THW: On Field Size

THE HOARSE WHISPERER By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  1 July 2009, Wednesday

On Field Size

It’s practically axiomatic in racing circles that the larger the field size of a race, the more likely it is that longshots or non-favorites will emerge as winners, leading to bigger payoffs.

This increases bettor participation and, ultimately, racing club gross sales. Other direct benefits of this phenomenon are larger prizes for horseowners, trainers, and jockeys who have won or placed.

In a perfect world, all races would be ”full gate” – maximum capacity. In the Philippines, the starting gates of both the Philippine Racing Club and the Manila Jockey Club accommodate fourteen runners.

But it isn’t always that large fields are sent off on racedays. Just some couple of years ago, field sizes were thin, leading to lackluster involvement from racing fans. This was pointed out by Santa Anita Park president Ron Charles on a visit to the Philippines in November 2007. Races were being run with only four, five, or six runners.

Since then, the general situation has improved somewhat. For instance, last weekend at the PRC’s New Santa Ana Park in Naic, Cavite, had a gratifying number of runners. Sunday’s card of 13 races had two full gate races, three races of 13 runners, and one of 12. The race that fielded the smallest number – four – was for 2YO winners, a miniscule group.

Longshots abounded that day – Fast Forward, sixth favorite in race 2; Inspiring, who scored an upset in race 5; Black Tulip, the longest shot of six in race 9; and Bullish Dream, far fourth pick in race 11. The first set of the Winner-Take-All event yielded a one million peso payoff each for two winners, while the second set gave a handsome P73 thousand each to 19 winners.

What leads to larger field sizes? Horse population is the number one factor, and this depends on how many horses are ”on spell” (ranch vacation) at a given time; whether there is an illness in the ranks (such as past years’ equine influenze and equine infectious anemia); and if there is a large number of imports to swell the population (as was the case this year and last).

Horseowner and breeder involvement is crucial in this regard. They are the ones with the passion – and the pockets – for buying and maintaining racing stables and thoroughbred breeding ranches, at great expense to themselves and rarely for profit. When conditions for racing – track conditions, handicapping guidelines, importation policies, racing rules and regulations – are deemed beneficial for the sport, new players come in, the established ones increase their own activities, and it’s a win-win scenario for the industry.

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Association of Race Horse Owners reminds all owners, breeders, and trainers that the following schedule for nominations to the 2009 MARHO Breeders’ Cup program will be observed: yearlings born in 2008, from July to September; weanlings born in 2009, from October to December; and stallions of entries in the MBC, up to one week before the scheduled running of the 14th MARHO Breeders’ Cup races in November. ***

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2 Comments on THW: On Field Size

  1. NiHAWmA
    9 July 2009 at 12:41 am (3978 days ago)

    Field size has a big impact with respect to the chances of winning. As an ordinary racing fan, I find it hard (large field) to make my wise choices whenever I am interested to wager in the exotic bettings. Each and every racing fan would expect good payoffs . The outcome is unpredictable. Isn’t it?

    Of course, everything lies on the capability of the racing club’s handicapper. They should devote their time to make the race more exciting. Well balanced.

    What is very disappointing to see nowadays are the stakes races which is being offered by the Philippine Racing Commission (Philracom). Instead of seeing a larger field, the stakes races often end up with fields that are small. 5-6 entries? with coupled a entry? I wonder why some of the horse owners are not interested to join where in fact their horses are qualified or eligible to participate.

    In races with less than 6 entries, the favorite is a more likely winner (with the exception of a well-handicapped race).

    Both racing clubs (Philippine Racing Club and Manila Jockey Club) should realize that large field size can help boost the sales. Payouts will be good. Take note that stakes races just add spice.

    All other things being handicapped properly, each entries has equal chances of winning. Full gate, 14-horse field, more competitors. Just remedy the unexpected traffic. Unlike in smaller fields where options are just few. Just have a look and observed the Trifecta, the average payouts for the trifecta in 5-6-horse field is much lesser than a 14-horse field. Less combinations in small fields as compared with the greater combinations involved in full gate. It does not matter if the race is so difficult. So hard to choose the probable winner. For as long as the race is exciting. Full of thrill and suspense. Cardiac finish down the wire.

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