Art is right, the rough economy makes this a terrible time for a dispute over account wagering to prevent out-of-state bettors from playing Hollywood Park races. It’s also bad timing because, following last week’s successful Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita, California should be cashing in on any renewed enthusiasm for its racing.
A related question is, If out-of-state bettors could bet on Hollywood Park, would the Inglewood track be their first choice? Are the Hollywood Park races the best in the country these days?
People have different tastes in races to bet on. Other things being equal, I have more fun handicapping races that tend to find horses trying something different, which means I’ll lean to allowance and stakes races over claimers, 2-year-old and 3-year-old races over those for older horses, 1-mile-and-longer races over sprints, and turf races over main-track races, as well as races with a lot of horses over races with a few.
Wednesday, opening day of its autumn season, Hollywood Park had three allowance/stakes races (I’m including optional-claiming races as allowance), three restricted-age races, four 1-mile-and-up races, three turf races, and one race with 10 or more horses.
Let’s compare that to the other four tracks with past performances in Wednesday’s Daily Racing Form.
Hollywood Park had more turf races than anybody else. It was tied with Aqueduct for the most stakes/allowance races and with Golden Gate Fields for the most races for young horses. It was tied for second in 1-mile-and-up races behind Hawthorne’s seven. And it was tied for last in races with 10-plus runners, far behind Churchill Downs’ eight.
Overall, Hollywood Park compares well on all of these categories (which, granted, reflect my standards, maybe not yours). Hollywood Park’s shortcoming is its generally short fields.
Bringing this back to the beginning … The way to make fields bigger is to offer higher purses, but the account-wagering dispute has prompted Hollywood Park to cut purses again. From this vicious cycle comes the risk that when the rest of the country can bet on Hollywood Park again, it will be less likely to do so.