Like many of you, I am not sure if we're looking at a really good horse, or we're looking at a 2:03 and change 10f horse who beat up on what possibly might've been the most nondescript Derby field we've ever seen. Regardless, I was cheering for him. It's a good story and he's obviously a trier, who has some go. I will be pulling for him in the Preakness, and if pedigree guru Sid Fernando tells me he can win the Belmont, there too.
Derby Day is normally my second biggest handle day of the year and this year my handle was zero. I just could not get up for it, and as you know I support lower rakes and only play into lower rakes when I can. I still did have some fun, and learned a thing or two.
The Derby, no matter what is done to it, in the short term, will always draw money. It's just the way it is and unless the brand is tarnished for several years, it won't be hurt. Churchill, despite my lack of love for the company, has done a good job with the event, and I have said that here many times before. Over time brands change behavior and I think that's what we see on Derby Day.
From the betting side a case in point: $1 supers. Lack of ten cent supers is long a bone of contention for players, but over time, you see the handle on $1 supers sky. This year super wagering was higher than last year, and that was higher than the year before. In big fields, with $1 mins, you have a monster edge with supers. In the past they've taken up probably 75% of my Derby handle because that edge is something you have to take advantage of. When I saw super handle up again this year I knew: The really big boys being rebated (with about a 1.25% reduction in rebates), were hammering, as usual.
What also struck me from watching the wagering was the casual money in the pools. WPS wagering has a certain progression from win through show. At the Derby this is rarely in effect and place and show pools are huge. There are still a lot of people out there betting $5, $10, $20 pyramids on Derby Day.
What you also might've noticed today was something pretty new: the dreaded post drag. For harness heads who play Northfield Park, this tweet may have given you a chuckle:
It's Northfield Park at Churchill Downs, brought to you by Yum! Brands and TwinSpires.Why do they do this? Because it works. They make more money, and its not horrible for fans either. Line ups are long. This is the first year they've done it this long and I suspect that handle was up a few points because of it. It's powerful.
— Greg Reinhart (@GregReinhart) May 3, 2014
Speaking of handle, it looks to me that they'll be up a little bit (despite numbers I received earlier, which may be correct), and that should not be shocking. Sure there were people like me not betting, but it was perfect weather and good racing on a jewel of a day. Last year was rainy and there were fewer horses on the card.
What probably most maddens me about this situation is that it did not have to be this way. Bettors understand big days. They understand that the scoop six in the UK is 25% rake because it's deep and hard to hit. They understand the larger the field the higher the optimal rake. Why didn't CD just do something for the Derby, like raise host fees for the event? Last year when the ADW bill was going through, ask for changes for special rates for Derby Day?
We'd all understand that, because we're smart and we're reasonable. In fact, with the Breeders Cup going to Kentucky soon - more than likely - Keeneland might even have to look at something similar, but I bet dollars to donuts they won't go to the commission and ask for a rake change all year. They'll do something with imagination that won't anger customers. That's the way they roll.
Anyhow, I hope y'all enjoyed your day. I'll be back to the grind next week, like a lot of you, trying to beat the toughest gambling game in the world.
Note: CD press release said attendance Derby week increased, as handle fell.