Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Monday and Tuesday numbers are embarrassing . . .
Rich Perloff probably has the toughest job on TVG. While he has an ongoing presence on the weekends when so often there's so much great racing (see Songbird, Nyquist and Exaggerator coming up in a few days), he also has to muddle through the agonizing telecasts by himself on Mondays and Tuesdays when he fields such brilliant questions from the viewing audience as: "Can a jockey be considered great if he doesn't win that much, or even not at all?" I kid you not, that one came up yesterday.
But the worst part of Perloff's stay on the worst two racing days of the week is trying to make programs at Parx, Finger Lakes, Fort Erie and Zia Park sound exciting. If there's anybody who hasn't been convinced yet that there's a critical shortage of able race horses in this country, one Monday-Tuesday go-around is all one needs.
Here's a rundown on the performance of the aforementioned tracks over the past two days.
Parx: 62 runners in nine races on Monday (average 6.8), 74 on Tuesday in nine (average 8.2, not bad).
Finger Lakes: 62 runners in nine on Monday (average 6.8), 65 on Tuesday in nine (average 7.2).
Fort Erie: 55 runners in eight on Tuesday (average 6.8).
Zia Park: 64 runners on Tuesday in nine (average 7.1).
It's never been disputed that short fields result in drastic reductions in handle, and mutuel wagering over the two days was. predictably, disastrous. On Monday at Parx, on-track handle was a miniscule $40,507, and we don't know what all-sources handle was because Equibase got it hopelessly wrong by showing a figure of $1,219. On Tuesday, the numbers were $53,578 and $1,272,787. It's difficult to comprehend how the track can continue to function efficiently. In the grandstand, it must be like walking around in a cemetery at midnight.
Finger Lakes is no better, except that the upstate New York purses are miniscule compared to those in Pennsylvania, despite the presence of a very successful racino. On Monday, the Finger Lakes all-sources handle was $1,306,513; no on-track handle was given, which usually means it's too embarrassing to divulge. On Tuesday, all-sources dropped to $1,221,914.
At Fort Erie on Tuesday, the all-sources handle was $847,862, which was monstrous compared to the debacle they call Zia Park, in New Mexico. At Zia, they aren't shy about revealing attendance - it was 194. I would have guessed that the on-track handle was an all-time record low for any track, anywhere, but Zia may have had some lower. The number was $16,106. I assume they save a ton on mutuel clerks and concessionaires by having just one of each. There was also an ITW figure given - $3,820, and an ISW figure - $337,490.
One very sad note concerning the racing at Zia. Pat Valenzuela is riding there. This once superior jockey has screwed up his career so many times through alcohol and drug abuse that he's been banned in California, where he rode with such distinction for so many years. One would think everybody in NM would be clamoring for his services, but Pat was aboard just four horses on Tuesday's nine-race card. How the mighty have fallen!
The star of Tuesday's races was Indiana Grand, with 93 runners in 10 races for an average of 9.3. They have a solid riding colony, which includes David Flores, Leandro Goncalves and Fernando De la Cruz. Yet, the on-track handle was a paltry $19,957 - all-sources was much better - $1,558,278.
I have no clue as to the solution to this dilemma, because there are so many horses being offered at the various auctions. It could be that the buyers with the cash are awaiting the results of the election. If Trump is truly able to make America great again, does that include horse racing?