The 52nd annual Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Saturday — with TVG replacing BetFair as title sponsor — is the second since legal sports betting came to New Jersey, and it will continue the new tradition of unusual wagering offerings.
Back for another run is the Grand Slam parlay: betting on three marquee horse races and then that night’s Phillies-Pirates game.
Payout is set by multiplying the $1 win price of all three horses by the moneyline of the baseball game (last year’s Cardinals-Cubs game was plus and minus 105). The minimum bet is $2, and the maximum payout, for those who love their long shots, is 720/1.
Last year’s Slam produced a handle of $4,233 — not bad, considering that Monmouth Park had only launched sports betting a couple of weeks earlier, leaving little time for marketing.
Track operator Dennis Drazin, speaking after Wednesday’s Media Day, told NJ Online Gambling that this time the track has been able to advertise the Grand Slam on social media.
Margins and match races
Another exotic that is returning is “margin of victory” — measured in lengths — which drew $4,396 in handle in 2018.
The bulk of the handle from unique betting options last year, $15,012, came from head-to-head matchups. With the field for the Haskell at only seven horses, bettors may be more attracted to playing the horse they are most fond of against a perceived overrated horse of similar odds. Even if the preferred horse finishes fourth, the ticket can still win if the other horse finishes lower.
New Jersey has, for several years, been the only U.S. state to offer “exchange wagering.” One of the features of that is the opportunity to bet throughout the race. A keen eye may see something — or think it sees something — right out of the gate that concerns them about the favorite, for instance, and instantly search for a betting opponent.
Big bettors, meanwhile, can shop for optimal numbers in the exchange market without their big strike impacting odds as it could on the parimutuel side of betting.
(Worth noting: There may be some last-minute “jockey wagers” as well. Keep an eye out for that.)
Heat wave an issue?
Drazin said that in spite of potentially oppressive conditions that might make matching 2018’s attendance of 37,186 a chore, he isn’t concerned about a potential cancellation.
“Not really — we’ve been through this year after year, and we check with the state vets, and we work with our team here. Even if there was any jeopardy to the horses, we would move the races back a little bit [later], but we don’t anticipate doing that,” Drazin said.
Drazin joked, “Do I really believe the weather reports?” of what now is being called as a high of 93 degrees by weather.com. This is a summer meet, so it is nobody’s first rodeo.
We asked Drazin if this might be the hottest Haskell — and then asked how many of the 52 Haskells he has attended.
“Probably all of them,” he replied, a realistic possibility given that he grew up around the track.
Monmouth Park media manager Tom Luicci also pointed out to horseracingnation.com that the track’s proximity to beach weather tends to provide a breeze.
Sports betting billions
Not far past the first anniversary of New Jersey’s sports betting launch, Drazin got in one understandable reflection on Year One of the gambling vertical.
“There was a lot of laughter, initially, when I said that at the end of the first year, [sportsbooks in the state]would be handling $1 billion in revenue in New Jersey — and we blew past that by January,” Drazin said. “At the end of the first year, [gamblers]have wagered $3 billion in the state of New Jersey. So the future is bright for sports betting.
“We’re very happy with the results — we’ve been able to put some extra money into purses as a result, and we also are on sound footing fiscally for the racetrack,” he added, while lauding Gov. Phil Murphy and legislators for approving a purse supplement that is scheduled to provide $10 mm per year for the next five years for the state’s thoroughbred industry.
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