A lot of us, including most of you who comment and give the blog a read, love racing. Most of the time we get into discussions about the long term health of the sport. Usually the decisions made in racing are very short term in nature - like a quick bump of purses hoping things will get better, cutting off an ADW which does not pay a high signal fee, or signing a status-quo deal after a horseman and track dispute. However, at times, there are some decisions that are made that want to change the way our sport operates, with a long-term vision in regards to its health.
Yesterday the Hambletonian Society announced that in 2018, no horse will be eligible to race in the premier event, unless they are sired by a horse four years or older.
The hope is that, in the long term, we will see more and more excellent three year olds not have their careers cut short, allowing them to go on and perform for fans, and the people who love watching great horses race.
This is a very bold step. The Hambo Society is stocked and supported by breeders and owners who make their living's buying and selling three year old stock for stud. Once you get the taste of the $8M syndication apple after less than 24 months of owning a colt, it's something you want more of, and you continue to spend on that cycle, trying to recreate it. For them to come right out and take this stand, it took some guts.
They will be criticized for this, and they will be hammered for it by some, but they have a friend in their corner: The long term health of the sport. They are trying to fix a problem on the betting and marketing side which has been complained about for 20 or more years. The funny thing (and I have always said harness racing is a leading indicator to what happens in thoroughbred racing, and I believe it) the runners could do better with this policy than the square gaiters - it's an absolute crime what the handicap division has become in that sport.
Similarly, chats about takeout usually degenerate into an "us versus them" argument. But once again, this is not about the short term, it's about long term customer cultivation. Dropping takeout will not save racing (just like having stars race after their three year old career will not save racing), but for the long term, pricing your product to make the most money, and to generate the most betting interest is a sound business practice for the sport. It takes time, patience, some hard work, and a willingness to know you are doing the right thing.
I received this from Balmoral Park a couple of days ago. It's a grid of pick 4 handle since they dropped their takeout in 2010 to 15% (click to enlarge):
I remember chatting with someone soon after this initiative took place. I was stoked at the way the handle was starting to grow very early on, but this insider multiplied 25% of $8000 and compared it to 15% of $12,000 and said "horsemen make more money for purses before, so they should go back to the way it was".
It's not about the short term, it's about the long term and I am very glad we have people in our sport like the Hambo Society and Balmoral Park. They are not thinking about tomorrow, they are thinking about many tomorrow's.
There is always a marketing angle that astounds me in this world. Betfair's astounds me. H/t Equidaily.
The Confederation Cup goes this weekend and the two heat event is a must see for fans. Each year the track goes all out, the stands are full, and the racing is fantastic. I am going to miss it this year, but will be watching via the internet. Full field and posts are here.
Word is coming out of California that takeout will be lowered - no one is sure what bets, or by how much.
Samshu Bluegrass has passed on at age 30. I enjoy looking at old sire and dam lines, and foal production, and there is a link to her wonderful career on SC. I look at the sires chosen for her, and wonder what a hot sire breeding would have done in terms of foal ability. On the Road Again, Goalie Jeff, Magical Mike and Precious Bunny were never really hot sires.
There is a lot of hand-wringing from New York racing and its supporters (or apologists depending on your POV) regarding Santa Anita given the Breeders Cup in 2012. Some points make sense to me, however it seems the BC wants to race in good weather and near prime time for the Classic - something I tend to agree with. Santa Anita is perfect for that, while Belmont, or most any east coast track without lights, has trouble guaranteeing either. Regardless, I find it somewhat funny that some folks are saying the BC is out of touch. They have made better decisions than any racing jurisdiction I know of. This event is growing and expanding.
Have a good Thursday everyone.