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Cash-driven giveaways good business

Kevin Brockley, a Saratoga Race Course patron, won a contest at the New York track for a free $15,000 win bet in Saturday’s Whitney Handicap. He placed the wager on race favorite Fort Larned.

Unfortunately for Brockley, Fort Larned finished fifth. The $15,000 was put up by Saratoga socialite and noted philanthropist Mary Lou Whitney, who has put up $75,000 to sponsor the contest for five weeks.

I like promotions like this because money talks. Marketing people will tell you things like tote bags and T-shirts have residual value in the long run. That’s because some people use and wear the branded items.

But if a person is lucky and good, like Glen Fullerton in 2011, he can make a score worth much more.

Fullerton was the recipient of a free $100,000 win bet in the 2011 Kentucky Derby, courtesy of Churchill Downs and CNBC. On national TV, he picked Super Saver.

Super Saver won the Kentucky Derby and paid $18 to win. Fullerton made $900,000 in about two minutes.

Most horse racing marketers don’t have the budget to put up that much cash. But smaller amounts can be nearly as effective.

I like cash-driven giveaways in horse racing for one key reason: churn. Giving money back to fans is good business, because they will bet it over and over again, creating valuable churn.

For the past eight years, I’ve worked for Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut at one of its Triple Crown ballroom parties. It conducts six drawings during the day to award patrons a free $500 show bet.

The strike rate is particularly high. Typically, five or six people will cash their show bet. But that’s great. The winners will churn the money back on horses, table games or slot machines.

If I could tweak the Saratoga contest, I would make it a $5,000 across-the-board bet. You want people to win money while enjoying a fan-friendly experience.

■ WISE DAN LEFT OUT — Wise Dan owner Morton Fink told the Daily Racing Form he has no interest in racing his 2012 Horse of the Year in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Wise Dan (3-5) is the favorite in the Fourstardave on Saturday at Saratoga. Fink said he’ll repeat last year’s schedule of three Grade 1 mile turf stakes, the last being the Breeders’ Cup Mile.

I have no qualms with that. To me, though, this opens up the Classic for a great race. Right now, Game On Dude and Cross Traffic would be strong favorites in the Classic. But both are vulnerable.

I would be looking at the 3-year-olds to make noise against their elders. Haskell winner Verrazano, Jim Dandy victor Palace Malice and Kentucky Derby champ Orb will meet Aug. 24 in the Travers. Then all three would be dangerous in the Breeders’ Cup in November.

Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at rich_eng@hotmail.com. Follow him on Twitter: @richeng4propick.

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