07/26/2017 12:20PM

Parimutuel survivors compete on ‘Win Place Show'


The new fall TV season will feature a new show sure to capture the attention of horseplayers – a reality competition called “Win Place Show” that is scheduled to debut Sept. 5 on TVG.

Each episode pits two two-person teams of new racing fans against one another. The teams are coached by an industry veteran whose job it is to guide the newer players through the nuances of handicapping and betting.

“The coaches will be there to answer questions and help the contestants make educated decisions about which horses to bet and which bets to make,” executive producer Dawn Mellen said. “The players watching at home will follow along and decide if they agree or disagree with those decisions. It’s our hope that newer players will find the show and say, ‘Hey, that looks like fun. I can do that.’ ”

The contestants were chosen at a casting call in June at Del Mar’s Surfside, where more than 250 people showed up. Players were chosen from all walks of life, including an entrepreneur, a flight attendant, a writer, and a sales manager. The level of knowledge varies amongst the contestants from total novice to somewhat more experienced. Many of the cast members are millennials, with the hope being that the show will help racing attract more people from that generation to the racetrack.

The coaches were carefully cherry picked by Penns Lane Entertainment, the production company behind the show.

“We advertised in DRF and did a lot of our own research,” said Mellen, “and in the end, we came up with a really interesting cast of characters.”

Some of the names will be familiar to DRF readers, particularly race caller and successful tournament player Vic Stauffer, as well as contest player Jonathon Kinchen. The other coaches are Christopher Ado, Jason Diamos, Tyler Frausto, George Ortuzar, Frank Scatoni, and Jared Welch. By design, the coaches’ roles in the competitions will be limited. They are there to offer guidance and answer questions but not to make selections or dictate betting amounts.

The show’s host is Jimmy “The Hat” Allard, who has been a fixture on the Southern California racing circuit for more than three decades. He came up with the idea for a new racing reality show with a competitive element.

“In my lifetime, the TV coverage of the World Series of Poker created the most impressive phenomenon I’ve ever seen in terms of creating a new appeal for a gambling game and exposing it to a new audience,” Allard said. “I’ve been trying to emulate that for horse racing for many years.”

Allard became a racing fan while still in diapers, sitting on his father’s shoulders watching harness racing at Batavia Downs near where his family lived in Rochester, N.Y. Through connections in the racing world, he pitched the idea for the show to Penns Lane, and while it has changed since his original vision, he couldn’t be more excited about its prospects.

“It’s not my original idea, but it’s a great idea,” he said. “Exotic betting is so complicated that instead of bringing people to the track it can intimidate and alienate new fans. This show says to new people, ‘Come out here, start with the basics of win, place, and show, then slowly take it from there.’ ”

Having the element of competition on the show is a perfect way to feature what makes racing special.

“It’s my belief that the guy with the most knowledge has the edge,” Allard added, “and if you can keep your hand out of your pocket, horse racing offers investment opportunities unlike any other form of gambling. Horse racing is no different than the stock market, just less corrupt.”

On each show the two teams will compete, wagering on three races chosen by Allard. Each team starts with a bankroll of $300 and teams must bet at least $2 on each race. Profits cannot be reinvested as they can be in live-bankroll contest play. Instead, only $300 total can be wagered. As the name of the show demands, the permitted wagers are limited to win, place, and show – a perfectly sensible decision for a show looking to attract new fans.

As the season goes on, teams will be eliminated while others will go on to compete for a cash prize.

The show’s first episodes filmed last weekend at Del Mar, and the crew will be filming the rest of the season over four more weekends this summer where the surf meets the turf.

“Del Mar is the perfect place to soak in all the fun that racing provides its fans,” Mellen explained. “It’s a beautiful destination location with wonderful stakes races, a rich history, and it’s full of wonderful people.”

For more information about the show, including complete bios of all the contestants and coaches, go to winplaceshowtv.com. You also can look for the show on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.