In a press release dated today, Woodbine announced that their standardbred product will race 7/8 of a mile, or 7f for you thoroughbred players,each Monday night. It is to begin as an experiment next week.
"This distance is being introduced in an effort to try and improve flow of the races during the second and third quarters," said Bruce Murray, WEG's Vice-President of Standardbred Racing. "Although Woodbine has always been a front-end favouring track, it is readily apparent to customers and horse people that since the Fall Meet opened, it is more prevalent than ever. The drivers we've spoken to are in favour of trying it."
At the 7/8ths mile distance, the start of the race will be moved up the stretch to where the finish line is, creating a shorter distance to the first turn. It is hoped that this will lead to more action throughout the race.
For those that do not watch Woodbine, it is a 7/8's mile track. This means that the finish line is about an 1/8th of mile after the start. What happens with this is the drivers gun out big time at the start. There is a quick sprint to get position and then the turn comes. First quarters of 26 flat happen often. After that tough sprint the leader generally takes a rest, the rest of the horses settle and bam - very few challenges.
I believe there is much more to the lack of second quarter challenges at Woodbine and Balmoral, but so goes the theory.
So they hope that this might encourage some movement.
Of course, to revive harness racing and racing in general, changing something like this is small potatoes. Some tracks have a takeout equal to the Massachusetts State Lottery. They could run bikini clad Maxim girls to run around the track and we would not be able to grow enough to beat that takeout.
Cangamble has a good piece up today, by the way. He has been writing some good stuff of late.
Do these stats mean that people are gambling less? Absolutely not.
Take Canada for instance. $13.6 billion in gambling money was lost last year by Canadians last year. In 1992, only $2.7 billion was lost.
Canadians can and do bet on anything. Internet sports, poker, Pro-line, slots, all sorts of lotteries, oh and horse racing. We didn't have as many options in 1992, but we did have to go the track or the teletheatre to make a bet on a horse race.
In 1992 handle in Canada was $770 million, last year it was only $560 million. Not only is that shocking (I know slots took away a lot of it), but if racing grew at the same rate as total gambling grew in Canada, the handle number last year would have been over $3.5 billion.
In 2004, The Cummings Report was published. It seems that racing execs used the valuable information and recommendations in the 72 page report as toilet paper.