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Monday, June 20, 2011

Record Handle at Running Aces and What it Shows

Sunday at Running Aces Horse Park, an all-time record handle was recorded and the obligitory press release was issued trumpeting this fact.  The amount wagered on the nine race card?  A whopping $157,668 passed through the mutuel windows; an average of  $17,518 per race.  For the recreational $2 gambler, enough of a handle to make it worthwile playing.  However, for the mid to large amount horseplayer, a handle not large enough for them to deem worthwhile wagering into and there lies the problem.  With a total purse distribution of $45,000 for the day; rest assured the handle was not enough to cover the purses and operating expenses.  Thankfully the card room which offers Vegas-style games, allows them to offer such purses.  The quality of Running Aces, while not equal to the quality of most racino tracks, is good enough to attract wagering interest if presented properly.

So the question must be asked why does a track like Running Aces handle only a record $157,668 on a Sunday evening?   Probably because they are overlapping Balmoral Park, Harrington Raceway, Ocean Downs, and Raceway Park.  Yes, Harrington has better racing stock but as for the others, Running Aces is equal if not better in quality.  The answer is clearly we are producing too much product for the demand we have.  This is not news; I and others have been talking about this for quite a while.  During the afternoon, things were not much better; as there were six harness tracks racing (well, there was seven if you include Players Bluegrass Downs, but if you look at their handle, there is no sense including them).  This does not consider Canadian racetracks which may be racing.

When are horsemen going to realize there is no sense to offer that much racing product on any given day; certainly not overlapped like it is?  If horsemen were to race shorter meets they would have larger purses with simulcast revenue accumulating and tracks would save operating expenses.  Yes, it would require shipping horses to other tracks when horsemen's local track is closed but in the long run the sacrifice would be worth it.

I know, the answer is slot money; who cares how much is bet?  For all the racino horsemen care, handle could be non-existent as at Blueridge Downs as long as they get their purse money from somewhere.  However, slot money will disappear sooner or later and if the foundation is unstable, the whole industry will collapse.

Will the day ever come when the horsemen look at the big picture instead of their small neck of the woods?  Until they do, all they are doing is sowing the seeds of disaster.    

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