03/21/2012 3:53PM

Marketing, Yonkers, and the world of Fantasy


There are so many topics up for grabs this week. Let’s jump into my top two and I’ll hit a grab bag topic at the end. Yonkers Raceway starts two of the best series in the sport and in my opinion their marquee event. The USTA Board of Directors meeting just concluded and I got to witness firsthand some of the second-day festivities.

Let’s take the second topic first and the first second, because I simply have to get something off my chest. While sitting in the room listening to the banter on the topic of marketing the sport, I heard way too often the acceptance that our industry should just rely on VLT/Slot money. As someone who owned horses that reaped some of that money within the last couple of years, I can’t deny that I liked getting those fat checks on the all too infrequent occurrences when my horses raced well.  That said, even if the day never comes when gaming and tracks are surgically removed at the hip by politicians, there is no harm in pursuing avenues to change the sometimes negative perception of our sport and do what we can to increase handle and attendance through marketing and capital improvements.

I don’t want to open the can of worms on who will pay for it, but logic (god forbid I bring that in) would have you think that both sides (tracks and horsemen) should be on board. The reluctance by many groups to jump on board is clearly because this is a very tall task that will take a long time to produce serious results. Reminds me of when I began college and didn’t care about school because I was not going to graduate for four more years. Well, hindsight being 20/20, that was stupid, and so is ignoring problems and enjoying the status quo.

An exploratory committee was named to consider the possibilities of marketing for the future. Ten men have been assigned the task of sorting out the issues. Hopefully they make progress.

Yonkers Raceway

I love lower-level condition races as much as the next guy (probably more), but it is so nice to see some of the top older pacers in the sport back in action. While some 3-year-olds might be scared away from the half-mile surface at Yonkers, older foes rarely shy away from the track when major money is on the line. Makes me wish Yonkers aimed more of their races for older standardbreds. But that is another column.

We won’t go over each of the five Blue Chip Matchmaker prelims for mares and six George Morton Levy Memorial divisions for the boys, but here are a few of the horses I’ll be paying close attention to this weekend.

Krispy Apple (race 3 – Friday) put in a super qualifier last week at the Meadowlands and certainly looks ready to do some damage in this series. Drawing post seven will not help her but if the price drifts up to 5-2 or so, I would be very willing to take a shot.

Anndrovette trounced her competition in the Overbid final and stands to be a heavy favorite in race 5 on Friday. When the reigning divisional champion is racing, I’m clearly paying attention.

See You At Peelers, she of the 22-race win streak to start her career, is back in race 8. She is great on smaller tracks like this and I will be watching her every move, but I’m intrigued from a betting standpoint with Chancey Lady. With a strong series she can go over the $2 million mark in lifetime earnings and her recent efforts really aren’t that bad.

On Saturday, in the Levy, race four features $2.3 million earner One More Laugh. On paper he hasn’t been great in his two starts this year but I have a hunch that he could be ready for a big effort soon.

Pacer of the Year Foiled Again starts from post six in race 9, the final Levy division of the night. I can’t wait to see what he can do as an 8-year-old. Will he become the richest pacer of all time? His races are all must-watch events.

Just a fantasy

The great thing about my writing gig is there are very few rules. Sure, my bosses probably would like me to crank out something about harness racing each week, but let’s face it we are multi-facetted creatures who have many talents and interests.

When I’m not eating, sleeping and drinking harness racing (which seems like never), or spending time with family (especially my oldest daughter, Jenna; she insisted on special mention), I spend my free time on Fantasy Sports – Baseball, Basketball, Football. I love them all, but baseball is my favorite and a good portion of my time during the end of March is spent going over stats and strategies on how to win my many fantasy leagues.

The preparation for winning a fantasy league is a lot like any other activity in life. If you organize, work hard, and keep an open mind, and pay attention, good things will happen. There is a luck factor, but chance favors the prepared mind.

By now you must be thinking, how does this relate to harness racing? Well, it does and it doesn’t. Utilize all of the factors above and I guarantee you will win more money betting races. That said, I really just felt like writing something about Fantasy Baseball this week. So if you are interested . . .

The top three thoughts on my mind (and possibly yours as your draft approaches):

Who should I take in the first round? You would think the first pick would be the easiest. Having the choice of almost any players gives you quite a selection. I’m picking first in one of my leagues this year and cannot seem to choose between Matt Kemp and Ryan Braun. I’m open to suggestions if you have one.

How long can I wait to draft my favorite players? I take my fantasy leagues very seriously but I still have a few favorite players. We all have that one guy we really want on our team to root for and my guy is Brett Gardner. My heart says he is a top 60 player but my head says top 80. These decisions are what separate the casual player from the insanely involved ones.

Should I give up in a category like saves or batting average? Every year I ask myself if it is worth trying to dump one category while attempting to dominate the others. It can be a fruitful strategy if you are willing to do lots of homework and find all the perfect players to fit the strategy. You don’t want to dump average and draft Matt Kemp with your first pick. That would defeat the purpose.

I don’t want to leave you hanging, so, Braun will likely be my first pick in the league I draft first, Gardner is my fifth round pick if he remains available at that point, and I’m leaning towards dumping a category in two out of my three leagues. Wish me luck.