JC / Railbird

Tampa Bay Downs

Saturday Notes

The Suffolk Downs-NEHBPA dispute has made Paul Daley pessimistic:

Sadly, within the next month, live thoroughbred racing in New England may become the stuff of history books.

Despite the resumption of negotiations on Thursday with the NEHBPA, six simulcasting signals are still blocked at Suffolk Downs. For the second consecutive Saturday, Massachusetts bettors will take their money elsewhere: “My good friend, suffolkdownslova, has to drive all the way to Raynham-Taunton Greyhound Park to place the bets he so lovingly needs.”

Monmouth’s experiment has been mentioned as a model for Suffolk’s future, but a more instructive success might be Tampa Bay Downs, where many Massachusetts horsemen winter. Ed DeRosa highlights just one example of what the track has done well — the reduced takeout Pick 4, up 31%.

Orlando Bocachica, Suffolk’s leading rider in 2009, is hot at Gulfstream.

2/20/11 Suffolk Dispute Update: The track has presented the NEHBPA with a new offer for the 2011 meet. More information will be available on Monday.

Monday Notes

What a difference eight months can make: An email arrived over the weekend pointing to this DRF interview that appeared with then-new CHRB chairman Keith Brackpool in January 2010. Brackpool opposed the Los Alamitos takeout increase, telling Steve Andersen, “It’s a slippery slope … I don’t like it.” In September, after California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the law that included the statewide takeout increase that’s riled up horseplayers, Brackpool was quoted by the Blood-Horse as saying, “We offer in California the premier racing product on a year-round basis, but we were offering our first-class product at a discount price. We’re changing the pricing model.”

Whatever the reason for Brackpool’s shift in perspective, the board’s decision to accept higher takeout on exotic wagers so as to boost purses by $25-30 million seems to be backfiring just days into the Santa Anita meet. Ray Paulick beat me to the numbers: Wagering through the first seven days is down an average of 18% over last year’s winter meet; out-of-state handle is down 21.9%. One big bettor tells Pull the Pocket that he’s not playing California, and that others are either wagering less or looking elsewhere:

“Out of the guys who I have told you about before, two are just dabbling nickels and dimes at Santa Anita, one is betting much less, I have stopped cold turkey along with another. The last guy is looking for a new circuit to bet and tells me he has been studying for that. It’s unlikely he’ll come back, unless something changes there. The ones who are still betting obviously operate on very thin margins so if they see their day to day results dropping [e.g. with the higher takeout], I’m sure they’ll quit and just go for carryover pools and I’m pretty confident that will be the end result.”

Re: thin margins, Ed DeRosa has posted a chart clearly demonstrating how takeout affects bankrolls, and makes the point that it’s not only bettors harmed by raising takeout, but tracks. Short-term gains have long-term costs. One track that’s earning kudos for getting it right is Tampa Bay Downs, which actually out-handled Santa Anita last Wednesday and is posting double-digit gains daily. Tampa, which has had much success with its program for Churchill-pointing 3-year-olds over the past few years, may also draw the leading Kentucky Derby prospect this spring. Trainer Todd Pletcher is considering the March 12 Tampa Bay Derby for likely juvenile champion Uncle Mo, who’s about three weeks away from his first breeze of 2011.

1/4/2011 Addendum: Takeout math from Trackmaster, using a Pick 3 wager as an example. Originally posted last August, newly relevant.