Friday, August 1, 2014

PGA Tour Goes Horse Racing

With a h/t to Phil J, this appeared on the Golf Channel website this morning. "PGA Tour's Silent Strategy a Double-Edged Sword". It's in reference to Dustin Johnson abruptly leaving the PGA Tour over personal issues. Speculation has run rampant, and the writer questions the Tour policy of keeping these things quiet, rather than telling everyone what the reason is.

This is not unlike horse racing. You'll see a trainer on a suspended list for "something" but that something is not announced. In shedrows, with handicappers, speculation occurs and it is usually something sinister. "He was using R24 rocket fuel on his horses and he will be suspended for life." Nine times out of ten it is not rocket fuel, but an overage for something or a mistake of some sort. Frog juice positives happen very rarely.

The PGA, like horse racing, is very different than other sports. The players and the participants are a big part of its structure. In the NFL or MLB this would not happen, but in racing or golf it's commonplace. I think those sports probably have to move closer to the NFL or MLB or NHL, not the other way around.


Yes, "EBITDA" is not the answer for horse racing. Long-term growth policies are. I have pretty much given up hope that with the present structure things will be done to foster long term growth. Harvesting is rampant in horse racing, and has for fifty or more years. Q2 for Apple means Q2's as far as the eye can see. For horse racing, it means Q2.

I have seen rumors that the price increases at Toga this year are working out okay, much as we have speculated. I am still firmly of the belief that revenue for big events re: admission and otherwise are much needed in racing. Lower the price of bet, yes, because the price is too high to spur handle growth (why anyone would want less handle in the first place is ridiculous when you are trying to drive eyeballs), but put on a fun, good show and try and make admission revenue part of the picture (like is done in the UK).

ICYMI: Hambo program for free is here. The Horseplayer Monthly, also free is here.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Hambo Week & Other Notes

Good day horse racing fans. The big news today is that Scott Blasi has returned to the Asmussen stable. Twitter is reporting that we've so far seen no pictures of him hugging a horse. #fullstorytwitter.

Here are a few ramblings.

The Horseplayer Monthly is out. Too many stories to mention, but I liked Mike Dorr's article on Jackpot Wagers, and I think it's a must read. Lenny makes a great point on rake, and my pal Melissa talks about first crop sires, which I can use some work with.

CDI, with strong revs from Derby and Oaks days had a decent revenue bump this quarter. Imagine how they would've done if they just raised rakes for those two days instead of the whole meet? Probably much better. 

The big story this weekend is for harness fans - the Hambo card......

A free program is here. 

There are quite a few guaranteed pools and pick 4's etc, so check your local listings. Post time is noon.

Dominated by trots, one of the best pacing races of the day (or any Hambo Day) is the US Pacing Championship, highlighted by Sweet Lou. If there are some front end shenanigans, we might see a sub 147 mile. I think Thinking Out Loud is very sharp right now. If he can get a second or third over trip (i.e. his trip) he might surprise.

How good was the 2012 three year old crop? In last years USPC, seven entrants were four. This year two are. One has a shot (Captain T) and the other is 50-1 ML (Sunfire Blue Chip).

Not sure about the morning line at 4-5 on Bee a Magician in the Ima Lula. She ain't as fast as last year, and Classic Martine, with a better post, went by her last time like she was tied to the rail.

In the Cashman you know darn well there might be some brouhaha from Yannick (and maybe others) against the big chalk. He clearly thinks he can beat him. I am still of the belief the North American trotters want nothing to do with the big horse.

In the big one I think the ML on Father Patrick is heavy. Trixton is probably as good and he has a nice post. This race - probably not from a betting perspective, but from a spectating one - is a real dandy.

We can expect handle to be up this year, I think. Mainly due to the fact there are no eliminations.

Often the best race the Meadowlands offers out each year is the Lady Liberty. It looks to be another great race this year.

Although she was more relaxed last week I will be taking another swing against Mission Brief. A facemask, bright sun and a big crowd at 3-5 is not something I want to hammer.

Have a nice day everyone.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Monday Notes

The weekend - with plenty of action in both the Standardbred and Thoroughbred world - is done. Here are a few things that caught my eye.

Bayern's last was eye-popping, with a solid figure, and one wondered if he would carry it through to the Haskell. He sure did. In some of his previous outings he looked a little nuts, but he has seasoned.

At the Meadowlands Saturday we saw mostly prep races for this week's big Hambo card. A few of the races were pretty ugly, with some no-try efforts. Archangel, who has been bottled up and wacky in the pocket of late, was rolled on the front end to a 1:50 score. Thinking Yannick is not the biggest Ake Svantstedt fan, the Cashman Final should be interesting. Sebastian K returned to the winners circle after slipping all over the track in the Maple Leaf Trot, where he was beaten.

The Equilottery is making some headlines. Here is what the horse lottery looks like from a horse racing bettor perspective (page 4, pdf

Hong Kong lasix study here. What I liked most is the quote that had not much to do about Lasix, or studies. 
  •   “For a lot of different reasons, the Hong Kong Jockey Club controls everything,” Preston said. “They have totally revamped the racing model and gotten into the mode of complete transparency. Every record that can influence a bettor’s decision to bet on Horse A versus Horse B is known to them, including their veterinary records. I think the model works because people feel very confident in their betting strategies because they have complete information.”

Something tells me that here across the pond, such a system would fail miserably. Case in point below.
Jimmy Takter got three days for his Scream and Shout drive a couple of weeks ago at the Big M. Seeing the circumstances that is probably not far off what he should've gotten, in my opinion. I hope others in his position rethink the clog move with a longshot from here on out.

Added fees suck. A 20 year old bettor learns about the nickel and diming done in Illinois regarding their ADW tax.  h/t to Racetrackandy

Sweet Lou is as good as ever; probably better than ever. The winter treated him well and he seems sound and happy. His back three quarters on Saturday in a US Pacing Championship prep were robotic, and he won so easily you'd think he went 49 flat. If he can somehow stay sharp and sound there is little question in my mind he will go 46 or 46.1. He would need a three quarters around 1:19 and change at Lexington, which is pretty hard to find. I guess I could temper that in one way: The Big M was rocket-fast on Saturday, so we need to take those final times with a grain of salt.

Presumably looking for more speed, they changed the shoes on the Captain on Saturday. He raced really well, but being a grinder he has a tough time against pure speed horses he is encountering this year. He has always gapped a little on the far turn, but he really gapped it on Saturday.  Regardless, both he and Thinking Out Loud showed they are in form and ready for a go this weekend.

Have a nice Monday everyone!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Common Refrain No One Talks About Much

In HRU today, owner of the ill-fated Modern Family spoke about the state of horse racing (pdf page 4), in the article titled "Domback Wants Out". 
  •  Before his run of bad luck Dombeck was already disillusioned with the sport and he admitted that other issues have played into his decision to scale back. He says it's too hard to compete against the giant stables at the classier levels and that he feels that lower level races are
    dominated by drug cheats.
This is not an opinion you read in the press very often, but in grandstands and shedrows we've all heard it countless times.

Owning horses is not an investment vehicle and never really has been, as much as the powers that be try to make it one. It's about doing something with your money for entertainment, and like buying a lottery ticket because you might just get that home run horse.

Breakdowns, competing against 4 horse super stable entries, trying to claim a horse in that cess pool at some tracks is something that plagues horse racing - both Thoroughbred and harness - and has for some time.

People complain about falling foal crops, a lack of fans at the track, and a lack of new faces at horse sales. Nine times out of ten the complaint is that purses are not high enough. Purses do not have anywhere near the pull they are supposed to have; it's the structure of the game that has always been an issue. If you can't make money you need to be able to have fun. Right now for a lot of owners or potential owners, it's not much fun.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Controlling the Message

It was recently announced that there were several morphine positives in the UK. One of the horses who tested positive was the Queen's horse. Yes, that Queen.

This has made headlines, and most of them scream like the one in the above link does. Short version: Racing is crooked, even the Queen does it.

Morphine positives, and other obvious egregious drugs that find their way into positive tests, are often due to some sort of contamination. An easy way to tell if the positive test is a mistake of some sort, is by releasing the levels of the drug in the system. 1 parts per billion, which will test, could not performance enhance an ant, let alone a twelve hundred pound racehorse. If we see those levels we know darn well it's an error.

I understand why racing has to release tests like this to the public, but they need to have some sort of narrative to go along with them. It's one thing for the trainer in question say "there was only a small amount in the system and it probably came from the feed", and quite another for the authorities to say similar; the latter meaning a lot more than the former.

It's not apoligizing for horse racing, it's about doing the right thing. A trainer - especially with the Queen's horse - would have to be insane to use morphine because he or she knows it will test. It's a non-starter and should be treated as such.

There are bad trainers out there. There's pre-race in the shadows that "won't test"; there are bloodbuilders and other nefarious drugs. We know this to be true because some have been caught, signed, sealed and delivered, and some will be caught again. Whenever there's money involved you'll find corruption. But in the above, no corruption was likely, and racing needs to do a better job in such situations. The public just sees "crook" and that's helpful to no one.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Monday Notes

Good morning everyone.  Here are a few things that caught my eye over the weekend.

Sebastian K was beaten at Mohawk on Saturday, as most know. Intimidate, the always fast but sometimes not sharp and sound trotter, nailed him in the final stride. It's pretty clear the off track bothered Sebastian K, as it does with tons of horses at Mohawk. Shoeing is pretty important on those days and Sebastian, who is reported to race barefoot, probably slipped and slid his way around the oval. 

After the race Modern Family, the super-nice trotter of Daryl Bier's who finished fourth, passed away in the paddock. That's horrifying. He was a nice trotter. The first person to comment on the passing in the Sc story was Intimidate's owner. They have class.

In Las Vegas a redone and remodel superbook is planned at a Westgate Resorts casino in Vegas. One line caught my eye:

"The spokesperson echoed Siegel in saying the biggest change will be a move more toward sports betting, with two-thirds of the venue geared to that and one-third to horse racing."

In Vegas, with so much to bet, 4.5% juice on sports betting rules the day. Old timers still like the track it seems, but as we all know, 21% (and rising) takeouts make for an unpalatable wager oftentimes.

Saratoga's meet is off and running through opening weekend. Logic would dictate, with fewer races and a likely dip in field size, handle might be off this meet by 5% or so, but I must say opening weekend was enjoyable from a betting perspective. NYRA gets clipped on social media often, but I find they are much better than the left coast tracks in promoting and offering good bets. The effects of the admission increase, which I think they handled poorly, are still TBD, but I figure it won't mean much either way. Revenue streams from admission for big race meets is something racing has to explore.

I know people like Del Mar as well, and if you say anything bad about it sometimes the west coasters take it personally. I can't say much either way. I have not played California racing since the takeout hike in 2010. The buzz for the meet seems okay, though.

Trixton won easily at the Big M on Saturday, as did Nuncio. Let's hope and pray for an 11 horse or so Hambo, with no eliminations.

Trotters with some European flavor continue to impress in driving web traffic, and interest. Greg on twitter said he put up two races on Youtube this weekend, the Battle of Lake Erie from Northfield and the Maple Leaf trot. The former featured the richest horse in harness racing, Foiled Again, the latter Sebastian K. The Maple Leaf Trot's hits were about 7:1 the Battle's.

Have a good Monday everyone.