Parx (Philly Park) has their big day today - The Cotillion and the Pennsylvania Derby. When Keeneland or NYRA or a dozen or more other tracks have a big day, most of the chatter on chat boards or social media is about, well, the big day. But with Parx it is usually different:
Is rumor true PARX to have zero-gravity room where horsemen float about & simply grab $100s out of the air Saturday? #purseinsanity
— Marcus Hersh (@DRFHersh) September 20, 2013
A couple of $1 million races at @parxracing tomorrow, Pa Derby & Cotillion. Friendly reminder the Parx treifecta takeout is 30% #larcenousIt never seems to fail. Parx's negative branding on some of their egregious takeout rates (it's not only Parx, it's the entire state of Pennsylvania's tracks) usually ends up trumping any good buzz. If a race is Fred Astaire, a horseplayer commenting on their takeout rates, or lack of respect for customers, is Ginger Rogers.
— Michael Dempsey (@turfnsport) September 21, 2013
Similarly, yesterday Santa Anita, along with the TOC, were chatting about the upcoming meet. In the (original) press release they noted pick 4 guarantees and that one was starting in race 1. As we all know, the lower rake pick 5, which has been a success, is raced in race one. The pick 5 was a brainchild of the tracks, along with horseplayers. They fought the horsemen group to get it put in, and it's no secret the TOC was not a fan.
The immediate reaction?
TOC and Santa Anita replacing the 14% low takeout P-5 with a 23.68% takeout P-4 is now leader for the most moronic move in racing historyThe pick 5 (and I still do not have the foggiest why their most popular bet was not mentioned in the release, it's like McDonald's saying "come one come all for our Filet o' Fish), is alive and well, so they tell me.
— Inside The Pylons (@InsideThePylons) September 20, 2013
But branding trumps all.
Reading the press release, knowing how sneaky SA/CHRB/TOC are & the fact it was Friday afternoon? Pretty easy to think PK 5 gone. #FactIf Keeneland puts out a press release with a mistake on takeout rates, customers say "that has to be a mistake" because Keeneland has branded itself on being customer friendly. In fact, in the early 2000's they wanted to lower their takeout to 12% in the WPS pools, but partner tracks said it was too low. We rarely if ever, worry about Keeneland not having a customers back.
— Mike Adams (@GateToWire) September 20, 2013
When California does the same thing? Customers immediately think they're getting screwed.
It's a lesson for racing - or any business really - when you have negative branding, it hurts you and it is something you need to pay attention to. There is a way to fix it, however. If you do customer friendly things, over time your customers will stop thinking you are out to fleece them.