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"Give Us the Free Market!"

"They can't tell us what to do with our horses. Get out of my business, because it's my business", is an often heard complaint from horse owners, and horsepeople.

Whether it's about out of competition testing, suspending the horse for positive tests, house rules, commission rules, jail time rules, federal oversight, or whipping rules, the drumbeat is pretty constant. "Don't tread on me."

Being a free market type (don't hate, twitter!) who believes when Adam Smith's invisible hand becomes visible we're a whole lot worse off, I get it. I truly do. But for horse racing, I think the arguments screaming for a "free market" are not only futile, but dangerous.

If you're asking for that free market, you're asking for a few things you might not like much.

A free market means the $40,000 purse at the track you're racing at will immediately fall to $5,000 or less because in a free market slot machine revenue doesn't go i…
Recent posts

Canterbury Park's Cautionary Handle Tale

Canterbury Park - the small Minnesota track that lowered takeout last year, only to raise it this season - concluded their meet recently. The numbers, year over year, are in: Thoroughbred handle was up 2.6%, and handle per betting interest was down 1.8%.

Last year, with the takeout decrease, handle was up 5%, and handle per betting interest was up 10%. 

Racetrack handle analysis (which tends to be pretty rudimentary) will conclude what it wants to conclude regarding the above. And, quite honestly, since reported racetrack handle numbers are where lines of best fit go to die (and people use cognitive bias to analyze these numbers), I completely understand that. But, we'll try and take a deeper dive.

Using some comparative analysis, regional tracks had a very good year. This season, Prairie Meadows was up 21.2% and Arlington up 11.3% per entry. Last year the weather in the midwest made it hard to race on the turf at two of the three regionals, and barns were nowhere near as plentifu…

So is Keeneland Now a Mini-Death Star?

It's been an interesting summer in Kentucky horse racing.

The big news, of course, was Keeneland completely doing a 180 from their strong historical branding to hike takeout rates. It was speculated at the time that this probably wasn't their idea, they were simply following a lead from Churchill Downs Inc, who did the same thing a few years earlier.  If there's one thing we know in this world -- accountants talk to each other.

In previous years it was speculated that these two tracks were in cahoots to stop Kentucky Downs from getting more days. As most know, Churchill wrestled the September dates from Turfway, and is very happy with those extra days and the smaller live handle. If Kentucky Downs wants more dates, good luck.

Now, boom.

Keeneland and Churchill announced this morning that they, "plan to partner on the construction of
two new facilities in Kentucky with live racing and slot machine-like devices near the border with Tennessee."

The key phrasing …

Kentucky Downs is a (Glorious) Struggle

If there's something we learned about Kentucky Downs - other than the miraculous handle growth - is that comments from people like Rob are very common.
Nice to have someone on here who is engaging and takes all the body blows for KD like @ceejayjohnsen does. Not gonna lie, I've struggled — Rob (@Smarty3385) September 11, 2017 From what I see, Rob is a fine handicapper. Him struggling is no reflection on his skill, no doubt. We all struggle at Kentucky Downs - don't let anyone fool you on that. It's simple math and circumstance.

Kentucky Downs' races are not a six horse field at Santa Anita where you can like a Baffert maiden at 9-5, as the clockers extol her virtues. It's not a Saratoga race where you can have a strong opinion based only on who Chad Brown or Todd Pletcher is training.

When you put 13 horses - coming from all over, on a weirdly configured turf course, with a high breadth training colony - it takes a different mindset...... and some luck. This…

Horse Racing's Managing Director's Retiring Pot Shot Speaks Volumes

Racing is now a quasi-government entity in a lot of places, but perhaps nowhere more so in North America than Ontario. Yesterday, the Managing Director and Special Advisor to the Minister in charge of the sport in the government sent a letter to the industry upon his resignation. One part of it turned some heads (emphasis mine).
Beware of WEG’s dominant position. In the proposed structures of administration not only are they a player, they are the scorekeeper and referee. They are becoming too big to challenge and yet it must be recognized their success depends in large part on the significant partnership with the Ontario government and its ongoing funding support. With so much of tax payers monies invested in this company, there needs to be careful scrutiny and accountability. As we've often spoke about here, regulatory capture - in effect, the industry directing policy rather than having it dictated - has served racing pretty well.  But, this bureaucrat sees Woodbine's po…

Tuesday Horse Racing Musings on Gun Runner, DQ's and Handle

I hope everyone had a good long weekend.

Opinions make horse races, and, well, this is one I disagree with; not on HOY (I don't follow that race) but on the most likely angle.
Moved Arrogate back up to #1 on my @NTRA poll. I think he's a more likely winner of the @BreedersCup Classic & thus a more likely HotY — Ed DeRosa (@EJXD2) September 5, 2017 Gun Runner ran a 142 TFUS figure in his explosive Woodward. Even if we add an eighth of a mile and he runs a slower 138 for that distance, it's faster than Arrogate has been since Dubai, or before that, at Gulfstream. Right now he's simply the faster horse.

Arrogate can surely return to peak form and again be faster than Gun Runner. But hoping for something to happen is not for favorites.

As an aside, it feels like a lifetime ago Gun Runner dodged the Classic because he was simply "a decent miler."

Someone on twitter (CJ or maybe Isolated Tops) said that it sure is fun to watch a horse develop, when they don&#…

Ken Ramsey & Purse Red Herrings

Yesterday, big time horse owner and breeder Ken Ramsey made some major waves with his comments on Keenelend (35 minute mark and on). Quips like "they make Benedict Arnold look like a patriot", and a call for players (and the industry) to boycott the track through withholding their wagering got the most play, and deservedly so.

But he also touched on the so called reason for the takeout hike - to increase purses. Ramsey believes that it's a red herring because Keeneland gets so much of its revenue from alternate means - gaming, sales and the like. He's probably correct.

But the reason itself is suspect. Sure it's arguable that raising takeout even increases purses; in the long run it likely doesn't. However, I suspect Ramsey knows what everyone else does. Even if purses are raised, they are not optimally distributing revenue to the business, and the proposed net benefit - more horses purchased, more horse owners getting into the game - is simply not there.

The…