I've been wrong so far regarding Monmouth Park on how much their handle would be up. I was thinking 50% when taking the fewer days and possible bigger field size. I wasn't taking into account that they would card more races though. All in all, they've pretty much doubled their handle after 2 days. Still a long way to go.
Here are a few thoughts on what I've seen so far:
Their takeout rate doesn't repel bettors, so the marketing that was put into this has successfully shifted some horseplayer money. They were ranked 10th by HANA when it comes to takeout score, with a 17% takeout rate on WPS, 19% on Ex's and DD's, a very low 15% on Pick 4's and their special 50 cent Pick 5. Triactors, supers, and pick 4's are still on the high side at 25%.
Field size is up a lot. It will be interesting if this trend continues. The $1500 paid workout concept definitely attracts entrants. Whether that is good for the horseplayer or not, it is very hard to say. Will sore horses (who can get past the vet) be entered more often to run instead of taking the needed healing time between races? It isn't for the bettor's interest if a horse is just entered with the sole purpose of picking up $1500.
The purses are deceptive. In lower level claiming races with big fields, only around 45% goes to the winner (because the purse amount includes the $1500 that gets paid out to those who finish in the bottom half or more of the field.
I think luring Garrett Gomez has helped gain followers from across the USA.
The quality of horse attracted isn't something to write home about. Using speed figures, I don't see allowance horses being a different caliber than what is found at other A tracks. Of course, the claiming events have horses running for deflated tags, which has been a great boon so far for the claiming game. So a $5,000 claimer is really a $10,000 claimer. It means that owners who have true 5 claimers, are just running for the $1,5000 in most cases.
The high amount of claiming going on right now at Monmouth is great for the game. When the lower priced horses establish a sale price, it means that all horses increase in value. When horses are being claimed, it means there are a lot of eyes checking out the entries looking for value. It also means that more connections are likely to go to the track.
What if Woodbine were to try this?
First off, their purses are great to begin with. However, giving out half of what Monmouth does right now is only yielding them around 25%-33% of the handle Monmouth is getting.
Woodbine's track takeout actually does hinder their popularity in a very large way. Check out this discussion about TVG and the feelings of the commenters regarding Woodbine's takeout.
Of course, there is also the dirt versus poly issue, and it is pretty clear that there are people that hate artificial surfaces.
I wonder what kind of affect guaranteeing $1000 or more a starter would have on Woodbine's entries. Their field size has usually been healthy, but this year especially, it seems that there are days where they are struggling to fill the card.
I've always said that more money should be given to lower level horses, and less to the allowance horses at Woodbine. Keeping more owners in the game is a key to growth. And again, having horses run for their true value or even less than their true value ignites claiming, which is good for the track, and good for horse racing.
I'm not a fan of the less is more philosophy. Racing's ultimate viability depends on having a the greatest number of people who make a living because of racing. Once dates are carved, a message is sent to the low level horsemen and owners to get out. And if enough get out, governments need to examine if the sport is necessary, and/or should be subsidized as much, or at all.
I strongly believe that pricing of the gamble needs to be experimented with, long before the industry experiments with cutting dates.
Race Night on The Score Tweaked To Bet Night
So they are going to try to focus on lessening the intimidation factor a newbie must overcome when it comes to handicapping races. That is good in theory. But this doesn't tackle the big issue: Why would anyone want to be a newbie handicapper/bettor in the first place?
It isn't like poker where there are examples of long term winning players. Nowadays, if someone even becomes remotely interested in betting on horses, they do a Google search, and find a site like mine which tells the truth, that without substantial rebates, you just aren't going to beat the horses in any significant way, if at all. In other words, there is absolutely no good reason for a newbie watching Bet Night to learn the game when Woodbine has a 27% takeout on triactors, and a 26.2% takeout on Pick 3's and supers.
I can see why someone would take up poker, but taking up horse racing through HPI and Woodbine? Gimme a break.
Note to Woodbine: You need visible winners. You need to reduce takeout.
Fort Erie still showing dismal handles, tiny field size
I really want Fort Erie to make it, but since they haven't budged on their absolutely ridiculous takeout rates, to me, they aren't really trying.
Sunday handle is a joke. Always has been though. They would do themselves a huge favor, and they would increase field size if they tweaked things a bit. Cut out Sundays, run 11 race cards on Monday and Tuesday, for a total of 24 a week, and with the extra purse money from eliminating 2 races, add that to the purses of the remaining 22 races.
It was reported to me that jockeys are being fined like crazy at Fort Erie for excessive whipping violations.
Jockeys can't whip more than twice in succession, and then there is a count in the stretch a jockey can't exceed either. Not sure how many times that is.
This is affecting bettors too. On Tuesday in the fourth race, apprentice jockey Neil Husbands got fined for excessive whipping in the stretch. His mount one the race by a small margin, beating out a horse ridden by Mike Mehak, who wasn't violating the rules. In other words, had Mehak violated the rules (some can say cheat) and Husbands had not, the results would most likely been reversed.
Should this type of violation lead to a disqualification? I think yes. If a jockey visibly uses a buzzer, and the stewards catch it in time, the horse would get thrown out I believe. There really isn't much of a difference in this case.
The amount of the fine is also of concern. It is apparently the same at Woodbine as it is at Fort Erie. A $200 fine at Fort Erie to a jockey that wins a race is a much greater chunk of their share of their pay check than it is at Woodbine in most cases. How about making it one half to 100% of what the jockey makes on the mount? That would be fairer, and it would be a pretty decent deterrent which will keep jockeys playing by the rules.
When it comes to whipping rules in general, I think bettors want jockeys to try to win if it take whipping 3 times in succession or 2 times. And it is probably true that some horses need to be whipped 3 times in succession, instead of 2.
Super Trainers Are A Deterrent To Horse Racing
Here is a case of a harness horse getting claimed and then knocking off seconds from his life time best. It is way too suspicious. The horse in question is aptly named Real Joke.
Guilty until proven innocent might be fine and dandy when it comes to the judicial system, but it is a great way to watch both watch honest horsemen and owners and gamblers disappear.
Too many drugs in the sport today. And there are always trainers who are one step ahead of the testing barn.
In Real Jokes case, it might have been the shortening of the hopples and the swimming that turned him around within a week or two, but most in the industry aren't buying it, nor should they.
NEWS OF THE WEIRD
At Presque Isle Downs, a guy who banned himself from the casino had to forfeit winnings of $2,000 on a slot machine, and he was charged with trespassing as well.
Imagine if he won a super jackpot instead? And did Presque Isle return any losses he had prior to winning? Probably not. The dude could only lose. Much like anyone who bets horses without rebates:)