Monday, March 17, 2008

A Fever, Some Dice, and No Takeout

What a weekend we had. Much warmer and it was sunny. Woodbine was smoking fast and some colts and fillies went quick times. In thoroughbred land the road to the Derby continued, and I received a couple of emails from readers with tidbits.

So, let’s get to it.

First up, in thoroughbred action, Kentucky Derby co-favourite War Pass, came last in the Tampa Bay Derby. Because the bulk of the massive show pool was bet on him, the show prices came back huge. The owner of War Pass had something interesting to say about the race.

"He wasn't himself today," LaPenta said. "We wanted to come out of the gate and take the lead around the first turn. ... War Pass had some fever this week and we thought he'd be OK. But obviously it wasn't his day."

This statement has sparked some horseplayer anger. Namely, why didn’t the public know beforehand that this horse might not be right? Someone popped his salary on the horse to show, perhaps. That is fine, and buyer beware, however how can our business be taken seriously and want to attract big bettors if we don’t give out information before the race is run? I have spoken about North American racing doing the Hong Kong thing: They publish vet reports and work reports before and after the race.

I believe that we should start giving the public more information. What I would do is pretty simple, upon entry, the trainer, or whomever enters the horse gives a report on his fitness. “He was a bit sick last start, but we gave him time and he is ready to go”, “We missed some training last week because the track was soupy. If he gets a poor post we might not be able to get into the thick of it this week”, “he had a quarter-crack and dull, but we worked on it and all systems are go.”

To me this is something that is simple, and respects the public.

Phil has some thoughts on this in a post here.

Another story, this one local, has drawn some horseplayer ire. On Saturday at Woodbine, in race 3, a trainer change on New Dice Please sparked a huge effort. To put it mildly, he won by a football field.

Now, just like the Zito story above, are bettors supposed to just shrug a 17 length trainer change victory off? Just turn the page and go to the next race? This is why this sport needs trainers to be held to a standard and report on changes made, or report on horses fitness. What did the trick with this horse? I am sure it could have been something simple, but the crowd thinks it is one huge cheatfest. These performances must be addressed.

Phil has his thoughts up on this, as well as a post from a commenter, not happy with harness racing. Phil asked below how to respond to that commenter. I am not going to discuss specifics about what he alludes to in his comment, but generally I feel some agreement. I have stated here more often than not, that we have to start respecting the public more – they work hard for their money and it demands respect. It seems when someone does something wrong in the sport, they are welcomed back with open arms. Like the Ledford story we have spoken about.

I do not blame anyone in the public who thinks that our game attracts, and never kicks out, the worst. We have to start taking care of this. As I said previously on the blog – if you commit something egregious in the sport, you should never be let back in the sport. Ever. A dealer who cheats a customer can never deal in a casino, ever. A cop on the take can never work as a cop again, ever. A judge who takes a bribe and throws a case can never sit on the bench, ever. A drunk driver can never drive a school bus again, ever. An embezzler can never work as a bank teller again, ever.

It is time for harness racing to follow the rest of the world.

Susan from Maine emailed me about a rally that is taking place there. It seems, and this is another thing we have spoken about here many times, that the legislature in Maine are thinking about changing the slots deal.

Horsemen Needed in Augusta on Tuesday!

The legislature is considering reducing the share of revenues from the racino that go to harness racing to fix their budget shortfall. The monies include purse monies, funds for the breeders races, funds for the fairs, funds for the commercial tracks and funds for the OTBs.

On Tuesday, March 18th, from 9 am to 1 pm, legislators will be meeting in Augusta as part of Agriculture Day. The event is at the Capitol Building on the Second and Third Floor.

We are urging you to come to Augusta and locate your State representatives to tell them harness racing is important to your livelihood and future!

Tell them we're fighting to keep the dedicated revenues for harness racing in harness racing!!!

Tell them the formula is working, purses are up, and harness racing is beginning to make a comeback!

Tell them we are working together to get it fixed, don't break it!!


I wish Susan good luck. I like her and I hope she and everyone succeeds.

Another reader, Doug, alerted me to a USTA opinion piece about a “takeout free race”.

The writer speaks about making one race a night takeout free, and making a fuss about it. Bells, whistles, the whole nine yards:

Here is a concept to assist our efforts at proving that horse racing is a good bet -- eliminate the dreaded takeout on pari-mutuel wagering for one race on each program. It is very important that which race will be takeout-free remains a mystery.

Follow me.

Racing patrons bet on race number one. All is normal. The race is run and the tote board flashes the payouts for the race. This scenario has happened for as long as pari-mutuel wagering has existed; the winners smile and the losers complain and blame their losing wager on everything from solar warming to illegal drugs to cheating personnel to the exchange ratio in China.

Here is the twist. Once each night, just prior to the tote board flashing the expected payoff, a loud siren will sound, lights will flash and the payoff will be recalculated. The siren and the flashing signify that this is the race where 100 percent of the wagered money will return to the winners. The payoff for the winners on this race will be much more than anticipated.

If the siren does not sound, the losers will be happy (well, a little happy) because they were, after all, losers. Since the siren did not sound, it is still available to go off when they are holding a winning ticket later in the program. Either way, siren or no siren, winners and losers have something to be happy about.

At this point it is possible that several gamblers are perking up. However, racetrack operators and state coffers are asking how this can help them. The answer is increased interest, which equals increased revenue.

You see, each time the siren does not sound, the odds of a future takeout-free race increase. If the siren has not been sounded by the seventh or eighth race, all the gamblers, whales and minnows, will start to realize they stand a good chance of having a very nice payoff if they can pick the winning race on this card that will be take-out free. By the ninth or tenth race without the siren, serious gamblers would be frantic to get a bet down. The last few races before the siren should be bet extremely heavily, enough to cover the lost takeout money on the single takeout-free race. This escalating tension is important in all forms of entertainment and sports.


This is interesting for one reason to me: That is, it puts rake and the reduction of it on the radar. It makes people cognizant of it, and makes them realize that the lotteries and everything else with 50% or more takeouts are not in their best interest. It is a promotional idea worth looking at, and I enjoyed the piece.

That’s it for this Monday.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I thought of you as soon as I read the piece on the USTA site. I's like he was reading this blog. I kinda liked the idea. But I'd rather another. What about a floating take? The more wagered on a given pool. The lower the takeout on that pool. Maybe?

Cangamble said...

Having gimmick low takeout events or specific types of bets may draw some attention to a specific track or race, but it is not the solution when it comes to getting new people to bet on racing.
It will attract established bettors perhaps, but that is it.
Most gamblers are not aware of track takeout, they don't complain about it.
But the constant losing, the impossibility of beating the game (without a rebate) even in a 2 week span, gives a sour taste in the mouth of the gambler, preventing any buzz to get new people interested.
When you think about the audacity of racetracks charging an average of over 20% per bet on a game that depends on churning, it just makes one shake his or her head as to why anyone with an ounce of intelligence would play.