As reported by Matt, the handle for the three Triple Crown races this year was once again solid. The Belmont card was down precipitiously, but with no Triple Crown on the line that's expected. It was up around 9% from 2017, under similar circumstances.
We've spoken a lot about the handle on the bigger more promoted cards over the last decade. It's a topic that I find never uninteresting.
Population growth has assured there's a bigger pool of eyeballs on big events, and certainly horse racing has felt that. The attendance for the "party" might not be of current Jurassic Park levels (seriously, they were camping out yesterday to get in), but it's formidable.
In addition, with shorter fields, fewer good betting races and a contraction overall of the sport, the big days take on new meaning for bettors. Despite Saturday's Belmont card which I found kind of horrible to wager, it's better than your average Saturday. People are simply drawn to bigger pools and more potential value to make money on an opinion.
On the PR side, the big days are, I feel, important because politicians and others watch them closely. If you can shoot a cannon down the tarmac while giving away millions of dollars it resonates.
Having said that, I do wonder about just *how* good it's going when compared to a baseline.
First, the sport has added outlets over recent years. TSG is very aggressive with their product and overseas markets, I assume Twinspires and others are similar. Racetracks are exporting a signal like never before. A common metric for retail is same store sales. Without an increase in outlets, what's the handle?
Second, Twinspires and Xpressbet have been growing, but they do sink a ton of money into promoting their ADW's (as they should) during the season. The ROI on this spend is likely not fantastic. Is the sport spending a ton more to get handle for these days, where the marginal cost of the handle is too high?
Last up, more choice. I hate using the cheese analogy, but it fits so well. General Foods repackaged their cheese and presto, they sold more cheese. The tracks have added more bets (futures, cross day pick 6's, doubles, etc) and this brings in more money (to a point, of course).
I don't doubt that bigger days are bringing in more handle, and that handle is ROI positive for the entities. However, like with any number, it pays to dig deeper. What of the increase is due to an increase in the popularity of the Triple Crown races versus some of the items I've outlined above? It's something we will probably never know.
Have a nice Monday everyone.
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