Corporate Governance and the Horse Race

In corporate governance, a horse race is an overt competition between several candidates for the CEO role. While some executives and governance observers feel uncomfortable with this approach, it has nonetheless helped many admired companies choose their next leader. But, like a horse race, the classic succession approach comes with risks that companies should consider before implementing it.

The Kentucky Derby is the first race of America’s Triple Crown series and one of the most prestigious races in the world. The Kentucky Derby is a two-and-a-half mile long race held on the first Saturday in May. The Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes are the other two legs of the Triple Crown.

A jockey rides a horse and directs its movement by using a whip. A jockey can also “hand ride” a horse, which means that he or she does not use the whip but instead urges the horse on by brushing the animal with his or her hand up and down its neck. A hand-ridden horse has a “look of eagles,” meaning that it is confident and poised to win.

When a horse wins a race, its owner receives a large share of the prize money. A runner-up earns a smaller portion of the purse. If a horse places third or fourth, its owner earns even less. The rest of the prize money is split among all of the bettors who placed wagers on the race. This betting system is called parimutuels and is the basis for all horse racing in the United States and most other countries around the world.

Before a horse race begins, stewards examine the horses to make sure they are carrying the proper weight and that no rules have been violated. Saliva and urine samples are also taken from the horses to check for illegal drugs. In some cases, winning horses are disqualified if they have been injected with banned substances.

After a race, a photograph of the finish is studied by a group of stewards to determine who won. If the stewards cannot decide who won, they declare a dead heat.

In the wake of Eight Belles’s and Medina Spirit’s deaths, horse racing has vowed to be more vigilant about safety standards. But the sport has a long way to go before it truly protects its animals. That would require a profound ideological reckoning at the macro business and industry level, including a major restructuring from the breeding shed to the track. It would mean caps on the number of races a horse can run, and limits on how many years it can be in training and competing, as well as more rigorous health and welfare standards for the horses themselves. It would mean complicated, expensive and untraditional steps. But it could also save some of the horses from suffering and possibly death in the name of profit and entertainment.