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Random thoughts on a Monday

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I'm finally back among the living after a week of the flu (not fun at all) and a Sunday of hanging Christmas lights and  decorations inside and outside the house (moderately fun, minus the million bulbs that somehow burnt out during the summer).

-As 2010 comes to a close, the graded stakes calendar is in the fairly quiet stages.  Four graded stakes races dotted the landscape this weekend, with three running on Saturday and one on Sunday.  

  • Askbut I won'ttell won the Grade 3 My Charmer at Calder at 1 1/8 on the turf. (chart via DRF.com)
  • Twilight Meteor won the Grade 3 Tropical Park Turf Handicap, also at 1 1/8 on the turf at Calder. (chart)
  • Aggie Engineer won the Grade 3 Native Diver at 1 1/8 on the Cushion Track at Hollywood. (chart)
  • And Washington Bridge won the Bayakoa at Hollywood Park on Sunday. (chart

A true sign that the end of the year is close at hand is the fact there are only three Grade 1 races left on the 2010 calendar.  Two races will take place at Hollywood Park (Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet and Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity) and one will run at Santa Anita (Grade 1 Malibu).  

-Racing starts on the inner track at Aqueduct, a sure sign that we are in the depths of winter.  Out in California, today is the first day that horses can train over the new dirt surface at Santa Anita.  

I only hope that whomever installed SAs new dirt track they figured out how to provide proper drainage underneath the track.  It ain't going to matter what surface they are running over if they haven't solved that issue.

-Zenyatta made her final appearance at Hollywood Park before flying off to Kentucky to make little Zenyattas.  Still no word on who she'll be bred to, but my money is on A.P. Indy.  LA Eagle has a great FanPost on Zenyatta, as he was able to get up close to this magnificent mare during her final week in California.  

-A college friend of mine was out in Seattle over the weekend and at some point on Saturday I was flipping through the channels and stopped to catch a bit of TVG/HRTV.  My friend doesn't follow horse racing at all but knows that I'm a big fan and he asked whether I bet on the races and what was the process that I go about doing that.  He was fairly surprised that I could bet right from my home on my laptop without having to go to an OTB or the track itself.

My friend's comments and questions to me are, in my opinion, one of the things that horse racing needs to over come if they want to have any chance at expanding the reach of the game in the future.  Most people have no clue that it is perfectly legal for you to place a bet on a horse race from the comfort of your own home, provided that your state allows ADWs (which many do).  And I suppose that shouldn't surprise me because if you don't watch TVG/HRTV on a regular basis (or read the trade publications) there would be no way for someone to be aware of that.  

This wasn't the first time that I've had this conversation with somebody; when I'm at my neighborhood ale house that's just down the street from where I live I get all sorts of questions like that when somebody sees me reading the form at the bar.  Usually I'm asked if I drive down to the track to bet as most people don't realize that placing a bet on the computer is legal (and safe).  Even the ADW issue gets a lot of strange looks from people, mostly due to the fact that they figure the company I'm betting through is some shady off-shore entity where half the time you never get paid your money.  And again, I tell them that it's all done in the U.S. and that I've never - in the entire time I've used licensed ADWs in the U.S. - had an issue with my money.

Everybody knows you can bet on basketball and football games if you are in Vegas but that it's "illegal" if you're in a non-gambling state, and that view seems to bleed over to horse racing.  People just assume that it's illegal if you bet on horses and you are not at the track or the OTB.  I'm not claiming that if the entire country knew that betting on horses on the computer that suddenly handle would jump 100%, but you have to wonder how many people out there would bet on horse racing if they knew they could do it.  

I'm not sure what racing can do to better get the message out but I think it would probably have to involve marketing the sport in the mainstream media (ie - not TVG, DRF, etc.) and providing a more general message of "It's legal to do this" (provided your state allows ADWs).  Obviously, tracks don't have a lot of extra cash for this type of marketing but you wonder if this is something that the NTRA or the Breeders' Cup should look to promote a bit more.