Using a Horse Race to Select a New CEO

Feeling the earth shake as a mass of thundering hooves comes barreling down the stretch during a horse race is one of Kentucky’s quintessential experiences. But in corporate boardrooms, using a horse race to select a CEO or other senior leader can have a different effect—depending on how the competition is conducted and the final decision is made. Choosing a new leader via this method can disrupt the company’s ability to fill other management positions, and can also hurt the morale of those who don’t make the cut. But some organizations—including Apple, IBM and General Electric—have found that horse races can be effective when executed well.

A horse race is a Thoroughbred racing event in which horses compete for a purse or prize money. It is typically a handicap race in which the weights that a horse must carry are adjusted according to its age, sex, birthplace, and previous performances. In addition, there are special allowances for fillies (female horses) to reduce the competitive disadvantage that they face compared with males.

The race may be run over a dirt or grass course and is usually about 1 1/4 miles long. The winner of the race is the first to cross the finish line and is rewarded with a substantial sum of money. The rest of the field are awarded with smaller amounts based on their finishing place.

Historically, most races were held on private property such as farms or estates of wealthy landowners. Over time, the demand for public races grew and rules were established governing the eligibility of horses and riders. For example, owners were allowed to race their horses in races in which they themselves rode, but horses had to be of a certain age or have won a specific number of times in order to qualify for the event.

Another important rule is that a horse must be tested before competing in any race. This is especially true for races of high stakes, such as the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in France or Australia’s Caulfield Cup or Sydney Cup. Unfortunately, despite these rules, it is common practice for trainers to push their horses beyond their limits by feeding them cocktails of legal and illegal drugs that increase performance and mask injuries. The horse is then sold to a new owner without disclosing the injury and often ends up at auction, where it will ultimately be slaughtered.

Some of these medications include bronchodilators, a drug that increases airflow in the lungs; Lasix, which is a diuretic that causes a horse to bleed from the lungs during a race; and a stimulant called polysulfated glycosaminoglycan, or Adequan, which is used to enhance speed. In addition, many horses are abused with the use of illegal steroids. This abuse leads to the breakdown of the horse and its eventual death by euthanasia or at auction, where it is sold for slaughter. This is a tragic way for horses to die.