21 July 2010

The Heat Is On; Pocono Downs Lowers Takeout From Absurd Levels

Pocono Downs, the used to have the highest specific takeout for any North American track, harness or thoroughbred. If you can believe it, they were charging 35% to Horseplayers on both triactor and superfecta wagers. That is going to change come August 2nd, when they lower the takeout on both wagers to 25%, which is still on the high side, but it is still a good start.

This means that Pocono will have a lower takeout on tris and supers than Woodbine which has a takeout rate of 27% for triactors, and 26.3% for supers.

Incidentally, the highest takeout in North America now belongs to Penn National which has a triactor takeout of 31%. On supers Penn charges 30% which is what Philly Park charges for both triactors and supers.

The lowest takeout in North America for triactors and supers is 19% and belongs to Keeneland and Churchill Downs.

The lowest takeout for any bet in North America is 12% (Retama for Pick 3's and doubles and Sam Houston for the Pick 3).

The lowest takeout on WPS belongs to harness track Tioga Downs (15%), they also have the lowest takeout on exactors in North America (17%).

To me, this move by Pocono happened because of mounting awareness over track takeout thanks very much to The Horseplayers Association Of North America. They were almost forced into this "experiment" as they like to call it, because they will be hosting The Breeders Crown this year, and at 35% their takeout rates would definitely be flashed all over the place, probably hurting their potential business immensely.

Richard Eng recently got interviewed by Trot Radio regarding his ideas about lowering takeout. Listen to it here. He dispels the myth that takeout doesn't matter because most Horseplayers don't know or care about it. The reality is that if a player cashes more, the player bets back more, lasts longer, and the more the person leaves the track with, the more likely they are to come back.

Lowering takeout is not a short term savior but a long term one. But increasing takeout, focusing on marketing high takeout bets, or doing nothing will only continue to kill the game as new Horseplayers do not come close to replacing those who quit or die.

Handle continues to decline, but there is a definite trend occurring

Hollywood Park just announced a 10% drop in handle for their recently ended meet, Lone Star was off a whopping 21%, so bad that Lone Star President, Drew Shubeck state that he is considering lowering track takeout next year. Why racetrack execs are waiting so long is still mind boggling.

Meanwhile, some good news, Indiana Downs was up 3% over last year. Indiana Downs has relatively lower track takeouts (especially on triactors and supers; 21.5%), but most importantly distributes their signal to all ADWs, and at a reasonable level.

They were graded an A for signal distribution by HANA. Hollywood was rated a D, while Lone Star earned an E (being a Tracknet track where they don't distribute to all ADWs, limit rebates, and charge a fee that is above average).

There seems to be a shift, as more and more Horseplayers look for rebates, if they live in a jurisdiction where they can get them, towards tracks that offer the best net takeout (track takeout minus rebate). This is true amongst the biggest players as well. Value is becoming a key word amongst the regular players more than ever.

Fort Erie is destined to suffer handle wise as they have yet to do anything about their ridiculously high takeouts. They basically stick it to their on track customer by charging 26.2% for almost every exotic (28.2% for triactors). Think about it, how is a business expected to grow their live customer base when they take out 26.2% on exactors and doubles. When it comes to the daily double, Fort Erie has the highest takeout in all of North America, and they have the second highest takeout when it comes to exactors.

Worth repeating:



One thing where Fort Erie recently received a bad rap they didn't deserve is in a recent column by Bill Finley Reasons To Be Cheerful. His 8th reason commends Woodbine, but unfairly blasts Fort Erie and three other tracks:

8. The sport has finally turned a corner in how it regards people who abuse their animals. Many tracks have put in rules that lead to the ban of anyone caught sending a horse to slaughter. And Woodbine sent a strong message when it banned owner Bruno Schickedanz and his trainer after they violated track rules and worked out 13-year-old Wake at Noon, a former Canadian Horse of the Year. It was a callous effort to squeeze every last nickel out of a horse that had been very good to them, and it cost the horse his life.

It should be noted that not everyone is taking this matter as seriously as they should. Since the ban went into place, Schickedanz has started horses at Fort Erie, Mountaineer, Presque Isle and Thistledown. Shame on those tracks.

Until the Ontario Racing Commission rules on Schickedanz, it is proper business to allow him to race. I would argue that Woodbine should also allow him to race as well. If the ORC finds Schickedanz did nothing wrong, or something that warrants only a slap on the wrist, tracks that refuse his entry could be in for possible legal actions. Again, I think what Bruno Schickedanz did was deplorable and disgusting, but was it illegal the way the rules are written now?

The Prince Of Wales draws today in Fort Erie. Since I didn't get an invitation to the event, I won't be covering it:) But if you want some good info on the Prince of Wales check out Triple Dead Heat. I wonder if he got an invite. Keith is much nicer than I am.

Trainer Vito Armata is appealing 'a 45-day suspension and $1,500 fine that were issued following a stewards' ruling on a positive test for the Class 3 drug acepromazine, commonly used as a tranquilizer.'

The appeal process really pisses off many Horseplayers who believe that tracks are one step behind drug trainers to begin with, and even if they are caught they either get a slap on the wrist or are allowed to train thanks to a lengthy appeal process. Horseplayers want to see rules with a bite that create actual deterrence.

In this case, the violation happened in April, and the appeal date is yet to be determined.

Finally, a heart warming story about a new friendship between jockey Eurico Rosa Da Silva and a (formerly) troubled teenage fan.

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