Archives for October 2014


While horse racing enthusiasts relish the intellectual challenge of handicapping, its intricacies can be a deterrent to attracting new players.   Handicapping is a process replete with jargon, voluminous data, and statistical inference.

Some people don’t want to learn the nuances of handicapping and others, who do know how to handicap, may not have the time or desire to devote to it.  One approach to encouraging their participation is to provide them with lottery-like options that don’t necessitate a commitment of considerable time or deep thought.  Instant Racing–wherein players can bet on recycled races presented in a slot-machine format–is such an example that has been successful at several racetracks in the United States.

A theme-based horse-racing casino game is cleverly called “Who Wants to be a Stallionaire?”—which is an obvious reference to the once-popular British and American television program “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”  The “Stallionaire” is a horse caricature depicted as a fashionably dressed human.  “Who Wants to be a Stallionaire?” is a classic three-reel slot game that features a racecourse-style board with 20 squares.  The game is activated by lighting three of the bronze, silver, or gold horseshoes on the rack to the left of the screen.  With bonuses, the jackpot can go up to £5,000 or over $8,000 U. S. dollars.

Gaming Club Casino, an online enterprise, is an illustration of a company that offers players over 400 such readily understandable casino games appealing to a wide array of tastes and preferences.  Additionally, people can begin by playing for practice rather than money.

Easily playable theme-based casino games are made to order for a fast-paced era like today in which playing video games and visiting sites on the Internet are hugely popular activities, particularly among the younger generations.

Racetracks and advance deposit wagering companies can potentially reach out to people who have neither the time nor inclination to handicap by incorporating betting on horses into a casino-like format that can be offered online.  This will be the follow-up topic of next week’s Horse Racing Business post.

Copyright © 2014 Horse Racing Business


The 2013 Breeders’ Cup was the 30th annual running.  In 1984, the inaugural event, the Internet was not available to the average person, so off-track betting was achieved by telephone or at a racetrack or off-track betting facility via simulcasting.

As the following table depicts, $19.5 million was wagered in 1984 on seven Breeders’ Cup races held in a single day.  The handle, adjusting for inflation, was equivalent to $43.7 million in 2013.  The table demonstrates how handle has increased over the years in actual dollars and inflation-adjusted dollars.

                            Total Handle    Total Handle, 2013 Dollars

1984 (7 races)       $19.5 mil                    $43.7 mil
1994 (7 races)       $79.6 mil                    $125.2 mil
2004 (8 races)      $120.9 mil                  $149.1 mil
2013 (14 races)     $160.7 mil                  $160.7 mil

Total handle increased dramatically between 1984 and 1994, as the event grew in popularity.  In 2007, the Breeders’ Cup was expanded to two days and the number of races was increased from eight to eleven (14 races were held in 2013 and 13 will be held in 2014).  Yet, in real (inflation-adjusted 2013 dollars), handle was greater in 2007 ($165.4 million) than it was in 2013.   Moreover, the 2007 handle was undoubtedly depressed by the wretched weather at Monmouth Park.   (In actual or nominal dollars, total handle in 2007 was $147.3 million compared to $160.7 million in 2013.)

The next table illustrates Breeders’ Cup handle on a per-race basis. Between 1984 and 1994, when there were seven races, per-race handle soared in actual dollars and inflation-adjusted dollars, then climbed at a much slower pace between 1994 and 2004 (the number of races was increased to eight in 1998).  By 2013, the per-race handle had been cannibalized by the addition of six more races.

                Handle Per Race    Handle Per Race, 2013 Dollars

1984           $2.8 mil                      $6.3 mil
1994           $11.4 mil                     $18.3 mil
2004           $15.1 mil                     $19.1 mil
2013           $11.5 mil                     $11.5 mil

The forgoing historical wagering data for the Breeders’ Cup demonstrate that offering more of something is not always an improvement.  The trends in total handle and per-race handle suggest that the Breeders’ Cup brand has been diluted by adding races and extending the event to two days.  A return to the original one-day format with about eight races would be likely to foster better television ratings and more wagering.

Copyright ©2014 Horse Racing Business


The 31st annual Breeders’ Cup is fast approaching on Friday, October 31 and Saturday, November 1, 2014 at Santa Anita Park near Los Angeles.  While the Breeders’ Cup is not nearly as popular with the general public as the Triple Crown races, and in particular the Kentucky Derby, it is nonetheless one of the two times a year when horse racing is showcased in North America.

Since its inaugural in 1984 at the now-defunct Hollywood Park, the Breeders’ Cup has provided some scintillating races that are now historical classics.  For example, in the 1988 Distaff, Personal Ensign looked to be hopelessly beat until she put on a devastating rally in deep stretch to catch Winning Colors, who is one of only three fillies to win the Kentucky Derby.   Another memorable finish came in Sunday Silence’s win in the 1989 Classic, when the colt barely survived a late rush by the magnificent Easy Goer.  Tiznow and the Irish sensation Giants’ Causeway fighting for the lead near the wire at Churchill Downs in 2000 was a heart-pounding testimony to the gallantry of both horses, as well as to the Thoroughbred breed.   More recently, the celebrity mare Zenyatta nearly equaled Tiznow as the only two-time winner of the Classic, winning with her come-from-behind charge in 2009 and falling just short in 2010.  For the ultimate in gameness and heart, the 1994 Juvenile Fillies is the race to look to.  Flanders managed to defeat Serena’s Song despite incurring a career-ending injury during the race.

Some observers believe that the Breeders’ Cup unwisely watered down its offering by expanding the original 1-day, 7-race card to a 2-day, 13-race card in 2014.  Even a devoted fan of Thoroughbred horse racing would be challenged to sit through a three-hour telecast on Friday and a six-hour telecast on Saturday.

The Breeders’ Cup has also not achieved its claim to be a world championship.  Though some of Europe’s best horses have competed in the Breeders’ Cup over the years, many of the top horses in Europe and Asia have bypassed it to run in important autumn races in England and France.  Imagine the intrigue and buzz if the Breeders’ Cup could have attracted the great European champions Sea the Stars and Frankel.

The 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic will be interesting with the expected presence of Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome, Belmont winner Tonalist, and the undefeated Shared Belief.  Only Zenyatta in 2009 won the Classic while being undefeated.  Horse of the Year is likely in the balance in the Classic.  This race–held in prime time on the east coast—does not have a Zenyatta to attract a huge television audience, but looks competitive enough to draw a sizeable audience of viewers.  Moreover, California Chrome has considerable residual name recognition from his popular wins in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

In addition to the Classic, the other races on the card appear to be good betting races full of talented and closely matched horses.

Despite the fact that the Breeders’ Cup may be watered down by too many races and is not truly a world championship, the event is still a terrific two-day celebration of some of the best in worldwide horse racing.

Copyright © 2014 Horse Racing Business