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Keeneland's Pari-Mutuel Checkers

Keeneland's fall meet is now over, ending with a handle decline and a big thud. I think these tweets from everyday type horseplayers summed it up pretty well:

The meet that everyone looked forward to, that everyone prepared for, that everyone was sad to see go, is relegated to just another meet now. The 2014 Fall Meet was very different than the ones we've been used to since 2006. Keeneland's edge with worldwide players was that it was pari-mutuel chess - a deep handicapping mind game with a stout payoff if you're right. This fall it moved to pari-mutuel checkers - a rudimentary 40%+ dirt chalk fest that has befallen track after track the last few years. 

The proof is in some of the numbers: Dirt field size below 7.75, almost 300% fewer shippers to the poly, from Presque Isle, Woodbine and Arlington Park. This killed overall payoffs. On poly in 2013 in the fall, the average mutuel was $17.38. On dirt this fall, it was $11.13. In a game with 20% blended rakes, $11 payout averages are horseplayer suicide.

Racing must learn what makes players tick. It's not about what type of surface a horse runs on, it's not about if your track gets a Breeders' Cup (we can bet a BC at another track, we really don't care), it's not about food trucks or bands, it's not about what the Daily Racing Form tells us to think. We need good races to bet. Keeneland last year provided it, this year it did not. If other tracks follow and make decisions that decrease field sizes or makes races "easier to handicap" it only drives another nail in this industry's coffin.


Comments

Anonymous said…
Small players don't care if they are raked out of the game. They want "winners". The problem: Racing can't survive with those players.

RG
Ron said…
If we're being realistic, it's "parimutuel suicide" for any player not receiving rebates. If they had 12 horse fields with no rebate, you're still going to lose long term. With that said, it did appear to be a disappointing meet in all aspects. To Keeneland's credit, they are a little more rebate friendly than most of the other big tracks.
Anonymous said…
I noticed on twitter that in the last race today Woodbine had a 6-1 favorite in a 14 horse field. I wonder (I don't follow Woodbone) if Woodbine got a boost from the surface switch at Keeneland.
cjm said…
Actually the favorite in that race at Woodbine wound up at 3-1 or 7-2, forget which.
Anonymous said…
If you don't follow Woodbine, you're missing a lot. Or you're a fool.