So the first night of the New Meadowlands is in the books and handle-wise, things went well. Live handle was up 55% which is phenomenal. A total handle of $2,166,584 was wagered which is about where it was last year, but there was one less race this year so that was a positive note. On-track handle, went from $245,139 in 2011 to $380,499 for this year's opening night. As positive as those numbers were, it could have been better and I will explain that more in a moment. The question to be asked is this a start of a new trend, or was this people checking out the track now that new ownership is in place? If it was sightseers, things may revert for a while back to 2011 numbers before building up again. But over all, it was a good night.
The new banking didn't really play much of a factor last night, but that may be because the track has not fully settled. After a few days of racing, it should get better. I would suggest not counting on horses come from off the pace due to the banking until you start seeing it happen.
The Meadowlands does have a question to answer regarding the Superfectas. Yes, whales like the $1 wager because it makes for bigger pay-offs because it is harder to cover all the combinations you can with the dime superfectas. But do you get bigger pay-offs with smaller pools? According to Derick Giwner of the DRF, the average pool of the superfectas with a $1 minimum wager was $8,715 while the average pool of the dime superfectas was $27,479. So the $1 minimum wager pools were approximately only 30% of the dime wager pools. Maybe it was the confusion of the different minimums during the evening; maybe it was people expecting the dime superfecta not being able to pare down their superfecta combinations to meet the $1 minimum. I am sure they will study where the apparent resistance of the $1 superfecta is taking place (on-track vs off-track), but rest assured it cost the Meadowlands a much better evening handle-wise. If after a couple of weeks the pools don't get much closer to each other, you can be sure the $1 minimum superfecta will be the first change to the wagering card.
Now I am not a big time gambler, but as for myself, while I would play the dime supers, I would never touch a $1 minimum superfecta. I know the whales want big payoffs which occurs when less people hit, which is compromised by the dime wager because people can cover more combos, but the track has to listen to those gamblers who are walking away from the wager due to the high entry cost. The confusion as to whether this is a dime or dollar minimum wager needs to be eliminated. Perhaps the answer is to try to find the 'sweet' spot where you can raise the minimum to and not significantly impact handle. Perhaps it is a 20¢ wager, maybe a 50¢ minimum.
I watched the recap show, and it seemed kind of strange not to see and hear Hollywood Heyden on the telecast. While Wendy Ross, Heyden's replacement did a good job, it was somewhat bittersweet to know that Heyden, who was with the Meadowlands since the first opening night in 1976 is no longer with the Meadowlands. Whether Heyden decided to leave or management decided a change was needed in an effort to change the demographics (attract a younger audience, and more females), I hope Heyden is able to land somewhere else; perhaps as an analyst with an ADW.
It is going to take a little time to get used to the New Meadowlands, with respect to the personnel changes made; the departure of Dave Brower and Hollywood Heyden but as with life, nothing stays the same. While they will be missed, after a few shows, Wendy Ross and Darin Zoccali will seem like old friends.
Alternate Program Source is Coming: The DRF has announced within a few weeks they will be offering new programs for harness racing. There will be their regular program and their 'Deluxe' Harness Eye PP. Trackmaster will continue to offer their programs but for those in the New York Metropolitan area who grew up on Sports Eye/Harness Eye; the online availability of the Harness Eye past performances will be a welcomed addition.