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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


HALLANDALE BEACH, August 16,2021— It’s been 11 days since Daily Racing Form first reported that Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation approving fixed-odds wagering on horse racing, which is supposed to begin in a matter of weeks.

Just how long will it be before Monmouth Park bettors get to experience this new approach is anybody’s guess, even after New Jersey’s top executive and both legislative houses approved the measure.

Standing in the way, appropriately, is regulatory approval dealing with  a number of vexing issues, legal and practical. For example, how will late scratches affect odds payoffs that are locked at the moment the bet is made? How do tracks make up the revenue shortfall created by the loss of handle?

Murphy signed the legislation six weeks after the bill was passed by both houses of the state legislature. The bill formalizes a pilot program offered at Monmouth Park in 2018 and 2019. The track’s fixed-odds business will be handled by an expert Australian firm, BetMakers.

At first only straight wagers will be accepted; win, place, and show betting on Monmouth races only. The minimum wager is $1. New Jersey bettors will be able to place fixed-odds bets on-track and through account-wagering platforms.

Of course, fixed-odds betting allows players to lock in prices on horses at the time a wager is made as opposed to pari-mutuels in which odds are final at the close of betting. Fixed-odds betting is successful in many countries, proving popular with horseplayers.

There is one outstanding benefit that fixed odds provides compared to part-mutuels, lower takeout—12% has been mentioned, as opposed to other markets where takeout ranges from 15 to 18 percent, even higher in some precincts.

This helps rank and file players in two ways and the industry in one. Straight payoffs will be higher, meaning more winnings. More winnings leads to higher handle, or at least it has any time the rake was lowered over a significant period, as was the case in New York back in the 70s.

Short-term thinkers always make the revenue argument, which in the long term is a false equivalency. Liquidity is a gateway to larger bets. Further, and most significantly, lower takeout means less money for high-volume bettors in the form of rebates.

The lower the rebate, the lower the impact made on the rank and file by privileged whales with their special access to betting pools which enables them to make thousands of last-minute bets with a few keystrokes. This is not the first time HRI has made this point.

Eventually, New Jersey bettors will get their chance at getting the same price after the official as was available when the wager was made. As for the rest of the country who knows, maybe never. Rank-and-file friendly is whale hostile. Big bettors and bet-takers are unwilling to a haircut for the good of all.

Emotionally Mixed Messages from Saturday’s Graded Stakes

If your emotions are racing in many directions today, you have lots of company.

At Saratoga, the stakes day started with an undefeated and explosive juvenile, High Oak, winning the Saratoga Special for Hall of Famer Bill Mott. That it’s Mott wasn’t surprising; that it’s a precocious youngster is notably off brand.

For those who thought Get Stormy’s best days were behind her, they got that one wrong, me included. That Mark Casse was able to coax her back into top form following a very disappointing run was precisely on brand.

And that Arlington Park was able to pay tribute to its first family was at once appropriate and heart-warming.

The fact that there might not be another miracle associated with this Thoroughbred cathedral is a gut punch that still resonated this morning. But there is some hope, depending on which organization Churchill Downs Inc. decides to sell to.

Three potential developers are a group headed by the Chicago Bears for a new stadium after its Soldier Field lease is up, and two horsemen’s groups, one primarily interested in developing a mixed-use property. Mayor Thomas Hayes only wants what’s best for Arlington Heights’ leading employer.

Current owners CDI did not seek 2022 racing dates, eventually awarded to  Hawthorne Race Course. Whatever the future may hold for the new owners, it will require zoning approval from the town. The winning bid is scheduled to be announced this fall, though that promise not set in stone.

While we appreciated the emergence of sophomore turfer Point Me By; tough-tripping Beverly D runnerup Mean Mary and her conqueror, the very special Santa Barbara, and James Graham’s race-ride to steal the Mr. D with Two Emmys, upsetting pace compromised Domestic Spending.

But the day’s star raced at the Spa. For the sport’s true fans, the above cannot compare with Get Stormy’s becoming only the third horse to win two renewals of the Fourstardave, the only female ever, and to think she did it twice? Very cool.

Better yet was Get Stormy’s shocking return to top form, as none of her recent efforts resembled the Get Stormy who ran away from the competition at midstretch in the 2019 renewal, racing back on a mere week’s rest. Special horses do special things.

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⚠ Before you comment

Our staff likes nothing better than to engage with the HRI Faithful and provide a forum for interaction on horseracing and sports. In that spirit, please be kind and reasonable; keep the language clean, and the tone civil. Comments from those who cannot comply will be deleted. Thank you.

7 Responses

  1. Tink, That was in error! It was supposed to be updated with Fixed-Odds commentary that appears above, my bad.

    Going to check backend and see if I can retrieve. I have myself coming and going these days dealing with personal issues. Will check right now. Hopefully I can retrieve…

  2. Tink,

    The references I made re Arlington and CDI appear here in this column, in the second section, below the “Emotionally Mixed Messages…” sub-headline above. That’s the only mention I had made re this issue thus far. I assure you it won’t be the last. Beyond that, I’m not sure what you are referring to.

    If, however, you might have thought it was removed due to any political considerations then you must be relatively new to the site. We’ve been efforting to make truthful commentary since inception in 2007. We don’t always get it right, but not for lack of trying.

    Indeed, I’ve lost several backstretch contacts because I refused to spike a published column those parties believed cast them in a negative light.

    We are also generous with our praise when warranted—-probably 60-40 negative ratio, however—-but positive comments are seldom acknowledged. Amazing how much entitlement goes with the backstretch territory…

    1. Thanks John. Glad to hear that it was a simple error, and I appreciate that you make an effort not to bow to political pressures.

  3. AP’ s demise reminds me of one horse: John Henry whose brain was bigger than Secretariat’ s and… Most horse bettors.

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