Friday, May 14, 2010

Friday Stakes races great to watch, awful to bet.

Bill O'Donnell and I were talking about handles and the overall state of the industry and all the usual stuff not long ago and he said to me, "You know in all my years, out of all of the tracks I've been to, the ones that were run the best and did the most good were the ones run by gamblers." He went on to list the names of the men that ran these particular tracks, names that never really even registered with me because talking to Bill is a lot like talking to your 93 year-old grandmother on Sunday morning: early into the conversation she starts to ramble and it becomes quite one-sided but you just let her go on and on and on and on and on without really listening because you're just happy that, at her advanced age, she has someone to talk to for those few Sunday morning minutes. Anyway, I couldn't help but find myself thinking about what Bill said that day while I prepared tonight's version of THE PETE SHEETS for Flamboro.

Like most of you, I'm really looking forward to the three divisions of the Bud Light Stakes. The contentious first division (Race 2), the freakish and recently-dominant Mcaracas in division two (Race 4) and the short but very deep group of colts that will all pick up a cheque in the $37,670 third division (Race 6). I can't wait to watch! Unfortunately, I'm afraid that many of our customers will restrict their involvement to doing the same -- watching.

The three are terrible betting races, all with short fields which were brought about by an unlucky number of entries. There's not much anyone can do about the number of entries, but in an industry that is supposed to be about gambling, how does it make any sense to have two of the three most uncaptivating betting races of Flamboro's year representing two of the four legs of the early Pick Four sequence? Handles are already dwindling -- now we're sabotaging one of the most popular wagers among gamblers to accomodate the drivers that want to have their cake and eat it too by getting in and out of Flamboro as quickly as possible so they can make it to Woodbine as well? Forget the drivers!

Anyone that's read this blog with regularity knows that I'm a big proponent of our star drivers, but in this case, shouldn't their interests should be superceded by those of the bettors? You know -- our fans, our customers, our pre-slots lifeblood? Wouldn't it have been more productive, both from a gambling and entertainment standpoint, to have spread those three Stake races out as a means of keeping the few customers that actually go to the actual racetrack around? Wouldn't using the restricted claiming trot (carded as Race 3) or one of the other non-Stakes races rather than the chalky Bud Light races make the Pick Four sequence much more difficult to decipher? Difficult to decipher means bettors have to include ("use", "cover") more horses. More horses means more combinations. More combinations means more expensive tickets, means a bigger pool, means more interest! More interest. You want to see Mcaracas and Twin B Warrior, great, but you'll have to stick around until the 9th to do it. That goes for Mr. and Mrs. John Q Public, Mario Baillargeon and Jody Jamieson.

Harness racing is losing customers every single day. The industry is running out of chances to get it right. Horse racing, harness racing is about gambling. The sooner everyone starts thinking like our customers, regardless of how greasy or otherwise unperfect it might make some feel, the sooner our business will be headed in a better direction. But hey, what the hell do I know? I'm just some dumb gambler.

THE PETE SHEETS welcomes new subscribers Michael Sperber, Ken Perry and John MacLellan. Thanks for the interest, boys! 59 subscribers and counting!

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Flamboro and Woodbine are tonight's feature tracks.

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