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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Horseplayer is a Customer

For a moment, let's leave the tundra of winter and step into the VFTRG's time machine and land at the Meadowlands on a Thursday evening in June. Prior to the first race, there is a non-wagering event; a sire stakes race for two year old trotting colts. Management, realizing the wagering public has no desire to wager on a field of unproven trotters, correctly decided to card the race as a non-wagering event. The horses get to race for purse money and the horseplayers are not offered a race of little interest to them.

Stepping back into the time machine, we return to the Meadowlands on February 18. There we find out thirteen horses dropped into the entry box for the second leg of the Tender Loving Care late closing series which necessitated the race to be split into two divisions. As a result, the first division will race in the first race with seven starters (assuming no scratches) while the second division will race in the third race with six starters.

Granted, we are talking about three year old pacing fillies, not inexperienced two year old trotting colts but how much wagering interest is there going to be in a six and seven horse field on a mile track which normally has ten starters? How appealing is exacta and trifecta wagering going to be with so few horses? Odds are the serious horseplayers at the track and home will be switching tracks or grabbing a snack during these races. It would have been one thing if the race was split and you were looking at eight horse fields, but to split the race so you have three and four empty slots on the starting gate before any scratches, wouldn't it make sense to card these races as non-wagering events and card two additional overnight races instead?

Now, if you didn't split the race and you had a race with thirteen starters; that would attract wagering interest. Most serious gamblers will concur one of the problems with racing is there are too few wagering interests per race. With thirteen wagering interests, payoffs have the potential of being much bigger which would attract additional wagering. What we have are conflicting interests. The gambler wants as many wagering interests as possible and the owner/horsemen wants to have their horse's nose on the starting gate. So who gets their way? The owners of course.

What is wrong with this picture? Taking slot revenue out of the equation, how long would racing survive if no one was wagering? Not very long. With the exception of a monopolized industry, economic theory indicates the customer gets what they want. Failure to give the public what they want typically results in a company eventually going out of business. Just in case anyone missed it, racing lost its monopoly a long time ago; you need to give the horseplayer (customer) what they want. If you don't give the horseplayer what they want, there are other forms of gambling which are more than willing to give the customer what they want.

It's one thing if only six or seven horses drop in the entry box for a race. However, if a race has more entries than there are positions on the gate, but not enough to card divisions with sufficient wagering interests, you better race with a second tier if you want to offer wagering or you better race as a non-wagering event. It needs to be what the customer wants, not what you want.


Anonymous said...

I agree, a trotters race with 6 horses holds no interest for me. The Meadowlands tote system doesn't seem to be able to handle more than 12 entries. That's what they say anyway.

Pacingguy said...

Their tote board doesn't accomodate more than 12 entries. In that case, have a mutuel field for thirteen horses; it beats having a short field.