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Showing posts from April, 2009

First Look at Derby Odds

Betfair has opened the post position market late this evening and we are seeing a fairly tight book for this early in the game. This is much different from last year when the Brown looked to lay over the field. This is an interesting Derby, and this is even with Quality Road out.

With 13.6% overround we have:

IWR 7-2; Plenty wanted to lay at that price
Dunkirk 5-1; Thin market
Friesan Fire 6-1
POTN 7-1
Regal Ransom 17-1
Desert Party 18-1

It appears that there will be four horses under 10-1. I find it interesting that one week ago the illegal books were offering 40-1 for Regal Ransom. He is the biggest mover of all the horses when you compare last week to this week. That strikes me as odd.

As for Churchill I ran my database tonight and do not see too much. It is a fair track thus far this meet, in my opinion.

Offshore Money Derby Stuff

I have been thinking about my Derby betting the past couple of days. It is simply a must-bet event with large pools, a huge field and the opportunity to make a score. Conversely, let's face it, if you do not get your blood pumping watching this as a pure fan, you might as well call the paramedics for a pulse check.

For my pure fan bet, I would bet Friesan Fire. If you do not like and admire Larry Jones, I wonder who you would like and admire in our game. However, despite my wish to use him in exotics and I do think he is the most likely winner, I think he will be too low for me. I do not worry one bit about the time off. This is a completely different game today with modern techniques, breeding and vet care. We will see myths shattered about some of these rules, and have seen myths shattered for years now.

Right now, IWR is taking a lot of cash offshore. He is chalk, and will be chalk no question. He is minus 197 to beat FF heads up in match bets. He is minus 157 to beat Dunkirk. He…

Morning Line Madness

I hate being a gambler sometime, because these things really tend to bother me, when all I should be doing is being a fan.

Driving back today from the Conference with a friend (and professional gambler) we listened to the morning line for the Derby. I Want Revenge 3-1. Dunkirk 4-1. Pioneerof the Nile 4-1. We looked at each other and the car was almost in the ditch.

Those three horses, out of 20 of them, have a 65% chance to win, according to the morning line (yes I know the ML adds rake and is made for the crowd). This is absolutely mind-boggling: The other 17 horses have a 35% chance to win? If I could ever get that in a race, sign me up.

It goes without saying that IWR will be a massive overbet and is an auto-pitch, but the other two at those odds are auto-pitches as well.

Gaming Summit

I will have a full report on the gaming summit and wagering conference once I get some time. But today one quote struck me, from Mark Davies, Managing Director of Betfair that I would like to share:

"Empirical evidence around the world undermines that argument (that operators will lose money by lowering takeout) quite dramatically," Davies responded emphatically. "Lower margin is where horse racing has to go in order to compete with all the other sports out there. Even if you are concerned about lower margin, what you should probably throw into the mix are the people who get involved at the margins because of the lower margins."


Yesterday, the quote with the most cajones was Moira Fanning, on a panel of industry insiders, speaking to industry insiders:

Moira Fanning, Director of Publicity for The Hambletonian Society, was a panelist in this session, and she admonished attendees to quit referring to harness racing as a sport.

“It’s a gaming product, so let’s call it…

Not Sure Why Casino's Are Popular

I am at the Wagering Conference at Caesars Windsor this week. I do not play the casino games much, and now I know why. Wow, are they hard to win at. Some tips I found out this evening: Don't bet 6 at roulette, it never wins. I don't know how to play craps, but when I bet pass it does not pass, and when I bet don't pass, it passes. Whatever that means. Thank goodness I am a horseplayer.

Anyhow, the casino is quite nice here, directly across from the Detroit skyline, which I always found to be a pretty skyline. The Gaming Summit folks are milling around and are quite prevalent. I noticed that this place has quite a few acts performing here over the next several months. The one that I had a chuckle at was Kiss. I thought Kiss was retired, for about the 94th time, but I guess once you spit blood and breathe fire it is a tough thing to give up.

I'll hopefully be back tomorrow to update some news on the panels. Kim from SC is writing stories after each one. To be quite honest …

Wagering Conference Panels, The ABC's

Darryl Kaplan and the crew have added some heavy hitters to the schedule. I see Mr. Bissett there from Delaware North as well as Paul Lavers, founder of Sports Direct Inc. Nice lineup.

Now, here are the ABC's. I went last year so I am using this whole one year's experience to spread that vast knowledge.

Second session:

No Holds Barred

Bettors take on racetrack execs and tell them like it is as a customer of harness racing. What do horseplayers want from racetracks? Are they getting what they want? What can racetracks offer to keep horseplayers satisfied with the product, facilities, wagering opportunities and more?

Peter Gross – Editor, Down The Stretch and Morning Sportscaster, 680 News

Erik Potek – Founder, Canadian Horseplayers Advocacy Group
Jamie Martin – Senior Vice President Racing, Woodbine Entertainment Group
Dennis Dowd – Senior Vice President Legal and Governmental Relations, New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority
Kevin Koury – Horseplayer and Horse…

Sunny Friday!

Woodbine voice Ken Middleton has been tracking the NA Cup eligibles on the Woodbine site and it is dandy. Unlike last year there are a whole slew of horses kept eligible. We'll see what our very own Greg comes up with as he is back this year with his own tracking list. We'll hopefully start that next week here on this blog.

Hec Clouthier, all around nice fella and Prez of OHRIA, ran a marathon last week at the age of 59. I can barely run to the refrigerator. Way to go Mr. C!

The systemic failings of the pari-mutuel system (hey, it is like 150 years old!) were explored by Ray Paulick at the RCI conference last week. This is a mess that we have to clean up, no question.

There is a chat about Pick 6 betting at going on. It is one hard to hit bet. One poster says to play them, you 'need a set'. No kidding. I have a tough enough time with pick 4's. Yesterday I play some tbred action and take a couple pick 4's: The first one at Hawthorne results in my …

Horses & A Deep Respect

Horses are the most amazing animals on earth. They are great athletes. They provide important therapy to disabled people. They have helped pioneers cross the country,"

These horses give you their all. No matter how hard you push them,"

"They are like the best dog you ever had. No matter how many times to discipline them or leave them home alone, they are happy to see you."

These are the comments from a Polo player after the tragic loss of 21 horses, due to possible contamination or poisoning. More.

h/t to Paulick.

Wednesday Notes

It looks like the Standardbred Wagering Conference this next week at Windsor is getting rolling. Several new interesting panelists are announced, including Mark Davies the Managing Director of Betfair, and now head of TVG.

Greg Blanchard at Woodbine has launched this years Pepsi North America Cup website. I used the 'Pepsi' part since folks now use Yum! whenever they say Kentucky Derby. The site is fantastic again this year. Kudos!

Are you ready for Mohawk? I am. I love harness racing in a rural setting. We get it next week.

Jeff Platt of the Horseplayers Association of North America was interviewed on TVG by Matt and Todd this past weekend. I know many of you are members, so here is the interview.

Some Stats, Survey Time & Race Strength

Jody Jamieson has vaulted to second place among North American leading drivers this season, trailing only Aaron Merriman. In past years, unless your name is Walter Case, he who drives most wins most. Jody I think will fall short, due to stakes season this year, but it should be fun to watch. He is working his tail off.

Kentucky Derby stats. Jessica has some up via google docs. There are a lot of cool ways to play the Derby. I think you could do worse than picking the horse that fits the most criteria. I will play Derby Day, but I do not know where I will go yet. Two throwouts for me - I Want Revenge and Pioneer of the Nile. But no throw ins yet.

We have said quite many times on the blog that the world is changing. I think prime evidence of that is the Santa Anita meet this spring. Attendance was up 1%, but all source handle was down 12%. This game (from a pure revenue standpoint) in 2009 is not about getting people out to the track.

Have you picked up this months Trot Magazine? If not, y…

Business Models

Pirate Bay, the torrent search engine, has been found guilty of sharing files, movies, books, what-have-you illegally and the principals have been sentenced. Personally I have never been a fan of these sites, however the business person in me realizes that at the same time this is not a win for authors and producers and actors. It just seems to prolong the inevitable - an excuse to cling to old business models which have been failing.

Via Tech Dirt:

.... the entertainment industry will gleefully declare victory, and make statements about how this is a major victory against "piracy." But, in actuality, the exact opposite of that will occur. Unauthorized file sharing continues (or even increases) and it becomes that much more difficult for the legacy industries to win back customers and embrace these new, useful and efficient tools of distribution and promotion. It's a classic case of winning the battle and losing the war. The ultimate problem, of course, is that the enterta…

The Experiment

Woodbine's experiment with moving the poles down the stretch a couple hundred feet has been interesting, but perhaps uneventful. The racing is not a whole lot different as many handicappers suspected. Not suspending the judges rulings on hole closings I believe completely defeats the purpose anyway. If you leave hard and are toast because you can not get a hole on the turn, all that does is stop drivers from leaving and chewing their mount. But despite that, I must say I do kind of enjoy seeing something different. Maybe it is just me?

I think the reason that these things tend not to make a difference too much is because harness racing, since about the early 1990's has become a game of pure speed. If you race on a half, on a mile track or on a straightaway, speed wins races. What tends to kill speed is one thing only, fast fractions. And fast fractions do not occur with just a racetrack configuration, or closing a hole. Fast fractions occur because of field depth.

Jcapper is a t…

Worth Checking Out?

For the last seven race cards of the year Woodbine has decided to move the start/finish line up 235 feet closer to the turn. This makes the homestretch a whopping 1215 feet, and makes the first quarter sprint more on the turn, rather than on the straightaway.

This could be interesting. The float out/hard sprint will be replaced by more traditional gate driver dynamics, like at the Meadowlands. Will it make a difference? We'll see.

I won an inquiry last night at the Meadowlands for a ticket cash. In race 7 the promising looking Noel Daley colt Western Posse was making his '09 debut. I guess the outside post scared many away as they let him go at 7-1. The huge chalk with Andy Miller got a fairly easy lead and looked to be well on his way to victory until he made a break at the wire. He was more than one length ahead of Western Posse and not lapped on. But with the vague breaking rulings we see sometimes, they pitched him. It is nice to win bets I do not think I should win, but I w…


Seth Merrow of writes a commentary today on the Jeff Mullins detention barn incident that happened at Aqueduct a couple of weeks ago. He believes (and he makes a good point) that much of the chatter has been blown out of proportion.

My problem with the initial coverage and subsequent reaction wasn't that the story was covered, but how it was covered. I contend the story is what it is: A detention barn violation. However it was almost immediately elevated in tone to a cautionary tale of horse-doping and a black-eye for the game -- which I don't think was fair to the racing industry.

This statement is probably true, but the reason that it is true I believe is because of the state of the industry. For 100 years or more, people have tried to get an edge in racing, oft times by nefarious means. The fan base, and the training base is sick and tired of it. It is pandemic. So when they see something like this happen, they get fired up.

Trust me, it is far worse in track an…

Changing the Mindset & Growing Handles

A long time ago a scientist noticed that when a dog saw a lab coat, he drooled. It turns out that the scientist wore his lab coat when feeding the dog. Pavlov's work was begun and we learned all about conditioning. In racing, it turns out when a track sees a horseman group, and vice-versa, we are conditioned that there is gonna be trouble.

At Woodbine this month, negotiations between the horseman group and Woodbine are ongoing, so I hear, to strike a deal. There are a number of things at issue, namely dates, private property rights, purse distribution and so on. Those are all important issues, and I am sure they can be worked out, however, it will not be easy; it never is.

I wonder though, why not work on some common ground, and help the game at the same time?

Currently the revenue agreements banged out between these two parties are pre-1990 in nature (and this is not just here, this is the way they are done all over racing). If the takeout is 22%, the horseman’s group takes a fixed…

Monday Musings

A picture is worth a few words I hear, and these ones sure do(note they are not overly nice pictures of the neglected horses in New York). I am a bit of a sucker for taking care of horses that we bring into this world for our own financial gain. Not to mention I am an animal person (I think what very little TV I watch is dominated by Dogtown and the Dog Whisperer on Natgeo TV), so these things really bother me. I am also a realist and know that we can not take care of every horse out there, everywhere. But there has to be a better way.

George Will (h/t to Equidaily) has a piece on government intervention and the transfer of wealth to businesses who can not make it on their own, in which he includes horse racing.

Rampant redistribution of wealth by government is now the norm. So is this: This redistribution inflames government's natural rapaciousness and subverts the rule of law. This degeneration of governance is illustrated by the Illinois legislature's transfer of income from …

No Whipping Experiment - Two Hooves Up

I went to Woodbine last night and saw live for the first time the new whipping experiment, which forces drivers to keep both hands in the hand holds during the race. I would say that at this early stage, and at first glance, the program looks good.

First, I am of the belief that whipping does very little to affect the outcome of a race. I know bettors feel better when a driver "gets into them" down the lane, but I think that is all smoke and mirrors. If whipping hard was correlated to horses going faster, a driver like [insert name here from a B track] would be this sports all time winningest. I think this was proven last night. The times were all the same for the classes, despite the cold winds and so on. No horse won or lost last night due to the whip, or lack of it.

Second, in Europe the races look like this and they have had these rules for generations. It looked fine. The lack of aggression down the lane was noticed.

Third, outside you could not hear loud cracks. At Mohawk…

Spring Weekend

Spring seems to be here, finally. It is sunny and nice today (still a bit brr though), as was yesterday.

Speaking of spring, the Spring Pacing Championship goes tonight at the Bine. The purse is $87,000. I think many of the open events for aged pacers are watered down nowadays. Back about 20 years ago the FFA went for $12,000 around these parts and this series (it was called a few things over the years) always commanded a high purse, relative to the regular FFA. I think we have to start thinking outside the box a little with this, and become a bit more like the Levy. My suggestion? Make the winter FFA's go for $45,000 and pop $5000 each week into a pot. Promote that to horsepeople south of the border and see if we can not get a few more folks up for the weekly FFA. Then at the end of winter run the spring championship with seeded purses. If we can get this series up to a 150-175k final I think more people would participate.

Both thoroughbreds and standardbreds need better aged event…

Having a Passion for What is Right

Foolish Pleasure today:

Horse racing doesn’t need we bloggers to give it a black eye. Through its archaic attitudes and insular fiefdoms, general (and pervasive) lack of respect for horseplayers and fans through high take-out rates and lack of free access to the most basic past performance information, tolerance of medicinal abuse by successful trainers backed by wealthy hedge fund investors and disbarred lawyers convicted of scamming clients, stories of horrific animal abuse by prominent owners and collusive tolerance for broken down claimers sent quietly to slaughter—the sport is doing a fine job of self-destruction.

The passion is palpable, as it is with many fans in this sport. Why? The easy answer is that most are horse owners, bettors, or horse lovers who want to see everyone treated with respect and the game grow. But that is a White House press secretary answer, not the real one.

If you get sick to your stomach when you see a horse break down, you are one.

If you see a trainer ge…

Whipping Change at Woodbine & the Old Argument

Be prepared for something different starting Thursday when watching the races.

The Ontario Racing Commission has announced that for a two week period starting Thursday, April 9 the drivers at Woodbine Racetrack will be required to drive the entire mile with a line in each hand.

Let's hope if drivers try other edges it is watched for. Regardless, it should be interesting to see this change, and how it is perceived.

In other Woodbine news, they are still on the ban online wagering bandwagon. I assume because they want relief of some sort from government. This $200 million dollar figure they throw around gives me a slight chuckle. Where did they get that number from? Who knows. All I do know is that in 1999 Sony Music had the same stance ("Well, we didn't want to see the future." said [Sony's lawyer] Mr. Gordon. It turns out the strategy was to sue, not partner and realize the world changed), and we all know how that turned out. As Cangamble noted, I do like this spagh…

Some Serious Props

Paulick is doing great work. Not only did he dig, and dig deep into the horse slaughter issue recently regarding a horse owner, now he shifts to researching items in the Mullins detention barn case. He is not afraid to ruffle some feathers and strike at the heart of one of the most basic problems in racing - ethics.

Arthur opted not to comment to the Paulick Report on the Mullins investigation being conducted by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board. In 2005, however, he made the following observations about Mullins to John Scheinman in the Washington Post, saying Mullins was a good trainer who didn’t have a clear sense of ethics: “It’s an attitudinal problem, and those things are hard to overcome,” Arthur said. “It’s basic ethics is what it is. The bottom line is [Mullins] basically lives in his own world, and you can tell by his comments that’s the case. He’s oblivious to everything around him and does things his own way and thinks it’s right.”



From this months Horseplayer Edition of Trot Magazine, "What a Horseplayer Wants":

Would you invest in the stock market if your broker took $2,500 off the top from every $10,000 you invested? If not, then re-evaluate the takeout. Rather than explaining why rate cuts hurt your business, be creative. Start by offering one low-takeout bet a night and promote it aggressively. Advertising changed when Google began charging five cents a click. Music changed when Apple’s itunes began billing 99 cents a song. Classified sales changed when Ebay started charging a few dollars to reach the world. Horse racing will change when stakeholders appreciate why Google, Apple and Ebay are successful at what they do.

To read other horseplayer tendencies, click here.

Anyone play Tampa today for the HANA Pick 3? I did. I stunk, but someone made some cash. The pick 3 came in at 11k. The pools were juiced as well, upwards of 125%.

Ray Paulick has been on a story regarding horse slaughter this week and i…

Breeders Crown 2010 - All on the Same Card

It was announced this past week that in 2010 the Breeders Crown will be switching from their previous format, to a same day one. Fans have been long calling for this change, and for those old enough, they have seen it before (the early Crowns were on the same day), and appeared to like it.

Pocono Downs is the 2010 venue, and this shifts to Woodbine in 2011. It takes cold hard cash to host a BC event, and those two jurisdictions have it. For 2010 at Pocono, it represents another shift. The card will be held on the same days at the Breeders Cup.

Say what?

Chatting with the Hambletonian Society's Moira Fanning she relayed that this is not some kind of grand plan, it was the only one. The Red Mile Grand Circuit is in full-force in October (and host in 2010 of the World Equestrian Games which made choosing the Mile impossible that year), and late October is optimum. That's where Pocono and the scheduling came in.

"The Breeders Crown needs two weeks to race elims and finals. So now…

Good Points, Mullins II & Spencer

Rebecca commented below a point which we hear on harness backstretches virtually everywhere:

"Seeing as you have brought up the Mullins thing I want to throw out a theory. Does anyone think that the rise in handle on Harness racing at Woodbine can be slightly attributed to the fact that finally after so many years of the T-breds looking squeaky clean that now that their dirty laundry (i.e. Mullins, Dutrow etc)is getting out and looking really bad, maybe we look like the better option? At least we have a history of this crap and some semblance of real punishment. (Aka the Robinson ban from WEG.) Just a real far out thought but I have followed T-breds very loosely from a fan perspective for years and can never remember so many drug issues actually making the news."

It has long been said that harness racing is dirty as compared to thoroughbred racing. This, in my opinion, is totally false. There are bad people in each of the sports, but in harness we are in your face about it, a…

Big Hit, Mullins & a Sale with 3% Takeout

The pick 6 was finally hit last night at the Meadowlands. Over $900,000 was bet into the carryover to make it the largest pool ever at the M.

I hit four. I tossed Andy Miller in the first leg so I did not have to worry about cheering for anything. A couple of friends hit 5. One in the US, one in Canada. The one in the US did better as he did not have to pay the 'special fee' that is charged up here.

Oh, oh, trainer Jeff Mullins is in trouble this past weekend. The fellow who had some not nice names for bettors..... get this:

“Our stewards are investigating an incident inside NYRA’s detention barn on Saturday afternoon,” Mahoney said. “NYRA security personnel advised the stewards that Mr. Mullins was observed attempting to administer an over-the-counter product called Air Power to [Gato Go Win] in the security barn. He had also apparently taken a syringe into the security barn.

The IAEH boys are involved in this one as well, as I Want Revenge is a Mullins trainee.

“I can’t make any…

Props To Keeneland

The Keeneland meet starts today in the t-breds. They are almost always the first to do something in this business. This meet, Keeneland has hired horseman and bettor (a good one) Joe Riddell to provide live paddock reports via Twitter. He can be accessed here for you youngins using the twinkies.

Speaking of Twitter, Google is apparently in talks to acquire them as reported this morning.

Marketing, Marks and Fractions

Marketing blog thought for the day.

You can no longer market to the anonymous masses. They're not anonymous and they're not masses. You can only market to people who are willing participants.

Three years from now, this advice will be so common as to be boring. Today, it's almost certainly the opposite of what you're doing.

That is generally the simple concept of 21st century marketing. It is why newspapers can not charge thousands for an ad any longer. There are more effective ways to market now and it is why permission and targeted marketing spending via the web was up in Q4, while everything else was taking a bath. Businesses are not spending this way because they want to show their friends a neat google ad on their laptop at a pool party, they do it because it works.

Hey how 'bout Bob Marks, Manager at Perretti Farms? He is (partially) interviewed on harness racing today in the Guelph paper. I generally like Bob's opinion. He is a breeder, but also cut his te…

The Buzz

Jessica links to a news feed story graph for Kentucky Derby buzz. 2009 is like a turtle. Slow and steady does not win the race with buzz. This year the mainstream press is not covering the Derby as it has. This is unfortunate for racing knuckleheads like us, but even more disconcerting is that this year looks like it will be a good race and the crop looks solid. I think we'll have to be more proactive in promoting these days. Simply offering something in racing does not guarantee it will be covered.

They're in the Gate looks at TV ratings compared to other sports this last weekend, and racing. We got our butts kicked by figure skating. I do not think TV is the way to go. People can not get hooked on watching racing via that medium any longer. Our game, because it allows betting legally is our hook for interactivity. If you do not do something to link the two, I think we will be spending money frivolously with zero ROI. If you look at Sweden and its V75 (the weekly pick 7 that i…

Woodbine Smash up, Epilogue

Dave Perkins of the Toronto Star updates us on the drivers hurt in the massive Woodbine pile up a month ago.

What was it Roger Mayotte said, while lying on the track at Woodbine a month ago with three fractures in his upper right arm and a suspected cracked pelvis?

"Get me out of here, we're holding up the card."

Harness horsemen are tough as nails.