Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Saratoga v. Monmouth: weekend 1

Well, Monmouth had Rachel Alexandra, and Saratoga had so much rain that it flooded out Danny Meyer's hot new Shake Shack restaurant. But, no surprise, guess which track had the better performance on July 23-25, Saratoga's opening weekend?

For the three days, Saratoga had paid attendance of 62,243, versus Monmouth's 28,365. Even on Saturday, with Rachel Alexandra at the shore, Monmouth drew only 12,859. The same day, with the highlight at saratoga the Coaching Club American Oaks, won by Devil May Care, Saratoga drew 20,352.

On-track handle for the three days at Monmouth was $1,975,627. At Saratoga, where there were 6 fewer races, on-track handle was more than four times as much, at $8,638,566. Similarly, all-sources handle for the weekend at Monmouth was $24,130,504, while at Saratoga it was $43,431,852. Monmouth did much better, comparatively, on its simulcast, OTB and ADW betting, but even with Rachel Alexandra running Saturday, it didn't equal Saratoga's handle on any of the three days.

For Monmouth, off-track betting accounts for about 92% of total handle, while for Saratoga, "only" 80% of the handle comes from off-track. That means that the blended takeout rate returned to the track is somewhat lower for Monmouth than at the NYRA track. To some degree, that imbalance may be made up by what Monmouth retains from its patrons' bets on other tracks' simulcasts, but, given the lowish attendance at Monmouth, I suspect the balance is still well in NYRA's favor.

Monmouth ran its usual 36 races over the weekend, with an average field size of 9.3, and an average purse, including the $400,000 extorted by Jess Jackson as an appearance fee for Rachel Alexandra, of $69,103. At Saratoga, over 30 races, the average field size was a very healthy 8.7 -- way up from Belmont's 7.0 despite a bunch of off-the-turf races -- and the average purse was $57,237, not all that much behind Monmouth.

The quality of racing was much higher, at least for this weekend, at Saratoga than it had been at Belmont. Only 6 of Saratoga's 30 races were claimers, including one maiden claimer and four "conditioned" races (N2L, N3L, etc.) At Monmouth, more than half the races -- 20 out of 36 -- were claimers, including seven maiden claiming events. That's part of the reason that Monmouth's per-race purse average was so (relatively) low. Yes, there are $80,000 allowances in the condition book, but for every one they ran at Monmouth, they carded three claiming races.

Actual claims made were 15 at Monmouth, or about 0.75 per claiming race, and 8 at Saratoga, or 1.33 per race (in both cases not counting the allowance/optional claimers, which I classified as allowances). That's a lot more active claim box at Saratoga than had been the case back at Belmont.

I'm not sure yet what this all means; I'll keep watching the two meets and see if we can draw any grand conclusions. For now, though, Saratoga seems to be, at a minimum, holding its own against the Monmouth challenge.

(If anyone wants the spreadsheet from which these figures were derived, just let me know, with your email address.)

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