While insiders talked about the "sport" in almost every instance, I was talking about what a lot of us like to bet. At one point at the harness conference I presented the heretic point of view that we liked i) full fields and ii) we don't care who is driving the horse. This was not said too often - the prevailing thought was big "names" and "stars" draw handle, even if in a five horse field where one of them is 2-5 - but as serious horseplayers you and I know that to be true.
Tonight in HRU (pdf), Jeff Gural in one paragraph shows how far the game has come.
- "Gural said he has also changed his mind on the impact name drivers have on the betting handle. When Sears and Brennan left he said he thought their absence would lead people to bet less on the Meadowlands product. "It doesn't affect the gambling end of it as they don't seem to care who drives," he said.
- [on field size] "Saturday is a disaster; way too many short fields," he said. "It is disappointing and I don't know what happened. Having a Saturday night card with all these short fields will cost me a half million in handle, which we can ill afford with all the bad weather we've been having and the negative impact that's had on our business."
The Big M is not carding races with the best horses, the highest purses, or the best drivers. But they are carding bettable races. Just this evening they made sure they had 10 horse fields for their pick 5 carryover. You can count on one hand how many tracks worry about things like that.
In thoroughbred racing it is slightly different. A top stakes card tends to be bet more than a regular card of claimers; however, a pick 4 with three trap races with 1-5 chalk still tend to be a disaster. A lot of tracks need work when scheduling their pick 4 and 5 races. They could take their cue from the Big M, and begin to lose the old time thinking that affected harness tracks for years.
Also in HRU, a marketing thought on what makes harness racing different is a strength, not a weakness.
This summer the “sport” of harness racing will do best where it always does best. The Little Brown Jug will attract thousands of State Fair goers with small town sensibilities, good food, and beer in paper cups. Charlottetown, PEI, will pack them in for the Gold Cup and Saucer and you won’t be able to walk down the street of the city without someone asking “who do you like in the big race?” The big race is a $60,000 Free For All, of course, which is tantamount to a regular feature on any given Saturday at Yonkers.
To read that, it's on page 4
Enjoy your Friday everyone.