by Al Cimaglia
April 5, 2018
The first quarter review for harness racing is sprinkled with optimism and some concerns as well. The numbers indicate a shortfall in handle both in the United States and Canada through the beginning of April. Black and white results in this case come with a degree of subjectivity.
Two standouts in improvement for 2018 thus far are Pompano Park and Cal Expo. Both tracks have set records in horizontal wagers and have upped their guarantees to $30,000 and $50,000 respectively. The Meadowlands has hit the $3,000,0000 handle mark two times this year, although the weather hasn't cooperated on the East Coast. In general harness racing in the United States has had better results than tracks north of the border.
Overall the handle is down 8.95% in Canada and is down by .55% in the United States. As of April 3, there have been 27 fewer race days in the U.S. compared to 2017. In Canada over the same period the per race handle is down .26%. There were weather issues last winter, but it seems there were more this year in the States. But I'm not sure how much significance can be placed there. The Big M has cancelled more race cards this year than Woodbine. So, the soft numbers in Canada are more of a surprise to me.
If you are looking for a positive, in the States the amount bet per race has been impressive. In 2017 the per race average wagered was $51,225, in 2018 that amount has grown to $57,682. That's a nice increase of 12.61% and it will be interesting to see if the trend continues over the next nine months.
For now, the first quarter grade is an incomplete.
Is the increase amount bet per race due to fewer dates? Is the dip in Canada due to weather issues or is there more to it? The meet at Cal Expo ends in early May and Pompano races a reduced schedule until the end of next month. Will Hoosier Park and Hawthorne take over and have improved numbers over last year? Will the Meadowlands and Mohawk have a stronger 2018 than 2017?
So many questions that will be answered in time.
Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia.