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Making an Overseas Gamble

Making an Overseas Gamble

By Jerry Bossert
With any bet there is risk and Yonkers Raceway is willing to take a gamble on a six-week experiment that could pay off handsomely down the road.
Beginning Nov. 9 and running through Dec. 14, Yonkers Raceway will conduct a live-card of racing starting at 11 a.m. every Sunday, which will now be simulcast throughout Europe.
"It's time to test the waters with this international relationship with France," said Bob Galterio, the Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Yonkers.
The races will be simulcast by PMU, the French Horse Racing Association created company that is the second-largest wagering network in the work behind only Japan. The races will be available on television in Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Luxemburg, Holland, Estoria, Malta and parts of Spain.
"People in Europe are no different from people in United States," Galterio said. "They are just looking to wager on competitive races over there."
While thoroughbred racing is more popular than standardbred racing in many jurisdictions, Yonkers has been focusing on targeting the large global markets where standardbred racing is popular, such as Australia and New Zealand, where their signal is offered.
There is a huge market in France, where standardbreds are just as popular as thoroughbreds and there is no football to compete against.
Most Sundays, most racetracks in North America have a tough time competing against the National Football League in the fall and the winter, but it works perfectly in Paris, as there is only one racetrack running on Sunday's where the action would start at 5 p.m.
"It's hard to say now but maybe we can handle $1 million Euro for the five races we will take action on," said Benoit Fabrega the director of LeTrot, which deals with France's international racing affairs.
A website has been created by the Standardbred Owners Association of New York that features statistics of drivers and trainers to help the Europeans wager on the races and it will be promoted during the simulcasts to help try and generate revenue. You can view it at
"This exposure for the Yonkers racing product will produce more revenue to Yonkers and its horsemen and eventually open up a global market for American racing," said Joe Faraldo, the President of the SOA of New York. "If the overall handle is $125,000 Euros per race at a current exchange rate of $1.30 per US dollar that could very well open up this market substantially."
Currently, $1 million Euros is equivalent to around $1.33 million US dollars.
Yonkers will move their premier Friday night Trot to the Sunday card and will card races from a mile up to a mile-and-a-quarter, hoping to attract field sizes of 10 to 12 horses, while the average field size in a trotting race in Paris is around 14 horses.
"We are starting to forge an international relationship and everything seems to be moving in a more international direction," Galtiero said.
Itís one of the reasons why Yonkers is bringing back the International Trot in 2015. On Oct. 25, Yonkers will offer the International Trot Preview, pitting some of the best trotters in America and Sweden before going full swing next year, trying to attract trotters from all over the world including France.
Yonkers is the first to admit that their on-track handle and attendance will suffer on those Sundays, but will try to entice fans to come to the track with free breakfast and by showing the NFL games throughout the facility. For bettors that donít make it out to the track, the races will be shown live on TVG starting at 11am ET.
"Honestly, this will be a learning process for us from the first Sunday to the last Sunday," Galtiero said. "We're going to look to see where we are at the end of the experiment versus the beginning of the experiment. It's not a money-making experiment. It's an experiment to see what's available in the future. Hopefully it works out and we can expand later on it." To help promote the Sunday races at Yonkers, officials from the Westchester track asked and received permission from the New York State Gaming Commission to allow advance wagering on the races starting Saturday night.
"It's great that everyone's getting on board," Galtiero said. "The trainers, drivers and the Gaming Commission. Let's try things to see what sticks because we aren't going too far too fast now. Supporting the industry is better for everybody."
And it's a bet Fabrega believes will be a winner, "People will discover the racing on Sunday. That's a bet we're going to make."

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