Giving Thanks for 2015

Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving | Author Mccloskey Speaks


The Breeders’ Cup is in the books, and we’re starting to think about the holidays. That’s all good, and time with the family are the best moments in life. In addition to getting in the holiday swing, you’ll see some racing fans sharpening up their skill set. – You’ll see punters focusing in on contest play and getting qualified late for Las Vegas, or already making plans for next year. There are the real fans who are busy looking for cheaper airfares and how the’re going to get to their planned horse racing destination. – American Pharoah was great for the game, and that statement may be a little late to the party. But if there was ever a year where racing could have used the boost, we’ll look back on 2015 as the year that gave the sport of kings a little breathing room. That is something we’re all grateful for having this year.


According to the Blood the overall handle was down on Breeders’ Cup weekend. – “The 2015 figure of $155.5 million, down from $159.4 million in 2014, was in part because no World Championships pari-mutuel wagering in Hong Kong took place this year, according to Breeders’ Cup. Common-pool wagering on the Oct. 31, 12-race Breeders’ Cup card was $105,625,491, a slight decrease (.3%) from the 2014 handle of $105,979,062. The on-track handle for the two days at Keeneland was $20,663,054, up 2.5% over the $20,117,488 2014 on-track handle at Santa Anita.” – I guess we could consider that a pretty good number considering we didn’t have the mega-handle machine that Hong King can bring to the table.


Sha Tin can have crowds averaging 10,000 per day, and attending a day at the races can be an awesome spectacle. During the 2013-14 racing season, Hong Kong set a record of $130 billion in handle setting a new record that spans 130 years. – The Chinese see gambling as a form of luck and entertainment. To gamble and win means you are truly a lucky person indeed. – Without having the handle from the most enthusiastic gamblers in the world, and still achieving a high number speaks volumes. That is something to be thankful as handle can be a good gauge on fan interest in horse racing.


If you’ve played in a handicapping contest, you know the incredible rush of excitement. – The Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge is an excellent example. The contest is held during the year at BC There are one day contests, and two round events where players can qualify and move on to the next round. During the year, there are players who qualify for the live bankroll mega-contest, or have the option of paying the large entry fee to try their luck.  – This past year there were 322 players located at Keeneland, Santa Anita, Belmont Park, Del Mar, and Gulfstream Park. – This total on-track handle wagered by 222 players at Keeneland came to a total of $3,096,223 from the $4,225,000 handle according to the Blood – If you’ve heard handicapping contests are on the decline, there may have been a premature notice of death as this Keeneland contest handle alone represented 15% of the two day handle totals. Most are playing the on-line format over the tried and true “brick and mortar” contests where players travel around the country and accumulate quite a bit of expense. This handicapper finds it pretty convenient to fire up the computer and play from home. No hassle, no travel, and I can play in more contests if I don’t have to come out of pocket to stay overnight or make trip plans. – Overall, the contest component is an exciting way for racing fans who enjoy doing battle for life changing prize money. That is definitely something to be thankful.


2015 is a year we’ll remember for quite sometime. It was 37-years since the last Triple Crown winner, and that is a long time between drinks. When the Churchill Downs plays “My Old Kentucky Home,” and there is not a dry eye in the house. The world becomes a horse racing fan if even for a day. – But maybe we’ll have fans following the Derby trail a bit sooner. – Did they make their first start at Gulfstream, Fair Grounds, Churchill, or Santa Anita ? – Was it a smaller oval at a lesser meet when we caught a glimpse of greatness ? – The runner could be a multi-million dollar sales purchase, or a modest priced runner who slipped past the watchful eyes in the sales ring. Either way, the build up is all about the journey. Like all sports, we follow from opening day, pre-season, and practice schedules. Racing is no different, and what transpired this past year may give the sport of kings more exposure to the beauty and pageantry. For that, Thoroughbred racing is truly grateful.