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Showing posts from January, 2008

Thursday Notes

Some interesting things out there this Thursday. As always, I found them interesting. You be the judge!

Can Dave get more Drives?

Below we looked at Meadows' regular driving king Dave Palone's November and said if he could only get more drives with a track nearby (maybe that new one opening soon near Pittsburgh) he might be able to turn the sports' driving records on its ear.

In scanning this young year's driving leaders this is pretty apparent. For January, Dave has compiled this so far, with one driving day to go in the month:

David M Palone 210 71 44 22 $ 465,187 0.489

210 drives and he is the second leading driver in wins in North America - and he is ranked 17th in drives. That is only 2420 drives extrapolated for the year - about half what Tetrick drove last year. Imagine what he could do with a few more drives? Stunning!

Ontario Owner Rules Reach an Audience

On here, an (large) owner speaks about the new rules. What is interesting is, he is…

Alan Woods and us, the Horseplayers

Wednesday's wrap is usually about a lot of things, but since there is so much news about the life-blood of the sport, this Wednesday we focus on the player.

There is a long article on Alan Woods by Tony Wilson. If you have time, and are interested it is well worth reading. It shows and talks about how the computer was used (the formation of today's computer betting like jcapper) and how overlays were sought.

It does all come down to overlays, and it is the simplest (but hardest to find) thing about the game, or any game for that matter: If your probability of success is greater than board odds you win. In the article this simple law is touched on by the multi-billion dollar bettor:

Heaven's form guide has four important columns: the horse's number, its current odds, its computer-calculated probability of winning (expressed to three decimal places) and a figure Alan calls its 'Win Expectation'. Win Expectation, which is obtained by multiplying a horse's compu…

Handicapping: Losing Streaks

If you ask anyone, even professionals who win at this game, they will tell you it is difficult. I personally think it is the toughest of all gambling games. It is a high takeout game, with a low hit rate. We are not playing poker with a $50 bankroll on a 5 cent/ten cent table, where we can play many, many hands with small bet size losses. We are not playing football games where we should hit one of every two bets over time.

One of the toughest parts of the game to deal with and figure out are losing streaks. We are not going to talk about the psychology of losing streaks here, or how to last one with your bankroll still breathing (we’ll do that later though, as it is important). Instead we will start with a building block. We’ll look at a simple calculation to learn about why and how they happen and why knowing your hit rate is important.

How many people do this: You head to the track with a $100 voucher, bet 3 bets – say $15 to win and a few exotics each race – then lose it all. Off t…

Churn Baby Churn; and Barbaro

Here is an email I received from a smaller player trying to make it in this game.

I registered for a premium turf club (sic) account and I must say I am impressed. All they need now is free video and programs. I like the smaller tracks like Monticello and Northville... I even tried a place ticket on a 3-1 greyhound...... best yet.... I started with 100........ betting frivilously and stupid, I blew it all... but next day I had 23 dollars in my account.... and then last night.... I got the 23 all the way back up to 100 (I work on a different scale then you) and then blew it all again (I got to start reading your handicapping advice, especially on longshot betting... longshots can put a person in a tailspin).... but anyway I managed to bet about $700.... So now they throw 35 back in my account....... Thanks for playing!!......... Back to the slow grind

That folks, is churn.

If he put his money in an ADW like or HPIbets he is broke after the first day. Instead, with daily takeout…

Alan Woods

An inexhaustible good nature is one of the most precious gifts of heaven, spreading itself like oil over the troubled sea of thought, and keeping the mind smooth and equable in the roughest weather. Washington Irving

Most would describe Alan Woods as the world’s most successful horse gambler. He died Saturday night at the age of 62.

He started as a math whiz, trying to win at games. He figured early on in life that counting cards gave him an edge, so he learned it. Later he figured that the pari-mutuel game was beatable, so he learned that. He thought the stock market was beatable, so he learned that. He was truly a remarkable guy.

He started playing Hong Kong in the mid-1980’s. Like most who start, he lost. But the wheels went in motion – there was a fixed number of horses who race meets there (around 1200), there was little funny stuff with drugs or form changes, very few trainer changes and no horses off claim. He thought that he could build a database of all those horses, get program…

Damning Words from a Hall of Famer

I scanned today and noticed a link to an article where Jack Van Berg, Hall of Fame trainer and winner of more races and stakes races than any other living trainer, let's fly on the state of the game.

Hall of Fame horseman Jack Van Berg doesn't need a Mitchell Report to know that drugs are a scourge on the "sport of kings."

..... a new breed of so-called "super trainers" has been winning at percentages unheard of in the past.

Van Berg, from the old school, has seen enough. He finally decided to speak out against the rampant abuse of drugs. He says drugs ranging from legal medications like steroids and clenbuterol to prohibited substances like erythropoietin (EPO) are a blight on the game, punishing the owners who pay the bills, the bettors who play the races, and most of all, the horses themselves.

It is often said that racing likes to keep this out of the limelight. I don't know how true that is, but I for one applaud those who stand up and …

Hugh Mitchell, 4 bucks for 10k, and More

Some news and notes from the world of racing that I found interesting.

Hugh Mitchell, who runs Western Fair Raceway and is a long-time horse exec, was interviewed by Bev Smith in Toronto's Globe and Mail. The story ran today. It was titled "Wagering Under Siege" and detailed most of what we know - that is, handle is in the toilet.

Canadian harness racing enjoyed its peak year in 2002. But the drop since then has been precipitous. Wagering on standardbreds in Canada is off 36 per cent in the past five years, 33 per cent in Ontario and 28 per cent at tracks run by the Woodbine Entertainment Group. That's a drop of about $310-million in Canada, $236-million in Ontario and almost $130-million at WEG.

Yes folks, that is an over one third wagering drop since 2002. When we speak here, and offer our opinion we have said how slow racing is to address issues of negative growth. With slots I think it is hard for it to change, simply because alternative cash is coming in.


The Breeders Crown 2010

The odd time I take a bit of time to write a post. Last night I took a break and typed what I thought the Breeders Crown could look like. What we might do in a slot world. I hope you enjoy reading it, and I welcome any comments, good or bad.

It’s a nice warm day and the red-clay track at Lexington is gleaming. The fans are plentiful and they are buzzing. In the next Breeders Crown race we have an amazing assortment of athletes for the Open Trot. Three superstars are from Europe, a Hambletonian Champion and four $2 million dollar winners are from North America. The others are some of the hardest hitting trotters this sport has to offer. The purse came in at a staggering $2 million.

The car starts and simulcast players have a birds-eye view from the cockpit – a cable network is televising the event and TVG has installed several cameras as well as microphones around the track. The tote board goes through final changes. The late money is huge as this event is simulcast around the world. Mon…

Boom! Ontario Passes Owner Responsibility

I was just jotting down a couple things for a Wednesday wrap (they are added below) and then I saw this from the ORC.

Entitled "Grand Scale Measures", it is a paper on new rules and regulations for Ontario racing. There are several things of interest, like safety vests, a horse health passport, and other measures. But the biggie? Hold on to your hats.....

Owner responsibility -Automatic suspension of a horse for 90 days for testing positive for any non-therapeutic drug.

For the first time I am aware of in all of racing, the owners will be penalized for a horse testing positive for a performance enhancer. This is long overdue.

When you go to buy a video game, cell phone, or anything else, you do your due diligence. When you trust your dog with a kennel while on vacation you do your due diligence to make sure he is safe and well cared for. When you own a horse, often times your due diligence consists of "this guy has high numbers, so he must be a good trainer. Let's go w…

Can Someone lend me $900K?

There were some mind-boggling prices at the Meadowlands Mixed Sale this week. Former North America Cup winner Total Truth was bought back by Teague for $900,000. Sophomore colts Moon Beam and Duneside Perch brought at staggering $750,000 and $700,000 respectively. In a more reasonable price range, Artcotic was a buy back at $315,000 and Gold Dust Beach went for $280.000. Classy and iron-tough Boulder Creek went for $185,000.

I found some of those interesting. Teague’s buy back of Total Truth might look high, but he seems sound (George thinks so, so who are we to disagree) and he does have a possible stud career if he does some big racing this year, or sets a good mark. Both Moon Beam and Duneside Perch were very impressive last year; but those prices were hard for me to get my head around. Duneside had his year cut short by a fracture. Winning bidder Ross Croghan said this from the harnesslink article linked above:

“I thought he’d go for between $800,000 and a million,” Croghan said. “I…

Handicapping: Just Blink

In 1983 a gentleman brought a statue to a museum that he said was from 600 B.C. Of course, the museum took this claim with skepticism. The asking price was 10 million, and not one of these statues had surfaced in years. It was thought by experts and historians alike that they were all discovered. So, the science began. 14 months later, after a battery of scientific testing, the museum said the statue was real.

After it was purchased, when it was placed on display for experts to see, one watcher took one look at it and blurted out “I hope you didn’t pay much.” Another said, “there is something wrong here. I don’t know what it is, but there is something wrong.” All reported a subconscious, visceral reaction to the statue. They thought it was a fake, but they could not tell you why.

What did these historical experts see that 14 months of science didn’t? That is something Malcolm Gladwell in his book “Blink” discusses.His thesis states that, if you are unconsciously competent in somethin…

Burgess (really) Tells All

Nice article by a good writer, Carol Hodes, over at Harnesslink on Blair Burgess and pacer Tell All. She tends to ask good questions and her interviews and pieces are fairly lengthy and informative. You can read it here.

Most of us who watched the Breeders Crown Final for 3YO colt pacers were left scratching our head. Brian Sears, driver of Always a Virgin decided to put the hammer down around the 3/8’s pole when Tell All’s driver Jody Jamieson was trying to brush for the lead. I felt, and most did, that Sears made a huge mistake. Tell All had soundly beaten him in the past and most felt that if a speed duel developed Always a Virgin would never end up getting the better of Tell All.

Because our sport is not covered too much by the mainstream press, it was barely a blip on the radar, so we as fans did not know what happened, why Sears did what he did, what Blair thought, or anything along those lines. Now several months after the event Blair gives us some interesting quotes.

“The driv…

Harville, Longshots and Sunday Notes

NFL Championship Sunday today. I spoke with a client on Friday and he told me he was going to the game in Green Bay - he got tickets. I thought "wow, that is pretty cool!" Literally and figuratively I realized; I just watched a pre-game show and it is zero degrees F at Lambeau. Those folks better bundle up!

I watched a healthy dose of Woodbine last night. I have not been playing seriously for a bit, but I was fairly impressed. The fields were fairly deep and for winter racing the product was pretty good. I think I am going to start playing Saturday night harness at Woodbine regularly.

For our handicapping lesson we have to look at the sixth race last night. Arid N, a downunder invader for top trainer Casie Coleman was 25 cents on the dollar and ran out. The tri and ex was a bomber. A 30-1 onto a 26-1 onto a 75-1. The ex came back around $1000 and the tri? Only $2300. This shows that longshots simply do not pay what they should. If you are figuring out fair exactor odds you ca…

The New York Times

A Ledford piece reached the New York Times, in an article written by Bill Finley.

Some comments that cut to the chase:

Eric Ledford made his return to the Meadowlands on Thursday night, about 21 months after being arrested and charged with race fixing, about 21 months after the New Jersey State Police said it had “dealt a crushing blow to illegal activity in the sport of harness racing.”

How painfully ironic is that statement, huh?

Horseplayer thoughts - not news to us of course - that show how far we have to go in this business to gaining trust.

“I think all these guys are involved with that stuff,” said one of the bettors, Dom Stone.

David Philossoph, another bettor, had a different opinion.

“After what he did and what they found with his horses, I can’t believe he’s back,” he said.

As we have asked below, how hard is it for a racing commission to draft a simple rule, promote it and publicize it: If you are convicted of a crime related to racing, you are banned for life from racing.

Does an…

Nope, my name is not Nick Kling

But I guess it could be when you read his column.

Today in a New York newspaper (thanks!), Nick speaks about the recent bloodhorse story that we chatted about here.

In a column titled "Clueless" he takes a look at racing.

Since a high of $15.2 billion in 2003, average annual handle has fallen by approximately $451 million.

When asked by The Blood-Horse magazine about why the decline, Alan Marzelli, President and CEO of the Jockey Club, which is a partner in Equibase, had a simple response. He didn't know.

Let me get this straight.

The chief executive of the organization which oversees all Thoroughbred racing and its records is telling us that in an era when technology allows us to watch a schoolboy in Tibet dance on You Tube, when you can buy a stock on the Asian market while sitting in Troy, and when you can Google a person's name and get their 50-year-old high school graduation picture, that the "experts" who govern racing can't conjure up th…

2010 Redux, Cheatin’, Claims and Changing Gears

Heck that sounds like a Keanu Reeves movie, or a country song. One of the two.

Anyhow, Cangamble did a “Woodbine 2010” post for what he thinks Woodbine thoroughbred racing should look like in 2010. Pop over and give it a read.

Quotes I found interesting?

Without winners, it is very hard to attract newbies to the track.

This is something we need to address. Racing fans always say “you can’t win at the races.” What a recipe for disaster. Change the culture of “can’t win” to “can win” and I think we grow. It strikes right to the heart of racing.

Now with multi-track betting, gamblers go broke earlier in the day, the churning happens a lot quicker than it used to when one could only bet on one track. Horse racing is now more comparable to blackjack or slots when it comes to amount of action one can have in an hour. If blackjack upped their house advantage even by half a percent the tables would be empty.

Again, that is well stated. Actually that is better than that. That is a brilliant point.…

Handicapping: Driver Betting

I am trying to get through a few books late at night the past several weeks. I have a whole pile of them on my shelf that I have not read; some for work, some for racing.

I did a run-through with a friend of the Gamblers Book Shop website a few weeks ago. I make that shop a stop on my Vegas trips every time I go. When I go to the website I can't help myself. So about $500 later, the books piled up.

Then this past week I popped into the office where we have a library of business books. More often than not, the business books have a great deal to do with betting, or risk, so they tend to help with handicapping as well. Fortunately I can read quickly, so a few were finished. A couple of handicapping books had some decent stuff on betting the human element - trainers and drivers; and yourself, while one of the business books had a neat section on psychology.

I am a person who never looks at drivers when handicapping. Mark Cramer in his excellent series of handicapping books speaks fr…

Wednesday Wrap

Well each day gives us news. News that tends, more often than not, to make ones head spin.

In the Bloodhorse today, there is the synopsis on wagering growth (shrinkage actually) in 2007. Handle was down in 2007, while purses were up. There seems to be some sort of mystery why. I don't think you have to be Columbo to figure out why, but some seem perplexed.

“I don’t know what to make of the (wagering) trends of the last few years,” Marzelli said. “Yes, they are flat. But the questions our industry can’t answer are: Why are they flat? Are we suffering leakage? Are people betting off-shore with bookmakers, or in other ways that are not permitted under U.S. laws? Are they turning to other sports because our sports are not competitive?

These questions were asked in about the year 2001 and even before then. They were answered in large part by an industry paid for study by Wil Cummings in 2004. Easy answer: Wagering is down because less people are playing racing. The offshore stuff I though…

A Personal Note & Background

I am getting an email here and there about the blog. It is nice to hear comments. A couple questions have been asked - about the time it takes to do, and my interest in the business - things like that.

So, let's answer a few of those type questions.

First, the posts are easy-peasy to do. I have read a lot of racing books and theory, been a fan of harness racing since I was a child, and I have been a fan of betting and gambling theory for many years. I would think the interest in gambling stemmed from my interest in the stock market at a young age (I once bought and sold stocks between and during university classes during the 1987 stock market crash). If I could hazard a guess I would say I have about 50 racing & gambling books and about 20 books on stock trading and theory.

So, a lot of my thoughts are already 'upstairs' and somewhat second-nature. In general, I would say it takes sometimes ten, or sometimes twenty minutes to get a post like this up. Not long.

In early 20…

Tuesday Tidbits

Musings on some things on this gloomy Tuesday. Sometimes Tuesday is Bluesday.

I went to Woodbine last night and tried out their new betting machines. My review is pretty simple: They are great. For those who do not know, the old machines were a bit cumbersome and had deficiencies. Sometimes your card would not swipe, you could not get into one without a card by logging into your account, the interface was somewhat clunky, some screens were not very sensitive.

What you do is either enter your account number and pin, or simply tap your card by the reader. Then the interface comes up. It is user friendly. Also at many of the 13 inch (I think they are 13 inch) personal flat screens strewn about Woodbine, you can see live video. Oft times in the past when placing a bet I would forget which horse was which when taking exotics, pick 4's especially found yourself looking back and forth from your program/form. Not any longer: Names are right on your screen.

There are numerous other handy fea…

Mr. Stronach has a link to a Baltimore Sun feature on Frank Stronach and Magna. It is a very interesting piece on an interesting self-made man.

In our post immediately below on Woodbine, several comments were critical of Woodbine in several areas. I thought all were constructive comments, however, from people who enjoy the game and want to see it grow. Woodbine, based on what can be done in this racing environment has done some good things., wireless betting at the track, rewards programs which are pretty good when looked at from an overall perspective and much more. There is some good being done, and I think the people there do love the game.

Frank and Magna are similar in that they seem to be an easy target for horseplayer criticism. When reading that story it struck me: Frank Stronach is good for racing and he loves the game. Most, if not all critical commentary in that piece and elsewhere, relates to his love of horse racing - almost without fail, in my opinion.

This bri…

Woodbine 2010

A poster below asked "what should Woodbine/Mohawk racing look like in 2010?"

I don't know what it will look like in 2010, but here are some thoughts as to what might be put into place to improve its product.

As I mentioned before, WEG and most of harness racing in Ontario, is held to horseman agreements, CPMA rules, ORC rules and more. In effect, when Wal Mart wants to have a sale, they have a sale. When they want to change product lines, they change product lines. When they want to fire someone who hurts their business, they fire them. It is what makes the free enterprise system work - namely a quick response to the customer and the business. WEG's business model in terms of product and price is not very malleable.

As in other posts though, we have a magic wand. Here at Pull the Pocket Downs, we can make changes. Regardless, this post will look at what might or can be done to improve the Woodbine product in 2010.

I would do the following ten things (notice there is a ch…