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Showing posts from December, 2007

Sunday Racing...... No More in '08

It's Sunday afternoon. The Gardner is packed. Turning left into Greenwood is a nightmare. Cops are out directing traffic. The Super 7 carryover is big. Tip sheet sellers are out at the Queen Street entrance, doing brisk business. The belly is full from a steak and egg breakfast at the Mecca, and the handicapping is done. You have to get there early to get a good seat upstairs, and watch warm-ups. The thoroughbred fans are already there playing Gulfstream. It is so busy inside, so upstairs in the grandstand is where it is at.

That was Sunday racing at Greenwood. Now Sunday afternoon racing is no more. It's gone, as Woodbine has cut it from the racedate menu.

Darryl Kaplan wrote an opinion piece in this months View coming in Trot Magazine. He makes some good points and it is a centrist, populist opinion that something had to be done to get stronger fields, but he is not sure if the way it has come about is correct. I tend to agree.

But here we don't have to take a centrist view…

My Faves of 2007

Reflecting on the year in harness racing we had some good, some bad and some ugly. We'll forget the bad and the ugly for this post. We read enough of it.

So, let's go with the best of 2007. In my opinion, which ain't worth much.

Race of the Year: This is a tough one. The 3YO Breeders Crown Colt Pace certainly added spice. Brian Sears with Always a Virgin parked out Tell All in a scorching half. A bomber with George Brennan - Artist View - picked up the pieces. Snow White's race at Lexington was a jaw-dropper. World Record.

But I pick the 2007 Metro Stakes as my race of the year. The big guns were there - George Teague, Duane Marfisi, and others with powerful horses. Lo and behold a strapping son of Ontario sire Mach Three, owned by a few people from the booming metropolis of Truro Nova Scotia took home the prize. And take it home he did - in World record fashion. Somebeachsomewhere's Metro win is my race of the year.

Race Call of the Year: Every year it is the same fo…

Racing is Strange. Strange but Cool

OK, so I am wondering tonight, just what this racing game is. Gosh, it has some weird stuff going on, and attracts some strange folks. People like me. Maybe even stranger people than me.

I went to the track tonight. I relayed to my playing partner a story about my last trip to Vegas. I go there to golf, and then usually play some racing. No other games. No poker, no blackjack. Nothing. At a gorgeous five star course the sun is beaming, I shoot a great front nine, I have a beer in my golf cart. Life is jim-dandy. On hole ten my playing partner pulls his shoulder out. Off to the hospital. No more golfing. Since I hate playing alone I decide to just do what other people do in Vegas. Except I am kind of lost. I don't want to see a magician. I don't want to enter a poker tourney. I don't want to stand beside a wax statue of Margaret Thatcher. I end up playing racing, from around 9AM til 10PM. After the second day of it, I get a call ironically from my horse trainer. Reception is…

Rock Bottom

I thought, with the turning of the calendar, I would jot down some thoughts for harness racing in 2008. I'm optimistic. I have entitled it "rock bottom."

Huh? An optimistic piece entitled rock bottom?


Flip on an entertainment show and we might see a star du jour speaking of his trials with whatever it may be, and he will say "I had to hit rock bottom before I could change." I think 2008 in harness racing is the year we will hit rock bottom, change will occur, and the sport will place the wheels in motion to grow again.

I see a post on detailing that the Boxing Day handle for Woodbine hit an all time low. I see on the entry page for that handle for Canadian racing is down over $100M in 2007. I see tracks cutting some dates. I see tracks cutting stakes. All bad news and it does not seem to be getting any better.

When we hit rock bottom in 2008 a few things will occur. Policies will finally be put in place that will encour…

Harness Handicapping Software, on Boxing Day!

I am just killing some time handicapping tomorrow's cards for harness, and glancing at the thoroughbred cards.

Tomorrow is Boxing Day in the commonwealth countries. I like Boxing Day. The origin of it is disputed, but generally it tends to be a day for the "common folk" where leftover food was boxed up and eaten, or servants were given a gift of a coin from their employer (because they had to work Christmas Day) in a box they carried to work. Boxing Day to me is harness racing; we are the poorer cousins in racing aren't we? And for those who have gone time and time again to Greenwood (later Woodbine) for Boxing Day harness racing, they know it is time for harness racing!

The harness card capping has gone like it usually does: I check the program, glance at a replay or two, make a contender list. Then I generally just watch the betting, horses on the track and check for overlays to my odds line. I found two horses I like. After a bit more research I have found that I n…

Frank and Vic

Forgot to mention a couple of weeks ago, the Gulfstream Park news. They are cutting slots from 1200 machines to around 500. It appears the slot landscape is getting saturated. Also of note, they have changed some of their business plan to make GP a family destination, and have set up boxes for racing just for players with betting machines and access to Internet and phone wagering. They have also applied for a night club. It seems they are trying to be like Vegas. Vegas reinvented themselves too! One thing Vegas learned, though, that we are still waiting for? Churn. They have slot machines with low takeouts. When will racing address that? I fear they won't.

Regardless, Gulfstream is evolving and working hard. Maybe Frank gave them a couple of cases of his energy drink.

Below I mentioned the Donato Hanover story and the price of a share to breed to him. I said I did not like news of this nature as it only encourages horses to retire early. I said it should be a task given to a commiss…

Sunday Roll Around Racing

I like to call it the squeeze. Toronto wants a bigger share of Woodbine slot revenue, 10% to be exact. If you follow Toronto politics, lately they are after more money. I think they like to spend there. Well, good luck. If the OLGC gives in to this, it opens the proverbial can of worms, and other municipalities can follow. The Ontario government is a fan of cash, too. I think the chances of them giving a local government more of their share are about equal to me flying to Mars for Christmas. Here we thought racings fingers-in-the-pie economics was only restricted to horse owners and tracks. Now it's the cities too!

Regardless, I think we should get used to things like the above. Remember Prairie Meadows? The slots there are doing well. Racing is not. It ran a 29.2M deficit in 2006. Something has to give, in my opinion, so things like the above I think we should get used to seeing. Unless racing fixes itself and grows handles, expect more fingers, and smaller pies.

On the betting fro…

Revisiting Marketing

We went through a little bit of viral marketing below in this post. I promised we'd revisit it, so in between races at the Meadowlands, here we go!

I popped into my inbox and found a neat email. Susan from Scarborough Maine emailed to say she agrees that harness is a tough sell. She also believes that generic commercials that are used don't work too well either. She happens to be the one-woman marketing director for the Downs.

As far as I know Scarborough Downs is not Woodbine, nor is it the Meadowlands. It is a smaller track, with a small budget, so we can surmise that a commercial ain't gonna happen there, right? Don't tell Susan that. She tells me she "wrote, directed, produced and scripted a spot" all by herself. She says that she is proud of it. She should be. And we have it for you here!

Way to go Susan.

What else is happening out there in terms of racing ads? I judge ads different than most. I am a fan of writer Seth Godin, who wrote one of my favorite mar…

32 Fat-Cat Republicans and Other Things.

I have to go Christmas shopping. I have a few client calls. But the news catching my eye today in harness deserves a post. So the Playstation I have to buy and the rest can wait.

First, Art Modell owner of the Cleveland Browns (well, then he was) said the NFL owners were "32 fat cat republicans that vote socialist". What he was referring to was the NFL's policy of revenue sharing. This of course helped build the NFL into what it is today and allowed teams like the Green Bay Packers who reside in a town of about 50,000 people, to compete with the New York Giants, who reside in a town of many million.

How did it come about? How did the NFL kick the butt of every sports league known to man? Leadership, that's how.

It's not a new idea, but this sport sorely needs a commissioner. If I was commissioner (boy I think I would be hated) the first rule I may implement is that horses can not go to stud until they are 5 years old. We spoke about the disconnect in harness racing …

Luc , Christmas and the People You Meet

You meet all kinds of folks in racing. I find most are pretty darn down to earth and thankful for what they have. Heading into the Woodbine paddock is fun, because you know you will see someone. Being on the web you get to meet new people, too.

One of them, Luc Ouellette, is simply put a nice guy. Professional and courteous and he has always given us a fair shot as bettors, and me personally as an owner. In quickly glancing the news I see he is at it again with his drivers challenge to raise money for the Toronto Star's Santa Claus fund. Joining him this year are other WEG regulars, recruited for the cause. The story is here. Great job fellas.

When starting the blog I had personally no idea what to do, or what becomes of it. I'm a fan first I guess, and also the science of gambling always interested me. I thought, what the heck, let's jot down a few ideas now and again and see what happens. Interestingly, emailed and asked if I would ever like to write someth…

It's Viral. No, Not a High White Count

There has been much talk of branding and/or doing more marketing of harness racing. That'd be nice, but marketing this game is one tough task. I believe brand awareness would really be helped by creating something that is viral in nature. Viral marketing is simply promoting the brand on the web through social networking (e.g. emails you might get of a funny commercial, or one you watch on youtube). We want young people to notice racing and we want to change our brand.

I was hanging out last night, working and checking out some industry websites regarding Internet advertising. I came across some positive buzz about an ad campaign. It is the new campaign for Burger King. It is done with real people in an entertaining way. It is a perfect example of a campaign that does what it is supposed to do. The 30 second spot on TV is one thing, web chatter is another. The ads are now on Youtube and getting plenty of watches. Believe it or not, I actually went to the Burger King website and watc…

Grassroots Movements from Players

It has been tried before, Rich Bauer of did it with Magna. It's horseplayers standing up for issues important to them.

John Pricci at horseraceinsder is trying to stir the pot. In his blog this week he is trying to organize something - anything - to get the tracks to notice the player again. His ideas? Organize a boycott, bus trips, demonstrations, or anything else horseplayers can think of to get a few things noticed. In general, some of the issues bandied about so far are:

1. Reduced Takeouts. Players out there have been complaining that the business charges too much. 30% rakes at some tracks, for some bets. Poker, sports betting, betting exchanges and all the rest charge much less. Vegas charges much less. Racing has been charging ostensibly the same prices since pari mutuel wagering was invented well over 100 years ago.

2. Medication Reform. Players know all too well some of the problems we see on a daily basis with regards to performance enhancing drugs. Time a…

Past Posting

Mike Maloney was sure something was amuck. He kept seeing odds drops, like we all do, so he has been trying an experiment: Betting after the gate opens. At the Arizona Symposium on Racing and gaming, he told everyone who would listen that he achieved what he had tried. In a race at the Fair Grounds he could bet until 57 seconds after the race had started.

Maloney is no disgruntled gambler. In a recent post on, one of the nations biggest bettors, Ernie Dahlman said in all his times on panels at the Arizona conference he has "never met anyone who impressed me more than he did". Bill Finley at ESPN gives his take on Mr. Maloney and past posting in his column today.

So, what is happening? Well, they are looking into it. I guess they should.

What would the stock market be like if we could buy a stock at 50 cents, which 57 seconds later we know will be 60 cents?

What would poker be like if someone knew what the flop was before he made his first bet?

In case A the ca…

Racehorse Economics 101

We often hear commentators say "horse racing should be run like a business", and that it is not. There are myriad topics we can go to for that, but one: Racehorse value, is perhaps interesting from an economics perspective.

If you own a lemonade stand and generate $5000 of income, your asset is priced at X. If suddenly a shock comes, and your business is not perfectly competitive and earning power is allowed to rise, your asset will be priced higher, at X+.

With slots being introduced, purses rose across all classes, from the Open to lowest level claimers. In racing the higher level horses - conditioned ones or stakes horses - had their capital cost appreciate as it should be. Try buying a decent maiden horse now who looks good, or a horse like Big Business through a sale. It acts like a lemonade stand, and asset price rises.

The disconnect comes in claiming, because the asset always stays priced the same, regardless of earnings power. If a 5 claimer in 1960 races for $700, his…

Data for an Affordable Price

Looking for a good Christmas present?

Standardbred Canada has recently made new pricing for its TrackIt service. $20 a year for SC members is all it takes. The service is impressive, letting you query 125 times a month, to find out what horse raced with what trainer, how a horse did at what track, who is racing who and where, and countless other queries. It is a handicapper and horse owners lifeline to the sport.

I can't think of a more worthwhile gift to the racing fan.

It's Monday

Monday mornings are never fun, but when I read what Equidaily's headlines are, it always seems to kick start the day. He (or she) really scours for racing news and is passionate about the game. It shows.

Some of the recent news around the racing world which made me think today:

Handle down at Philadelphia Park this year. Handle was down 9% so far this year while purses were up over 100% from $30M to $63M. The piece states that slots were supposed to help horse racing, not hurt it. This is one thing that I never understood by the deal makers who wrote slots deals. Because a feed man, or a driver/rider, vet, or a trainer or an owner makes more in purses we are supposed to measure that as a success. How in heavens name can we say slots expanded racing simply because a feed man or a vet made more money? That is not expanding racing, that is income redistribution. That's what we hang our hat on in racing, and that is truly sad.

Cool article in an Aussie newspaper about Hong Kong, with…

The B Track Blueprint III - The Fan

It was a nice August holiday. I decided to head out and visit a few of our stables’ horses just north of Mohawk near Campbellville, and thought a trip to Grand River Raceway was in order to watch the Battle of Waterloo.

Ronald Reagan used to repeat the famous line “there is nothing better for the outside of a man, than the inside of a horse” – and that is readily apparent, whenever I make a trip like this. I wish I could do it more. It's nice to be around horses.
Reaching Grand River, the joint was jumping. Entertainment, beer (a personal favourite of mine), hot dogs and harness fans. No floppy hats, compacts, or mint juleps. Too many parents tending to face painting for their kids for that.
After a few steps, I run into Norm. I say to Norm “making any money?” He shrugs, “Just got here, so nope. My wife and I were at a fair track today. No betting, but great racing and we had a fantastic time”.
Who in this day and age go to a track, in the middle of almost nowhere where there is no be…

Poly Want a Trotter?

It is interesting when you ask someone about harness racing, particularly a thoroughbred player, they will often say that our sport has some wacky things going on with it. Namely, drugs, "stiffing", reversals of form, breaking trotters and other nasty things. That apparently can keep them away from our game. Do the above happen? Sure. One scan of the USTA or SC fines and suspensions tell us so. But is our game really that tough to figure out compared to thoroughbreds?

Recently Jeff Platt from Jcapper posted his stats from all Polytrack racetracks in his database.

It was astounding.

Races: 4301
Wins by Chalk: 1290
ROI: 0.78
Win %: 29.99

So, on artificial surfaces (poly, tapeta etc) the favourite won at 29.99%. In all races the favourites win at a 34.61% clip.

In 100 years of racing, through wars, through recessions, through muddy tracks, through snowstorms, through ringers and rascals, from Citation to Street Sense, through all of it - post time favourites have won nearly at the sam…

Pick 7......... again.

Well tonight's pick 7 at Woodbine, with the monster carryover looks much better to me. If Just the Begrinning and/or Silent Swing win, it goes for certain, in my opinion.

But, these are hard to hit. 7 even money shots in a row is still an under 1% hit rate. So let's try and figure out a ticket.

910-3-47-34-2356710-1359-246 = 576 bets for $576

Running that through with probabilities, that gives us a nice little edge bet. Namely, that ticket blankets a couple of races heavily, with high hit rate probability.

But it is still showing only a 5.74% chance to hit.

If I go 0 for 7 with some of these horses, I think I should stick to all-all daily doubles.

Good luck to anyone who plays.

Notes on a Stormy Saturday

My friend and part time weather man tells me we are in for some nasty weather here in the northeast. Good I guess, since I am able to kill some time this morning looking at the news.

I see someone from Cangamble dropped by. Us Canadian racing fans have to stick together I guess (and thanks for the plug!). Seeing that, I noticed Cangamble has updated his blog. This week he has an interesting link on Casino size. I was floored to find out that two of the top ten casinos in terms of surface area are in Canada. Go figure.

Cangamble has a link up to this Bloodhorse story on a vet getting suspended for possessing lidocaine. This is interesting. The story sounds ominous. In harness racing, Mickey Burke had a horse test positive for the drug way back last December and to my knowledge it has not been settled. Hold it, while waiting for that one, he had another one in April of 2007. In other news: Mickey Burke is the leading trainer in harness racing in 2007. What's wrong with this picture?


50K Pick 7 carryover is now ..........

.......... and I can't even form a respectable ticket. I think I would have to spend about $34,524 - and I still might miss it.

Here are my thoughts.

Race 3: Looks like someone can steal this on the front end. Margie Seelster is the talent, though. So let's try 23 and 7

Race 4: 3,4 and 6 look like logical contenders.

Race 5: Joyous Occasion and Sugar Park might both be live tonight. I am going to make a stand here. You have to somewhere.

Race 6: Liberty Skiberty, if ready might be a solid key. Lady DM and Zena look like contenders.

Race 7: Smooth Muscles seems to have had some problems, but might be a logical key. If right, he can crush. 1,2 and 4 are others.

Race 8: Can I use all? Maybe if I was Bill Gates. 1,3,11 I guess.

Race 9: 3,5,7,8 in a brutal-to-handicap race.

Well, maybe I will take 237-346-36-4-234-1311-3578 = $648

Now, according to my calculator, which allows me to punch in fair odds of my contenders, shows just how much of a chance I have to hit this ticket.


"The …

Pick Six, er I mean Pick 7.

Why does Woodbine have a Pick 7?

I did two things today that makes me ask that question.

One, I went to the track. There was a carryover in the Meadowlands pick 4, and a carryover for the Woodbine Pick 7, so I thought I would go, have some chow and a beer, converse with a couple of friends and see if we could hit one. One of my playing partners said: "Pick 7. What's with a pick 7 anyway? People bet pick 6's not pick 7's. I think if I took a trip on my rocket ship, took a left turn at some nebula and found a racetrack, they might offer a pick 7. Everyone else...... Pick 6's!"

I think that point wasn't lost on me. Earlier in the day I downloaded a free trial of a calculator for multi-leg wagers at This neat little calculator let's you construct "caveman tickets" for your pick 6, or pick 4 or pick 3. In general, it allows you to maximize your spread and weight your tickets. It is something most players do, but it is time consumin…

Call a Vet & Charles Dickens

Cot Campbell, President of Dogwood Stables said something today in a Bloodhorse commentary piece that isn't lost on those of us close to the game.

Interesting observation: Dogwood has one trainer who is 78 years of age, another who is 70 years of age, one who is a middle-aged European, and three who are relatively young. The vet bills of the first three are light and very reasonable. The bills of the latter three—who came up in an age when trainers were more reliant on veterinary care—are often out of sight. Which ones have the soundest horses? They’re all about the same.

With slots money adding amazing amounts of Benjamins to purse pools, why can't owners make more money? Drivers are doing well. Brian Sears might pocket $600,000 in driving checks this year with less than 2000 drives. Vets? I don't see too many crying poor. Vet suppliers? Have you seen the price of medication for our equine friends? Someone is making money.

In the old days, like 1990, horses seemed to race mo…

B Track Blueprint II - The Wagering Company

In part II of the Blueprint we contacted Ian Meyers of Premier Turf Club to see what his players want, were doing, and how they play B tracks. PTC is a 100% legal and onshore advanced deposit wagering company. Ian's business model was to fight for the customers who were using offshore companies for their wagering, and win them back. It was a very interesting conversation from a guy in tune with players.

When I emailed Ian Meyers of Premier Turf Club to ask him if he’d answer a question or two, the response was the same as it always is: “What can I do to help?”

He, after a long career as a stock trader (and a horseplayer since his teens) had a dream. It was to own his own ADW, or advance deposit wagering company (like Horseplayer Interactive up here). After toiling for a couple of years he finally got it off the ground. The company’s slogan: “By Players – For Players” is not lost on anyone who is a member. The betting platform is second to none. The features of the site are always ch…

NASCAR & Harness Racing

I work in marketing. It is one tough business. Jack Trout, one of the foremost marketing gurus, is one of my favourite writers. His book, Differentiate or Die, is one of the best, in my opinion, marketing books ever written. In it, the general thesis is, if you have a product that is different, you are ahead of the game and you should market those differences.

The people who run NASCAR have read that book. They are different. They are not Formula One - and they do not try to be. In many ways, they are harness racing.

Greg Reinhart of wrote an interesting opinion column on NASCAR and harness racing. He is a fan of both. He's under 30, too. Right in our theme lately. His thoughts are reprinted below.

I could not agree with him more:

In this month’s Trot Magazine, editor Darryl Kaplan writes a letter stating that harness racing, specifically Canadian harness racing, can compete with stock car racing if it is given a chance to.Being a fan of both of harness racing and NASC…

People Love War Horses

When Darryl Kaplan wrote this in his Letter to the North Pole, he was so right.

Remember in ’99 when you brought me Admirals Express? Any chance you have one more of those in your Santa bag? Once again, I’m looking for a lovable gelding with the courage of Ares and the strength of Thor, to delight fans year after year. Please work on it.

Fans want to see old, great horses race. They can identify with them. We know how difficult it is to keep a horse sound and happy to race in his advanced years. When he succeeds we cheer.

On the weekend, 9YO (almost 10!) Evening Attire won the Queen's County Handicap at AQU. The blogosphere and industry websites are buzzing. Steve Crist said "was there a racing fan with a heartbeat not rooting for Evening Attire to get up?"

There is tons of reaction on the page at He sums up the reaction better than I can, so give it a look. In block letters he exclaims "Inspiring". The owners are respected. They turned down big mone…

Quick Notes from the World of Racing

...... some interesting news items, or maybe not. Well I thought they were.

We've all heard trainer-speak. This one took the cake. Dylan Thomas got wiped in Hong Kong because he was too fat. ".... he was way overweight" said trainer O'Brien.

I watched the Harrisburg sale and said "boy, those guys are nuts to spend that money on Big Business". Good call, Big Business wins Matron.

Us players are really dopes sometimes for playing this game. It seems to be so stacked against us. The Pick 4 at Delta Downs culminated in a thrilling finish. 39-1 shot Turf War (man that is a great name) dead-heated with the 3-2 chalk Z Humor. With pick 4 dead heat rules, both tickets paid the same - a whopping $127.60. Steve Byk, let's his thoughts be known on this in his column/blog.

Woodbine thoroughbred wagering is up. Glad something is. I buy the Form some Wednesday's and notice the nice ad for Woodbine Wednesday's. Wednesday Night Lights I think they call it. Flashy a…

B Track Blueprint I: The Horseplayer

If you have not read the post below B Track Blueprint, give it a whirl. We are going to try and find out, by asking the people directly involved in B tracks, just what makes them tick. The player, the live fan, and a distributor. First off, let's tackle the player. The stay-at-home fan who supports this sport.
Lou, or the Whip to his friends, has been watching harness racing since the age of 5, primarily cutting his teeth on the B tracks in South Western Ontario. He lives in Windsor with his wife and young son Cam. We’re not sure if he named his son after super-horse Cam Fella. We think so, but we won’t let his wife know. Although much of his handle goes towards big tracks like the Meadowlands and Woodbine/Mohawk, he still to this day spends the bulk of his time playing small tracks.To someone like me, it seems counter-productive, because small pool tracks have so many things working against you as a player (late odds changes of monster proportions, betting against yourself with sm…