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Thoroughbred racehorses are commonly characterized as unprofitable investments. Previous studies, grouping all racehorses together, estimate that over 80% of all racehorses in training fail to earn enough to recover the variable costs of training. However, these studies are not truly representative, because they fail to account for a number of factors affecting profitability. This study estimates expected purse earnings and profitability of claiming horses in Kentucky. Maximum-likelihood estimates of probability distribution parameters show that expected purse earnings follow an exponential distribution with a mean of $25,267. Profitability is best described by a Gamma distribution with a mean of $4,824. Of the 305 claims analyzed for profitability, 61% were profitable. The results indicate substantial financial risk associated with claiming race horses, but conclude that there are positive economic returns on average.


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