If this weekend is any indicator, the Meadowlands will be having a good meet this year. After having a 24% increase in overall handle on Friday night, handle was up 6% on Saturday which considering there was a snow storm was not too shabby.
No doubt the dropping of the Pick 6 and addition of a second Pick 4 is responsible partially for the increase but one has to wonder if in the longer term the addition of the second Pick 4 will be detrimental to the health of racing? After all, this seems to be the tool tracks are using to increase handle. Yes, people support the Pick 4 (especially if guaranteed), but while these types of wagers offers a decent (for racing) takeout rate and attracts wagering dollars, the problem is the payoffs tend to be restricted to a smaller population of horseplayers, meaning more losing players and less churn.
Adding jackpot wagers alone is not the long term answer for any track. One suspects without the gaming product being otherwise improved, what we are seeing is a braking measure, slowing down the long term decline of racing.
With respect to classified racing, it is obviously too early to see if its intended goals of making races more open and competitive without a parade of odds-on favorites is being attained. True, only two odds on favorites won over twenty five races this weekend, but one must realize the transition of conditioned horses to classified horses presents a unique challenge to handicappers in determining whether or not a horse is in its proper class. They key is what happens in a few weeks when horses settle into their proper levels and are showing classified lines in their past performance lines. Then we will see if payoffs are truly improved. However, at this juncture things look good.