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Friday, August 24, 2012

New Operators for Cal Expo Approved; Horseplayers Win

The California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) has conditionally licensed Watch and Wager LLC as the operator of the standardbred meet at Cal Expo, pending the completion of some routine requirements.  Watch and Wager is a company owned by European Wagering Services for the purposes of conducting racing at Cal Expo and the meet will be managed by Golden Bear Racing, LLC. 

In addition to being licensed Watch and Wager is approved for a fall meet of sixteen days with racing being conducted on Friday and Saturday nights starting November 2 through December 22.  A request for a six month meet starting in early 2013 will be forthcoming.  The average daily purse at the new harness meet will be $55,362 an increase of $9,500 over the fall meet operated by Cal Expo last year.

There is good news for horse players as well.  The new operators has requested the takeout rate on the Pick-4, Pick-5, and Pentafecta (High Five) be reduced from the existing 24.18% to a more modest 16%.  The Pick-4 continues with a 15% takeout. 

The Pick 4 will be a $1 minimum wager with the Pick-5 being a $0.50 minimum; $0.10 minimum on the Pentafecta.  The Pick-5 and Pentafecta will only pay out if hit, with a carry over of the entire pool if no one selects the exact order of finish.  The Pick 4 will have a guaranteed pool of $20,000 on Fridays; $25,000 on Saturdays.  While not yet set, there is plans to offer a guaranteee on the Pick-5.

There will be a push to get new stables to race at Cal Expo.  With plans for three nights a week racing in the winter when many tracks are closed and increased purses, it is hoped new stables will be willing to go west to race.

In other news:

Windsor Raceway surrendered their license to the ORC, effective August 31 at 11:59pm, making them the first track in Ontario to throw in the towel thanks to the uncertainty in the province due to the OLG terminating the Slots at Racetrack program.  It makes sense Windsor was the first one to cease racing activity as they refused to enter into a modified contract with the OLG to take them through March 31, 2013 once the slots were turned off, being unsatisfied with the terms offered to them.  As a result, their contract ceases at the end of August at which time the OLG has to have physically removed all the slot machines.  Of course, the question is if and who will be the next track to turn in their license?

Oops, the SBOANJ retracted an earlier statement made by their lawyer which alleged the track was unsafe for racing.  The horsemen walked the track with the track superintendent and found the track safe.  Qualifiers will take place today.  I must admit, if no one from the horsemen even inspected the track beforehand, how could someone have even alleged the track was unsafe in the first place?

The Old Switcheroo.  This Sunday, Tioga Downs will be racing in the evening and Vernon Downs will be racing a special Sunday afternoon card as part of the New York State Fair Weekend.  Usually, Tioga races in the afternoon with Vernon being dark.  This Sunday evening, the elimination race for the Cane Pace will be contested at Tioga with a first race post of 6:50pm.  Nine horses will be competing for seven positions on the gate for the final as A Rocknroll Dance and Time To Roll received byes.  I normally hate elimination races but I must admit with the elimination going for $107,572, there is enough money on the table to ensure a competitive race.

Meanwhile at Vernon Downs with the special post time of 1:15pm, there will be the $350,000 Zweig Memorial Trot and the $150,000 Zweig Memorial Filly Trot on the card plus the second half of the Vernon Downs/Meadowlands Driving Championship

See you in December?  While nothing has been cast in stone, it looks like the Meadowlands may kick off its 2013 season in 2012.  An advertisement to the industry says 'See you in December'.  Whether this is a return to the traditional post Christmas opening day or a start earlier in the month remains to be seen.

This weekend, HANA Harness' The Pen vs. The Chip Handicapping Challenge makes three stops, including a doubleheader.  The weekend's action starts Saturday night at Mohawk Racetrack for eliminations of a few major stakes races, including the Canadian Pacing Derby.  Sunday is a doubleheader with the afternoon featuring the previously mentioned card at Vernon Downs and the evening card at Rideau Carleton Raceway for the $183,500 Frank Ryan Memorial Trot.   Handicapping selections will be available at

Are you a Springsteen Fan?  If so, you can bid on a set of tickets to Bruce Springsteen's August 29, 2012 concert at Vernon Downs as part of a prize package.  The package includes a two night hotel stay, daily breakfast, dinner the night of the concert, preferred parking the day of the concert, and of course two VIP tickets to the concert.  In addition, you will be helping the Standardbred Retirement Foundation.  Bidding on this package ends at noon on Sunday afternoon.  You may bid on this package here.

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