Future Bet Shelved; Jockey Wager in the Works

The Breeders' Cup Future Bet won't be offered this year, but an official said he hopes it eventually returns under a format whereby wagering would be offered on more than 24 interests. Meanwhile, talks are under way about a new wager tied to jockey performance in the eight-race series.

"It's on hiatus," Ken Kirchner, senior vice president of product development for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, said of the Future Bet. "The primary reason is that we've been unable to offer more than 24 runners. We've heard from a lot of players that to be effective in the marketplace, we need to offer 75 to 100 runners, similar to the way Bally's does it."

The Future Bet offers win wagering on various horses in separate pools that lead up to the World Thoroughbred Championships. In 2002 at Arlington Park and 2003 at Santa Anita Park, the jurisdictions' customary takeout rates for win wagers applied.

The inability to offer more than 24 betting interests stems from tote limitations. Kirchner said Breeders' Cup and the NTRA continue to have discussions with tote companies. "Under the current parameters it's not possible to expand, but that's not to say there won't be changes somewhere down the line."

The Future Bet failed to make money, though Kirchner said handle wasn't disappointing given the circumstances: limited betting interests, problems with racetracks displaying odds, and other restrictions. Handle in 2002 totaled $530,541, and last year it was $555,814.

"It was a very good marketing venture in that it kept the past performances for Breeders' Cup horses in front of people, so it served its purpose well," Kirchner said. "But as a straight financial proposition, it wasn't at break-even."

Breeders' Cup will offer the Head-to-Head wager again this year. Officials also are in discussion with Lone Star Park, where the Cup will be held Oct. 30, and the Texas Racing Commission about a proposed wager based on the number of times a jockey finishes first, second, or third in Breeders' Cup events.

Kirchner said there would be up to 14 betting interests, each one a jockey, or perhaps two jockeys could form an entry. The winner would be determined by a points system based on win, place, and show finishes.

Lone Star has offered a wager tied to jockey performance in a series of races for its invitational Jockey Challenge.

"I have a strong feeling we should be innovative in offering the customer new products," said Kirchner, who noted the impact of a Breeders' Cup pick four first offered in 2000. "My feeling about all this is the marketplace ultimately decides the wagers it wants to play."