- Keeneland spokesman Jim Williams admitted to "anecdotal tales" of discontent amongst bettors about Polytrack. But he downplayed that as a factor in the 17% decline in handle from last year thus far at the spring meeting. Instead, he emphasized that last spring's record breaking figures were a hard act to follow, and pointed to the weak economy. Steve Crist, writing in the subscription DRF Plus section of the Form, responds by pointing out that Oaklawn was slightly up, and that parimutuel handle historically has been recession-proof, especially at short boutique meetings like Keeneland's.
If the economy is a factor (and I don't think we can say for sure at this time that it's not), I think that would be reflected mostly in the on-track numbers, which indeed was down around 12%. I'm not going to argue with those who attribute the decline in the much-larger off-track sources to hesitation over Polytrack, especially when I read some of those anecdotal tales, such as those on the PaceAdvantage.com forum.
But I do find the notion rather ironic considering that the "old" Keeneland was a monotonous parade of front runners, and the Polytrack races have been wide-open affairs in which horses can, and do, win from anywhere on the track. Well, except maybe, the lead! So I guess a lot of horseplayers prefer predictable over uncertain, which certainly makes sense, especially if you're doing it for a living. I'm not; just having fun and trying to get lucky once or twice in a while. I actually used to avoid the track when it was a paved highway, but I love the racing there now. I wouldn't say that if I thought it was as much of a crapshoot as some are making it out to be. Sure, the Blue Grass was ponderous, but that's just one race, and one in which everything gets magnified.
I do have a little experience with this, having handicapped nearly every day of the spring card last year, and I certainly found the races to be difficult and challenging, but not uniformly inexplicable by any means. The prices are right, and you only have to hit one nice one to get out for the short meet. So, suit yourself, but I'm psyched for the second half of the meeting, and will certainly play my extremely small part in trying to improve that handle.
- Dick Powell points out in his Handicapping Insights column on BRIS that Ramon Dominguez taking the mount on Monba may mean that Eight Belles, who the jockey rode her last two starts, won't go against the boys.
Either Dominguez and his agent, Steve Rushing, feel that Monba is better than Eight Belles or they have doubts that she'll go in the Derby and were afraid that they would be left without a mount. [BRIS]