Wednesday, December 29, 2010

"Cali-Racing Needs an Alan Mann"

I got an email this morning from an industry watcher. "California racing needs an Alan Mann".

Alan runs the blog Left at the Gate and proves blogger's can be journalists. He has a differing view of a race, or a track, or some of the issues like takeout than a lot of you, but the big part of his blog is more than that. He is a watch dog on New York racing. His posts on the subject of New York racing and its political games are frequent, concise and well-researched. He takes nothing at face-value and if he sees something that does not make sense, he calls them on it. He is not on some people's card lists.

This morning Caroline Betts, a professor of economics at USC ran some numbers from the Los Alamitos takeout hike. They are dreadful. Racedates were down, so there were less opportunities for racing participants, handle was down, and on-track handle was especially down. The racing shrunk.

The chart is self-explanatory - handle was killed.

Despite this obvious bad news, the CHRB earlier in the year talked about the numbers at a meeting and spoke of "handle per race" being up and that was the narrative they wanted to use.

Obviously this was a red herring, and with a little common sense we could figure it out:

1) Handle was down before they cut dates
2) Apples to apples standardized 4 day a week's which did occur, handle was down
3) Less dates means bigger fields and more betting opportunities - i.e. if I cut Woodbine to one day a week and had ten 14 horse fields, handle would certainly be up on a per day basis. Bigger bankrolls playing more betting interests.

So, a researched blogger would not take that at face value. He would look and do some digging.

If he did, he would further find out that Monmouth reduced dates like Los Al, but unlike them : overall handle was up.

"In 2009, the 141 T-bred race dates were split between Monmouth Park and the Meadowlands Racetrack, and, according to the report, total handle rang in at $354,867,156. In 2010, with nearly 50 per cent fewer race dates and racing consolidated at Monmouth, the total handle was $477,375,167."

This morning on the Paulick Report, Ray wrote an editorial talking about "handle per race", just like the CHRB talks about.

The story was not handle per race after hiking takeout, the story was that quarterhorse racing in 2010 after the takeout hike had less opportunities for racers, fewer customers, and smaller betting handles - exactly what we don't want in racing.

We need people to ask questions in racing, and do a little digging, or we will continue to give bad policy a pass. New York has it. California does not.

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