Eng: Overlapping Post Times a Continuing Problem for Horseplayers

Horses vie for early position after breaking from the gate at Saratoga. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Last Saturday, Aug. 3, was a terrific day of horse racing in America. A lot of excellent stakes race action took place in all divisions. But as happens often times in our sport, two racetracks ran races within seconds of one another. And they were not just any races.

The two races in question were each racetrack’s main event: the Whitney Stakes at Saratoga Race Course and the West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Park.

This didn’t have to be run simultaneously, and I’ll explain why.

Simulcast bettors are busy because the races come at them fast and furious on a Saturday. Most will focus on the bigger racetracks like Saratoga and Del Mar. However, there is time and space for smaller racetracks, especially when they offer a big race day.

And that was the case at Mountaineer Park.

Simulcast coordinators know the post time of the upcoming races from other tracks. They actually know them days in advance. There is an opportunity to adjust post times to prevent an overlap as occurred with the Whitney and the West Virginia Derby.

The New York Racing Association had less wiggle room with the Whitney post time. They were part of a nationally televised show, “Saratoga Live.” When a television network gets a post time from the racetrack, they then build their show around it front and back. It is important to hit the mark as close as possible.

The folks at Mountaineer Park had to have known in advance about the NYRA television show. They would also know the post time of the Whitney. It would make sense they would want to run the West Virginia Derby a few minutes before or a few minutes after the Saratoga stakes.

The largest part of betting on any horse race starts from 10 minutes out and right up to post time. This is due to bettors wanting to see the post parade and possibly some of the warm-up action.

Any racetrack manager wants their audience to have as many minutes as possible to place their bets. So, if two big races go off simultaneously then one signal will get shortchanged.

It is logical to assume that the focus was going to be on the Whitney.

This is just one example of a lack of coordination amongst the racetracks as regards to post times. In England, when you go to a bet shop the races are notated by time. For example, you’ll see the 1:10 p.m. from Newbury, the 2:05 p.m. from Bath and so forth.

Each racetrack is slotted in, not unlike airplanes taking off at a busy airport. If American racetracks would ever want to set something up like this, give me a call. I’m available.

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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