This piece with former National Handicapping Championship winner John Doyle originally appeared in the April edition of Horseplayer Monthly. To read the rest of the issue, FOR FREE, please click here.
Q: What is your favorite track to play, and why?
A: Gulfstream Park has decent takeout rates, big fields, attractive prices and the best winter turf racing. Gulfstream is all simulcast for me. Santa Anita is my favorite on site experience. They have put some money in the facility and it shows. They do seem to be more player centric since Tom Lute has taken over. In the past year I had some great customer experiences there while participating in handicapping contests. Del Mar is a great venue and location and Keeneland’s racing experience is right up there.
Q: Familiarity with a training colony or riding colony (along with the horses) drives betting at some staple racetracks, and it's hard for other tracks to gain market share. What would a newer, smaller signal track have to do to entice you to patronize their betting pools?
A: My big beef with tracks is their lack of transparency, information and customer communication. It's like pulling teeth to get any information. The silence sometimes is deafening. So, a new or existing track addressing some of the items listed below would get my attention.
• Make stewards and jockey communications public during inquiries
• Display greater transparency on track conditions (not just it's fast) , horse injuries, medications, shoe information, tote irregularities, trainer/jockey suspensions
• Report more information with public workouts (times, note, workout partners and trainer comments)
• Explain tote delays
• Update us on jockey and horse injuries that have occurred
• Broadcast in high definition video
• Provide good paddock watching professional who can supply information and changes in horses condition race to race (i.e Hong Kong)
• Base all payouts on 1.00 standard. (current payouts are all over place $2, $1, .50c .10c)
• Keep number of live pick-4 , pick-5 , pick-6 tickets displayed at all times
• Keep odds and probable payouts posted while broadcasting replays
• Improve photo finish technology, it's outdated and erroneous
Q: Can you name a track that you may have discovered within the last few years who you feel is doing most of the right things to entice you to become a customer?
A: Again I like Gulfstream and Santa Anita. You can say what you want about Stronach, but he is committed to the sport and he puts his money up. And Gulfstream must be horseman-friendly because the field sizes are tremendous. However both Santa Anita and Gulfstream are culprits of some of the items I discussed in point two.
Q: If you could only play the races (not as a spectator, but as a bettor searching for interesting races and betting value) one day a year (e.g. Breeders' Cup Saturday, Derby day etc), which day would you choose?
A: I would have to say Breeders' Cup. It's two days. It's generally in a more climate friendly venue. Plus for me the Kentucky Derby is usually the biggest crapshoot from a betting perspective.
Q: The State of the Industry for Customers is ________ Pick one: Poor and needs a ton of work, Ok, but it needs some work, Fine, could be better, with a couple of small tweaks, Great, I am totally satisfied.
A: It varies from circuit to circuit, but my average grade would be OK, but it needs work. A lot of work.
Q: What is the number one thing a racetrack could do to entice you to bet more?
A: Take less and show their appreciation more.
Q: For a little fun question: Who will win the Kentucky Derby?
A: Derby picking is not my forte. California Chrome was my first derby winner since Street Sense. The race is impossible to handicap. However, I think American Pharoah is something special and could even be the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.