At the Courier-Journal site, Jennie Rees posted a bit of an e-mail she received, describing a reader's visit to the track in Hong Kong. It's a short piece, a postcard, really, from a place that sounds like a railbird Nirvana. One of the more interesting bits is the description of a wagering option:
They had a very interesting bet called the quinella place. You got paid for 1,2 or 1,3 or 2,3. Makes it cool to throw bombs in there and you don't have to bummer out when you run 1-3.
Here at the Quinella Castle, we'd love a chance to play such a wager. We in fact wish such a wager had been in place for the Holy Bull, for then we would have cashed a ticket on Winslow Homer and sweet William's Kitten. Instead, I've an exacta slip now graced with my grocery list on the back.
I know that there are those who feel that the quinella has outlasted its usefulness now that we have the exacta-box, but well, wouldn't it be interesting to see if racing could attract more fans with wagers that are a bit easier to win? Might it not be worth a try now and then to put a few more entrees on the betting buffet?
It seems that much of the world already lives in a state of "permanent beta", and amazingly enough, people seem able to adapt to change. There's less downside now to trying something new, and abandoning it if it doesn't work out. It'd be great if a track somewhere could give the Quinella Place a try.
However, as I understand it, state regulatory agencies determine which wagers their tracks can offer, so trial balloons are a bit difficult to launch. But governments may be interested in change if they feel it might bring in more revenue. For example, Iowa politicians are currently considering a bill allowing poker tournaments in the track ballrooms as well as permitting advance deposit wagering -- all to increase revenue. It's possible that the sponsor of the bill came up with this idea all by himself, but it's more likely that casino and track advocates approached him with a suggestion.
Now might be the perfect time to ask for simple modifications to basic racing rules that might attract more customers. States seem open to change right now, as they scramble to balance budgets. But most track lobbying efforts appear focused on getting slots or table games. Modifications that might affect the horseplayer's experience don't seem to be high on most track agendas.
So I don't expect to see a Quinella Place wager anytime soon. And a single new wagering option won't save racing by itself. But the flexibility to try small experiments just might. Here at the Quinella Castle, we hope track execs are working to convince politicians and regulatory boards of the benefits of permanent beta. We hope this is the year we'll watch little trial balloons launch from racetracks throughout the land.
We hope, we hope.