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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sunday Morning Miscellanery

The Meadowlands out-of-competition testing program has ensnared trainer Robert Bresnahan Jr. for the use of EPO, a performance enhancement drug.  As a result of this positive which was returned by a Hong Kong lab, Bresnahan finds himself excluded from participating at the Meadowlands, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs while horses currently trained by him are excluded from participation for 60 days.  Bresnahan has the right to have the split sample tested but being the lab has never had a false positive, the odds of a split coming up negative is extremely remote.

Meanwhile on the other side of the country, trainer Marissa Tyler finds herself temporarily suspended pending a final hearing as a result of out-of-competition and post-race testing for cobalt at Cal Expo.  In the meanwhile, 21 horses there find themselves on the vet list pending evidence cobalt levels have returned to normal.

While post-racing testing is a needed weapon in the tool against cheating, the most significant infractions are the ones which occur on the farm where trainers may feel more emboldened to 'treat' a horse with a medication that has no therapeutic use.  While drugging to get an unfair advantage is plain wrong, to the public which is concerned with animal welfare issues such as whipping and post-racing treatment, the use of drugs which have little benefit and likely are detrimental to the horse is unacceptable.  Hence, if looking at the long term welfare of racing, out of competition testing needs to be expanded.

Dean Towers discusses in Harness Racing Update talks about the hard changes made Down Under and how officials need to make similar changes up here.  Of course, getting them to move is another story.

As you may be aware, the Prix d'Amerique is being or depending on when you read this, has been contested today.  You may wonder why few if any sources had wagering on this race in North America.  Lack of interest by the wagering public would be the chief reason.  The last time the Meadowlands carried wagering on the race, it handled in the neighborhood of $200, certainly not a reason to open early or go through the expense of setting up the satellite feed, etc.  Certainly, the uniqueness of the race, a walk-up start is daunting to the North American gambler who is used to vanilla one-mile contests behind a starting gate, but the biggest problem is the lack of available information.  When the information presented seems to be in tongues, it is hard to find anyone other than the most rabid fan looking to make a small wager.

The various trotting countries are trying to come up with a uniform data collection method which will allow gamblers in their respective countries to see information they are familiar with  Such a process can't come soon enough.  With racing becoming a volume business, it becomes increasingly obvious tracks need to operate as long as possible each day sending and receiving race signals so bettors can get all the action they need.

For the record, my selection for the Prix is Timoko.

Does quality translate to handle?  The racing this weekend at the Meadowlands would suggest otherwise as they ended up with a pair of $3 million handles this weekend.  Looking at the program, a couple of $5,000 purses for $10,000 claimers and a slew of non-winners of $5,000 and $7,500 in the last five starts races would not make one think of huge handles but I suggest competitive racing is a bigger factor.  No doubt, the way conditions are being written helps make the racing competitive.  For those who are not following the Meadowlands, the conditions often eliminate horses which won in the same class from racing at the same level in the next start and doesn't allow for horses to drop more than one class to compete in an easier class.

Obviously, all things being consistent, class wins out, but competitive fields wins out when it comes to the bettor's preference.

On the subject of pricing (aka takeout), it puzzles me why tracks need to have blended takeouts when they can have a single takeout rate.  A more specific peeve of mine is the higher takeouts for most exotic bets when compared to straight wagers.  Of course the reasoning behind this is when you have higher payoffs, who is going to notice more of their profits being scraped away by the rake?  After all, does it matter to a horseplayer that they receive a $1,850 payoff instead of $1,900?  Perhaps in the old days it didn't matter, but when you look at the more sophisticated gambler of the modern era, they understand their payoff is being cut by the higher rake, which can be significant if the holder of the winning ticket has $20 invested on it instead of $2.

It costs just as much to process a trifecta ticket as does a win wager.  While I won't pretend to know what the ideal rate should be, a standard 'oneprice fits all' policy would attract gamblers as they know the lower rake will  return more to the horseplayer and keep them playing longer.


Anonymous said...

There's plenty of evidence pools go up when takeout goes down, usually giving tracks more overall revenue. Some track operators don't get it and wonder why they can't get million dollar handles.

Pennsylvania has a reputation for high takeout. The Harness Racing Commission just posted this year's harness takeout rates on it's website.

There's a big change at The Meadows where maximum takeout is 20%. The Downs at Mohegan Sun maximum is 30%. Harrah's Philadelphia grabs 32%.

Pacingguy said...

The problem tracks have is they are married to ADWs for handle. The tracks get a miniscule share of the takeout and often if they were to attempt to lower their takeout, they will find themselves cut off from OTW and ADWs because they feel they won't make much money (which unfortunately is the case).

What you are saying is true. However, the handle on track is so small, the change wouldn't be that evident. While handle at ADWs will go up, when you get 3% of the rake to split with horsemen, handle will need to go up significantly.

Let's take an example of The Meadowlands. Last night they handled $3 million. Let's say $2.8 million was off track. This means from OTW, they received $84,000 to be split between horsemen and the track. So this means, horsemen get $42,000 towards the purse account. Last night the purses were $110,000 meaning the OTW didn't cover the purses. Does the track's $42,000 cover the wages and expenses of operating last night? Not likely. Of course, there is revenue from the signals they take in and the runners.

The only way racing has a chance to make it without slot revenue, is they need to operate their own ADW to compete against the existing ADWs (without violating anti-trust laws). This doesn't mean the tracks will be able to abuse customers, free market forces will require them to match or beat what the ADWs offer, but the profit the ADWs get will go into the track's coffers instead of the ADWs.

Count said...

Am I the only one out there that is highly suspicious of the Meadowlands handle? When the racing there was awesome, they couldn't handle these insane amounts but now that a decidedly inferior product to wager on is produced there are record handles?? And lets face it, these races are terrible and quite uncompetitive I might add. I'd be curious to track a breakdown of just where all this betting is coming from. Maybe it's only cynical me though.

Anonymous said...

The Meadows risks getting cut off by ADW sites because it tries to better serve its customers on or off the track? That's a lousy situation. Still, The Meadows has gone from the highest takeout to the lowest in Pennsylvania for harness.

If The Meadows increases revenue this year despite the ADW contracts you describe, doesn't that prove other tracks can drop takeout rates? The ADW sites can't refuse bets from every track or they will be out of business.

Tracks in other states have had better takeout for years. Jeff Gural runs Tioga Downs with lower takeout rates and I've never heard him complain that ADW sites won't accept his signal because of it.

By the way, all three PA tracks operate internet betting sites.

Pacingguy said...

My understanding is the takeout experiment at Tioga was not successful. If not for the racino, the rake may have changed.

Of course, a rate cut doesn't automatically get you booted from ADWs, it is how much you cut, how the contract is written, and how popular the signal is; it is all factored in.

Many times, rebates are cut by ADWs to keep their profit margin; hurting customers. Again, depending how deep the takeout is cut will decide what the ADW will do.