Field size is brutal, Churchill Downs handle continues to get killed, horse racing is horse racing. But on big days, it's all different.
Yesterday's Preakness card yielded over $83 million in handle, up 2.20%. Attendance was up as well. And they weren't the only ones.
Woodbine harness, with a carryover and mandatory payout of their High Five, saw over $3.3 million bet, which is more than a North America Cup card.
At the Meadowlands, the Cutler had over $500,000 bet on the race, with international flavor and a large field. It was also earlier in the card which, in my view, is a better spot for it.
The problem with the above is there can be only so many big days, which is why the industry has to be smart about it. As you know, I think one of the silliest decisions made this year was the development of a Belmont Stakes super card (you can read my view here on that). Why card all those purses on the same day that i) there is already a stakes race that everyone knows, bets and shows up for and ii) there is a strong chance you will see a horse going for the Triple Crown, where you could race maiden five claimers, have an overfilled crowd and get big money bet all day.
The Preakness card was pretty dreadful. Races were off the turf, there were a gazillion scratches, a couple of the races were almost unbettable. But there you go: Handle was up 2.2%. It doesn't really matter.
Horse racing is compelling on big days with big events, whether those events are of the carryover variety for bettors, or for Triple Crown races, state Derbies, Hambletonian's or Breeders Crowns. But instead of resting on them, or piling races on top of them, racing needs to think outside the box with them. Make more of them, make them better and more interesting; drive people to the stands and the windows. Short sighted thinking, or resting on them can only last so long.
Along those lines, please allow me a quick note on the consternation regarding NBC not showing undercard races. It's exactly my point above. Casual fans want to watch the main event and that's what they tune in for. Showing horses and races the public knows nothing about, they don't care about and will likely never care about is wasted airtime. NBC knows this and acts accordingly. Undercard races are for us, and racing already has us. We can watch them at our ADW while we're betting them, and that's just what we do.
When some fan says "I watched the Belmont Stakes and wasn't going to go back, but boy that Met Mile makes me want to become a regular fan and bettor" that might change. But right now that's not happening and that's why they don't - and probably shouldn't - worry about it much.
Enjoy your Sunday everyone.
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