Monday, April 11, 2011

Speculation Sets Horse Racing Apart

Since 2007 we have said on the blog all along that horse racing represents the best gambling game in the world. It is an intellectual pursuit, which attracts people with some smarts, because it is a thinking man or woman's game.

This past weekend's events bring that into laser-like focus.

Uncle Mo races and is expected to crush. Uncle Mo loses, looking more like a claimer than a stakes colt.

Is he injured? Is he challenged by an extra half furlong? Did he have a cough? Will he run in the Derby? Will he be retired like Eskenedreya was?

If an NFL quarterback has a bad game, we ask him why he had a bad game. He might have a tender ankle, and although he won't use it as an excuse, we can probably surmise that was the problem. Sure there might be whispers of a drug problem or staying out all night the night before with a mistress, but we can ask him and hear it from the quarterback's mouth.

In horse racing there is no such thing, because horse's whinny. If we add in the simple facts that in this game, since about the beginning of time, injuries are kept quieter than a Bill Belichick injury report and money can be made in the huge Derby pools if you are right, we have a confluence of opinion that swells like a tidal wave.

Speculation is a part of this sport like no other:

In the last 48 hours after Mo's loss, there are pictures linked on a chat board of what appears to be a shaved knee. There are twitter posts about ankle problems. There are back links to April 15th 2010 where speculation was rampant that Esky had problems and should be a toss for the Derby, with people wondering if we are seeing it all over again. There are stories on blood tests to look for a spiked white count, or any other malady. There are people talking fitness and distance and on and on. It's like a treasure hunt where you get to be right or wrong, because everyone is thinking.

The thing is, everyone who is chatting about this comes from a different walk of life, adding fuel to the speculative fire. If you are a person focused on breeding, you are looking at the pedigree for stamina, and come to a conclusion. If you are simply a fan you might be focused on racing history and say "this looks like Favorite Trick again". If you are a sharp physical handicapper you are looking at the running-in Mo did, or the changing leads on the straight. If you are a horse owner, who after your horse throws a clunker gets a report of heat in the leg or an ultrasound of a tender tendon, you know all too well that's the big reason the clunker happened and it probably happens 100 times a day, so you are immediately thinking soreness.

As we spoke a couple of months ago, Derby futures and having an exchange is a real draw. We linked to Saturday's betfair trading chart as well, where Mo skied to 30-1 after the Wood, with several thinking that they have seen the colt for the last time. This is why we need an exchange in North America, linked to the world, and we need to promote the hell out of it. All of these people - bettors, grooms, fans, horsemen, everyone - has an opinion and some speculation. The ability to put your money where your mouth is should be there for everyone, at every minute, after every prep and before every prep.

If we let people act on their speculation and promote this niche we have on other sports and gambling games, there is little doubt in my mind racing can be on the minds of many more than it is today. Horse racing is the grandest betting game ever invented, and this weekend's ongoing speculation proves it. We stand alone.

1 comment:

Tinky said...

You are on to something important, which very few in the industry comprehend. Exchange wagering has the potential to radically increase handle, and the Derby future example is merely the tip of the iceberg.

The amounts traded on Betfair, as a direct result of hedging and arbitrage, is astonishing. And there's an aspect of it which I guarantee no (U.S.) racetrack owner or manager is aware of: the very races that make such executives cringe, i.e. those with short fields, are capable of produce shockingly big pools in an exchange context.

I could go on, but as I have stated many times before, exchange wagering – implemented and marketed properly – is the only thing remotely like a silver bullet available to the U.S. racing industry. Fighting it, as many industry leaders have, is every bit as stupid as was the legendary rebuffing of network television by the very same type of leaders in the 1960s.