The Fast Obsession, Preps & Takeout Hikes

If you received a quarter each time you heard "young people want instant gratification, so we need to reduce time between races" in this sport, you'd have a lot of quarters. There's this strange obsession with fast.

Cricket has experimented with changing three day long events into one day, golf is always talking about speeding up the pace of play, and in baseball it's spoken about often. Most recently, "fast4", a new way to play a tennis match in one hour has been experimented with.

A lot of that makes sense. For the grassroots, playing a round of golf in Toronto is an exercise in futility. Fight QEW traffic, play a round on a course completely jammed, pay $80, and take an hour and a half to drive home. Oh joy. For tennis, which as a kid we all know took so long to play 3 setters, a game in a hour on Saturday morning sounds wonderful.

But horse racing? I don't really understand the obsession.

Sure heading to Woodbine or Belmont on a Saturday and sitting around for six hours might not be a quick experience. But we can bet dozens tracks while we're there, with races going off virtually every minute.  At home, this Saturday we can start betting at 6AM in Dubai, and finish at 1AM Sunday morning betting Cal Expo. Scratch that, you can shift to Australia or Hong Kong, and play almost all weekend.

And, with 90% of all wagering coming off track, that's exactly what everyone seems to be doing. Racing does not have a time between races problem. Actually, in the overall scheme of things - and witnessing post drags worthy of border crossing delays - it can probably be argued we have too little time between races.

That does not mean, in my view, racing can not capitalize on "fast".

Many years ago I brought the "4 in 48" concept to a racetrack that was racing late Saturday evening. The Meadowlands and Woodbine were done at 11 eastern then, so I suggested this small track run four races in 48 minutes and seed or guarantee a pick 4 (seeds or guarantees were not popular then, so that was a stumbling block that could likely have never been overcome). With little other harness product, I think spending 48 minutes is something that could draw people who were after a little more action.

I even spoke about the seemingly (and probably in reality) ridiculous Super Bowl Halftime pick 4. Hey, if a horsemen group and track got together, had an annual party that day, juiced a few purses for a four race card, and ran the races almost on top of each other, it could work. A small harness track looking for an edge, who sometimes does less than $200k handle on a whole card, could do that in a pick 4 if done correctly, in my opinion.

Racing - with its TV coverage, how it presents the races, and the betting game itself - is not fast. You can't be what you are not. But you can create compelling product, in a micro way, that serves that purpose. If it doesn't work, well, just go back to being slow, because with 50 racetracks racing, those who want fast can still find it.


There's been plenty of chatter about the recent Hambo and Woodbine decision to drop the provision foals only sired by horses retired older than three are eligible to their major stakes. Those who think this is a good decision for the sport (there are few) have a tough time explaining Neil's assertion ; generally, if this is such a good thing, then why wouldn't Woodbine and the Hambo issue a press release? The fact is, they'd rather no one know. Capitulation is not press releaseable.

Firing Line won the Sunland Derby yesterday in a romp. Derby preps can be like this, and the fan part of the sport likes horses to prep big, while handicappers want to bet good prep races. No other race will exemplify this more than the Blue Grass in a few weeks. As a poly prep it had deep fields, with a chance at a big pool and big payoffs for sharp players. This year there will probably be five horses, with a 6-5 shot. Until large revenue can be gained from the sale of Firing Line t-shirts, the industry needs to realize good betting preps trump 1-5 short field snorefests.

I thought Firing Line looked great, by the way. This season (until some start faltering and we hear "this crop sucks!" chants) the colts have some serious talent. California stock is particularly exciting. 

Cal Expo had a $11,700 carryover last evening in the Super High Five. The pool was guaranteed at $30,000 and a $60 tri, with chalk, followed by two other lower priced entrants, provided a $1 super payoff of $577. Value. Harness players should be betting any and all carry's.

We all say we'd love it if slots tracks lowered takeout. At some of them, 90% or more of the purses are paid from machines, so if a takeout was 10% instead of 20% on meager handle, who cares, at least you're trying to build a fan base. Pocono Downs, one such track, decides it should go the other way. Their 15% juice pick 3's were increased to 25%. There was no press release on that either, by the way.

Have a nice Monday everyone. 


Ron said...

I'm in the minority because I only focus on one track at a time.The older I get the more I realize I don't want to sit in front of my computer for 5+ hours. That's not including my2 to3 hours handicapping and an hour or two of note taking and updating my various figures. I'd love it if races were run every 20 minutes instead of 30 or even 32 minutes like Delmar and Saratoga. I remember 20 yrs ago the quick official was invented to help cut down time between races, but it never really materialized. I know I'm probably in the minority.

Pull the Pocket said...

Not in the minority with that style of play Ron.

I dislike post drags more than time between races. I am fine with 25 minutes because I look at all tracks, generally. What I am not fine with is another 5 minutes after a clock hits zero. Maddening!


That Blog Guy said...

For the most part, I am also a one track player. If we can't speed up races, can't we ban the drag?

Is it to hard to get tracks to coordinate post time and have it so a program will say '1st Race Meadowlands (7:15pm). This way everyone knows what time the race is going off, eliminating the drag, and for those betting 4 or 5 tracks (God bless them), they know what time to get their bets in; making their life easier.

Anonymous said...

Cal Expo had a $11,700 carryover last evening in the Super High Five. The pool was guaranteed at $30,000 and a $60 tri, with chalk, followed by two other lower priced entrants, provided a $1 super payoff of $577. Value. Harness players should be betting any and all carry's.

Sunday at Cal Expo
Pick 5 pool 31,463
16% takeout 5,034
Sunday net pool 26,429
carryover 11,773
Total paid out 38,202

So 31,463 was bet and 38,202 was paid out, a surplus of 6,739 or 22 per cent advantage to the player. These bets are a must play.
Michael A

Anonymous said...

Speaking as a smaller track operator at Western Fair, the Super Hi-5 has become a 'go to' wager for us, especially when there's a carryover. We've seen pools with upwards of $40,000 of new money wagered after carryovers, there's no way we'd generate that type of single pool size typically.

It's now at the point where on a day like yesterday, the late Super Hi-5 had a pool of $18,000 with no carryover going into it. As you know Dean, this is a substantial single pool for a track of our stature. These type of wagers have helped us a lot and offer something that horseplayers are looking for.

Greg B.

Anonymous said...

Blanchard has done many good things at Western Fair and the 20 cent high five is one of them. A low minimum and a low 15 per cent takeout on this wager will increase the appeal of the high five, a concept the major thoroughbred tracks refuse to grasp.
Case in point, Western Fair handled more on their high five than Gulfstream did today.
Michael A


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