Tuesday, 27 May 2014

The Poker Sure Ain't the Met Mile

Memorial Day at Belmont was a lot different this year than in previous years. This year, we got to watch Jack Milton and Za Approval in the Grade III Poker. Last year, we got Sahara Sky and Flat Out in the Met Mile and Midnight Lucky and Close Hatches in the Acorn. Guess which year got the bigger handle?

     If you guessed 2013, good job. Last year, with 11 races, bettors put $16,191,654 through the windows, or $1,471,968 per race. This year, with 10 races, $9,913,636 was bet, or $991,363 per race. That's about a 32% decrease per race, with total handle down about 38%. Average field size last year was 9.27. This year's was 7.3. That's a 21% decrease. Attendance last year was 11,664. This year's 6,946. That's a 40.5% decrease.

     Now, the question is will having the Met Mile, the Acorn, the Ogden Phipps, etc, on Belmont Day make up for this lost revenue? We definitely won't know for sure this year, because with a Triple Crown on the line Belmont Day handle should be way up. The last three Belmont days with no Triple Crown on the line (2013, 2011, 2010) handled $88,652,022, $80,728,842 and $74,613142, respectively. The last three Belmont days with a Triple Crown on the line (2012, 2008, 2004) handled $96,485,984, $99,858,200, and $111,025,435. So regardless of the undercard, we know there will be a higher than average handle on this year's Belmont. Will the undercard be enough to boost handle even higher? Could we see, perhaps, $120,000,000 put through the windows? I don't think so. We'll have to wait until the next year where we don't have a potential Triple Crown to see if the new Belmont Festival of Racing makes a difference in handle.

     Met Mile day and Belmont day are both 'event' days. Obviously of different proportions, but event days all the same. Mixing them together is a curious decision. Sure, the festival idea is neat, but at the end of the day racing makes its money through wagering. Will a giant racing festival create more wagering revenue, or is the Belmont already as big as it is going to get?

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