New wagers can actually make the track want a particular horse to win

New wagers can actually make the track want a particular horse to win

October 17, 2017 3:00 AM
by

Back in the days of simple win, place and show wagering, racetracks had no interest as to which horses won and which horses lost. As non-biased holders of the wagering dollars, the racetracks simply returned to all winning tickets the money wagered minus the takeout held by the host tracks.

With the invention of rolling bets like the Pick Six and the more recent creation of “jackpot” payoffs in wagers to single ticket winners, things have changed.

Racetracks now have a significant monetary interest in who wins their races.

A carryover in the Pick Six at So uthern California tracks like Del Mar and Santa Anita can lead to as much as a 500% increase in the amount wagered in that same pool the next day, a major boon to the financial bottom line of those tracks.

In New York, the takeout on Pick Six wagers on a normal non-carryover day is 15%. When there is a Pick Six carryover, the takeout on that same wager soars to 24%. That is a 60% increase that track gets to keep on each dollar wagered on Pick Six carryover days in New York.

As a result, racing offices East and West structure their race cards carefully, stacking the races that are the most wide open with the biggest field sizes in the Pick Six sequence hoping to create a carryover. A featured Stakes race with an overwhelming favorite is often moved to a position earlier in the card so the race is not part of a rolling bet like the Pick Six.

Single ticket “jackpot” wagers like the Super High Five, Pick Six, and in some regions the Pick Five are treated much the same way. The wagers are promoted heavily by the tracks, while player-friendly wagers like the 14% takeout Players Pick Five in SoCal get very little promotion.

The problem with these potential blockbuster payoff wagers is perception. Since the racetracks benefit financially from certain horses winning and certain horses losing, they are no longer unbiased when it comes to the results. Given that potential benefit, many factors could positively impact the racetrack bottom line, such as:

• Consistency throughout any given day when it comes to track maintenance. A change in any track bias in the middle of a card could severely impact a rolling bet like the Pick Six. Track employees are responsible for track maintenance.

• Stewards’ decisions regarding disqualifications that could either create a carryover or eliminate a jackpot payoff.

• Decisions regarding late surface switches due to weather. For example, when a race is forced off the turf in SoCal after a rolling bet sequence has begun, for purposes of that rolling bet all horses selected would be declared winners, which vastly lowers the chances of a single ticket jackpot payoff. The decision to switch surfaces is made by track management.

Do I think there is anything shady going on when it comes to such decisions at the major SoCal tracks? Not at all. But the fact the tracks stand to benefit from certain results leaves the door open for speculation.

Morris out at SA

Joe Morris, senior vice president, West Coast operations for The Stronach Group, resigned Thursday at Santa Anita effective immediately. Morris was previously the general manager of Golden Gate Fields and prior to taking his most recent position with The Stronach Group he served as president for the Thoroughbred Owners of California.

This appears to be the first of what may be numerous management changes at Santa Anita with the arrival of Tim Ritvo, the chief operating officer of The Stronach Group, in California. Expect many of the changes to occur before the 2017-2018 Santa Anita winter meet starts the day after Christmas.

It will be interesting and important to see what the focus of the new management at Santa Anita will be and how the business model will change. By denying some trainers stalls at the current meet due to their record of shipping horses out of state, the active overseeing of the horse population on the backstretch, and the increased veterinary exams for horses who have not started for any length of time that are stabled on track, there is an obvious proactive movement at Santa Anita to increase participation and to weed out those who are detrimental to the SoCal racing product.

SA Pick Six hits

On a lighter note, congratulations to the lone winning ticket holder from the Pick Six on Sunday at Santa Anita. That ticket was worth $549,864 and was purchased at Northville Downs in Michigan. Cost of the ticket – $80 bucks.

For those fortunate enough to be able to get to Santa Anita the next two weekends, try to get there for the morning workouts. Coffee at Clockers Corner is complimentary, and for the next two weekends there will be a special 10 minute window after the second renovation break (approximately 7:45 a.m.) when Breeders Cup horses only will be allowed to work.

Santa Anita helps out their visitors by having an announcer point out which horses are working and when possible what noteworthy jockeys may be working those horses. It is great stuff.

If you can’t be there to see the works in person, you can see most Santa Anita workouts by potential Breeders Cup participants through the website www.xbtv.com. Access to the videos is free and the coverage is excellent.

Play of the Week

Santa Anita, Friday, Race 1: Icy Street (post 8). This Maiden trained by John Sadler got stopped rallying along the fence at Del Mar on Aug. 19 before exploding late when clear to just miss. He should love the longer 1-1/8 mile trip and may only be a clean trip away from his first career win.