It all came down to the last race of the Thoroughbred Idea Foundation’s eight-week Summer Prop Contest. Long-time racing official Rick Hammerle, now of Oaklawn Park and Kentucky Downs, selected Comical to finish ahead of Powerfulattraction in a head-to-head Del Mar Debutante prop and with that “win” secured another 10-win week, pushing his best four-week score to 41, winning the inaugural contest. Hammerle finished one point better than Toronto-based professional horseplayer Tommy Massis.
Hammerle chose to direct the $5,000 first-place winner’s contribution to the Jockey & Equestrian Initiative of the University of Kentucky’s Sports Medicine Research Institute (UK SMRI). Massis chose to split his $3,000 second-place contribution direction between the UK SMRI and Virginia Tech’s Jockey & Equestrian Helmet Study. Matt Miller of Northbrook, Illinois finished third overall with 39 points, tied with David Fiske of Lexington, Kentucky. Miller secured third on a countback to the best five week score and directed $1,000 to the PDJF.
“I never met a contest I didn’t like,” joked Hammerle. “It was a fresh, awareness-raising idea from the TIF and working in Kentucky at the moment, I’m very happy to have the chance to direct money to the UK program which seeks to improve the lives and careers of jockeys and exercise riders.”
Horseplayer Tyler Colucci of Phoenix, Arizona and Claiborne Farm president Walker Hancock were tied with 11 wins for the week eight victory. Colucci’s tiebreaker was closer to the actual Woodward exacta return and landed the victory. Colucci chose to direct $1,250 to the PDJF while Hancock directed $500 to the UK SMRI. Tyler Whisman of Union, Kentucky won a 10-way tie for third and directed $250 to the PDJF.
The summer-long contest raised awareness not just for the deserving jockey health-related initiatives, but also for the prospects of a more modern wagering sport in North America.
“The feedback and participation rate from players in the contest has been tremendous,” said Patrick Cummings, TIF Executive Director. “A racing future that includes these types of plays engages customers in a far different manner than the limited tote options available to players now. It is not surprising that our tote-only infrastructure struggles in today’s marketplace, offering bets and a visible market on each race for typically less than 30 minutes and at prices that are not assured until the race is well underway.
“The Saratoga meet builds to a crescendo around the Travers – and the public-facing odds and active market on the race really exists for less than an hour. What if New York-based customers could have been backing Code Of Honor to win the Travers after the results in the Jim Dandy, or his Dwyer win, or even after running in the Kentucky Derby? What if we woke up today and Churchill Downs set Derby futures on the winners of the Hopeful or every two year-old maiden winner at either summer track?
“The metrics around racing as a betting sport in America have been generally flat in the last few years, and incredibly negative before that. Adjusted for inflation, we are down nearly 50% in the last two decades. Meanwhile, the legal betting atmosphere is opening to unprecedented levels on all other sports – except racing! Our sport must be a part of this. America would not be on this road alone, there are plenty of examples to follow. Australia presents a solid case-study as to how fixed-odds betting on racing started small and has grown substantially. Their operators recognize the value to presenting customers with diverse options that complement the tote.”
Overall, $25,000 will be donated to the jockey health-related initiatives. Based on the direction of winners through the eight individual weeks and the overall contest winners, $11,250 will go to the PDJF, $11,250 to the UK SMRI and $2,500 to the Virginia Tech Helmet Study. Additional contributions were made in weeks two, three and four thanks to the generosity of Machmer Hall Farm, Winchester Feed and Select Sales Agency, respectively.
“The Jockeys’ Guild deeply appreciates the Thoroughbred Idea Foundation’s commitment to focusing on jockey health-related issues through its recently-completed contest which raised awareness and funds for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund, University of Kentucky Sports Medicine Research Institute (Jockey and Equestrian Initiative) and Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University (Virginia Tech) (Helmet Lab Research),” said Terry Meyocks, President and CEO of the Jockeys’ Guild.
Meyocks continued, “The PDJF has no guaranteed source of funding and relies entirely on donations to provide monthly assistance to approximately 60 jockeys who have sustained catastrophic on-track injuries. The work of both the University of Kentucky and Virginia Polytechnic Institute focuses on the health, recovery and performance of jockeys while recognizing the vital role these athletes play in Thoroughbred racing now and in the future. The Thoroughbred Idea Foundation is unique in the industry by developing creative and innovative ideas as it seeks to improve racing for all stakeholders.
“We thank the TIF for their creativity in bringing awareness to the three jockey health-related initiatives highlighted in this summer’s contest,” said Dr. Scott Lephart, Dean of the University of Kentucky’s College of Health Sciences and founder of the SMRI. “We are committed to advancing thoroughbred racing through focused research and evidence-based programming to improve the well-being of the jockeys. Our commitment to this discovery at UK is intended not only to advance the care of the sport’s valuable human assets, but also to sustaining and growing the industry.”