Horse Racing

Horse Racing

Anne M. Eberhardt

Panel: Field Size, Consistency Aid Handle

The issue was discussed Dec. 4 as it relates to international simulcast markets.

Representatives of horse racing in foreign countries said Dec. 4 there are some issues with importing simulcasts of races from the United States, but when it comes to bettors, field size usually wins out over everything.

The marketability of the simulcast product internationally was the focus of the first panel on the first day of the Global Symposium on Racing and Gaming in Tucson, Ariz. The panel discussed the export and import of signals, and striking a balance for players.

Phil Adams, international development and operations manager for Phumelela Gold Enterprises in South Africa, said data is the biggest hurdle to overcome because it needs to be converted into specific formats to meet players' needs. This is common in the U.S., where past performances for foreign races often lack complete running lines and fractional times.

"You need to go to a country and ask, 'How do you this?' Then you have to emulate it," Adams said. "You need to be willing to make that happen."

Pablo Kavulakian, director of the Latin America Racing Channel, agreed data needs to satisfy the handicapping needs of players in different countries to maximize exposure and pari-mutuel handle. He said it's not always easy, given great differences in the way past performances are compiled.

The commingling of wagering pools has helped grow handle because liquidity increases, and panelists noted pool size wins out over quality when modest races aren't up against a premium stakes race.

"What is good does not necessarily equate in your own mind," Adams said. "Quality (of a race) is not necessarily a factor. For the customer it's about making a lot of money."

For instance, a grade or group I event with six horses wouldn't generate the handle a much cheaper race with 14 horses would attract. Panelists said it's commonplace for the industry to tout the best racing, but numbers sometimes say otherwise.

"You want people to say the biggest races make the most money, but that's not always the case," Adams said.

The use of race-day anti-bleeder medication in the U.S. isn't a major issue with bettors that play North American races in foreign countriesat least not yet. The broader issue is integrity, panelists said.

"For punters, the question is, 'Is the outcome of an event the proper outcome?' " said Paul Cross, general manager of international business development for Tabcorp in Australia. "If there is a question, they may tend to shy away. Right now we're not seeing much impact (on the  medication front)."

Kavulakian said race-day medication is an issue in South America but "for betting purposes it's not so important right now. We think in the very near future this will change, because it's about the welfare of the animal and removing the possibility of suspicion. As soon as the issue is decided, the better off we will be."

As for pari-mutuel takeout rates, Ines Hendili, country manager for Pari-Mutuel Urbain in France, said they aren't much of an issue. Field size, however, is important, particularly because certain exotic bets in France require large fields to be successful.

Cross said quality racing and high purses are important but don't seem to trump "consistency and regularity." Though factions in the U.S. racing industry question grind-it-out racing at meets that sometimes span the entire year, Cross said bettors respond when races are held at the same time every day with the same horses competing on a regular basis.