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Monday Musings on Price, and the "What Have You Done For Me Lately's"

Good morning. It was an interesting weekend in Horse Racing Land, so here are a few thoughts on that, along with some general musings.

It's One Race, Take a Breath

I read on the twitter, after Palace Malice lost in the Whitney, some serious angst. Pletch could not find a thing wrong with him, sheets guys were looking for bounce clues, hand wringing ensued. Pletch must've panicked a bit when the blood came back good too, because he added blinkers for his next work. This is the horse that ran like a quarterhorse with them on in the Derby.

Sunday, Father Patrick, the very good three year old of Takter's who has only lost once, lost again. He was beaten by the good Datsyk.  Father Patrick, who can sprint home as fast as any trotter out there who is not named Sebastian K, had no response, crawling home in only 28.2 off cheap splits. Enter hand wringing.

We truly do live in a what have you done for me lately horse racing society.

Both Palace Malice and Father Patrick - like thousands of horses throughout racing history - will come back next time and answer the question that needs answering: Was it a fluke or is something wrong with them?

It was one race. Nine times out of ten these types bounce back - it was an allergy, or the horse had a bad day, or a dozen other reasons. No need to go crazy about it until it becomes some sort of a trend.

Where's the Money?

I keep checking the handles and I don't see much that gives me any confidence the tide is turning. Del Mar handle, dutifully updated on Racetrack Andy's email list, has been poor. Saratoga is seemingly softer. For years now, everyone wants to point to one thing for the decline. "Lack of cooperation", "PETA", "bad trainers", "smaller foal crops"; the list is literally 100 miles long. What I point to is pretty simple. There are fewer people betting horse racing. This year, like other years, I have heard from so many players who say they are fed up. Pricing is going higher, like at Churchill Downs. Signal fees are going higher, where it is harder to make money long term. There are fewer and fewer races to bet with proper field sizes.

Horse ownership can move up and down with something as simple as the stock market. If your Apple stock realizes a 40% gain since 2007, you can take a little out and buy a horse. The economics are what they are. Horseplayers do not take money out of their investments to buy a superfecta ticket. They use the money gained from other bets to finance their bankrolls. Their bankrolls are growing smaller and they are leaving.

I heard from one chap last week. He bets probably close to ten million a year. "I'm playing more poker" he tells me. If you think he's the only one who has done that since 2008 (I forgot, it's "the economy" right?) I think you're living under a rock.

Speaking of That....

Beyer has a piece about the Players Pick 5 and lower rake in general in the DRR and WaPo:
  •  Even with the low takeout, it benefited the industry. When horseplayers handicapped the pick five, they formulated opinions that led them to the races individually. When the wager was introduced at Hollywood, Panza said betting increased significantly on the early races of the card. The pick five became the best argument ever made for the virtues of lower takeout.
 Fort Erie supports the Equilottery

"Scheme", What in the hell is a scheme? Only in horse racing

Racing Victoria, a down under racing jurisdiction, creates a "scheme" to lure offshore punters back into the pools.  The "scheme" is to offer part of the margin back, through a takeout reduction.

The curious thing is, as the industry has evolved in the free market, Australia never had it better.

With the state run totes, offering very little in the way of innovation and price breaks to regular players in the early 2000's, offshore wagering was sky high. According to the AWC, offshore wagering was 37.7% of the market in 2003. In 2011, this number fell to 13.8%.  Corporate bookmakers (which came aboard from 2007-2010), offering a square price, betting exchanges, innovation and a good price, as well as their advertising dollars helped bring people back onshore.

But, that was not good enough for racing. They've been after more money from them to "support the industry" (racing has never met a margin they don't like hiking, especially if it's popular). As those margins are increased, of course, players' margins decrease and some head offshore.

Now racing is back, trying to undo what they've done. This is like hitting yourself in the head with a frying pan and wondering why your head hurts.

Racing in North America, which continues to do similar should take heed; they won't. It's all about squeezing the lemon for short term gain, while people leave in the long term. Then they have a symposium to blame the losses on something else.

Mohawk Thoughts

I don't put too much into the soupy track performances at Mohawk; that track can be tricky. But you can't help but be impressed with JK She's a Lady on Saturday.

I thought the Captain looked okay at Mohawk on the weekend. But people are beginning to see how he ran the table last year but is having trouble this season against better (and what good handicappers noticed last year): At the quarter he is chased along to pass in a dawdling type pace, just like he did last year several times. But this year a horse runs at him who has some talent (like Sunshine Beach did). In the Open events it's not only one who does, it's sometimes two or three. The Captain, who is fairly devoid of quick speed, can't make his own race by intimidating cheaper stock this season, even though he is the same horse. There are no more 55.2 halfs with a grind home.

Handle at the Hawk was over $2 million. Which is a sparkling number.

At the Gold Cup and Saucer, single file racing is not allowed. Wow, what a half mile track barnburner.


Have a nice day everyone.

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