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45% Hit Rates With Chalk? Big Keeneland Opener, Pick 5's, Suffolk Downs

Good morning racing folks.

Earlier this week at the TDN, Younger gamblers - Millennials - and horse racing was examined.  Today, in Harness Racing Update, the phenomenon was explored with a focus on harness racing. It's a long piece, but I hope you read the harness version and let me know what you think.

It did dawn on me that millennials who are smart, educated, like playing games of some sort, are not unlike anyone, any age, who is smart, educated and likes playing games of some sort. Really, if you fix one issue, you fix others.

One of the examples used in the piece was hit rates for favorites driven by a top driver, in this case Brian Sears and Jason Bartlett at Yonkers. Those two win at 45% rates with the chalk at Yonkers, over the last two years. Their ROI's are somewhere around -15%. That's the type of win proposition you are giving people who are smart gamblers, and it's just a non-starter.

Conversely, the industry constantly tries to attack "lotto players" with jackpot bets. Jackpot bets can work and do drive some handle, but we are selling them to existing players, not like they do in Sweden for example, where the V75 is sold to the masses.

For racing handles to improve, to go bigger tent, it needs to attract skill game gamblers with targeting on the low end - win and exacta, for example. The high end needs to be sold to the masses, who might play Keno at a casino.

I remember a conversation I had a few years ago at Keeneland with Mike Maloney. He said something that stuck with me and I agree with when it comes to the younger bettor. "You can't out-casino a casino".  To attract younger bettors you won't get them with free drinks or hats, you will get them - long term - by giving the smart subset of them a good gamble.

Speaking of Keeneland, the opener is today. Lenny has a preview up on HRN here. Dirt chalk has made the track a harder gamble - not unlike the piece linked above talked about - but with the highest juice at 19%, with well bet pick "n" pools, you can still swing some value. Other than Kentucky Downs, there might not be a better track to play for gamblers looking for an edge. The meet should improve on last year's poor numbers Fall meet, because at the end of it is the Breeders Cup. Field size should be a lot better, as long as the weather cooperates.

Woodbine started a Standardbred pick 5 last night, beginning in race one, at 15% juice. That number does not mean a lot to rebated players, but to the smaller player it can make a world of difference. I saw they did $17,000 last night, on a relatively poor handle night. I expect this bet to be a decent one ongoing for punters. Woodbine's betting menu for them is generally pretty poor, so this is a nice addition.

Yonkers is seeding their pick 5 for the International Trot card next Saturday. Take a look.

Tomorrow, Suffolk Downs debuts their "Kentucky Downs playbook" with 15% across the board juice. This is a very small, staggered meet, and the first day of it had higher chalk. It's probably going to be a tough sell, but I wish them luck. I will dabble with it tomorrow, because 15% on tris and supers is a really good bet. It's something you have a shot to beat.

I will also be having a look at the Red Mile today and this weekend. The meet is in full swing.

It shows just how good a game racing can be if done right. I have not, in the 500 words in the above, even mentioned that the Jockey Club Gold Cup is this weekend. Gosh this game, in my opinion, can be huge. It's got so much going for it.

Have a nice Friday everyone.

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