Tuesday, September 25, 2018


Does Racing Really Need More Jackpot Wagers?


Well, whether horseplayers are ready for them or not, here they come. They will be variations on the traditional Pick 6 themes already in place in California and New York.

The new Jackpot bet will come to New York when the New York Racing Association deems it so; the 20-Cent Rainbow Pick 6, extremely popular and successful in South Florida, will be made available Friday on opening day of the Santa Anita fall meet.

The Pick 6 in this country, a $2 wager, was introduced in Southern California and remains a somewhat unique phenomenon there. It has been supported there from Day 1 and remains a recognizably large part of the betting landscape out west.

Under SoCal rules, 70% of the pool will be paid to bettors who select all six winners. The remaining 30% is segmented: 15%, designated as a “minor share” will be paid to those who pick five winners or less.

The remaining 15%, labeled the “unique share,” will be paid on the day when only a single unique winner will take down the whole pool. If there is more than one winning sequence on one ticket, it will entitle that bettor to a 100% share; set and match.

From the inception of jackpot wagers, bettors have divided themselves into two camps: Some will never wager given the high percentage of routine takeout plus the jackpot carryover. Others see value depending on the scenario.

On balance, bettors are attracted to the relatively low cost, 20-Cents, with a chance to land a big payoff, including a possible life-changer. It really depends on how a player defines his personal view of risk vs reward.

One cannot escape the notion of looking at this bet through a lens predicated on the old New York State Lottery tagline: “All you need is a dollar and a dream.” Under certain circumstances; extremely large carryovers or mandatory payout days, it’s nearly impossible to resist.

The ability of horseplayers—and the game--to survive—depends on horseplayer liquidity. High reward depends on a high degree of difficulty and/or deep pockets. But high degree of difficulty in this game usually puts players on a fast track to the poor house.

Every gambler has his own definition of acceptable percentage of wins to losses. It also depends on whether the bettor is playing the long or short game. Is he in the game for the action, or does he want to make money? The answer is not the no-brainer it appears to be.

Who knows when New York will institute its Jackpot bet. Last week NYRA received permission from the NYS Gaming Commission to offer it. Those jones-ing for the opportunity to jump into that pool will need to wait, probably until the start of a new race meet.

The rules, as follows, is subject to a 60-day public-comment period:

If no ticket has the correct pick six sequence, NYRA would be able to award the “major share” to those who selected the first-place finisher in the greatest number of pick-six jackpot races, the remainder, the “minor share” is added to the carryover. No mention of the initial takeout rate was forthcoming.

McKinzie Back with Style, Albeit Greenly

…Or was Mike Smith just race-riding into the first turn, carrying everyone outside him—most immediately Mr Freeze—out to the parking lot. McKinzie remained wide throughout, the best part of the Parx surface, and Smith rode as if he were on the best horse. He was.

McKinzie powered away through the lane, snaking greenly at midstretch, was corrected by Smith then ran on strongly through the wire and on the gallop-out. Going nine furlongs over the quirky and deep surface off a six-month break is difficult, but he made it look easy.

So now it will be on to Churchill Downs for either the Grade 1 Clark or Classic. Guess that would depend on how he comes out of the Pennsylvania Derby and what the Breeders’ Cup competition looks like. He’ll get weight from the 4-year-olds signed, but he’ll probably need to. Late developing Axelrod was the strong-finish runnerup.

Farewell to One of Racing’s Great Ladies

Had she lived to celebrate her next birthday, Shirley Day Smith--that would be Kentucky Colonel Shirley Day Smith--would have hit the century mark.

Sixty of those years were spent in service to the New York Racing Association where she served six Media Directors and hundreds of turf writers from around the world. She was a fixture, beloved by all who crossed her path.

And she wasn’t loved just because she was accommodating. She did her job with joy and eagerness but it was her generosity of spirit and genuine warmth that made her great at what she did and a friend to all.

She never spoke ill of anyone but didn’t gladly suffer fools either; a cross word wasn’t necessary when a raised eyebrow would do. If you were out of line she’d let you know that there was a better way.

Shirley was as at home on a barstool hoisting drinks with her life companion, Jim McCulley of the NY Daily News and the rest of the turf writing crowd, as she was at parties hosted by Saratoga doyen Marylou Whitney on the eve of that storied horse race.

An aside: Shirley was the rock that McCulley leaned on toward the end of a sports writing career best known as the beat writer covering the New York Yankees.

Back in the day, reporters made road trips with the team often sharing the same railroad car. McCulley was present at the famed Copacabana the night a couple of guys named Mantle, Martin and Bauer got into it with a few other revelers.

Some details were hard to come by. Writers reported on the sport; what happened after dark never saw daylight. Clearly, it was a different era.

All six Media Directors depended on Shirley Day Smith to get things done and for the kind of guidance that only a dedicated racetracker with professional bearing could provide sportswriters in need.

The solace in her parting is knowing that people who are loved never die.

Written by John Pricci

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