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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Bettors Can't Get Handle on Keeneland

- 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 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]


Anonymous said...

I bet very little now at KEEN.
Can't handicapp It.

I usually just bet the turf races.

I've also cut down at Delmar and S.A.

John said...


What the hell is Patrick's profile doing in the upper right corner?

Teresa said...

MSG has got me with the "I am a Ranger" campaign...I love it. And now I see I'm not alone...

Anonymous said...

the races as a whole aren't bad but when you have a grade 1 with horses with no previous experience on the surface handicapping is a crap shoot its not like baffert says "it makes an average horse look good and a good horse look average" its more like "it makes an all weather horse look good a dirt horse look average" in my opinion it may be good for racing but it has turned into a plague for the derby trail

ballyfager said...

Last year's Blue Grass was an even bigger joke. One more year and horsemen will start to avoid it.

For Keeneland's spokesman to say he doesn't know why handle is off 17% is disingenuous. He knows why. A lot of people don't like synthetic tracks, period.

It's closer to turf racing than dirt racing. Who needs that? And it remains to be seen whether it helps the horses which was the putative rationale for it.

Keeneland (and Del Mar) will insist that it's okay right up until they decide to take it out.

Teresa said...

Keeneland is a partner in Polytrack--which is why I think you have to throw out anything they say about the surface. The more places that put in Polytrack, the more money Keeneland makes. There's no way that anyone associated with the track could say anything negative about the surface.

Alan Mann said...

>>t's closer to turf racing than dirt racing. Who needs that?

I thought people like turf racing, and that the handle figures are generally good on the grass? I'd actually like to see a breakdown on those handle numbers by main track and grass races, to see if the figures are down more for the Poly races.

also, as I wrote in the post, I think there's too much emphasis on the Blue Grass. Yes, it's bad if the race becomes irrelevant to the Derby....and I imagine that Keeneland management will be rooting for Pyro to come in 20th! But the race wasn't so relevant before the Poly was installed. Remember Sinister Minister?

John - Patrick was tooling around with the layout, so you can blame him if you don't like it. I'm still deciding myself.

Harl said...

I have no problem with the Polytrack at Keeneland from a wagering standpoing. I think you can find some live horses at generous odds and it's much, much better than the old concrete surface. I think it just adds a new element to the game and those horseplayers that "figure it out" quicker than everyone else will be rewarded. I've had a nice October at Keeneland last year after a rather poor April '07. Now that I've seen a few meets on the Poly, I feel I have a better handle on it.

In the Premier Pick 4 on Bluegrass Day, I only used three horses, PYRO as my main choice and MONBA/COWBOY CAL as backup choices. I wasn't surprised about anybody's performance on the Poly other than PYRO's (I thought he was at least a cinch to hit the board against that bunch if he had the least bit of affinity for the fake stuff). I still plan to back that one in the Derby unless I play chalk.

As someone who visits Keeneland a couple times per meet, I can say that I am enjoying myself much more since the switch to Polytrack even though we no longer have the opportunity to hit easy picks like SINISTER MINISTER on Bluegrass Day. How did that horse go off at such long odds when everyone (and I mean everyone!) knew about the old speed bias at Keeneland.

Anonymous said...

I don't bet or buy PP's anymore on account of gas and food going thru the roof. Geez gas went up 15 cents overnight today. Going to Saratoga is out of the question this year. Hey, there's TVG's free account with play money that keeps me amused!! You haven't seen anything yet with gas and food prices. Just wait!! For now its just watch the races.

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