Contact: Michael Antoniades
USTA Strategic Wagering Committee
August Guaranteed pools exceed $2,000,000…Trifecta added
As the Grand Circuit roars into The Big M, The Meadows and Balmoral on Saturday, the new month begins an extraordinary effort by the USTA and Strategic Wagering to entice new players into the game and veteran players back in the game. You could say there are a million reasons to wager on harness racing but the reality is that in the month of August, there will be two million reasons.
Strategic Wagering began four years ago during a month-long break at The Meadowlands. The idea was to provide players with solid wagering opportunities during the brief absence of the flagship track. Guaranteed pools of $400,000 were offered in April 2011 at Yonkers Raceway, Northfield Park and Balmoral Park, kicking off the Strategic Wagering initiative.
Fast forward four years to this coming Saturday August 1. The USTA and Strategic Wagering will offer at least one guaranteed trifecta pool, Pick Four pool and High Five pool every night for 31 straight days. This is completely unprecedented in all of horse racing. With the addition of the trifecta pools, the month of August will see the USTA and Strategic Wagering offer guaranteed pools in excess of $2,000,000.
We certainly hope that the guaranteed trifecta pools will have the same effect as the guaranteed High Five pools that began in July. The low ten or twenty cent Guaranteed High Five has proven to be more popular than the fifty cent or one dollar denomination wager that the major Thoroughbred tracks now employ. The low minimum allows the small player to be a part of the game. It is incredible to note that Del Mar, with an opening day handle of $15,000,000, is the only Thoroughbred track whose High Five pools average more than the Strategic Wagering guaranteed pools. With that lone exception, our guaranteed High Five pools dwarf the Thoroughbred High Five pools that are currently offered.
The pilot program will kick off with three tracks: Balmoral Park, Northfield Park and Maywood Park. During the month of August, Balmoral will offer $70,000 in nightly guarantees comprised of a guaranteed Pick Four pool, a High Five pool and a Trifecta pool every Saturday and Sunday. Northfield Park will offer the same three guaranteed pools every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Maywood Park will follow with three guaranteed pools each Thursday and Friday.
There is an enormous audience of potential players out there looking for pools that support $50 and $100 trifectas. The industry must create larger pools so that these valuable players are willing to invest hundreds and possibly thousands of dollars on a number of wagers that now offer value. The current model at many tracks offers an excessive amount of wagers each race, thus resulting in diluted pools, diminished returns and minimal participation. A good racing product cannot overcome a bad wagering product.
In creating a better wagering product, the potential for former harness players that have since moved on to the larger Thoroughbred pools, to come back home is possible. You will continue to see Thoroughbred players cross over into our High Five pools as their popularity increases. Poker players, sports bettors and fantasy junkies will start playing because they like the fast-paced action of three guaranteed pools in a little more than an hour.
In conclusion, the Meadowlands will present their sensational Hambletonian program next week, featuring the greatest stars in our sport. Hambletonian day closes out the Meadowlands meet with six digit pools and the biggest harness handle of the year. One of the main objectives of the USTA and Strategic Wagering is to keep the serious Meadowlands players in the game.
Free deluxe twelve-line program pages for all guaranteed pools are available courtesy of Track Master at www.ustrotting.com. The entire August calendar will be available on the same USTA website Saturday.