Last night's Meadowlands opener, by most on-track accounts, was solid. The crowd was estimated at 15,000 and they bet a whopping $530,000. Total handle for the evening was soft, however, falling just short of $3M. The late pick 4 guarantee was also not hit, missing by about $12,000.
The card itself was pretty good, but Mother Nature did not cooperate, and that made betting these races problematic. The cold and swirling winds caused a pronounced speed bias, and even last quarters of 32.1 were hard to close into. While the handle for the first race was very solid, you could see the bettors cash leaving the balloon after we saw that one, and perhaps the first two or three. I did not hear a lot about the second pick 4 guarantee on the simulcast screen. Perhaps that's why it was not hit.
Funny enough, I was playing Mountaineer last evening and there was a stout outside closers bias in their snow and cold (they cancelled after race 6). The rest of the tracks were brutal last evening, so no doubt a lot of players were chased away.
In the end, if the weather cost the Big M less than $500k of handle I would be shocked. There were also too many races (13 is well above optimal; that's the type of stuff the Meadows uses to dole out slots money).
I was disappointed with something you complain about, and have complained about for years - drivers not trying while being very well bet. On that speed track Market Share, for example, was given a no try trip and had almost zero shot. He was 2-5. Somehow, in the Open, the favorite won from last (lucky there was no traffic I guess). When a horse is well bet a lot of drivers will give the horse a shot to respect customers. Some drivers (and it is mostly the same drivers) don't seem to care.Until lack of effort fines are doled out, this will not change. The chances of that are slim; this sport cannot get out of its own way.
I was surprised they went so hard in the TVG prep. We learned a few things in that race, in my opinion. One, Foiled Again enters the TVG sharp and two, Bolt the Duer looks like he might be done for the year. He has not been sharp the last four or five weeks. Looking at speed figures and depth of field, I would suspect the Captain would be hard pressed to hit the board if the field is in good form in the FFA division, but now I wonder. Only a few horses in the older division look sharp, and a couple, like Rocknroll Dance, are retired or stopped with.
As bettors we certainly give the opener an "incomplete". We learned very little about the reversed track and we should pitch last nights results when handicapping next week (other than the obvious - giving less credit to leaders and more credit to horses who closed at all), and go from there. Next Saturday is one of the better race cards of the year.
It was enjoyable to watch the inaugural card and I am happy so many people came out. The Big M has budgeted for more on-track handle, and $530k gives them a nice head start. Even with the weather, there was plenty more good than bad, and that's a good thing.
Notes: I juxtaposed yesterday Scott Zeron's thoughts on the rules and judges with Tetrick's. Martin let Tetrick have it on a chat board.
How do you spell frustration? HANCOCK. People like to think it's 'just Joe Drape' that talks about this in incendiary language. They're wrong. There are a lot of people fed up with this business - the rule breakers, the lack of foresight, the lack of big picture thinking, the culture. You won't read a more in-your-face diatribe from an insider, ever.
We surmised on SM that Vegas Vacation was spent and had some issues in the Breeders Crown and would be shut down for 2013. He wasn't and returned to win the Matron. He is done now though. It's reported his issues need some time.
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