The terms “innovation” and “horse racing” aren’t used often in the same sentence. Innovation doesn’t have to be a new idea; sometimes taking a good concept, tweaked for maximum effect and properly executed, can be a home run.
For example, whoever thought of the Ship and Win program at Del Mar this summer deserves a medal. The influx of horses and new outfits was a revelation. It never has been easy to recruit new trainers to Southern California. But with a watering down of the product and an increase in purses, new barns discovered they can compete while making money.
Another good initiative has been the Pick 5 bet. The Magna 5 wager set the blueprint, but I credit Monmouth Park for popularizing it. The New Jersey track made it a 50 cent minimum, affording small players a shot to participate. Also, the takeout was lowered to 15 percent, making it the best bet in horse racing.
Hollywood Park followed suit, bringing the 50 cent Pick 5 this spring to California and improving it further with a consolation payout for four of five winners. Del Mar and Santa Anita have continued the Pick 5 but eliminated the consolation. I think that’s a mistake.
Wagers that take money out of the hands of many and put it into the hands of few can have a long-term negative effect. The Pick 5 consolation might not have paid a lot, but it went back into the bankrolls of many who figure to keep churning it through the betting windows. That’s good for business in the long term.
■ OCTOBER TOURNAMENTS — You’ll need to find a partner to play in two key handicapping tournaments Oct. 15.
A one-day Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Championship qualifier will be at Treasure Island. The entry fee is $400, and three seats into the NHC are up for grabs. Treasure Island will host the NHC on Jan. 27 and 28.
The Orleans will host its Fall Classic from Oct. 13 to 15. The entry fee is $500, and the top 25 finishers will qualify for the Horseplayer World Series from Feb. 23 to 25.
■ ‘AND THEY’RE OFF’ — The new horse racing movie “And They’re Off” will be released Oct. 28. The film is described as “a comedy centered on a failed horse trainer who desperately wants to be back in the winner’s circle.”
Sean Astin of “Rudy” fame plays the trainer, and co-stars include “Saturday Night Live” alums Cheri Oteri and Kevin Nealon. Trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Martin Garcia also have parts.
Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @richeng4propick.