In the wake of the massive drop in wagering here in Canada and elsewhere, and the recent news of handle drops in thoroughbred racing (Del Mar off, rumours of another overall down quarter like the first), it looks like we are a long way away from seeing growth. As this drop in demand occurs, we seem to see more and more supply. Once again, as Andrew Beyer put it in a recent column, the racing business seems to be one that thinks the principles of business do not apply to it.
Just to illustrate how much racing there is, and how we can now pick and choose what we want to play, and when, consider this:
Twenty years ago I would go to Greenwood Raceway. If the card was bad, the weather was bad, the track was off, the wind was messing things up, I would still play. Hey, there was nothing else to do. You bet Greenwood, or went home.
Today what I do is completely different, and we all do this. If it is raining at the Meadowlands and three horses break in the first, we turn off the M and head to Woodbine and bet there, where it is sunny. If at the Meadowlands there is a massive run of supertrainers winning everything off the claim at 2-5 prices, we can change the channel.
It struck me recently. I play a little bit of Mohawk and some Mountaineer at night. Mohawk racing seems to have been fair and worth putting a couple of dollars on. Mountaineer has for most of the year had a decent speed bias, where in my pace figures, the #1 rated first call horse has a 1.04 ROI. It was pretty much like shooting fish in a barrel. The past several weeks the track has played fairly fair. I quit betting Mountaineer, because I don't want fair, I want to have an edge. Similar happened this year at Del Mar. I could not figure that place out. And I did not care that I could not. Why, because I could play Monmouth where speed was ruling, or Turfway where outside late pace was winning.
Times have changed and we all know that; and there is choice. That is a good thing and we all do not deny that either, but when the pools are so watered down and we are betting against ourselves in many instances, well then it is a problem.
What should we do? We all know that there is far too much racing, but entrenched interests, alternative gaming that fund purses, government intervention and funding - many of those things that have existed in some form for 100 years or more, make it almost impossible to change. In a dream we would have four or five tracks, with meets, big purses, great crowds and a real buzz; and a smaller circuit for lesser competitors. We could follow these tracks, get to know all the horses, and move from bias to bias, meet to meet, and play in bigger pools. Not likely, but hey we can dream right?