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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Trés Bon Yonkers et des Cavaliers

We are two weeks away from the grand experiment, perhaps the most exciting thing to happen to harness racing wagering-wise in the last ten to twenty years; the expansion of American harness racing into the European market, primarily into France via PMU.

While I would have thought another track would have been the first one to make the move to conquer Europe, it is Yonkers Raceway and their horsemen's group, the SOA which stakes its claim to being the first track to make a serious attempt to enter the market.  Sure, there have been special events such as the Hambletonian and Breeders Crown which have been simulcasted to Europe, but those were special occasions and even then, it would be a few races at a time because Europe doesn't permit wagering on pacing events.  On many occasions, they would have separate pools so the North American gambler would not have the advantage of that money flowing into our domestic pools.

Unlike those special event occasions, these six Sundays (starting November 9) represents a new approach to taking the American sulky sport to Europe.  All trotting cards and distance racing will be the name of the game on these Sundays, something which up to now has been the bane of American handicappers and horsemen, (the distance racing), all done to appeal to the European market.  Racing at 11am so to make the product available in Europe at a reasonable time (5pm in Paris) requires a very quick turn around for those racing on Saturday evening.  Developing social media and websites in French to help promote the sport and simulcasting in France is essential to acclimate French gamblers to the American sport.  Yes, a lot of effort is being expended but the potential reward is great, for tomorrow Europe and if successful. who knows where next?

Of course, the bending over has all been American at this point.  Hopefully, if the program is successful, more convenient post times will be a possibility, and dare I say, getting the Europeans to accept a few pacing events for their consumption on these cards?

For American bettors, the possibility of larger pools so odd changes are not as drastic so we don't see last minute odds plunging awaits them if this experiment goes as hoped.  Right now, the pools will be separate but if co-mingling occurs, whales being able to bet with confidence that their 4-1 play doesn't turn into a 2-5 proposition as well as the little guy not finding themselves collecting their $3.20 payoff when wagered at 5-1 is an exciting possibility.  

Who knows, the simulcasting highway can go two ways.  Now, the races will be going from New York to Europe; one day the races may come the other way.  It may not be important at present but as horse shortages continue to deepen, tracks may need to cut race dates out of necessity, and these imported races may give gamblers product to wager on and allow track and horsemen purse accounts to grow on forced dark days.  

Yonkers and its horsemen are blazing the path.  Hopefully other tracks will be able to join the export movement so this doesn't become a one-off experiment but the start of a new beginning.

One thing I can't help but wonder is if we can develop social media and web pages to attract French speaking horseplayers abroad, why can't we develop the same for our potential Spanish speaking customers here at home?  In certain markets, such as the New York metropolitan area and in Florida, the market is bilingual.  To not attempt to reach out to the Spanish market is ridiculous.  Even the New York Mets has recognized this with their Los Mets website.  If other companies can run bilingual advertisements, what makes racing think it can market only to the English speaking market?

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