At the Track 

Thumbs and Numbers Up

Thumbs and Numbers Up

I enjoy a day at the track as much as I enjoy a day at Disneyland. I've been to a lot of tracks, too, from Washington to California, Arizona to Florida, with a little Texas and Maryland mixed in. My favorite track, of course, is my home track--Les Bois Park. To me, it's the other happiest place on earth.

Maybe the jury's still out, but through the first one-third of the 2006 season, Capitol Racing and Idaho horsemen deserve high marks for the show they're putting on and due credit for pulling Treasure Valley racing out of quicksand and placing it on solid ground.

If you've been out to the track, you've probably noticed more horses and more people than in 2004, the last full season of racing. You might have also noticed the higher payoffs that come from having more horses to bet on and more people to bet on them.

But maybe you're not so much an eyes-and-ears type--you want the hard statistics. For you, I've put together some data that compares the first 16 days of the new Les Bois Park season to the first 16 days of the 2004 season. (*Sources:, Les Bois Park, and my own personal database that takes up space on my hard drive, in my desk drawers and garage and at Republic Storage.)

Category Measured 2004 Data 2006 Data
First 16 days ended on June 9 June 6
Number of full gates (10-horse fields) 7 20
First full gate of the 16 days Day 11, 8th race Day 1, 1st race
Eight full gate of the 16 days n/a Day 3, 8th race
Average number of horses per race 6.9 7.8
Average $2 win payoff $9.91 $11.30
Average $2 exacta payoff $64.84 $90.13
Average $2 quinella payoff $30.90 $38.67
Average $2 trifecta payoff $378.72 $486.07
Average number of horses per daily-double race 6.1 7.8
Average $2 daily-double payoff $48.31 $109.21
Number of cancelled days (weather-related) 0 0
Number of cancelled days (not weather-related) 4 0

Can you hear me now?

With horses-per-race up 12 percent, you can expect win payoffs to be up by about the same (they’re up 14 percent) and multi-horse-bet payoffs to be up even more. Quinella payoffs are up 25 percent and trifecta payoffs are up 28 percent. Exacta payoffs are even better, up 39 percent—but the real winner is the daily double.

In 2004, the daily-double races averaged about six horses per race. This year, they average about eight horses per race, which has led to a 126 percent increase in the average payoff. Get an early double for the first and second races, or get a late double for the next-to-last and last races, or get both, but get a daily double.

As for handle (the amounts wagered on the races), the lowest on-track handle in the first 16 race days of 2006 occurred on May 27, a dreary, windy, rainy, barely-50 degrees Fahrenheit day. The on-track handle was just under $30K that day. In 2004, handle was less than that on half of the first 16 days.

On-track wagering is up more than 70 percent, from totals of just under $500K in 2004 to about $850K this year. Off-track handle is up by infinity, from $0 in 2004 to over $425K this year. Add it up—the wagering total so far this year is more than the handle for the entire 2004 season!

The only bad news is that the season is already more than one-third over. The good news is that it’s a solid start, and 27 days of racing remain.

Two of them are this Friday and Saturday, starting at 6 p.m. In addition to the larger fields and bigger payoffs, fans can look forward to the Indian Relays on both evenings. If you’ve never seen this thing before, you’re in for a treat.

Robert Cooke, Jr., is an associate member of the National Turf Writers Association (NTWA).

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