The Horse Race and Corporate Governance

The horse race is a classic succession strategy that pits several senior executives against each other in an overt contest to become the next chief executive officer. The approach has been successfully used by several admired companies, including GE, Procter & Gamble, GlaxoSmithKline and Abbott Laboratories. Some board members and governance observers are wary of the horse race approach, however, as it can erode internal teamwork and can be counterproductive to corporate growth.

In the horse race, horses of similar pedigree and age compete in a contest of speed and stamina. The first horse to reach the finish line wins. The race has evolved from a primitive diversion of the leisure class into a modern spectacle with complex electronic monitoring equipment and huge sums of money at stake. The basic concept, however, remains the same.

Horse races are often dangerous and brutal affairs. Injuries and breakdowns are common, and horses can die from hemorrhaging in their lungs or from being whipped with electric shock devices. Many are fed cocktails of legal and illegal drugs that can mask their pain and enhance their performance.

While the sport has come a long way in addressing safety concerns, growing awareness of the dark side of the horse race continues to put pressure on the industry. In 2011, a study commissioned by the Jockey Club acknowledged that racing was losing fan interest, revenue, race days and entries.

A horse’s coat is a key indicator of whether it will run well in a particular race. Bettors like to examine the horses in the walking ring before each race to see if their coats are bright and shiny, as this suggests the animal is ready to run. Horses that balk at the starting gate are viewed as suspect, as they may be frightened or angry.

During the course of a horse race, a jockey will use his hands to encourage the horse on by scrubbing down its neck, a process known as hand riding. A jockey who does not use his hands during a race is known as a whipper-in. A heavy track refers to a racing surface that has been covered with an enormous amount of water, making it slick and difficult for horses to run on.

A horse that runs in a heavy track will usually have a poor trip. A good trip, on the other hand, means that the horse did not encounter any unusual difficulties during its running of a race. A bad trip would be one in which the horse had to run wide, or it was boxed in by other runners. The term “trip” is also used to describe the course a horse traveled during a race. A horse with a bad trip could have a gruesome breakdown or be shipped to slaughter. A good trip, on the other hand, usually indicates that the horse ran well in a race.