Good morning racing fans!
Saturday has come and gone, and in my opinion (if you returned from a 40 year time warp), it was one strange Saturday.
Last evening at Charles Town, Game On Dude won the $1.5 million Charles Town Classic. The race, one of the richest in North America, drew six entrants. It was held in the middle of West Virginia, at a bull ring.
At Yonkers, the Levy Series continued, with $50k divisions and the best horses, trainers and drivers on the planet. It was held at a place with a low handle, about 350% lower than across the bridge, where they are racing $10,000 claiming finals on a Saturday. It produced, as usual, some of the worst betting races known to man.
Neither of those places are doing anything wrong. Charles Town has put on a good race, have slot cash, have lowered rakes, do good promotional work, and have turned a backwoods racetrack into a place people have begun to pay attention to. Yonkers has done less on the customer front, but why not attract good horses and participants to your track for a Saturday card? They got's slot cash too.
Meanwhile, in Chicago, Hawthorne, a privately owned track with no slots, put on the Illinois Derby. It was for $750,000, produced a thrilling race, included a large, full field, and was won by a horse who certainly would have a shot at the Derby. But the Grade III race was taken out of the Derby points scheme. As well, there's a goofy signal fight in Illinois, where in state horseplayers are being screwed from playing the races at an ADW.
If you rolled back the clock 50 years, or found yourself in a David Lynch time travel movie, none of those things would make much sense. Today, in horse racing, it is simply reality. Slots money has diverted purses, but it has not brought with it a change in customer behavior or betting dollars. Politics has changed the Kentucky Derby too. Signal fights? Well, I guess they've been here since the Interstate Horse Racing Act and are not going anywhere. For bettors who say there is not a horsemen group who even remotely notices or cares about them, they're probably right; but a horsemen group is there to protect themselves, not customers.
Regardless, having $1.5 million races with six horses in a small state, at a small track, racing for big money in harness racing with few handle dollars, or having a Derby prep not be a Derby prep dependent upon who says what, and what politics are currently happening, is horse racing in this day and age. It is what it is.