During Sunday's Jockey Club Round Table, Robert Green of the public opinion firm Penn Schoen Berland, unveiled results of a survey of 816 horseplayers and handicappers that showed how important drugs and integrity issues are to horse racing's biggest customers.
Among other things, the survey (which included a sub-category of racing's biggest bettors, called “big fish” or “whales”) showed the following:
— Drugs (69%) and integrity (66%) concerns loom larger to bettors than any other Thoroughbred racing concern, bigger even than takeout rates, lack of leadership, outmoded facilities, and injuries among issues the survey asked about.
— Big fish and whales are even more focused on drugs than bettors as a whole, with four in five (80%) who say drugs are a “very important” issue, with another 72% who cite integrity. Drugs are as pressing a concern to the biggest bettors as takeout rates which an identical 80% also say is a “very important” issue.
— Fully 76% of bettors and 86% of the “big fish” and whales avoid some tracks and states. Another 75% of bettors and 87% of the largest bettors say trainers show different “form” in different states.
— When handicapping races at certain racetracks or states, nearly four in five bettors (79%) consider the possibility of illegal drug use. This matters enormously to the economics of the sport. By a 9:1 margin, bettors say they bet less, not more, because they have to factor the possibility of illegal drug use. The big bettors are five times more likely to say they typically bet less rather than more, mostly because they either had to accept short odds on the “juiced” horse, or lose the bet to a “super trainer.”
Following the presentation, Jockey Club vice chairman Stuart Janney said The Jockey Club is committing up to $500,000 over the next two years to increase out-of-competition testing, which has leveled the playing field and caught cheaters using performance-enhancing drugs in human sports like Major League Baseball and track and field. This new testing program will focus on Graded stakes races.
How important are drugs and integrity to you, and do you factor suspicions about certain trainers into your handicapping process? Do you think The Jockey Club is on the right track, focusing on out-of-competition testing? Please join the conversation at the Paulick Report's Horseplayers Corner and let industry leaders know how you feel on these subjects.
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