Friday, August 29, 2008

Metro, Breeders Crown. And More.

Nice to have some people who can spell better than I, and are probably better at writing too.

Busy day here, so it is Guest Post Friday. Thanks to Greg R, frequent contributor.

If you are not a fan this weekend, you ain't a fan of racing.

This may be the biggest weekend of the year to date as we have the huge night at Mohawk on Saturday in addition to the World Trotting Derby at Du Quoin , Illinois , and the Cane Pace at Freehold on Labour Day.

Let’s start with the World Trotting Derby, which should be another showcase for Deweycheatumnhowe. I know Ray Schnittker is quoted as saying records don’t matter to him, but I think he’ll go for something in the 1:50 range if the colt is up to it and the weather holds. Du Quoin may not be quite as fast as the track at Springfield or the Red Mile on its best day, but it is a fast strip of dirt. I like a rapidly improving Mike Lachance-Ron Gurfein pupil named Gallantly to complete the exactor with Clerk Magistrate and Celebrity Secret also in there.

The scene then shifts to Mohawk with an amazing card headlined by the $1 million Metro Pace. There does not appear to be a Somebeachsomewhere in the field this year, but there are still some high quality equine talents. I really like Annieswesterncard in this spot. He appears to be the most talented one of the bunch for new driver Yannick Gingras and trainer Joe Seekman. He has been brilliant with two sub 1:51 victories already this year with the second coming in last week’s elimination. Nebupanezzar has been very impressive for Condren/McIntosh, but I am concerned that Steve doesn’t think he’s handy enough, and Major In Art has some green-ness issues that concern driver Brian Sears.

The Shes A Great Lady for the two-year old fillies looks to be a wide-open contest as the division leader, Pedigree Snob, is not competing. I am again looking at Yannick Gingras here with Racing Star, a fast Four Starzzz Shark filly for trainer Jeff Stafford and owners-breeders White Birch Farms. These connections know about top fillies thanks to Darlins Delight, and Racing Star showed last week in her elimination that she’s got that kind of class as she towed along behind a nice-looking McIntosh filly named West Of L A and then blew her away in the stretch. I will throw in the John Pentland trained Backstreet Sweetie and a longshot special, Campus Cutie.

The Breeders Crown Open Trot is a very interesting event to me. Enough Talk blew the doors off this same bunch last week minus Arch Madness, who will be greatly compromised by post ten, and Knight of Intrigue, who looks like a long shot. Corleone Kosmos has never shown an affinity for Mohawk, and has had trouble with breaks over the Campbellville oval, so that pretty much brings me back to Enough Talk. The horse survived and thrived in Europe earlier this year, and this would be a crowning achievement for the gelding. Digital Image looked very good last week, so we’ll throw him in with Arch Madness, who will hope not to be first-over again.

In the Breeders Crown Open Mare Trot, I have to like Brigham Dream. I know Luc is very, very high on her, and I think his presence in the bike over Jean-Pierre Dubois, who is a great horseman himself, but not a catch driver, greatly improves her chances. She was very good last week, and Luc said that he didn’t even ask her for all she had, so I’m banking on her ending Ouellette’s six-year Breeders Crown drought. We’ll throw in the Smedshammer duo, Falls For You and Godiva Hall for second and third.

Over on the pacing side, Mister Big has been pretty dominant the last few weeks in the older male ranks, and I really can’t see that ending in the Breeders Crown. Artistic Fella was sick last week and he is the defending champion, but he hasn’t been able to stop Mister Big outside of the Ben Franklin at Chester . Won The West was very good in the Canadian Pacing Derby but got placed for going inside pylons. Throw Eagle Luck in there as well as he is destined for a good trip and already has pulled a couple of upsets this year.

Last but not least is the Mares Open Pace. Division leader My Little Dragon has never won at Mohawk, and threw arguably her worst career race here last year in the Roses Are Red, so I’m looking elsewhere. Tidewaterdragonfly already won the Roses Are Red at Mohawk earlier this year and gets a perfect post three to work with for Tim Tetrick. I think he’s going to work out a good trip and she’ll pop again. Darlins Delight is perfectly capable of continuing a big night for driver Yannick Gingras, and Southwind Madonna, who is the best of the locals, will have a big say in the pace of the event.

There are also a pair of Simcoe Stakes splits for three-year old trotters on the Saturday night card. I’m looking at Smoking Gun in the first division, as he has been improving throughout the year, and new world record holder Define The World in the second split.

Last, but certainly not least, is Monday’s Cane Pace at Freehold, the first jewel in Pacing’s Triple Crown. I know that Art Official drew post seven and Badlands Nitro drew the rail, but I don’t think it will matter. Badlands Nitro has been content to settle for trips this year, and I think that will play right into Ron Pierce’s hands. I also think Art Official is just a better horse and will be all-out to win this one to get the opportunity to race in the Jug. I really believe that if Art Official wins the Triple Crown, he will win Three-Year Old of the Year in the U.S. , and that would be a heck of an accomplishment the same year Somebeachsomewhere raced.

Wild Political Betting

Some extremely interesting betting on the two US parties VP choices. As I have said before, for current event informaton I do not use CNN or Fox, I use the betting exchanges. A week ago, before the announcement of Joe Biden as running mate for Obama, I looked in at Betfair and saw Biden trading at 1.01. There was no doubt a leak. Everyone knew it was coming.

Yesterday, I decide to check who McCain picked, thinking the same process would occur. Tim Pawlenty is 1.4. Romney is 1.8, a few others are taking money. Then a few hours later, Romney is 8-1. Then Pawlenty is 30-1. Palin is 30-1, then 5-1. No leaks.

Then around 11AM, Palin goes to 1.02.

Amazing stuff to watch. Bettors had no idea what the hell was going on, the press is pissed, as well, because they tend to get to find out these things early.

I flat out can not believe that pick (I researched her last night and said there is no way he would go that far off the board) and probably would have been shorting at 1.02 if I could. Shows you what I know. McCain has serious cajones. If he loses the White House maybe we can get him as commissioner of harness racing.

Finally the program is out for tomorrow. Huge night of stakes. I hope to get down to some handicapping later.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Big Stakes

This weekend is chalk-full of several stakes.

Highlighting the weekend are the big boys - The Metro, and the Breeders Crown. On Monday, perhaps the most interesting occurs, however, the Cane Pace.

Art Official drew the very tough seven post
. But that should not stop him. He certainly looked to be at least 5 lengths better than the field last week in his elimination. I make him a 1-2 favourite to win this and punch his ticket to the Jug.

If he does win, and makes it to the Jug, the field bet gets a boost. In the last Jug Future pool, I find two potential overlays. One, the field at 5-1 which includes Art if he wins, and Santanna Blue Chip at 13-1. It is time to make a third bet with my $1000 (ok, it used to be $1000) bankroll.

$20 win on The Field at 5-1
$8 win on Santanna Blue Chip at 13-1

Art is an obvious overlay, but I think Santanna is way too long. I thought he raced superbly in the Confederation Cup and he is built for a half miler. He is quite a good horse.

To do some banking here with the bets:

Starting bankroll: $1000
NA Cup Bet:
$7 to win on Sand Shooter if over 16-1- Accepted. Result: 5th.
$60 on Somebeachsomewhere if over 4-5 - No bet. Result: Won

Overall Result -$7
Bankroll: $993

Meadowlands Pace Bets:
$8 to win on Share the Delight if over 15-1. Accepted: Result: 3rd
$8 to win on Art Official if over 16-1. No bet. Result: Won

Overall Result: - $8
Current Bankroll: $985

We'll be back tomorrow to have a look at the Breeders Crown and the $1 million dollar Metro stakes for juveniles.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Halsey Minor, Uniformity & Fisticuffs

In a recent interview in the Paulick Report, I found out that I really like Halsey Minor. Minor is a founder of CNET, a very successful internet firm which sold for almost $2.0B and he wants to buy and restore Hialeah in Florida. Why does a guy who worked in the Internet where tomorrow happens today want a piece of the racing business where tomorrow happens a decade from now? I don't know, but he appears to like racing. And he handles things like many I know in the Internet business - with common sense and no nonsense. The prose between him and a Magna Executive when discussing buying some Magna interests is pretty priceless, as reported by Ray Paulick, check it out if you are interested.

Cangamble has an excellent piece which is a microcosm about how fractured our game is. He is asking for uniformity of the simple (well we do not make it simple) practice of reporting prices. He is 100% correct. How do we allow us to show prices as $2 pick 4's somewhere, $1 tris somewhere and $2 elsewhere and on and on? It is just nuts. $2WPS, $2 ex and tri, $1 super and $1 gimmicks. That is what is pretty much expected.

To contrast other businesses/sports?

- One stock market reporting prices in pennies and another in 1/16's and another in 1/4's
- A football score by half only, instead of quarters

It would not happen.

Boom, a major league (ok, not really) scrapola at Del Mar. John Sadler is the leading trainer there and recently, despite warnings that they were testing for steroids, a pile of his horses tested positive. The crew in Cali does not much like that. So things are heating up.

Benavidez assists Del Mar's beleaguered leading trainer, John Sadler, and both have been the subject of verbal and written abuse in recent days in the wake of the California Horse Racing Board's ongoing crackdown on steroids in horse racing. Though not formally charged, Sadler saw his barn raided by the CHRB last Monday. That led to much speculation in the local horse racing community.

According to Benavidez, a member of Headley's group assaulted him.

“I have witnesses who saw this guy grab me by my neck and lift me off the ground by three, four inches,” Benavidez said.

Rival trainer Bruce Headley was nonplussed.

“Trouble in the tunnel, that's all,” Headley said. “We were just smarting off to each other, kind of a yelling match. No blows struck. We were just razzing him a little bit about all his steroid positives, and he couldn't take it.”

Headley wants trainers to quit using steroids on their horses.

“I don't like this steroid stuff, not at all,” Headley said. “I don't do it, and we don't like guys who do it. It's not fair to the other people. (Sadler) kept doing it because he knew he wasn't going to get fined, just warned, and he took all the money, trounced everyone.”

Sounds like if it was EPO someone actually might have thrown a punch.

We speak of marketing here on the blog sometimes. I was just at the Hambletonian conference where marketing was spoken of and racing is trying to get a hold of the medium. This is an example of how things grow on the internet, and how companies are very aware of what is being said about them on it. Tiger Woods golf is a huge seller for Electronic Arts. It turns out their last ad campaign was viral. They saw a Youtube video by two gamers which showed a glitch where Tiger can hit a ball on water. So much for the glitch, EA decides to do a commercial about it (watch here). An interesting way to show that the world is changing, day by day.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Art Official vs. Somebeachsomewhere

When the USTA ran a poll after the Meadowlands Pace they asked who would win a rematch between these two steeds. About 85% of the people said Somebeachsomewhere.

This was not surprising. the Beach defeated Art a few times before, in stunning fashion and lost the Meadowlands Pace Final after a brutal trip. However, handicappers I would submit thought differently. Art seemed to be a horse learning how to cajole his speed, and he finally learned to capitalize on that. In yesterdays Cane Pace elimination he showed he is all business, as he paced a track record at Freehold.

We saw some of the differences in what the public thinks about Art in the early betting. Moon Beam opened the favourite, and Art had trouble busting through even money. Contrast this to the Beach who opens his races at 1-9 and stays there. In a match race between the two, I would say the public makes Beach a pretty overwhelming favourite. But I think the value would lie with Art. He is a marvelous horse, and his fast Meadowlands Pace win was no fluke, just like his 52 back half in May in the Burlington stakes was no fluke.

The thing with Art vs. Beach that sticks with some is the post parade appearance. Beach is a big strong, strapping horse. Art does not look the part. He has those knee boots, or maybe it is tape, he is a little smaller and less of a presence. But one thing we all learn in racing is appearance is for losing handicappers. Some of the best looking 300k yearlings could not hold a candle in a race to some others who are somewhat infirm. This has happened throughout history.

So where should they meet? Most want them to meet in the Jug. I understand that, but to me this would be pointless in terms of looking for a fair battle. If AO wins his elim, and Beach the other, we are left to a post draw to decide who gets the rail. If Art gets the rail, Beach will either be 1) hung the mile by Pierce or 2) In behind him, boxed. If Beach gets the rail the opposite happens. It is luck.

I think the Red Mile should be the place, if they both stay sharp. It would be fair and it would be exciting.

Although I am a fan of both horses, in fact I think in my betting this year on the blog I bet Art in both the Cup and the Meadowlands Pace, and you know how I feel about Beach, but I think Beach is a slightly better horse. People are still arguing who had the tougher go of it in the Meadowlands Pace. Sometimes we look at things too deeply when analyzing a race, when all we need is the racelines. Who went the tougher trip? Well here are the two lines. If you owned a horse, any horse, which trip do you hope your horse gets?

1°/HD 3/HD 2/1H 2/T
1/NK

4°/2H 1°°/NS 1/1H 1/T2/NK

Clearly I would want the horse who had rail control and the two hole trip just past the half.

So here we have the tale of the tape; I would make Beach 4-5 and Art about 7-5. They are two extremely fast three year olds. Probably the two best three year olds we have seen in a generation. I hope they meet again, and I hope it is at Lexington.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Greenwood Raceway. A Long Time Ago.


Cangamble’s blog had a neat link to a post from a player who used to ride the train to Aqueduct. It made me think of the old trips as a student to Greenwood Raceway on the waterfront in Toronto. For those that know Greenwood, and have been there, here are some memories. For those who had not been to Greenwood, think of this as a primer to Ontario’s only real metro-downtown track. Greenwood is gone now, sold by the then OJC for a nice sum. It is a housing development. I drove by there about a month ago, going somewhere or another, and I had to laugh. In someones backyard I was clocking warm ups not so long ago.

In first year University, the ride to Greenwood was easy for a small town kid - the Queen streetcar was right by school. I had already been indoctrinated to the streetcar my second day in town, when I had to take it to the exhibition for an ACDC concert. If I could get through that, I could get through anything. It cost like a buck, and it would give you plenty of time to study the program. Not that we needed to - we had read it cover to cover the last 48 hours and could pretty much recite the racelines without looking. At the beginning of the ride you would be on with a few business types, which would drop off when we got to Regent Park. Then the fireworks would begin. A good deal of horseplayers, approximately 50% of which needed a serious shower, would flood the car. Listening to them try and pick winners with words like “who is stiffing tonight”, “Steve Condren’s uncle told me he is going with the seven in the third” and “Doug Brown could win nine tonight” was always fun.

Getting off at Coxwell was an adventure. It was crowded and crossing the street makes one wonder how lives were not lost. Heading in the west exit you were met with a man selling “the green sheets”. I never bought one, but I think they were two bucks. I think the fella was a good handicapper. There were no scams with the green sheets, like printing them off with all winners and throwing them on the floor after the races. It was good old-fashioned horseplaying.

Being broke we would not head to the clubhouse, it cost an extra few bucks. The smoke filled grandstand floor was never good for spectating, so we would go to the grandstand. Usually it was pretty packed and if you got there late you would have to head to the top level, where Toronto’s Jamaican community was well represented. They were quite vocal. For some reason they were Michigan invader John Moody fans. I don’t know how many times I would hear “c’mon Mr. Moody” in a thick Jamaican accent. Most days the air smelled funny up there, too.

Fortunately we were usually there early where we would clock warmups. You learned pretty quickly that Cal Campbell warmed up in a jog cart, and J Wade McCoy would do a 45 last three eighths in a race bike. Sometimes though you would catch some good winners when people did things out of the ordinary.

If a longshot won the 5th, out came the sellers. They are alive in the pick 4 and they want to sell. Rarely, if ever they would, but they would try. If I knew then what I know now, I might have taken them up on it from time to time. I bet there was some value. If it was super-7 carryover day and someone was alive after the fourth or fifth leg, watch out, they’d be looking for investors. I never once hit a super 7, and I don’t think I have today either.

Race 7 was a good time to get a roast beef sandwich. $4 for a slice of heaven. I don’t know where they got the beef from, but there was nothing better at Greenwood.

Heading home on weeknights was usually done after the last, but on weekends that time was reserved for a restaurant called the Mecca. They had a satellite dish and you could watch the Meadowlands. A beer, some awesome food and the Meadowlands while hanging with horseplayers was a staple. It was extra special if you had a good night.

Summers at Greenwood were especially fun. Sitting outside was a blast. So many horseplayers, all with opinions, and generally good people to chat with. I don’t know how many people I met that I know today during that time, but the number is large. Most are not playing the races today, broke, lost interest, whatever, but those were good times.

The North America Cup was huge. I remember watching Jate Lobell and Frugal Gourmet way back when, but I did not see the whole race. I saw it in snippets, as I could not find a spot to watch and I had to jump to see over the metal thing in the aisles. I wished I was 6 foot 5.

Earl Lennox calls were fun. I remember he used to say "and here comes Peter Cottontail coming from the east end parking lot" when he made a wide sweep at the top of the lane.

Tips were always there. So many tips. I learned quickly why (I think it was) Harvey Pack said he wants to come back as a bookie in the jocks room after he dies. One night however, I remember the tips were fabulous. There were two good sources and they gave two bang up winners. $8 and $26. I hit a few more things that night, and I walked away with about $900 profit. Big day. Steak at the Mecca that night.

Schoolers for 2 year olds would be run before the races started and they were fun to watch. I got to see a good many quality racehorses during that time, at a young age. Doug Arthur, of Cam Fella fame, would always have some solid US breds qualifying, which would stick out with the Armbro Splurge’s, Fundamentalist’s and Jade Prince’s. I remember Bo Knows Jate’s first schooler. He was way behind, made up a ton of ground pacing about a 28 flat third quarter, and then took a complete right turn at the head of the lane. Doug somehow got him pacing straight and he exploded to victory.

This time was one where the ‘off the claim’ trainer started happening, with the relatively new practice of milkshaking, which was not outlawed at that time. Gosh they would drop time. And more and more people would be handicapping trainers. It took awhile, but we were beginning to see what we see today - certain folks opening up at 3-5 off the claim, and staying there. The edge was good early on though. Programs did not even print who the last trainer was, or if there was a barn change. It was worth keeping a whole stack of programs in the closet!

Winter racing in the afternoon was interesting, and during that time at Greenwood we began to see the changing of the game. Simulcasting started from Florida. You would have tons of thoroughbred bettors hammering the Calder and Gulfstream simulcast all winter. The place was completely packed.

It was a different time, a different era. It is, of course, not like this any longer, and it will never be. As RG, our regular reader and contributor spoke about in the comment section below:

On my block when I was a kid we had a drug store where they sold forms and scratch sheets. When the early papers came out around 3:30 they would have the first few results from the eastern tracks on the front page. Later in the evening probably a dozen older horse players would gather waiting for the evening papers with all the days results. The guy that owned the poolroom took bets. Saturdays special at the grill on the corner was pancakes with a form. The barber on the next block took the horses and always had the form and scratch sheet sitting around. The Fairgrounds was only about 3 miles on a steetcar. There was always somebody from the neighborhood who would bet for us. So how could I not grow up a horseplayer?

That could have been anywhere in North America in this different time. And it most certainly could have been at Coxwell and Queen, at Greenwood raceway.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Is There a Doctor in the House?

On Andrew Cohen's fine blog at Harnessracing.com there is a good debate brewing about growing the game. Some think that if we improve the racing product we will see handle gains. Other say that the product itself is a good proposition, but we have wasted away with high takeouts and poor delivery.

Of course you know how we feel here about that. Over the last twenty years harness racing has faltered despite the product getting better, and better and better. We have improved the breed, improved speed, have better drivers and trainers. There is no, and has been no evidence that improving times of horses, and increasing the number of races by spreading around slot money has grown the handle in our game one cent. Despite this, over and over again we see our sport ask for more money for breeding, or more racedates. If harness racing was a patient and went to a doctor complaining of stomach pain we would tape its ankle and send it home, expecting it to be fixed. We have done absolutely nothing in a concerted way with slots money to grow handles.

Dave Hoffman's comment is bang on, and it makes so much sense that I assume many will just gloss over it. Dave must have been at the Hambo conference (or maybe not) because the story of Beat the Dealer was relayed by professional bettor James Erickson to exemplify how if a game can be beat, it generates excitement and interest.

The fact that at many tracks we have 2/5 favorites in many races is not necessarily due to the fact that there is poor quality racing -- what did Dewey go off at? what did SBSW go off at? What does Mister Big go off at? Individual tracks may have trouble fielding cards with competitve races due to either an incompetent racing secretary or short fields or something. (Incidentally, why are short fields thought of as too few horses rather than too many races?)

Rather, the problem with 2/5 favorites in lots of races is largely due to small handles -- the bigger the handle the more likely the odds will be more balanced. These are often the result of an owner putting $200 or even $100 to win on his own horse at a track with low handles. Now, it may not be rational to do so, maybe the horse ought to be the favorite, but not at 2/5. But for an owner who has already invested thousands of dollars, the psychological reward of cashing a ticket may compensate for the fact that the odds are too short for a rational bettor. Furthermore, for the owner, the cost of the bet is simply rolled into the cost of owning a horse, and becomes a small part of the total cost.

The quality of racing is not the reason that gambling on horses races has declined. The racing is better than ever. The horses are better (anyone won in 2:12 lately?). The tracks are better (does anyone want to eliminate the passing lane? Eliminate the staggered gate? Have lower banks in the turns?). The equipment is better (seen anyone using an old sulky lately?) Catch drivers are the rule rather than the exception, and they're racing a lot more often than they used to -- which would seem to indicate that the quality of driving is up.

Unfortunately, what's also up is the takeout. What horse racing needs is the perception that you can actually win. Look at the history of blackjack -- it was a minor casino game until Beat the Dealer came out, then it soared to become the most popular table. game. Another lesson to be learned is that it is actually not that people could beat the game, it is that they believed it was possible. Casinos implemented countermeasures to eliminate the advantages from card counting, but quickly reversed themselves because most people cannot play any system reliably enough to get the small advantages you get by card counting. Poker too --- much of its popularity is due to the fact that at least some people for some period of time can support themselves with their winnings at the poker table. You simply cannot do that at horse racing -- the takeout is too big. As long as the takeout is so big, horse racing will resemble lotteries or the slot machines -- which don't take so much work to understand. Where horse racing ought to go is the demographic of poker or stock trading, which are more closely allied, skill wise, with horse racing. But, why would you do horse racing when these other activities don't impose the huge transaction costs that racing does.

For those who believe that the best use of the slots money is for increased purses -- please let me know what metric to look at. Give me a benchmark that will let me know that this strategy is working five years from now. Mr. Langley says "wait" -- Wait until what? The product must be improved, he says -- until what point? Until the 3K claimers at Monticello are winning in 1:52? Until the lowest classes at Batavia have purses of 10K?

We need to listen to people like Dave. We have to get the fingers out of the pie to grow the pie. He is correct, harness racing will not grow if Yonkers races 15 races a day 7 days a week. We won't grow if we race for 20k purses instead of 15k purses. We won't grow if a 3 claimer starts going 53. We won't grow jamming a high cost product down the throats of bettors. We will grow for only one reason, and only one way: If we put money into growing handle. That way when we wake up and slots money is suddenly taken away, we'll still have a game.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Jug Future Pool - Racings Potential

On vacation I finished a new book called the Political Punter. It was a fairly good read that explained the markets in both the bookmaking and exchange world regarding betting politics. In it the author showed how public sentiment, uncertainty and swings can light up a betting market.

For example, I watched the trading on Intrade, Tradesports and Betfair for the John Kerry-GW Bush 2004 election. Early in the day, Matt Drudge and a few others spoke about exit polls that said John Kerry was winning key states, including Ohio, which would be pivotal. The trading absolutely exploded and it looked like Bush and Kerry were stocks like Intel with shocking earnings news. Kerry's price plunged as traders hammered this news. The market was swingy and it was very interesting. Of course, Bush walloped Kerry and the exit polls were wrong (people learned the hard way that conservatives tend to not answer exit polls!), but it was obvious - swingy markets with uncertainty; with pretty much any betting prop can be exciting.

Now look what we have with this years Jug, around mid-July.

1) Somebeachsomewhere, who would likely be 1-5 to win this thing, apparently not going.

2) Art Official not eligible either, but he can be eligible if he wins the Cane pace (which he showed no interest in going to).

3) Badlands Nitro the chalk.

Fast forward to today

1) Reports (I did not see it, but I read it from someone who watched) that co-owner of Somebeach apparently said it is not impossible that the Beach skips the Jug

2) Art Official supplementing to the Cane.

If this market was on an exchange, or heavily promoted to all types of gamblers, especially price sensitive types that would play an election, you would have one swingy market. And it would be hot. I would bet $1000 bet on SBSW in July at 5-1 would now be worth 3-1, and a bet on the field at 8-1 or so, would now be below 5-1. If Art Official fails in the Cane, the field would then go back up to 10-1 or so.

Will this ever happen for a pool like the Jug future pool? Yes, I think it will if it is done correctly. I think within five or ten years there will be Jug future wagering on an exchange platform with the world being able to play it. if we position ourselves and sell it right, I think it can work and get people interested in our game. Give people a swingy market, with information they can find on the web, they can achieve value. Since Adam Smith told us that the invisible hand guides us, it is a mathematical certainty that gaps in the market will be filled, if there is money to be made.

Note: Nice example of this, this morning. The 100M hurdles final at the Olympics was being traded in running at Betfair. Before the last hurdle, American heavy favorite Lolo Jones was in the lead and heading to an easy win. Someone placed $12,000US on her to sell at 1.01. Someone snatched it up. What happened next is why Andrew Beyer once said "a gambler may have as many periods of frustration as he does exhilaration, but at least he knows he's alive" - she clipped the next hurdle, lost her momentum and missed the board. Someone for a risk of $120, walked away with $12,000 cash, in less than one second.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Hastings Lowers Show Takeout

In a surprising move, Hastings Race Course has lowered its show takeout.

It is equivalent to a 5% rebate or so. Although I would assume the players playing show are not price sensitive, this should churn a little bit of money. A 5% rebate is significant in this pool.

I wonder if I should start trying some sort of show wagering plan for this track for a lark. I might be able to make money at 12%. Then again since I have been doing horribly lately I think I would need more than 5 points.

Regardless, kudos to Hastings for returning a little bit to the player.

Notes:

Speaking of rebates (and beer), they were a popular word here last month according to the harnessracingblog at Harnesslink. What an interesting post. Way to go Jules.

Dave Johnson called the races this weekend (well a few of them anyway) at Chester. I thought he was very good.

The Jug Future pool #2 is over and Badlands Nitro has taken over favoritism. The field bettors (6-1) look like they might have a positive expected value bet as Art Official is slated to possibly go.

Several letters to the Harness Edge asking Beach's owners to race him in the Jug. They make some excellent points. Although I wonder what more the gentleman wants when he says this is a weak crop. World records set at mile, five eighths and half mile tracks by three different horses says otherwise.

Cup Day in Pictures






Norm is a huge harness fan. If the cup was running in the 1960's he would be someone who would have been there in diapers.

He has a nice collection of pictures up at his website of the Cup here.

Here are a few, and a few of mine from yesterday for anyone who might be interested in a slice of rural Canadian racing.

The crowd was large, and friendly, and having fun. An every-year Cup crowd.

One of the best parts of the Cup is the draw for the Final. It is a free draw and they do it on a board right in front of the owners and fans.

The outriding and post parade horse is a real treat. He is a standardbred by Jamuga and his name is Juggles. He is 21 years old and does not look a day over 4.

The racing is good. Above is the Beach going for the World record, and succeeding.

One of the unique parts of the Cup is that grooms or trainers walk out the horses and they are decked out in Cup blankets.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Confederation Cup In the Books

Another World record in stunning fashion by Somebeachsomewhere.

At the half (or some might say the post draw, or earlier) the stage was set for a big back half and Beach delivered one. 149.2 is flat out amazing. Armbro Deuce here two years ago was very good and I thought we might not see the Cup go any quicker than that, but it has.

In the end the Beach was fortunate to have this race in two heats. There is little doubt that he was much better in heat two, and this allowed him to set another world record, and probably increased his stud value in the process.

Not much can be said about Flamboro and this race that we have already not said. It is a wonderful experience. The Flammy crew did as good a job with this race as any I have seen. The weather was great (seriously, when isn't it on Cup day?), the beer was cold, the staff was friendly and the organizers were all first class. It is tough not to be a harness fan on Cup day, and may I say again: If you have not been here for the Cup, try to, and if you have a horse who might be looking for a spot come stakes staking time, give it a shot. I doubt you will be disappointed.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Tete a Tete

On Andrew Cohen's blog today he made reference that the USTA's marketing committee, and one of the USTA leaders, Phil Langley, responded:

"While there has been some questioning from some quarters about this committee (the newly-formed USTA Marketing Committee) not containing more people outside the industry, I don't get the point of the cricitism. Who should we be dealing with-- the marketers that General Motors and Ford use? The marketers that have Anheuser-Busch losing market share? Obviously, throwing money around isn't the answer...."
This is a remarkable series of sentences. Of course, Langley doesn't get the point of the criticism. That is the whole point of my criticism of him. The marketing model in our industry cleared has failed-- miserably. No rational person can dispute that after decades of decline. So it is absurd to declare that the same people who are responsible for the decline-- or who at least have demonstrated so far that they are unable to reverse it-- should be the ones to now lead us. Yet this seems to be is Langley's point-- no outsiders.

Mr Langley noting that Mr. Cohen "does not get it" has caused a little tete a tete on the blog, so check it out.

I believe Mr. Cohen is correct in many of his assertions. An inside group can not fix this sport. I would make it an impossibility.

I often go to a conference and come away thinking something can be done, but rarely anything happens, because the 'old way of doing things' seems to trump any new initiatives. NYRA spent millions, something like $30 million on the Go Baby Go campaign. It focused on racing being fun and 'come out to the track' and all that jazz - I think we have to be crazy to think that would work in a 500 channel, super-highway universe. Most initiatives stick to this specious concept.

This is a gambling game, it is not entertainment. Frankly it never has been entertainment. People in the 1940's came to gamble because there was nothing else to gamble on. Old marketing and old marketers will not save this sport. The USFL failed with massive marketing, major league soccer is hurting. On and on. We can not market this sport the old way. We must be new, fresh and we must promote the game of gambling. There is a half a trillion dollar gambling market out there just waiting for us.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Odds and Ends

So I am cruising around and reading a little on the Olympics. It seems there is some question to the age of the Chinese gymnasts. I guess there is a rule you have to be 16, but some (apparently) are only 14. I am watching the women's gymnastics competition tonight. I think 14 is way wrong. A couple of them look like they are about 8. If they are 16 I could see them getting carded until they are 40. It kinda puts in context the mix up about running the wrong horse at Tioga last week.

Speaking of these gymnasts, I am thinking that if I had to, I could pass a bar exam. If I had a good teacher and worked at it I might be able to do an emergency surgery on someone's broken foot. I might one day be able to figure out how my vet charges $50 for 5 buck ointment. But there is no chance in hell, no matter how much I tried, I could swing on those bars like these little wee girls are doing.

I spoke to someone today who runs a customer service centre. She was saying one thing that no one is allowed to say when a customer complains about something is "it is policy and we can not change it." I laughed because whenever I ask if racing can offer free databases, or free past performances, someone inevitably says "we have a deal with equibase and it is policy that we can not offer it free." Note to racing - people don't care what the reason is. Find a way to kill that deal you made when you were a monopoly and join the 21st century will ya?

I think the Confederation Cup this year is interesting. Since there is a free draw for the final, Somebeachsomewhere (who should win elim one) has about an 11% chance of drawing the eight post in the final. There are a few nice horses in there, and as we all know, post position can be a great equalizer on halfs. I have little doubt he can get the job done, but watching the post draw after the elims will be extremely interesting.

I popped into betfair today to check the trading on a couple of races I was playing. The first one trading was very small. It was a good quality Saratoga field. The second one I checked was traded heavily. It was a cheap field. Note - when you are gambling on racing, class of the race means little. If it is shown on TV to a good audience of bettors, it will be played. The Monmouth race was on British television.

Jeremy Pierce at Harness Racing PEI is a bright guy who tries. This weeks card is simulcast on HPITV. I was hoping to run a contest and try and help them out with some handle, but time is against me this week. Live video is at their site, as well as free programs. If you can, support the track this week. They deserve it.

Speaking of PEI there is a nice article on racing there by Dean Hoffman. After the Hambo conference we drove through New England to the east coast and it was beautiful. I highly recommend it. The people are as nice a people you would want to meet.

I see Michael Phelps won another gold. I am pretty sure Somebeachsomewhere could kick his butt in a 200 metre race. He swims too. Dangle a carrot in front of him and Phelps is toast.

The 200 metre IM he won tonight was live with in running betting on betfair and I watched it. The dude was 1.03 with 100 metres to go. I guess a few people thought there was a 3% chance he would drown or something. They showed a this picture of Phelps tonight on NBC. If that is what Olympic athletes look like, now I know why I didn't make the Canadian cycling team, this year. I have some serious work to do.

That's it for now. We'll be back tomorrow with something or another, I'm sure. There seems to be always something going on in our sport.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Weekend Fields are Set

Sunday at Fabulous Flamboro Downs (trademark Charles Juravinski :)) the fields were drawn for the Cup.

Elim Heat #1

Post - Horse

1) Deuce Seelster
2) Santanna Bluechip
3) Somebeachsomewhere
4) Genuwine
5) Lyons Geoff
6) The Mohegan Pan

Elim Heat #2

Post - Horse

1) Anderlecht
2) Tiz A Masterpiece
3) Keystone Horatio
4) Shadow Play
5) Lisfinny

The Canadian Pacing Derby goes Saturday at the Hawk.
7 -- Pace, purse $702,000 (EX, P3, SF, TR)
D-CANADIAN PACING DERBY - FINAL - 3 YEAR OLDS & OLDER.
Post time: 09:41 P.M. Lasix: 05:26 P.M.
1 Western Shore(L) Ma Macdonald
2 Eagle Luck(L) S Filion
3 Won The West(L) G Grismore
4 Hagi M Saftic
5 Artistic Fella T Tetrick
6 Manhardt(L) Ra Waples
7 *Mister Big(L) B Sears
8 Zooka+ M Baillargeon
9 Silent Swing P Macdonell
10 Bigtime Ball R Mayotte
At Chester the Battle of Brandywine has assembled a nice field too. Great weekend of racing.

RACE: 11 - 08/17/2008 - HARRAHS CHESTER - PURSE: $ 500,000 - CLASS: Battle
GAIT: Pace - Early Betting - DIST: 1 Mile - STRS: 8
PP Horse






1 BADLANDS NITRO





2 BLUERIDGE WESTERN





3 MCCEDES





4 RUDY REDNOSE





5 MYSTERY CHASE





6 DALI





7 UPFRONT HANNAHSBOY





8 SHARE THE DELIGHT





Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Something I Have Never Understood Either

Bill Finley has a fantastic opinion piece about horses retiring early. I know we have spoken about it before but he is a good writer, and I am not, so it is nice to read such a good piece.

Jess Jackson needs to run Curlin next year and the year after that and, maybe, even the year after that. He needs to be the one guy to put the good of the sport ahead of the good of his bank account and, in the process, make a bold statement. He needs to set an example for a sport that desperately needs the Curlins of the world to start hanging around for more than 10 or 11 races.

On a recent NTRA teleconference, he said there is a possibility that Curlin will race next year and that he might do so because it would "help this sport." But he seemed more inclined to retire him, citing not the amount of money he would make by doing so but how Curlin, as a stallion, could help "improve the gene pool" and, therefore, help the industry that way.

I know I, and many of you agree with that. But heck, it is easy for us to say isn't it - it is not our money we are speaking about. But Finley makes a point that has always stuck in my craw.

I don't get rich people. What's the point of working hard and making a lot of money if you can't enjoy it? And what could be more enjoyable than owning a top quality racehorse that can go out on Saturday afternoons and win some of the greatest prizes the sport has to offer? So why are people who obviously don't need money so quick to deprive themselves of the joys of watching their horses run just so they can make more money that they don't need?

To me, this is the most salient point. Why would a guy who has made a lot of money, say a few million with a horse, syndicate him for $5M, when they could race at 4 and 5, make a couple of million, enjoy themselves with thrills and thrills, and maybe syndicate for $3 million? If they are the movers and shakers of this game, if they are the Jerry Silva's, I have no idea why. I was recently out east for a vacation and there was a boat in the harbor - a big one that someone said was worth about $30 million. If the owner of that boat was in horses he would probably be retiring his horse at 3. How someone could spend $30M on a boat for their enjoyment, but then worry about 'losing' a million by racing a horse at 4 is beyond me.

If it were me, I know what I would do. I would take the money and run. I have lost money as an owner every year that I have been one - every year. I have never had a good horse like that. Selling a horse to stud might actually make me a retirement fund, or pay off a credit card bill. But for those who are already wealthy I wonder why they are so quick to retire a horse who has done nothing but put a smile on their face.

Notes:

Cangamble makes a good point today on his blog about takeouts not being published. It is like an electrical utility or something. Are we that monopolistic that we do not publish rakes? It is nice to see that he had the post noticed by equidaily; he deserves it as he writes some good stuff about our game.

Harnesslink has a neat toolbar for your browser. If you are a harness junkie, it looks like it would be your drug du jour.

I went to Georgian Downs last night. Chris and crew have done a marvelous job since the last time I had been there. The buffet at like $18 was awesome. They play tunes between races, the place was full, the atmosphere was superb. And it was a Tuesday. Well done folks.

The Beach makes his return in the Confederation Cup on Sunday. If you are in the area you will see him for two heats. You won't get closer to the champ anywhere. Not to mention it is a fantastic day to be a race fan. I hope the weather is good.

Jess Jackson keeps on offering Big Brown a chance to race him, after Rich Dutrow said that Big Brown was "way better than Curlin" (yes, he actually said that). He is doing it with class, which makes Rich look even worse :)

How Does Offshore Wagering Help?

This question was asked at Paceadvantage.com. The answer of course is: "It does not. It pirates the pools."

However, one of the responses there summed it up rather perfectly:

It doesn't.

But...

IMHO, if the industry (horseman's groups and track management ) had their acts together and created an environment that was player friendly instead of the current status quo which borders on hostility towards players -

If horseman's groups and track management allowed ALL ADWs to have access to ALL track signals - instead of denying track signals to ADWs that champion the cause of the player - like the TOC recently did when it denied CA track signals to PTC -

If the takeout on racing (either through lowered takeout or rebates) was competitive with other forms of gambling and the industry used that as a marketing platform so that betting on horses was seen as an attractive proposition instead of the pariah that racing currently is among the generation of 20 somethings who shun it in favor of slots and poker -

If tracks made live streaming video and replays available right from their websites -

If Equibase wasn't constantly trying out new ways to make it more and more difficult for potential new fans to build a racing database -

If those running the racing industry weren't so monopoly minded...

If the industry made any type of concerted effort to figure out customer needs and wants and made customer satisfaction a priority -

Then I submit to you that North American players by the thousands would never be betting offshore in the first place.

And another post that almost always falls on deaf ears with some, thinking regular players are not price-sensitive:

I am a strictly recreational player. I have been playing the horse for over 30 years so I am no novice. I had never really cared about rebates until september of 2003. Then Pinnacle started giving a 7 % rebates to all clients on horse wagers. I was hooked. You see like most horse players I am about sharp enough to hold my own(if I did the work-but since I do not do the work they grind me out a little bit). The problem is that for me like most others without rebates this game is just not beatable(Especially when you have sharper guys betting millions of dollars a year and getting big fat rebates). The days of betting against idiots in the stand are long gone. Once Pinnacle pulled out of the US market I pretty much gave up on the sport(that in combination with the tracks switching to these artificial surfaces which changed the game). But I am back in action now. xxxx offerrs 8% rebates on exotics and the xxxxx offers tremendous value on occasion, between the 2 the game is fun,slightly profitable, and enables me to have a lot more actions, rather than being very tough to beat. So to shed further light, these are my actual numbers over the last 5 years.

330 visits(if you call playing from my living room or business a visit). Net loss on wagers $7400 but net rebates $10,400. So in answer to the point of the post, yes racing doesn't make squat from me (with the exception of occaison pick six plays) but frankly they are not going to make squat from me no matter what, because the game is too tough to beat without rebates(especially when the biggest bettors are getting huge rebates). With rebates it is a ton of fun and slightly profitable. Those are the cold hard facts. Until racing gets there head out of their ***(and brings the take down significantly or enables me to bet california racing with rebates) there will be only one game in town for me and that is offshore. If that avenue is closed then I would stop betting horses period. The game is just too tough without rebates.

There is probably a 500 billion dollar gambling market out there. Getting a slice of that at 10% rakes is better than no slice at all at 20% rakes. I learned at an early age when you multiply something by zero, it's zero and I think that still applies today. I sincerely hope we get our act together soon.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Woodbine Bloggers Doing Good Work

There is a rule in social media marketing - don't link to other blogs that are the same as yours. Well since I do not make money here, nor will I, I can easily (and do) break the golden rule. Woodbine's blog is doing some good things. If you have not followed it, give it a try. Here are a few posts of interest:

1. Elissa Blowe on Dutrow and Big Brown. Very nice work, and I agree.

2. Blanchard on more information. My goodness how we could model and report if we only had more free information in this sport.

3. Hamilton on Somebeachsomewhere. I popped down to a local Toronto bar about a month or two ago and had a beer with Mike, and he was not overly sold on Somebeach. This post shows that he was more impressed with him in defeat, than in his previous victories.

Some solid commentary on a very good blog, eventhough Woodbine is not quite 21st century enough to call it a blog :)

The Hambo Trip

I mentioned last week that I would tell a few stories about the Hambo trip, so I figured I would jot those down for those who may be interested.

I headed down to Jersey with a betting friend and we both presented at the Hambletonian conference, which was sponsored by the Hambletonian Society. We arrived Wednesday night and it was a good night to play some races and relax, although we did not know that beforehand. Let’s just say the week was packed with functions and racing. We both made a few bucks Wednesday.

On Thursday the conference was scheduled to run from 10AM to about 4PM. It started somewhat late, and carried past 4PM. Gary Seibel from TVG, and original race caller of the Breeders Crown series way back in 1984, moderated my panel. I got to speak with him for about a half hour after the panel was over and to me that was a real treat. He really likes harness racing. He clearly did not get the TVG job as a talking head.

We spent the rest of Thursday at the track at a dinner in the main Meadowlands dining room and that was fun as well. Several people who I had seen listed on some very nice horses, and some of the larger breeding farms were there. I got to pick their brain a little bit about the breed and the business. It was quite enjoyable.

On Friday we mostly milled around the hotel and conversed with a few folks we had met. Later that evening there was a very nice event in Pegasus at the Meadowlands. It was held by the Hambo society and since we presented I guess we were worthy an invite. That was a ton of fun. I sat with a few interesting folks. One, a gentleman from Finland that has a breeding operation was beside us. He was very interesting because of his betting knowledge, however. He runs a tip service for the European continent, had met many big bettors over the years and had some interesting stories. He had been to Hong Kong to play the horses; pretty much all over the world, really. With virtually everyone in the room speaking about the Hambo and harness in general I would think if many sat in on our conversation about betting angles and databases and all the rest would have found us the outsiders for sure! Anyhow, they really made the dinner fun and I had no idea I would have been invited along with all the owners and industry folks.

Saturday was Hambo Day. And it was more than we expected. Moira Fanning from the Hambo Society had to take care of literally hundreds of people. We expected to not see her at all and we thought we would head up to our seats and that would be that. But she paid way too much attention to us bums. She showed up and gave us passes to the front paddock and we were thrilled. Those passes allowed us to be in the Hambo paddock and get a good look at the horses, trainers and drivers. The horses were immaculate - every one of them. Absolutely beautiful trotters. I had never been in the front paddock before.

We headed back upstairs to watch the race and it was quite exciting. The crowd was deafening in the grandstand. I think most were cheering for Dewey, as I was. I walked by the Antonacci box on the way down to catch a glimpse of Dewey in the circle and it dawned on me that there are winners and losers in the game, like we all did not already know that. A couple of their family were children - all decked out and dressed to the nines - and they looked disappointed.

Half the state of Jersey was in the winners circle. I saw the very classy Dewey just standing there and being a true gentleman (I assume he is used to the winners circle now!). I think we all knew that Crazed would give the big horse a run, and that he did. In retrospect the 1-2 ex looked like an overlay. I saw Donna Brothers after the race getting a lot of the gear taken off. I was surprised at how she handles the horse and does the interviews and all with all that stuff on. I saw the feature that we alluded to earlier on the blog where Ray let her hop aboard Dewey for a ride so I said "you got to ride a Hambo champ so that must have been cool", she replied that it was no set-up, he just said hop aboard in an impromptu way. That's harness racing for ya.

The entire card was a bit light on talent for a Hambo card, but I guess that is the sign of the times. Still there was some good racing. Mr. Big showing he is Mr. Big was fun to watch.

I would highly recommend a trip to the Hambo for those who have not been there. I have been to many tracks and many races. Each of them I find are unique. However, this one stood out in many ways and I am 100% positive this will be not my one and only trip.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Back in the Fold

Well, the Hambletonian trip and resulting week of work/play at the cottage is done. I have some major catching up to do, that's for sure. I have been reading a little bit while gone and there is much to chat about. Hopefully we can get to that tomorrow.

Also, Mr. Whip's picks were pretty superb. If you were a whale, you could have made a decent amount of money playing the young man's picks in supers. Aerial Victory was a dandy winner at $22.70. The cold tri key and potential super in the Valagain race would have netted a $2500 super and $170 tri. Well done Whip! I hope you had a few of those.

Handle was very solid at over $300k. I have to get the net replays up and watch those races. I only watched a couple of races on Saturday. There was some kind of beach party with a guy with a guitar playing songs that only people over 30 would know, so after about five beer (and being over 30) it took precedent. Hell, I don't vacation much, so I probably would have been outside on two beer and Britney Spears music.

Anyhow, I hope to catch up soon. I hope everyone had a great week at the windows.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Extreme Handicapping

Well, since I have been on a kind of vacation it has been tough to keep tabs on happenings. But thankfully World Famous Handicapper (ok, not world famous, but I would hazard a guess that he is the best handicapper south of Detroit and north of Leamington) Lou the Whip has agreed to help us out. If I can get back in time to play I will probably take a few exotics with his picks.

I like it that people will actually stick their neck out and make some picks. Not many people do. I can see why, since we will make fun of them if they stink, and won't give them credit if they win :)

Here they are, and remember these are for fun only (if you lose). If you win, well then give the blog a 10% cut ;)

When: Saturday night
Where: Georgian Downs, Innisfil, ONT
How to Bet: Simulcast outlets and Internet betting throughout North America
Pool Sizes: Medium
Field Depth: Large
Betting Strategy: Exotics


R1
3 Joshs Deal – shows all kinds of speed on the half and now picks up speed specialist JR Plante, should manage a great 2 hole ride behind Bunny Talk
2 Kennairn Sensation – looks like the obvious recipient of the “suck” trip and should be able to out muscle Bunny Talk late to get up for 2nd
6 Bunny Talk – should cut most of the fractions and will hang around
R2
6 Ruby Falcon - came back to life in her latest in a very defiant looking win

8 Beyond The Blue- ginormous driver change and does have some early speed to get out and get positioned for a big piece of the pie

5 MsBBD – never been a fan of a horse that’s 0 for 20 going in…the distance might help, but I don’t think enough to merit a victory

R3

10 Colombe Dream – notorious late starter and unless they put Steve Charlton up late should be able to time it just right

6 Speedy Desperado – actually tried to get a piece of this horse 2 years ago but wasn’t for sale, sneaky late pace and the driver usually keeps him brave along the cones for as long as possible, could surprise late

8 Enlighten Me – another late mover should benefit from the early Etsell/Plante chess match

R4

1 Pacific Mariner – we’re only going 3/8ths of a mile.. this is a no brainer for this guy

4 Townline Joyspunch - early speed threat, not really a strong finisher but remember this guy burning plenty of my money by parking them out for half a mile.

3 Kole Pocket – best of rest

R5

5 Rodeo Du Ruisseau – hard to ignore Q

2 Lombo Skyrider – early speed should hang around

9 Gothic Crusader – batman returns to the bike

R7

3 Aerial Victory – finally seems to be improving

2 Invincible Sun – huge back class and doesn’t even bother trying until after 3/4s of a mile anyway

4 JC Chaser – speed won’t last forever or in this case the entire 1 5/8ths

R9

2 Coltin Duhuras – very steppy at times but has one huge brush and if timed right can blow away this weak field

9 Ideal Match – major class relief after two traffic troubled trips and a horrendous park out 3 back

12 Santas Special – left hard last time, had to take back but still had some late weapons

R10

7 Abbey Road C – shouldn’t matter what way they are going, even upside down ARC has to win this race

5 Solange Kosmos- always a part of it and was impeded twice when trying to move from the bush last week

6 Vip Hall – free too late in latest

R11 -

6 Valagain – horse perfectly suited to this distance

3 Nocturnal – brother ben has been the hottest trainer the last 30 days, can’t see this horse missing the ticket

13 Gyraider – should be able to outstep the staggering Royas Scooter for third

R12 -

4 Hearthrob – another horse perfectly suited for this distance

9 Goliath Duruisseau – steady class gain since entering Menary’s barn

18 Intrepid Bigadier – was one of those start/stop types at Windsor back when Geno was driving, maybe can end up in the 8th over position(yes, I just said 8th over) and pick up the pieces late

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Xtreme Card is Up & Beach in the Derby

Well, we are going to try and take a stab at this Extreme Horsepower card at Georgian Downs. I am away this week, but I think I can at least give it a shot.

For those who are interested in spending a Saturday night with some interesting races and some potential box car payoffs, here is a copy of the program.

I still have to get Lou the Whip to add his thoughts as we get closer to race time.

On Saturday, the Canadian Pacing Derby elims are, well cut down to one elim. This race is for 3yo pacers as well as older (I was there when 3YO Indian Alert won, way back when). I wonder if Woodbine would have asked Somebeach to enter, say for free. 1) We are probably not going to see him race in this event and 2) I think he'd win easily. It would be, in my opinion, perhaps the most entertaining race of the decade.

Regardless, it is a good field and should be a very nice race.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Hambo Day

It rained, it poured and it was, sunny!

I'll have more to write when I get a chance about my first Hambo Day/Week, but a few quick notes.

* This event is bigger than any I have been to for harness racing.

* The staff and crew at the Meadowlands & Hambeltonian Society pull this off every year without a hitch? I can't believe that. It is a huge undertaking.

* It's a nice day to be Jody J. He snags two fifth's in catch drives (both good steers) as a plane leaving Toronto apparently had some problems of some sort and Trevor does not make the event. Mid-lane I personally thought Clerk Magistrate was going to win the Hambo for him, resulting in a catch drive for the ages.

* The box area at the Hambo for owners and some heavy hitters contained some serious money. It kind of made me think that this was a lil bit of a thoroughbred event. But then Dewey wins, with a trainer/driver bringing me back to the reality that harness racing is grassroots, and there is absolutely nothing that can take that away.

* It struck me that the box area did have those many owners, much of them Meadowlands regulars. These regulars are treated extremely well. And that is a good thing, they should be as some of them put a couple of million a year into this sport and we have to make sure they always feel special. However, the three or four bettors I hung out with this week also put a couple of million into this sport (commissions at 21% blended rakes that go directly to purses and operations) each year. At Pull the Pocket Downs they will have boxes just like the owners. In my opinion they should take a back seat to no one.

* All in, this week gets a 10 out of 10. Quite a week. It is amazing that we can not fix the game of harness racing with all the know-how and passionate effort I saw this week.

I'll hopefully get some more thoughts down and would like to hear everyone's comments on the Hambo. I just have to catch up on work first. I have to pay the bills somehow, because after a very solid beginning to the week at the windows, I went kaput. Misterizi was about my only cash the last couple of days, although I did have some nice near misses, and did have the right idea. Pitching the Thong entry was smart, but I could not convert. That tri was super-light. Someone must have had that for $5 or so, in addition to the usual numbers players. Anyhow, I hope y'all fared better.

Some Serious Buzz

It never dawned on me. I go to conferences and events and things like that in my business, but I have never really been involved or done anything with something like this.

The Hambo is a seriously big event.

Of course, there is a who's who of racing here, but I was particularly struck by the magnitude of this event. Beside me tonight at the Hambo dinner was two gentleman of Finnish descent, and across a few folks of Swedish descent. Trotting lovers, huge fans. This race has an international appeal and I am not convinced there is any other race which would do that.

Getting back to the hotel, I am met with two kids, about 8 and 11, playing with whips, driving gloves and googles, right in the lobby. Where'd they get the driving stuff? Ron Pierce. Getting into the hotel bar tonight, another event. People speaking of the Wilson, Adios, Hambo. It is like you are chatting on a chat board with a pile of fans, but the fans are right in front of you.

I have been to the Jug, and other events, but this one is big. There is no doubt about it, and I am not sure there is bigger in our sport.

As for the conference this week, the USTA has a good synopsis. I was impressed with Seth Rosenfeld (he who had the NA Cup heartbreak with Beach Towel way back when). Young Chris Hayes (Dr John's son) did a very nice job explaining a little bit about web marketing to the masses as well. VP of a pharma start-up, Mark Hunter, was pretty passionate and interesting. He has the entrepreneurial, kick-ass flair I think we need in this business.

Friday, August 1, 2008

A Great Game

Starting up the blog, from scratch, I had zero idea what would come of it. After six months or so, I am really happy I have some people checking in from time to time who are thoroughbred fans. I have always been amazed - and I mean always - how different the people are in the two games. Not different in a bad way, just different. I am happy that the runner readers can get a snapshot of that difference from time to time.

This is illustrated perfectly when I see stories like this: It is Chris Tully's Dewey Notebook, where we speaks about NBC's visit with the champ.

No sooner had the producer thanked Ray for the close-ups when Mr. Schnittker leaned down and generously asked the retired jockey and current NBC Sports horseracing commentator, Donna (Barton) Brothers, if she would like to take a spin on Dewey. She was thrilled and grinned from ear to ear. With a leg-up from Ray she was off and trotting.

Letting NBC's Donna Brothers "hop aboard" Dewey for a little ride? So harness racing.

I wonder what Rick Dutrow would have said to an ESPN producer if he said "can I have a ride on Big Brown?"

It is a different game. Not better, not worse, but different. And those of us who are part of it, even in only a small way would not trade that difference for anything.