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Sunday, January 3, 2016

Racing When the Demand is the Greatest; Welcome Back

One thing is obvious from the two past weekends at the Meadowlands; there is a need to realign their schedule to take advantage of the downtime at the tracks in Pennsylvania and New York by racing more often during the winter months.

Last night, the Meadowlands handled $1.2 million more than it did last year albeit with two additional races.  In addition, the on-track handle almost doubled thanks to Yonkers Raceway being dark for their holiday break.  Did having 11 horses in each race (14 in race 8) help?  Absolutely as it allows for more wagering options. 

An overflow of horses available and few tracks operating makes for large racing handles.  Next weekend, when the Meadowlands resumes racing, Yonkers being open will reduce the available horse population but there will still be enough horses available to put on full fields; something which will become a struggle once the Eastern PA tracks open up.  No, it may not be the glamorous time of the year to race but you need to race when the demand for your product is greatest.

The Meadowlands would do well to look at this year's results and schedule next year accordingly.

In last night's 8th race at the Meadowlands, a field of 14 went to the gate in the 1 1/8 mile tilt and one horse from the second tier managed to snag second place.  In addition, a duo of second tierers managed to finish in the top half of the field, leaving only one horse to finish in the bottom half.  It would have been better if the race was 1 1/4 miles long but that would have had the starting gate releasing the field on the turn.  While trainers may object, I would love to see the Meadowlands conduct 1 1/2 mile tilts when they get those many horses in the back row to give them an even greater chance to be a factor.

Hawthorne Race Course welcomes back the standardbreds this coming Friday night and many are wondering how well they will be received.  With some of the uncertainty facing standardbred racing now eliminated thanks to the closing of Balmoral and Maywood, horsemen should be breathing easier.  It is reported some old faces from Chicago racing will be returning to the Windy City to compete. 

Speaking of welcome back, Harness Racing Update is back, now under the tutelage of Dave Briggs, who formerly edited The Canadian Sportsman.  Enough people who follow the sport wanted HRU to return and their wishes have been granted, provided the industry provides enough support via advertising.  As for former editor Bill Finley?  He remains on board as an occasional contributor.

With the season of nostalgia coming to an end, do you remember when there may have been two or three trifectas on the entire race card and Pick3, Pick4, and Pick6 were exclusive terms at your local lottery dealer?  One has to wonder if racing oversaturated the wagering market.  Trifectas were known to be churn killers so tracks deliberately didn't offer them on every race.  Yes, the wagering public wants more than WPS and exacta wagering so you need to offer more opportunities to win big on the card but by offering them on every race are we basically killing the churn which would result in a more profitable (or less bleeding) profit sheet?  I think so.  After all, offering trifecta, superfecta, and PickX wagers each race just sucks more money from the churn machine which means handicappers are going broke quicker and becoming disenchanted faster.  While the status quo in the short term is to offer whatever you can each race, one has to wonder whether racing would do better in the long run by reducing the number of exotic wagers offered on each race.


Anonymous said...

When and if The Meadowlands significantly increases purses, it will be able to attract more horses at any time of year. Until then, I agree management should consider racing when the higher purse tracks it competes against aren't.

Of course, if PA ever gets its act together and treats the eastern Harrah's Philadelphia and Mohegan Sun at Pocono as a circuit, The Meadowlands problems would worsen. Bettors and horsemen/horsewomen would be better served if those two tracks didn't overlap their racing programs and then be dark for 3-4 months.

There are times when Harrah's and Pocono have both raced Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays (days for Harrah's and nights for Pocono). Harrah's, because it's more south, could race January, February and early March. Pocono could race into December. That would mean nearly year round racing in the east and west, where The Meadows already races in all months.

Harrah's and Pocono haven't announced this year's schedule, but it appears Pocono will begin racing Mondays. That will mean fewer overlaps. A good start.

Marv said...

The Meadowlands' success in winter when other tracks are dark actually begs a larger question: what is the goal of the Meadowlands (and other tracks for that matter)? Is it to maximize profits for the track owners? For the horsemen? For the industry?

For instance, if M1 raced primarily from November to March, when the eastern PA tracks are mostly dark, what happens to all the stakes that breeders need to sell yearlings? There is not too much demand for January stakes. Obviously, they could race some stakes in a summer schedule, but why would Mr. Gural want to from an economic perspective, with handles the last month in the $3.5M range whereas last summer it was usually around $2.5M? Plus stakes draw off more from the purse pool than overnights.

This conversation certainly points to the need for coordination in the industry, where a rising tide lifts all ships. Unfortunately, that will never happen. It rarely if ever has.