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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Yonkers Experiment - Strike Two; Meadowlands Changes

For the second time, Yonker's experiment with races being conducted at a 1 1/16 mile has come to an end.  With the resumption of racing, the mile will once again be the standard distance.  While we'll undoubtedly find out why the races have been returned to the standard mile distance,  I am convinced  that the future of North American racing will depend on various distance racing. 

Our problem is our past performance information has not been developed for multiple distance racing.  To be adequate and to account for varying distances, I believe we need to start reporting winning and individual horse times in mile rates so we have something to compare against different horses and being the last quarter mile is considered so important in handicapping, we can't have programs reporting the final 5/16 of a mile; the last quarter needs to be reported regardless of where it begins (if they can do it in Australasia, they can do it here).

The other problem may also be with horses shipping in and out of Yonkers and how to handle the distance change.  Reporting things in mile rates and an actual last quarter may address the problem or it may be necessary, though unpopular with horse trainers, to require a horse to qualify each time the distance the horse is racing at changes.  I am sure it was confusing to handicappers when horses shipped in to Yonkers from a track like Saratoga where the traditional mile was raced as it was confusing when a Yonkers horse shipped into Monticello where the racing distance was a 1/16 of a mile shorter.  A qualifier may have answered the gambler's questions.

At the Meadowlands,  the cup floweth over with two hundred horses entered for the first night of racing.  The card appears to be a strong one.  Of course, the Meadowlands always starts strong, but the true test will be when March arrives and the PA tracks start to open.  It is already the intention of Racing Secretary Peter Koch to write some lower class races to allow the better Freehold horses some racing opportunities as Freehold is not due to opening until March.

I do have one complaint and that is the forty-five day rule; meaning a horse can have forty-five days between starts without qualifying; I feel this is unfair to the horseplayer.  If a horse hasn't raced in a month, it should be required to qualify, especially as you can't ignore a horse starting in their first race back.  At forty-five days, I think the gambler should be able to have a better idea if the first start back is going to be a mere tightner or not.

On the betting side, there are a lot of changes on the wagering menu at the Meadowlands.  The rolling Pick-3 is history with only one Pick-3 being offered on the last three races of the card.  I personally think the Pick-3 is one of the best values for gamblers with smaller budgets.  I never liked the rolling Pick-3 concept, but did like it when you had consecutive Pick-3s offered; a new Pick 3 after the prior Pick-3 was concluded.

The 50¢ Pick-5 (20% takeout) kicks off the super exotics starting with race one.  Starting with race six, the Meadowlands Pick-4 starts with a $50,000 guaranteed pool on Thursdays and Fridays with a $75,000 pool on Saturdays and features a 15% takeout while the Pick 6, which starts in race four offers a 20% takeout.

A lot more Superfectas will be offered with one big change.  Each race with the exception of races five, seven, nine, and eleven will offer the Superfecta with a  $1 minimuml these races and the finale will have fractional wagering (dime Supers), giving  big and small gamblers their chances to get into pools of their size.  The Daily Double remains on the first two and last two races of the card..

Let's not kid ourselves.  The wagering menu being offered now may not be the same menu offered at the end of the year.  With such changes, the key will be see which combination of wagers maximize handle.  If the Pick-3 is your specialty; you may be looking elsewhere for your wager.

Lastly, Fridays offer free admission but on Thursday and Saturdays, admission will be raised to two dollars which includes a racing program.  For those who print off the specialty programs offered on the Internet, it may mean paying for a program you may not use.

The fact is year one of the Gural era is a a feeling out year.  Some changes will be well received; others will not.  One thing we do know is what has been going on has not been working.  By all means, give changes a chance, but you must be nimble in recognizing when a mistake has been made and make any appropriate corrections.


Anonymous said...

A friend insists all harness races should be a mile. It doesn't matter to me, but we handicappers learned two things when Pocono Downs experimented with races at a mile and a quarter.

Most closers that missed winning at a mile still didn't get home in the longer races. Most front runners that lasted in mile races were still there running the extra distance.

It leaves me wondering how many people would care about varied distances if the results don't change.

Pacingguy said...

It may depend on how they groom the track. If you groom the track consistently, you tend to get the same results. Also, drivers have to learn how to drive differently. If they sit single file and don't challenge, of course results will be similar.

Josh Potts said...

Domestic thoroughbred handicappers, international harness handicappers, and international thoroughbred handicappers are all capable of handicapping races at a variety of distances. So, why can't domestic harness handicappers?

Can you imagine if harness tracks installed synthetic or turf courses? Oh, the horror.

I've always thought that contesting harness races over a variety of distances would reward sharp handicappers and make for a more interesting handicapping "puzzle."

To be clear, by "variety" of distances, I don't mean one track contesting almost all races at 1-1/16 miles (like Yonkers). Instead, I mean contesting one race at, say, 1-1/8 miles, another at 1-1/4 miles, another at 1-3/16 miles, another at 3/4 miles and so on. You get the idea.

While I realize Xtreme Horsepower does something like this one night per year, it would be interesting if more tracks offered races at a variety of distances each night they raced. Perhaps this increase in variables would create fewer odds on favorites finding their way into the trifecta, and make for larger payouts in WPS and exotics.