12/23/2013 9:46AM

Golden Gate Fields opens meet with tweaked wagering menu, larger fields


Golden Gate Fields opens its 2013-14 racing season Thursday and is caught up in the ripple effect of the makeover of the Southern California racing calendar.

With the closing of Hollywood Park, Golden Gate Fields and Santa Anita, both owned by the Stronach Group, hold all the state’s racing dates until the start of the Northern California fair season at Pleasanton on June 19.

Tom Ludt, the former president of Vinery Farm and chairman of Breeders’ Cup Ltd., is now a senior vice president of the Stronach Group and is focusing on the company’s relationships with horsemen and bettors. Golden Gate is squarely in his plans, including getting more live races on TVG.

“Our industry is struggling,” Ludt said. “I used to tell people, ‘This is what I’d do if I ran a track.’ If things were working, you might try to tweak them. If not, you have to try bigger things. I’d like to tell you everything will work, but only some will be received well.”

Ludt said improving what he called “neglected” facilities is one way to attract more fans. Lowering the takeout on daily doubles from 22.68 percent to 18 percent also is an important step. He said only three doubles will be offered on each card – the first and second races, the fourth and fifth, and the final two races – the same schedule and takeout that will be implemented at Santa Anita.

He also is moving the pick five, which maintains its 14 percent takeout, from the last five races on the card to the first five so Golden Gate Fields and Santa Anita will offer the same betting schedule, with the pick six on the final six races of the day.

The Super High 5 has been moved from the fifth race to the last race of the day. The place pick all will not be offered any more.

Ludt said he likes that Golden Gate Fields has branded itself with its popular “Dollar Sunday” promotion, but he hopes to create promotions that will attract Sunday patrons to the track on other days as well.

He said attendance is important, but he is realistic enough to add that, “We need gamblers,” and he wants to find ways to draw big bettors to the track instead of them simply betting from home.

Wagering fuels racing and purses, so Ludt said he hopes to increase field sizes and the horse population on the grounds.

“We need to focus on things we can control,” he said. “We have to make our purse situation more profitable for owners.”

Golden Gate took a step in the right direction in increasing handle as it relates to field size during its fall meet, when it averaged 7.9 runners per race, up from last year’s 7.5 average. The field size averages 9.3 runners for the first three days of the new meet.

Ludt would like to improve racing’s use of sponsorships to boost purses. He said there must be better North-South cooperation between tracks in California and that there could be a period when turf racing in the state is concentrated in Northern California to give the Santa Anita course a breather.

He also hopes to make Northern California more attractive to owners whose horses may not fit in Southern California.

There is some charted territory remaining, though. Jockey Russell Baze and trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, who won their 47th riding and 45th training titles at the fall meet, will be back. Rejoining the jockey colony to challenge Baze will be Kevin Krigger.

B Stuart More than 1 year ago
HRoberish More than 1 year ago
How about making the DD's a dollar like NYRA does. Also, having the pick 3's for 50 cents like many tracks have will surely increase handle because bettors will wager more by putting more horses in their combo's. Why won't GG or Santa Anita follow suit? BECAUSE IT MAKE'S SENSE!!!!!!
jttf More than 1 year ago
Today's meds/peds gives the large stables too big of an advantage. In order to get smaller stables back into the game. Decrease the winners share from 60 to 40 percent. 2nd place would get 20%. 3rd place 15%, 4th gets 10, then 7%, 5% and 3%. Each race will pay off to the top 7 finishers. There will be less incentive to cheat.
Jesus Reynoso More than 1 year ago
I think your didtribution dounds great. Especially when some horses ein by a nisttil.
Richard Zabel More than 1 year ago
who cares gangstyer gate sukks
Ron Solberg More than 1 year ago
i dont live in cal. or even near a top notch race track but if i did what would turn me off fast is the charging for parking and admission.i play races daily and dont have to pay one cent to get into the casino and racebook. if i had to be out $20 before i made the first bet then i would go play slots.
Jeffrey More than 1 year ago
You have to remember, many people in the industry argue they are competing against the Dodgers or the Lakers, not the casinos. Personally, I am not that interested in buying an $80 Todd Pletcher or Bob Baffert jersey.
Randy Atkins More than 1 year ago
agree 100% .. betting at home on line I have my own OTB in my house and the beer and food are in the kitchen
Teetop More than 1 year ago
I actually think less is more as regards the daily double. When there are only three doubles, you plan around them and they are big bets. When they are on every two races, they are another option that you may or may not think about.
Roger More than 1 year ago
Problem is that when management designates the 3 doubles....1st races are usually bad/small fields and last race is usually a cheap maiden claiming race. If Ludt is so excited about 3 doubles at 18% to bring in more fans (check his CHRB speech at Nov.21 meeting) then why not keep rolling doubles like other tracks for the last 15 years. CA Racing created rolling doubles over 20 years....this is STEP BACK for horseplayers. Ludt moving GGF P-5 from the last 5 races to the first 5 races not only weakened his early double but weakened P-5 as well....tomorrow's last 5 betting interests number 52 vs only 37 for the 1st 5 races.
Roger More than 1 year ago
Ludt's moving the GGF P-5 to the 1st race certainly doesn't help his early double pool. Hey Ludt....give fans the rolling double at pre SB1072 rate (20.68%) ... that's more player friendly rather than 3 lousy designated races.
Roger More than 1 year ago
Ludt is either a PHONY or way over his head regarding CUSTOMER WAGERING MENU. First off, this rolling double assault is a SCAM to increase P-3 pools at exceedingly high rate of 23.68%.....how is that player friendly? Why are you telling me which 3 doubles I can play when your competitors have been offering ROLLING DOUBLES for over 15 years? GGF rolling double prices were often a better payout than the P-3......this is a significant blow to the majority customer (bets less than $250).
IRANIANMULLAH More than 1 year ago
I like dollar day beers lol! it's a nice track with what would e the #1 view in America. EXCEPT. THE GRANDSTAND BELONGS WITH ITS BACK TO THE HIGHWAY FACING THE BRIDGE they're doing the right things, but they really need to get rid of the cheaters. Now I can live with the funny stuff but the stigma on the game prevents the young from playing and as we see the success on ESPN of Texas Hold em the kids love to gamble.
George Custer More than 1 year ago
"Ludt said improving what he called “neglected” facilities is one way to attract more fans. Lowering the takeout on daily doubles from 22.68 percent to 18 percent also is an important step. He said only three doubles will be offered on each card – the first and second races, the fourth and fifth, and the final two races – the same schedule and takeout that will be implemented at Santa Anita." Nice move on the huge rake out, Mr. Ludt-but why not continue to have a daily double on every two races? Also why not a decent comp card for players? Tracks are so cheap con comps ompared to race books in Nevada.