Royal Ascot is bucking tradition to maximise the potential of the “World Pool” by creating uniform betting rules for all 36 of its races this week.
Last year, only 24 of the 30 races could be covered by the World Pool because in Britain, handicaps with 16 runners or more paid down to fourth for place bets, one more than the usual three.
That has been rectified this time around, ensuring consistency across all races while introducing field limits of 24 – the maximum number most international totalisators (including the Jockey Club) can handle.
With the Covid-19 pandemic forcing the iconic meeting to be run behind closed doors, organisers are wisely doing their best to grow the World Pool.
“Ascot has obviously made the decision that they want to maximise the pari-mutuel pool, this is where they get the revenue from,” Jockey Club chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges said.
“I think in a pari-mutuel system, paying down to fourth doesn’t create value. We discussed the situation – we can do four [placings] – but would it be in their interest?
“In the end, we have to respect their decision, they are the product owners, we are just the facilitators.”
The World Pool – dubbed “superpools” in the UK – launched last year and combines the totes from leading racing jurisdictions around the globe for win, place, quinella and quinella place bets to create better value for punters and price surety.
Last year, the World Pool held £92.2 million (HK$895 million) and it is expected to grow significantly again this week.
The five-day meeting kicks off on Tuesday with two Group Ones – the Queen Anne Stakes and the King’s Stand Stakes.
Star sprinter Battaash has been runner-up in the latter event for the previous two years behind Blue Point, but with his rival now retired, he is a short-priced favourite to finally prevail.
“It’s going to be a different Royal Ascot but it might suit Battaash with many fewer people. It should be a good experience for him,” trainer Charlie Hills said. “His work is as good as ever, and we’ve had no setbacks with him this year.”
The first of seven races gets under way at 8.15pm.