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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Only Certainty Seems to be the Status Quo

People talk about how strong the racing industry is because of the large purses it is offering.  Thanks to large purses, horsemen are doing well, blacksmiths, grooms, and people growing the hay are doing well.  Of course, this is due to the state providing purse subsidies from slots.  If not for these subsidies, many tracks would race for about 10% of the current purse level, resulting in many owners, horsemen, trainers, grooms, blacksmiths, hay producers, and breeders going out of business.  No wonder horsemen fight so hard for slots or maintaining subsidy levels.

Now, let's say the state gave a subsidy to another industry to produce its product.  As a result of this subsidy, workers are making good salaries; people who grow bamboo, make beads, and producing wire are kept employed.  Only one problem, there is no real demand for the end product by the general public, after all when was the last time you saw someone use an abacus?  The state has a financial problem.  Should they continue to keep the abacus manufacturing industry strong by providing them with assistance keeping all those people employed or should the state re-route those funds to something which would benefit the general public even though it would put many people out of work?  If you are honest to yourself, there is a good chance you will say the abacus industry should not be supported.

So the next time you are racing in front of an empty grandstand or your mutuel pools are minuscule, ask yourself if racing is a strong industry. 

What is particularly frustrating, other than offering guaranteed pools, you don't hear much about doing anything to improve the demand for the racing product.  Little talk about takeout rates or new wagering types.  No one suggesting the industry attempt to take back business from the ADWs by forming a partnership to operate an ADW to compete against the existing ADWs.  No one talking about solving the problem of late odd changes after a race goes off, curtailing the number of race days to have the product match the demand for it so we may have pools worth wagering into, nothing about making owners accountable for the sins of their trainers when they gravitate towards questionable trainers, talk about getting rid of beards.  All we hear about is closing backstretches and reducing costs.  For an industry which is not doing all that well, it seems the status quo would not be acceptable, yet with the exception of the rare few, the status quo seems to be acceptable.

Quick Notes

How do you handicap horses of layoffs?  HANA Harness has an article regarding this.

Exchange wagering may be coming to California, more specifically at Los Alamitos.  The thoroughbred horsemen and trainers keep refusing to give their blessing on exchange wagering so TVG has approached Los Al regarding introducing exchange wagering.  The CHRB will be voting on the issue at their next board meeting.  Apparently, the standardbred industry has plenty in common with thoroughbred horsemen, in particular the fear of trying anything new for fear it will hurt purse accounts.  What should happen is if approved, Los Al should have exclusive rights to exchange wagering in the Golden State for a period of five years; stupidity of the horsemen and owners should be punished.  In the meanwhile, no action seems to be taking place in New Jersey regarding exchange wagering, another state which has legalized it.

Tioga Downs is offering a $500 bonus for the trainer of each winning horse on their July 4 program.  It will be interesting to see if the racing gets more competitive or not.

Bill Finley writes for ESPN about Googoo Gaagaaa, in particular about the success trainer Richard Hans is having with this pacing-sired trotter.  Make no mistake, Googoo Gaagaa is this year's feel good story in harness racing, something the sport sorely needs in the year of the druggist.  When it comes to breeding, the Hans basically threw out the rulebook, albeit by necessity.  It is far too early to say, but wouldn't it be great if Googoo Gaagaa becomes the next Vivid Photo, coming off the beaten path to dominate the sophomore crop?  Time will tell.

I failed to mention yesterday that starting next week, Yonkers Raceway will be increasing their guarantee for their late Pick 4 on Tuesday evenings.  The new guarantee will be $25,000.

Thanks to SBOANJ publicist Carol Hodes for bringing the website Recollections to my attention.  This website goes down memory lane in harness racing, primarily concentrating in Canada.  The current featured article deals with the life of 'Jack' Campbell, the late father of Jim and John Campbell who recently passed away.  Those who have an interest in the good ol' days may very well want to bookmark this website.

I came upon a nice article about thoroughbred jockey Rosemary Homeister Jr. and how she is currently doing double duty as a jockey and mother of a nine month-old at Arlington Park.  Perhaps the most interesting thing about the article was the part how gender bias is not the issue it once was in thoroughbred racing.  Shame the same can't be said about harness racing where if you don't own it, women don't get a chance to go behind the sulky in races.  For harness racing to seriously attract female players, we need women in the sulkys.


JLB said...

Re: female jockeys, I think Betty Jo Rubin, if memory serves correctly, was one of the very first in the irons, and that the jockeys at the old Waterford Park (renamed Mountaineer) either went on strike or threatened to, in order to protest her riding. Today it is commonplace to see "the girls" racing against the males, and doing quite well.

One problem with any sort of wagering experiment at Los Al is the epidemic of short fields. When I spent some time out there in the 70's, 10-horse fields were the norm. Now, it seems difficult to dredge up six horses to put on a $ 2000 claimer, a class they never offered during their heydey.

Los Al also featured harness racing, as did Hollywood Park, and, for a while Bay Meadows. Quite a different circuit today, with Cal Expo facing an uncertain future.

Pacingguy said...

I don't understand the short fields out at Los Al either. When you watch TVG and they talk about a horse there, the odds get murdered.

BTW, Cheryl Charlton races the t-breds out there and she seems to be very good. Her stats this year are:

Year Starts Firsts Seconds Thirds Earnings
2012 171 55 36
26 $360,392

I think she races only at Los Al and the CARF circuit.

JLB said...

I would venture that the short fields reflect fragility of the quarterhorse breed that exceeds even the thoroughbreds, so that an owner can count on a very limited number of starts per year. The racino supported tracks offer great purses (mostly Louisiana and some other parts of the Southwest), but tracks in states such as Idaho and Colorado offer relative pittances.

Mike said...

People who have a stake in this industry either through direct participation or as fans keep stating that we need new wagering types. Yet, I haven't heard of one proposed bet that made any sense. Please share any that you may have heard of or any of your own ideas. In addition, why wouldn't tracks try these new wagers? Is it because they need approval from racing commissions or just don't give a damn? It doesn't hurt to try new wagers and it doesn't cost anything. There is no way of knowing whether it will be positively received by the bettors if they don't make an attempt to present new wager types.

I believe wagering types are limited. I am trying to think of new wagers but stumble on anything that I believe will be successful. I personally like multi race wagers but it has become a thing of the past. Tracks offer less of these types of wagers and the pools are pathetic at any tracks except maybe The Big M or the WEG circuit. If people are staying away from pick 3's, they certainly aren't going to be interested in any multi race wagering greater than four or five races. That leaves focusing on vertical wagering. That's where we need new ideas but none have been provided.

Logically, one could have an argument that what we have now is sufficient and new wagering types aren't needed. We have other problems that you have already focused on. For example, trainer integrity and takeout percentages. If we can solve these problems first, we can get more attention as an alternative to other forms of gambling. Once we get more attention, we get more handle and people might become interested in new wager types. I want to bet races where I know trainers aren't cheating or a big chunk of my money is not being returned then worry about which wager types to play. First things first, enhance public image and show people how wonderful this game is.

Good luck with that!

Pacingguy said...


First of all, thanks for your reply. I know you took a lot of time with your response.

Some wager types which may or may not work are those offered abroad. Here is a survey HANA asked about about before. You could look here at the survey.

Pacingguy said...

A couple wagers I think could have some benefit for the smaller gambler is something like a double quiniella or double exacta. Won't pay thousands, but still a decent return for a reasonable investment.