Should the average horseplayer be upset with Laurel/Pimlico management because of a change being contemplated for the Double Triple?
That is essentially what Jim Mango, vice president of both tracks, asked reporters Thursday when revealing that the tracks may ask the Maryland Racing Commission to allow the Double Triple to become a $5 minimum, $100,000 guaranteed wager.
If granted, the change would take effect at Pimlico Race Course in September on an experimental basis.
Mango said the change would have its advantages, but wondered whether it would alienate smaller bettors.
Thing is, average racegoers have long been turned off by the Double Triple. Increasing the minimum from $3 to $5 will do little to change their participation, which is negligible.
For the tracks, a guarantee is a gamble, but one they feel worth taking. It would please their best customers. It could give an added sense of excitement to the week preceding the Sept. 8 Maryland Million program. And if the carry-over swells, it could boost the handle enough to negate the statistics -- and more importantly, a growing public perception -- that say Maryland racing is stagnant and on the slide.
In the meantime, the tracks risk offending John Q. Horsebettor even more because John Q., remember, never liked the bet in the first place. So when Mango said management "can't sit back and not try things," John Q. probably thinks something else should be tried -- namely, a $1 Double Triple denomination or the return of the more popular Pick Six.
Double Triple detractors, however, might be disillusioned.
Maryland is not California or New York. On the first few days of a new pool, there is minimum volume and no incentive. So a $2 Pick Six, which many horseplayers say they favor to the Double Triple, builds just as slowly. And since statistics show the Pick Six to be about five times easier to win than the Double Triple, it would be won more often, making bonanza payoffs few and far between.
And a $1 Double Triple would help the bigger bettors blanket it, giving them perhaps an even larger advantage. To box five horses in each race now requires $10,800, a steep amount for even the highest rollers. But for a $1 bet, it would cost $3,600, a more manageable sum.
Mango recognizes that most bettors prefer the Pick Six, but he added there are computer problems that preclude reinstituting it in the immediate future. He said his "ultimate bet" is a $5 minimum Pick Six, which would build much faster than a $2 Pick Six and which the tracks may eventually try.
A $5 Pick Six still wouldn't do much for the little guy. But considering all the options, and considering how so many people wish the Double Triple would just go away, it might be the best
Barry Weisbord recently proposed different divisions for the American Championship Racing Series. He said he would like to see similar series for sprinters, turf horses, fillies and mares, and turf fillies and mares.
Good intentions. Bad idea. The current ACRS for older horses has been a success, but it will take awhile for the general sports public to catch on to its significance.
Expansion would likely create weak versions of what has proven to be a terrific concept. If the sport becomes overexposed, casual fans might tend to throw the baby out with the bath water -- that is, if races in the "divisions" became everyday events, then the perceived importance of the existing ACRS might also be
"Goin' to Saratoga this year?"
That's been one of the most-asked questions around Laurel this week. For horseplayers, a trip to Saratoga is the ultimate summertime getaway.
Saratoga opens Wednesday, and for the first time, the New York track has expanded to a five-week meeting. The $1 million Travers on Aug. 17 is the highlight.
If you're flying, Albany -- some 40 miles from the track -- is the most common destination. Drive time is seven to eight hours from Baltimore.
As for accommodations, good luck. Decent hotels in the area are always jammed and expensive.
The California experiment for jockey Jose Santos came to a merciful end last week.
Santos, 30, led the nation in earnings from 1986 to 1989 while riding mostly in New York, but like so many New York riders before him, he never really caught on in Southern California. He rode less than 10 percent winners (75) from some 800 mounts and was laboring in 13th place in the Hollywood Park standings when he decided to return to New York.
Santos left for California last November, soon after riding Fly So Free and Meadow Star to Breeders' Cup victories at Belmont Park.
Santos made a triumphant return to Belmont on Wednesday by winning two races, including the $75,000 feature.