Burned at the Graded Stake
At HRI, we have always encouraged our readers to speak out on issues pertaining to anything that has an effect on the sport we all love.
Disparate opinions are not only welcome but encouraged, especially since that difference is the very essence of participation in the Thoroughbred Racing experience.
Del Mar opened on Wednesday and Saratoga is scheduled to open tomorrow, Friday. Both destination meets offer the best of what American racing can be over a sustained period, led by a concentrated array of graded stakes events.
But not all graded stakes are created equal and many even miss their mark entirely, except for getting some bold type printed in a sales catalogue.
The following is the opinion of a regular HRI contributor who goes by the nom de race Indulto, a 1963 King Ranch foal that went on to win 27 of 89 career starts and nearly a half-million dollars, a whole lot of money back then. His namesake seems to like the game as much as he did.
In “the shrinking value of graded stakes,” http://www.drf.com/news/shrinking-value-graded-stakes the Daily Racing Form’s Matt Hegarty revealed that the Graded Stakes Committee is delegating, by default, the decisions as to which graded stakes would be eliminated to the individual tracks.
Once again, it would seem, another opportunity to revive racing's fortunes is about to be lost due to an industry failure to conduct a coordinated, cooperative effort.
Obviously, consolidation is necessary, so why not do it constructively and attract attention to the sport as well as expand handle?
It’s no secret that racing thrives when the best face the best. Why can’t or won’t the industry give its customers what it knows they want as often as possible?
The NTRA’s Online Marketing Task Force slogan, "Take Back Saturday," is the starting point. By putting its best foot forward on a weekly basis, racing could rebuild sustainable interest in the game with familiar contestants competing at the highest level.
Each division would appear approximately every sixth Saturday (excluding Triple Crown days, Grade I Derby prep days, Haskell Day, and Travers Day). Each top-tier race selected could anchor a jackpot pick six comprised of the day’s six highest purse races at active tracks.
Nationwide interest would soar if this were a 10-cent minimum wager without consolation payoffs that allocated only 10% to the jackpot. The remaining 90% would either go to all tickets with six winners or else to a carryover when no ticket with six winners is hit.
Takeout should be 15% on non-carryover days and no more than 19% when there is a carryover. ADWs could give something back to the sport by taking a minimal cut of what promises to be huge volume.
The promotional value of such a visibly fan-friendly wager seems boundless to me. Limiting its exposure to once a week with performers less likely to suffer breakdowns might help expand on-line wagering to residents of states that currently prevent them from participating.
The success of the “Rainbow Pick Six” and the “Players Pick Five” suggest the bet would be extremely popular among the recreational majority of new and existing horseplayers; especially since they would always have ample time to prepare.
Lower-tier graded stakes could still be flexibly scheduled free of divisional conflicts on weekends and holidays.
Friday female festivals should be expanded whenever practical, particularly under the lights. Fillies and mares might start competing more frequently in featured open company events considering their success in multiple BC Miles and Sprints, and Zenyatta’s finishes in her two Classics.
What I would dub the “Premiere Pick Six” would be extended to the Saturday final BC preps at Belmont, Keeneland, and Santa Anita for its mandatory jackpot payoff. The associated divisional championship bonus system would accumulate points from the BC races and all final weekend preps in addition to the designated series events.
I can’t see any downside here. If others can, please enlighten me. Here’s a chance for the industry to prove it can take positive steps to preserve the sport without government intervention.
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