The U.S. Trotting Association will hold its annual board of directors meeting in Columbus, Ohio, Sunday and Monday, March 13 and 14. Among the items on the agenda is a wagering initiative spearheaded by director Chris Schick of California.
Schick offered an update on Thursday, March 10. “The plan is moving forward,” he said. “There is a seven-person committee that has held three teleconference meetings. We wanted to launch something for April, when the Meadowlands is closed, to keep people playing harness racing and we’re going to accomplish that goal.”
(The Meadowlands presently offers a $100,000 guaranteed Pick 4 on races 6-9 on Saturday nights, with a 15-percent takeout and $1 minimum bet. The track is set to close its current winter meet March 26. If a deal is made for Jeff Gural to lease the track, it is scheduled to reopen May 7.)
Schick said two tracks are presently on board to participate. Northfield Park and Balmoral Park will offer guaranteed Pick 4 pools every Saturday night in April, with Balmoral also adding a guarantee on Sunday. The guarantees will be as follows: $10,000 at Northfield, $15,000 on Saturdays at Balmoral, and $25,000 on Sundays at Balmoral.
Last October Schick presented his proposal to the USTA executive and finance committees, asking for USTA backing of a plan with a goal of the "retention of the industry's current pari-mutuel wagering base." Schick set forth the following objective for his plan: "to develop as many liability-free, guaranteed-pool wagers across a broad range of racetracks, days and time zones."
Between October and March, Schick and the specially-appointed committee analyzed handle figures. “We evaluated handles based on non-guarantees, and we think based on current handle that we can see 20-30 percent increases in pool sizes,” he said.
Schick said funding for the initiative is presently $100,000, with $75,000 coming from the USTA. “We have a shorter bankroll than we had hoped, but if we can get three tracks on board—we’re hoping to get another track--for April and run relatively smoothly, we’ll be happy,” he added.
Schick’s plan calls for any shortfalls in meeting the pool guarantees to be covered as follows: 50 percent from the initiative's fund and 50 percent by the host racetrack/local horsemen’s association.
When Schick first presented his idea last fall, Standardbred breeder, owner and horseplayer Seth Rosenfeld said at the time that the idea to guarantee Pick 4 pools made perfect sense to him.
“The Pick 4 is becoming the most popular wager. It’s getting the biggest pools at all the big tracks. I think that every track can do this,” said Rosenfeld.--harnessracing.com