Woodbine Racecourse Reports Big 2016 Season

Woodbine via WO FB page“The clockwise turf racing concept added a fresh dimension to our racing program and attracted attention from across the world,” said Via. “We have a great gem of a racecourse in the E.P. Taylor Turf Course and turf racing at Woodbine is thriving. The Tapeta and the turf track will continue to be strong complementary offerings for our horsepeople.”

 

Woodbine Entertainment Group announced that wagering on Woodbine’s 2016 live Thoroughbred racing season, which concluded Sunday, December 4, rose sharply over the previous year’s meet.

The 133-day season produced an “all-sources” handle of $469,452,009, a 7.1% per cent increase over the $438,185,077 figure recorded from 133 dates in 2015.

“We saw tremendous growth in our Thoroughbred racing product,” said Sean Pinsonneault, Executive Vice President of Strategy and Wagering. “We had record handles for all of our signature race days and customers are responding to our blend of entertaining racing and great fan experiences. Unfortunately, even with the growth, the revenue from the wagering is declining in Ontario due to the increased costs of simulcast racing content and mandatory deductions. WEG remains committed to working with government and industry stakeholders to reform the model and secure the future of this industry in the province.”

Wagering was up 4.1% in the Greater Toronto area on Woodbine Thoroughbred racing.

Woodbine posted substantial wagering gains on each of its three biggest days.

The Queen’s Plate, which had its 157th running in 2015, had a record wagering total of $11.8 million for the July 3 card. The on-track experience was enhanced to present more food trucks, fashion and music, including headlining bands that played well into the evening.

The Plate, with 37,063 in attendance, was won by Sir Duddly Digges.

Ricoh Woodbine Mile day, on September 17, recorded a handle of $9.6 million, shattering the 2015 mark of $7.1 million, while the Pattison Canadian International card, on October 16, had wagering of $9.2 million, eclipsing 2015 mark of $6.4 million.

Sunday’s final programm also established a mark for a Woodbine meet finale card, with $7.4 million wagered, surpassing the 2015 record of $6.5 million. The card included the second Jackpot Hi-5 mandatory payout this year with over $1 million up for grabs and a payout of $39,500.65 for a 20-cent ticket.

In April, Woodbine introduced Tapeta as its new main racing surface and it was well received by many racing fans and industry participants.

“In the first year with a new racing surface, we’re quite pleased with how the Tapeta performed especially in the second half of the season after adjustments to our track maintenance protocol were performed,” said Tom Via, Senior Vice President of Operations.

Woodbine also introduced clockwise turf racing in June. Twenty-two races were conducted at five and 5 1/2-furlong distances. The track ran a record 236 grass races in 2016.

“The clockwise turf racing concept added a fresh dimension to our racing program and attracted attention from across the world,” said Via. “We have a great gem of a racecourse in the E.P. Taylor Turf Course and turf racing at Woodbine is thriving. The Tapeta and the turf track will continue to be strong complementary offerings for our horsepeople.”

Purses paid out in 2016 totalled $70.6 million, including a stakes program worth $19.5 million (101 added-money races). Field size rose to 8.4 horses per race in 2016, up from 8.1 horses per race in 2015.

Opening day for the 2017 Thoroughbred racing season, also set for 133 dates, is scheduled for April 15, 2017.

Standardbred racing continues at Woodbine through the winter, including a special Boxing Day card that features a 1:00 p.m. post-time. This Friday features a huge mandatory payout of the Super Hi-5 Jackpot wager.

Bet Like No Other Marketing Campaign tied to 2016 Breeders’ Cup

The Breeders' Cup at KeenelandLEXINGTON, Ky. (August 18, 2016) — The Breeders’ Cup announced a new marketing campaign available to all simulcast outlets designed to promote wagering on this year’s Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Santa Anita Park, November 4-5. Titled “Bet Like No Other,” the campaign will focus on the tremendous wagering opportunities and excitement of betting on the two greatest days in the sport of Thoroughbred racing.

The “Bet Like No Other” campaign will feature a :30 second television commercial, print, poster, radio and digital banner advertising and “edutainment” GIFs (Graphics Interchange Formats) to be used on social and digital media. All creative assets can be tagged by racetracks, OTB’s and casinos with a local message and are available for download on the Breeders’ Cup partner website.

The campaign will also be supported by a panel of wagering influencers who will take part in a month-long, charity driven program to raise awareness about betting the Breeders’ Cup. The four influencers are ESPN personality Kenny Mayne (@kenny_mayne), who finished 9th in the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge; 2012 National Handicapping Championship Champion and co-owner of The Tournament Edge Michael Beychock (@beychockRacing); Renowned author and columnist Joel Stein (@thejoelstein) and social media wagering guru Monique Vag (@parlayqueen).

Beginning October 1, each wagering influencer will wager up to $2,000 on three NBC Sports telecasts of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series: Win and You’re In – Presented by Lane’s End Farm and America’s Best Racing. The competition will end with the Breeders’ Cup on November 4-5 and each panelists bankroll will be donated to the charity of their choice with the Breeders’ Cup guaranteeing at least a $1,000 donation to each.

The two-day Breeders’ Cup is one of the world’s greatest wagering events, featuring some of the largest payouts on straight and exotic wagers during the calendar year. Last year, a total of $155.5 million was wagered on the races worldwide.

“While there are many popular aspects that people enjoy about the Breeders’ Cup, wagering on greatest races in the world is second to none,” said Justin McDonald, vice president of marketing. “Our goal is to ensure partner simulcast outlets have a successful Breeders’ Cup weekend and this campaign provides them the tools to reinforce the thrill, excitement and large potential payouts presented to all horseplayers and sports fans during the World Championships.”

The campaign was developed by Lexington-based advertising agency CORNETT, in conjunction with Breeders’ Cup.

Northern N.J. Casino Fight has N.Y. groups jumping in with big bucks

TRENTON — New York-based groups on either side of a fall referendum to decide whether to expand casino gambling to the northern part of the state are gearing up for a fight, according to a news report. The New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council and a group backed by a Queens virtual casino operator are… [Read more…]

No Mention of the Haskell Stakes

Preakness winner Exaggerator - BenoitPhoto_AP

Preakness winner Exaggerator – BenoitPhoto_AP

According to a major New Jersey publication, there are no less than “8 spectacular events” happening in their home state of  New Jersey this weekend, but what is striking is the omission of the biggest sporting event.  The Grade 1 Haskell Invitational features the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winners – Nyquist and Exaggerator – along with numerous other stakes – yet there is no mention of this in the article.  Ironically, “horse racing” at the Meadowlands is briefly mentioned.   Horse racing, you have a problem.

~ Editor Rich Nilsen
 8 spectacular events happening in N.J. this weekend

QUICKCHEK BALLOON FEST: It’s one of the most visually dazzling summertime traditions in New Jersey. The three-day Quick Chek Balloon Festival features hundreds of hot air balloons — ranging in size, style, and design — taking flight at Solberg Airport in Readington. You can sit and marvel as these great beasts soar effortlessly through the sky,… [Read more…]

The Racetrack You Need to Visit

There are marquee tracks everyone wants to visit and then there’s the others.  I understand why fans make a trek to the big tracks, they showcase the best the game has to offer.  But you may be surprised what the small tracks have to showcase. Just like the rental car commercial 50 years ago. The small ovals are Avis, and the marquee venues are Hertz. Both have cars to rent, and both serve your needs. But just like the tagline in the commercial; “Avis, we try harder.”

River Downs had events like wiener dog summer nationals, boxing matches, pig races, local music festivals and baby pageants.

I’ve ventured to both in my travels. The big tracks have never failed to amaze and delight. The smaller tracks have a down-to-earth feel that wraps around you as you walk through the doors. If you’re a race track kid who tagged along with Dad or Gramps to the races. You remember the sights, the sounds, and the smells. Hoards of gamblers hunkered over racing programs as loud speakers announced minutes-to-post. Patrons would stand in lines making  wagers with the unforgettable scent of cheap cigars wafting through the air.   There was only one place in the world you could experience this melting pot of humanity.

River Downs was a little oval outside of Cincinnati, Ohio. The meet would begin in late April and end with the running of the Cradle Stakes on Labor Day.  Long ago it went by the name Coney Island Race Track; the same as the amusement park next store  The famous Seabiscuit made two appearances in 1936, and the flood of 1937 finally washed away the Coney Island oval.  The track returned under the new banner of River Downs, and the rest is a rich storied history.

Tampa Paddock

Up close and personal at the Tampa Bay Downs paddock

Larger tracks have box seating areas where you had to purchase seats in advance. River Downs had an open air grandstand where you could grab a seat where you liked.  The larger tracks had marquee riders on the way up the ladder, riding the best of the day. Smaller tracks have a colony of rough and ready riders trying to break into the game, and, sometimes, big name jockeys on their way back down.  The horses at marquee ovals are some of the best in the land where the small ovals have cheap claimers.  Both are exciting, and each has their own special charm.

River Downs had events like wiener dog summer nationals, boxing matches, pig races, local music festivals and baby pageants.   There were track logo t-shirts on Mother’s Day, and cap giveaways on Father’s Day. As I reach in my pocket there is a money clip with a race horse and rider.   It’s at least 30-years-old and was a giveaway item from the little track.

The big tracks have handicapping shows where the talent is decked out in shirt and tie and discuss the races.   River Downs had an outside set located behind a bar, and “The Regular Guy” handicapping show talked about racing from the little Ohio track.  It was for the regular folks in the grandstand who enjoyed some good handicapping info with a great deal of fun. Sometimes the best fan education involves having a good laugh to start the day.

I had the opportunity to work for River Downs. I started in the parking lot many moons ago, and 15 years later I would return as director of marketing. The smaller track was a springboard for many, and if you look back at the history of River Downs. You’ll find out the great Seabiscuit ran there twice; Steve Cauthen rode his first winner aboard Red Pipe in 1976, and in 1984 Spend A Buck won the Cradle Stakes and went on to win the Kentucky Derby.   It’s fair to say that many horseplayers and fan have good reasons to love the little track.

I’ve visited big tracks and watched marquee events captivate the world.  They will always be on my list to see and experience as they have raised the bar for others to aspire.  Small tracks have a special charm and rich history that is passed down from generation to generation.

I have a bevy of small tracks that hold a special place in my heart. Places named Beulah, Lebanon, and Louisville Downs. They have all played a part in my love affair with horse racing, and as long as they open the doors I’ll make the drive.  The days of “build it and they will come” are long gone. Racing was the stand alone heavy weight champ of betting, and there wasn’t as much competition for gambling dollar.  It seems as though we are losing these little gems in the passing years. Places like Bowie, Calder, Great Lakes Downs, and Rockingham Park just to name a few.

Do yourself a favor if you’re a racing fan. Make your next trip to a small oval, county fair, or boutique meet. I think you’ll fall in love all over again, and, before you know it, you’ll be making plans for your next trip.

 

— Ed Meyer is track announcer at Belterra Park.   He worked long stints at both River Downs and Turfway Park.

Congressmen Urge Modernization of Pari-Mutuel Tax Rules

YARMUTH, BOUSTANY PEN JOINT LETTER TO TREASURY URGING ACTION ON MODERNIZATION OF PARI-MUTUEL TAX RULES

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Wednesday, July 13, 2016) Two U.S. congressmen, Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) and  Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA), have submitted a joint letter to the U.S. Department of Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew urging finalization of proposed rule changes regarding withholding and reporting of pari-mutuel winnings.  The letter to Treasury was submitted on July 12 and was posted today on the official Twitter account of Rep. Boustany (@Boustany).

In the text, Yarmuth and Boustany highlight the bipartisan support the new guideline enjoys, as well as recent congressional activity on the matter and the pari-mutuel wagering industry’s economic imWashington DC smallpact. The letter concludes: “As you are well aware, it has been more than a year since the proposed rule was first published and, as such, we strongly encourage you to act on this matter by finalizing the proposed rule.”

A PDF file of the complete letter can be accessed here.

The letter comes on the heels of language in a House Appropriations Committee Report issued last week that accompanied House passage of the 2017 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill. That report instructed the U.S. Treasury “to expedite final consideration of the guidance which would modernize the rules governing pari-mutuel wagering.”

A companion bill in the Senate containing identical “Guidelines for Pari-mutuel Winnings” has been passed out of committee and now awaits passage by the full Senate. Ratification of the Senate appropriations bill would not result in the proposed rule changes becoming law; the IRS and U.S. Treasury must approve changes to their regulations.

Recent actions by the House and Senate are the latest in a concerted, industry-wide effort to modernize regulations relating to pari-mutuel winnings. Updates proposed by the NTRA would clarify regulations by redefining the “amount of the wager” to include all of a bettor’s investment into a single pari-mutuel pool, and not simply the base amount of the winning combination. The effort has received support from Members of Congress as well as all segments of the horse racing industry, including customers, who last year submitted nearly 12,000 comments to the Treasury and IRS in support of the proposed change.

California Chrome, Tepin Among Plethora of Horse Racing Stars

California Chrome working out spring of 2014

2014 copyright Gary Tasich

 2016 Features an Incredible Group of Runners

Forgive the Thoroughbred racing fanbase if it emerged from the first half of 2016 utterly spoiled. Before the calendar could flip to summer, followers of the sport were treated to an overflow of talent from all ends of the spectrum, be it the sustained brilliance from established stars like California Chrome, Tepin and Beholder to the… [Read more…]

Horse Racing’s Language Lost in Translation

copyright AgameofSkill.com 2016 A while back Amanda Duckworth wrote an excellent piece for ESPN entitled “Word Play” that raised an important issue for those of us in the horse racing industry:

It was at this moment in time last week when I was approached by a woman who was astonished I knew how to read a [sales] catalog page. As the days have passed, I keep returning to our conversation because it highlighted a long standing issue: is horse racing’s vernacular keeping fans away?

Although all sports have their own terminology, horse racing takes things to another level. Take a gander at just a few of these words that a novice might hear on their first trip to the track.

Claiming races

Furlongs

Lasix

“Sheets”

Bug boys

Starter allowance

Maiden Special Weights

7/5 odds

Super Hi-5

Place Pick All

What comes second nature to most of us handicappers is like a foreign language to the overwhelming majority of the public.  I know this isn’t the first time this has been addressed, but it’s an important issue that I truly believe does keep potential fans away.

Maybe every entrant into every racetrack in America should have the opportunity to pick up a flyer that addresses the basic terms used and what they mean.  Education creates fans and we’re not doing nearly enough.

Illinois Racetracks & The Collapse of Live Racing

Fans at Hawthorne racecourse

Fans at Hawthorne racecourse

Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (ITHA) President Mike Campbell discusses the dire situation taking place in their state and how it could easily lead to the end of live racing there.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill., Jan. 24, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — Illinois tracks are plotting to upend industry regulations fundamental… [Read more…]

The Evolution of the NTRA/DRF National Handicapping Championship (NHC)

NHC star and NTRA’s Players Committee member Ross Gallo takes a comprehensive look at the history of the National Handicapping Championship.

The Beginning
Once upon a time, near the end of the last century, a group of horse racing dignitaries* that included my brother Randy Gallo, Steve Crist and Mandy Minger of the DRF, and professional handicapper Dave “The Maven” Gutfreund among others, gathered in a room at The Orleans in Las Vegas.  This distinguished group would go on to lay the groundwork for what would become the National Handicapping Championship (NHC), a tournament like no other that was designed for the players.

 

NHC generic logo The basic idea was for racetracks and OTB facilities around the country to host handicapping tournaments that produced four qualifiers.  These tournaments would pay back 100% of all entry fees, and the qualifiers would receive an all-expenses paid trip to the NHC finals in Las Vegas to participate in one big money final tournament.  At long last, we the players, the backbone of the industry but invariably treated as the ugly step-child, had something created with just our interests in mind. This premise was very appealing to horseplayers on a financial and ego basis.  With only about 200 spots available in the early years, qualifying was quite an accomplishment, and to this day the NHC is still our only tournament that you must qualify for to play in.

 

That first tournament offered a top prize of $100,000, which was great, but payoffs only went down to 10th place.  This pales in comparison to where we are now (which I’ll be covering soon), but still more than decent money.  I’d like to relate a story from that inaugural event, that is an illustration of how having our own national championship immediately changed the psyche of everyone involved.  Maury Wolff is a friend of my brothers.  He is/was one of the most respected horse handicappers in this country, and has made a great living in this game.  He qualified for that first NHC, but he wasn’t a tournament player per se and the $100,000 wasn’t going to change his life.

 

Maury had a dismal first day, I think he had $15 or something close to that, and at dinner that night I asked him if he was disappointed.  He replied, “I can’t express to you how little I care about this tournament.”  Well, on day two, Maury had one of the best days the NHC has ever seen, and in the last race of the contest, he correctly chose the winner, a 9-1 shot if I recall correctly.  He proceeded to jump with joy like a child as the horse crossed the finish line, thinking he won the tournament.  Unfortunately (for him), Steven Walker, a great player from the Midwest, had the same horse and he would become a worthy first champion.  Maury had to settle for second, but I will never forget the unbridled display of emotion that he showed that day, something I had never seen before or since from him.  I am not telling this story to make Maury look contradictory in his words and actions, and please if you’re reading this Maury, don’t take it that way.  I’m certain he really didn’t care all that much, but when he realized he may have won the NHC?  That is an ego boost that none of us could resist.  Do you know a horseplayer without an ego?  I don’t, and guilty as charged.

 

The NTRA
The National Thoroughbred Racing Association was formed in 1998, and their goals were simple and clear and paved with good intentions.  They were going to promote racing and try to attract some new fans to our great game.  Also, they would attempt to bring some uniformity to an industry that couldn’t be more splintered, with racing jurisdictions in Kentucky, New York, Illinois, Florida and California et al, playing by their own individual rules.

 

Imagine football, baseball or basketball games where the rules change every night depending on where the games are played.  In any other walk of life that would be called anarchy, but we call it Thoroughbred racing.  At first the tracks were all for it, with nearly all of them signing up with the NTRA and paying their dues. It didn’t take long for everyone involved to realize that the undertaking of getting these different interests to agree on anything was akin to herding cats.  And after just a few years their “Go baby go!” slogan unfortunately got up and went.

 

The NHC was a noble creation, but in the early years it was more of an annoyance to the NTRA.  They had bigger fish to fry.  This is only my opinion, but I was around for most of them and I believe they felt their time was better spent on the bigger issues, not securing venues and overseeing such a large undertaking every January.  I suppose I can’t blame them for that, but fortunately that mood changed as more and more tracks began pulling out of the NTRA.  Ultimately, the NHC became top priority, and I think few would argue that the NTRA would have ceased to exist without it.

 

Times are changing
The landscape of the NTRA was changing, and even more so the NHC.  The practice of 100% payback to the players at qualifying tournaments was short-lived.  I for one wasn’t happy about it, but I absolutely understood the reason.  At first, if you could get 100 players or more into your building to play in a tournament, you could count on serious handle through the windows.  This would offset costs and often times the tracks or OTB’s would make money or at least break even from the one or two-day event.

 

Las Vegas sportsbook contest Unfortunately a perfect storm was on the horizon.  The emergence of rebate shops led to the handle at tournaments falling off precipitously.  Most players were gambling on the phone or online, and it was at this same time that online tournaments began to take hold.  The convenience of playing from home could not be ignored.  As a result attendance at the brick and mortar tournaments began to wane as well and they were now looking to make money from the players through entry fee drags to cover expenses.  It was either that or cancel their tournaments completely, which many did.  So most live tournaments weren’t paying back anything close to 100-percent of entry fees and the online tournaments were all making money.  [Editor’s Note: One of the few exceptions are the NYRA tournaments which still pay back 100% of the entry fees].   This practice angered many, including yours truly; but this country was built on free enterprise, and the growth that resulted for the NHC was immediate and substantial.

 

With the revenue generated by NHC Qualify and other sites, the NTRA could charge higher fees per qualifying spot.  The original purse was $200,000, the top prize $100,000 and it remained that way for the first five years.  When the internet became a major player, the increases were immediate and have continued every year since with new sites popping up out of the woodwork. This year’s NHC will have an estimated purse of over $2.6 million.  The original 200 entry field will swell to over 600!  Personal value has decreased though, and this is not up for debate.  If you play and qualify on NHC Qualify, you get the trip and entry into the tournament but no prize money.  This is bad personal value, and I for one do not participate in any tournaments that choose to take this route.

 

My brother drummed in my head to play value from a young age.  He has made a living playing jackpot carryovers where your dollar is worth more than a dollar.  At NHCQualify.com your dollar is worth about 70 cents.  However, there is also no denying that they are one of the main contributors to the NHC’s massive growth.  The prize money is huge now and interest is at an all time high and shows no signs of slowing down; even a cynic cannot argue that the current direction is not successful.  They built it and we have come.

 

I am a member of the NTRA’s Players Committee and have been since it was formed.  We are a varied group of knowledgeable horse players from all points of the compass.  We are not paid.  We rarely agree on everything, but one thing we are all in agreement on is trying to make the both NHC and this game better.  We have meetings and debate many subjects and eventually come up with a consensus, and at the end we all support the majority even if it wasn’t the idea we personally had in mind, because we believe it is for the greater good.  The NTRA always has final say, but very often they relent, if they can, to our suggestions.

 

Ron Rippey (Left), Mike Mayo (Right)

Ron Rippey (Left), Mike Mayo (Right)

Mike Mayo was our original chairman, and he was a wonderful leader.  He passed away in 2014 and I miss him everyday.  He left his mark all over the NHC and last year he was one of the two original inductees into the newly formed NHC Hall of Fame with former NHC Champ, the late Ron Rippey.  Chris Larmey, one of the best players in the world is our leader now, and he has continued Mike’s legacy of excellence.  The NHC has changed drastically over the last several years and one could argue that most of the changes have been for the better.

 

The creation of the NHC Tour has increased interest and NTRA memberships have gone up every year since it began.  The NHC itself has been expanded to three days from two, with only the top 10% surviving to play on day three, and finally the top ten entrants midway through day three, making for a seven-race dash to the wire.

 

Perhaps the biggest and most significant change occurred two years ago when players were allowed to qualify twice a year, a move I was very much against because it took away the level playing field the NHC had always had, one entry one person.  But again, I understood the reasoning, and it, of course, worked quite well.  In the past players that would qualify earlier in the year would oftentimes shut it down, but now with the opportunity to qualify again, they would keep playing.  Couple that with the guys chasing the Tour prizes, the monster purse in Vegas, the new players that have been brought to the game, and tournament participation stays vigorous throughout the year.

 

What does the future hold?
The future looks bright for the NHC.  The Daily Racing Form purchased NHC Qualify last year and they qualified a record amount of players, I’m sure you can count on more and more qualifying tournaments this coming year.  More spots equals a bigger purse for the NHC, but also bigger profits for the parties involved.  This tournament that was created FOR the players, has been built BY the players.  I am ecstatic that the NHC has grown to what it is and am excited to see where it can eventually go, but it should be renamed, The Players Championship.  The NTRA, DRF, NHC Qualify and others deserve credit for the vision they showed adapting to the times and persevering to success, but never lose sight of the fact that it is your dollars that are funding the growth.

 

Players Brad & Howard at the 2015 NHC

Players Brad & Howard at the 2015 NHC

The NHC is still played under hypothetical rules, which means, scores are accumulated using track payoffs, and correct picks add to the player’s score.  In recent years, real money tournaments have become popular with players and the venues.  The reasons for the venue are obvious; the players are being “forced” to put their money through the windows, the scores are actually the player’s bankroll and the venue gets the handle.  Real-money has been directly responsible for some tracks and OTB’s to get back into the tournament game.  Theses tournaments are popular with the players because they have much more control of their fates during the tournament.

 

In hypothetical contests, if you get behind, many times you’re stuck playing hopeless longshots.  If you bring exactas and trifectas into the mix, your options increase exponentially, and real-money tournaments are more like day-to-day wagering.  I believe real-money is the future, and in turn attracting television could bring the NHC full circle, back to a tournament for the players.

 

If the prize money could be provided by a sponsor and not have to be generated by the players, then you would have a tournament that the people who came up with the idea in the first place, envisioned all along.  The change to a “Final Table” of ten was designed with TV in mind.  Keith Chamblin and Michele Ravencraft of the NTRA,  are always trying to look to the future to make the NHC bigger and better.  They work very well with The Players Committee and as I said before, they take our advice and implement suggestions when they can.

 

Poker has been our business model.  They blew up when they began to show the players hole cards.  We started that a couple of years ago at the final table, showing everyone which horse each player selected before the race went off.  The increasing excitement was palpable in the room and a great step in the right direction.  Poker focused on their colorful characters, and we can certainly hold our own with them on that front.  One thing they do have that we don’t is a mindless game.  Take the people reading skills out of it, anybody can learn the rules.  Anyone can play pocket rockets.

 

Horse racing is a cerebral game, ‘a game of skill,’ as my friend Rich Nilsen is telling you everyday.  That, unfortunately is our biggest obstacle in this short attention span, instant gratification world that we live in.  Eventually, we’ll figure it out, but until then things are not so bad.  The winner received $800,000 last year!  The overall purse has increased over ten times in just 16 years.  Where else in this game have they seen growth like that?  Nowhere.

 

If you didn’t make it to Vegas this year, check out the live podcast.  It really is pretty good and watching it will make you try harder to get there next year, I guarantee it!

* Editor’s note: Steve Wolfson, Sr., well known horseplayer and son of Harbor View Farm owner Louis Wolfson, was also instrumental in the creation of the NHC.