By John Piassek
Monday, February 29, 2016
“IN AN ERA OF SIMULCASTING, MULTI-TRACK BETS ARE A BRILLIANT IDEA”
Recently, Keeneland made some headlines with a proposed wager on Blue Grass Stakes day, April 9. Their plan is to have a pick 4 comprised of two races from Keeneland, including the Blue Grass, and two races from Aqueduct, including the Wood Memorial Stakes. The revenue from the bet would be split between the two tracks.
Upon reading this, my two primary thoughts were: this was already a thing that had happened, and why isn’t it still a thing?
When full-card simulcasting began in the 1990s, tracks (smartly) thought that having multi-race bets combining big races from multiple tracks would be a good bet. The National Pick 6 was met with success in the early ‘90s, as was the Big 3 Pick 3, which combined the Wood Memorial, Blue Grass, and Arkansas Derby. The Magna 5 debuted in the early 2000s, combining five races from Magna-owned tracks, including Gulfstream Park, Laurel Park, and Santa Anita. A wager offered in New Jersey in the 2000s had bettors pick the winner of the Hambletonian at the Meadowlands, and the Haskell at Monmouth Park (this was back when the races were run on the same weekend). The premier pick 4, created in the mid-2000s, featured two stakes from Keeneland and two stakes from Oaklawn Park on the same day.
For some reason, tracks have decided to stop doing this, even though they were very popular wagers. In the first year of the premier pick 4, for example, handle was a strong $726,191. The Magna 5 had a $500,000 guaranteed pool when it debuted, and betting totals often soared past that mark. There’s a good reason for that: when tracks combine their best races into one bet, the sequence is automatically an excellent one to bet. How many times have bettors passed over a pick 4 or pick 5 sequence because of a few chalky or unappealing races? By joining forces, if you will, and combining their best wagers into one big sequence, it’s a bettor’s delight.
Since the Magna 5 was phased out in 2010, there haven’t been many other tries at multi-track bets: Belmont Park and Penn National tried a pick 4 with the two tracks in 2013, but it lasted an unsuccessful few weeks. The premier pick 4 and Big 3 Pick 3 have also come and gone. There is talk about reviving the Magna 5 in the spring, which is an excellent idea. Coupled with the possible comeback of the premier pick 4, it’s a promising start.
However, that should be just the tip of the iceberg. What’s stopping racetracks all over the country from teaming up and having big wagers? Imagine a bet combining the Breeders’ Cup preps at Belmont, Santa Anita, and Keeneland. Or a pick 4 on Thanksgiving weekend combining the big two—year-old stakes at Churchill Downs and Aqueduct. The opportunities are endless. They benefit the tracks and the bettors in a big way, and there’s hardly a way anyone can say no to that.
John Piassek is a student at Loyola University in Maryland. He prides himself as a supporter of racing in New Jersey and Maryland. John is an aspiring race track announcer, marketer and writer. His “Mid-Atlantic Musings” column on DanonymousRacing.com focuses mostly on NJ and MD racing, ways to market them, how the states can improve their racing, and how racing should start focusing on bettor-centric marketing.
You can follow John on Twitter @Theyreoff.