Monday, December 28, 2009

8 Questions for Harness Racing in 2010

At the end of every year I make a list, wondering if racing will get together and embrace some change. You'll be not surprised that nothing much has changed since I started the blog long ago now. Each year brings us important questions, and here are a few I think are important for 2010.

1. Will harness racings flagship track bounce back from a terrible handle period?

- As most know the Meadowlands is a shadow of itself. $4M to $5M handles on a Saturday night, with deep fields, were once the norm. Now with Chester and Yonkers and their bandit cash taking more and more horses away from Jersey, it seems to be in a free fall. Star drivers follow the cash and they have abandoned the Jersey oval for a couple days a week as well, adding to the lost handles. Will they be able to reverse the trend? Will they be able to card deep fields? Will drivers say no to other tracks and support the Meadowlands? We'll see.

1a. Will the slot money cut in Pennsylvania mean a slice in purses?

- Earlier this year Pennsylvania cut slots funding by about 16%. Will this result in a purse slice for PA tracks?

2. Will there be racedate cooridination and purse pooling in Ontario?

- Woodstock races for huge purses, with no handles (oh, excuse me, they get about $10,000 in handle a day), while places like Windsor race for peanuts. Since about 2002 track owners and bettors have been asking for a change to the way purses are funded by purse pooling. Each year it is thwarted by horseman's groups. Is this the year something is finally done?

3. Will Woodbine harness embrace low takeout?

- With harness racing falling further and further down the foodchain, high takeouts still prevail at Canada's largest track. They have spent oodles on the racetrack, on infrastructure, on purses - on virtually everything to do with racing, except the bettor via the takeout rate. Is this the year we see a 14% pick 4, or a 12% superfecta to try and get some patrons back playing harness again?

4. Will other tracks try to stand out by offering new bets at a low takeout, or seeded carryover?

- Slots cash is everywhere and it supplies purses with the majority of their seed. In some places pari-mutuel handle only supplies 5% or 10% of purses - a mere pittance. Will the handle be looked at like a loss-leader by some smaller tracks whereby they lower takeout to try and get people interested again? Will they use the cash for something more than purses?

5. Will the Eaves era at WEG bring in a new direction?

- Since the early 2000's Woodbine is about the least available signal anywhere in North America and the general corporate culture on that point has been about signal protection. For example, on numerous ADW's one can bet Yavapai Downs (it is in Arizona, if you are wondering) or Cal Expo, but there is no Woodbine. Will they open up in 2010 and embrace the changing betting landscape?

6. Will there be a movement in Canadian racing to go after more ancillary revenue sources, or go after more racing revenue?

- Poker of the internet variety is soon to be offered in Quebec and British Columbia. Will racings strategy be to fight for a slice of it, or lobby for new ways to bet racing instead? I am betting the former, but the latter would be pretty cool.

7. Will there be a change in how inquiries are handled in 2010?

- Horse hits another horse, causes no real change in the race dynamic, judges look at video for twenty minutes, take down horse, turn the page, horseplayers shake their collective heads, wondering what just happened. In Australia recently they are reporting judges decisons in real time, with the reasoning behind them. As well, some other locales are putting time limits on inquiries to keep things moving (eg if you can't see a foul in five minutes, there probably isn't one). In the age of twitter, HD TV, and real time information sources, will we use them, or continue to pretend they do not exist?

8. Will HPI finally offer bet tracking?

- It is not a shock that people lose betting racing - 22% takeouts almost assure you do. ADW's in the US, like Youbet, Twinspires and all others offer a system to help you keep track of your losses (or wins) and help you be a better player. HPI has avoided this like the plague and it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out why. It would be nice to start the year with openness and transparency by having HPI offer a MYROI system like youbet does (youtube video attached).

Happy new year everyone!


Cangamble said...

Regarding inquiries. Call it a booth review like they do in football, and give them 240 seconds to make a decision.
I'd rather see races stand, and let them go through the appeals process later, than have my monies fate be determined on what amounts to a coin toss, which is usually the case, the longer the inquiry takes.

That Blog Guy said...

You may be forgeting the judges talk to the driver(s) involved as well when deciding an inquiry. It may take a minute or two for them to get back to the paddock to a phone.

Pull the Pocket said...

NO I aint forgetting it. I think it is archaic. Do referee's ask the offensive linemen if they are held?

Referee's have a game to run, we have a business to run. Hop to it.


Cangamble said...

When a jockey or driver claims foul I can see them having to tell the 3 blind mice where the foul took place and the nature of the foul, but that should take 30 seconds. And there is no need interviewing the accused unless the accused wants to launch an inquiry on another horse.
The jockey simply tells the outrider who uses a walkie talkie, or maybe even a cell phone (since they have been invented already) to alert the stewards.

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