04/14/2011 1:53PM

Hastings lowers its takeout for 2011 meeting

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Management at Hastings is hoping less takeout from the parimutuel pools will equate into more betting when the 2011 meet opens Saturday. Hastings is reducing the takeout to 15 percent on its win, place, show, and pick-four pools. Previously, the takeout on win, place, and show wagers was 17.3 percent and 22.3 percent on pick-four bets.

Hastings added a pick five to its wagering profile this year, also with a 15 percent takeout. The first two days of the meet, the pick-five pool will be paid out. Starting next Friday, the pick-five pool will carryover if there are no winning tickets. Hastings is guaranteeing a $25,000 pool for the pick five on opening day.

“The two biggest stakeholders in our business are our horse owners and players,” said Raj Mutti, general manager at Hastings. “Our purses are going up quite a bit, so there are some positives for the owners. Dropping the takeout is just one of the things we are going to do to help the players. More money returning back to the players will hopefully help our pools.”

Due to help from the provincial government, the overnight purses at Hastings are going up by 19 percent. The stakes program received a 23 percent boost.

Mutti thinks the pick four is the most likely pool to increase with the drop in takeout.

“Throughout the industry, the pick four is the pool that is growing the most,” he said. “We’re hoping with our low takeout we can attract new customers not only here, but also across North America.”

Hastings also is adding a new graphics package for its video presentation, Wi-Fi throughout the facility, new flat-screen televisions in all betting areas, and upgrades to its website.

If money spent on marketing means more customers coming to the track, there should be a big increase in attendance at Hastings this year. The B.C. Horse Racing Industry Management Committee established an $800,000 advertising and marketing fund that will be under the direction of the B.C. Lottery Corporation. The committee oversees and allocates money to the horse racing industry in the province. Some of the $800,000 will be directed to the local Standardbred track, Fraser Downs. Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, the parent company of Hastings and Fraser Downs, also will contribute $500,000.

“This is a significant increase in the amount of money we have to work with,” Mutti said. “We’re working together with the lottery corporation, and they are genuinely committed to helping the industry grow.”

New group handling purse money

There has been an administrative change in the way purses will be distributed to horse owners at Hastings this year. Previously, Hastings had control of the purse account and distributed the money. Now, the money will be handled by the BC Thoroughbred Owners & Breeders Association, a group that was formed last year to represent horsemen and breeders in the province. Merrilee Elliott, who has been the horsemen’s bookkeeper at Hastings for the past 25 years, now works for BCTOBA. Her office is still in the racing office.

According to Hastings management, the move was made at the request of the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch.

Prior to BCTOBA being formed last year, the Horsemen’s Benevolent Protective Association and the B.C division of the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society were the only representatives of local horsemen.

Board members of the HBPA were upset they weren’t consulted on the move. They pointed out their concerns in a letter addressed to Horse Racing Management Committee chair Derek Sturko. In the letter, they also stated “the decision is further evidence of the partiality and bias that have defined the Committee’s relationship with the HBPA.” The content of the letter can be viewed on the HBPA’s website at hbpabc.ca.

Previously the HBPA was funded by receiving 2 percent of the purse money distributed at Hastings. The HRMC changed that this year, with BCTOBA, the HBPA, and the Canadian Thoroughbred Society each receiving $120,000 to operate.

Taylor considering retirement

Troy Taylor, the leading trainer at Hastings for the past four years, is back with a strong contingent of horses. He has horses entered in six of the eight races carded for opening day. Taylor will turn 80 this year and is considering retiring at the end of the year.

“This could be my last year,” he said. “We’ll see. I’ve had a good run.”

◗ Trainer Quint McCabe had a heart attack and died in his sleep in February. McCabe will be missed by the backstretch community at Hastings. Known for his benevolence, McCabe was awarded the HBPA’s Backstretch Award in 2001.