The Niche Inside a Niche

Today Woodbine announced they were replacing the much-needed-to-be-replaced polytrack with Tapeta, another synthetic surface.
  • “A surface that will endure racing and training through hot and cold climate extremes for more than eight months a year is critical for our horsepeople,” said Lawson. “We also considered racing fans and horseplayers through this process. Field size, the number of quality races and wagering on Woodbine’s thoroughbred racing product has grown appreciably in the synthetic track era. We see those metrics continuing to improve with the installation of Tapeta.”
This is a much different response that we've seen in the past when racetracks have made a switch. It took into account handle figures, which through demagoguery for the most part, were never used to buttress a synthetic track, but something that didn't seem to matter much.

Horse racing is a niche sport, and polytrack has been a niche inside a niche. There are players - like me, and many of you who continue to read this silly blog - who play seriously. To beat the egregious rake, we need deep fields with plenty of choice. We need nuances in an array of races, to hopefully glean better ROI decisions. We need races in pick 4 sequences that when it rains, can still pay money, instead of being a mugs game with three off the turf races with four horse fields. 

Polytrack has done that for the most part, and many players - witnessed with the huge handle gains at places like Woodbine and Keeneland - were regularly supporting the product.

For Woodbine to mention handle growth a field size, along with weather - three things that polytrack are helpful with - it was a huge step forward in helping the sport realize that it's more about slots, truck and hay buying, and what a price of a yearling goes for this year.

People that enjoy dirt track racing, handicapping with speed figures and whatnot can still do that. There are 65 tracks in North America running on dirt. For those of us in the niche inside a niche, there's something for us as well at Woodbine. In a sport desperately in need of engagement, and customer retention, this is a good thing.

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