10/02/2008 12:00AM

Breeders' Cup betting menu needs rethinking


NEW YORK - Earlier this week, the wagering menus were announced for the Breeders' Cup cards at Santa Anita on Oct. 24 and 25, and if you're a little confused, you're not alone - the Breeders' Cup itself has all sorts of contradictory information about the betting on the two programs up on its official website. Perhaps the good news there is that since the menus aren't exactly written in stone, at least without some more masonry, there might be time to rethink three seemingly peculiar decisions.

The most confusing thing is that the Breeders' Cup site has for weeks been listing post times for each of the 14 races and the order in which they will be run, but the betting-menu announcement said otherwise: that the race order will not be determined until pre-entries are announced Oct. 15 and that the only sure things are that the Ladies' Classic will be the 7th in a 10-race Friday card with the Classic the 9th on an 11-race Saturday card. It's a little disconcerting that the Breeders' Cup can't yet commit even to such no-brainers as running the Turf as the penultimate cup race directly before the Classic, or that the five traditional Cup races that will be run Saturday (the Classic, Turf, Sprint, Mile, and Juvenile) will in fact be the last five rather than being mingled with the Dirt Mile, Marathon, Juvenile Turf, and Turf Sprint.

With any luck, though, the uncertainty means there's a possibility of switching the order currently posted on the website in which the Juvenile comes before, rather than after, the Juvenile Turf. Obviously, the Grade 1, $2 million Juvenile is a more important race than the $1 million ungraded Juvenile Turf and is a far better choice to kick off the $2 million guaranteed pick four that ends with the Classic.

The pick-four sequences that are even odder, though, are the ones on Friday, where you would think the most important race of the day was the Grade 2, $250,0000 Las Palmas Handicap (race 8) rather than the $2 million Ladies' Classic (race 7) or the four other Breeders' Cup races (3rd through 6th). Under the current lineup, the Las Palmas is the last leg of both the pick four and the pick six, and even though there are five Breeders' Cup races and two pick fours on the card, neither one is an all-Breeders' Cup sequence. Why instead are there two overlapping pick fours (5th through 8th and 7th through 10th) both involving the Las Palmas?

The most controversial decision on the wagering menu, however, involves intrarace rather than multirace bets. The good news is that there will be dime superfectas on 12 of the 14 Cup races Friday and Saturday. The bad news: There will be no superfecta wagering whatsoever on either Friday's Ladies' Classic or Saturday's Classic because there will instead be Super High Five wagering at a $1 minimum on those two races. Eliminating the superfecta on the Classic, where it attracted $2.72 million in bets in 2006 and $2.55 million last year, is a risky and alienating move and amounts to a forced upgrade. The Super High Five is simply not as popular a bet as the superfecta and, more importantly, it prices many players out of participating. Having a $1 rather than dime minimum makes the bet 10 times more expensive, as does coming up with a fifth finisher in a 14-horse field. The combination of those two factors makes the Super High Five essentially 100 times as expensive and daunting a proposition as a dime super. Boxing six horses costs $360 rather than $36, while requiring that five rather than four of them lead the rest of the field.

Why can't there be both? Officials clearly worried that if they offered both bets, the Super High Five would attract a much smaller pool. This is exactly why it should have left things alone. Why eliminate a more popular bet in order to force-feed a less popular and more costly one to the customers? Where was the clamor to add a Super High Five to the Classic? There are two more races on the Saturday card after the Classic, and it would have made much more sense for Santa Anita simply to run an Super High Five as the last race of the day, as it does now.

Only in racing would the decision be made to replace your fastest-growing product (dime supers) with a less popular one that is sure to attract a smaller market and annoy existing customers.