Out With the Old, In With the New, In With the Old

Happy New Year everyone! The blog post title may be cryptic, but horse racing is cryptic, so take that.

Gulfstream recorded $1.2 billion in handle for 2014, which is up from $826 million in 2013. They raced more days and rejigged the whole schedule, to maximize their handle.

GP President, Tim Ritvo: "We believe with no head-to-head competition this coming year our commitment to grow the sport of Thoroughbred racing in Florida will produce even greater results."

That may be true, but little birds tell me that source market fees may enter the landscape in 2015 in the Sunshine State.  We've been through SMF's on the blog about as many times as Britney Spears ends up on TMZ, so no need to rehash it, however, if Florida does embrace them, the short term gains they're seeing will certainly be lost in a matter of years.

Gulfstream really rocked the Casbah with handle, though, so that should be good news for overall handles, should it not? Well no.

Crunkbase ® reports that handle for the month of December in the US was down about $60M or 9%. The number of races were down, as per usual. Remarkably (for some, since this was the Churchill Downs spoon-fed pablum earlier this year for their handle losses) field size for the month was up.  Shivers.

Overall handle for the year looks to be down in the 3% range. Early in the year - sans Churchill - handle was okay. Buoyed by decent big day handles, and a Triple Crown try this year (which probably added $50 million or so alone), things were looking solid. As Crunkbase ® reports, the losses started piling up in September at a greater rate. My spies tell me that one of the teams began scaling back at Del Mar and that continued. Most mid-range larger players ($3M-$6M) have gotten pretty destroyed by the new fees and higher signal fees, but from what I see, they've been leaving in drabs. You can't get a straight answer from the powers that be, so it's often speculation. However, I suspect that's a major reason for the declines.

First time gelding reporting chatter has been going on for like, eleventry gazzilion years. Even though the movie reported that Hidalgo was a gelding, you just never know. The industry itself, policed by their own with about as much respect for accurate PP's as Ted Cruz has for the Prez, never seemed to care either. Recently, Jeff Platt of HANA and Hank Zetlin of Equibase started pushing the reporting of geldings into the news with changes to the Equibase system (geldings are listed on Equibase, and now in PP's like at the DRF and TimeFormUS). Clearly not ideal, racing at least looks to be giving the new system some respect, in some quarters. Today, the DRF reported that a So Cal based trainer has been fined for not reporting a new gelding correctly.

Change in racing moves at a snails pace, and often times change never occurs. With first time geldings, I do sense some movement. Perhaps in a year or two when they are reported, we as customers can actually believe what we're reading is true.

There was a carryover in the Super High Five in Cali yesterday, and bettors plowed about $1.7 million into the pool. How does a carryover of only $300,000 or so encourage that kind of new money? It's  takeout reduction, and no one cares about takeout, so we hear. Go figure. 

I am reading an interesting book, "America's Game, The History of the NFL". Much of it is long on business, which is pretty fascinating. I will probably write more about how the league grew from its infancy, but I read an interesting chapter last night I thought I would share. Back in the late 1950's, football was having trouble getting column inches, and the sport was viewed more as one of brutality, rather than skill and strategy. Pete Rozelle wanted to change that. After changing a few rules - things like piling on, scrums, late hits, etc, were all taken more seriously, and punished - Rozelle moved on to the stats. He enlisted the Elias Sports Bureau to be the statstaker for football, created a bunch of new stats, and distributed these new numbers to newspapers everywhere.

Soon after, these statistics were at the forefront of everything NFL. Bookies and customers used them, stats geeks who liked them for baseball found them interesting. In one anecdote shared by former player Pat Summerall, Richard Nixon, then Vice-President, walked into the Giants locker room before the Championship game in 1958. He went to each player, introduced himself, said their names and talked about their stats. Summerall said "he knew everything about our play who we were and our complete statistics." The sport was not even on television, so Richard M, like everyone, got them from newspapers. Rozelle was a pretty sharp fellow.

Have a great weekend everyone. And Happy New Year.


Ron said...

Monarch has raised prices big on some adws starting Jan.1 wreaking havoc on the tracks I was considering this yr. Oaklawn is already dead with some adws because of Churchill. I'm not a big player but I'm almost out the door.

BitPlayer said...

I'm confused by your comment about Gulfstream, Florida, and source market fees. My understanding is that source market fees are imposed on out-of-state ADWs by the market where the bettor resides, not by the market where the horses are running. As such, wouldn't source market fees in Florida have a greater impact on tracks in other states getting handle from Florida residents than on Florida tracks themselves?


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