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6.18.2018:

Like It Or Not, It's the Truth

We in horse racing have this sense that if you just experienced it once that you’d be hooked like us. So the vast majority of our focus in terms of attention and dollars is spent accessing your presence. But think about your own life experiences for a moment. Did that really work for you? If you’re like me, it did not. There’s a catch. And it’s an awfully big one.  You had to actually like what you experienced. We have had quite a few reminders both professionally and personally in the past two weeks of sports. Of course, Justfy’s run to and through the Triple Crown brought some fresh eyes to the product that a non-sweep spring just can’t provide. That was part of a three-day title sweep that included the NBA and NHL crowning its titlists. And right after that brought about the U.S. Open golf tournament and the World Cup of soccer. By the theory of the racing community, you’ve obviously now become a fan of the NBA, NHL, golf and spotted footballs off the cleats of names you cannot pronounce. And by mid-week this week, you no doubt will be enthralled and immersed with all things Royal Ascot and racing on the other side of the pond. If only it worked that way. Exposure holds importance for obvious reasons. It’s hard to like what you can’t find. But to think it’s even close to an end-all, be-all is short-sighted. Acquiring customers is the most costly thing any company does outside of its own payroll. Keeping them may not cost quite as much, but certainly takes more work. You can’t spend your way to impressing a potential customer. You have to work at that. Hands on.  So we can thank Justify for bringing some potential fans to the casting call for future customers. But his work is done. Ours just begins. But it many, many cases, the work already is over. You either hooked the Justify gawker or you didn’t. They either liked what they saw or they didn’t. That part often is out of your control, no matter how cool of a game you think this is. I bring back your personal experiences to highlight this point. The World Cup is supposed to enlighten me on how football is played worldwide and its global popularity a sales point to what I am missing. But I am not missing anything. I’ve tried it. Don’t like it. In fact, I played 2 years of varsity soccer in high school at the urging of some friends who had played regularly, and actually was recruited by some small schools collegiately. I then tried to get into watching the 1994 World Cup in the US a few years later. Now, some 24 years have passed and I haven’t watched a soccer game since.  Golf? No amount of US Open television coverage or Tiger Woods updates on SportsCenter or the National Enquirer will bring me in. Seems a cool enough vibe. A beautiful walk. I enjoy dining at golf course clubhouses regularly. But I hate the game. Tried it several dozen times and I sucked at it. Spending $100 to lose a dozen balls and get angry didn’t resonate. In fact, golf sounds an awful lot like the racetrack experience. It’s a game you’re going to fail at over and over and over and it can get expensive without any success. It takes a certain patience and attention to technique to hit the links regularly, just as it does to play the horse races. You yearn for that one good shot amongst a lot of larger numbers on your scorecard. Most of all you need to have a stomach for losing. I guess I’ve felt better hitting a few more trifectas in my day than three irons. The mere introduction of a sport or gambling endeavor, no matter how much we may love it from within, does not translate to acquisitions. We must find people who will actually like what they find on the other side of the hidden curtain. It is then that our ability to woo and work can be successful.

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6.17.2018:

Sunday, June 17: Hawthorne $30K Guaranteed Late Pick 4 Picks

Tonight, at Hawthorne the headliner rolls in Race 3 when 2-year-old Illinois bred colt and gelding trotters battle for a share of a $59,900 purse in the Cardinal Stakes. The other feature events will showcase 2-year-old filly trotters in two divisions of the Violet Stakes which will have a $30,050 purse. The 0.50 Late Pick 4 sequence starts in Race 8, it will have a $30,000 guaranteed pool and will be my focus. At Mohawk last night, out of the six races handicapped the top pick won two and my second choice won three other races. The driver with the hottest hands at Hawthorne on Saturday was Casey Leonard with two winners. Trainer Frank Petrelli led the conditioners with two pictures. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 3-Gocubsgo-Steps up but can repeat at a square price if minds manners. 6-Molina-Camera shy for sure but usually in the hunt and will consider versus this bunch. 7-Fox Valley Sinful-Drew off a perfect trip, program chalk looks like a player again. Race 9 2-Sparkle And Dazzle-Looking for 1st win and this is a spot to break maiden with a nice trip. 3-Betziesbookinit-.57 back half in qualifier and was Leonard's choice, could be ready to win debut. 5-Fox Valley Miranda-0-15 but both starts this year were good tries from outside posts. Race 10 4-Herecomesmagotta-Not crazy about 8/5 ML being 0-13 but this is a more comfortable spot to shine. 6-Fox Valley Lovejoy-Has learned his lessons at the fairs and had a nice qualifier over this oval, will respect chances. 7-Unimagineable-Tries hard and in a better spot for Wilfong to work a favorable journey. Race 11 4-Shelly On My Mind-Winner of 2 of 3 in '18, has been sharp and now draws inside, best to respect chances. 5-Shooting Cool-Leonard's choice has a chance to repeat if minds manners and isn't too far back early. 6-Frontier Ginger-Looking for a price and this gal could be set for a big try in 3rd start of the year. 8-Prettyfaceuglyways-Oosting's choice makes 4th start for Trigg, might be ready for 1st win of the year. 0.50 Late Pick 4 3,6,7/2,3,5/4,6,7/4,5,6,8 Total Bet=$54 Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia.

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6.16.2018:

Saturday, June 16: Massive Night of Racing at Woodbine Mohawk Park

There's a great card on tap tonight at Woodbine Mohawk Park culminating in the $1,000,000 Pepsi North America Cup Final. In total there are six top stake races with $2,401,000 in purse money up for grabs. There will be an all stakes 0.20 Pick 4 beginning in Race 9 which will have a $100,000 guaranteed pool. The night concludes with a mandatory Jackpot Hi-5 payout in Race 15, and the pool is estimated to be $500,000. Last night at Hawthorne the posted Pick 4 ticket was good in only three of four legs. The 5/3,8/1/1 combination paid $396.15 on a 0.50 wager. Comments and selections below are a based on a fast track. Race 3-Armbro Flight Final-$250,000 Purse 5-Hannelore Hanover (2/5)-Looks too sharp to not be posing for a picture and should have her way with the ladies. 4-Emoticon Hanover (7/2)-Racing well and is the top threat but can't finish as well as #5. 2-Celebrity Ruth (3-1)-Likes to win, Miller should be more aggressive tonight and could hit the bottom of the exacta. Race 6-Mohawk Gold Cup Invitational-$100,000 Purse 6-McWicked (2-1)-Comes off an impressive score. Coleman trainee rolled home in .53 flat and is a major player. 7-Sintra (9/2)-Local hope is in fine form and should be flying late, could finish right behind #6 as in elims. 4-Rodeo Romeo (7/2)-Tetrick should work a trip from here and stay in the hunt throughout. Race 9-Fan Hanover Final-$415,000 Purse 6-Alexis Faith (3-1)-Could be a bit tighter and McNair may work a great trip, rates a slight edge over others. 4-Shower Play (8-1)-Gets some post relief and could be closer at the top of the lane and spice up the exotics. 3-Kissin In The Sand (5/2)-ML favorite stormed home off a quick pace, best to respect once again. Race 10-Goodtimes Final-$266,000 Purse 4-Wolfgang (8/5)-Thinking the start will be key and this colt will get the jump on #3 and get a smoother journey. 5-Lawmaker (20-1)-Very good effort in elims, can race out of a hole and may benefit from an early speed duel. 3-Alarm Detector (7/5)-Likes the lead but starts between Takter's horses who like same, that could hurt chances. Race 11-Roses Are Red Final-$370,000 Purse 3-Tequila Monday (9/2)-Versatile mare should be 1st or 2nd after start, in fine form to make it 4 of 5 in 2018. 4-Blazin Britches (7/2)-Should be stalking #3 every step in a competitive affair. 5-Blue Moon Stride (4-1)-Best to not overlook, gets post relief from the elims and could be posing with a trip. Race 12-Pepsi North America Cup Final-$1,000,000 2-Stay Hungry (5/2)-Difficult to split top two but thinking this guy will finish a bit better. 4-Lather Up (2-1)-A perfect 5 of 5 in 2018 and 9 of 12 lifetime, very sharp and could continue winning ways. 7-Done Well (4-1)-Might be a bit better on a smaller oval, but ultra-consistent and best to not overlook. Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia  

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6.15.2018:

World Approval, Backyard Heaven, Ax Man Top Churchill Pick 5

Backyard Heaven goes for a Grade 1 win in just his five career starts, and while the beginning of his career was very much delayed, it’s better late than never, right? Trainer Chad Brown didn’t give Backyard Heaven his 1st start until Sept. 17, 2017 – deep into his 3-year-old season. He proved his mettle last time when he battled early on and then drew off with the Grade 2 Alysheba at Churchill on Derby Day. The Tizway colt was a $150,000 purchase by Ken and Sarah Ramsey way back in September of 2015, and the wait has been worth it, especially with the relatively low price. You cannot take a great deal of his first three starts, but the Alysheba win clearly was impressive. When he enters the gate as the favorite for the Stephen Foster Handicap Saturday night at Churchill, he will have his toughest test to date and he’s a key player in the Pick 5, which runs from 5th through 9th races. The Pick 5 is a particularly strong challenge because of some odds-on favorites, mainly Ax Man in the Matt Winn (5th race), World Approval in the Wise Dan (6th) and Backyard Heaven. Beat any of those and you have a healthy payoff. World Approval is the single on this suggested ticket. As a 6-5 favorite in the Wise Dan, World Approval will be singled on a lot of tickets, and rightfully so. His four-race win streak came to an end in the G1 Kilroe at Santa Anita last time, but he was particularly impressive in that string, which include wins in the Fourstardave, the Woodbine Mile and the Breeders’ Cup mile. While his latest was a big disappointment, he’s likely to recover in this spot. Ax Man is 4-5 in the Matt Winn, and while impressive in his last two, he’s in much tougher than he’s been. He’s 3 of 4, is trained by Bob Baffert and will be ridden by Mike Smith. Any of those factors would be enough to make him a favorite, and the combination makes him odds-on. Not so fast with a single in that one. Combatant has been in wars that were all better than what Ax Man has faced, and while he’s still eligible for a non-winners of two allowance, he’s likely to recover his good form and is a legit player. The Fleur de Lis is the toughest in the sequence and is the first spread race on the ticket. Fillies and mares used here are Blue Prize, Streamline, Valadorna, Apologynotaccepted and Farrell. It’s wise to include Backyard Heaven on your ticket, but he’s not alone on mine. Hawaakom is a lovable 8-year-old who is having his best season, is a solid threat. Horses with his running style aren’t consistent but are very capable. Recent claim and upstart Matrooh, Wood Memorial and Pimlico Special winner Irish War Cry and and southern California stakes regular Pavel aren’t without a chance. The anchor of the Pick 5 is the Regret Stakes and is a real crapshoot. Heavenly Love is the 5-1 morning line favorite. Consolida, Finess Bere and Go Noni Go look good here and are included on the ticket. Here’s the suggested ticket for the Pick 5 at Churchill Downs: Race 5) #5 Combatant, #7 Ax Man Race 6) #4 World Approval Race 7) #3 Blue Prize, #4 Streamline, #7 Valadorna, #8 Apologynotaccepted, #9 Farrell Race 8) #3 Hawaakom, #5 Matrooh, #6 Backyard Heaven, #8 Irish War Cry Race 9) #2 Consolida, #4 Finess Bere, #12 Go Noni Go 50-cent Pick 5: 5-7 with 4 with 3-4-7-8-9 with 3-5-6-8 with 2-4-12 ($60).

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6.15.2018:

Friday, June 15: Hawthorne $15K Guaranteed Late Pick 4 Ticket

Tonight, a total of seventeen Illinois two-year-old colts and gelding pacers will compete in two divisions of the Cardinal Stakes. The freshman will battle in Race 1 and Race 7 for a share of a $24,100 purse. The 0.50 Late Pick 4 sequence begins in Race 8, it has a $15,000 guaranteed pool and it will be my focus. On Thursday the drivers with the hottest hands at Hawthorne were Tim Curtin and Casey Leonard, each taking two pictures. No trainer on the eight-race card had more than one trip to the winner's circle. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 1-Tookadiveoffdipper-Makes 1st start of the meet after tuning up in Springfield in 1:53.3, will be tough if tight. 4-Extravagant Art-Even effort in last after missing a start, could be sitting on a big try. 7-Gold Star Lambeau-In from HoP and is fast enough to beat this crew at a square price with a smooth journey. Race 9 1-Flashy Trick-Hasn't done much in Leonard's barn since claimed on 5/19 but can roll late if there's a hot pace. 2-Uptown Sleaze-Drops and at 25-1 in the ML will take a swing Franco can stay close enough to rally late. 3-Fox Valley Reggie-Program chalk is another who can fly late, and this race could have a quicker pace. 7-Fox Valley Nemitz-Thinking this guy leaves and looks to race up close, then uses one big brush. Race 10 3-Officernagentleman-10-year-old steps up after a win, best to respect from this post, could make it 2 straight. 5-Shakerattlenrock-Leonard put 9-year-old in great position in last and took a picture, looks solid again. 9-Lilys Real Boy-Fits and racing well, closer could benefit from some early speed. 10-Wildcat Hilton-Similar to #9 and should be rolling late if minds manners. Race 11 1-Canthelpbutwin-Curtin takes a seat and that should help, often close and may seal the deal from the rail. 3-Four Staces-Team Leonard 7-year-old drops out of $8k claimers. Looks like a drop and pop possibility. 0.50 Late Pick 4 1,4,7/1,2,3,7/3,5,9,10/1,3 Total Bet=$48 Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia.  

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6.14.2018:

Picks for Churchill Downs' Loaded Saturday Card

It’s another ‘Downs After Dark’ evening at Churchill and the starpower is out in force for this one.  The G1 Clark Handicap, a Breeders’ Cup Classic ‘Win and You’re In’ event, headlines the card and top runners like Irish War Cry, Backyard Heaven and Patch are signed on for that.  Sprinkle in four other stakes races, and this is simply a night of racing you can’t afford to miss. First post at Churchill is 6:00PM ET and the stakes action kicks off with Race 5, at 7:57PM ET. Here are my picks and betting strategies for each of the five stakes races: Race 5 – Matt Winn Stakes (Gr III; 100k) If #7 AX MAN loses this race, it’ll be nothing short of a shocking result.  He’s simply much better than his rivals in here, as evidenced by his 6 ¾-length win in the Sir Barton Stakes at Pimlico on the Preakness undercard.  He’s got Triple Crown winners in his corner (Bob Baffert and Mike Smith) and if everything goes according to plan, he’ll blow this field out of the water. Betting Strategy: $10 Exacta #7 Ax Man over #2 Home Base, #4 King Zachary and #5 Combatant ($30)   Race 6 – Wise Dan Stakes (Gr II; 200k) Defending Breeders’ Cup Mile winner, #4 WORLD APPROVAL (6/5), squares off against Churchill Downs specialist, #1 DIVISIDERO (3/1), in the deepest race on the card.  If WORLD APPROVAL is back to his A-Game, he wins this for fun.  But he hasn’t been sharp in two races this year and if there’s a time to beat him, it’s now.  Also worth noting he’s 0-for-2 at Churchill, but those races came early in his career.  There figures to be plenty of pace which would help both of these, but ultimately I loved DIVISIDERO’s comeback race at Monmouth and thought Jevian Toledo rode him great that day as he stayed closer to the pace.  He’ll need to do the same here. Betting Strategy: $2 Trifecta #1 Divisidero, #4 World Approval over #1 Divisidero, #4 World Approval, #5 Mr. Misunderstood, #6 Mr Cub ($24)   Race 7 – Fleur de Lis Handicap (Gr II; 200k) If the Wise Dan is the deepest race on the card, the Fleur de Lis is likely the most wide open.  IDing a winner in this field won’t be easy, and I don’t fault anyone who punches the ‘ALL’ button in the horizontal bets.  I’m betting on a quick pace, with #9 FARRELL (3/1), #8 APOLOGYNOTACCEPTED (12/1), #6 AWESTRUCK (8/1) and #3 BLUE PRIZE (7/2) signed on, which could set this up for a closer.  How about #2 MOPOTISM (8/1)? She ships in from Southern California where she has been running against much nicer fillies (Unique Bella, Fault, Mended, Paradise Woods) and should get a favorable setup.   Betting Strategy: $20 Win #2 Mopotism ($20)   Race 8 – Stephen Foster Handicap (Gr I; 500k) #8 IRISH WAR CRY (5/1) is the type of horse that’ll drive handicappers crazy.  On his best day, he can run with anybody.  On his worst day, he barely beats the water truck around the oval.  And which one you get is completely uncertain.  In 12 career starts, this horse is 1-for-5 as the favorite and 3-for-7 when not favored.  He won the G3 Pimlico Special last out, but I can’t trust him.  My pick is #6 BACKYARD HEAVEN (6/5).  I think he has the potential to be America’s best older dirt horse this year.  I loved his win in the G2 Alysheba here last out and this horse just continues to improve.  I’ll use #5 MATROOH (20/1) in some of my bets.  He’s better than his price suggests and is back in top form for Cipriano Contreras.   Betting Strategy: $10 Exacta #6 Backyard Heaven over #1 Honorable Duty, #2 Patch, #3 Hawaakom, #5 Matrooh ($40)   Race 9 – Regret Stakes (Gr III; 100k) Before you toss some of the outside fillies, take note where this race starts – at the very head of the lane.  Jockeys will have plenty of time down the stretch the first time to claim solid position, so ground loss should be minimized.  I’ve always liked #1 HEAVENLY LOVE, despite showing atrocious form this year.  I thought she showed some life in the G2 Appalachian at Keeneland against Rushing Fall and Thewayiam.  I’ll put a small win bet on her, because otherwise I don’t have a strong opinion in this race.  If you’re playing horizontals, I recommend a ticket that uses plenty of horses here. Betting Strategy: $20 Win #1 Heavenly Love ($20)     

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6.14.2018:

All You Need to Know

Justify did it. He won the Triple Crown. That’s all you need to know. Save the corny, word-play headlines. ‘Justification!’ ‘Just Awesome!’ ‘Just-Amazing!’ They’re so pre-Belmont. Now, his achievement speaks for itself. Loud and clear. He’s the 13th Triple Crown winner in history. ONE THREE A baker’s dozen. ‘History,’ as we know, is a long time, so witnessing merely 13 occurrences of anything defines them as special.  He’s just the second undefeated sophomore to win the Triple Crown (Seattle Slew is the first). Justify’s also the first ever to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes without having raced as a 2-year-old. Saturday was the 150th Belmont Stakes. They run it once a year. That’s not as long as ‘history,’ but it’s still a pretty good stretch. If you felt a smidge underwhelmed by this Triple Crown victory, don’t be alarmed. It’s a common affliction. However, don’t blame Justify or his Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont performances either for your less-than-jubilant state. It’s American Pharoah’s fault. He’s the culprit. Three years ago, he breached the dam. Poked a hole in its side. Released the pressure. Let the river flow after a 37-year drought. Thirsts were quenched. Parched throats soothed. There was little of that this time. To the masses, Saturday’s triumph was more ‘Ho-Hum’ than ‘Holy Cow!’  A Triple Crown winner? Didn’t we just see one of those…like a year ago? It felt a bit like the ‘70’s when there were three of them in just five years. For most racing aficionados, what happened Saturday was just as remarkable as what had occurred in 2015, 1978, 1977, 1973, 1948, 1946, 1943, 1941, 1937, 1935, 1930 and 1919. And a majority of experts are certain that Justify’s name belongs etched on a trophy alongside American Pharoah, Affirmed, Seattle Slew, Secretariat, Citation, Assault, Count Fleet, Whirlaway, War Admiral, Omah, Gallant Fox and Sir Barton. Others aren’t so sure. A difference of opinion is what makes a horserace. So, it’s unsurprising that not everyone agrees about Justify’s rightful place in history. Some wanted to see more from the colt. A demonstrative statement. A crowning achievement. Speed figures that leapt off of the page. Merely finishing first in all six races since Feb. 18 wasn’t enough. Justify was supposed to blow them away, like Big Red did in the Belmont. Win by 31, 25 or, at least double-digit lengths. Detractors say that wet tracks in Louisville and Baltimore favored Justify. They also maintain that because Bravazo finished a close second to him in the Preakness, with Tenfold third, that the race wasn’t at all impressive. They mock the Belmont because he had a perfect trip when no one ran with him early. Conspiracy theorists even allege that stablemate Restoring Hope ran early interference. What’s that the kids say? Haters gonna hate. I feel sorry for those who didn’t immerse themselves in Justify’s journey every step of the way—from an eye-catching February maiden score, to a facile allowance cruise around the track, to the with malice dismissal of Bolt d’Oro in the Santa Anita Derby, to Louisville domination, to foggy Preakness fisticuffs with 2-year-old champ Good Magic, to a definitive Belmont triumph. It’s been a fantastic ride. Add the spice of a post-Derby, Churchill Downs barn area limp-fest before a horde of media and you have a piece of racing history jam-packed into less than four months! Justify’s legend requires no defense. He went from maiden winner to unbeaten, four-time Grade 1, Triple Crown hero in 112 days! Case closed. End of story. If he had a mic, he’d drop it. Go ahead, ask me, ‘Who’d he beat?’ Answer: Everyone. Unbeaten, untied and unscored upon. What else is required? Would it help if he showed up in Central Park, offering kiddie rides for a quarter each? Maybe he should pull a shift on Big Apple streets under a policeman? How about plowing a field? Would that placate haters? A critical point, highlighting the experienced genius of trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Mike Smith, is that they neither requested nor permitted Justify a ‘statement’ victory. They never allowed him to post a massive speed figure or to deliver a double-digit winning margin. They knew better than to squeeze the lemon dry. Win today, yes, but save something for tomorrow. Smart. Justify’s intelligence, too, made this possible. He never once got rank or ran-off—mornings or afternoons. In fact, during races he broke alertly and sped up or slowed down according to Smith’s desires. As far as criticism that Justify favors wet tracks…I don’t think he does. He merely tolerates them. Justify’s best efforts have come over fast surfaces. In fact, some of his foes actually may have appreciated ‘wet stuff’ more than he did. And he still won. Dry or fast, one factor that makes Justify unbeatable is his speed. He takes control of a race immediately and then dares anyone to come and get him. No one forced the pace in the Belmont because they couldn’t and also live to tell about it. They weren’t fast enough. Any other excuse or alibi is pure fabrication.  Finally, the racing game’s changed. Horses don’t run as often at two as they used to. Justify didn’t race at all as a freshman. Accepting such change is a difficult adjustment for some racing fans, especially those who remember the ‘good old days’--when a two-year-old would make 10 or more starts while building a solid foundation for a three-year-old season. An extensive juvenile campaign also built a devoted fan base. Because of Justify’s late start, it was difficult for fans to form a dedicated allegiance to him. He had to make a great first impression. Some of those of a certain age complain, ‘Today’s horses are soft, nothing like past greats. In my day, we had hardier horses.’ I’ve heard and read about that. Apparently, according to lore, in those ‘good old days’ you also had to walk five miles to school through snow without shoes! Times change. Go with the flow. That Justify did not race as a two-year-old and still had the constitution to win one of sport’s most elusive prizes makes me revere him even more! It also fills me with anticipation. I can’t wait to see him race again this summer and fall. Perhaps, if all goes well, we will see his finale in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs. Then, Baffert and Smith finally can squeeze the lemon, pull out all the stops and permit this incredible athlete to show the world his greatness.  Race On!

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6.14.2018:

Thursday Thoughts: More Race Dates but Fewer Races per Card

A conundrum for harness racing and horse racing in general is the drag in post times. It's no secret, the position of a race in sequence compared to actual post times at other tracks can increase or decrease the handle a great deal. It's not fair to those who watch the races or more so to those who bet on the ponies, but it's a fact. If a track can position themselves properly whereby there is not another race going off on top of them they can benefit from more dollars being bet on their dash. The tracks with a greater following have an advantage and others are best served by following their lead. Race tracks are primarily interested in getting the largest handle possible. They are out for themselves first and are not concerned about the greater good, because that's a matter of opinion. Horse racing is unfortunately in every man for themselves mode because there isn't a single governing body. So as is the case with many other aspects of the sport, there isn't a way to regulate post times and the actual start time for races. It's common place for post times to be 10-12 minutes behind schedule. Basically, this is like a game of musical chairs and if there isn't an effort to coordinate things someone is always left standing alone. Trying to get a plan for all to follow is like screaming for the rain to stop. Facts are the facts, the handle for harness racing is up .22% year to date, basically unchanged. But the average amount bet per race is up about $3,300 on 1,236 race dates compared to 1,302 in 2017. That's saying the same amount of money is out there to gamble on horse racing and there isn't much growth. The total amount wagered is basically flat but the average bet per race is up 7.44%. The good news is harness racing isn't losing traction. But are there more fans? It has been reported the Yonkers' handle is up significantly mostly because they have delayed their start times of races. The overriding issue is the Yonker's handle isn't higher than it was 20 years ago or even ten years ago. Good for them things seem to be improving but there's no need to book a marching band for a parade. The idea should be to grow the pool of bettors, not churn the same people over and over. Not to mention the top race tracks stepping on the lesser known isn't helping to advance the sport. It's time to try something different. In my view the one general principle that should be followed for 2019 is more race days but fewer races per card. Unless it is a special occasion, there is no need to have more than ten or at the most 11 races run on a card. If everyone stuck to no more than ten races during the week and 11 for the most part on the weekend that would be a start to some sensibility. The Meadowlands is in a tight situation, they need to stop the red ink from gushing, so they really can't be too concerned with the greater good. The longer a track can milk the clock and delay the start of a race the more money bet. But if everyone could agree on the number of races for each card that would be a great start to moving towards a common goal. Once everyone falls in line with the number of races per card, then a closer examination of the time between races could take place. Today, spare time is at a premium, many work two jobs. Some may have only one job, but they average well over 40 hours per week. Time is precious and there is a great deal of competition for entertainment dollars. Over the past 15 years the number of active golfers in the U.S. is down about 30%. One reason cited, and it seems the most logical, is people don't have four to five hours to play a round of golf as leisure time is at a premium. But folks are expected to watch and bet races for close to four hours or more at one track. Instead of having 14 races per card, increase the amount of race dates and possibly that will help grow the fan base. Maybe on some days there will be eight or nine races, but in the end, horsemen get to race, and the total handle bet may grow. In some jurisdictions there are guidelines for a minimum number of races to be run per meet, but there shouldn't be much blowback in increasing the amount of race dates. Any movement towards a common goal is a lofty expectation at this point, but it needs to start somewhere. Instead of battling for the last few drops of betting dollars from a stagnant pool of gamblers, increase the amount of people wagering. Maybe less races and additional race dates can lead to more racing fans, then call the marching band. Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia.

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