Spending Money on Stakes? Make Sure You get Depth

I saw a tweet yesterday from a DRF tweeter mentioning that the Wood Memorial at the Big A is planning to pay out to last place. This, hopefully, allows the race to have a few more entrants than planned.

Industry types will often say it just adds traffic to the field, and another entry who can't compete is not good for anything. Sure, if the horse is 300-1 fair odds I suspect they are right, but if it attracts even one or two more capable horses, it will add to handle.

Back in 2008, when the HANA racetrack ratings were introduced, field size was a main component. Emprically, and theoretically, adding a horse to a field adds choice and more combinations, and when choices are added for customers, more money is bet. This is why we see a Kentucky Derby handle be "X" with twenty horses, and "<X" when its scratched down to 19 horses. Frankly, you could run a ten horse Derby with Spectacular Bid, Affirmed, Secretariat, Big Brown and six other past superstars, and the handle would be less than Mine That Bird against nineteen others.

We see this almost each day. It happened again this past weekend, at Oaklawn for the Rebel Stakes card.

The Rebel Stakes card was stacked, better than last year's and overall handle was up - despite attendance being down.

But in the Rebel Stakes itself, the handle just was not there.

Last year:

This year:

Last year's field of 11 brought in much more handle. Remember, total handle on the day is showing its up.

At slots tracks especially, but at all tracks it happens. A stakes race is put on for say, $300,000, and it attracts five horses. Fans on twitter or Facebook get all excited, the track sends out neat promo's of come see horse "A" against horse "B".  But bettors yawn.

If racing is going to spend all this alternative gaming money on stakes racing, as we've seen, they better find a way to card a schedule that attracts more than five or six horses. Betting dollars - not column inches - pay the bills.

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