximizing your betting experience, and you truly have the best of both worlds...even the care and training of horses represents a hybrid between European and American styles...lack of space forces their hand a bit, but they still train as much as possible using European methods...but anyway, that's a subject for another blog.

27 Jul 2009 4:52 AM

Im in Australia so have been bought up on a preference to turf racing but the two things that gives UK Racing the edge over USA racing are plain and simple for a large punter like me.

Huge liquidity on betting exchanges like Betfair in markets consistently set below 103% giving punters big edge.

Less exposed form via speed figures and greater access to detailed form through weights and measures compared to USA racing where value is more difficult to find with certain angles such as speed figures being highly overbet on a lot of 'good things' taking the value out of many race betting markets.

As a purist of the sport it is much easier though to find winners in The USA than it is in The UK.

27 Jul 2009 5:51 AM
Scott Thompson

Steve - great article but I don't think you've addressed an important consideration - prize money for owners. Dare to compare ?

27 Jul 2009 6:26 AM

If it's longevity in racing heroes you are after (see Best Horses), then the National Hunt code of racing is for you. The jumps racing season is seen very much as the poor relation to flat racing, but for it's fans (of which there seem to be a growing number) the return of characters season in-season out is one of the great things about National Hunt racing.

Safety is obviously a bigger problem for jumps horses but work is constantly being undertaken to try and ensure the safety of horse and kockey alike!

Great Article

27 Jul 2009 7:53 AM

Steve - a good brief summary of both sides of the industry - I only wish the powers to be in our country would make the necessary changes to keep the thoroughbred business in this country a reality - It's amazing to me (in the business thirty years) that politics and money can control the future of this sport and business -common sense business, like in Europe, and elimination of those who break the rules and regulations in this industry are a must for the future to be viable!!  Thanks for your continuing efforts!! Jon

27 Jul 2009 8:02 AM


What a great article.  Having only been to Fairyhouse in Dublin I cannot claim the breadth of experience you have, but from my perspective your analysis is dead on.  I also think the relative lack of racing options (as compared to the US) makes every race that much more interesting, as there are 50 tracks a day to wager off of, and there arent 12 race cards for the most part.

27 Jul 2009 8:23 AM

Viva La Difference!

27 Jul 2009 8:39 AM

Wonderful article, Steve!  Another great learning experience for me by reading your well written words.  While I love the pageantry of the European style of racing, I love being able to get a little closer to the horses.  Since I'm not much of a gambler, the information in the form is somewhat overwhelming to me, but I do enjoy reading about a horse's past performances.  However, most of my time at the track, in my limited I'll admit experience, is spent going from the paddock to watch the saddling and getting back to the rail to watch the race.  Being able to get that close to the horses, to the action is what I enjoy.  I think it would be fun to watch the people, though.  The Europeans are so far ahead of us in taking care of the horses, though, by their stricter rules for shoes, no medication, the purity of their racing offers something we just don't seem to understand over here.  It seems to me that we may have forgotten the importance of the horse over here.  This is a tough exercise, Steve, so maybe I need to do some more homework and watch more of the global racing that TVG and HRTV are offering.  My family might hide the remote from me, though.

27 Jul 2009 9:11 AM

No brainer. European racing is much better for the star of the sport . The HORSE !

27 Jul 2009 9:30 AM

Great article.  I follow and am involved in racing both in the U.S. and in England.  I have been to the Epsom Derby, the French and Irish Derby, the Irish Guineas to name a few.  Besides The Curragh, I have also been to several racecourses in Ireland where the settings, racing and friendliness of the people together cannot be matched.  But one of my favorite places is Deauville in August.  Two race courses in town; horses of all persuasions working out on the beach in the morning; racing in the afternoon with polo matches going on in the "infield"; watching high class yearlings going through the Arqana Yearling Sale, it just doesn't get any better than this.  That said, I still like our American racing with all of its faults. But a day at the races at a European racecourse is a special event regardless of the day's level of races.  One correction, Steve, not all races in England are run on the grass.  There are about a half-dozen tracks with synthetic surfaces so flat racing on a limited scale does go on through the winter.  Whether that is good or not, remains to be seen.

27 Jul 2009 9:34 AM
Bob Hope

A wonderful overdue article Steve but you forgot that Europe, France,Japan, Dubai do not compromise the value of their horse herd with a claiming tag on approx 95% of the herd.  England alone bets twice as much as U.S. with 1/8 of the number of races with a tenth of the horse herd.  Bad cards are not as noticeable as here.  production and class are important over there.

27 Jul 2009 9:38 AM
Ann in Lexington

A national ruling body is crucial; each state having its own rules, regulations, and standards makes for a chaotic, directionless sport/business. Look at the schedules of stakes races at various tracks and you can see what I mean about chaos. (And when did 9f become the standard distance for American handicap racing?) Many state governments look at racing as an easy source of income (into which the state need not invest funds) and the racing commission as a handy place to put political chums.

27 Jul 2009 9:43 AM

I hate this argument, Europe should have better grass horses thats what they run on over there and we should have better dirt horses. Of course now we run them on garbage called synthetics and that has has hurt U.S. racing more than all the drug violations combined, and as for Tiznow restoring America's reputation, He never won on a synthetic surface did he, so thats a bad argument. Our reputation will be restored when we run a legitimate BC Classic again next year at Churchill on a surface we actually breed horses to run on.

27 Jul 2009 10:03 AM

Very interesting article. Thank you. As a european I must say that inside Europe there are very different racecourts, ways of running or betting. In France or Spain, the price is defined by the volume of money destined to a winer, placed, exacta, etc.. It is only in Uk and Ire were the bookmakers decide the tips. So we have the two ways. I preffer the French, Spanish and US way.

In France the race is usually quite slow and they leave nearly everything for the last two furlongs. In the UK they race faster and normally there are horses entered only to accelerate the race when one trainer wants a true stamina test.

I love american information about the races. I usually follow US graded races and I am delighted for the information one can manage.

Also I love in America the oportunity that some stallions have although their pedigree is not fashionable. Here in Europe for example, the Epsom derby winner is breeding for jumps, only because he is not a Northern Dancer or Mr Prospector line. An exception is Germany, a country with very low prices, but the groups, but with very straight strategies of breeding soundness. And with a very small numbers of mares and stallions, they are always placing some star in the european racecourses.

I miss a bit of high speed in the finishings of the american races.

Both systems have their good and bad things, but what it is true in both places is that it is more difficult to find a superstar that can heat the hearts of even the not supporters of horseracing, as they run so few races that it is imposible to get in love with a horse.

If someone has any interest in watching a race in Spain (Madrid), just follow the link:



27 Jul 2009 10:06 AM
Abigail from Canada

A timely article, Steve. I've been hoping to see this topic taken up for several years now. My interest in the contrast started with Nijinsky II who was such a great horse but, when retired to the USA and despite his many triumphs as a sire, never really seemed to get the respect he deserved from sports writers. Even the BH coverage of his Triple Crown seemed very "contained" compared to the enthusiasm over North American runners. Yet, if you watch his races again on YouTube one can see that this was a great, great horse, Arc debacle aside. I for one would like to see a more balanced European-North American kind of coverage in Blood-Horse. (P.S. The same could be said of the Yeats coverage in BH -- kind of perfunctory, I thought. Yeats rated the BH cover at the very least!) I really enjoy your writing, Steve. It's edgey, topical and always informative.

27 Jul 2009 10:16 AM
Jerry Klein

According to the chart published by the DRF, Goldikova ran without bute or lasix in the BC Mile. Most foreign trainers use those drugs here because they will be at a disadvantage without them. But European racing is better, hands down, because the horses run on oats and water on race day, not filled to the gills with who knows what (as long as it's below the "legal" limit) like North American horses. Also, I prefer the minimal information in the Racing Post rather than the "morass of statistics" that make handicapping American races more like a math final than an enjoyment. Finally, the biggest point for me: almost every course in the UK has a homestretch of at least 3 1/2 furlongs. Almost every 5-6 furlong sprint is run on the straight. You get a much better run for your money on UK tracks.

27 Jul 2009 10:47 AM

Let's not forget that European racing also has top graded stakes races at 12f and up.  They can't help but laugh in their sleeves at the Breeders Cup "Marathon" as if that would be an extreme test of their horses.

North American racing needs more such high-profile stayer races.  We can start by stretching the Jockey Club Gold Cup back to 2 miles as it was in the '70s.

27 Jul 2009 10:49 AM

Ya either like the sport or you don't. One of the nice things is that all venues are different. If they ever invent a way to make all things equal then we have a real problem.

27 Jul 2009 11:03 AM
Steve Haskin

The Equibase chart I have lists Goldikova as having raced on Bute.

27 Jul 2009 11:11 AM
Bill Daly

Excellent, thought provoking article, Steve.  One thing we can certainly do to improve our sport here is to standardize rules and regulations and to make the stewards decision making as consistent and transparent as possible from track-to-track. There is absolutely no excuse for the current state of affairs save for a lack of political will and shortsightedness.  You might want to also take a look at racing down under for a comparison of how strictly they enforce the sport. Thanks.

27 Jul 2009 11:18 AM
Kevin Stafford

Excellent article. Racing definitely feels more majestic and important in Europe (and by "Europe" I mean both England and France, as Germany and Italy seem a cut below those two).

But...as much as I love this game, I find it rather difficult to make sense of the odds and past performance lines of the European races.  Thank god for the racing post class ratings now in the DRF. That helps take the mystery out of things.

One other thought - in terms of beauty, how does Japan not warrant consideration? Racing is HUGE in Japan, and let's be honest...what guy on Earth doesn't find Japanese women at least remotely interesting?  :-)

I think in the scenario you've outlined above, I'd be hitting the road to check out the "fillies" at Tokyo.

27 Jul 2009 11:20 AM

Have to say the Euro's, they will dominate the BC...

27 Jul 2009 11:34 AM
Fenton Carruthers

Steve: Great article and a very enjoyable read. Very fair too. I know you have a very busy schedule, but PLEASE one year try to take in the Cheltenham Festival (National Hunt jump racing) over four days in March every year in the U.K. I know you will enjoy it and will say that you have never ever seen anything like it! The Cheltenham Festival is the one reason for me that European racing just shades its North American counterpart. But for Cheltenham, it would all end up just about even, in my opinion. Thanks again for fine article.

27 Jul 2009 12:18 PM
Karen in Indiana

Sigh, your tour sounds awesome. Maybe you can start a guide service to help finance it. I'm sure people would sign up in droves. :-)

You hit the nail on the head with your comments. It would seem horse racing in America went in a direction at an early age that has produced the problems we're seeing now. But it's survival for the future depends on the choices made now, voluntary or not.

A national board with enforcing capabilities would be a good start. It would lessen regional turf wars, give consistency in regulations and give cover to state enforcing of rules ('we can't help it, that's what they're making us do now').

Not much can be done about track aesthetics at this point in time. It would be great to go to Churchill and not see planes flying overhead or breathing city air, but it would be hard to imagine them leaving the city.

Horses in America used to get months off at the farm. It's a shame now when a horse retires and has to be gradually taught how to be a horse because all he knows is how to live in a stall and run around an oval.

27 Jul 2009 12:37 PM

Steve, great article, as usual!

I want what is best for the horse ~ The Sport of Kings. However, I would miss getting close to the horses for photos and meeting their connections. :-)

27 Jul 2009 12:56 PM

According to Incompass' records, Goldikova ran without either Bute or Lasix, and in addition to the horses you mentioned, Conduit and Eagle Mountain, there were a few other Euros that ran without Lasix but with the aid of Bute including Donativum who placed 1st in the Juvenile Turf. I do agree with the Euro's medication policy, and do believe that we as American's can learn from them.

I've seen Euro racing, was there for Zarkava's win in the Arc...It will be interesting to see how SA's BC this yr rivals the Arc as I've never seen a BC. Hope Sea the Stars makes it over, and runs without the aid of Lasix or Bute.

But like Phil Ryann said, you're comparing apples and oranges. Now I haven't been to Derby day at Churchill, or opening day at either Del Mar or Saratoga, or a BC yet, or any other "major" racing day in the US but I've had some awesome experiences at the Cal racing fairs, seen closing day at Bay Meadows, witnessed the yearly struggle at Rillito Downs in order to keep it going each yr, and they are all completely different experiences then Arc Day in France. But I loved my time at each of those tracks and will go back to all of them in a heart beat as long as they are still running. I just expect a different race product at each track, the Arabs running at Solano aren't the same Arabs running in the World Cup after the Arc, but then again, the Thoroughbreds running in the Arc aren't the same as the Thoroughbreds running at Rillito Downs. So while racing is different, which is better depends on what your personal preference is to your race-going experience. And why not enjoy the beauty in both continents racing and have the best of both worlds?

27 Jul 2009 2:01 PM

"Horses in America used to get months off at the farm. It's a shame now when a horse retires and has to be gradually taught how to be a horse because all he knows is how to live in a stall and run around an oval." Karen in Indiana 27 Jul 2009 12:37 PM

Not sure where you get your info from but horses of the past USED to run up to 35 times a year (Seabiscuit as a 2year old) 12-15 times per year was on the low end and many ran on a week or less rest.

Fact is the main complaint now is they race 5-8 times and are retired after their 3 year old season. Anyone who runs them a number of times beyond that is criticized for being 'too hard on their horses". Lots of horses get layups, Stardom bound is coming off her second lengthy one in less than a year. Mike Matz keeps his where they can play in the sun and roll around and a lot of trainers have arranged for large pens where the more difficult actors can get out and run, jump, buck, play and roll.

Which goes to prove horse racing can't please anyone and most of the critics are casual fans at best and more than likely just horse lovers who see a cause to take up (ever see how they whip those pacers and trotters and get po'd at them when they break stride and all the equipment they put on them to get them to hold stride? Go after them.)

RE this other part of the comment:give consistency in regulations and give cover to state enforcing of rules ('we can't help it, that's what they're making us do now').

US? Are you involved in racing reform on one of the entities which is trying to institute the safety changes?  If not, then see the first part of my statement.

IF and that's an unlikey IF, we're just basing it on the pagentry, the horses, the setting, the enthusiasm it's all depending on personal preference.  I enjoy Saratoga, the betting in Europe is boggling, in England they are secretive and IMHO pompous, Ireland would be my choice in Europe. Overall though, racing in Hong Kong and Japan are as big as it gets and many people think THAT's the way it should be done.

27 Jul 2009 2:25 PM
Steve Haskin

I dont know what Incompass is. All the medication information I provided was off the offiical Equibase charts.

As for your comment "And why not enjoy the beauty in both continents racing and have the best of both worlds?" Didnt I do just that and give an itinerary that combined the best of both worlds?

27 Jul 2009 2:50 PM

I printed the charts of the BC off Equibase last fall and what I'm looking at right now shows nothing next to Goldikova. Whatever charts the "other" racing weekly used in their write-up of the BC also showed nothing for her.  Were the charts adjusted later? The last home in the Turf Sprint also was "clean". That hypocrisy (?) of the Euros got me riled last fall, and I'm still annoyed knowing it will happen again! That being said, it's what the rules allow, although do you think A. O'Brien will be more careful this year reporting 1st time Salix so as not to be fined again?  

27 Jul 2009 2:58 PM

I love watching races from all over the world, but I think that the European racing is superior the US version. Watching the stretch run in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe or any of the Euro Derbys seems to have so much more un-predictableness than American racing.  Zarkava's win in the L'Arc last year was so much better (and impressive) than Big Brown's victory in the Kentucky Derby, and, IMO, she would've trounced BB, Curlin and anything else we could've thrown at her.  

27 Jul 2009 3:11 PM

Steve, Great article, perceptive and accurate. I lived in Europe for 34 years and can only say Europe wins hands down for its treatment of Thoroughbreds and longer term vision than in the US where it's only speed, speed, speed.  To hear even the estimed Wayne Lukas say that no one cares about mile and a half horses is scary!  Best wishes, Nancy Palmer

27 Jul 2009 3:48 PM

Flat racing in Europe is much easier on horses. The absence of drugs, lower injury rate, healthier yards and far better training facilities, more time out to relax outside and benefit from the sun and fresh air. In Europe the emphasis is not mostly on speed. It is on health, soundness and stamina which saves legs and lives. In Europe most horses benefit from quiet and sunny yards away from the racetrack, filth, pollution, over-crowding, vehicle traffic, noise and don't spend 23 hours in dark, dusty, tiny stalls. In Europe most training centers are in the countryside. Yards are clean and stalls are airy and bright. No army of vets are running around all day with syringes full of this and that, while trainers are caught in between pressure to run from owners and the racing office and find that the doc and his drugs provide all the answers to avoid loosing horses or stalls while horses are falling apart but still racing.

Europe still enjoys many owners who are seasoned breeders as well who consider horse race nothing else than a wonderful sporting hobby and who care about their horses. It is not all about money and do or die like it is all too often the case in America due to the proliferation of the claiming game where money is all that matter and horses are gambling instruments.

In Europe horses can train going either direction, benefit from sweeping turns easy on their legs and can train and race straight. Grass is more available for training. Two year olds race on grass and can race in longer races without speed and pressure from the start which is much easier on them aside from recovering from Salix and other drugs.

Constant sharp left turns are way too tough.

Not all is great in Europe. Like America has its Palm Meadows, Fair Hills and other great training centers, Europe has its bad yards and horsemen. But horses fair better and last longer in Europe because it still benefits from owners who are seasoned breeders and who breed to race and enjoy the racing as a sporting hobby while offering every opportunity to their horses to mature and stay healthy. Though claiming races exist in Europe, they are few and at least in some countries horses are auctionned after the races. In America sadly, a dead but claimed horse still has to be paid for which invites and rewards evil. This hot potato decadent American claiming game precipitates the devaluation of horses and the proliferation of dirt-cheap year around bottom-level racing of claimers, including of multiple graded stakes winners in previous lives.

Europe offers well defined short race meets, no year around cheap racing like at some American tracks.

27 Jul 2009 4:03 PM
Steve Haskin

I dont know, I'm looking at the Equibase printout of all the BC charts and there is a big "B" next to Goldikova's name, as there is Conduit, and "BL" next to Raven's Pass and Henry. Very odd.

27 Jul 2009 4:14 PM

Agreed, Steve. Something fishy with the charts? Anyhoo, wonderful article as always. Also enjoyed your write up of Awesome Gem as a possible live longshot for the BC- never too early to plan!

27 Jul 2009 4:42 PM
Karen in Indiana

Bighorsefan, I wasn't talking about their frequency in racing, I was talking about how so many don't get time away from racing at a farm just being a horse. That comes from reading news about the horses, listening to interviews with trainers and others, and visiting the farms in Kentucky. One of the consistent things the farm owners have said is how they have to take time to get horses coming off the track used to being in a pasture. In the old days, there wasn't year round racing and horses had time away from the track to just be a horse. And I agree with you that the frequency of racing has dropped considerably.

Am I involved in any official capacity in horse racing? No, but I do consider myself more than a casual fan. Ask my family - they do too. LOL! I'm a fan who cares about the sport and cares more about the horses. So should I shut up and not give my opinion because I don't race, train or breed horses?

27 Jul 2009 4:51 PM
Karen in Indiana

P.S. I do like how Mike Matz trains his horses and I love Fair Hill. It would be great if there were a LOT more facilities like that.

27 Jul 2009 4:53 PM
needler in Virginia

Steve. Just when we thought we were safe, you ask another question!! But this one, for me at least, is EASY. Foreign racing..........ALWAYS. I've been from rope defined point to points, to Ascot, to Longchamps, to Ripon and all points beyond. ALSO Belmont, 'Toga, Keeneland, Hialeah, Suffolk, etc. NO CONTEST, Steve, none at all.

Lovely article, Steve, and truly well focussed. And you are SO lucky to have escaped my dumb questions for almost two months!! Don't worry, though; I'm gearing up for the Spa.

27 Jul 2009 4:57 PM
Cowboy Bob

The sport in the USA is on a greased skid going backwards. We need a racing czar or commissioner. Steve, take your blog and highlight everything they do better anywhere with a yellow highlighter, give it to the commish and make it law. The breeding  industry who is currntly driving the bus will adjust. Horse Racing is a support activity for the selling of bloodstock. We need to reverse the process.

27 Jul 2009 5:19 PM

Too many Pro's in Europe.

Too many Pro-blems in America.

Europe wins under a hand-ride !!!

27 Jul 2009 5:40 PM

Steve, I'm pretty certain you are correct. I was there and any number of horses including Goldikova and RAVEN'S PASS who were all on 1st time Lasix and/or BUTE.

It didn't list Bute on ANY horse in the past performances but it was announced (as far as I can recall) and it is on the RESULTS folks.

RP WAS on Lasix with the bold L in the form and BL in the results.

GOLDIKOVA WAS ON BUTE. The results are in PDF therefore I don't know how to copy and paste them so look at the BC site results.


So unless the BC got their OWN charts wrong, the majority of horses in that race and most others were on Bute and/or Lasix including the foreign horses.

(The BC site lists all the results and you can see who all WAS medicated)

This is my problem, the constant criticism about American Racing. The problem a lot of REAL racing fans, owners, trainers etc have.

Giving a blackeye to everyone in racing because of a FEW culprits.

THE people who do that? THEY aren't fans, they're critics and if and when racing disappears they'll move on to some other CAUSE.

Hey take up baseball, if ONE guy gambles they must ALL gamble on their own games. IF ONE guy takes steroids then they must ALL take steroids.

Or better yet go boycott and gripe about racing in Northern Ireland where a very large number of race horses end up on somebody's dinner plate AND most of those horses have been treated with some kind of drug in their lifetime, being ingested by humans,eh?

Cheap races? Well, since this is AMERICA, land of the free home of the brave and the AMERICAN dream, not every person out there who wants to be a part of racing is part of the aristocracy.

We aren't the Sheikhs or the Aga Khans or the Queens (well some exceptions maybe) or Princes of the world.

How arrogant and elitist to condemn the 'cheap' claimers, just because the US makes something enjoyable available to the guy with the back yard or homebred, inexpensive sale purchase.

Making it available to the people of this country is the way things are done here, plus calculate the number of horses and people into your equation.

Excluding the common man? THAT is what the Kentucky bluebloods tried and even THEY realized that they couldn't sustain racing in America on their own.

27 Jul 2009 5:43 PM

Karen, how do you layup a horse when it runs 35-50 TIMES????

My remark about being involved in racing was, once again the mythical 'us' trying to clean up racing and involved in straightening it out.

NO only the various entities who ARE trying to do that should be saying 'us'. Like the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance, the banning of steroids in most racing jurisdictions.

Maybe go to the NTRA site and LOOK at all the forms these tracks have to fill out and the rules they have to follow to

gain accreditation.

Opinion? I have no problem with that, I give a lot of opinions myself.

Maybe it's just a matter of semantics but to make the statement you made? "give consistency in regulations and give cover to state enforcing of rules ('we can't help it, that's what they're making us do now')."

Well, no, horse racing isn't making you personally do any of that.

27 Jul 2009 5:55 PM

Incompass is the jockey club reporting system. That is weird that some charts show her as running on Bute.

As for my comment about enjoying the best of both worlds, yes that is what you provided in your ideal itinerary, I was agreeing with it completely.

27 Jul 2009 6:08 PM
Ida Lee

Very informative and enjoyable article. Thank you. I learned a lot. I agree that American racing needs improvement but still, I love my American horses and I'm very loyal to them. But, I'm crazy about Fillies and I did love seeing Goldikova last year at the BC. She's beautiful and talented and I have forgiven her for running by my beloved Kip Deville like he was standing still. Actually, the only horse racing I refuse to watch is from Japan since I have not forgiven them for Ferdinand yet and I don't think I ever will.

27 Jul 2009 7:46 PM

After being a racing fanatic since the late 1960s, I'd much rather wake up in Europe and watch their racing.  First of all,  the europeans don't bend to appease us americans when we venture over there to compete.  In other words, they don't change a racing surface to give us americans an advantage in one of their races.  Maybe they could run the Arc on dirt one year so us americans can go over there and have a shot;  not like we do here for the europeans. We americans ensure that the grass specialists coming over from europe, to compete in an american dirt race, will have a surface that is similar to grass so they won't actually have to run on a real dirt surface in order to win a grade I dirt race,  isn't that nice.? This will give them  a better chance at winning that grade I dirt race in america. Isn't that gracious of us americans, hold it on a surface they can win on,  who cares who the best horse is on a dirt surface......who really cares about stuff like that anymore..??  That's why I'd rather watch the europeans,  they are competitors;  American racing is all about royally-bred Quarter horses, strategy, jealousy, ego trips, greed and stupidity...This is what I've seen in the past 25 years.  Heartbreaking what has become of this sport I once loved so much...I didn't even watch this years Belmont Stakes, first time I've ever missed a triple crown race since 1970, it didn't bother me one bit because I didn't miss anything. Each year it gets worse and worse,  but I thought Jesse Jackson was going to save american horse racing. Must be why we have to watch Rachel run against 2 overmatched fillies in a pathetic race I couldn't even watch, it was so ridiculous and this is your next HOY. A filly who wins the Preakness over a bum field of colts is now the next Ruffian.  When does this madness end.??

27 Jul 2009 7:55 PM

American racing is no match for the sport in Europe with the glaring exception of the horrible past performance and statistical information that is the old world norm.  If Europe had "Americanized" past performances, I would rarely bet on these shores.  Meanwhile, the BC and even the Ky Derby bend over backwards to entice European runners to compete here, and turn some of our best races into complete guessing games.  I already pass some BC races due to information depravtion.  Handle will suffer if this trend continues.

27 Jul 2009 8:20 PM

What an enormously wonderful article.

European racing is so much better.  The trade-offs on actually watching a race up-close in the U.S. would be difficult but worth it.

27 Jul 2009 8:22 PM

Ida...I wish you would give Japanese racing a chance. What happened to Ferdinand is inexcusable but it has happened to wonderful horses all over the world, including here(the US). In many other countries you can order horse in a restraunt (right over the border in Canada, and certainly in France). Also his death created an awareness of a BIG problem, much like Eight Belles and Barbaro, and good has come from it. From what I've seen the Japanese LOVE their horse racing. I have seen features on TVG that make me wish I was a japanese racehorse! They have great tracks for the fans and great facilities for the horses. And thanks to Sunday Silence they have very good horses to race. You would love Vodka, she is quite a filly. By not watching Japanese racing you are only punishing yourself. You don't have to forgive "them", just let it go. Go look up Vodka, you'll have another fabulous filly to follow (say that 3 times fast,lol).

27 Jul 2009 9:03 PM

I've always been a fan of European racing.  Perhaps it's because of I've always been a bigger fan of turf racing than dirt.

One thing that I really like(d) about European racing was the fixed odds with bookmakers and the many, many more opportunities to get down future wagers on big races.  Before Congress made the UK shut down US accounts, I would wager more on European races because when my bet was made the odds were final.  No 5-1 shot going off at 5/2 with all the smart money coming in at the end.  Imagine being able to get 6-1 on Goldikova three weeks before she went off 9/5 at the BC.  (As an aside, I hope Rep. Frank's bill to reopen access can move forward this fall.)

27 Jul 2009 9:46 PM

Excellent article, Steve, and right to the point. First - I think the Euros raced on Lasix and Bute at the Breeders Cup to, "level the playing field," as they knew our horses would be doing that - but I think the zero meds thing is still the best way to go. Drugs all have side-effects that can be pretty bad. For example, ever think maybe horses use so much Lasix because Bute disrupts the clotting process? All horses bleed a little under stress; it's just that the body stops it before it becomes a problem. Lasix itself can cause calcium to be removed from the blood by the kidneys, which leads to low blood calcium and less effective muscle performance - and when the blood calcium falls, it is taken from the bones to bring the levels up. This is not a good thing!

I love the European training methods (even tho they're definitely harder to see). Lots of gallops over rolling ground instead of nothing but left turns and I definietly like the turf if only because it does result in fewer breakdowns. That alone tips the scales for me. The safety of the horse is, after all, primary. Just the same, I do love the way we do some things here. I love watching workouts. I think better-informed bettors wager more consistently and wagering fuels the sport to a high degree.

Accessibility is a major problem here. Where I live, the closest track is well over 100 miles away (Woodbine) and the next closest even further (Fort Erie), so the only racing I see any more is on HPItv - and you can't smell leather and horse sweat on TV!

As for the heroes - well, those are international. When I look back at Swaps and Round Table, Secretariat and Ruffian, Dr. Fager and Damascus to name just a few - or The Tin Man and Evening Attire, Eight Belles and Proud Spell, not to mention Rachel ... We have enough heroes here too who probably are our heroes because they're the ones we see. If I had my way, I'd be a globetrotter touring racetracks worldwide - both for racing and for training works - and would just have the life of Reilly! It's just our darn meds ...

27 Jul 2009 9:58 PM
Matthew W

Sea Bird's Arc was one of the greatest races ever run! And Europe has usually dominated at the flat mile as well, but we had Lure! And we had John Henry---'Ol John would've taken them doen in the Arc! I think they make their champs carry more weight (like we used to do)...That I agree with, to be a true champion you need to do that, and I also favao running into your 4yo season...all in all, USA has had more great horses, based on that alone: Europe champs seldom get to race past three....

27 Jul 2009 10:28 PM

Another truly excellent article Steve.  It seems to me that the contrast between many aspects of the European "sport of kings" and the American version (sport of the commoners ? LOL)is reflective in some respects of the political/cultural history of the two continents.  Both are beautiful in their own way and both have their down side as well.  

As a kid growing up the Epsom Derby, King George V & Queen Elizabeth Diamond stakes and the Prix Del Arc D' Triomphe were the biggest deal.  Nijinsky II, Mill Reef, Brigadier Gerard, Roberto, Allez France, Dahlia, Grundy, Bustino, Alleged and Shergar were the real super stars backed by Stallions Ribot,Vaguely Noble and Great Nephew in the breeding shed.  However the stars of the glorious '70s era of American racing had gradually started a shift in my affection as Secretariat, Forego, Ruffian, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, Alydar, Spectacular Bid shone brilliantly, not to mention the stallion prowess of Northern Dancer, Raise A Native and his son Mr Prospector. For me the eclipse of the European brand by North American racing had begun and was completed with the creation of the Breeder's Cup racing festival.  Now there is no Derby like the Kentucky Derby and the totally absorbing Triple Crown build up.

Admittedly things are changing rapidly with the introduction of synthetics (whether for better or for worse one cannot tell) so the pendullum could, for me, swing the other way again.  Sea The Stars is bringing back fresh memories of Nijinsky II.  If he is given the chance to complete the English Triple Crown sucessfully and show up for the Breeder's Cup (win or not)that could create a buzz that should force Jess Jackson to reconsider his plans to bypass the Breeder's Cup with Rachel Alexandra because a Triple-crown-winning Sea The Stars copping the BCC would also be a very legitimate HOTY contender on this continent (with a bit of controversy of course).

28 Jul 2009 4:11 AM

Steve you've outlined the itinerary and now BloodHorse needs to package and market several "Travel with Steve" Racing Tours. Gather your family and host tours of fans, players and horse lovers to visit the different tracks. Several different trips; US to Ireland and England, France and Germany, Japan, Australia and places in South America. Maybe even Dubai? I'd think the coordinators of those big races would love to have tour groups visit.

"Racing Travels with Steve Haskin" might give US fans a chance to experience the sport outside the US."

28 Jul 2009 7:00 AM
Simon Elsworth

Having been lucky enough to work in Kentucky for 3 years and now living and working in a racing yard in Newmarket I think your writing has been very fair. English racing has got to do more to sell itself to the general population. But now the industry is so global(lets not forget the great racehorses bred in the southern hemisphere) I find racing as facinating as ever.

28 Jul 2009 7:07 AM

Excellent article. I'll take the Euros on this subject. First, the horses race drug free there. Second, the horsemanship overall is excellent. Third, the courses augment the horsemanship requiring atheletic ability of rider and horse to handle undulating courses. Fourth, the horses are last longer and can stand the rigors of high weight.

28 Jul 2009 8:47 AM

To Newsline2, one can already experience the sport outside the U.S. with Racing-Europe (not trying to imply a trip with Steve Haskin would not be fun).  I have no affiliation with Racing-Europe, other than having been with them on four trips to England, France and Ireland to see the Epsom, French and Irish Derbys among other races.  And I am looking forward to our next trip in September/October to l'Arc.

28 Jul 2009 9:05 AM
Steve Haskin

Ranagulzion, we both went through the same phases. I was hooked on all those Euros -- how about that Grundy -- Bustino King George? And Roberto and Rhiengold in the English Derby. I was in love with Sea-Bird back then and have everything written about him. I virtually grew up at Darby Dan, spending my time with Sea-Bird, Ribot, and Roberto. And seeing Nijinsky at Claibortne. The video/documentaries on Nijinsky (narrated by Orson Welles) and Mill Reef (narrated by Albert Finney) were classics. Those were great days.

28 Jul 2009 9:37 AM

Nice points Stan.  I would love to go visit some of the European farms at some point.   IMO, you hit the nail on the head when you said that they emphasize health and soundness and stamina.  American breeders tend to think with dollar signs instead of what is good for the breed.  All most of them seem to care about are producing precocious 2YOs with tons of speed (which, unfortunately, usually means that we produce horses with legs that have the resilience of a matchstick).  Stallions with pedigrees that suggest stamina or those with sturdy builds tend to get overlooked until they produce a superstar (seriously, how popular was Dynaformer before Perfect Drift and Barbaro came along?).  It just frustrates me.  I think that the Germans have an underrated breeding program (which produced Monsun, sire of both BC champion Shirocco AND the incredible Manduro, who probably would've made any horse he came up against in the BC look like an allowance type horse instead of high-class racers).

28 Jul 2009 11:12 AM

Ranagulzion: didn't they say that the reason Nijinsky lost the Arc and the Champion Stakes was because they went to the St. Leger?  Might this not, then, set a precedent for Sea the Stars (unfortunately)?

I would love to see your scenario re: HOY.  Re: the controversy, however, I seem to recall that Dahlia got champion turf mare (in Canada, at least) after only having run once in Canada.  And wasn't there some other fillies/mares who came over to N. Am. for one race and became champions: Miesque? who else?

And I love Longchamp.  I was lucky enough to make it to the Arc three years in a row in the late 80's/early 90's.  I agree that the settings are beautiful -- but it was hard as heck to figure out who won the sprints because they started waaaayyy out there and finished just past a grove of beautiful trees.  

28 Jul 2009 11:44 AM
Steve Haskin

Newsline, my bags are as good as packed.

28 Jul 2009 12:01 PM

OK, last bit about the drug use- yes, the link that Bighorsefan posted does show the B for Goldikova. That is DIFFERENT from the charts from Equibase that I printed off the DAY AFTER the BC. The charts were obviously changed at some point.

28 Jul 2009 3:36 PM


As a consequence of the 40 years triple crown drought in English Racing and how special this horse Sea The Stars is, I would think that a victory in the St. Leger is worth much more this year than the Arc, only to his connections.  Conduit's impressive victory in last year's BC Turf shows that coming to the Breeder's Cup after the St Leger is a very viable option for them.  The amount of buzz surrounding this horse threatens to upstage the excitement over Rachel Alexandra unless she too shows up at the big dance.

On the question of Nijinsky's narrow loss to Sassafras in the Arc, I do recall jockey Lester Pigott admitting that he might have erred in using his whip repeatedly too close to the finish as Nijinsky kept reacting by ducking (in or out ...can't remember)thus losing the fluency of his finishing burst.  Perhaps a Chris Mccarron type of ride a-la-Tiznow vs Giant's Causeway would have landed Nijinsky home in front by a neck (LOL).  We shall never know, will we?

28 Jul 2009 4:21 PM
Abbie Knowles

I would love Sea the Champ (STARS!) to run in the St Leger and firmly believe he would win!  There is only one Triple Crown!!!!!!!  The other big races could wait until next year!

All racing worldwide has its good points.  I love racing in Dubai, France, Ireland, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada, and the US more or less equally.  But not your use of medication!

Nicky Henderson is a good man.  Am mystified about that incident!

Yes Steve do come to the Cheltenham festival and watch Ruby Walsh and Kauto Star, MaterMinded and Big Bucks put on masterclasses!

God Bless

Best wishes


28 Jul 2009 4:55 PM
G. Rarick

Just ask yourself this: If you were to die and come back reincarnated as a thoroughbred, where would you rather be? I can't imagine you would choose the United States, unfortunately. The frustrating thing is that it would not be difficult to put the horse first: Eliminate race-day medication and run longer races with wider turns and alternating directions (and fine, continue to run them on dirt; the dirt's not the problem - it's sprinting around tight corners that kills them).

28 Jul 2009 5:29 PM


Its an honor to be in your august company with respect to our admiration of the nostalgic European champions of yesteryear. We forgot to mention the epic duel between The Minstrel and Hot Grove in one of the most memorable and stirring Epsom Derby finishes.  

I also recall that in the earliest days of the Breeder's Cup, the Turf Classic, although pegged a shade lower in purse money than the Dirt Classic seemed to be the high point of the meet.  The excitement of Wild Again's hard fought victory over Gate Dancer and Slew 'O Gold on dirt was at least matched by Laskari's massive upset at gigantic odds over the awesome globe trotting mare All Along on the turf.  Also, English super filly Pebbles' victory over Strawberry Road in (was it 1988?) eclipsed the dirt Classic for sheer thrill and quality of the field IMO.  Those were the days my friend.

28 Jul 2009 6:54 PM
Ida Lee

barb - Thank you for your comments about Japan racing. In my head, I know you're right but my heart is a little slow. Ferdinand was my boy. That he died the way he did was unbearable. Now,I'm worried about Charismatic who is in Japan at stud. I think about him and worry all the time. But, I did see the stories on Japan racing and they seem to build the best for training and racing for their horses. I hope it's true. And thank you for leading me to Vodka. WOW what a beauty she is. I will be looking out for her in the future. Thanks again.

28 Jul 2009 7:16 PM
Tattenham Corner

Thanks Steve for such a provocative question and for your references to differences between European and U.S. racing that I had not thought of.  One difference I see is that in the U.K. there are big differences among the courses. Some are close to town like Chester.  Some are in the suburbs like Kempton Park.  Some have appreciable gradients like Epsom. Some are left-handed, some right-handed.  Some are huge, with mile straights, while others are modest. A few are quite formal like Ascot, while at least one I can think of is humble enough (Ludlow)to share territory with a golf course (fore!).

This gives the racegoer a variety of experiences that will excite him or her to come back.

But a big difference to me is being able to choose whether to bet on the pari-mutuel or with the on-course bookie. The "rule" used to be to bet longshots on the tote, and favorites with the bookie. I liked betting with the bookie because you knew what you were getting, and if you didn't like that price, you could "shop around" and try to do better. There is also a closeness to racing in Europe that may have existed here in the days of Man o'War or Sea Biscuit.  But with a hundred or more TV channels, computerized entertainment, and multiple outlets for betting, horse racing is no longer on the average person's mind. That is true in Europe, but to a lesser extent. The Derby is still the Derby, and most people will have a flutter.

Credit to the U.S. though in being inventive, and organizing an event like the Breeders Cup.  I think it's given the sport a needed shot in the arm, and created a demand for first class racing that people had perhaps forgotten could exist.

28 Jul 2009 9:33 PM

The video/documentary on Nijinsky (narrated by Orson Welles) is one of my all time favourites.  And yes, to Ranagulzion - that Lester Pigott admitted to a jockey error.  Also, Nijinsky was plagued by irritating skin problems throughout his remarkable racing career.

28 Jul 2009 11:19 PM


Perhaps an interesting blog feature along these same lines could compare race riding among the top jockeys of both continents.  Interviews with the likes of Steve Cauthen and Gary Stevens as well as Frankie Dettori and Michael Kinane, jocks who have ridden on both continents at the highest level.  Then take a poll on who's better in a stretch duel, the Europeans or the Americans.  Many people remember Chris McCarron's marvellous ride on Tiznow in his 2000 Breeder's Cup Cl;assic showdown with Giant's Causeway.  Also the hypothetical question of whether McCarron would have won the Arc with Nijinsky? Wow.

29 Jul 2009 12:35 PM

Ida...Thanks for your kind response. I am not 100% sure of this, but I think Bev Lewis has made arrangements for Charismatic to return to her when his breeding career is over. Also Silver Charm. And I'm glad you like Vodka. I have my fingers crossed that she will come to Breeders Cup.

30 Jul 2009 12:42 PM

I believe, as a groom, you are much better off in America.  Although I am only speaking for England, the grooms have to work exceptionally hard and long hours and it also is extrememly snobbish.  In America, if you have the desire, you can go as far as you want in racing, not so in England.  America needs to improve its backstretches, they are ugly places, most of them. I have never understood why that has to be.  

American racing is far more accessible for the ordinary person.

05 Aug 2009 8:00 AM
rashid ali

Dear mr. Steve

as usuall you say the truth in our truthless world .

a great article.

but u forgot to compare the doping !!


05 Aug 2009 9:21 AM
rashid ali

Dear Mr. Steve,

Can I have your personal e.mail address.



05 Aug 2009 9:23 AM
steve a

steve,tell me,tell me,tell me your memories and thoughts of sea bird and ribot in the flesh you lucky bugger

20 Nov 2009 4:53 PM
Newturf Horse Racing Game

Very cool article.

30 Dec 2013 9:44 AM

All these years later and here's a comment. I'm biased, I much prefer the "ugliness" of North American tracks and everything thing else, compared to English or European racing. I actually find the "beauty" distracting. I prefer farms to parks, and US and Canadian tracks look more like the latter. Don't forget, those people don't own much land over there, it's nothing like the farms here, so they have to rely on public venues to get their nature.

I also find the way they bunch up over there, and then squirt through at the end, to be both annoying and silly. I wonder about the race times and why they all agree to stay in a bunch.

NA race callers are much more to my liking as well, I don't care for the hushed tones they employ while calling races.

I don't much like turf racing anyway, as horses running on a lawn goes against my sense of lawn maintenance.

And as to the breed, it seems popular to put down American stock. But in fact, the best pedigrees are dominated by American horses. The most influential stallions of the last 50 years or more are from NA. It seems extremely silly to concede anything to the English or Europeans on that point. The fact is, we don't need their racing events or horses, at all. They may or may not need ours.

22 Jun 2014 10:29 PM

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