Jeff Seder, founder of EQB (Equine Biomechanics and Exercise Physiology), is also the founder and CEO of Blow Horn Equity, which in December submitted a bid to acquire the Maryland Jockey Club that is currently owned by the bankrupt Magna Entertainment Corp. Blow Horn is an affiliate of EQB.
(Last week, ‘Five Questions’ was with David Cordish of the Cordish Co., another bidder for the MJC; other bidders on Laurel Park and Pimlico will also have the opportunity to participate in this series)
Seder holds a law degree from Harvard University Law School and a MBA from Harvard Business School is member of the Pennsylvania Bar. He took the time recently to answer five questions:
Your group is one of several bidders trying to acquire the Maryland Jockey Club. What makes Blow Horn’s proposal more appealing to Marylanders and the Thoroughbred industry?
“The other bidders are real estate developers and casino operators. Some have no racing experience. Most have little direct horsemanship knowledge or experience. We are lifelong horse people with the knowledge and experience about what’s involved and what’s important to racing and fans.
“We are committed to making live Thoroughbred racing the center of our plans, and we will not just exploit the casino opportunities while minimizing racing. Racing is in trouble nationally. People who do not have new ideas based on sound racing expertise will only continue the accelerating downward trends. Our group has a history of successful innovation in racing by using advanced statistical and management tools for the purchase and management of Thoroughbred racehorses. In the last few years we’ve used the same kind of tools and expertise to develop new approaches for racetrack management. We’ll apply those innovations we’ve developed for racetrack management."
Why is Laurel Park, and your proposed 2,375 VLTs (video lottery terminals), a better location for a casino than the one approved at Arundel Mills Mall with a proposed 4,750 machines?
“Laurel is centrally located to the Baltimore-DC corridor, and has easy access to major highway arteries. Having slots at Laurel would avoid forcing gambling, with all its atmosphere and results, down the throats of families trying just to do their shopping or have their movie night out at a local mall.
“Laurel already has the parking, the plant, and the staff that understands gambling. The surrounding communities are used to what it takes: zoning, police force, etc. to support crowds that are interested in gambling. Another important point is that it’s proven in the Laurel Race Course area’s police records (versus Ann Arundel Mall) that it is a very much safer area altogether for slots patrons.
“We propose 2,375 machines in the temporary casino, which under our plans would be up and running after six months. Our full new casino would be open approximately one year later with 4,750 machines.
“Equally important, the slots legislation gives roughly two-thirds of the take to the State and one-third to the operator of the slots facility, whoever that turns out to be. The only way the racetrack owners get operating aid is if they are the slots operator themselves (Pimlico especially has had no significant renovations in 30 years). It was the intention of the slots-enabling legislation to save Maryland horse racing with its thousands of specialty-skilled jobs, its hundreds of thousands of acres of horse-related open space, and its centuries of cultural and sporting heritage. If one-third of the slots money is siphoned off to a real estate development company or a gaming conglomerate and does not go to the racetrack operators, it defeats the entire purpose of the legislation.”
I believe we can all agree the entertainment value of racing in Maryland is not what it could be. Can you share some specifics as to what Blow Horn would do to upgrade the experience?
“We know racing and race fans, so we can concentrate on what they want. Plus, we’d generate a lot more local and community involvement, and add steeplechasing’s thrills and spills. Steeplechasing consistently attracts large crowds, usually without even offering betting.
"Also, by increasing purses, renovating facilities, and doing more modern marketing and management, and drawing on models from successful racetracks in the United States and abroad, we can transform the racing product and experience. This includes better simulcast signal management, bigger field sizes, simplified betting opportunities, better dining and food services, safer racing, twilight racing, and more entertainment options going on all the time.
"There are many racetracks around the world that draw large crowds and large betting totals, and where going to the races is fun. We’ll take the best ideas from all of these and implement them in Maryland.”
Jeff, you founded EQB in 1978 and have found success in selecting big horses for clients. What other experience have you had that would help you in operating a pair of racetracks?
“First of all, it’s not all about me. I bring with me a team of experienced horsemen and managers with successful track records. Some have managed racetracks in the past. Some have managed large betting operations. But, since you’ve asked, here’s some background information about myself.
“My own resume starts with both a Juris Doctor law degree and a business management degree (MBA) from Harvard. I have been an international banker in New York City, as well as successful in the turn-around of medium-sized businesses in different and tough industries of manufacturing and retail marketing and film production. I have raised and managed funds for investors before.
“Through it all, I have maintained an active involvement with race horses. I’ve spent a lot of time at racetracks all over the planet. I have done most of the jobs of racing horses, including hot-walking, mucking stalls, being an exercise rider, managing a barn and then a racing stable. I am a successful consultant to the majority of the top 10 racing stables in the U.S. now. I was a founding owner and managed racehorses at the training center in Fair Hill, Md., that was so far ahead of its time about 20 years ago. I live on a racehorse farm. I am a pretty good handicapper and understand a bettor’s needs. I have developed high-tech performance analysis methods adapted from the U.S. Olympic Sports medicine center efforts that have enabled me to bet successfully on maiden races and on stretching-out races like the Kentucky Derby. Through extensive and expensive slow-motion video and force-plate research over 35 years, I understand how horses run and how surfaces affect that, and I am a leading scientific-journal published author in that field.
“So, I have successfully come in and turned around diverse distressed large businesses, and I know racing inside out. Plus, I have a lot of help.”
What is your favorite Preakness memory and why?
“It’s perhaps not my favorite memory, but it’s the most vivid. I was seated between the eighth pole and the sixteenth on the infield track-side, right next to the inner rail in 2005 when Afleet Alex clipped heels with Scrappy T, and went to his knees near the front of the pack. My heart was in my throat. I thought there was about to be a horrific pile-up practically right in my lap. But Jeremy Rose, a former wrestler (like me) held his balance, and so did Afleet Alex, who rose like winged Pegasus, and went on to victory and a happy ending.”