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Showing posts from January, 2009


Woodbine takes it hard from players regarding movement in their races (as we discussed below). But there is a nasty thing happening virtually everywhere with drivers. There is a habit forming at most tracks where a horse is pulled and they don't move forward. The driver just sits on the outside waiting on cover. This completely clogs up the outside and makes watching paint dry seem palatable. How 'bout enforcing a rule - the rule already there - where if you pull you move forward or we fine you $500? I think it would be fixed in about 48 hours.

Anyone agree, or is it just me?

Gathering the Wind asks the question. But I don't think there is anyone to answer him. I have said this for years and I believe it to this day: Our sons and daughters and granddaughters and grandsons will be reading about the business of racing and the period of 1999-2010 in MBA textbooks. And the case studies will not be complementary.

Flat Fees For Drivers & Winner Take All

There is a new rule being bandied about that drivers must go a second quarter within three seconds of the first quarter. As most know, on 7/8's mile tracks (it does not only happen at Woodbine) there is a huge first sprint, sometimes resulting in a 25 and change quarter, then an immediate back down of the pace. Fans and racetracks have been complaining for some time about single file racing on 7/8's. So much so that Woodbine recently went to 7/8's mile racing to combat this. In addition, lack of movement has been a bone of contention with fans who think that many drivers are not giving 100% effort. In an interesting suggestion Scott, a horse owner and kind and gentle poster at, came up with an interesting suggestion to shake up the driving colony.

"Pay each driver a flat fee, no percentage. The percentage (5% of the entire purse) goes to the winning driver. The rest get their appearance fee. The thought being: Drivers would try quite hard to win the r…

Betfair, TVG Notes

New article on Betfair and TVG here. Nicholson from Keeneland seems to tepidly see this as an opportunity. And as expected, he mentions the customer. It seems to be customary to mention the customer in every statement if you work for Keeneland.

Keeneland Race Course President Nick Nicholson, whose Lexington track had an exclusive contract with TVG, said he knows some Betfair officials in part through his previous job at The Jockey Club.

Since U.S. betting is based on the pari-mutuel system, he doesn't think Betfair will "have any choice but to do that" in this country.

Whatever happens, Nicholson said the industry needs to quit the feuding and frustrating its customers.

He believes, as Betfair does, that television is still an important medium for racing.

It will be interesting to watch this business plan develop as we have been chatting about below. I think racing will see some neat innovative change. Change that we need.

Andy Let's Them Have It

Long fed up with the state of the game and the amazing differences in horse performance from the 1970's (when he cut his teeth) to today via the barn change, Andrew Beyer has been a one man wrecking ball. He echoes what many on both the backstretch as well as the grandstand have been saying about miraculous turnarounds from trainers getting new stock in his latest piece.

Such distrust has corroded the very foundation of the sport. Honest owners are reluctant to invest in the game when they believe they can't compete with the cheaters. Many bettors have lost enthusiasm because the art of handicapping has become an exercise in guessing who has the best "juice." The public at large is alienated when it suspects that drugs are tainting the sport's greatest events.

The horse he focuses on in the article is a recent Dutrow acquisition.'s founder CJ listed his figures for the turnaround:

117, 76, 75, 66, 79, 71, 81, 33, 43

(hint - the 117 is the 1st time…

Betfair & TVG - A Big Opportunity for Racing

Betfair finally expands its market to the US, by acquiring TVG, as was announced today. TVG has one of the biggest reaches as a television network, and is also an advance deposit wagering company, offering players avenues to bet their tracks over the phone and internet. Currently TVG is only offered to US citizens.

This deal is extremely interesting from a number of perspectives. Here are a few thoughts to chew on. My opinion only, off the top of my head at this early stage.

I expect some in racing and possibly TVG’s competitors to raise hell. They still have to pass muster in North America regulatorily (I believe), so there is time to try and discredit them. In any other business if a successful franchise wanted into your market, trumpets would blare and people will jump for joy, but this is racing. A new player in the space, especially one who has proven time and time again that their main focus lies not in the status quo, but in growing their customer base, will be met with resistanc…

Mr. Feelgood Wins Downunder

Why do I always think of Motley Crue when this horse wins?

Anyway, I was scouring the net for the video a few days ago and could not find it. Lo and behold, who points it out to me? Yes, a thoroughbred fan. Thanks Valerie!

The Jug Champion and former North American stud was shipped downunder and in his first race he won. The "ship across an ocean and win first start" is not a very good angle in harness racing. But this time it was bang on. Here is the video in case you have not seen it.

Keeping Stars Racing Past Age Three

The push is on to keep horses racing past age three in harness, courtesy the Older Horse Committee:

“We believe the industry is crying out for someone to take the initiative to at least make an effort to reverse the long steady decline in interest by the general public in our sport. We also believe that if horse owners know their horse will have to race at the age of four, it might encourage and promote the breeding of sounder horses, which would be a benefit to everyone. This rule would also have some provision to allow horses that physically could not race at age four to be excluded from this prohibition.”


In the "this is only a brick in the wall" of this post, here is a very good post from Steve Crist, long ago. He (rightfully, imo) states that the mellifluous thought that somehow the sports stars racing can turn back the clock and make the game better again is misguided, and wrong. There is a ton wrong with the game, and a few good horses not retiring will not fix …

Prix D'Amerique

Today the Prix D'Amerique went in France. I stopped taking French in grade 8 so I have no idea what they are saying. However, a picture is worth a thousand words, so they tell me. This sure does look exciting.

Handicapping - Layoffs

One of the toughest things to handicap is the horse off an extended layoff. At the track I will often hear, "I will never bet a horse who is coming off a qualifier with a long layoff" or in the runners "200 days or more in an automatic pitch." Let's face it, this is often correct. In harness racing, a complaint from some is the 'he will need one' line. In thoroughbred racing, if a trainer wanted to put one over on someone it is a fine time to do it with a first time starter, or a long layoff horse with no form, because people tend to believe they have no shot.

So, is this true? Are long layoffs truly detrimental? Are they sucker bets? Should we bet the odds board? Well we have some numbers. First, courtesy our friend Ray, some from harness.

In 2008, here is some data:

Days off.....Starters......ROI

29-40 .......2496 .........0.42
41-60 .......1230 .........0.65
61+ ..........246 .........0.72

With a blind bet ROI of about 0.78, each of these layoff sections ha…

Winter is a Bad One this Year In Canuckland

It's been seriously cold in the north east. And the snow is a little higher than usual. Ok, a lot higher than usual. Thanks to a blog reader and a horsewoman for giving us this nice picture of a couple of deer in her backyard. Deer heads I guess would be more accurate.

We certainly live in a cold country. It struck me this week we have to be a bit different here, considering anywhere north of Sudbury is generally snowbound and colder than a handicapper on a losing streak. But it is a pretty neat country isn't it? I glanced a bit at the inauguration this week in the US (a country that I like and admire by the way). Celebrities, money spent like the country is in good shape, glitz, glitter, superstardom. I kind of like our way. When a Prime Minister gets elected here, he is seen the next day walking his kids to school. When he gets sick, like ours did awhile back with an asthma attack, he goes to an emergency room and stands in line with the rest of us. I think it is wonderful th…

Is Twin Spires Taking Over the World?

I have been watching the news with Bob Evans, Churchill's CEO, and Twin Spires in general. For those who do not know, is Churchill's ADW arm, and they have sunk a pile of cash into it, and offer players many features (like the very good TwinspiresTV).

As we spoke about below, they have sent Jill Byrne to Las Vegas to cover the National Handicapping Championship. Her features are here, and they will be updated for the Championship. This is a good idea and what I hope we can do for our contests in the future. Here is episode 2.

I personally think they are trying to stake their claim over the internet betting landscape. They seem to be everywhere - advertising in magazines, giving out money for handicapping contests, many promotions and things like that. Will they succeed? I don't think they can win all of the business without hefty rebates, because big players depend on them to give them a shot. Sure TwinspiresTV is nice, but if you are betting $1000 a day and …

Rage Against the Machine

For the Super Bowl in 1984, Apple Computer released the commercial. The buzz was built-in because they pre-released how much it cost ($1M. When that number was considered much more than just 16% of a Mats Sundin per annum stipend), that they would only show it once, and they were introducing a product that (they said) would change the world. Not to mention, behind the scenes the rumour was that it was almost canned by some of the executive, adding to its lore. In the end, it was the most watched Super Bowl ad, and the lines to TV stations were jammed with people wondering what this ad was about, and what the hell a Macintosh was. It was buzz on steroids.

This ad worked for a number of reasons; on one level it succeeded because they had a villain. The man on the screen is IBM; the old, the boss, the controller of computing. Apple did something brilliant by responding quickly to them (and their vision of the future) by saying that a home computer can be fun, it is controlled by you and n…

Beach's Stud Career off to Flying Start

I found one of the most comical things that occurred during the Beach's run was some onlookers who thought his career would be tarnished by not going to the Little Brown Jug. With a horse who can pace a sixteenth of a mile faster than any horse living or dead, missing a race is correlated to his history and future about as much as what colour harness he wears. For some evidence of that, it looks like he has attracted the best mares we have in our sport, and whomever could get booked, did so quickly.

In fact his book was filled long before his stud fee was announced. In fact people were coming to us not long after it was announced he would stand at stud back in October.

"I have been with Hanover Shoe Farms for 12 years now and even though you can never predict the potential of a sire, at this early stage he's right up there with the best sires I have seen.

"He's even more popular than Western Ideal and The Panderosa. Niatross is the only other sire I could mention in…

Harness Handicapping Finals - Use TV Right

I read the latest edition of the Horseplayer's Magazine and they spoke of the national handicapping championship to be held this month in Vegas. Handride linked a press release about it on his blog, noting that since ESPN is not covering it this year, Twin Spires has created an update channel with live video and reporting from Jill Byrne. Bravo.

Now, what about ours for harness here in Canada?

I went to the last one - not as a qualifier of course - at Woodbine. It was done well, with Trot people, and Woodbine providing a nice venue, some food and drink and all the rest (Woodbine bashers can choose something else to bug them about; this was well done). However, there was no coverage on the Woodbine in-house show, or anywhere else. I frankly enjoyed being there to see how a few friends were doing, and am generally interested in these contests as they are entertaining. But if I was not there I would have had no idea it was going on, and no idea who was winning. It was done in a vacuum.

Place Prices

We spoke before about "Betting Without Validation", meaning that if we see something anecdotally happen that fits our built-in bias, we believe it to be true, eventhough when we look at it with some backing numbers it might be totally wrong.

This struck me again reading this forum on A poster asks what a good estimation of what a horse might pay to place is. Dave Schwartz, proprietor of Horse Street Software, replies around "40% of win odds"; meaning that if a horse is 5-2 (2.5-1) the horse should pay around $4 to place (2.5 x 0.40 = 1.00-1 or $4). Someone replied to Dave that he checked 10 days of results and that is wrong. Dave came back with hard data. He checked 25,000 races, and for horses under 7-1 the ratio is 0.38 and for all odds ranges it is 0.366.

It is something that has struck me in my handicapping life that never ceases to amaze me. I still trust, but now I look to verify.

Bradshaw to Swann = Nice Exactor

“According to one story, a priest came and asked Rooney for money to help start a Catholic orphanage. Rooney peeled off $10,000 and handed it to the priest, who asked, ‘Are these ill-gotten gains?’

‘Why no, father, I won that money at the race track,’ Rooney said.”

There were a few folks in the blogosphere chatting about bloggers and journalists recently. I did not think much of that or comment, because I generally spew out drivel here, based on something I read on the net, some track hiking takeout and wondering why their churn went down, or some horse I saw race. But there are some folks who really do some fantastic work that can be called journalism. Valerie is one, and she writes a really cool, timely piece on Pittsburgh Steelers founder Art Rooney, and the teams connection with horseplaying.

That is journalism; and that is very well done.

CSI Recap

Although CSI Miami clearly has some of the best acting in the history of the craft, it simply is not a show regularly on my dial. But I did watch it tonight for the horse racing episode. In case you missed it, I am going to synopsize it for you (if that is a word, I am not sure). Spoiler alert!

- Man dies at the track, and no, it wasn't from heart failure after seeing the superfecta takeout

- A female jockey (who's super-smoking hot) resorts to cheating by using a buzzer on a horse. She needs it to get ahead in a man's world.

- Really hot woman in the science lab senses that drugs were used on the horse so someone could cheat, and make money bettin'

- David Caruso takes off his glasses and sneers at a mobster

- All knowing really good-looking science woman tells the model-looking science guy that the horse pinning his ears back means he is unhappy with him. She is apparently from Kentucky, and everyone from Kentucky knows this

- Man taking care of the horse has a heart of g…

Hollywood Smackdown

Usually celebrities are making fools of themselves speaking of the geo-science of global warming like they have more than a drama minor from a junior college. This time it is more grassroots and kind of cool. It involves perhaps the most comical political celebrity out there in Alec Baldwin. The super-vegan believes horses pulling around a little cart in New York should be stopped. Liam Neeson (who has actually ridden a horse) says they should stay.

Go get 'em Darkman!

Hat tip to Paulick.

Overacting, Ouch & Little Hope

Green But Game tells us, through her scouring the interweb, that CSI Miami has a horse racing episode tonight. I am waiting with the DVR for the episode because I want to hear David Caruso overact on being a handicapper. "You.... bet ... the seven? The seven has..... no ..... shot.... Bet the ......six..... he has good late.... numbers" If there are any lines delivered like below, man this could be good.

I notice on Ray Paulick that friend to racing Richard Shapiro, former head of the Cali Horse Racing board had some trouble as part of the Madoff nonsense. He always struck me as a decent fellow. In an interview he demonstrates the malaise that hits us in horse racing.

"Horse racing is a dysfunctional industry," said Shapiro, who has been in the sport nearly all his life and whose family owned the legendary Native Diver. "There are so many viewpoints. We need so much help from government. We have to find new alliances. We need to make the industry viable again.&q…

Make $200,000 in Three seconds

Ever lose a photo and it cost you a few bucks? How about having a horse break stride nearing the wire?

Tough beat for a few players in the UK last week when a horse who was well clear decided to do a little jig and unseat its rider. It cost two syndicates about $400,000 in a sweep bet. But for others it was a pretty neat score. One punter at betfair bought a longshot at 999-1 in-running, bet GBP111 (a couple hundred bucks) 20 yards from the wire and walked away with over $200,000. Not a bad day at the track.

Something About Snowy Racing.....

I went to the Big Track tonight and the weather was frightful, but there is something about harness racing on a night like that. Snow coming down, stakes races. It felt a little like being at old Greenwood this evening; a few die hards, and not too many others, watching some racing.

In the picture above the Glorys Comet went to the talented Please Poppy in a very exciting race.

In the 8th race which was the Willowdale Series second leg, racing does not get much better than that. It was a twelve horse field, it had plenty of movement, jockeying for position, and some solid fractions. The winner was an old North America Cup winter book horse we spoke about last year here, Real Nice.

It is pretty weird to me. On a snowy day I find I will turn off a thoroughbred track. On a snowy evening I love watching harness racing.

The Hearty Standardbred

It's cold. I am thinking of moving to Baffin Island because it has to be warmer there than here. With all our runner friends in the northeast cancelling, I check the landscape and see the harness tracks are in full force. Say what you want about the two games, runners and harness, but one thing we got on 'em is toughness. These horses are something else. Give them a couple of meals, treat them with a bit of respect and they will run through a wall for you, and enjoy doing it at the same time.

We are pretty darn lucky.


The Big M pick 4 paid a nice $700+ last night, despite 3 heavily bet horses. They have promoted that pick 4 over the years and charge a very low rake. That is a hell of a good bet. Our pickers below got 3.0 of 4. Nice try guys.

Gil Grissom left CSI last night. I am changing my vote for harness commissioner from Santa (god love the big red bugger) to him.

The geeks out there are now speaking about Web 3.0. Bah. Harness Racing 1.1 would be good; but if 3.0 is coming, I hope it spits me out some winners, makes my life better, and stops people in racing from telling me that the price of their product does not matter.

Got an email from a friend who wants to try what these British chaps are doing with UK racing. If he does try it I hope he will give us a weekly update.

Got an email from another friend ready to embark on his "I am going to play poker and racing at casino's and playing as long as I can get a comp" trip. It starts next week. Perhaps we can get him to keep us posted …

Making Money at Racing

I am reading a post at Paceadvantage speaking of how nuts we are to bet racing. I am also reminded going to a conference where an ADW exec would not state the number of people who are winners at his ADW; only saying coyly 'we don't speak about that', because we know the number is probably 1 in one thousand. I think about the Mike Maloney interview where he stated when asked about how many professional horse bettors there are in the US he said 'maybe a couple of hundred of us'. But as I did below with Adam's blog about making $300,000 at racing in the UK, I again am doing a little reading.

I come across this: A gentleman who last year challenged himself to make 100,000GBP (about US$200,000) by betting the horse races. Guess what? He accomplished this feat on December 19th.

We have spoken many times here that our system is broken, our takeouts are too high, yadda, yadda, yadda. Broken record. But if we branch out, get rid of our worldview that racing is a place we …

Overused Angles

Quick, go ask 100 race fans at the track what they think of first time lasix. Like most angles like this, you will hear positive reviews. I am a simple guy and live my life under only a few basic rules, one of which is this: Never trust positive reviews of two things 1) a popular betting angle and 2) any movie starring Ben Affleck.

For our runner friends:

1st Lasix
Wins: 1,354
Horses: 13,252
Win %: 10.2
ROI: 0.80

For my standardbred brothers and sisters (hat tip to Ray):

1st Lasix
Starts: 2,543
Wins: 368
ROI: 0.81

Do yourself a favor - shop for another bet that has some value.

150k Challenge

We spoke before about a poker site promoting the "Chris Ferguson Challenge" where he starts with zero dollars in his poker account and he tries to turn that bankroll, with skill, into $10,000. We said that this promotion - making money at the game trumps just about every marketing angle out there. If people can make money, they will come. In what seems to be a world away there is a young fella who is trying to make GBP150,000 at racing in 2009. Yes, racing.

There is plenty eye-opening about this. 1) How many people in racing even think for a second they could make $300,000 in one year through the pari-mutuel system? Try it. Go to a chat board and state that you are going to make US$300k and see what type of responses you will get. You will be called nuts, crazy, and people will be posting weblinks to their psychiatrist for you. 2) Adam Heathcote, the lad who is trying this (after having a successful 2008), is only 23 years old. So much for the 'racing is for old folks'…

Change Comes

The OHHA has elected a new president. Bill O'Donnell, driver of such greats as Nihilator, was chosen to take over the horseman's organization today in a meeting. Immediately Mr. O'Donnell placed his stamp on the group by reaching out to Woodbine. As you know, this latest stalemate was mainly due to the horseman's assocation's executive insistence that Woodbine drop some of their demands in using private property rights to expel trainers who have gotten positives off their grounds.

"WEG doesn't want to hurt anyone. Their board is made up of horse people and they genuinely want to race horses unlike some other tracks."

At the heart of the debate is the private property rights issue to which OHHA took exception.

"WEG did not want to have a partner that condoned bad behaviour in racing. There was a clause that we were having trouble with but in my time in racing I always knew that at any racetrack there were private property rules.

"Not that I ever…

2nd Annual O'Brien Awards Picks

It’s time once again for my picks (I am Greg, the guest poster and Harness Herb contact) for the O’Brien Awards, which are coming up just around the corner. Before we get to the picks, congratulations to all the nominees for just making it this far.

Two-Year Old Filly Trot:

I give the nod here to Elusive Desire, who won three races and failed to hit the board only once in her 14 starts. The biggest win in her campaign, which saw her bank over $395,000 was the Ontario Sires Stakes Super Final, and she just seemed to be getting better and better as the year went on.

Two-Year Old Filly Pace:

This is a pretty easy one as St Lads Popcorn steamrolled through the Ontario Sires Stakes program, winning 12 of her 15 starts and over $602,000. Not bad for any two-year old, let alone one who sold for just $5,000 as a yearling.

Two-Year Old Colt Trot:

It looks like Federal Flex should pick up the O’Brien here. He was impressive early, winning the Bridger Series and the Champlain, and late, scoring …

Escape the Wind wins #50

One of the true class acts in harness racing is 9 year old Escape the Wind. He won his 50th race today at Woodbine, and now stands at 166-50-19-22 for $1.96M earned. I remember his first start like it was yesterday. You could tell he had some go as he stormed from 10th to be 2nd. Only four months or so later Roger had him in the Breeders Crown. He survived an absolutely horrid trip to be second, almost running down the winner. Since that time he has suffered through a heart problem and a few other minor issues, but like most class animals he gets his share of wins between the troubles. Congratulations to Roger Mayotte on this milestone.

For a summary of Escape the Wind's running lines they can be accessed here, for a limited time only!

What's a WEGZ? And Holy Smokes!

I went to WEGZ Sports bar last night for the football games and some racing. It's owned by Woodbine entertainment. It has big screens, weird lights cut out as Maple Leafs, golf, pool and a pile of other things. It is also a teletheatre. I just don't know where that name came from. What is WEGZ?

Quite honestly, it is probably the best sports bar I have ever been to, and I have been to a few in my days. You can bet and watch some racing, hook up the computer with some Wifi and enjoy yourself with some affordable food. The only problem? I am getting too old to be surrounded by people under 30. Luckily I still tend to act like I am twelve.

They push the sports betting angle there with odds, prop bets and so on that are along their electronic banner. I can see why Woodbine wants sports betting. If it was allowed there I would submit that millions would go through that place.

We went to Woodbine for a few of the races after that. Yikes, that was some kind of weather.

Cangamble and HAN…

A Day in the Life

It is about freezing and not an overly great Friday weather-wise. But for the harness trainer, who is getting several horses qualified and ready to race it is a busy day. This game is brutal, ups and downs, downs and ups. If you don't have some sort of structure in dealing with those swings, you are in a tough spot. Harness trainer Nick Boyd felt like writing something today, and he passed it along. It is posted here for you, just as a reminder that those horses pacing and trotting around that TV screen don't make it there by themselves.


Today was a good day. Not a great day, not a bad day, but a good day. What is a good day though? It was not warm and sunny, but rather overcast and chilly. There was a light snow, I had to work, and there were bills to pay. I did not win the lottery, or inherit any sum of money. I was not informed of good news, nor was there any bad news presented to me. Today …

Not a Lot of Action

.... in harness racing-land lately. However, the Woodbine/Horseman dispute over their contract for 09 and beyond keeps getting more and more interesting. The new news is that Woodbine will not be negotiating with the OHHA, they are looking for someone new to deal with, it seems. WEG head David Willmot in the Toronto Star:

"We have absolutely kept the entry box open, the horsemen have never stopped entering and racing and we have assured the horsemen of no changes in any of the financial arrangements. The last thing we want is to prevent anyone from earning a living," WEG head David Willmot said yesterday. "The only thing that has changed is that we do not want to have further negotiations with OHHA.

"We have no legal obligation to be under contract with OHHA. It is not a union. It is an association representing private contractors. We have been under contract (with OHHA) for many years, but that looks like it is coming to an end."

A Stern Call for Change

The recent horseman dispute with Woodbine Entertainment has been tumultuous. In late December the Ontario Harness Horse Association called for a boycott of the box at Woodbine, due to primarily Woodbine's reluctance to give in on their right to private property, and banning people they feel hurt their product. From almost its inception the boycott call was met with less than full support. The box filled easily. Then a second boycott was called and the box filled easily again. I had a couple of people in the know mention to me that they thought this might be the end of the leadership at the horseman's organization, as they lost the confidence of the membership.

Earlier today this call was made public. John Kopas, trainer of Keystone Horatio among many other greats, and member of a family which has been heavily involved in racing since the 1950's called for a change in leadership in the OHHA. In a letter to the Harness Edge he stated:

I have grave concerns in regards to our cu…

Ray Paulick Spurs Betfair Discussion

Ray Paulick seems to be a bit of a polarizing a figure. It seems some people like his style, and some people don't. Very few do not have an opinion on the man. However, one thing he always does is spur discussion. In his latest piece he looks at Betfair and if they should, or their model should be embraced here.

I was reading the Dan Patch Story recently, and one quote showed how we thought way back in 1900. It was a snippet from racing about the new invention of cars. Racings response was that cars would hurt racing, as the horse was a transport vehicle and attracted people to harness racing. They wanted the building of roads banned in some areas of the US and lobbied for it. So it is not surprising that some of the responses, and the responses we have seen over the years from North American racing, about betfair are to be expected. We tend to fear the new and believe that protecting our sport is more important than growing our sport. I dare say this policy has not worked very wel…

What's Up With Jersey Racing?

Anyone know?

Monmouth's handle was up for the thoroughbreds. Now out this week, the Meadowlands handle was up for harness. All I can think of is two things: 1) Jersey has to work extra hard for revenues since they have no slots, thus the hard work is paying off (same with Hawthorne handles) and 2) They are available virtually everywhere, to all ADW's and rebate shops. I know a couple folks who play the M at rebate shops, and they are not small bettors. Whatever the reason, it is good to see.

Allan noted this article in terms of Ocean Downs - fight club II. Horseman are shutting down simulcasting because of the backstretch closing.

For those who have not been following it, the horseman association in Ontario has backed off on their boycott. It was not well received by horseman (they continued to enter). Woodbine responded today that they are happy that racing is ongoing, and that the horseman appear to be in favour of them trying to clean up racing at their track.

Last up, all th…

Awful Numbers

Wagering on all North American racing fell below $14 billion in 2008, a loss of over 1 billion of handle.

In inflation adjusted terms, our handle fell below $10 billion. We bet about $2B more in 1996, before internet betting was even invented.

In contrast, all is not overly peachy in Australia, but they bet about $8B last year in their dollars. Their GDP is about $775 billion. Canada's GDP is $1.3 trillion and the US about ten times that at 13 trillion. When will we wake up and put some policies in place to grow handles? Is anyone out there in power beginning to believe we have a serious wagering problem yet?

Hat tip to the commenter at the Paulick Report who referenced Supertramp's "Crisis, What Crisis" album. Pass the Moonshine, sister.

Someone Knows Who They Are - And Plan for It

In Australian newspaper The Age there is a good piece on racing in Australia and what they plan to do for 2009 and beyond. It is pretty eye-opening compared to what we are doing across the pond here.

In North America we seem to be concentrating on finding ways to split the shrinking pie, or litigating racing in such a way to be protectionist. Also, very little planning seems to be occurring with Internet wagering. Often in fact, we hear the Utopian view that we will attract people back to the track, just like days gone by. Not in Australia. There they have studied their customers and have worked a plan to increase betting participation through 2020 and beyond.

Some of the snippets of the article:

On who the customer is.... "About 40 years ago, officials finally realised that horse racing revolved around gambling" This was achieved by a customer study that showed 95% of patrons were bettors of more than $40 per day. Only 5% were there to watch the horses, and they bet less than…

Notes Around the Horn

Several notes of interest, that I am too lazy to elaborate on.

...... On the Paulick Report, Mr Fred Pope is back defending his system that the tracks themselves should get the vast majority of the take, and ADW's get much less. Some players and ADW owners, like Dick Powell of RGS have joined the discussion. Mr. Powell's post cuts perfectly to the chase. If Mr. Pope's plan was ever enacted (don't worry it won't be), then handles will fall precipitously as Mr. Powell explains. We need people shaping this game who understand wagering; who bet. If Andrew Black had carte blanche we would be in a hell of a lot better shape than we are. I believe that if this industry ever starts funding purses through gross profits instead of the archaic current system, we'd be able to see some real growth. Racing mantra for 2009 - take what we have done and do the opposite.

..... I went to Woodbine last night. I have never seen the slots so dead. Yep, it was cold, but it was an after…

Top Ten Races, Change Pricing & V75 hit?

Our friend US Harness racing at his blog has added his top 5 harness races of 2008. Mine are a bit different. I liked #5 - Mr. Big versus Artistic Fella in the Haughton; #4 - Muscle Hill's 153.3 Breeders Crown win; #3 - Somebeachsomewhere against the clock in 46.4; #2 - Somebeachsomewhere over Shadow Play at Yonkers and #1 - Same as our pal at that blog. Easily the race of the year.

Change your pricing, change your story? Absolutely.

I am not sure if the $15 million dollar V75 was hit in Sweden or not. I have been scouring the news but every news story is in Swedish. I refuse to use one of those fancy translators. I am guessing - yes it was hit!

Beach versus..... and a Few Notes

A poster commented "what is up with Hoof Beats?" I knew what he was speaking about. On Andrew Cohen's blog there was quite a bit of chatter during the debate on who was a better horse, Dewey or Beach. One or two of the commenters, I think one might have been Murray Brown of Hanover Shoe Farms, said "what does Hoof Beats have against Somebeachsomewhere?" Apparently the horse had never once made the cover of the magazine and people were wondering why. I do not know either way, however, this month's cover does make one scratch their head a little bit.

After the Breeders Crown virtually every story (including the AP wire), mentioned when speaking of the Beach's BC win that 'horse of the year was locked up'. In fact, I have not heard anyone in the blogosphere or press even think it is a debate anymore. But I guess Hoofbeats still thinks so. What do they know that we don't?

There is more than one column out there lamenting the brutal year racing ha…