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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


By Michael Antoniades — If you are a fan of horse racing, the earth moved on Saturday. There are no sports to watch or wager on, and a growing spotlight is on horse racing, especially on the weekends where we have been getting expanded television coverage. Last Saturday, the cooperation between two tracks on Arkansas Derby Day took horse racing as a business and a viewing experience to another level.

On Saturday May 2, Oaklawn Park and Gulfstream Park worked together and coordinated their actual off times. The two tracks found a way to work on the fly and schedule their races apart from each other.

This was a vast improvement from the past,where to the dismay of television networks and the wagering public, some tracks were notorious for running their races on top of each other, which decreased revenues from money that was wagered, and made a coordinated telecast a nightmare.

By finally working together, the two tracks created a better viewing and wagering model which maximized handle at each track,  which maximized revenue at all simulcast outlets.

This cooperation creates a more perfect viewing experience for a national television audience. If they want to grow their viewing and wagering audience, horse racing finally must learn the importance of off time cooperation between tracks. It’s the difference between a great product and a bad one.

Many times this year, Oaklawn and Gulfstream would race at the same time, making it impossible for the television networks to show the races live. The network would have to choose which race it would show live, and then show the other race on tape delay.

Even worse, the network would now be faced with 30 minutes to fill before another race went off. This had been standard operational procedure for many tracks in the simulcast era.

Because of the cooperation between Gulfstream and Oaklawn on Saturday
afternoon and evening , handle between the two tracks exploded.
Coordinated off times made it easy to follow both tracks, and the end result was final handle numbers north of $60,000,000.

As we get closer to more tracks opening, we can learn from Arkansas Derby Day that post time cooperation between the major tracks will benefit everyone in the industry and continue to grow wagering and viewing interest in the sport .

GP.  Gulfstream Park
OP.  Oaklawn Park

Saturday post times
May 2

Eastern time

Track.   OFF
GP1.    12:52
OP1.      1:05
GP2.      1:22
OP2.     1:36
GP3.     1:52
OP3.     2:07
GP4.     2:21
OP4.     2:42
GP5.     2:53
OP5.     3:13
GP6.     3:23
OP6.     3:46
GP7.      3:58
OP7.      4:20
GP8.      4:30
OP8.     4:53
GP9.      5:06
OP9.      5:25
GP10.    5:37
OP10.    5:59
GP11.     6:09
OP11.     6:36.    Derby
GP12.     6:46
OP12.     7:11.     Handicap
OP13.     7:52.    Derby
OP14.     8:34

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8 Responses

  1. What a great column by this writer amazing how helping one another within the handle goes thru the roof. The only reason it worked was because they’re the only A tracks going. The cooperation that went on within the 2 tracks shows what can be done

  2. Oaklawn Park handling over 41 million was much more than anyone would’ve expected. I can say that Tampa Bay’s last race going off at 3:40 and Gulfstream Park not running on top of them led to this record handle.

  3. Great article stressing the importance of post time cooperation between tracks. This is absolutely beneficial to the viewer and really should be a must, as it keeps continuity to the daily racing program.

  4. Mike is 100 percent correct. I am 5 day a week horseplayer and nothing more frustrating than races from major tracks being run on top of one another. It’s hard to believe the start times cant be coordinated more effectively in this day and age.

  5. Not sure but I think I’ve written the following for a decade. When/if all tracks return, U.S. racing could adopt the time honored European tradition: Forget the first, second and third races, make 1:00, 1:25 and 1:50. The second ‘A’ track could be the 1:05, 1:30 and 1:55, etc.

    Group tracks by region and coordinate those scheduled with like competition, etc. This also has the benefit of tracks branding their races. Players hear 1:00 and immediately think Gulfstream; 1:05 they think New York, 1:10 they know Kentucky, whatever…

    Of course, it’s never going to be perfect; run-offs, DQs, and the like. But regionalizing by similar-level competition and coordinating post times might be the closest thing this sport will ever get to league-style racing.

  6. Great article. It shouldn’t really be that difficult for the “A” tracks to work out a post time schedule amongst themselves.

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