Sunday, August 8, 2010

Hambletonian Card Recap - Third Highest Handle in History

This year's Hambletonian was a good one with Muscle Massive edging out Lucky Chucky in a very quick 51. Over $1M was bet on the race, and the overall handle was the third highest in Hambo history: over $8M.

Something we have been big proponents of on our little blog here is exporting races like this as far and wide as we can. Again this year the good folks at the Meadowlands and the Hambo society spread their signal out to several countries, and it paid off:

"International wagering was nearly $2.4 million, up sharply from the $1.97 million wagered on the 2009 simulcast. The Hambletonian was part of a seven-race bundle beamed to France, Monaco, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The first 10 races from the Meadowlands were sent to Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Estonia and Malta."

This is great news. However, I still think we are not maximizing handle as much as we should on these races. Trot races are fine for export, but for local players we like overnights with deep fields. Case in point, I believe that the two best races of the day to bet was the Hambo itself, and the last race, which was a simple conditioned race. The last race handled $340,000; the other late races (US Pacing Championship, Lady Liberty, OWH) handled much less. I believe we need to sprinkle these races throughout the Hambo card, and possibly save the 2YO trots for another day.

Regardless, it was a good day for longshot players. Put on a Show went down to defeat, resulting in massive show prices. She looked lame, or at the very least unable to handle the speed they were going. Shark Gesture was also beaten, shut down in the third quarter, which is unlike him, and George Brennan. Jody J sprung out, brushed by, and then it was too late for he big horse to get started up. As we alluded here earlier, we felt One More Laugh would be overbet and he was. Delmarvelous, who still looks rank - but fast - took him down easily. Both Poof She's Gone and Lucky Chucky seemed massively overbet to this capper and I know I am not alone. Both those horses were not head and shoulders above several others by any measure. Lucky Chucky really raced well and just fell short, though.

A few friends made it down for the card. They are thoroughbred players and have never visited a harness track. I got some rave reviews from them after the races (since one of them hit the pick 4 I expected him to be happy, though!). Quotes like "the people here are very nice and laid back. Owners are very unlike thoroughbred owners" was a comment that I expected. We are different in harness racing. We always have been and always will be.

The coverage on NBC was decent I thought, and better than previous years. Both Kenny Rice and Gary Seibel cut their teeth on harness racing and it shows. Donna Brothers called a driver a jockey, but that is one simple mistake - life goes on - I thought she did well, especially the feature on how a horse trots and breaks stride. The feature on Chuck Sylvester was good. Everyone in harness racing that I know really likes and respects Chuck. It's a sad story.

I really like the way the front paddock was highlighted. And one of my pet peeves is that the grooms and connections of the horses sometimes look like they just got out of bed on television, but not on this day. I am not sure who directed it (Moira Fanning of the Hambo Society or the Meadowlands) but the Hambo shirts on the grooms leading out the horses was a nice touch. We need to think of things like this in our sport.

Overall it was a good racing day. There were too many races that were unbettable perhaps, however bettors world wide still responded and it proves that this sport, if done right, can bring in some good numbers.

I hope everyone enjoyed it, and made some scratch.

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