The Ontario Harness summer season is starting soon, with the B circuit shifting from Western Fair & Flamboro to Grand River & Georgian this weekend.
Earlier this meet, Western Fair was running their Monday & Tuesday cards with a 4:15 ET post time, and it was working out. We were frequently seeing handles over $300,000. Then, once the racing alliance started in April, the London oval changed their Monday/Tuesday first post to 6:15, most likely in an attempt to grow the live crowd. The effect was a pretty big drop in handle. Nights with less than $200,000 wagered have not been uncommon at all, and the $300,000+ handles that bettors were starting to become accustomed to became very few and far between.
This summer, Grand River will be running the Monday cards and Georgian will have the Tuesdays. Grand River's first post will be 6:30, and Georgian will be 7:05. However, one would think that experimenting with twilight post times would be worth a shot. It worked at Western Fair, and it's worked for Thoroughbred racing at Fort Erie. Twilight post at Grand River would be especially interesting. They cut several takeout rates last year, enough to be the most player-friendly B track in Ontario Harness racing, and finished the meet with an 11.5% increase in handle. Unfortunately, the average daily handle for last year's Grand River meet isn't online. But the fact that they that 11.5% increase is important. People saw that they were offering a good product, and they responded. In an effort to get more people interested, twilight post time seems like a logical idea.
At the end of the day, horse racing needs bettors. Western Fair had found a spot where people where betting a solid amount of money. It worked. Grand River and Georgian would be smart to see the success of the 4:15 post time and follow suit.