Make the Conversion

Many times over the years, something learned by those involved with one breed of horse has proven beneficial to other breeds. In one recent instance, that certainly can prove to be the case. But it does not involve animal husbandry. It involves logic.

Therein lies the rub: It is much easier to get an industry to buy into something that involves subjects such as breeding methods or racetrack safety than it is logic.

In 2002, the United States Trotting Association began converting Canadian dollars to U.S. dollars, something The Jockey Club has been dragging its feet on for over a decade. When the process began, some members of the USTA thought the sky would fall, but nothing quite so dramatic has happened. The only thing that occurred is the Standardbred sport's statistics became more accurate than ever before.

The Jockey Club claims it cannot afford the tremendous cost of programming this long overdue change. But USTA officials said programming costs were negligible, and while they did receive a call from one Canadian breeder whose stallion dropped a few spots after the conversion, he reportedly understood for years he had been receiving an unfair advantage.

Responding to a question about possible problems associated with the conversion of claiming prices and race conditions, the head of the USTA Information Technology department said there have been no problems. Many tracks, she said, now write their conditions, saying, for example, "non-winners of $15,000 U.S."

The Jockey Club is the registry for Thoroughbred racing and Equibase is the official data supplier, and it is imperative they correct this wrong. Chalk it up as the cost of doing business. Or, better yet, the cost of providing the industry with accurate statistics. Anything less is unacceptable.

If you are a Thoroughbred owner and/or breeder, ask yourself:

* If you win $100,000 in Canada and deposit it in your bank in the United States, will your financial institution credit your account with U.S. $100,000?

* If you win $100,000 in Canada, will you pay your trainer and jockey 10% of U.S. $100,000?

* If you win $100,000 in Canada, will you declare U.S. $100,000 in purse earnings on your taxes?

* If you are trying to decide what stallion to breed to, how do you really know true progeny earnings when all earnings are not being converted to U.S. dollars?

* If you purchase a $100,000 yearling at a Canadian sale, are you going to pay in Canadian or U.S. dollars?

In all these cases are you just going to accept what The Jockey Club tells you, that a dollar is a dollar?

Of course everyone--except apparently The Jockey Club--knows that a foreign dollar is not a U.S. dollar. If it was, why would The Jockey Club convert the currencies of every other country in the free world? Why would it convert New Zealand, Australian, or Hong Kong dollars?

Wando is a very deserving winner of Canada's Triple Crown. But he is not deserving of the $2,274,402 in earnings Equibase credits him with.

(Equibase is owned partly by The Jockey Club, is headquartered in its building in Lexington, and supplies information for track programs. It also owns archival data from Daily Racing Form)

Every dollar Wando has earned in his career is of the Canadian variety. Using daily conversion rates, Wando has earned about 70% of the amount he is credited with, or $1,610,427.

Each week, The Blood-Horse publishes earnings lists supplied by Equibase of the leading owners, trainers, breeders, jockeys, and horses in North America in 2003. On page 4498 in this issue, the leading earner among horses is correctly noted as Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Funny Cide ($1,963,200); listed in third place is Wando ($1,912,025).

Well Funny Cide has earned $1,963,200 but Wando, using daily conversion rates to U.S. dollars, has really only earned $1,379,652 in 2003.

One wonders, if an officer of The Jockey Club went to Woodbine racecourse in Toronto and inserted one hundred Canadian dollars in a slot machine, played for an hour breaking even, would he expect to be able to cash out for one hundred U.S. dollars?

One wonders.

Dan Liebman is executive editor of The Blood-Horse.