Sunday Notes & Chatter

Good day everyone.

Yesterday was a pretty interesting day in racing. So, we'll quickly share some thoughts.

The Wood, on paper probably the best betting and most interesting race of the day, delivered. Social Inclusion got the trip I thought he would, and to be honest with you, if the race was available in-running at Betfair, when he let it out a notch 7 furlongs in, I thought there was no catching him. I think the Aqueduct track yesterday was very fair (kudos to the track crew), and that fairness probably certainly did not help him. He got leg weary the last 150 yards after a pretty tough trip and fought gamely, coming a game third.

The winner, a logical horse, got a dream trip and returned to his good form, paying a really nice price.

How did that race clear up the Derby picture? In one way. A horse who many thought was a solid under 10-1 shot come Derby Day - Social Inclusion - will not be in the Derby. He's ranked 21st, and unless he comes back in the Lexington Stakes (not happening) it's off to the Preakness, where if sound, he has to be considered a strong contender.

The other betting race of the day was on that dreaded polytrack some seem to want to see go, the Ashland. Boy, did that race deliver. In a world where airstrips rule the day, like we saw at the last two Breeders' Cups, in the Ashland something eminently handicappable came into play - if your field is led by longshots through fast fractions, the front end should crumble. Two extremely logical off the pace horses dead heated in a thrilling and completely logical finish, given the fractions. Sharp players, as we often see on polytrack, were rewarded with a nice payout. Next year if this race draws six and finishes like a similarly classed dirt race at Aqueduct yesterday did, remember the 2014 Ashland.

Across the pond, California Chrome won the Santa Anita Derby in a flashy performance. I don't know what to make of that horse. Maybe twitter is right and he's the next Secretariat. I don't know. All I do know is I will let him beat me in any super high five slot come Derby Day.

This next weekend, all that's left to sort out the Derby picture is the Arkansas Derby and to a lesser extent, the Blue Grass. The Arkansas Derby has the Mark Casse steam horse racing -  Conquest Titan - which is tops on a lot of people's Derby lists, should he make it in. All eyes will likely be on him.

Speaking of carding better betting races, no one really seems to care when they are assembling stakes races. It seems more important to Keeneland that their three year old stakes race is a Derby prep, and not a good race to bet. In harness racing, short field stakes race snorefests with lots of "tweets" occur from time to time, and the Levy Series is the poster boy for that. Bill Finley looked at that today in Harness Racing Update. "A Bettors Nightmare". He's right, it is.

There's some excellent chatter on twitter about who racing should market to. Of course, the ABR live initiative is talked about in this vein. The plan, based on the recommendations of the McKinsey report (which is the exact same recommendation around horse racing watercoolers), is that racing needs to get "younger" so they have taken that goal, and created marketing around that. As I have said here, their normative marketing is very good. They do exactly what they are supposed to be doing, with the goal in mind. However, what about the people with money to spend and time to share for horse racing? They are underrepresented.
Yes, truly gold is where you find it. If racing, with finite marketing dollars wants to earn more money from betting dollars they should probably not be ripping up Poly at Keeneland, care about stakes grading, or worry if we're marketing right to 19 years olds. They should be carding good betting races, and marketing to the over 50 crowd. If racing wants to appease the masses with bumper sticker "we need to get younger" chatter, or "I can't handicap polycrap" talk, where attendance that fit a demographic, bettor choice stifling and parties at the track mean something as a metric, then they probably are doing the right thing.

What's right? I land on the side of the bettor (shocking I know), because I think bettors, not food trucks pay the bills and act as an "annuity" for racing for a generation. However, the point remains. The Jockey Club and other marketers in racing are doing a good job, in my opinion, in trying to attract a crowd they were told they needed to attract. If you disagree, don't throw the fine work they are doing under the bus. It is good work. Probably the best we've seen in a collective measure for a long time.

Have a great day everyone!


Ron said...

This first three days for keeneland have been disastrous from a field size and handle point of view. I don't bet Keeneland but do pull for them to do well, They're more rebate friendly than some of the other major venues, and I do plan on betting Keeneland this fall.

Pull the Pocket said...

Hi Ron,

Ya, field size has not been good. That's probably the culprit, although for some bettors I am sure their weird decisions added to the malaise of some players who are getting fed up. The Ashland handle, and apples to apples handle numbers are fair. (Ashland YOY was flat).

Curious one yesterday was NYRA. 1.65M in the win pool for the Wood versus 1.867 last year with a shorter field. I have the Wood handle alone off about $600,000.

I don't think the switch will affect Keeneland from a handle standpoint. Although I do expect them to be off this fall by 10% or so. Next spring should be better, imo.



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