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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Another Problem With Too Much Racing

Many people, including myself, claim one of the problems with too much racing is the amount of money wagered is split up between racetracks, making pools too small for the whales to wager without killing the odds.  This is certainly true, but with slot money in many states being able to support purses at artificial highs, the problem of diluted pools is of little concern for horsemen in racino states.  Why should they, especially when horsemen can pick and chose where they race and perhaps more importantly, avoid weeks off as there is a horse shortage?  It is a great time to be a horseman.

As is usual in racing, what is good for the horsemen is not necessarily good for the gambler and vice versa.  The very ability horsemen have to pick and chose where they race their charges is adversely impacting the horseplayer which further hurts handle.  Obviously with horsemen having a choice where to race, there is a greater likelihood of short fields which hurts handle as horrible wagering races gives gamblers another reason not to wager on the races.  But there is another angle which is generally not discussed; the lack of predictability.

One of the perceived advantages harness racing has over thoroughbred racing is consistency.  A race is a mile, not six furlongs one week, nine furlongs the following week; not on dirt one week and turf the following week.  It is almost like Henry Ford with the Model T; you can have whatever color you want as long as it is black.  Another factor has been horses racing at the same track week in, week out; once the first two weeks of a meet was over, basically every horse raced at whichever track they were racing at making it easier to compare horses.  Now, at many tracks it is the second week of racing every week; horses coming in from various tracks making it much harder to assess each horse's ability in comparison to each other.  Whether this is an issue for your or not, many handicappers love the consistency which is now lacking.  While the rewards from being successful in this assembling of race fields may be rewarding, there are those for whom this puzzle is to difficult to crack and they either throttle back their wagering or decide to pass completely.

How bad is this problem?  Using the last racing card at each track, 43% of all starters had their last charted line (race or qualifier) at a track other than the Meadowlands; Pocono Downs 30%; Tioga Downs 41%.  Only Yonkers Raceway, likely due to the fact it is a half mile oval, doesn't seem to have this problem as only 14% of the starters made their last start elsewhere besides Yonkers Raceway.

Do you agree having too many horses shipping in to a track causes you to bet less?  What is the magical threshold where you lay off or reduce your wagers?  Take this survey and have your say.

Not being one who typically wagers on the Pick x wagers, I must confess I really don't pay attention to the guarantees racetracks tend to offer when I decide where I wager.  What I look for are takeout rates for straight wagers and Daily Doubles, as they often are the difference between winning and losing..  However, even I couldn't help but notice the Meadowlands has increased their guarantees on most of their wagers this month; not just on special occasions. 

HANA Harness has a blog entry showing the takeout rates for what some may consider the 'Big Six'. Since I don't follow these exotics, I really haven't noticed it but according to the chart provided in the entry, the Meadowlands either equals or offers the lowest takeout rates of major harness tracks,  Clearly management is doing their best to give people a reason to wager on their races with larger guarantees and lower takeout rates, but unless someone is specifically looking for those figures, it is hard to get the word out.  After all, do you think a racetrack in Ohio or Indiana wants their gamblers to know the Meadowlands is offering a better deal?

Something the standardbred industry laments, is the lack of press coverage of horse racing.  I wonder if the industry has noticed The Record, the primary newspaper in the Meadowlands market, seems to be taking more interest in horse racing these days.  Perhaps it is the change in management in the Meadowlands, but when was the last time you saw someone from a non-racing media outlet putting their two cents in on the subject of whether or not a horse like Googoo Gaagaa should be allowed to race in events like the Hambletonian? 

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