A Tale of Two Franchises
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., May 24, 2015—In the last two weeks, it has been the best of times for a couple of Stronach Group racetracks.
It began a week ago Saturday night after all of Pimlico’s final numbers were fully digested. The Preakness metrics were off the charts, which flew in the face of national television rating that were down slightly.
Not sure what these counter-intuitive results mean in the overall, considering here was a budding superstar that delivered on U.S. racing biggest stage which drew a huge national audience, yet two weeks later American sports fans weren’t glued to their HDTVs.
Surely, that won’t be the case a fortnight from now, or will it? As my good friend, the late Jack Wilson constantly counseled, “better say maybe big Johnny.”
Keeping in the spirit of the latest television commercial that continues to amuse, the Preakness numbers were “stupid good.”
It started on Black-Eyed Susan day when attendance of 42,700, representing a 23% rise. And handle of nearly $18.5 million was the highest in a decade, up an astounding 63 percent from 2014’s $11.3 million.
Now attendance and handle metrics may not hold the weight they once did, it’s still the fastest way to know how a track is doing: Thumbs up or thumbs down.
While mainstream America might have yawned at American Pharoah’s attempt to stay alive in a bid for racing immortality, they truly love their Preakness in Baltimore.
Thanks to an aggressive betting menu, a 14th race, and good weather--until the Preakness horses started their Maryland-My-Maryland parade, that is--handle was up a tad, from $83.7 million to $85.1 year over year.
Parenthetically, imagine what the handle might have been if bettors were allowed to churn a little more money but could not in the face of high takeout rates, and we’re not talking crab-cakes-to-go here.
Despite a 12% takeout in the Pick 5, the equal of Sam Houston Park’s, the lowest in North America, the blended rake at Pimlico is an extremely high 23.69%, which ranks it 35th of 62 tracks rated by the Horseplayers Association of North America.
But trust that management is duly aware of the takeout issue, but the priority remains, as it should be, to make Maryland racing the success it once was and a leader in a Mid-Atlantic region badly in need of a leading light.
Ready, Aim, Firing Line
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., May 12, 2015—It’s anticipated that Saturday’s Preakness field will be relatively small although we suspect it will turn out slightly larger than many expect when entries are taken May 13.
In a pre-Derby column, we asked whether Bob Baffert would cost himself a chance at Triple Crown immortality by winning America’s Race with either American Pharoah or Dortmund then run both colts back in the Preakness, which is expected to happen later today.
This was pre-supposing that he had the best horses going into Louisville and the best two horses coming out. That might still be the case, something we will all know with some certitude late Saturday afternoon.
Nearly two weeks ago, American Pharoah not only validated his thrashing of overmatched Arkansas rivals but proved that he was the best of his generation; unknown class quantities such as Competitive Edge and Kentuckian notwithstanding.
American Pharoah showed guts to match his undeniable brilliance, proved he could survive a fetlock-to-fetlock battle, and that when Victor Espinoza would finally ask him to reach bottom, there would be more there, there.
However, we think something remains to be seen relative to true greatness, that he is the equal of legends past, most notably Seattle Slew, the magnificent Hall of Famer to which many observers have been more than willing to draw a comparison.
To paraphrase the irascible Lee Corso, not so fast my friends.