Del Mar Adds Players Pick 5, Head-to-Head Bet

CHRB approves summer meet plans that include head-to-head wager, Pick 6 bonus.

Del Mar will continue the so-called "Players Pick 5" bet instituted by Hollywood Park this spring and will add a few new twists to its wagering menu for the meet that begins July 20.

The California Horse Racing Board, meeting June 23 at Hollywood Park, approved Del Mar's application for a 37-day stand that runs to Sept. 7. Del Mar plans to race five days a week, Wednesday through Sunday.

In addition to the Players Pick 5, Del Mar will add a bonus to its Sunday Pick 6 pool and offer a head-to-head wager on the feature race each Saturday.

Craig Dado, the senior vice president for marketing at the seaside track, told the CHRB that Del Mar would add the 50-cent Players Pick 5 wager on the first five races of each racing card.

The Players Pick 5 has proven popular with customers due to its low 14% takeout rate, far below the 23.68% currently being subtracted on payouts for wagers such as the Pick 6 in California. Through June 21, the Players Pick 5 had generated more than $5.5 million in new handle at Hollywood Park. The wager has approval from the Thoroughbred Owners of California.

Dado said that fears the new bet would hurt the longstanding Pick 6 prompted Del Mar to add a "$50,000 win bonus" to its Pick 6 pool on each Sunday of the meet. The additional money would be split among the winners of the bet that day.

By announcing the bonus beforehand, Dado said, "People can plan for it."

"We all know how well the racetracks do with a carryover," he said. "Even more lucrative is the double carryover. This is almost like a double carryover."

Del Mar will also be the first track in California to offer a regular head-to-head wager, which will take place each Saturday on the eighth race feature, Dado said. The racing office will designate two horses from the race after entries are taken and allow bettors to wager on which horse will beat the other in a pari-mutuel bet that features a low 10% takeout.

"The nice thing about the head-to-head bet is it is field-size proof," Dado noted. "It is the same if we have a five-horse field or a 12-horse field."

In the event of a designated horse being scratched 24 hours before the race, the racing office would select another horse from the field to replace it. If one is scratched by the stewards preceding the race, the head-to-head wager would be withdrawn for that day.

The idea was met enthusiastically by board members.

"It is a bet you can make without a great deal of handicapping," said David Israel. It could attract novice players, he noted.

"Right, this is something I can bet with my girlfriends," agreed Bo Derek.

Chairman Keith Brackpool said he was intrigued by the potential such a wager could have on the non-racing public.

Dado said Del Mar will employ a smart phone application this summer that will allow horseplayers with the right gadgetry to wager from their seats at the track. The application would not work outside the racetrack, however.

Tom Robbins, vice president of racing, said Del Mar will attempt to maintain a five-day-per-week racing schedule, though there may be fewer races on some days. The twilight Friday card, for example, would have seven races during the final three weeks of the meet.

Santa Anita, for the most part, and Hollywood Park have been racing four days a week during their recent meets as a result of a shortage of available horses.

Del Mar also announced it will suspend the operation of its advance deposit wagering site, DelMarBets.com, as of June 30. Holders of those accounts will automatically be transferred to XpressBet, which operated the Del Mar wagering site.

In other action, the board approved a waiver of state rules barring multiple ownership of racetracks in the state to allow the Stronach Group to take control of Golden Gate Fields and Santa Anita. The move will become official once the acquisition of the tracks from MI Developments is completed.

Greg Avioli, representing the trust, said the MID transaction is on target to close June 30. He said Frank Stronach and his daughter Belinda Stronach would control the Stronach Group.

"We will have $40 million in working capital," Avioli said. "I don't know if we'll rule the world, but it will be good to get back on the right track, no pun intended.

"We have made a very aggressive bid on hosting the 2012 Breeders' Cup," he added. "We have been informed that we are one of three finalists and we should know within 30 days."

The board also approved a modification of its distribution of market access fees from ADW to bolster the struggling corporations that oversee satellite wagering in the northern and southern zones of the state.

Jack Liebau, appearing on behalf of Southern California Off Track Wagering Inc., said the redirection of ADW funds, as allowed under law, was necessary to continue funding due to declines in satellite revenue. In the meantime, he said reorganization of the corporations is ongoing.

The board also approved license applications for the Humboldt County Fair in Ferndale for Aug. 12-21, and the California Exposition and State Fair Harness Association meet in Sacramento from Aug. 26 to Dec. 17.