12/09/2014 1:58PM

Gisser: Random year-end thoughts


I had a good year at the windows but on a very small scale. I managed a 10% ROI but barely bet $5,000 all year.  Still, a $500 profit is better than a $500 loss. I attended fewer live race cards than ever this year, but was able to watch more races on real television (as opposed to computer feeds) than ever before, and I found myself wagering on those races just to have a “rooting interest.” I think that concept—so common in college basketball or football and pro sports—is one we often overlook in our sport. It will never become a major part of overall handle, but it could well be the way to get more casual fans involved.

Speaking of casual fans, is there any track that offers an “introductory deal?” Something like, $10 gets you a program, a hot dog and a coke, and a $10 betting voucher that must be played (can’t simply be cashed out). One of my ex-bosses refers to the “popcorn munchers,” the folks who attend the races but don’t wager. Here we are giving them the action for free. If they win, they churn it. If they lose, it has not cost them anything. If you have experienced this, as a fan or as a track employee, drop me an e-mail (klgisser@earthlink.net) and let me know how it worked. I am considering a future column on this topic.

[DRF HARNESS: Get Free Harness PPs when you wager with DRF Bets]

In the coming days you will read and hear a great deal about Horse of the Year voting. I have two thoughts to throw out there this year, rather than writing an entire column on the topic. First, if Commander Crowe had raced in and won the TVG Trot, would those two wins have been enough for divisional or overall honors? It would have been enough to get my vote in the division, especially with the way a very good Sebastian K leveled off at the end of the year, but probably not a Horse of the Year vote. Secondly, back in September, I began touting the 2-year-old pacers JK She’salady and Artspeak as contenders for overall honors if they ran the table. Artspeak fell by the wayside, but JK She’salady finished with a perfect 12-for-12 season. She was a lock for my HOTY vote until this past Sunday afternoon. As I watched the NCAA playoff selection show, the only undefeated team, the Florida State Seminoles, got the third seed behind two one-loss teams. I figured overall body of work would jump them to the top, but it did not. Part of it was the way they won their last several games, but a bigger part was their strength of schedule. It’s forcing me to reconsider. Yes, the filly was perfect, but does her strength of schedule affect my choice to put her on top. Suddenly, I am not so sure.

The biggest news of the year (for me, at least) was that the Cane Pace was moving to the Meadowlands on Hambletonian day. It takes care of a number of issues. First, as much as it pains this half-mile track guy to say it, we need a Triple Crown race on a big track. So many horses won’t race elsewhere. At least now, if a horse wins the Cane on a mile oval, he may consider supplementing to the Messenger, instead of not entering any of the Triple Crown events.  Second (hopefully), the Cane will stay in Jersey and give the series some stability (as the trotters already have) both in location and timing. Lastly, it helps with the visibility of the sport. Tioga Downs is a great facility and a great place to watch a horse race. But it is not a destination, like The Meadowlands on Hambletonian day, or the Delaware Fairgrounds on Jug day. Plus, we will already have CBS Sports there. Everyone involved with the TV production should realize the opportunity to televise two of the three pacing Triple Crown races. It will not take away from that trotting race one iota. Great move by all concerned. Well done.

I am thrilled that White Bliss made it to the races at two. While he is certainly no world beater at this point, the fact that he got there and has paced sub-55 miles shows he has some ability.  I am eager to see how he comes back at three, but am surprised to see some online commentators questioning his ability already. I found this quote from owner Tristan Sjoberg very intriguing, “We are hoping that he can develop further over the winter months and we have set our sights on most of the major stakes races in 2015.” Earlier this year, the connections discussed their hopes that he would be a good Sires Stakes colt. For this horse, who battled colic and other issues earlier this year, that would be a huge jump, but it would surely be good for the sport.  It would garner much needed media attention and maybe even draw some of those “popcorn  munchers“ to wager a deuce on the horse.

Now go cash. Best wishes for a great holiday season and a happy, healthy and prosperous 2015.