Daryl, a friend of mine, bemoaned the lack of wagering opportunities at Pocono Downs; the lack of a Pick-6, and no middle Daily Double as examples. But a bigger complaint was the six and seven horse eliminations which made the races unplayable. Well, the lack of a Pick-6 is due to the lack of a sufficient handle to build the carryover pool up fast enough to attract interest and the lack of a middle Daily Double is an effort not to dilute the exotic wagering pools which do exist. That being said, this weekend is different and Pull the Pocket discusses the special wagers being offered this weekend and how the Hambletonian Society was involved in getting these bet offered.
As for the six and seven horse fields, Daryl was referring to the eliminations which drew three divisions. Initially, he wondered why more people didn't enter horses to get rid of the short fields, but that's not the problem. It is the owner and horsemen's refusal to race with a second tier of horses. For example, there were nineteen horses entered into the Breeders Crown 2yo Filly Trot so eliminations were required. Instead of racing with one field of ten, meaning one trailer, and a full field of nine to determine the field for the final, the race needed to be split into three divisions to avoid a second tier. As a result, instead of having two full fields which would be attractive to the horseplayers, gamblers were left with two seven horse and one six horse field which turned the serious horseplayers off. I understand why horsemen don't want a second tier, but they need to realize how their bread is buttered, and that is through the gambler.
Many of you are going to say with racinos, gamblers (horseplayers specifically) don't matter. For those who say that, let's briefly discuss what is going on in Maine. There, state legislators are considering cutting racing out of the slot revenue equation. Not partial, but a total cut. Now, before anyone has a coronary, realistically they will probably end up with a reduction in support from slot revenue. In this perfect storm, "The Great" Recession, legislators are looking at a $1 billion budget shortfall. When you are looking at that type of budget shortfall, certainly some legislators are going to question why $21.4 million dollars are going to horse racing while they are cutting aid to education, health, and other programs. While the revitalized standardbred industry has benefited, sooner or later in Maine and other states, the decision will be made to cut the industry off as was done in Quebec. For those of you saying they can't do it, after all that is the reason why slots were put in racetracks in the first place, they can; the legislature is the law and they can change it anyway they want. So the gamblers do matter because sooner or later, racing is going to need them to survive.
When horse racing advocates talk about a revitalized horse racing industry, what are they really saying? Breeders are doing well ('Well' being subjective; for our purposes meaning still in business). Race horse owners and horsemen are doing well. Ancillary businesses are doing well. Horse racing industry (wagering on horse races) in the proverbial crapper. So what we have is the government paying (in the form of slot revenue) an industry (horse racing) to buy a product from a manufacturer (the breeder) where a very small market (the gamblers) exists; certainly not enough to sustain the industry. This is a good investment for the government if the industry uses the subsidy to build their market up and create a demand for their product but sooner or later if the industry doesn't make changes to build up demand, the government will realize they are wasting their money and cut the industry loose and let the industry stand or fall on its own.
A smart industry realizes this and take advantage of the government subsidy by investing a good portion of this subsidy to build a demand for their product, modifying the product if necessary. Time will tell if the horse racing industry is smart or not.
It appears harness racing is not the only sport which has problems getting any press on television. John Pricci of Horse Race Insider, laments how with the exception of the Triple Crown and Breeders Cup races, thoroughbred racing gets the short end of the stick on ESPN. According to Pricci, it is because thoroughbred racing has become less popular and ESPN is a regular media company, concerned about revenue. Horse racing with the exception of these four days does not attract an audience which translates into revenue. Pricci claims part of the blame lies within the racing industry.
Speaking of television, we have mentioned how the Breeders Crown Preview show will be seen on MAVTV this week. For those of you who don't have MAVTV, PA HarnessWeek has posted the show on YoutTube. Please watch the show on MAVTV if possible as good ratings may translate into future harness racing broadcasts. For those who don't have MAVTV, the show (in three parts) is below. But if you can watch it on television, nothing beats watching a horse racing show in HD, especially one co-hosted by Heather Moffett and Jennifer Sherlock.