It was a good first two weeks during the Del Mar meet. The seaside oval was up 4.8 percent in average daily on-track attendance and all-sources handle was down only 0.3 percent. Nothing to dance about, but solid numbers considering some of the figures this industry has been producing in recent years.
But the figures were not so good the first three days of week No. 3.
According to Equibase figures mailed to me, Del Mar was down $2.1 million in all-sources handle for the first two days combined, and it continues to lag far behind Saratoga in exactas handle because of its high takeout on the two-horse bets.
One source said Del Mar’s total handle also was down Friday, and for the week it is down close to 10 percent.
Let’s see, Saratoga, which has a takeout rate of 18.5 percent on exactas, had five exacta pools of more than $300,000 on Wednesday and Thursday. Del Mar, which has a takeout of 22.68 percent on exactas? None. Saratoga had three exacta pools in excess of $200,000 and Del Mar had one. Finally, Del Mar had two exacta pools that totaled less than $100,000. Saratoga? Zilch.
Two and a half weeks ago, Del Mar CEO Joe Harper stood in the press box on opening day and told the media he wanted to see lower takeout rates. Jack Liebau, president of Hollywood Park, wants a lower takeout, as does Santa Anita president George Haines.
The Thoroughbred Owners of California, who received a letter signed by both Liebau and Haines about 10 days ago asking for lower takeout to help increase business, has so far failed to act on the request. Early indications are they are not going to give the tracks what they requested.
“The tracks are trying to do something for the fans and to help their handle, and all the TOC cares about is itself and their purses,” said longtime bettor and horse racing activist Andy Asaro.
The TOC continues to ignore the fact that horse racing needs three separate entities to succeed — the owners, the bettors (fans) and the race tracks. It’s a beautiful sport when all three are working together, but it can be frustrating and harmful when one of the three is looking out only for itself.
The TOC needs to wake up and smell the coffee. Lower the takeout before it’s too late. We’re not watching the movie “Wall Street.” Unlike what Gordon Gekko told us, greed is not good.