If the stock market were a horse race (instead of the results of the rat race), Magna Entertainment (NASDAQ:MECA) would be the nag. And, like that 20-to-1 shot that eventually places, Magna is up 14% in early trading on buyout and other news.

You rarely see Magna as a Nasdaq most active, as it is today. Do due diligence -- Wall Street's equivalent to studying the racing form -- and you will see some really lame numbers. Earnings are negative -- and projected to be that way in 2005, too. The real stinker is a return on equity of a negative 13%.

To horse-racing enthusiasts, Magna is heaven on earth. There are 12 thoroughbred racetracks, two harness racing tracks, two combined thoroughbred and harness racing tracks, and one greyhound racetrack -- and ample wagering venues. It owns Santa Anita Park, which basks in the California sun. (So why is this Delaware Corporation headquartered in Ontario, Canada?)

An interesting announcement today is that 10 million subscribers of the EchoStar (NASDAQ:DISH) DISH network will now be able to watch Magna's HorseRacing TV network. Magna has been talking about the "rebirth of horse racing as a major sports and entertainment activity."

How much is a satellite and cable network worth? Disney (NYSE:DIS) paid NewsCorp (NYSE:NWS) $5.3 billion for the profitable Fox Family Channel that reached 81 million satellite and cable subscribers. While HorseRacing TV will reach only 11 million homes, note that Magna's entire market capitalization is just $710 million.

While Viacom's (NYSE:VIA) CBS and the other TV networks earn their money through advertising, Magna's channel allows wagering where it is not expressly prohibited by law. Armchair handicappers are a phone or Internet connection away from Magna's national account wagering system. It is the wagering, not advertising, that bears watching.

Those thinking, "Wow, what a great opportunity" will find that excitement being diluted. Also announced today is a $7-per-share offer by real estate company MI Developments (NYSE:MIM), already the owner of a 62% equity interest in Magna, to take the company private.

There are still horse-racing pure plays such as Churchill Downs (NASDAQ:CHDN). But for those thinking horse racing is in rebirth and TV is the conduit, MI Developments is acquiring a nag that looks like it just might have a chance in the big race.

Want to read more from the Fool on horse racing? Take a look at:

Fool contributor W.D. Crotty owns stock in Disney and News Corp.