09/10/2013 11:53AM

Dick Jerardi: Pick four linking Penn National, Belmont Park could be start of something big

Barbara D. Livingston
Will Take Charge (left) and Moreno, who finished a nose apart in the Travers, are expected to be rematched in the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 21.

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Each Thursday, starting Sept. 12 through Oct. 24, the final Thursday of the Belmont Park fall meet, Penn National and Belmont will team up for a unique 50-cent pick four with a 15 percent takeout.

The bet will connect the last two races at Belmont Park and the first two at Penn National.

“We’re always trying to do new things that are maybe a little bit different and offer the bettors unique opportunities,” said Dan Silver, the former director of communications and media relations for the New York Racing Association and now director of racing operations at Penn National. “We wanted to do something with a reduced takeout. We started talking to some of the folks at NYRA around Belmont Stakes time.”

They settled on this pick four.

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“Seemed like something to spice up the midweek wagering menu and maybe get bettors who aren’t exposed to the Penn National product an opportunity to take a look at some of our races,” Silver said. “I think it’s one of the lowest-takeout pick fours in the country.”

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“Because it’s not something that we’ve done before, my expectations for the actual pick four handle aren’t huge,” Silver said. “One of the challenges, obviously, of a wager like this is that it’s a separate event. To wager on this, you’re going to have to ask the teller or on the tote machines or on your ADW online, you’re going to have to find the ‘Belmont-Penn pick four.’

“That’s going to be the challenge, making sure people know about this wager. But, to me, it’s more about raising awareness of the racing product and the hope is that some of the New York customers, it will give them a chance to not only dig into the first two races at Penn National, but also the entire card. And then there are some customers who mainly wager at night. Maybe, this will get them in the late afternoon races at Belmont. I think there’s a real opportunity not just for the specific wager, but for the rest of the cards.”

Beyond getting players to look at cards they might not otherwise consider, this is not necessarily about just this bet. It is about the potential for other bet/pool sharing in the future.

“Absolutely,” Silver said. “One of the criticisms that our industry faces is that we don’t work well together as an industry. To me, that was another big part about doing this wager. We want to work with [NYRA]. We’re very appreciative that they wanted to work with us.”

Obviously, it gets complicated, Silver said, because you have different companies running different tracks.

“Part of the importance of a wager like this was showing that tracks can work together to try and give the bettors a new and unique opportunity,” Silver said. “I think exciting possibilities could come of that down the road across multiple different time zones and tracks. Sometimes, things can get somewhat stale and our industry gets accused of not offering up new types of things.”

This pick four would qualify as new. And, given the response players have to huge carryovers, the more tracks that can be tied together the more potential there is for the big payoffs that really change the wagering dynamic.

“People talk about trying to convert casino players to racing bettors and having jackpot wagers is certainly something that could help that,” Silver said.

Letting casino customers know about pick-six carryovers and perhaps even giving them a Quick Pick option is something that has been considered, Silver said.

The Penn National tellers, Silver said, are very good at pushing the potential superfecta payoffs on customers who really don’t know much about betting. They do understand big payoffs.

Now, for the early-arriving Penn customers and the Belmont players nearing the end of a Thursday card, there is another multi-race option where hard work and imagination can put you in position to make a score.

Major showcases on Sept. 21

Sept. 21 is Pennsylvania Derby Day at Parx Racing, with the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles and the $1 million Cotillion Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles.

Will Take Charge and Moreno, the 1-2 finishers in the Travers, are expected for the Pennsylvania Derby. Close Hatches and Sweet Lulu are the leading contenders for the Cotillion.

The $300,000 Gallant Bob at six furlongs also is restricted to 3-year-olds.

That night, Charles Town will have its Race for the Ribbon, anchored by the $400,000 Researcher for 3-year-olds going seven furlongs and the $400,000 Charles Town Oaks for 3-year-old fillies going seven furlongs.

Ness far in front at Delaware

The Delaware Park meet does not end until Oct. 9, but the trainers’ race is over. Jamie Ness has 44 winners entering the final month of the season. Ness is winning with 32 percent of his starters.