JC / Railbird

Saratoga vs. Monmouth

There’s no need for competition, Ed Fountaine writes:

NYRA should embrace the Haskell — which is, after all, merely a prep race for the marquee event of the Saratoga meet, the 141st Travers Stakes on Aug. 28. Since the same all-star horses that face off at Monmouth on Sunday will renew their rivalry in the “Midsummer Derby,” NYRA should start beating the drums now. Advertise that the local fans can watch and bet on the Haskell at Saratoga on Sunday. Show the race on the infield TV screens. Turn the tables on Monmouth Park by using their signature race to promote yours.

Especially if you’re NYRA, and you’re likely to win the numbers game: The test of Monmouth’s “elite meet” handle figures was always going to be the opening of Saratoga. Friday, when the Spa kicked off its 40-day meet, the New Jersey track took in $5,515,194, a decline of 20% from $6,898,633 the previous Friday, while attendance remained roughly the same. Sunday, Monmouth was down 11% compared to the previous Sunday. Saturday was the odd day out, as Haskell day will certainly be next weekend. With the Lady’s Secret and Rachel Alexandra featured, handle was up 25% and attendance up 37%, which tracked nicely with on-track handle, up 35% over the previous Saturday.

At Saratoga, the first four days of this year’s extended meeting have been declared satisfactory: “Average all-sources handle, wagers on Saratoga races both on-track and from simulcast outlets nationwide, came to $12,834,190 daily, for a total of $51,336,758.” Attendance averaged 18,133 per day.

Related: Steve Zorn offers a more comprehensive comparison.


The test or success of Monmouth’s “elite meet” wasn’t necessarily going after Saratoga’s handle. When it comes to the near zero sum game of handle, Monmouth proved that the so-called NY betting dollar (and NY horsemen too!) isn’t as loyal as some thought. In one quick season, Monmouth went from the minors to the big league. In this sense, it was a huge success and it could be troubling should some of the other slot tracks in the Northeast take the Monmouth template and reduce days, increase purses (including paying to every entry) and set up a competitive pose going after what has been NYRA’s world when it comes to handle. I could see PHA or DEL doing something like this.

As far as showing the Haskell on the infiield, NYRA doesn’t do simulcasts well at their facilities. In the backyards at Belmont and Saratoga, you really have to hunt to find the feeds of other tracks and even inside, the simulcast feeds aren’t quite as abundant as they are at other tracks. It has always struck me as NYRA going out of their way to make sure players are focusing on their product. Perhaps that’s a bit of an overboard observation but I’ve always thought their simulcast setup is inconvenient and antiquated for their customers. So I would guess that hell would have to freeze over before you see the Haskell on the Saratoga infield screens!

Posted by o_crunk on July 27, 2010 @ 10:57 am

Not necessarily going after Saratoga’s handle, but to what extent Monmouth is capable of sustaining the numbers it’s been putting up is the test … I agree, re: all else, especially if Sunday’s figures are about what Monmouth runs through August.

It’s probably true about hell and the Haskell at the Spa. Could this be right? I have a memory of trying to bet Monmouth at Saratoga in 2004 or 2005 and not being able to do so.

Posted by Jessica on July 27, 2010 @ 11:10 am

Mr. Crunk wrote:

I could see PHA or DEL doing something like this.


Delaware could and should, since they are always trying to bolster their field sizes.

They’ve made progress in that area but Philadelphia Park’s (Greenwood Racing) mindset is that more live racing cards will lead to “more slots revenue”.

But ultimately the competition for the simulcast signal will have a lot to say whether “short ‘n sweet, boutique meets” for that track becomes successful.

Monmouth’s handlebenefitted this spring from sub-par Belmont race cards. Saratoga is now benefitting from an influx of horses from the Kentucky region. How many will stick around after Labor Day is anyone’s guess.

Posted by The_Knight_Sky racing on July 28, 2010 @ 9:02 am

The past two years, the Haskell has been a better race than the Travers. At the very least, the Haskell is definitely no longer “a prep” for the Travers.

Posted by EJXD2 on July 28, 2010 @ 10:27 am