Early start to US races a tough call for punters

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 May, 2010, 12:00am

Calvin Borel's muddy romp to win his third of the past four Kentucky Derbys on Sunday morning proved something relevant to this jurisdiction - there might be limits to how excited local punters can be about foreign racing in the early hours of the morning.

In contrast to other simulcasting this season, which has attracted a solid turnover response of about HK$10 million a race, the four events from Kentucky managed HK$23 million in handle.

Most likely it was the timing of the races, perhaps exacerbated by the knowledge that Churchill Downs was a mud heap on the day, but punters didn't embrace the US races readily as other meetings where their knowledge of the runners was just as scanty. The New Zealand Derby, for example, managed to hold over HK$9 million on a single event, but that was during the late morning of a racing day, turf racing and some of the names were recognised.

The Breeders' Cup meeting didn't sell well as four races spread excruciatingly across 3 1/2 hours from 2.59am to 6.28am, even though there was an argument to be mounted about punter interest from a Hong Kong International Races viewpoint.

The Kentucky Derby had no such argument, but at least the four races came in a neater two-hour time segment, albeit in a form that apparently had its issues as far as commentary at this end. We can't plead guilty to watching it, but we've been told it was a coverage more likely to send the viewer for forty winks than for forty win.

The strongest hopes for future simulcasts and, by extension, a future of commingling across jurisdictions is going to be those jurisdictions with which Hong Kong has some commonality - and the disconnect of dirt racing with (locally) unknown riders and trainers during the wee hours of the morning, is going to be tough to sell, even when it is one of the American racing world's cherished events.