LAS VEGAS--How is it we can bet in America on the richest turf race in the world this weekend, but we could not necessarily bet on Europe’s richest race early this month?
Welcome to the uncertain world of wagering on international races, where the rules are seemingly made up as the races evolve. Nevada casinos and online betting platforms are simply trying to keep up with ever-changing developments.
The newest wrinkle arrives late Friday/early Saturday. Following the lead of what is now the $16 million Pegasus Gold Cup Invitational in Florida, the $7.8 million Everest Stakes will be run for the first time Saturday at 1:15 a.m. EDT at Royal Randwick in Sydney, Australia.
The idea down there was copied from up here at Gulfstream Park in Florida. Set up a poker table for thoroughbred owners, and establish a high ante up for a huge pot. Where it costs $1 million to get into the Pegasus, the six-furlong, weight-for-age Everest was a comparative bargain at $467,000 for each of the 12 entrants.
“In 40 years I have never seen a race that has been instigated on such a great foundation and captured so much imagination of everyone – the racing public but also the non-racing public,” said Lindsay Murphy, who manages the racecourse at Sydney’s Royal Randwick. “They’ve all got behind it. It’s quite amazing and it’s well deserved.”
It is debatable whether this format is profitable enough for everyone to keep coming back to the table year after year. That is a long-term matter. The more immediate question is whether U.S. bettors can get action on the Everest.
For the most part in Nevada and across America the answer is yes, but that is not always a given for international races. I discovered this after I returned from a trip to France this month for Europe’s richest race – the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. I had to go over there to bet on it, because I would not have been able to do so here in Nevada.
“A lot of times we want to do it,” said Johnny Avello, who runs the race and sports books at the Wynn Las Vegas. “If one of the tracks we already do business with is doing the race, it’s easy. But a lot of times we don’t do it because we have to contract with some hub in the U.S. If it’s not licensed by the Nevada Gaming Control Board then we can’t.”
It is not just here in Nevada. Overseas races are a hit-and-miss proposition for all American bettors. They are generally available year-round to those who use advance-deposit wagering (ADW) sites such as NYRA Bets, TwinSpires and Xpressbet, but there are exceptions.
“We offer the French racing but not on a routine basis,” said Scott Daruty, an executive with the Stronach Group, which operates Xpressbet and actually acts as the conduit providing French races to betting platforms across America. “It’s more the big events like the Arc. The biggest challenge is the time of day.”
The Arc began two Sundays ago at 7:05 a.m. PDT. That is not exactly prime time for west-coast bettors who hang out at race books.
“We looked at some international races in the morning,” Avello said. “We thought that maybe we could get the crowd out early for a big race, but that’s not the case. Las Vegas bettors are fickle. They are 9-to-5 bettors.”
Conversely, the Everest will start Friday at 10:15 p.m. PDT, a more attractive time for Nevada race books and ADW customers. In fact, Australian racing is an every-night staple for U.S. bettors.
“We will be offering the Everest,” said Tom Quinones, marketing manager for the New York Racing Association, which operates NYRA Bets. “I can tell you that we offer U.K., Ireland, France, South American, Australian, Japan, South Korean and New Zealand racing. And we did offer the Arc.”
“The U.S. market bets very well on Australian racing,” Daruty said. “It also bets very well on Latin American racing. Both come into the U.S. at convenient times of day.”
It is not just about the clock. There is a cost factor, too. TwinSpires said it did not offer the Arc, because the Stronach Group raised its rate to carry the web stream to bettors. Daruty said the increase was actually handed down by Pari mutuel urbain (PMU), the company that oversees betting on French racing – and that TwinSpires was the only ADW that did not take the Arc.
“As the agent for the PMU it wasn’t our decision to say yes or no to the price,” Daruty said. “The Arc had what I would describe as a modest increase. It was still a very, very small fraction of what the Kentucky Derby or Preakness or Breeders’ Cup are priced at. The fee is calculated as a percentage of the handle. When (ADWs) agree to take the Arc they agree to pay ‘X’ percent of the handle by their customers.”
There is also some variance when it comes to race odds. Most of the time the pools are co-mingled, meaning the odds posted on screen by the host track are in effect everywhere. But Australia is the noteworthy exception.
“There is a separate North American pool for Australian racing,” Daruty said. “The North American pool is hosted by Woodbine (near Toronto). So when you bet the Everest you’re betting into the Woodbine pool, and they use the same takeout as Woodbine uses for its races. You’ll see a discrepancy between the odds on the track feed and the odds here in North America.”
There is one more wrinkle for horseplayers in Nevada. In an ironic twist of legislative fate, “void where prohibited” means ADWs are not legal here. To protect Nevada’s casinos, state law prevents residents from establishing on-line accounts with the likes of NYRA Bets, Twin Spires and Xpressbet.
“If you are in Nevada you can’t bet anywhere else but here,” Avello said. “It’s illegal. I know some people are getting around that, and we’re aware it’s happening, but there is not a whole lot we can do about it at this time.”
There are ways to clear these hurdles – with a nudge and a wink from a blind eye. But it ultimately may be like downloading pirated music or watching a bootlegged movie. Enter at your own risk.
Vega Magic is favored to win the Everest.
A 12-time winner out of 17 races, pace-chasing Vega Magic (4-1) is a less-than-certain favorite to win the Everest on a Randwick course that figures to be on the firm side of good. The 5-year-old gelding won the Group 1 Memsie Stakes six weeks ago in Melbourne for accomplished trainers David Hayes and Tom Dabernig and jockey Craig Williams.
With $6.5 million in earnings, the 7-year-old gray gelding Chautauqua (9-2) is the second choice despite two poor finishes in his two races coming off a six-month layoff. His only win in the last 17 months, though, was a big one. It came on a heavy track in April, when he closed to win by a head in the Group 1 T.J. Smith Stakes during the Championships at Randwick. Chautauqua is considered the second-best racehorse in Australia behind Winx, a mare that is not suited to race at this short a distance.
The 3-year-old filly She Will Reign (11-2) will carry 16½ fewer pounds as she goes after her sixth victory in seven races after winning the Group 1 Moir Stakes two weeks ago at Moonee Valley in Melbourne. The 5-year-old gelding Redzel (13-2) is the fourth choice after having won his last four races, including a pair of group stakes last month at Randwick.
Notebook: Arrogate will race just once more.
- The world’s top-ranked thoroughbred Arrogate will finish his racing career in three weeks at the Breeders’ Cup Classic before going to stud in Kentucky for his owner – Juddmonte Farms. After winning the Pegasus and Dubai world cups, the 4-year-old colt sired by Unbridled’s Song has lost twice since at Del Mar, which is hosting the Breeders’ Cup. Juddmonte did not announce a stud fee for Arrogate.
- Another Juddmonte star – Arc winner Enable – will race as a 4-year-old next year. Although the stated goal for the filly is to win a second consecutive Arc, her regular rider Frankie Dettori told Racing Post that a potential showdown with Winx at Royal Ascot “would be mouthwatering.” The thought is that the two female stars could meet in the Queen Anne or Prince of Wales’s Stakes next June.
- Eighth in this month’s Arc, the 4-year-old Coolmore colt Idaho (5-2) is the morning-line favorite to take down defending winner Erupt (7-2) in the Grade 1 Canadian International, a 1½-mile turf race Sunday at 6:10 p.m. EDT at Woodbine. Idaho was also favored last year but never threatened, finishing fifth. Trained by Graham Motion, Erupt is a 5-year-old horse by Dubawi. He has not finished in the money in four tries since last year’s race, which he won at odds of 12-1. With rain in the forecast this weekend, Idaho’s record on “off” tracks (4–0-2-0) could be influential to bettors.
- Breeders’ Cup Juvenile favorite Bolt d’Oro is now a 12-1 first choice at Wynn Las Vegas to win next year’s Kentucky Derby. “Oh, my God, they’re betting him like it’s a week away,” Avello said. “I can’t hold him at 18-1. My staff keeps pushing it down; I keep pushing it up.” Avello said he is seeing bets of $1,000 and $2,000 at a time on the two-time Grade 1 winner that has not lost in three career starts.