by Debbie Little
On June 10, a statement was put out by Meadowlands’ president and chief executive officer Jeff Gural, which said, in part: “As you know, this weekend due to the lack of support at the entry box we had to go with seven amateur races, which is an embarrassment, even though our customers like wagering on them for some reason.”
It also said: “I hope to see a major increase this week in entries and for the balance of the year. We intend to limit the number of amateur races to two each week to see if that helps.”
No surprise, this started pro- and con-GSY discussions on social media, even though The Meadowlands is far from alone when it comes to using amateur races to fill cards.
To be clear, Gural was in no way saying that the amateur races are an embarrassment, but was instead referring to the lack of entries.
“I don’t have a problem with the amateurs, except I have a problem when I have seven of them,” said Gural. “Personally, I like having two amateur races on the card. I think that would be my sweet spot.”
After tonight (Friday, June 24), the GSY driving club will take its usual summer vacation before returning to the East Rutherford mile oval in September.
In a year that saw more GSY races at The Big M than ever before, how did they do?
That would depend on who you ask. But let’s not ask anyone and just look at the numbers.
In 71 GSY races, starting on Jan. 7 through June 17, the average handle was $219,427.
For clarification, all the numbers being looked at took place on Friday nights, except for two dates in June that took place on Saturdays. Also, GSY drivers did compete in a friendship race on Martin Luther King Remembrance weekend, but since it was not solely a GSY race, it was not included in these statistics.
Many factors contribute to handle numbers, including whether the race in question is the start of a multi-leg wager, such as the Pick-5 or early and late Pick-4, the three most popular multi-leg wagers at The Meadowlands. Only 22 of GSY’s 71 races started a Pick-4 or Pick-5. In recent months, a GSY race has kicked off the card many times, specifically to give pros a chance to arrive a little late from another track.
The first couple months of the year included the drag experiment, which shortened wagering time and impacted the handle, regardless of who was driving, so let’s look at the numbers starting in March, when the top pro drivers were back. In those 61 races, the GSY race average increased to $225,334.
The GSY really hit their stride starting on May 6, registering their top handle of the year, $314,866. They would go on to total $309,608 that same night and $312,690 later in the month. To put those numbers in perspective, the pros top numbers in the same timeframe were $311,675, also on the 6th, $302,376 at the end of May and $305,841 on June 3. All took place on Friday nights.
On May 13, GSY brought in $215,159 in Race 13, the last race on the card, traditionally one of the lowest bet races of the night. Since the beginning of May, the pros have not surpassed that number in the last race on any Friday night card.
The truth of the matter is that since the start of May, no matter how many races they have had, the GSY have outhandled the pros on every card they raced on, including two Saturdays.
Their two races on June 4 averaged $234,128, while their five races the following weekend brought in $231,140, while the pro numbers were $201,806 and $189,115, respectively.
For May and June, GSY is averaging $234,650. For some perspective, for a 13-race card to reach the $3 million level in total handle, the average must be at least $230,769. During that same timeframe, the pros averaged $196,974.
Another number to consider is the percentage of
winning favorites, which is currently listed as 38.71 at The Meadowlands.
Breaking that number down, there have been 522 non-GSY races where the favorite has won 223 times for a 42.7-win percentage, while the aforementioned 71 GSY races have seen only 14 winning favorites for a remarkably low percentage of 19.7. At one point, GSY actually had a stretch of 28 races between winning favorites.
While favorites win 19 per cent of the time, horses at odds of 10-1 or more win 18 per cent of the time, leaving the majority of GSY winners somewhere in between.
Part of the GSY’s allure is its unpredictability due to the lack of winning favorites and even though familiarity breeds contempt, it also appears to increase handles.
Another big factor is the GSY’s ability to regularly card full 10-horse fields, something done with far greater regularity than the pros.
Despite having the amount of their club races curtailed, the GSY continue to be among the staunchest supporters of The Meadowlands. In addition to the 20 horses supplied for their two club races last weekend, there were a total of 18 additional horses dropped in the box whose last start was in a GSY race.
The GSY, a diverse club including men and women, with white, black and Latino competitors, has had 21 different winners this year at The Meadowlands.
Although unquantifiable, the GSY also supports The Meadowlands by bringing people to the track, who bet and patronize food and beverage vendors.
The club also supports the track photographers, since as owners as well as drivers, they purchase photos. And, as a special way to celebrate the first Big M win for around half a dozen of their members this year, Lisa Photo put together a commemorative collage, requested and paid for by the club.