Skip to main content


Showing posts from October, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Got a caption? Yes, those are Waples colors, so be nice if you lost a bet on him recently :)

Racing management speaking of churn, lower take and doing betting math? It happened, and it is from a harness racing dude. I am convinced harness racing will be the first to crack to adopt some real change. About three years ago if you showed someone in the thoroughbred business the problems we were having in harness racing, and said that the problems were going to get them next, you would have probably been greeted with "ya, but that is harness racing. We're the runners, it can not happen to us!". I think we are a leading indicator and will try things to pull ourselves up before they do. Articles like the above are welcomed from an insider on a trade website! His plan to use slot money to lower the takeout to 8% is about the most fresh thing I have read from an industry insider for a long, long time.

Very interesting reading from the New York Times on the Jeff Mullins detention ba…

Betting the Horses - Easy Money Baby

We tend to have to deal with quite a bit as horseplayers. High take, inquiries, horses racing bad. It is a tough game.

Bad beats drive players nuts. I have gotten that out of my system over the years. We discussed them before on some handicapping topics. You have to stay sane to play the game - no ifs ands or buts.

We do not chat too much about bad beats here. After all, we all have them. We have all missed some scores. Just because I have a blog there is no use going through them all. Not to mention, after a few minutes they usually fade away anyway and I am on to the next race.


I bet a lot of races - tons of them. Over the years I shudder to think how many. Today something happened that in all those years has never happened to me before. If I heard this happen to someone else I would probably share it, so I figure what the heck. If you don't like losing bet stories, stop now. You are forewarned :)

I am having a little lunch today, tough week. And decide, since I d…

November Edge Up; Some Horse Stories of a Weird Nature

This months Harness Edge is up. The full color mag (once a print magazine) is jam packed with great reading. I have gotten accustomed like most to reading newpapers online, and ditto magazines.

I spoke with a long-time racing guy this past weekend and he said "we don't cheer for each other in harness racing anymore." This tends to be true I find. This month's Edge story on To Helen Back owner Mike Shunock is not one of those times. Mike is one first class fellow and I was happy to see the Edge feature him. He helped a lot of people in this world (a young punk trying to sell deals on Bay Street to put food on his table can attest to that) and I sincerely hope he gets some world champions with the money, time and effort he is putting into the game.

The magazine opens into a reader here.

Some weird and nasty from the harness racing world today.

A driver in the UK is going to the slammer for 4 and a half years for..... hold on ..... beating a racing official with a whip.


Less Races, More Betting?

In racing one of the biggest debates is about racedates. Horse owners or trainers (like I am sometime) want a lot of them. Please dial me up a five horse field where we all get some dough! Oh, and make the purse high too, ok?

Bettors on the other hand like short fields about as much as gastro-intestinal surgery.

Who is right, who is wrong? I guess that depends on your perspective. In the case of handle as a metric, deeper fields, less races and more contentious affairs win that battle ten out of ten times.

In thoroughbred racing, Delaware Park concluded their meet with something wacky - a rise in handles.

Delaware Park raced 27 fewer days this year but registered increases in total handle and average daily handle, track officials said Oct. 28. Track officials and horsemen agreed to cut the final seven days of the meet to conserve purse money. This year’s meet originally was scheduled to end Nov. 7.

Larger field size, a positively correlated metric to handle (add one horse a race and handl…

Greatest Trotter Who Ever Lived?

Standardbred Canada has a poll up asking who is the greatest trotter who ever lived. These questions are fun, but really it is impossible to compare a horse who raced in 1930 to today, is it not?

We had this question last year with Beach. Is he better than Dan Patch? Who the cripes knows;. it's not like we can say we watched Dan Patch get hooked by a horse in 1903 and lose, while Beach getting hooked with Shadow Play in the Messenger and winning makes me think he is.

I like Beach and Muscle Hill; love them. I think they are the two best three year olds of this generation, however that is as far as I can go.

Another thing that makes it hard to compare is longevity. Is Muscle Hill better than Peaceful Way? Probably, but hold on. She demolished boys and won way more money. Maybe he isn't.

It is a neat question though, because it makes us think of all the greats.

People are generally biased in putting modern horses over older ones in these lists. I remember growing up and watchin…

Wednesday Reflections

Some notes this Wednesday.

Interesting interview that the Horseplayer Association did with Betfair and some of their players, including Scott Ferguson who posts a comment or two on this blog from time to time. The comments from racing are well-known about betfair, so to me it is neat to read answers to questions from both players and the organization. Some players are playing hundreds of millions there and are certainly worth being read. Similarly, being an internet guy myself, seeing how a company with a value up in the stratosphere like they have thinks is an added bonus.

On competition: Mr. Cunningham answered that competition and choice is a good thing. "It’s worth noting, in fact, that the money that goes to horseracing in Britain is almost twice as much, a decade on, from when Betfair launched, and while we obviously can’t claim the credit for all of that, there is no doubt that competition in wagering product has been a major contributor to it."

On being a horseplayer t…

Betfair and the Breeders Cup - Who Courted Who?

With the recent announcement that Betfair and the Breeders Cup have a deal I thought about a previous look we had at racings demographics in terms of internet searches.

Age Demographics for Internet searches for website A:

Seven of ten searchers are below the age of 34

Website B:

Close to half of searchers are below the age of 34

Website C:

About one in ten searchers are below the age of 34

One is a racing site, one a poker site and one a peer to peer betting site. Can you spot them?

A: a is Betfair, b is and c is the Daily Racing Form.

I wonder if we need them more than they need us.

An Exciting Breeders Crown

Last night at Woodbine, the weather got a bit rainy, but that did not stop the racehorses. Some of the races were all that were advertised.

Muscle Hill locked up horse of the year on both sides of the border (not that there was much of a chance he would not, I guess), with another win. Word was the shoeing was a bit off and he was not grabbing the track right, but this horse is too good regardless. He put together an undefeated season and did so with the most impressive Hambletonian win that anyone has ever seen. That race alone defines what this horse was.

The two year old pace was absolutely thrilling. The undefeated Sportswriter grabbed rail control in 27.4 and used a 90-1 shot as a pylon throughout the middle half. All Speed Hanover made a huge move wide and the stretch drive between these two good horses was quite a spectacle, with the latter getting up by a head. This is a good illustration about competition. All Speed was arguably the first talented horse that Sportswriter has me…

Horses Getting Ready for the Crown

Blogette Hanover, getting her game face on. I love this picture. Horses are cool.

For our Crown analysis, it is here.

For a free program with full PP's click here (pdf alert).

Fairly warm in the big smoke, but a little windy. Enjoy the evening.

Breeders Crown Race by Race

It’s time to have a look at tomorrow night’s Breeders Crown at Woodbine Racetrack. Only my opinion of course, but I will make a few picks.

The three year old filly pace is the first on the slate and there is no magic in handicapping this race. On paper, the exactor looks like a chalk one between Shacked Up and Yellow Diamond. Shanghai Lil if she is at her best can surprise here if the big two are not at their best. My pick is Shacked Up. I think she might be a better horse than Yellow Diamond on this night and she will be second choice. Value ex box: Shacked Up and Shanghai Lil.

The three year old colt trot features Muscle Hill. If he wins this and is not Horse of the Year on both sides of the border we should call for an inquiry. He will be 1-9 in this tilt. Filling out the ex is tough because there are a few possibles who are racing well. I might take a tri here, tossing the fresh Swan For All (who will probably be used by many handicappers as an obvious horse) and focus on Triumphant…

Breeders Crown Notes - Free PP's

A couple quick notes. We will have a look at each race and the pick 4 tomorrow.

First up, a free program. PDF file here.

Secondly, there is a guaranteed $50k pick 4, for races 4 through 7. It has a chance to pay at first glance. No Muscle Hill in the pick 4, making it a pick 3 or some kind of trap race to scare away punters.

The Devil Wears a Bowler

I remember speaking with a few industry types several years ago - it might have been close to six or seven. The conversation centered around Betfair and a few other offshores. Generally, the conversation was "these places have a market of bettors that are playing sports and some racing. Why would the business not do a deal with them to try and get a piece of the action?" Fishing in a stocked pond is always preferred.

Finally, several years later this is made a reality. Betfair and the Breeders Cup have struck a deal where the exchange portion of betting the Breeders Cup will be taxed at 10% gross profits, and supply the BC with some revenue.

In addition, because Betfair bought TVG, now punters from dozens of countries who could never play an exotic bet before, can do so. They will be able to bet right into the pools.

Opening markets has been a theme of this blog since we started, and we think it is great news that it is finally (albeit slowly) happening.

It will not be long ho…

Bringing People Closer to the Horses

We have perception problems in racing with drugs and the like. Steve Crist mentioned not long ago on his blog that when he asked about drugs and penalties the sentiment from fans was to "hang them high and hang them higher". I don't blame those people - there are some bad people in racing who wantonly break the rules by some means that are not acceptable. As the Ontario Racing Commission said recently, "having a license to race is not a right, it is a privilege", so showing the people that have used awful things like EPO and snake venom to willfully cheat the public and fellow horsemen the door is preferred.

However, do we work hard enough to expose the general public and the racing fan to our horses while at the track to help stop some of the perception that we are all a bunch of crooks, and that we don't treat these horses well?

I was at Georgian Downs last night for the races and I went to the paddock. This is a "B track" and "B" tracks…

Breeders Crown is Set

A very entertaining Crown was drawn today at Woodbine, and the fields are now set. The two most entertaining races of the evening for me are the two year old colt pace (All Speed Hanover is my most likely winner and he is 9-2ML. I am hoping for anything over 3-1), and the three year old trot (not a betting race, but Muscle Hill drew the rail and is always fun to watch).

The three year old colt pace features the enigmatic Well Said. I have no idea what will happen in this race. After last week the signal is to fade Well Said, but alas I can never figure him out.

The three year old filly race is a good one too, but it is a Brainard-fest. I wonder about Shacked Up; Luc Ouellette did a hell of a job with her all year but he gets bounced for Tim Tetrick. Loyalty is not a strong suit of today's game I find.

We'll have a look at the races more closely later in the week.

No 2010 Breeders Crown-Breeders Cup Conflict

The 2010 Breeders Crown, originally scheduled for November 6th in direct conflict with the Breeders Cup, has been moved to October 9th, 2010. This move is not entirely unexpected I guess, as negative flack from the industry (some making good points) was front and center.

I am pretty ambivalent. On one hand it is probably better for handle. Pocono is a new venue and you do not want to change too much in one event. On the other hand, some cross-promotional ideas could have been tried and measured with it running the same day as the Cup.

Full press release below, courtesy the Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown.

Date Change for 2010 Breeders Crown at Pocono Downs

Cranbury, NJ …The Breeders Crown, harness racing’s $7 million year-end series, will take place on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2010 instead of the previously announced date of Nov. 6 at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in Wilkes-Barre , Pa.

When the 2010 World Equestrian Games displaced the Grand Circuit meet at Lexington ’s Red Mile, a window ope…

No Studbucks & No Politics

I caught the article on Mine That Bird, and the comments from trainer Chip Woolley regarding the gelding's Breeders Cup try. Mine That Bird has not won since the Derby. But it is not from a lack of trying. He has been in the box four times since. He has taken on Rachel, made a trip to Chester, West Virginia for a shot at Mountaineer. He is now pointing to the Breeders Cup Classic, after a disappointing sixth place finish in the Goodwood.

I am struck by both the talk and horse management with these connections. There are no excuses, no hand-wringing, no talk of not wanting to "run on plastic" like it is some sort of death-wish. There is no talk of retiring him early, so that the massive stud fees can be protected (after all, he's a gelding). There are no lawsuits or partner arguments about how best to protect the horse for his 'reputation', or public worries about where to start him next so he does not get beaten. They just seem to figure what the hell; they ha…

Trouble Brewing?

I had not been to Woodbine for this meet yet until last night. The Breeders Crown elims were on tap, and although there were a couple of trots, the three year old elim was quite a good tilt; and I did want to see a few of the horses.

The three year old race was a good betting affair. For those who chucked the chalk off the two heater at Lexington, expecting a dull effort, they were rewarded with a nice price on a fresh Mr. Wiggles. We will have more on the Crown finals this week of course.

I have been watching Woodbine since they came back and there are some troubling signs. Fields are shorter, there is usually at least one race less carded per racecard, and the field quality is not what we expect from the largest everyday track in harness racing.

For example, last night with several BC elims filling the card, there were only 11 races, and those 11 races is not what we normally see on a Saturday night. Out of the 11 races, I found three of them bettable, and the rest red lights.

Race 1 …

The Crown, The Warnings & Trips to Keeneland

The weather is cold here in Toronto, but the racing sure is heating up. This weekend it is not a hockey town, but a racing town. Tomorrow afternoon, as runner players know, is the Canadian International. Tomorrow night, the Breeders Crown eliminations continue (written about by Greg here), after several division finals being settled this evening.

There is quite a bit of talk about the track. I will find out a little more about that first hand tomorrow, but I have a sense that this is slightly overblown. The track does not look too bad to me. The horses who broke tonight did not look totally sound, and I think the track had little to do with it. But again, I will check that out tomorrow and see if I can find out anything.

The TRA conference this past week in New York is come and gone and there were several panels with tough words for racing. Jeff Gural, who runs Tioga and Vernon racetracks, long ago has been warning that the slot money we all receive will go away if we do not do somethin…

Breeders Crown Preview

Breeders Crown: Harness Racing’s Championship Night
by Greg Reinhart

It’s time once again for harness racing’s Breeders Crown for two and three-year old trotters and pacers of both sexes. This year’s event, which is going to take place at Woodbine Racetrack in Rexdale , Ontario , has eliminations slated for Friday, October 16 and Saturday, October 17 with the eight finals on October 24. We’re going to preview the elimination events that were required and also talk about the races that advanced straight to the final with no eliminations.

Three-Year Old Colt & Gelding Pace

The “glamour boy” division has one ten horse elimination on Saturday night (race eight) and eight of the ten horses will advance on to next week’s final to face division leaders Well Said and Vintage Master, who both received byes based on their 2009 earnings. In the elimination, it’s very difficult to get by If I Can Dream (post four, Tim Tetrick). This son of Western Hanover beat Well Said at The Red Mile la…

If Wayne Gretzky was a Horse

Standardbred Canada, a harness racing site we all know, picked up Sea the Stars fever a bit ago. This horse was transcending breeds, like only a few do. "The Next Super Horse" was one of the titles of their stories. Anticipation was high for the Breeders Cup, or perhaps Dubai next year.

But the excitement was short-lived, as he retired. No more races for him, and we won't get to see him in North America, ever. In the words of the CDP's Vance Cameron: Boom, just like that; he's gone.

It brought me back to when I was a kid. I had heard about Wayne Gretzky, a young fella from Brantford, Ontario. He was supposed to be good. No one ever saw him, no one knew how he skated, or how he shot the puck, they just heard that he might be good. Everyone wanted to see him.

Take a look here. At age 16 or 17 in the pros.

Now picture if he retired after that goal.

Horse racing is one tough sport to market, folks.


We were chatting below about Explosive Matter, and what he would have done this year without Muscle Hill being in the field.

Well, trainer Noel Daley is going to find out. Explosive Matter is tentatively heading across the pond and racing in Italy, rather than face Muscle in the Breeders Crown.

“There are only two Group I-type races left for three-year-olds anywhere in the world. One of them is the Breeders Crown, which we probably can’t win, and the other one is that race over there. It will give him a little bit of European exposure. He’s the No. 2 horse, but he doesn’t have as much visibility to a lot of people.”

That is called respect. A respect that no other trotter I have ever seen in my day has received.

Friday Night

It's Friday night. The kids are clubbing about, the citygoers are having some foie gras somewhere downtown like Canoe, couples have maybe rented a movie and are having some popcorn.

I, on the other hand, am watching Kentucky Derby winner Mine that Bird on his stall cam. Man, that is too cool.

Life Without Muscle Hill

Trainer Noel Daily on Explosive Matter via the Harness Edge.

“He was as good as he was going to be the other day,” Daley said. “Everything was in his favour to race as good as he could, and he did in the second (heat). He just can’t beat that other horse, that’s all.”

Daley refuses to contemplate what could have been if there was no Muscle Hill, or if Explosive Matter competed another year. Explosive Matter has won four of 11 races this season, including the $500,000 Colonial, and earned $1.08 million.

“It’s hard to compare from year to year,” Daley said. “You don’t know what would happen. This year, we’re second best. We know that.”

Noel can't but we can; so we will.

If Muscle Hill was born in another year, this year for the trotters would have been different. A good deal different.

First, Explosive Matter would have been undefeated last year, and a world champion. People would be comparing him to the greats. I would not doubt for a second he would win, or be right there in any web po…

Feeling Down?

Roy, in a comment below mentioned that he loved the "Purple Haze Lady" story in this month's Harness Edge. I could not agree more.

If you are feelin' a little blue and are a horse owner who loves our four-legged friends, you might want to give it a shot. It will put a smile on your face. We need more people like her.

It is on page 43, and you can access the article via the online magazine here.

The New Versus the Old

The Paulick Report has been getting good press since its inception. Ray trumpets a recent Racing Post article highlighting some good promo for his site here (pdf alert). Ray has original content and is not afraid to take on some issues, whether the majority agrees with him or not. He was of course the editor at Bloodhorse for many years.

Coincidentally, we see a new article from the current Bloodhorse head this morning. Where Ray's site deals with new issues and tries its best to think outside the mainstream, the culture of the Bloodhorse seems to keep speaking of issues that have long failed us.

What can be done? Simple. Make racing fashionable once again, rebuild the fan base, and return racehorse ownership to a proud and profitable venture.

Sounds good, but for the latter I have no idea when horse racing ownership was ever a "profitable venture". It was not 100 years ago, and it is not today. Read "The Story of Dan Patch" and owners spoke of how the game of ra…

Two Sides of the Coin on Fair Odds

Sea the Stars this weekend at the Arc, resulted in a massive loss for bookmakers, who made the horse about an even money chalk. He was in a 19 horse field, he was the best horse. They figured that a 50% chance was warranted. I don't know one person who bet this horse and everyone I spoke to said that he was overbet. But, bingo for the crowd, he won. No doubt after that performance we would hear a lot of "that was an easy play at even money; he was the best horse. It was obvious he would win."

Secondly, US President Barack Obama laid his cards on the line and went to push Chicago's olympic bid in Copenhagen. The mystique of this President, not unlike the mystique of Sea the Stars in the Arc, resulted in a massive amount of cash going on Chicago to win the 2016 Olympic bid. "Could the Obama factor really be America's Trump Card? We'll find out shortly, but the betting action is squarely on Chicago." The 3-5 price on Chicago was a sure thing, right? Wel…

Boy, I Need a Break

The Mohawk meet closed up tonight and racing moves to Woodbine on Thursday.

The offseason lasts from Monday to Thursday at the premier meet for harness racing.

I don't know about you, but the lack of even a meager offseason for harness racing at our major circuit makes me scratch my head a bit. Mohawk in late September seems to wear a little bit. After Labour Day, with kids back in school in heavily suburban Milton and area, and the days getting shorter, and weather getting a little colder, it seems that the racing at Mohawk gets a little dry.

Why don't we end the Mohawk meet after the CTC and take a few weeks off? I guess it is economic, but I think a few of the horses could use a break, and I know the cappers could. A few weeks gives us some time to market the next meet a little bit, and generate a little bit of excitement for it, one would think. There are opening nights in baseball, football, at many, many thoroughbred tracks. Why not harness racing?

I guess it is a small thin…

A Look at Two Great Animals

The video is in for two great horses.

We have two sets of folks who read this blog: Lovers of harness racing, and thoroughbred fans who give our game a look from time to time. This post is a rare one, that speaks to both of us.

For harness fans, check the Arc coverage below. It is a fabulous look at a unique event, and a marvelous horse. Good horses are good horses, and at the end of this race, on the gallop back to the winners enclosure this horse speaks the universal language of a winner. A 100% class animal that we can all relate to. Great horses overcome, and they bring out superlatives like this at

If any thoroughbred fans want to watch a horse with equal class, here is the Kentucky Futurity and Muscle Hill.

For some edification for our thoroughbred friends, what Muscle Hill did here is special. This is not your normal gate to wire win. Trotters are a finicky bunch, and they are not unlike turf horses in many instances. I am sure you have all seen a turf horse ge…

Simply Special Horses

Racing might make it tough to be a customer who bets, but to be a fan of racing who wants to watch brilliance, the stories and horses are there.

Yesterday, Muscle Hill romped to an easy victory in the 117th Kentucky Futurity, in yet another display of trotting perfection.

This morning, Sea the Stars rolled to another breathtaking victory in the Arc de Triomphe. Ray Paulick said, "He is what a great Thoroughbred racehorse is all about."

It appears that both colts will make the Breeders Cup and Crown their next starts. For that we are fortunate.

Racing has problems - big ones. But the star horses of our era do not. They just wake up in the morning, have a bit of chow, hit the paddock for a little roll in the mud and then walk into the trailer for a trip to the track. It's been like that virtually since the beginning of the sport. Racing is the ease of simplicity and routine.

It's why I love horse racing. Horses don't talk, they just race. And in some instances, like Mus…

Some Movement, Track Bias and a Few Losing Items

Woodbine Entertainment Group had a couple of things surface today. One, the appeal by Mr. Whelan who would not sign an access sticker that Woodbine asks us to sign to race, was dismissed, and the reasons for it were posted by the ORC. That is a big win for them. Secondly for horseplayers, they announced that they are offering a 1% takeout reduction for Australia racing. I am a big believer that the pricing control for wagering lies solely with ADW's. I think more promotions, more takeout reductions and more special deals should be done in this way. We can't bean count; we have to be aggressive, in my opinion.

We have been speaking of takeout for some time here. Only a couple of years ago this was a non-issue for many in racing. I remember one anecdote where a track exec was asked about his track's 25% exactor takeout by a horseplayer, and he replied "I know, the state will not let us raise it!" We have all heard that it "does not matter" like somehow the…

Classic Crist

I am a Steve Crist fan. He is a good gambler and seems like a decent enough sod. But especially I like some of his quips. One of which in his most recent blog piece on bad beats.

(I had my share of bad beats too but I don't tell bad-beat stories because they are the least interesting stories in the world and having to listen to them is the leading reason that poker players are among the most boring people on earth. At least bad-beat horseplayer stories have the potential for genuine drama and genuine injustice, like losing a bet because the rider misjudges the finish line or a horse jumps the infield hedge or an alligator crawls onto the track. But every single bad-beat poker story is essentially the same: I had the best hand going in and lost. It happens. Even when you're an 80/20 favorite, you lose 20 percent of the time. Big deal. Get over it. Nobody cares.)

More, on Vegas, the NTRA Marketing Summit and so on here.

Thursday Notes

This Saturday at the Red Mile, the 117th Kentucky Futurity goes in a two heat event.

Race 7 - First Elimination
1. Tom Cango (Mike LaChance - Jim Campbell)
2. Air Zoom Lindy (Tim Tetrick - Frank Antonacci)
3. Dr Mc Dreamy (Homer Hochstetler)
4. Big Bikkies (Ron Pierce - Noel Daley)
5. Neighsay Hanover (Trond Smedshammer)
6. Windshear (John Campbell - Jimmy Takter)

Race 8 - Second Elimination
1. Explosive Matter (Ron Pierce - Noel Daley)
2. Broadway Bistro (George Brennan - Jim Campbell)
3. Hot Shot Blue Chip (Steve Condren - Jonas Czernyson)
4. Even Better Odds (Tim Tetrick* - Chuck Sylvester)
5. Cesar A Blue Chip (Tim Tetrick* - Noel Daley)
6. Russell Hill (John Campbell - Jimmy Takter)
7. Muscle Hill (Brian Sears - Greg Peck)

It is no surprise to say that this is Muscle Hill's to lose. He's one of the rare horses that sickness, lameness, or running into a flock of seagulls like Rainbow Blue did a few years ago, are about the only things that can stop him. Let's hope for some good weath…