In case you haven't seen this yet, a video of a duck and her ducklings at Woodbine during a high wind. Over 4 million hits. When was the last time a horse racing website got 4 million hits? Well here it is:
Funny, yes, but I see something more in this video. Something symbolic. The mother duck took newbies to the track, and they got blown out by Woodbine's high takeouts. They were unable to last very long, and they are likely not to return to Woodbine again. There is a computer term called Baby Duck Syndrome. It has to do with imprinting. Baby ducks bond with the first moving thing they see. It doesn't have to be a parent. In computer land it has to do with newbies having a tendency to stick with the keyboard, software programs, etc. that they were first exposed to.
Now in psychology, it has to do with keeping up with the status quo, and not trying different things. Hmmmm, sounds like what has plagued horse racing for years and years, especially when it comes to pricing the product and appeasing Horsepeople instead of Horseplayers.
Now back to the ducks on the video. Reports are that they haven't given up altogether (they liked betting). They are heading to Tampa Bay Downs. Tampa Bay, which opens up their 2010-2011 season tomorrow, has reduced takeout once again. They have dropped takeout on Pick 3's, 4's, the Pick 6, and their High Five to 18%.
The ducks are also going to take a gander at Hialeah, which has a 12% track takeout on all bets. They don't really understand quarter horse racing, but they are willing bet a few bills at a lower takeout venue after their not so pleasant experience at Woodbine.
The ducks have been educating themselves on the internet since their first exposure to horse racing, and they've decided to boycott California racing due to the upcoming takeout hike which comes into effect on December 26th. I wonder if it was the ducks who started this rumor that has shown up on Youtube:
H/T Andy Mays at Pace Advantage
I can't finish this post without applauding Woodbine (sort of) for bucking the industry trend and increasing handle. The fact handle dropped a little domestically was very predictable, because of their high takeouts and their continued practice of underpaying Horseplayers on many exotic wagers (they chase domestic Horseplayers away and have an impossible time creating new ones, as new Horseplayers will only get involved significantly if there are visible long term winners).
Pull The Pocket points out what Woodbine did right. It started out with David Willmot getting out of the way.
By the way, Willmot had a successful year this year as a quasi-lawyer. His presence and testimony was tantamount in winning the Fifty Proof case this year ("the gate was in working order, eh"). Of course, in order for him to have a future in law, he'll need to seek out more Kangaroo Courts.
On a sad note, Fort Erie trainer Billy Lane passed away after a long courageous fight with cancer. My condolences go out to his family and friends. He was a great guy.