John Pricci executive editor John Pricci has over three decades of experience as a thoroughbred racing public handicapper and was an award-winning journalist while at New York Newsday for 18 years.

John has covered 14 Kentucky Derbies and Preaknesses, all but three Breeders' Cups since its inception in 1984, and has seen all but two Belmont Stakes live since 1969.

Currently John is a contributing racing writer to, an analyst on the Capital Off-Track Betting television network, and co-hosts numerous handicapping seminars. He resides in Saratoga Springs, New York.

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Envelope? I Don’t Need No Stinking Envelope

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, October 10, 2012—When the release from the Thoroughbred Racing Associations arrived in my inbox announcing the winners of their annual Simulcast Award honors, I figured it had to be one of two tracks.

I was wrong. It was both of them.

This year, Keeneland and Woodbine, in the spirit of Alpha and Golden Ticket, could not be separated in the minds of the panel commissioned by the TRA to evaluate which track produces the best television product for racing’s simulcast players.

I have participated on this panel and remember that whenever I was confronted with a tough choice, I always had the hardest time separating, well, Keeneland from Woodbine.

In no way is it related to the discussion at hand, but interesting to note that both tracks offer racing on synthetic surfaces.

I wonder if their respective management teams believe that because there is still a good deal of resistance by rank and file bettors to wager on All-Weather surfaces with the same gusto they have when betting dirt races, we had better do a better job presenting their product?

Clearly, no apologies need be made for Keeneland and its boutique meet hat’s second to none.

(Sorry, Saratoga fans, but 6-1/2 weeks is more of a box store than a boutique. And even with a couple of 3-to-4 week sessions, they wisely resist the temptation to run more than nine races except for big weekend stakes days).

Keeneland and Woodbine have something else in common that, on balance, most horseplayers prefer; the Trakus system which, in addition to trip handicapping data heretofore unavailable to those practitioners, makes it easier to know exactly where your horse is relative to the competition virtually at a glance.

There’s no sport that is more colorful than horse racing, and none that is so perfect for the digital and internet age, given all the data that needs to be mined and digested. More than any other American racetrack, Keeneland gets this.

Throw in the friendliest takeout rates in the country, an HD presentation, and top young track announcer Kurt Becker and it’s easy to understand how Keeneland can be ranked right at the top.

Indeed, Keeneland and Woodbine are the only tracks to have been so honored on five occasions.

Production values that impressed the panel included Keeneland’s sharp video presentation, multiple paddock cameras, and the Trakus staging that lends a value-added element to the viewing experience.

As for our friends north of the border, the judges were impressed with the graphics packages and the audio presentation and information disseminated by Woodbine’s on-air talent.

Twelve tracks submitted entries, using the actual simulcast audio and video transmission of a single race aired to their simulcast partners and wagering outlets. Each entry included the occasional pre-race feature, odds, will-pays, commentary, the actual running of the race, results and accompanying post-race features.

Keeneland’s winning entry originally aired April 12, 2012; Woodbine’s on August 6.

While those tracks finished in a dead heat, the competition was more than just a two-track race.

Five other tracks received first, second or third-place votes on several ballots, including two from the CDI group, Churchill Downs and Calder Race Course, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, Gulfstream Park and Mohawk.

Churchill Downs and Del Mar each won simulcast awards in the past, as did Santa Anita, Hollywood Park, Penn National, Turfway and Los Alamitos. But none have matched Keeneland’s and Woodbine’s consistency.

The TRA has spearheaded these awards since their inception. Perhaps now they could interest all tracks in working on a simulcast presentation that offers racing to betting public—one contest at a time. And it doesn’t even cost anything.

Written by John Pricci

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