Breeders’ Cup Review: Fixed Odds Wagering Under Consideration In Near Future

Fixed odds has the potential to grow horse racing, according to the Breeders' Cup
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The intersection between horse racing and sports betting through fixed-odds wagering served as a hot topic for industry stakeholders at last weekend’s Breeders’ Cup World Championships.

Backed by the nation’s leading sports betting operators, fixed-odds wagering is a form of thoroughbred wagering with a strong following at racetracks throughout Australia. BetMakers, an Australian-based company, has secured a 10-year deal to manage a fixed-odds platform at a number of New Jersey racetracks. By next May, there is a strong likelihood that Monmouth Park will offer fixed odds on opening day at the Jersey Shore track, according to operator Dennis Drazin.

Others are ready to enter the fray. BetMGM aligned with the New York Racing Association in May when the sportsbook operator made NYRA Bets its first horse racing partner. Then, last month, BetMGM launched a horse racing app in Ohio, allowing customers within the borders of the Buckeye State to wager on races at approximately 200 tracks worldwide.

Unlike parimutuel racing, fixed-odds wagering allows bettors to lock into a price far in advance of post time. For instance, Essential Quality opened as the 4/1 second choice behind Breeders’ Cup Classic favorite Knicks Go on the morning line. But a surge of money on Essential Quality minutes before the race pushed his odds down to 2/1. An astute bettor placing a wager on a fixed-odds platform would have received the 4/1 price instead of a lower payout on the tote.

“Breeders’ Cup is always looking at innovative ways to grow our sport and has been studying the fixed odds market for quite a while,” Breeders’ Cup CEO Drew Fleming told NY Online Gambling. “If structured properly and with support from the horsemen, we believe fixed odds, in conjunction with parimutuel wagering, has the potential to expand the customer base while also maintaining wagering’s significant contribution to purse levels.”

Ahead of the 2019 Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Santa Anita, the Breeders’ Cup announced a multi-year partnership with FanDuel. In March, the company rebranded Fairmount Park in the southwest portion of Illinois near St. Louis as FanDuel Sportsbook & Horse Racing.

FanDuel is one of a number of leading sportsbook operators that have taken part in a series of stakeholder meetings on fixed-odds racing in Colorado. On Wednesday, the Colorado Division of Gaming held the second of three meetings on the topic, with the third scheduled for next week. Nearly a dozen U.S. tracks have already expressed an interest in offering fixed-odds in some form, BetMakers Head of International Operations Dallas Baker told Horse Racing Nation last month.

Saratoga stars Knicks Go, Echo Zulu dominate at BC

Moments after Knicks Go basically clinched Horse of the Year honors with a Tour De Force performance in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, trainer Brad Cox gave himself little time to celebrate beyond the perfunctory champagne winners’ toast.

Likening himself to a manager of a Major League Baseball team or a coach in the NFL, Cox told a packed press conference at Del Mar that he always feels “under the gun,” when managing a top barn. Never one to rest on his laurels, Cox moves quickly to his next responsibilities even after the biggest wins of his career. To that end, Cox returned to his barn last Saturday night to check on his horses and make a few phone calls after Knicks Go concluded his year with a resounding 2-¾ lengths victory over Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit.

Cox, the 2020 Eclipse Award winner for outstanding trainer of the year, arguably notched the most impressive victory of his young career when Knicks Go won the Classic in a dazzling time of 1:59.57. Knicks Go, a 5-year old son of Paynter, is just the fourth winner of the Classic since 2005 to finish the 1-¼ mile race in under 2 minutes.

The time is also the second-fastest in the Classic since 2004, when Ghostzapper crossed the wire in 1:59.02. Cox drew parallels between the two races, both won by accomplished speed horses in front-running fashion. Much like Knicks Go, Ghostzapper excelled as older horse, capturing the final five races of his career after turning four.

Knicks Go may race once more in January’s Pegasus World Cup before he retires to stud.

“It’s funny you ask about Ghostzapper, because I was a big fan of him,” Cox told NY Online Gambling. “He (Knicks Go) is extremely sound. And I think we’re in a day and age where horses go to stud so early, he’s a little bit of a throwback horse in that he’s raced at four and five and raced as much as he has. Hopefully, he’ll pass it on as a stallion.”

In August, Knicks Go booked a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic with a dominating 4-½ length win over a talented field in the prestigious Grade I Whitney Stakes at Saratoga. Knicks Go is one of several Breeders’ Cup champions that used success at Saratoga as a springboard for a title at the two-day world championships. While Knicks Go produced the weekend’s fastest rating with a 112 Beyer speed figure, two other Spa alums also turned heads with triple-figure Beyer’s above 105.

Golden Pal, the winner of the Turf Sprint, covered the five-furlong distance in 54.7 seconds, tying the course record at Del Mar. Winner of the Quick Call at Saratoga in July, Golden Pal captured a race at the Breeders’ Cup for the second consecutive year. Life Is Good, meanwhile, romped in the Dirt Mile, defeating second-place Ginobili by 5-¾ lengths. The winning time of 1:34.1 is more than a second quicker than the time of champ Battle of Midway in 2017, when the Breeders’ Cup was last held at Del Mar.

“Any way you slice it, this is an outstanding performance and is supremely impressive,” said Life Is Good trainer Todd Pletcher.

Life Is Good, an early favorite for the 2021 Kentucky Derby, missed the Triple Crown with a left hind ankle injury. In his return from the lengthy recovery, Life Is Good lost to Jackie’s Warrior by a head in the Grade I H. Allen Jerkens Memorial Stakes at Saratoga.

Echo Zulu provided a harbinger for a possible strong 2022 campaign with a dominating 5-¼ length win in last Friday’s Juvenile Fillies. A 2-year old daughter of Gun Runner, Echo Zulu finished the 1-1/16 mile race in 1:42.24. Following the win, trainer Steve Asmussen indicated that he wouldn’t be surprised if Echo Zulu ran faster than the boys in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, contested at the same distance later in the evening. Asmussen, the former trainer of Gun Runner, proved to be prophetic, as Corniche won the Juvenile in 1:42.5 — three-tenths of a second slower than Echo Zulu.

On the road to the Breeders’ Cup, Echo Zulu went 3-for-3 on New York tracks, including a 7-¼ length win in last month’s Grade I Frizette at Belmont Park.

“I think what we’ve seen is what a fluid mover she is in the middle fractions, where Gun Runner just seemed to move so effortlessly,” Asmussen said. “Horses didn’t stay at the same rate he did. That’s how she seems to be in her races.”

2023 site still undetermined

While next year’s Breeders’ Cup World Championships will return to Keeneland, the locations for 2023 and beyond have not been determined. The Breeders’ Cup was last held in New York in 2005, when Belmont Park hosted the event.

UBS Arena, the new home of the NHL’s New York Islanders, is part of a $1.5 billion redevelopment of Belmont Park that also includes a new retail village and a hotel.

“While we don’t comment publicly on future host site status until we are ready to formally announce a new venue(s), Breeders’ Cup would welcome the opportunity to return to New York in the near future,” Fleming said. “We have had many positive conversations with NYRA about this possibility and look forward to the completion of the redevelopment at Belmont Park.”

Photo: Ray Acevedo/USA Today

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