As most know, Churchill COO Bill Carstanjen was the protagonist on last night’s Undercover Boss on CBS. I really enjoyed the show to be quite frank. It is fun to see a fish out of water, when the water is a racetrack – a place we all know as horse owners, fans and bettors. He spoke with many at the track – a trainer, a jockey valet, a press person and a cleaning person.
But I wondered what it would be like if one of the jobs he took was that of a customer?
First Bill would have to wake up really early, or stay up really late, reading the program, or Racing Form. He would have to work at it, because betting is difficult. Then he and his shadow, Bettor Pete, would have to head to the track, pay for parking, admission and head to his spot in the simulcast center. There he would have to track down the changes – always a tough task at a simo-center. And make all necessary adjustments.
Then it would be time to make a bet.
He and Bettor Pete would check the TV monitors and see that an exacta was paying $22 at two minutes to post, but the other track they were following, a similar ex is paying $38.
“Let’s play the $38 one, as it is paying more” COO Bill says.
“Each track decides if it shows payouts in $1 increments or $2 increments. The $22 ex for $1 is actually a better bet than the $38 one for $2. So we should bet the $22 one.” Bettor Pete explains.
"How do you know which track shows $1 and which $2?" asks COO Bill.
"Experience. It took me a long while, though" replies Pete.
"That seems strange, especially for new people racing is trying to attract" says Bill.
"That's the way it works, " says Bettor Pete.
The camera would then show Bill looking melancholy-like into the air, scratching his chin, wondering, “Why would racing not show all increments the same, for the good of the customer?”
Then the race would go off, with Bill and the bettor holding a live $2 3-2 ex for $44 smackers if successful. It is looking good. The three horse has a big lead and the two is coming wide…… yes! Victory!
But there is an inquiry. Bill and his bettor are trembling – although it appears there will be no change, after all we saw this type of non-infraction be left up 100 times or more – it is never an easy time for a bettor. Then the tote board goes dim, there has been a change. It is announced, with no real explanation from anyone on camera and the prices are displayed.
“What happened”, says COO Bill. “Is your money just gone?”
“Yes, that’s the way it works” says the bettor. “In places like Australia and Hong Kong they have protocols to handle inquiries so the public is better informed, but here it goes from track to track. Most times your money just changes hands without nary a peep. And rulings change from track to track, so it is a bit of a mystery”
“Well I guess someone wins when you lose, so bettors are still getting paid somewhere”, COO Bill explains.
“Sure” says Pete. “But if you went to work on Friday and found that your paycheck was given to someone else, would you be happy because at least someone got paid?”
The camera would then show Bill looking melancholy-like into the air, scratching his chin, wondering, “why would racing not have a uniform set of inquiry rules, and report it the same way all across the sport, so customers feel that their money is more respected?”
“On to the next race,” says the bettor.
For the second, Bill and the bettor both agree, the seven horse is the play. He is 6-1, and looks like an overlay.
“The only problem I see,” says the bettor, “is that the six horse is trained by a guy who just got caught with a positive test, so we clearly have to watch out for this fella.”
“Positive test?” says COO Bill. “If he has a positive test, why is he training a horse in a race today?”
“That’s the way it works,” says the bettor.
As the race draws closer the odds drop to 5-1 on their potential play, but still right in the wheelhouse of the bettor.
“Anything over 4-1 and this bet is King” our bettor tells Bill.
“Gotcha” says Bill. “Let’s go bet”
At ten seconds to post they lay their cash down. They each bet $40 to win.
Any they’re off. The seven horse, their bet, gets an easy lead. $40 at 5-1 is $200 profit, a nice days work. But COO Bill – a numbers guy at heart – notices that at the bottom of the screen the horse, who was just 5-1 at the quarter, is now 5-2 at the half!
“Hey our horse is 5-2 now!” he pleads to bettor Pete.
The horse, all out in a game effort, loses in the last jump.
“Oh well”, says the bettor.
“Oh well!?! What do you mean, oh well. We just bet a horse at 5-1, and we said we would never bet him at anything less than 4-1. He ended up at 5-2 while the race was being run!!! What the heck is up with that? How can we take the odds board seriously!?”
“That’s the way it works,” says the bettor. “Racing probably has the power to do something about it, but we just end up waiting and waiting for a tote system overhaul, fixed odds betting, or something to address it. I think a lot of them are only concerned with slots.”
The camera would then show Bill looking melancholy-like into the air, scratching his chin, wondering, “why would racing not update the archaic tote system to 21st century technology, to make it better for customers and help grow racing?”
“For our last race of the day, I do like the four at Fair Grounds…...” says the bettor.
Bill jumps in: “Fair Grounds, I like that track!”
“No, I was going to say I do like the four at Fair Grounds, but I have stopped betting that track because this meet there was signal dispute. These things happen time and time again and bettors are left out in the cold. I, and many players here, are stopping playing tracks that do that.”
“I’m sure they have a reason for doing that… " says COO Bill.
"I don't know why they do it, but that's the way it works," says Pete.
The camera would then show Bill looking melancholy-like into the air, scratching his chin, wondering, “why would racing not fix any issues amongst themselves without withholding signals, so the bettors can still play their favorite tracks?”
“Well what about the next at Calder” says COO Bill.
“I don’t play Calder. They raised takeout two years ago." replies Pete.
"Oh" says Bill.
“Well, it’s been a pleasure Pete” says COO Bill.
“So do you want to be a bettor Billy?” asks Pete.
“If racing makes some changes, Pete, only if they make some changes.” says COO Bill.