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Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Sam Houston - Working for the Horseplayer

One of racing's biggest problems is it's inability to work for it's customer. Short fields and high takeouts leave many horseplayers asking themselves why they even bother, while (many) racetrack operators focus on casino revenue, ignoring the bettors who supported them before slots came around.
     But none of that is new, we've heard it before time and time again. However, somewhere out there, there is a racetrack that is improving it's racing product, and that track lies in the great state of Texas. Sam Houston Race Park is proving that it wants your business and is willing to do what it takes to get it.
     Let's talk takeout. Sam Houston, a little cheap claiming track that isn't a little sister to any major circuit, is ranked 6th on the Horseplayer's Association of North America 2013 Track Rankings. How is this possible? The key is pricing. At Sam Houston, all multi-race wagers have industry-low takeouts of 12%. As we all know, low takeout means bigger payouts which means the gambler will have more money to continue betting longer. WPS wagering is maybe a bit steep at 18%, Exactor is raked at 21%, and Triactor, Superfecta and Super High-5 all take 25%, which are the norms in Texas. The point is, industry-low multi-race takeout was a very smart and well-appreciated move that has proven to have a positive effect. 
     A new change to the Sam Houston schedule for the 2014 Thoroughbred season is Tuesday afternoon racing. For a while the track has raced on Friday-Saturday-Sunday-Monday, and, not surprisingly for a small track, found that Mondays brought in the most handle. This year the track made a change to the schedule, dropping Sundays in favour of Tuesday afternoons. Combined with good field sizes and smart promotion of low-takeout wagers and carryovers, Tuesday afternoons should prove to create big handle and create interest. Bigger pools mean bigger payoffs, which means the gambler has more money to continue gambling. Starting to sound familiar? Racing on Tuesdays will help Sam Houston create the best betting product possible.
      Let's take a quick look at today's Pick 5. Starting in Race 6, today's sequence looks to be an interesting one. Field sizes in the sequence are 7-8-7-12-10 and some of the races look tricky. Race 7 is a $15,000 claimer for non-winners of two going a route with no real obvious choice, Race 9 is a loaded $7,500 starter sprinting on the turf and Race 10 is a 3 year old Maiden Special Weight that could potentially produce a longshot. There's a small carryover of $1,493 into the pool. It's not much, but dead money is dead money so nothing to complain about. It's something to get some people interested in playing, and that's what we need. My ticket would be 5/1,3,5,6,7/5,6/6/5,6,7,8, which would cost $20 for $.50. Good luck if you take a stab.
     Horse racing needs to see more tracks like Sam Houston taking initiative and working to grow the customer base. Although there was an era where we were the only game in town, we no longer have a monopoly, we haven't for a long time, and based on the way handle is declining, we need to do something to get people betting. Kudos to Sam Houston for taking important steps in the right direction.