Another Triple Crown season is underway with undefeated Nyquist winning the Kentucky Derby. Like the magical two-legged runner Stephen Curry, will we see back-to-back MVP and Triple Crown winners this year?
Thoroughbred racing is feeling its oats. There was a huge national buzz around American Pharoah in 2015, no more evident than when 15,000 adoring fans showed up at Saratoga on the Friday morning before the Travers Stakes to watch a simple workout. More than 22 million TV viewers watched the Belmont Stakes last June.
The last two Kentucky Derbies have seen the highest attendances in history with 170,513 in 2015 and 167,227 this year. The wagering total on this year's Derby was $124.7 million down from last year due in large part due to Nyquist going off as a 2/1 favorite. The national pari-mutuel handle in 2015 was a tidy $10 billion dollars. There were 38,941 stakes races held at 76 tracks around the country. The handle at tracks this season is up 3.1 percent.A new book on American Pharoah just hit the market and a movie biopic “Trifecta” is being worked on as we speak.
The rise in equine investment comes through the growth of limited partnerships in buying ponies. Groups from a few to a few dozen can share ownership of one or more racehorses. If you haven’t won Powerball, have nothing to do with your corporate buyout millions, or just have large piles family money, then this is the way to go. Many syndication firms that specialize in this area are seeing double-digit growth.
I grew up in suburban Valley Stream, New York about five miles from Belmont Park -- the iconic 1.5-mile tester for the most difficult final stage of the Triple Crown. I left Long Island in 1970 to begin my journey through the sports world and since that time there have only been four Triple Crown winners.
1973 -- Secretariat
1977 -- Seattle Slew
1978 -- Affirmed
2015 -- American Pharoah, who became the 12th horse to win the coveted Triple.
American Pharoah won $8.6 million dollars in purses and now the future could be much greener. The highest first-year stud fee ever of $200,000 now belongs to Pharoah. We should all be so lucky ... and you don’t have to pay college tuitions. American Pharoah was purchased as a yearling for $300,000. Tapit, the legendary breeding horse, is currently making the studley fee of $300,000 per session.
Thunder Gulch, now 23 years old, won the 1995 Kentucky Derby and Belmont but fell short of history in losing the Preakness by 3/4 of a length. He is the King of the Equine Bedroom, siring an amazing 2,382 foals, 96 of which have become stakes winners. Thunder is now spending time teaching American Pharoah his studly ways on hundreds of peaceful acres at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud farm in Kentucky.
American Pharoah owner Ahmed Zayat struck a very creative deal with Coolmore Stud and retains a percentage of his favorite stallions offspring who may go racing for millions in the future.
Nyquist won $1.63 million at the Derby and his undefeated pile of cash has climbed to $4.95 million. Nyquist is owned by J. Paul Reddam born in Windsor, Ontario -- right across the border from Detroit. He is a major Detroit Red Wings fan and seven of his runners are named after the Motown skaters
Gustav “Nyquist” -- Named after forward and Swedish National Team star
There won’t be a Stanley Cup champion in Detroit or Canada this year, but if Nyquist can win at Pimlico, we will see another act of Triple Crown Fever with millions of more dollars flowing into the only North American sport played on four legs.
Andy Dolich is CSNBayArea.com's sports business expert. Follow him on Twitter @Koufish.