Sunday was opening day at one of my favorite tracks, Assiniboia Downs (ASD) in Winnipeg. It's a bullring where bottom level horses run for small purses, handle is microscopic and the rake is high. Really high. But I like it. Don't judge me.
Now, ASD's a tough track to take seriously. It is ranked last on HANA's track ratings. No one seems to have heard of it. It just seems to be there for the sake of being there. But they're trying. They really are making an effort to improve their product.
Let's take a look at a few of the things ASD has done. Last meet they embraced a low takeout Pick 4, lowering the rake from 29% to 15%. This meet, they've pushed their post times back a half an hour trying to face less competition. Rolling Doubles and Pick 3s have been added, and there is now a Super High 5 wager. All of these seem like positive steps.
But is it working?
Like I said earlier, Sunday was opening day. There was an 8 race card, and they handled $143,660. Last year on opening day, also a Sunday afternoon, the handle was $168,679. That's about a 15% drop. Not good. Not good at all. Now, we still have 59 days of the meet to go, but this isn't the way things should have started off.
I've written about this before, and I'm writing about it begin. I want to see Manitoba racing thrive. I want to see racing in all of Canada thrive. In order for that to happen, though, things must change. ASD needs to take their positive steps, and go further. Why just lower the Pick 4 takeout? Bettors aren't interested in 26% Exactors and Doubles, or 29% Tris, Supers, Pick 3s, and Super High 5s. Schedule changes must be more drastic than a half an hour later. Remove pointless Friday cards that attracted the lowest average handles in 2012 and run them on a Monday or Tuesday, days where there is little competition. These things need to happen. For the sake of the racing industry, it needs to happen.
This blog post is a call out to Assiniboia Downs to continue making positive changes. Keep focusing on the bettor. Build a product, the players will come. And if positive encouragement isn't enough, just remember that tracks like Arapahoe, SunRay, and Fair Meadows are considered superior products. It's time to make some changes, Assiniboia. It's time to make some serious changes.