While horseracing integrity was a major topic of discussion at the Jockey Club Round Table Conference on Matters Pertaining to Racing, the topic of scheduling also held court. Presenter Ben Vonwiller of McKinsey & Company said big data could be of assistance towards building a better race schedule.
According to McKinsey, if tracks were able to coordinate with each other on post times they could increase handle by $400 million. That number represents an increased handle of 3.7 percent. U.S racing has not seen such a bump since 2000. Even if only the top five tracks in the country worked together it would result in a $150 million purse increase.
A 2011 McKinsey report titled “Driving Sustainable Growth for Thoroughbred Racing and Breeding” called for race overlaps problems to be taken care of, but The Jockey Club Chairman Stuart Janney III admitted no action was taken to rectify the situation.
“This is money that’s available to us if we work together,” said Janney. “We should be ashamed of ourselves if we don’t figure out a way to take advantage of this.”
An initial study discovered that scheduling does matter when it comes to handle and there are many times through the day that has room for improvement. McKinsey recently used big data when putting together an NFL schedule, and they used that approach towards doing the same for horseracing.
“To give you an idea of the power of this technique, our team, in seven hours, was able to find a schedule that was better than the last one published,” said Vonwiller. “We took that team to look at what we could do in racing.”
One suggestion McKinsey emphasized was having tracks work together to eliminate overlap. Something we most recently saw when both the Whitney Stakes (G1) and the West Virginia Derby (G3) ran at the same time.