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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Harness Racing - Entertainment vs. Business; A New Take on Future Wagering

For our European friends, the yearling sales began at Hippodrome de Caen, France today with the six days of yearling sales being followed by two days of a mixed sale.  Of course, being this is France, all are trotters.  If you are interested (even to take a look), click here for an online listing of those on sale, or here for the online catalogue.

You used to see French horses imported into Quebec, but I have personally never seen a horse race in the United States with a 'F' suffix, indicating a horse imported from and registered in France.  I imagine the reason is European breeding is focused on stamina and being able to undergo long distances where American breeding is focused on speed and being ready to race at two.  This is the reason why Revenue (Sweden) was not well received as a stud in the United States and returned to Europe, this despite the fact some of his off-spring are having successful careers.

Back to the Jug.  There is one thing clear about all the discussion regarding the Little Brown Jug.  There is no other race which draws the line between the old versus new.  The old loves the heat racing and sees nothing wrong with it.  The new says heat racing is an anarchism which needs to go.  Quite honestly, it goes past old versus new.

Is harness racing big business or is it entertainment?  No doubt the Delaware County Fair and other fair tracks look at harness racing as entertainment (granted, it has to cover its expenses)?  Horsemen look at harness racing as big business, looking at the bottom line and residual value at the stallion barn.  Those who look at harness racing as big business are concerned with protecting their horse (maximizing the value of the horse) versus taking the risks of racing on half mile tracks and multiple heats.  Those who look at horse racing as entertainment, are happy to enter the big races they qualify for, be it two or three heats, half miler or mile track.

Truth is harness racing is a bit of both but it better realize it is in the entertainment business.  Let's face fact, as a business, gamblers have better options such casino games, poker and other gaming options.  It is the sporting nature of horse racing which keeps people interested in horse racing and we better give them what they want before they vote with their feet.

That being said, does the public want heat racing?  As one person said, those at Delaware could care less if the Jug was a single dash for the cash or raced in heats.  That may very well be true.  But rather than just speculating, why not poll the customer to see what they want?

Speaking of giving the public what they want, what if we offered a new wager similar to the later Jug Future wagers, for races with eliminations?  Future wagering typically offers wagers on horses which may or may not start in a race and includes the catch all entry of 'All Other Horses".  What if we offered an overall wager, one for any late or early closing closing event which is raced in eliminations, even if the elimination is raced the week before.  The object of the bet is to select the winner of the final before the first elimination is run.  In the Overall Wager, you know which horses are starting in the eliminations and their post positions.  Let's take a race like the Meadowlands Pace.  Assume there are four eliminations with eight horses in each elimination.  That means there are 32 wagering selections for the wager.  Pick the horse you think will be the eventual winner of the Meadowlands Pace.  Individual wagering on the eliminations and final can also take place but if you are wagering on a horse to take it all without knowing the post position of the final, you could get a better payoff.  For exotic wagering, such future wagering may be a good time to offer a quiniella, having to select the top two finishers in the final and a trinella, a quiniella which requires you to select the top three finishers in the final in any order.  In addition to people betting these overall wagers, it gives them a reason to show up the following week for the final.

In summary, here is a chart with the differences between the Future Wager and the Overall Wager

Future Wager
Overall Wager
Wager is Offered Various times ahead of the race. The day eliminations are raced.
Advantage/Disadvantage You don't know if the horse is actually going to show up for the race (ala Captaintreacherous in the Jug).  Making the wager months ahead of time.  With 'All Other Horses', you don't get the past performance lines for each horse. You know the horses you are wagering on are going to race.  No 'All Other Horses " to contend with.  Will have past performance lines for all horses in event.
Wager Types Win Wagering Only Win Wager.  Since wager is being offered the day of the eliminations, you can offer in addition to win wagering, a wager selecting the top to finishers in the final (in any order) and a wager selecting the top three in the final (in any order).

I think such a wager is worth a shot. What do you think?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Racing's largest hurdle when it comes to attracting customers:

Most potential customers never get to the point of voting with the their feet and leaving. They never make it inside the track!

A race track is intimidating. The track wants you to buy a program, doesn't provide customer service that can answer questions about betting and makes the newbie wait 15-20 minutes between shows. A slot machine is so much easier.

Tracks could try some gimmick bets that have little to do with understanding racing. Example? A $1 bet picking the order of finish for the entire field. Quick Pick lottery type of sale. Start with a guaranteed jackpot and let it build until someone wins. Could be very popular at racinos where gamblers routinely go for big money at very long odds.