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Showing posts from April, 2008

Wagering Conference - Ideas & Thoughts

Well, the conference has come and gone. Tonight there is a dinner and night of racing at Montreal (which I still call Blue Bonnets); and that is all for the two and a half day event.

I learned a great deal, and came away with more knowledge. The big bettors on the panel spoke about knowledge to bettors being power. Knowledge to customers about the business is also a good thing, on the flip side.

A few things I took away from the experience:

Bettors are certainly not the enemy if they play other games; or if they have switched betting to other lower cost avenues. Their behaviour and candor were welcomed as far as I saw. Most what stood out to me: every bettor that spoke wants to play the game. They want to play right into a Grand River pool on a Tuesday. They want the game to grow. They want it to succeed. They want to own more race horses. If the audience expected bitterness, or yelling, or name-calling from customers, they came to the wrong place. I think for the first time racing saw f…


It seems the Harness Edge is up and running with some notes about each session of the conference. For those interested, here are a the links to the sessions so far:

Kickoff/The Ship is Sinking

Betting in Convenience Stores

Takeout Discourages Bettors

Edit: Standardbred Canada is now on board with some of the highlights. Well, reading the synopsis on my session I guess I was a big meanie, but oh well. We'll pop the rest up soon.

Turning the Ship

Betting in Convenience Stores is here. I only caught the last half of this, but it was a good discussion. I liked what Dave Bryans and Bassem had to say, but I did not hear enough from the others as I was doing a bit of work and missed most of what they said.

Last one up, was the Takeout discussion with notes and responses from two pros, Jamie and Roy. I know Jamie from university, it was nice to meet Roy. I choose to not sit at a poker table with either of them, however.

Wagering Conference - Day One

Hi everyone, I am back for a bit of real work (i.e. one that pays me so I can bet:)) and just decided to whip up a quick post.

I had a nice meet and breakfast. Jamie and I sat with Mike Hamilton and Greg Blanchard from Woodbine, whom I had met before. It is always nice to chat with those fellas as they love racing - all forms - and it shows.

The morning session that I was on was well attended and there were (what I thought) some good exchanges about how far we have fallen. I hope Jamie Martin is paid a decent salary from Woodbine, as he took the brunt of the criticism, but handled it quite well. I do not know this for sure, but Jamie to me seems to be a gentleman that recognizes the need for some sort of change. The gentleman from the BC Standardbred Association was first class. I enjoyed speaking with him, and he too shows he has a love of the game. There are certainly some fine people in this sport.

Everyone will no doubt hear more when Roy and Jamie are on the betting panel on takeo…

Sunday Notes

Well, as most know, I am off to the wagering conference in Montreal. When fans and bettors hear "conference and racing" in the same sentence, more than likely their first reaction is "so what". I understand that. But this time there will be some differences.

I hope that from the bettor end we can get across a few concepts. And there are some big bettors on panels to hopeful convey much of them in a convincing way.

-Offshores are not the problem, we are the problem

-We are asking to turn the ship of wagering. How can we without a captain?

-Prices are too high in racing.

-Racing does not work hard enough to keep and ask for our money

-We have no long term customer and bettor-centric business plan

-Pool sizes are too low for many people to play into. Betfair would be dead if there were twenty people playing, too

I would hope we can get some answers to these questions and more. At least perhaps we can change the mindset a little bit, that something has to be done to compete, a…

Friday: Road to the North America Cup

Each Friday I have enlisted the help of the Harness Edge's (and's) Greg to help us with the Road to the Cup. Greg is a huge fan and follows the sport as close as anyone I know.

Andrew Cohen on his blog recently mentioned he loved seeing updates on Cup horses and who is making noise, who looks like a contender, a pretender and champ. I do too. As I have mentioned before, everyone knows the Florida Derby, the Wood, the Blue Grass. They are watched, analyzed and talked about. We need this in harness racing. The Cup website put out by Woodbine is good, and there are other resources out there. But we simply do not push this concept. On this website, through people like Greg, myself and all other fans I would like to do this for all major stakes. We will have a Road to the Meadowlands Pace, the Hambo, the Jug. I think it's fun.

Anyway, each Friday we will enlist Greg to give us an update on horses, preps and whatever else we can find.

The "big horse" So…


Churchill Downs is suing a horseman's group; the one who is causing them problems at Calder, and the one who is stopping the Lone Star signal from being shown to customers.

Churchill Downs Inc. filed a lawsuit April 24 asking a federal court to dissolve the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Group.

In a suit filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, CDI, CDI-owned Calder Race Course, and Churchill Downs Technology Initiatives Co. also are seeking an injunction to prevent the THG and the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association from “agreeing on uniform terms for the sale of signals, boycotting racetracks and ADW operators that do not comply with their demands.”

I've never owned or ran a McDonald's, but I think it goes something like this: Buy meat off farmer, make meat into hamburger, sell hamburger to customer.

In racing we seem to do some sort of strange Xfiles or 12 Monkey's twist on this simple way of doing business. Is it to much to ask a…

Swift Justice, Dave Palone, 1:50 & a Tough Game

It's big news. In 2006, and then I think while under appeal again in early 2007 trainer Mickey Burke had two lidocaine positives.

From has received confirmation from the New Jersey Racing Commission that trainer Mickey Burke will have an administrative hearing before the office of adminstrative law May 5, 6 and 14 regarding two lidocaine positives at the Meadowlands in late 2006.

Burke was voted the 2006 Glen Garnsey Trainer of the Year by the U.S. Harness Writers Association. Last year Burke's stable set all-time highs with 673 victories and $10.7 million in purse earnings. Burke's barn was also the busiest with 2,774 starters.

If he is loses his case, does that mean he has to give the $10.7 million back?

In other news, NBC is reporting a man landed on the moon, the Charles Manson case starts next week and a school bus driver who got caught for drunk driving was finally fired after two years of appeals. Your kids are safe now.

Dave Palone is…

Blog Rollin'

Harness racing a grassroots sport. Just like fans have embraced the Little Brown Jug in a small town in Ohio, the Gold Cup and Saucer in Eastern Canada, or the North America Cup in rural Campbellville, it is no surprise that we have seemed to embrace blogging and chatting via the Internet.

We already mentioned that Harnesslink has started a very fine blog over at They do a great job, and have some good participants.

Over at, commenter and industry watcher Andrew Cohen has started his own. This is good. Andrew speaks in common sense terms and has many ideas that bettors and fans have been echoing for years. The good thing is: He is well read by the industry and has some pull. We have been saying that the game massively needs direction and a leader with a budget; uniform rules, uniform drug rules, state by state uniformity in Internet betting; stakes race scheduling, slot slush funds..... on and on what a commissioner can do if given the power. I wo…

Wow. It's About All You Can Say

Gamblers were completely puzzled (and more) when Woodbine Entertainment raised their Pick 4 rakes a few years ago, right in the face of a declining customer base.

In 2008, with tracks hearing more and more from players annoyed with high rakes, and being treated poorly this news is just in. Hold on to your hat, Calder Race Course has raised takeouts.

The big news to specialty gamblers Monday was that Calder raised its takeout percentage on a few wagering options. The track will now take 27 percent out of Pick 3, 4 and 5 wagering (up 3 percentage points) and 21 percent from the Daily Double and Exacta bets (up 1 percentage point).

Folks, this is absolutely unbelievable.

Some reaction from gamblers, courtesy of Pace Advantage:

Seriously, are the people who run Calder (Churchill Downs) insane ?

Goodbye Calder! Goodbye Turf Paradise!

Hello Keeneland! Hello Hawthorne!

Boycott Calder
Yesterday's first race pools:
First @ Philly 38K wps pool.
First @ Calder 7K wps pool.
Let the low pools at Calder …

Quick Notes on a Monday

I hope everyone had a good weekend. The weather (in the east) is absolutely beautiful. This time of year is always one that I like. As a racing fan, the stakes are right around the corner, and soon, summer schoolers for 2yo's.

In this vein I got to reading Woodbine's shiny domed on-air 'capper Mike Hamilton's blog. It is a blog dedicated to an ownership group (two actually), that he mentors. Their first purchase, Justa Minx broke her maiden nicely last week. Mike has some great pictures up, and stories about the win.

This is harness racing. A whole bunch of people can get involved at a low cost, and go watch their horse go. I bet not one of the folks involved is worried about making money. I and many others are the same way. If you can break about even, the value you get from watching your horse go is worth its weight in gold. The stories Mike has up on the blog are testament to that. I love the bit about how a bunch of owners brought her carrots after the first win. Th…

Wagering Conference and Sunday Notes

First up, I was scanning the wagering conference schedule and it looks pretty good. The organizers have seemingly set it up so that there are horseplayers on each topic. This is a good thing. The underlying theme of many conferences (I attend them for marketing a couple times a year) is one of dictation. Usually people are there to tell us something as a customer. This time it seems customers will be able to speak up and be heard.

The moderators we all know, or have heard of. People like Mike Hamilton and Greg Blanchard who handle much of the on-air duties at Woodbine. I have met both and they certainly love the game. Good choices.

Two professional bettors, of poker, racing and other forms of gambling are featured in a few of the sessions. Great stuff. I think (as Dan from Florida said below in a comment) that this game, if priced right can attract more and more professionals. This is not a bad thing. The pools grow, and just because you are a professional does not mean you win all the …


First off, let me thank everyone who commented, and ask if you have not and want to, please do below.

The response has been much more than I anticipated and several things have struck me:

- The Harnessedge, Standardbred Canada and all placed the story up on their websites. There are obviously people there frustrated that the status-quo has taken over our game. I guess if they see a group of people concerned that the game has fallen so far, and not grown as it should, and offering somewhat of a proposal, it gives them reason to promote that. I thank them all for running it. We have had traffic and responses from their links.

- The fans who commented, who might not bet an arm and a leg, but who want to see the game get better. The horsemen who commented, who we all know are busy people.

- The bigger bettors. They commented too. I would be shocked if in aggregate, we had less than $30M in yearly handle represented in the comments so far. Ian Meyers who runs Premier Turf Club …

Player Motion: Give the Tax Back

In 1996, most know that the pari-mutuel tax on wagering was reduced from 7.5% to 0.5% as part of the slots at racetracks program. The industry took this mostly for themselves.

From the ORC directive:


Under an incentive to provide much needed impetus to the industry, the Ontario Government reduces the provincial pari-mutuel tax on wagering from 7.5% to .5% with the balance to be returned to industry to be used as agreed to in the signed Memorandum of Understanding between the government, the ORC and the newly formed Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association (OHRIA).

With the wagering conference coming up this month, I think it is time to have voices heard to right this wrong, and grow Ontario racing.

I propose this:

This tax going back into the industry must be repealed and a mechanism must be put in place where it is returned in an immediate 7% takeout reduction for all tracks in Ontario.

When we listen to Woodbine or other track and horseman execs they often complain that Pinnacle …

Delivery Mechanisms in the 2000's

From the horseplayer “we knew it” file: The Oregon hub that handles wagering for bigger internet players had wagering grow by 17.4% in 2007. None of our readers here, who are customers and gamblers are surprised, yet I bet racing is. Overall handles declined in 2007, but money did shift to places like Premier Turf Club and others.

A record total of $1,573,680,475 was processed through Oregon hubs in 2007, up from $1,340,375,866 recorded in 2006. Oregon launched its hub platform in 2000, when it processed a seemingly-paltry $19,779,763 in handle.

Handle from eight advance deposit wagering entities licensed in the state during the fourth quarter of 2007 totaled $341,144,875, up 12.5% compared with $303,287,343 during the fourth quarter of 2006, when seven ADWs operated in the state.

This IS the growth segment for racing. This is a part of the future. Yet, many of these companies who want to offer and resell racing get roadblocks put up in front of them at seemingly every turn. Why do we …

A Canadian Harness Exchange?

Question for Tuesday.

It's Tuesday night. Grand River Raceway is on. It is not a bad place to bet, but pool size is an issue for people wanting to bet more than $20. Lo and behold a Canadian Harness Betting Exchange is available. One track per night is featured. They have set it up like Betfair did, where market makers with real dollars are getting a deal to set markets, and provide liquidity. There is volume and there is action.

The website hosting it links to free video and free programs. There is a chat feature. Handicappers are there, and playing. The rakes are microscopic. The place wants to grow, so prices are fan-friendly. Dummies did not set this up, like some businesses that think if you build it they will come. They have set the table for it to be an active place to be.

Would you join up, pop a few bucks in and play?

Simple question, really. Does it interest you more than playing in small pools at the track? You currently do not play Grand River, would this entice you to wa…

Monday Notes

Some news, notes and other stuff on a late Monday.

It seems Deweycheatumnhowe, the big horse from the Schnittker stable is on form to return on time. Amazingly, a 154 training tune-up before qualifying met Riggins, the big son of Art Major. He was a bit of an enigma last year. He looked great, poor, great, poor. I really do not know what to make of him. He is a beautiful horse, though. Here's the update from Ray.

Pennsylvania breeders make some good coin from slots. Good for them. But I must say it makes me wonder. Why are horseplayers still paying 30%+ rakes at Penn National with all this money from slots?

Roberthebruce and Anderlecht, two North America Cup hopefuls qualified today. Robert is a speedy son of Real Desire. He seems a little bit high strung, as witnessed in a couple starts last year, but he is very fast. Anderlecht is doing well, touch wood, and qualified nicely. He looks to make his debut next week.

John Pricci comments on Lone Star Park's new low rake Pick 5. The …

Handicapping Sunday: The Tools

I was struck recently on how many tools are out there for us as horseplayers. The thoroughbred game trumps harness big-time, but really we do have a few up our sleeve. As racing opens itself up, and begins to stroll into the 2000's, the tracks themselves have offered out some decent things, and the resellers have trumped them (no suprise there).

Betfair bought timeform, the UK speed ratings folks and offer that right out for free on their site. They know we need information to bet. They also offer out a partnership with thorograph for their players. This is especially nice for serious bettors.

Race replays at places like HPI and Twinspires are good, and needed. For harness racing, because many horses take a week off and go to the back, or get in traffic trouble, I use this quite often.

Places like Simubet offer out harness speed ratings. Bob Pandolfo has his own software he markets called the Diamond System.

Trackit is a database service offered by Standardbred Canada. Mike Hamilton o…

Open Your Market and Grow

The Aussie’s seem to get it. At least Tasmania does.

In our post below we mentioned the High Court in Australia voted that shutting out places like Betfair was unconstitutional. They were finally allowed to compete. The reaction was expected and the arguments were promoted with vigor: You can bet a horse to lose, it will crush racing, and more of the same. The one argument I found quite funny was “they are now allowed to advertise racing all over Australia”. Say what? I loved that one. Racing is upset that a reseller can advertise their product. Hmmm, can you say backwards business? If you were making lemonade and a kid on the street selling it bought TV commercials, at no cost to you to advertise your product I bet you would be jumping for joy. Not in racing.

Now I see that here across the pond, Stan Bergstein weighed in with his thoughts. I normally agree with Stan; but this time I certainly do not. Give his column a read if you are interested, he has many of the same arguments we he…

Friday Notes; Getting Caught Up

Well, I finally got some time to do some reading, and getting caught up on things that are happening in racing. The Guest Post Friday will come back next week.

First up, Cangamble has been typing away while I was gone. On Sunday he wrote an interesting post comparing Woodbine’s payouts for hosting Keeneland’s signal, as well as some other thoughts. With common pooling we expect common payouts. This as a horseplayer is NON-negotiable. I don’t care whose finger is in what pie, what horseman group wants what out of what pool: If you advertise common-pooling you common pool. How difficult is this? The first rule of marketing in business is never over-promise and under-deliver. Not paying out common pool payouts while they are being advertised to customers is simply unacceptable. Horseplayers have been nickled and dimed, hoodwinked and taken advantage of like this for far too long. It must stop.

From Cangamble’s post:

Lets just look at the results from Race 1 at Keeneland yesterday and compar…

Time To Catch Up

It seems like there is quite of bit of stuff that is going on out there that I have missed. I’m going to have to catch up soon enough. Oh, I guess I better catch up on work first!

The trip was a fun one. I don’t normally take vacations; unless they involve horse racing. This time I had to get some in. The Keeneland leg which I spoke about below was fun. Lexington is an awesome city. I popped by the Red Mile to have a look. It would be a wonderful venue for our World Harness Championships. Kentucky gets fired up about racing, and the city/state governments support many events. The World Equestrian Games are being advertised and so is the Ryder Cup. They know how to, and seem to embrace events.

As for Keeneland, they know how to run an event, too. Post time was 1:10PM the day I went, and I figured leaving by 12:30 would be fine. That was wrong. The line up of cars was about a mile long to get in. I should have known this was going to be busy. I stopped at a drug store on the way there, a…

A Lesson in Respect

Leg two of my April jaunt was for a practice round at the Masters, in Augusta Georgia. It is legendary hallowed ground to any golfer, or any golf fan. The Tournament, which was started in the early 1930’s was spearheaded by Augusta native Bobby Jones. When watching old clips, or reading of Mr. Jones, I was always struck by his respect for the game, his sportsmanship and his love of golf.

Walking into Augusta you receive a map, and on that map is a note from Mr. Jones. The message is clear: The game of golf is bigger than all of us, and we must respect it. When you walk in as a patron you respect the grounds and the players. You cheer good shots, but never cheer bad, regardless of where your allegiances lie. As a player, you call penalties on yourself and never, ever think of breaking the rules of this great game.

This is a lesson that is seemingly followed by every golfer, or fan, without fail. It is barely even news when a golfer disqualifies himself from a tournament for an obsure…

It's Pretty Darn Amazing.........

.... what racing can be when done up right. I wrote below my thoughts on Keeneland, as a person who had never been there - just as an observer of racing. Planning a visit this week I expected to be disappointed. However, this was not the case.

This place is amazing. And exactly how racing should be run, and should be everywhere.

I will hopefully jot down some thoughts, and some stories later but a few snippets that you may or may not be interested in.

First up, the tailgate. The lineup was so long to get in, parking was in the boondocks. Cool to see 22 year old college kids drinking in parking lots to go to racing, if you ask me.

Further, the crowds were huge. No getting around it, it was like a football game. line-ups everywhere, you can reach out and touch the horses, and I am not sure if I have been to a nicer setting for the runners. Do not for a moment think that you will hear the announcer on the tarmac - impossible. It is way, way too loud out there when the horses come down the st…

Friday Notes

Just a couple quick things.

First I notice some comments on the harnesslink feature regarding betfair being offered in Western Australia. It's nice to read some comments from people who are playing. Give the comments a full read if you are interested, but one line caught my eye especially.

Betting on harness racing has been in decline for many years… something drastic is needed to revive public interest. I started my betting on the trots many moons ago, now I don’t touch it unless I can do it via Betfair

I think there are a whole lot of people out there doing the same thing. Exchanges are a way to get them back.

Thanks to equidaily for this: University of Kentucky students offer a betting seminar before heading to Keeneland. Gotta love it. I am sure some beer will be drank, some bets will be made, and a good time will be had. That's racing, old time racing.

I should be at Keeneland for Saturday's card. I'll see if I can get some good pictures and post em up.

Good luck at th…

The Cup and the Hammer(s)

The hammer came down in Jersey today, for shadow training. Allegedly, a trainer who was suspended, used another trainer to train his horses. Commonly known as shadow training, I sincerely think it is the first time that I have seen it be a chargeable offence.

Bernard Grignola has been suspended by the New Jersey Racing Commission for two and a half years and fined $7,500 for fraudulent acts against racing.

The penalty came after Grignola was found to have been acting as a front for suspended Freehold Raceway trainer Robert Greenwood who had been found in possession of needles, syringes and injectable drugs.

That is sizeable is it not? This is from the same jurisdiction where Eric Ledford was quickly reinstated. I wonder if this one will stick?

Secondly, the hammer is down in California, too. Man oh man, are they getting tough on rule-breakers. Bettors everywhere like this story:

The penalty guidelines call for stewards, hearing officers, or administrative law judges to issue a minimum on…

Cake, Aussie Reaction, April and Fools

April Fools Day has come and gone. I always forget the date, for some reason, so every year it seems to pass me by. This year I got hoodwinked twice. First, our friends at sent a note about owner of everythingJoe Muscara. I read the whole thing, thinking, poor fella almost got his scalp shot off. Boy am I gullible.

Then, right on cue Cangamble writes a new blog post telling us about Woodbine dropping takeout to 10%. What a fish I am. I did catch that one quicker though. I mean really, Woodbine dropping rake? C’mon. Give it a read as I found it quite comical. Gosh, our pal Cangamble likes Woodbine about as much as I like eating broken glass.

There is a new racing blog out there entitled “Cake or Death – Thoroughbred Horse Racing & Handicapping Erotica”. What the hell? I shuddered to think I might click on it to find a picture of Andy Beyer in the buff, eating a twinkie. Thank god I didn’t. It is actually a fella who is working a system to make his own power rating, an…

Betfair Wins in the HIgh Court

In a landmark decision today in Australia the doors might have flung open, as racings restrictive monopoly slowly loses its grip with 21st century punters; and the courts.

The High Court ruled that WA Racing's decision to make betting with Betfair illegal was a restriction of trade.

This can mean many things, but to punters it opens up a new avenue for them to bet, and it also allows betfair to be licensed by racing authorities. This is not the first time we have heard this from our friends downunder. A couple of years ago, betfair was licensed by Tasmania to offer racing. So far it has received rave reviews, as they have contributed to the sport, have offered bookmakers alternatives in laying off action, and most of all, have offered the bettor lower prices and a better chance to win.

What you will hear about this from now on is easy to predict. You will hear the same thing that was said during the fight to get it licensed in Tasmania. We all know that racing, or in reality all mono…