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Showing posts from March, 2008

Weekend Happenings

Busy weekend out there! The weather is getting warmer; and so is the racing. Here are a few notes and random thoughts.

First up, Paul MacDonnell rolled out to Truro, Nova Scotia and trained Somebeachsomewhere in 2:05. He reports that the horse looks good, seems sound, and is ready to get things rolling. I am very, very excited to see him. We should be able to tell pretty quickly if his year will be one for the ages.

In thoroughbred action, how about Curlin? Not only does he win the world’s richest race, he absolutely cruises. The next time we hear an owner speak about retiring a horse early, we should all send them to this youtube video. I love watching great horses, I don’t care if they are standardbreds or thoroughbreds.

Big Brown is another we spoke about below. I loved his poise and attitude in shrugging off challengers in the Florida Derby like they were 10 claimers. Is he another Derby horse? He sure looks like it.

In other news, the Standardbred Wagering Conference is scheduled fo…

Slots Without a Plan

It's Saturday, just watching the UAE Derby this morning. The World's best thoroughbreds, Americans, Europeans, Mid East owners, the world's top jocks. All in one place for one day. Boy what harness racing could have done by using slots funding for something big, just like our old post on the Breeders Crown.

Speaking of that, well, Kentucky lost the political battle to get slots.

The demise of casino legislation comes six weeks after Beshear unveiled a complex plan for a dozen casinos, seven at racetracks and five free-standing ones, that he said could bring in $600 million a year for the state.

House leaders quickly chopped the proposal down to nine casinos, but were never able to agree whether racetracks should be guaranteed five casino licenses or simply given the opportunity to compete for five licenses.

As we spoke about in the Breeders Crown 2010 post above, the world is changing, and it is ALL politics. We blew growing the game with slots, and everyone noticed it. Do we …

Guest Post Friday: HPI Website: It’s Busy!

I find it interesting when people change things up on the web. After all, it is perhaps the biggest change in business of our time, it is relatively new, and people are still learning. Some of the webpages and e-commerce sites out there look like they are designed by monkey’s. Others are flat out gold that we love to visit.

In Advance Deposit Wagering your website is your face, your storefront, your business. I love watching changes at Twinspires.com, the ever changing Premier Turf Club and others. I have always felt WEG lagged far behind these two ADW’s in terms of fan-friendliness and usability. I always have felt when I entered their website(s), that I should get a piece of cheese if I found what I was looking for.

Well, they changed the old clunker that was a website to a new one. Horseplayerinteractive is born.

I will go through it at a later time, but two users give their take on the site. Let’s see what they have to say.

User 1: The Information Seeker

When a website is changed or u…

We Need More Jess Jackson's

There is a great story at pressdemo.com about Jess Jackson, owner of Curlin. He is a bit of a maverick. Why? I know it sounds strange, but he is a maverick for racing Curlin, instead of breeding him.

Millions be damned, Jackson is racing Curlin as a 4-year-old in an effort to send the horse, worth an estimated $40 million, into a stratosphere with the all-time greats.

"I want to establish Curlin for what I think he is," Jackson said. "He's one of the horses of the century."

That’s a sportsman. That is what we all are deep-down I think. It is too bad that racing, and its fractured structure let’s the breeders, in large part, run our sport.

There's a simple reason most owners don't put their money where their mouth is. There's far too much money to lose.Gary West, a veteran horse-racing writer at the Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram, said the sport even encourages the early retirement of its stars, with its less lucrative payouts to older horses.

Horse rac…

Good News for the Horses

The Ontario Racing Commission approved a filing today from the Ontario Adoption Society whereby 0.15% of purses paid out in the province will be set-aside for retired standardbreds.

This is long overdue. More and more horses are being bred to take advantage of slot purses, yet there was no mechanism in place to take care of many who need a home when retired. It was to me, yet another oversight with slots funding, where greed seems to rule the roost. This small amount will not house all horses, nor even the majority, but for those owners who want their horses cared for, there will be at least an option.

Congrats to the Society in getting this funding and I hope at least a few good old war horses have a home for life.

Wednesday Wrap

Some Wednesday morning stuff that caught my eye.

WEG will support Earth Hour by turning off a bunch of lights on Saturday night to preserve the earth, or save electricity, or something like that.

"We encourage our fans and employees to consider how their actions effect the environment and challenge everyone to come up with ways of reducing the size of the ecological footprint they leave behind," added Holmes.

That's similar to the way I feel about my Takeout Free Hour. Here is my quote:

"I encourage WEG and tracks like them to consider how their actions affect the sport and challenge them to come up with ways of reducing prices so we can grow the sport they leave behind," added Pull the Pocket.

How would you like to be a guy, one guy, who can pull out a check for $415 million and buy a farm. That is simply beyond my comprehension.

In case you have not noticed, WEG has a new website for their ADW, Hpibets.com. We will have a few people reviewing it this week, who are…

Tuesday ......

Nick Kling from the Troy Record, adds his opine on having a judge in the booth to protect the horseplayers interest. We have spoken about that before and I could not agree more. In what business does the employee, or the government, or whomever, trump the customer?

Only racing, that’s where. An excerpt:

Members of the NHC Tour and the Handicappers Coalition would be the ideal constituent group to select a players’ steward. As this group develops it should become the closest thing we have to a horseplayers' guild in America.

Thoroughbred racing needs a steward who would care about protecting bettors. A horse
players’ steward could gather information about new geldings, significant equipment changes like bar shoes, blinkers, and aluminum pads. He or she should have the authority to recommend to the State Steward that penalties be applied to horsemen who fail to provide required betting information.

Make no mistake. This is not a change which is likely to happen soon. The creation of su…

Handicapping Sunday: Equipment

A poster in the comment section of the track bias post, posed a good question for us:

Thinking of this I would like to see a post on equipment changes and the effectiveness in predicting winners.

We see and hear about equipment changes all the time. “The horse was running out last time, so he changed the equipment and he should be better”. “The horse was not on the bit, so he went to blinkers”.

These are generally seen as positive developments by handicappers. They are considered many times to be green light bets. I believe that this is another in a long list of conventional thinking in handicapping that (in the big picture) is completely wrong.

First, the equipment change is made because the horse has a problem. Second, it is known by the general public because changes are announced. Third, half or perhaps even three quarters of the time, the switch does not fix the problem, because the problem was not the equipment in the first place.

In the end, if we choose to bet an equipment change…

Luc Gets Hot and so is Southwind Tempo

Well, just for my buddy Greg, who is pals with Luc, we have to place up a post on the 4 win night the star-sleeved driver had at Woodbine. Luc has not gotten four wins in a night probably since I picked my last successful triactor. It is something special.

Further in that vein, it was funny to read the masterful jousting between WEG regular Randy Waples and our pal Greg on Harnessdriver.com. It is nice to see a little fire once in awhile based on difference of opinion. If you want to sign up and have a read it is free and you can here.

Second, I am trying to judge Southwind Tempo. I watched her jog tonight in the Overbid Final and it was an effort that might be best described as a women against girls. She was stuck behind dead-cover yet still jogged. You can watch last night's tilt, here.

Anyway, where does she rank? Will she be a super-mare? I am not sure, but she sure looks the part. I for one think Rainbow Blue, Eternal Camnation and several others beat that group the way she did …

Premier Turf Club & Betfair = 21st Century Growth

In a bloodhorse story today, the announcement that Premier Turf Club has signed up to offer Keeneland races was official. Of particular interest was the growth of this little start-up, who offers conditional wagering (a stop-loss bet), dutching, rebates and an interface for the 21st century.

Premier Turf Club has added Keeneland content to its list of track offerings, building on a business model that has allowed the North Dakota-based advance deposit wagering entity to realize four-fold growth in handle in the last few months.

The Keeneland signal, which will begin with the start of the spring meet April 4, brings the total number of tracks Premier Turf Club offers to 101, including 38 Thoroughbred tracks. Premier Turf Club, which offers cash rewards to customers utilizing its Internet and call-center wagering platforms, has been fully operational for less than a year.

“This is a milestone for us, and it’s only the beginning,” said Premier Turf Club senior partner Joe Riddell, who is al…

Keeneland - How a Track Should Be Run

I noticed that the Keeneland Meet will be starting soon in the thoroughbreds. I enjoy the meet as a racing fan; they seem to do it up right there. So I decided to check out the website to see if they offered anything neat, peruse the web for some info on the meet and do some general due diligence.

What I found was surprising: They are what a racetrack should be.

First, check out the website. It is simple, navigable and nice to look at. Now click around. Here is what I found when I did:

1. Handicapping statistics, archived. Trainer stats, post position stats, trainer stats by horse age (important), ROI figures and more.

2. Free Video, yes free video. Some tracks lock their video up like it is Fort Knox, for some bizarre reason. Not Keeneland.

3. Race Replays, in a partnership with racereplays.com; and archived results.

I don't know about you guys, but if they consider the bettor a nuisance like some in racing seem to, they hide it pretty damn good.

Now, how about distribution of the sig…

Integrity & Integrity

A couple of Wednesday notes from the world of racing.

A story on Equidaily.com links to an opinion piece on the Bloodhorse written by US Representative Ed Whitfield. It is a piece on drugs in our game.

Congress first addressed drug use in the sport 27 years ago. U.S. Senator Mac Mathias and other leaders in Congress spearheaded efforts to enact legislation that would have banned a number of drugs from horse racing and established a clear, uniform rule to govern the sport in the United States.

State racing commissioners and industry leaders, however, quickly descended to thwart the senator’s efforts. They claimed federal intervention was unnecessary and pledged to crack down on the use of drugs.

Today, drug use in horse racing is worse than ever

As we have spoke about before on the blog - and this goes for many topics - if we do not fix our game, someone else will.

For nearly 30 years the industry has neglected to regulate drug use to the detriment of the horses, jockeys, fans, and the ver…

Tuesday

Tuesday is here. Dreary in the East, no doubt nice in the West. I think it is always nice in the west.

I went to the ponies last night, watched our horse go (gosh, the lil guy did good again!), and generally hung around. It seems like there were a few people out last night, maybe the weather has something to do with it. In race two at Woodbine I am not certain, but I think it might be true - in watching about 100,000 races over my lifetime, I have not seen a debut like last night.

And the horse was a 5YO maiden.

Richard Norman trains a New Zealand horse named Tempest Anvil. He is a son of North America Cup winner Presidential Ball. The pace was soft, and he closed from China. Back half of 54.1. What makes it more impressive is that this was not a bad field of nw2's. There were some good horses in the race, and they were all winners (you can not start a 5YO in a maiden race at Woodbine).

We have seen similar before with older horses making a debut, or downunder horses coming up and sco…

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, howeve…

Handicapping Sunday: Track Bias

“The front end looks bad tonight. They are closing. The front end is solid tonight. They are going wire to wire.”

I think we hear the same stuff said every day a race is held, at the same time. In handicapping we often look for things that are not there. I think this is natural. With high rakes and being a tough game to beat, we are programmed to think of the mysterious – we need reasons to explain the game (and losing) to keep us sane.

In thoroughbred racing, with poly surfaces, wet turf, and sandy dirt tracks, weather and track grooming can make a difference. Wind can make a difference. Track drainage can too. All you have to do is look at the “At a Glance” page at Bris to see what statistics different tracks yield. Charles Town Race Course one month might have 60% wire to wire winners in sprints less than 6f, while Turfway Park the same month, with the same weather might have 10% wire to wire winners. In thoroughbred racing, bias is alive and well, and a huge part of the handicapping…

A Few Friday Notes

First off, no guest post Friday. I forgot to ask. And no one emailed. So, here is something I would like to know. I would like it if someone who plays thoroughbreds and harness, or has left harness to play the thoroughbreds alone wants to let us know a few things. Namely, why they stopped playing harness and went to the runners, what is stopping them from playing harness and so on. Perhaps we can run it on successive weeks. Brock, Phil, Cangamble, anyone? I think it would be neat. Contact me at the email address under my profile if you want to.

Secondly, yesterday’s piece below I was more than a little harsh I know. The NJ horse folks are simply looking for a piece of the pie, of course. However, two things caught my eye today which makes me think my post was not too tough – it was reality.

Andrew Cohen in his Wire to Wire column today said pretty much the same thing: That was have to get off our asses and fix racing by fixing racing, not looking for handouts.

An excerpt:

The Associated P…

Will We Ever Fight for the Sport Again?

The Examiner story is out "Horseman Not Impressed with Subsidy"

Give it a read if interested.

Upper Freehold's Dr. David Meirs, the owner ofWalnridge Farm, a standardbred breeding facility, said $90 million is not an "impact amount" and not enough to do much good.

"If you're drowning and a little twoby four comes along, you're damn glad to see it," he said. "It keeps us from sinking completely. It leaves us treading water."

Blaso said racinos are the answer to the state's horseracing and debt situations.

"Without having to raise taxes, or eliminate entire departments like the Department of Agriculture, [racinos] would have been a steady flow of cash," he said

He said that by the time New Jerseybred foals mature and are ready to race, the supplement would be depleted.

"It would be back to the beggingAtlantic City for funding stage again," he said.

Boy, reading that article makes me think it's like we are standing…

A Couple of Neat Stories

A few neat things happening out there today, that I found interesting.

First up, Dave Palone won.... nine races. Nine! In one day, at one track. I don't think I have won nine of anything in my whole life. I see that he is one behind Anthony Morgan for the North American win lead. He is on pace for over 1000 wins in only 2800 drives. He is winning at 36%. I can not believe one guy could possibly be so dominant.

Equidaily.com links us to neat Beyer story at the Washington Post about his trip to South America. Do you think our rakes our bad? Theirs are worse. They can't seem to figure out why bettors are not flocking to the action. Is the Racing Commissioner Homer Simpson?

I loved this story. I am a sentimental fool. At Bay Meadows racetrack last weekend a horse named Autism Awareness stunned the crowd to win a Derby prep. He was 62-1, he cost $1000 as a yearling, and he is named for the owners son who suffers from autism.

This is what makes Thoroughbred racing such a great sport. …

It's Jerry Silva's World......

...... and we just live in it.

Further to the note below I made regarding a possible sale of Somebeachsomewhere; it appears it is a reality.

Not to worry, the number isn't big - it is only pro-rated at 8 million. That's all.

The buyer, who else? Jerry Silva. I think Jerry wants to own every world champion known to man. Good for him frankly. If you have the money, and you enjoy the game, go to it!

The thing that sticks out to me about the story is it is here, at the Truro Daily News. Truro is a smaller town in central Nova Scotia. The owners of Somebeach are not Sheik Sheikadam, or some shipping magnate, or some weight loss guru. They are normal guys who bought a Mach Three colt at a sale. Now he is the highest priced horse in harness racing history. It is what sets us apart from our blue-blood cousins.

[PTP Note: Words from Jerry himself, just out at 2:30PM today]

[PTP Edit 2: For those that have not seen this horses career racelines, they are here. Beware that this link may be dead…

It's Tuesday

A few notes on this Tuesday.

I watched the New Orleans Handicap on Saturday. The aspiring horseplayer blog placed a link to the youtube video (careful the audio is poor, so turn down your speakers!). It was a thrilling stretch duel between Circular Quay and Grasshopper. Some people say that racing is not exciting, maybe not as exciting as watching yourself get three bells or cherries on a slot machine. Watch that stretch drive. Frankly, those people are nuts.

Rumours are flying that World Champion, and our favourite in our Top Ten to the North America Cup, Somebeachsomewhere has been sold. Well, a portion of him has been sold. There are numbers being thrown about that are staggering. But then again, he is a staggering colt. We'll keep our eye out for news and pass it along.

I read the Trot piece on Keith Waples. For those who might be casual fans, Keith is a harness trainer and driver from yesteryear. And a class act. One thing he said struck me. He said today what he sees is that c…

Interesting Discussions

I am not sure if you noticed, but there are some interesting discussions out there in harness land.

On this blog, Carol asked some good questions and gave some good opinion on the ‘Stagecoach’ and ‘What Tracks do’ columns below. Carol is a lover of the sport, has worked in it for so long, and understands her bailiwick is not betting. It is purely excusable. My bailiwick is not writing. We all have our experience in some areas of the game. At least she was honest. She took time out to listen to others.

On Cangamble’s blog, I see he was confronted by what he thinks was a racing exec. Who knows who it was, but I must say, he sure sounded like he might have been one. This to me is disconcerting. There was very little listening to a customer.

We all have our expertise in racing. Some bet, some train, some own. Some just come out for face painting for their kids. We are all a part of it. We are all different. What I don’t like is that people who don’t know a certain part of the game, sometime…

Racing Needs to Stop Building Stagecoaches

In the current blog vein of chatting about the recent article discussed below, where racing is asking government to shut down off shore wagering, I came across a story at a probability site. The whole article is good, as it details betting exchange economics, but one slice of it I found really interesting. It seems (seemed, as they did not do this. This article was written several years ago) that the government in the UK was thinking of taxing the betting exchanges at a higher rate, at the behest of the bookmakers. Of course this was not a good policy; and the writer wrote a nice parallel to show what happens to people when they stifle innovation. Have a read:




Horseless carriages (cars) were a neat invention. However despite the revolution that was going on they did not meet with universal approval. Horseless carriages were cumbersome contraptions and had been powered by steam engines as far back as the late 18th Century. They met great resistance based upon two key issues.

• Stagecoac…

Guest Post Friday: The North America Cup

It's Friday. I started my NA Cup Top Ten at the side of the blog - horses who I think are the favourites for the $1.5M showpiece at Mohawk in June. Greg Reinhart, who follows the sport closely, usually has some thoughts when we discuss these issues. So I asked him who he thought was looking good for the big race. He supplied us with some!

Thanks Greg.

Sustaining payments have to go out again on March 15th. But I would think that all these horses will be making that payment.

This year has the potential to be one of the greatest years for 3YO colt pacers in recent memory. I hope these horses come back good, and we get to see some great racing.

I was once again recruited this week to offer up some early thoughts on the three-year old pacing crop for 2008. I am on the record as stating this group has the potential to be the best since 2002, when names like Art Major, McArdle, Red River Hanover, Million Dollar Cam, Allamerican Ingot, and Royal Mattjesty were three-year olds.

I’ll offer u…

What Racing Does to Bettors

I am amazed at the action on the site today regarding McLeod and Jane Holmes' comments about online gambling. It is a hot story, especially to people who live this every day by betting, and frankly, think they are both way off base.

I got to thinking, how can we explain in terms racing understands, what racing-pricing puts us through, and why customers are heading to the door. Since both are smart people, and Mr. McLeod certainly understands the stock market, I thought I would try that.

So here goes.

Joe Trader decides he wants to play the stock market. He puts $1000 in his stocktrade account. He begins to play.

He buys 500 shares of ACME at $1 a share. He sells it later that day for $1.20 a share. Nice day, huh? He made 20% on his stock trade. I bet he likes stock trading.

So, he bought 500 shares at $1 a share for $500 and he sold his 500 shares for $1.20 and he realized $600. Profit is $100.

But hold on. To make the trade he is charged a takeout of 25%, just like a triactor.

Now he …

Hand Wringing versus Opportunity

A story from the National Post and linked to by websites like the Harness Edge and Standardbred Canada tells the tale of the Great Canadian Gaming CEO lamenting about a native online casino, located in Quebec.

"These offshore operations just poach horse-racing and no one can do anything about it. They're parasites on the butt of Canada," said Ross McLeod, chief executive of Great Canadian Gaming, which owns four tracks in Canada.

The track owners have also suggested that governments force Internet service providers to block the sites from Canadian bandwidth. "I expect the government to do the right thing and protect our country's interests," Mr. McLeod said.

Do these places offer bets on tracks and don’t pay to purses? Sure they do. But once again, we completely miss the boat on this issue by yelling and screaming and not looking deeper, or dare I say outside the monopoly. One person who has his barrel set in the right direction is Michael Lipton, a lawyer fro…

Tuesday Amusement

Some things that either caught my eye, or amused me in some way today.

At Turfway Park, an executive there is charged with embezzling $70,000 and spending it at a casino. Too bad Ohio doesn't have slots or at least he could have spent it at Turfway.

What's with this sponging nonsense? Another horse was found to have been sponged at Gulfstream Park. In the old days it was heroin, so I guess this is better. But not much.

New Jersey got their subsidy increased. Don't worry folks, one day we will actually try to grow racing instead of subsidize it.

Speaking of that the Standardbred Canada Poll about using a percentage of purse money for marketing, it is still shameful. I had hoped a whole bunch of smart people woke up this morning and voted properly. I guess the no voters are hoping for marketing to be subsidized by someone. It is sad to see such a hard-working industry polluted by some with a welfare mindset.

Interesting discussion about how to improve the sport over at Paceadvant…

It's a Girl, Young Trainers and Blog Readers

I am very happy to report that my pal who lost a foal that I wrote about on the blog earlier reported to me that at 6:30PM tonight, luck shone. It's a nice filly and mom and daughter are healthy. I will have some particulars in a later post. It's spring, eventhough it does not feel like spring outside!

Tonight on Race Night on the Score (for non-Canadian readers that is the channel that shows Woodbine Harness Racing once a week) one of our trainers, Nick Boyd, who we have spoken about before was featured in a piece. You can view it on Youtube here. I thought it was a good interview. It showed that Nick really loves the game, and wants to succeed at it. If anyone wants to contact Nick for training purposes, please email me and I will pass it along to him. I can not recommend him more highly. He is 100% professional in terms of owner interaction and updates, his bills are on time and without any question and he gives his all. Most of all he will treat your horse with respect.

I…