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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Cutting Race Dates and Speeding Things Up - America One

The Zielinski report we discussed for the past several days indicated a number of problems with racing. A few of those problems are: too much time between the races and too much racing overall which results in the dilution of wagering pools.

Here is an idea which may help improve the product.

Why do we have fifteen to twenty minutes between races? Because we always have. Well, times have changed. You could argue serious handicappers needed 20 minutes or so to handicap each race back before the Internet, but this is no longer the truth. Programs are available at least 24 hours ahead of time online so there is no reason to think your serious horseplayers don't have an idea what they will be betting by the time they show up at the track or turn on their computers. By the time a racing card begins, the only thing most serious handicappers will need to factor into their final selection is possible driver changes and scratches, track bias, and the odds of their selection(s). This does not require twenty minutes.

Why don't we speed things up? Now, if you want people to make a trip to the track, having a two hour racing program really doesn't make sense. What if we kept the three to four hour program length but added more races to the program? Instead of racing 12 races a day, why not have 20 races during the four hours, meaning you will have a race start roughly ten minutes after the previous race is declared official. As soon as a race is declared official, send the horses out for one score and then shortly after head for the gate. Also, make post time THE post time. Nothing annoys people more than having them wait after a race is supposed to start.

Some people will argue horses need two scores, but if this is the case, how come we usually have one score when it is too cold or the weather is otherwise inclement? If your races are that quick, how can people get their bets in? For those who are home, it is no issue. As for those at the track, when was the last time you saw any real line at the betting windows? Ten minutes between races is more than enough time. If only ten minutes between races makes the lines a little bit longer, it isn't so bad; it will give an appearance the product is more popular. As for the people who bet at the last minute, they will continue to do so; be it at the tenth minute or the twentieth minute.

The only problem to this would be how horses would be warmed up for later races. May I suggest the Historic Track solution? Up at Goshen they will race four races then take a brief timeout to allow horses to warm up for races later in the program. The key is to keep the 'intermission' short.

Here are a few questions and answers regarding this idea:

How would we have enough horses to race twenty races a day at the track? Simple, instead of racing four days a week, race two days a week. The same number of races will be run, just over a shorter period of time.

Well, if we speed up our race card, how will people wager on simulcast races? Well, if it is standardbred racing, there won't be any other harness racing going on at the same time. We are going to use the Canada One model and have America One harness racing.

How would America One actually work? Any track which becomes a member of the America One network will race no more than two days a week; depending on the track, some may only race one day a week (remember, we are talking about having 20+ races each racing day). Depending on the time of year, tracks will be assigned days and a three to four hour time slot depending on how many races they will be running. Tracks running their stakes portion of their meet will get the weekends, others will race during weekdays. With America One operating twelve hours (noon to midnight) a day, we will have no more than four harness tracks racing a day. Assuming some tracks will race two days a week and others will race one day a week, we can have up to sixteen different harness tracks operating in a week. If you are looking to gamble on harness racing, there will be only one track operating nationally at a time so the pools should be big.

Will people want to play minor league tracks? Tracks won't be so minor any more. First of all, the days of year round racing at any one track will be over. Most tracks will conduct no more than three calendar months of live racing a year and out of that, they will race only two days a week. As a result, the purse account, which will grow with simulcast wagering during the dark period as well as simulcasting conducted before and after the track's live program, will be divvied up over fewer races. In addition, being the only harness track operating at a given time should ensure healthy wagering on their live program through simulcasting. With the track racing significantly fewer days, their race meet for the local market has the potential of becoming a festival-like meet, thus attracting more attendance and on-track wagering.

Okay, who’s going to determine who races on weekends and who races during the week? This will be agreed upon based on the strength of a program. If a track has a special stakes program or Grand Circuit racing, they will get the weekend dates those weeks. If there is a track which would be operating all year (say a Meadowlands), winter racing may occur during the week and their summer racing may occur on a weekend.

How would this keep racinos racing? Racing fewer days a year means the expense of running the track is much smaller. In addition, with much more racing on a racing card, not only may they be able to drop the VLT supplements in time, they will actually begin making a profit on racing. It has the potential to be a win-win situation.

Are there any other advantages? America One can also do joint marketing to promote the brand and racing. It can also form a co-op for wagering and simulcasting services further reducing individual track costs.

You want everyone to work together to come up with America One? Those who don’t want to work together should read the Zielinski report. Those who refuse to agree to the concept can go it alone. It will be their loss.

Okay, this idea solves the problem of too much racing, but what about the wagering problems?  We will discuss this in another entry. 


Anonymous said...

WOW, love the America One idea! Such a real answer, who do we talk to, where does the ball start rolling from? Tell me who to talk to because as you can see I will talk and write to anyone and everyone to get this ball going? This is such a comprehensive answer to one of the biggest dilemmas racing has, such a powerful starting point. I am so excited to see this in print. And I am serious who do we take this to, where do we start?
Regards, Rebecca

Pacingguy said...

The USTA would be the place to start.

Anonymous said...

No way around the Dragon we call USTA. The rate at which they move might be slower than the erosion of a mountain, but still we must try!
Regards, Rebecca