Monday, May 17, 2010

How T.R. Got His Preak On

By: T.R. Slyder,, @AndyDisco on Twitter

My Dad's friend has had Preakness seats for a long time and invited us out. So we went. It was my first time at the Preakness and and Pimlico. Leading up to the race all everyone told me, my Dad's friend included, was to not get my hopes up about Pimlico- it's a dump.

We got there Friday on Black-Eyed Susan Day. Here were our seats.

Yes, that is the finish line right in front of us (and that little booth thing on the bottom right that you can't see all that well is the television camera fixed on the wire). So we got there and I couldn't believe how awesome our seats were and how empty the place was. As you can we were inside and we were on the third level. I had never had such good seats for any race ever, much less on the day of a Grade 2 race like the Black Eyed Susan.

I asked my dad's friend how he got those awesome seats and he had a funny story about them. He said that about 20 years ago he asked a higher-up at the company he worked for if he could help him out with some seats for the Preakness and he told him, "I will get right back to you about that." Upon getting back to him he said, "A trainer by the name of XXX canceled his seats. Call Pimlico race track and tell them you would like them and they are yours." So he called them up and they were his. The next year he received a letter asking him if he would like to renew his seats again for that year's Preakness. That is all it took to get seats on the wire for a triple crown race.

This was the section directly across the aisle from our awesome seats. Oh, this was taken on Preakness day. The seats closest to the camera are right on top of the wire and the furthest seats are just past the wire. As you may be able to ascertain, it wasn't all that crowded. When a huge block of some of the best seats in the stadium, your business could probably do better.

Which brings me to my next point about Pimlico: My complaints.

Pimlico wasn't god awful, but it could very easily be twice as good with a few minor tweaks.

1. We couldn't hear the track announcer from our seats. That's a big problem. The sound was piped in, but was hardly audible. It sucked.

2. Not only could we hardly hear the track announcer, but they never told you when the race was about to start (we would have been able to faintly hear an announcement, but there were none). Post Time was posted on a few different tote boards, but when your nose is buried in your Racing Form, it's nice to have an auditory reminder to go bet. It's good business for the track to announce when the race is about to start because when they say, "4 minutes until Post Time" what they mean is, "Hurry up and get your bets in, everyone.". Pimlico didn't do that and of the four people in our party, someone got shut out at the ticket window about 3 times, costing Pimlico precious money that they can't afford to lose.

Saratoga does a much better job of this and I took it for granted. You hear, "5 minutes until post time", then you'll hear, "It is now Post time." or "The horses have reached the starting gate, they're at the post". Which means, "5 minutes to bet", "hurry up and bet, you're lucky the race hasn't gone off yet." and, "you've got about 30 seconds to get your bet in.", respectively.

3. Obstructed views. Not only couldn't we hear the announcer from our seats, but we can't even see the backstretch due to all of the tents and other stuff- and we were on the third level! It's hard to feel like you are watching the race live when you can't hear see the whole race or hear any of it. I watched most of the races on the television monitors.

4. The tote board. No where was I able to see how much money was in the win, place, show or exacta pools- not on the toteboard itself on the infield, or on any tv monitor that I saw at any part of the track. On the off-chance an informed bettor ever went to Pimlico, I bet they would wish they could see that.

Also stinky about their toteboard is how they display the exacta probable payouts. They display it in the usual way: with the horses numbered vertically down the left-hand margin. It might look something like this for a 9 horse field. Then where it says "exacta will pay 2 and" will eventually scroll to "Exacta will pay 3 and", etc. until they show you every combination over the course of maybe 5 minutes of scrolling through all the choices.

win odds: Exacta will pay 2 and
1. 5-2 35
2. 10-1 X
3. scratched scratched
4. 9-5 22
5. 4-1 45
6. 8-1 75
7. scratched scratched
8. scratched scratched
9. 15-1 155

This is where my complaint comes in. It's customary for the scrolling board to simply skip over the scratched horses. For instance, in this example it would go from showing the probably willpays from the 2 directly to the 4. Since the 3 is scratched, he will not be in the exacta and displaying his will pays would be a waste of everyone's time.

Well, at Pimlico they show you anyway.

So it will say
win odds: Exacta will pay 7 and
1. 5-2 scratched
2. 10-1 scratched
3. scratched scratched
4. 9-5 scratched
5. 4-1 scratched
6. 8-1 scratched
7. scratched X
8. scratched scratched
9. 15-1 scratched

then after it finishes cycling through the 7 willpays, it will go on to show the same thing for the scratched 8 horse. For them to show that is unthinkably irrational.

5. There were no restrooms on the third level.

Those 5 things were exceptionally irritating and would be so easy to fix. Let's step it up a bit Pimlico, but otherwise I had an outstanding time.

That's how I roll.

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