When a takeout increase is announced there's usually some grumbling. Let's face it, no one in their right mind is happy with a price hike; even a smaller but dedicated player who bets $1,000 in a meet and made $50 will find herself now losing money. No one likes to spend hours and hours at a craft, to lose when they used to win.
This time though, it feels much different. The breadth of the complaints are wider - horseplayers yes, but it's also industry watchers, some horsemen and some in the press. There's a sense of deflation from so many quarters. I think this makes some sense.
Over the years Keeneland has always been the track we've leaned on; the track we'd say to non-fans, "go to Keeneland, it's horse racing and they care." It's the track that when you walked in the door you felt catered to, important; whether you were betting $2, or bidding $2 million on a horse, it did not matter. It's the track where it seemed Nick Nicholson would spend as much time talking to customers, asking what they want to be better customers, as he would at the sales, shaking hands with breeders.
The Keeneland brand was built on these pillars; built on them so much that they are in their mission statement.
It's never like this at other tracks. We know CDI will run numbers and harvest bettors. We know So Cal and the CHRB to be mired in constant committee and usually come up with something we shake our heads at. Keeneland was the port in a storm. It was horse racing done right. It was the "do no evil" racetrack. They were Keeneland, they weren't them.
When a strong brand - any strong brand - is built on something and sold on something and then goes a full 180, it sticks out like a sore thumb. As I read someone say, it feels like a 'betrayal'.
In horse racing when you wake up and see a track slept with your husband, it is what it is; this industry has not made the best decisions. But with Keeneland, it's like you just found out they slept with your maid of honor on your wedding night. It's not who we thought our old friend was, and that punches you right in the gut.
Have a nice Wednesday everyone.
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