Eng: Fewer Races Per Card a Positive Trend for Horseplayers

Turf racing at Del Mar. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Have you noticed how many racetracks that are trying to conserve their horse inventory have resorted to running seven-race programs?  When I first started in horse racing, nine was the usual number of races on a card.

We have seen the number of races drop to eight and now seven at many places. At first I thought this would really turn off horse racing fans. This contrasts with some tracks that run 13 or 14 races on a Saturday.  

In the era where a nine-race program was the norm, simulcasting was only a pipe dream. But today in a crowded simulcast marketplace, maybe less is more.

In terms of time, a seven-race program is completed in three hours. That equals the average length for a National Football League game. That’s a good thing. In today’s society where people are rushing to hurry up and do stuff, three hours is a sizeable investment of time.

For example, that is one reason why there has been slippage in the popularity of golf. To play a round of golf today takes a good five hours or so.

Del Mar has been carding seven-race programs on Wednesdays and Thursdays. They are still able to get all of their multi-race horizontal exotic bets in.

The Del Mar Pick 6 begins in race 2. There are still two Pick 5s and two Pick 4s.

I’ve actually grown to like the overlapping of races in both Pick 5s. That would be in races 3, 4 and 5 on a seven-race card.

In those three races, I spend extra time looking for a horse to “single.” If I can find a single that wins in races 3, 4 or 5 in the Pick 5, I have essentially turned the two bets into Pick 4s. 

A bet that Del Mar offers that I wish more tracks would is the Place Pick All. It’s a wager where you must pick a horse to run either first or second in all legs. The more races on the card, the more difficult it is to win.

But on a seven-race program, the odds of winning a Place Pick All are pretty good. It is offered at a $1 minimum so this is a good wager for one with a limited bankroll. Bet a little to win a lot.

A typical play for me in a seven-race Place Pick All costs $16. My ticket would consist of three singles and four two-deep races. That is decent coverage for this bet.

I’m surprised that very few tracks offer a Place Pick All bet. Another common sense reason for offering it is this: When horseplayers are forced to handicap all of the races ahead of time, they tend to bet more during the card because they have already put in the work.

Richard Eng is the author of “Betting on Horse Racing for Dummies," an introductory book for newcomers to the sport of horse racing.  For two decades, he was the turf editor and handicapper for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He still handicaps the Southern California tracks and his picks are for sale at www.racedaylasvegas.com. You can email him at rich_eng@hotmail.com and follow him on Twitter @richeng4propick and on Facebook.com.

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