CentreTerm: Professor Robert Losey teaches the Economics of Thoroughbreds

Posted by Centre News in CentreTerm, Economics, Experts, News 08 Jan 2014

As the horse capital of the world, Kentucky is known for its first-class Thoroughbred industry, and this January, Centre College students get to experience that world firsthand, thanks to Professor Robert Losey (pictured right, with one of his Thoroughbreds, Slipcover).

Losey is teaching Economics of Thoroughbreds, a course taught during CentreTerm, a January session between traditional semesters that gives students and faculty the opportunity to explore a single subject intensively.

losey_slipcoverWhen asked how he came up with the idea for the course, Losey jokes, “The long answer starts something like this: ‘In 1966, as a Centre senior on my first visit to Keeneland, I saw the great Graustark lose for the first time in his career in the Bluegrass Stakes…’

“The short answer is that I have bred, owned, researched and written about Thoroughbred horses for the better part of the last 40 years,” he says.

Indeed, over the last four decades, Professor Losey has not only bred stakes-winning Thoroughbreds that excelled in both England and the U.S., but he has also taught at several universities, including American University in Washington, D.C., and the University of Louisville. In addition to teaching, Losey was senior financial economist at the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation in Washington, D.C., during the height of the savings and loan crisis in the early 1980s.

One highlight of his course will be a trip to the Keeneland January Auction, where over 1,500 yearlings and broodmares will be offered for sale. Horses sold by Keeneland in 2013 brought as much as $4 million each, and Keeneland’s total 2013 sales were over half a billion dollars. Keeneland is one of two major Thoroughbred auction sales companies headquartered in Kentucky, and both companies represent an important part of a huge economic engine for the Commonwealth.

The class will also travel to several area horse farms, including Walnut Hall Farm, a Standardbred farm. Here, students will hear from farm manager Alan Levitt, who will discuss the economics of artificial insemination (used by most Standardbred breeders) versus live covers (used by the Thoroughbred industry).

Losey is planning for students to visit two Thoroughbred breeding and boarding farms, most likely Winstar Farm, home of Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, and Margaux Farm, a combination training and breeding operation.

In-class topics to be covered include appraising the value of Thoroughbreds, the finances and economics of operating a racing stable, the market structure of horse breeding and the economics of alternative gaming and purse subsidies.

Losey, who is enthusiastic about sharing his dual passions for economics and Thoroughbreds with Centre students, says, “I hope that students gain an understanding of the economic and financial aspects of how this global industry works and how the industry is important to Kentucky.”

Learn more about CentreTerm.

By Mariel Smith