Not sure which is worse—those who believe horse racing’s sun rises when Saratoga opens and sets when it closes, or those who claim the meet and its product are deteriorating. … No one likes to see declines in handle and attendance, but we need to put things in perspective. This is a meet and a city that rely heavily on out-of-towners, and we all know there isn’t a whole lot of expendable cash these days. … And no matter your opinion on this year’s Monmouth Park meet, the bottom line is the Jersey track increased simulcast handle about $180 million at a time when the total pie is shrinking, so in effect it sucked that money from other tracks. For Saratoga to be off a couple percentage points in total handle is perfectly logical. No need for the New York Racing Association to apologize for it, because it doesn’t get much better than the Spa. … As for the elitists, we’ll see you Friday night at Turfway Park for claiming races and dollar beers.
Read some online commentary criticism of Delaware Park’s experimental exacta “bonus.” Three observations: 1. The promotion is strictly designed to generate some ontrack interest. 2. It’s not exactly a takeout reduction, but it gives money back at a time when takeout rates are static—or increasing in the case of California. 3. Last but not least, GIVE THEM CREDIT FOR DOING SOMETHING FOR THE HORSEPLAYER.
Several years ago I remember looking at some past-performances and seeing the track abbreviation “OSA.” I thought the horse had raced in Osaka, Japan, but found it stands for “Oak Tree at Santa Anita.” I found it odd the industry would confuse bettors so one racing association could identify its meet; reality is the races are all run on the same Santa Anita surface. … There is a long history of associations running meets at other tracks, but when Meadowlands ran part of its meet at Atlantic City, the track abbreviation in the PPs didn’t change to “MAt,” and when Atlantic City ran part of its meet at the new Garden State Park, it wasn’t changed to “AGS.” … OK, so what will we get when Oak Tree races at Hollywood Park? “OHo”? … Oh no.
On the topic of data, why is it the abbreviation appears as “OSA” in Daily Racing Form and “Osa” in Equibase programs? For an industry that constantly screams about uniformity, how about uniformity in data—that comes from the same source?
It’s pretty well-established simulcast programs are the bane of my handicapping existence, and here’s another update: During a recent visit to an Ohio harness track, I paid $5 for the Daily Racing Program (which still lacks key information we used to get in simulcast programs, by the way). It was marked $4 ontrack and $5 retail. … Was I ripped off again? Not sure. Maybe harness tracks charge more, which makes no sense given the fact much of their purse money comes from handle on Thoroughbred simulcasts. You would think they’d be handing the things out for free.
On a similar note, bettors at River Downs on Labor Day didn’t get their money’s worth. The DRP had about 15 tracks in it, but only two or three PP lines per horse and few jockey and trainer standings in an effort to conserve space. … When is the industry going to do something about this given the fact it’s the industry’s data? If I didn’t know any better, I’d suspect a conspiracy of sorts—and the customer is paying for it. ... As for River Downs, with little promotion and no Cradle VIP party, the place was very crowded, another sign racing has a lot of life to it.
Caught a glimpse on television monitors of a nice crowd at Parx Racing (the old Philly Park) on Labor Day, and got a photo of the interior of the renovated first floor of the grandstand sans slots. Have to give credit where it’s due, even if the renovations are way overdue. The joint looks comfortable enough again to plan a visit--after a two-year boycott.
Monmouth Park’s “Elite Summer Meet”—or 49 days of the 50—ended Labor Day, and no matter how many holes people try to poke in it, the bottom line is any track that can double total handle on its product (about $180 million despite 33 fewer racing days) did something very right. And before you believe the Jersey mantra that the meet lost more than $10 million, wait until you see a detailed breakdown—which you may never see. Was OTB revenue included? Is there still Breeders’ Cup reconstruction debt on the books? Was the casino purse supplement counted as expense even though it didn’t come from pari-mutuel sources? Was any track revenue used for other New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority expenditures? And the list goes on. … Who knows what the 2010 meet will mean for 2011 and beyond, but one thing is certain: Jersey got it right this time.
Unsettling but not unexpected: The Kentucky Department of Agriculture recently announced that chicken farming had taken over from the equine industry as the top agriculture-related producer by gross receipts in the state. … Something smells really bad, and we all know it isn’t horse crap.