Sunday, 5 April 2015

Keeneland, I Told Ya So & Hi-Handle-5

A few months back, Keeneland announced some changes they were making to the Blue Grass. They pushed the race a week back, putting it four weeks out from the Derby instead of three, and they bumped the purse from $750,000 to $1,000,000. The idea behind this was that it would keep a full field and get some high quality Derby contenders.

     I immediately came out and said this was a bad idea. The notion that an extra $250,000 was going to attract a 14 horse field on dirt was silly. The Wood, the Santa Anita Derby & the Florida Derby are all worth $1,000,000 and since 2012 there have been three 10 horse fields in those three races combined. Furthermore, on it's original date, the Blue Grass competed only with the Arkansas Derby. This year, it competed with the Wood Memorial and the Santa Anita Derby.

    "Oh no," they told me. "People like betting dirt, it will be huge."
    "Making the purse a million will get a full field," they said.

     Well, let's see how they did.

     2015: $15,237,651*,  $1,385,241/race
     2014: $19,532,055. $1,627,671/race

     Total handle dropped 22% and handle/race dropped 15%.

     Horse racing is a complex game, but some things are pretty simple: regardless of surface, people will always bet less money on shorter fields, and you're looking for trouble by competing against other major events.

     I hate to say I told you so, but...

     Up in my home province, on the other hand, Woodbine had a mandatory payout on the Super Hi-5. 15% takeout, $847k carryover = big money.

    Amazing what you can do with a huge value wager. Let's take a quick look at another implication of this.

     A standard Saturday night card of harness racing at Woodbine handles about $1,500,000. Subtract the Hi-5 pool, and tonight's total handle was $2,114,704, 41% more than a standard Saturday. Giving people a reason to look at your product (low takeout wager)  will likely lead to some more handle on your other pools, too.

    Have a good Easter Sunday, everyone.

*Unofficial handle #. Will be updated when the official # is on the Equibase charts

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