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Tuley's Takes on the state of horse racing

In a normal year, we’d be recapping the Triple Crown after the Belmont Stakes and getting ready for the dog days of summer, since the NBA and NHL playoffs would have been wrapped up by now.

However, this is anything but a normal year. We’re still waiting for the NBA and NHL playoffs and any MLB at all, and the Belmont was just the first leg of the Triple Crown. Heavily favored Tiz The Law romped Saturday, and it was a pretty chalky day overall. However, I’m proud to report that our stable of handicapping friends in my “Tuley’s Thoroughbred Takes” column on VSiN.com fared pretty well. John Lauro was 2-for-2 with his best bets at 3/1 and even money, Duane Colucci had Tiz The Law as his top choice, and Ed Sehon hit the Pick 4 on Belmont races 7-10, though it paid just $70 for a $60 wager with all that chalk. As for yours truly, my play on Kanthaka in Race 9, right before the Belmont, missed by a neck at 16/1 and paid $11 to place, while my Belmont play on Max Player (closed 14/1) rallied to finish third. Technically, I gave out the Belmont trifecta (8-9-3, which paid $99.50 for a $1 tri) as I said to box my top three plays (No. 3 Max Player, No. 1 Tap It to Win and No. 9 Dr Post) and “add in No. 8 Tiz The Law if you really can’t resist the chalk.”

That’s what we’ve been trying to do with the TTT column since mid-March: give my long-shot picks for those looking to use them along with their own picks and give other opinions from my friends to help cash some tickets while waiting for my next bomb to explode the tote board. I know we have some longtime readers from my Daily Racing Form days along with many newcomers, and I hope we’ve met those goals. More of you have dabbled in horse racing with the major sports shut down, and hopefully we’ve converted some of you into horseplayers for life.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the state of horse racing. Three weeks ago, I was interviewed on the “In the Gate” podcast by ESPN’s Barry Abrams. We discussed how the betting handle was up at the racetracks that were running during the COVID-19 pandemic because people were turning to horse racing with not much else to wager on. But we also questioned whether many of these newbies would drop racing once the Big Four sports returned.

This isn’t a new problem for horse racing, which fell behind at the end of the 20th century. Other sports embraced putting more events on TV, while horse racing broadcasts became fewer and farther between. I wouldn’t be surprised if some people grew up thinking the only horse races in this country were the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, the Belmont and the Breeders’ Cup, as those are seemingly the only ones seen and promoted on TV.

Horse racing has many other problems to overcome, such as last year’s string of deaths at Santa Anita Park, doping scandals and, especially relevant to our purposes here, higher takeout rates than other sports. However, as I’ve written, you can overcome the high takeout by being selective and betting horses that are overlays vs. their true odds. In addition, horse racing gives you the opportunity to turn a toothpick into a lumber yard with huge payoffs for a small risk. And while I remember the big criticism of horse racing among younger potential fans was that too much time was spent between races, I would flip that and point out that those with short attention spans should love horse racing as you know whether you won or lost within minutes.

 

So my biggest pet peeve about horse racing is the lack of easy viewing access. That issue reared its ugly head again on Belmont day. The early races were available on Fox Sports 1 and 2. Then it switched to NBC Sports for the major undercard races leading to the Belmont Stakes. When they were approaching Race 7, host Mike Tirico informed viewers they wouldn’t be showing the race. That left fans and bettors scrambling to find the race since Belmont races are no longer available on TVG, the other main option for watching horse races. Unlike a lot of people, I found the race, but my app froze — probably due to the system being overloaded from fans being forced to find another way to watch. I missed all but the start. It was just the latest example of horse racing shooting itself in the foot in making its product accessible. The ironic thing was that Tirico, Jerry Bailey and Eddie Olczyk were talking about how horse racing needs to take advantage of other sports being unavailable during the very race they weren’t showing — and angering a lot of fans in the process.

I was upset and tried to take it in stride. But I heard from plenty of people who were really peeved that they couldn’t watch a race they had bet on. It bothers me to think of how many people making their first attempt at betting on horse racing were turned off by the experience and won’t bother trying again.

But we’re going to forge ahead with our weekly “Tuley’s Thoroughbred Takes” columns on Wednesdays through Sundays at VSiN.com as horse racing continues through the summer. We hope you follow along, whether you’re handicapping with the ol’ Daily Racing Form or with other options like the app of VSiN advertiser 1/ST BET, on which handicapping programs and videos are accessible even if you’re not in one of the 38 states where account wagering is allowed.

 

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