In politics, it's all about the economy.
In horse racing, it's all about field size.
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You want to turn off the betting public both on-track and throughout the simulcast universe? Keep running six-horse fields and watch as folks flock elsewhere for better wagering opportunities.
Unfortunately for Arlington Park, small fields have been prevalent in recent years and the result has been drops in the betting handle both on and off-track -- including double-digit losses last season.
But now Arlington and the Illinois Thoroughbred Horseman's Association (ITHA) are trying to do something to help prevent a repeat performance.
The two entities have reached an agreement to bank purse monies based upon the number of betting interests in all overnight races for the upcoming 2011 meet.
The purses listed in the condition book for overnight races will be based upon a field of seven or more betting interests at the time the horses reach the paddock for a race.
Any overnight race field that enters the paddock with six or fewer betting interests represented will run for 85 percent of the listed purse with the remaining 15 percent being banked in the purse account to prevent over-payments for those races.
"In talking to our bettors, they say that field size is their single biggest driver of wagering. As such, it makes sense to base the purse of the race on the amount of wagering it generates," said Arlington Park general manager Tony Petrillo. "The reduced wagering on short fields results in a significant loss in handle and purse money generated for the horsemen. This banking program will allow us to maintain a sustainable purse structure at the most competitive time of the year."
Using a maiden special weight race as an example, the purse listed in the condition book would be $28,000. Should a field of six or fewer betting interests reach the paddock for the race, the purse for the race would be adjusted to $23,800.
The banked purse money will be distributed later in the 2011 meet.
"It was a difficult decision, but Arlington management and horsemen together are finding ways to better the Illinois horse racing industry and maintain the highest possible level of competition even during these difficult economic times," said ITHA president Mike Campbell.