A Downbeat Derby Weekend: Writer Trots Out Horse Racing’s Money Woes

BY Jeffrey Brown  April 30, 2010 at 6:05 PM EST

This annual running of the Kentucky Derby — this weekend marks the 136th running — is meant to mark a joyous time of the year, with its frilly hats, mint juleps, betting slips, and of course, the horses.

But the horse-breeding and racing industry is suffering greatly along with the U.S. economy as a whole, Joe Drape of The New York Times reports:

> The for-sale signs on horse farms are as common as the bluegrass and the limestone fences here, and breeders have grown accustomed to sending horses through the auction ring and feeling fortunate when they fetch half of their asking price — or anything at all.

The decline is no small matter here in bluegrass country, where horses, all kinds, are responsible for 100,000 jobs and $4 billion in economic impact, according to association figures, and are the cornerstone of Kentucky’s $8.8 billion tourism trade.

Drape, who covers horse racing for the Times and its The Rail blog, spoke with us from Churchill Downs:

Check out Drape’s list of Derby picks. His Times colleague also compiled a primer on enjoying your first Derby, in spite of the recession.

Anne Strother and Dave Gustafson contributed to this report.