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Showing posts from February, 2009

Beware Useless Stats

"The team that scores the first goal has a better chance to win"
Hockey commentator

In horse racing I would bet dollars to donuts that I hear more bizarre statistics than I hear calls to the post. This is not the only sport/game where this occurs, for sure, but it is pretty prevalent. Gathering the Wind noted recently the stat that "no unraced 2 year old has ever won the Derby" (since some horse) and he correctly asked how big is the sample, how many even tried, what their odds were and so on.

Of course a two year old that is unraced would not be a likely starter for the Derby, and an unlikely winner. An unraced two year old has problems, has had time off, and very rarely would be lucky enough to be pointed to such a race. Ask any trainer what his Derby hopes are for a 2YO in the barn with a hairline fracture or growth problems - he'll say none - and it has nothing to do with his talent level. If by some chance the horse beats whatever problem he had, tears it …

Common Sense on Integrity

Recently the AAEP released their thoughts on racing, and how to put the horse first. Many of their recommendations I agreed with, some not so much, but I applaud the effort. One thing I do believe that we need to do better, and we don't need vets for this, (we need only racing) is apply common sense on integrity.

First off let's state a couple of things I believe are fact. 99% of people in this business want to win fairly. The one percent ruin it for everyone else. Horsepeople love their horses - most would not even get into the business or have it any other way. Sometimes those good people - the majority, get dragged down with the 1%, and I believe this is wrong. And I believe it is racings fault.

If a positive is announced - say a slight banamine overage where there was no intent whatsoever to cheat - there is a cry from virtually everywhere that the person "cheated". This is never, ever challenged. There is never, ever education that goes on after a positive like th…

Canadian Gaming Summit - Wagering Conference

The Second Standardbred Wagering Conference has been announced. It is to be held in Windsor, across the river from Detroit. Too bad it was not held in football season as I am pretty sure delegates could show up a day early and get Lions tickets for a donation of a canned ham. C'est la vie, no Lions games this April.

There are some interesting topics this year which are sure to be full tilt.

No Holds Barred:
Bettors take on racetrack execs, tell it like it is for customers of harness racing and offer suggestions for the future of racing.

If some people I know at the track are invited there is a good chance there will be profanity. Horseplayers yell at TV screens. What in the heck are they gonna yell to a real live person? :)

True Confessions:
Exploring the industry’s systemic issues that prevent true progress in harness racing and exploring a new funding model that would benefit racetracks and horse people. Can we resolve the dysfunctional issues and move forward?

With all the acronyms i…

Your Inner Elwood

I have a post on money management to get up, because I was thinking about that recently with my bet sizing. I think it is a good time for a refresher. But this is still supposed to be a fun game, and it does not have to be cold-calculating thought all the time.

Lately if I am getting a square price on a bomb (my ROI on longer plays is fairly good) I have been betting more than usual. Sometimes it works out, often times it does not.

In betting, you have to bet within your means and with your hit rate as a consideration. But sometimes you just have to let it fly, and shoot for a score. It keeps you fresh and it gets the blood pumping.



The inner Elwood is not right very often, but when he is, it is pretty damn cool.

The Oscars - Behind the Curtain

The Academy Awards were on last night. I did not see them but I figure it was a love-fest of back patting and a political speech or two telling people who live in Nebraska they are nuts. As most know, several of the awards are handed out behind the scenes, like 'Best Supporting Actor in a Short Film Made by Someone From the Lower Congo.' Those really get my blood pumping. I read Mary Forney's piece this morning about Oscar nominated horse films. I guess she missed some of the winners behind the curtain because she did not mention it. For those of you who have not seen, here is the list of awards handed out last night, beyond the glitz of the stage.

First, the nominees for best supporting actor in a horse movie.

"Don" in Hot to Trot



versus Joe Pesci in Easy Money



"Don" squeaked it out by a whisker.

Best Actor in a Horse Movie or Short. Unfortunately when all the other nominees saw they were against David Caruso, they all got scared and asked their name to be …

Believe Me!

In horse race betting, in my opinion unlike any gambling game, people tend to not believe others who win. This is expected because so few actually make money betting racing, but also because the internet has given so many kooks a forum for lying about their wagering. As we have mentioned before there is a bettor in the UK playing racing, and documenting his daily balances. But a funny thing happened. Because there are many ways to doctor betting data and screenshots, there are some out there who do not believe the kid.

But technology is cool. He found a way to up his credibility - a video of his betfair interface.

For the record, the lad is doing quite well. He is up around US$60,000 so far in 2009. Better than I am, that's for sure.

You Can't Be a Customer

When I was young(er) and foolish(er) (a few years ago) I was shopping for an ADW. I saw a guy wearing a You Bet hat. I said to myself, "this looks cool. I will try them." I called. I could not be their customer because of where I lived. I then tried another that I saw. No sorry, I can not be their customer.

This goes on and on in racing. People calling and wanting to be a customer and being told that they can not be. "You will take what we give you and like it or you will not play racing!" seems to be the mantra. I am not the only one. It seems if you live in a state which does not allow it, own a pit bull as a pet, once voted for Barry Goldwater, or were caught with a cheat sheet in grade 4 math class in 1977, you are not allowed to bet racing.

Want a glimpse of the pure unadulterated insanity regarding this? Click here for customer requirements from a popular ADW (of course the nonsense has nothing to do with the ADW, it is the business which makes it this difficu…

Old Headlines

A web archive of Equidaily from August of 2002. Check out the headline. Eerie.

Oh, and of course one from here. Glad I changed the blog. The first month was hard on my eyes. But I still can't help wondering if Woodbine's Sunday racing would have been more successful in 2009 if what we had offered out way back in 2007 was tried.

$18 Million and One Body

The V75 carryover hit close to $19M. I think they go Wednesday's. Anyone hear if it was hit, or was this a carryover to this Saturday? I tried reading a Swedish harness racing program. I might as well be betting on yak racing. I have no idea what is what there.

Scott links an article that says a state in Australia wants to merge greyhound, harness and thoroughbred racing under one umbrella with a commissioner type figure. Wow, we can't even agree on getting one commissioner here.

Bettors Are Oh So Different

I always have a little laugh when I hear racing speak to us like 'gamblers' who want to buy a lotto ticket or pull a slot machine. It might be the only gambling business who truly does not know who their customer is.

Even though the evidence is overwhelming (and anyone who bets know this) that we bettors love to figure out the puzzle for ourselves, there is a simple poll out on the USTA page which shows this nicely. The poll asks "How often do you pay attention to public handicappers like Bob Pandolfo and Rusty Nash?" Only two in ten say they will bet those selections.

This, I believe, is why software programs that spit out a figure are less popular than those who allow for user factors. And it is also why I believe that marketing racing to lottery players or slot patrons is fruitless.

It's About Time

I once had a friend who claimed a horse with a cracked knee. The response from folks in racing was the usual, "buyer beware" or "boy, you got burned." It is a part of the game and it is accepted as such. I say poppycock. What if you spent $200,000 on a house and you found out that the previous owner did not disclose a foundation problem and the house is ready to fall down? Would your neighbours say "buyer beware; too bad so sad"? Of course not.

It is about time we brought the investment in racehorses to some sort of level that is on par with other investments. In one small step, vets are calling for horses that receive a catastrophic injury during a race in which they are claimed to be sent back to the original owner. The hope is that shady owners, running badly damaged horses for financial gain, or to hoodwink another owner will think twice, and possibly give the horse time to heal and race soundly.

Ask people in any other business and this would be consid…

Experimental Rankings

It's that time of year. Stan Bergstein has released his three year old experimental ratings, which he has been doing since My Three Sons was a hot show. He rates Harness Herb's top rated colt, Nebuapanezzer number one, thinking he will pace 1:48 this year. Well Said is second and Art Colony and Major in Art round out the top four.

Unlike last season, where there were a handful of colts who seemed to be solid stock, this season's crop looks fairly weak. However, more often than not a colt we have not heard of (or two) jumps into the mix. Or a colt or two improves and comes to play. I think we might see that this season.

Sterling Serling

You know how I feel about the thought that drivers make horses go faster by magically yelling at them differently or whipping them harder, namely it is a quick way to go into the poorhouse. Perhaps it is an apt day (a day which Brian Sears won a ton of races at the Meadowlands) that I came across a snippet of a quote from Andy Serling on jockeys. For harness folks who don't know him, Serling caps for NYRA tracks. He is, in my opinion, the best thoroughbred handicapper in a public forum in North America for the runners.

In response to a capper who said "World class riders become world class riders because they make horses run who don't appear like they can run on paper", he said:

Not at all. The top riders are the ones that win with the highest percentage of their mounts that are supposed to win. That's all.

That is a sharp a statement on jockeys or drivers that you will ever see. I can see why his picks on the pre-game show have an ROI over 1.0, while many of his co…

Counting Cards With Phones

Neat little story. Apparently customers of casinos are starting to use Iphones to count cards. The story says that the app can be downloaded and works like a charm. The downside? It is illegal, as 'using a device to count cards' is not kosher and can land you in the greybar hotel.

Since Nick Stokes works in Vegas in the crime lab and your chances of getting off are slim, you probably want to heed this warning.

I Feel Like I've Joined the Club

Many a poster in the thoroughbred blog alliance have mentioned they get hits for "Chantal Sutherland Nude Photos" search strings. I just checked my blog and I am proud to announce that I have had my first hit for that.

Where I have mentioned something that hits for that is beyond me, and I am pretty sure I have no nude photos here on the blog of anything but nekkid horses, but I am happy to be part of the club.

Now if I could just get some hits for "guy who wins obscene amounts of money betting horses" I'd be on easy street.

Harness Information and News Sites

Our friend Rebecca asked below:

"Hello, I was just over at the left the gate blog and noticed a really complete list of TBA blogs, is there any sort of list like that available somewhere for harness blogs? And how does one get to the Paceadvantage blog on a regular basis? I think a list would be nice because sometimes when one has a little extra time one could visit all of the blogs on the list and learn even more view points. Because as I have told many people just reading this blog has really opened my eyes about how the gamblers feel, and just how important their thoughts and needs are. Like most people my world was only as big as what my eyes could see, I definitely feel wiser seeing more of the world.
Regards, Rebecca"

So people, any ideas for her? Fire away if you can help. I know what I read, but I would like to hear what others do, if you could take a minute. If there are any harness sites, or blogs who want to promote their sites, go right ahead below.

There is Always Something Out There

The interweb is cool. There are some people out there in racing with a passion for it, and they create things. Maybe they are not saleable, or their websites are not able to be monetized but they are just kind of neat. One fella is Ray from Paceadvantage and he often offers stats from his database of harness racing. Often times there is something eye-opening with them, like the stats on layoffs of 29-40 days we explored in our layoffs article.

Another one today I saw was this fella who decided he did not like that when he handicapped a horse who raced at Yonkers, he did not know how to standardize the time for the ship to today's track. So he created a time converter. It's here. If you are into this kind of thing, I would imagine you'd get some use from it.

I also noticed Nick Nicholson's interview that we linked below. He is the President of Keeneland. I watched that web video with interest. It is completely refreshing to hear a track head speak like he does. He wants t…

Keeneland Ranked #1 by HANA

The Horseplayers Association of North America ranked Keeneland Race Course the number one player friendly track in North America. I went last year for the first time and I could not agree more. They believe in three things that I believe in 1) Low takeouts (they wanted to lower to an across the board 16% take, on par with Australia, and were rebuffed by many) 2) Excellent customer service (I got wished good luck after every ticket I bet) and 3) They respect horses (say anything you want about Polytrack, but it was put in to protect the horses, a noble goal).

For Keeneland's President, Nick Nicholson's video comments on the ranking click here.

Carryover & It's Funny, Just Because

Why we do not experiment like dogs with carryovers and seedings is beyond me. With a relatively benign $68,000 carryover at the Meadowlands, over $227,000 was in the final pool. Three winners took home $72k each.

And, talk about cutting to the chase.

Screaming Headline

On Equidaily.com today Andy Beyer's recent column is in huge Drudge-like letters "The Racing Industry is About to Learn Some Hard Economic Lessons."

In the article he explores the dysfunctionality of racing in raising their prices while bettors are leaving.

Imagine the following discussion in the executive suite of a modern-day corporation.

Executive 1: "The economy is killing us. Customers are deserting us. Our business is terrible. What are we going to do?"

Executive 2: "I've got an idea. Let's raise our prices!"

Executive 1: "Raise prices! Brilliant!"

Surely no business - not even the Detroit auto industry - would be foolish enough to do this when the country is plunging into a deep recession. But there is one industry that believes raising prices makes economic sense.

Handle will be down again in 2009. And it will be in large part self inflicted.

February Blah

So there is nothing much going on. I frankly can't believe how blah its been lately. So for viewing pleasure, from someone else who thinks it is blah, here is a video from a chat board showing who is who of the Belmont/Aqueduct on air talent. I need this done for Woodbine. I constantly get Blanchard and Hamilton mixed up.




h/t to Bigmack

Border Alert - Winning Horseplayer Crossing

I don't know how many times I have crossed the border to the US, both pre and post 911, but it is never much of an issue. "Citizenship?, where are you going?, How long away?"; "Canadian, Bills game, an afternoon", are simple answers.

However, crossing as a professional horseplayer is a different story.

A friend of mine is off for a month long vacation throughout the US. His trip is pretty cool - Mountaineer, Chicago area for some riverboat poker, St. Louis for the same, Oaklawn Park for racing, then across to Vegas for a couple of weeks. Crossing the border should be easy, but it was not. Why? He is a winning horseplayer, and apparently even border guards do not believe there is such a thing as a winning horseplayer.

When he was asked what he did for a living he said (the truth) "bet the horses and play poker". Red flag. Or for our Quebec readers, flag rouge. Just who is this guy? "Pull over sir."

So he was asked to park, was interviewed by seve…

Fans & Keeping Them

Hong Kong has long been a leader in offering data and information to their customers. They took a new step recently by making it more interactive. With all our millions in slot money I can not believe that the harness racing brand has not created something so simple and easy. I mentioned it last year at a conference and I heard crickets, but I think it is so important for us.

While some in racing are deciding that they should raise takeouts and make it more difficult for fans to bet, NASCAR is doing the opposite. We of course can afford to be anti-stimulus because racing is so healthy, but it is nice to see a failing sport like NASCAR trying to lower prices and be more fan friendly. I have to stop being sarcastic in posts, but such is the way it is.

For decades now, fans have been getting perpetually bilked by the greedy, gluttonous purveyors of big-time sports.

Now that the economy is in the toilet, the purveyors suddenly say they want to accommodate their fans.

Shouldn't this have b…

More Time to Bet

This is very cool. Wifi in the skies. You can bet from the air.

Question: If someone from California is betting Woodbine while in Arizona airspace will they be thrown in the clink?

Sunday Fun Day

Ok, not that fun, but I am as creative as a chipmunk so it is the best I can do.

Some notes that I found interesting:

Bill O'Donnell, the new head of the Ontario Harness Horse Association seems eminently proactive. When whipping rules are discussed, the participants usually get up in arms. O'Donnell, showing some independence and practicality, stated "For me, personally, I think in this day and age if there are enough complaints I am all for something new,"

The Horseplayers Association is counting down the continents best thoroughbred tracks in terms of rakes, field size and playability with wager variety. Some of the tracks are doing some interesting things, and the interviews in the stories at the Bloodhorse generally teach us a thing or two.

I notice standardbrred wagering is up so far this year in Canada. That's good, but most of gains I believe are from the race date switch from Georgian to Woodbine. Some were opposed to this, but switching dates from a track wi…

Bill Finley: Writing Good Stuff

ESPN's Bill Finley writes good stuff. Each time I open his opine column I find I either 1) Learn something or 2) Respect an opinion.

This week he looks at some stats on sythetics, the pick 5; and throws in a little harness racing, namely Jeff Gural's panel on trying to get horses raced beyond age three.

Bill touches all aspects of the sport in both thoroughbred and harness. He was one of the most reputable columnists to tackle the Ledford case a couple of years ago, as well. It is a page worth bookmarking, and if you are interested, I highly recommend his book on synthetics. It was a good read and I learned a lot.

New Harness Commissioner; Edition Four

Richard Shapiro today at the Harness Conference called for a commissioner. I am sure he is the type to read important things, but if he ever came across the blog, he would know we agree and we have given him some candidates. I was first a big fan of Jason Bourne. But then Matt Damon turned into a bit of a weenie. Then I was a big fan of Fusion Man. I should have stayed with him, but since Christmas time was here and I was following the exploits of the big red dude on Google Earth I figured anyone who could fly reindeer should be able to fix the ADW stuff. So I threw my support to Santa.

But I think I found someone new. The pilot who flew that freaking plane into the Hudson river. I listened to the black box. Whereas I would be screaming like a baby, this fella sounds like he is cooler than a really cold cucumber. Getting people to agree on the whipping debate with Mr. Cool at the helm is as easy as pie. Amazing stuff. So: Pilot Dude for Harness Commissioner!

HTA Conference: Get Moving

Today in Vegas, a top level gambling expert told harness racing that the "Industry is the Customer" and we better get cracking.

Contrary to the general perception that horses, horsepeople, owners and breeders are the foundation of the industry, "the demand from customers is what is essentially important. That is the essence of the argument that must be dealt with or else you are swimming upstream and the current will push you back ultimately.

"Legislators are going to look at racing and say, 'is this worth saving?' The vulnerability is very, very strong. Especially under these harsh economic times, you'll see a lot of revisiting of this whole model."

Further, we must look outside racing for answers and stop being insular.

"You should, if you haven't already, look carefully at the United Kingdom, which has a viable horse betting market. It's a market which also has legalized sports gambling. The internet has the potential to generate new ma…

Maryland Raises Pick 3 & 4 Takeouts by 83%

In addition, the commission granted a request by the Maryland Jockey Club to raise the takeout on two types of wagers, the Pick 3 and the Pick 4, from 14 percent to 25.75 percent.

It is irrelevant what this does, or does not do in terms of the bet itself. Racing just needs to know that anyone that hits a pick 3 or 4 in Maryland will have much less to rebet, because they will be returned less. A 20k pick 4 pool at 14% with five winners returns $3440; at 25.75% the winning tickets are now $2960. This results in (at a churn rate of six, the number racing itself uses for churn rate) a loss in $14,000 in handle per pick 4. Over 200 race dates this results in a loss of handle for racing of $2,800,000, for just the pick 4's. It's a silent handle killer, and in the words of others, "An Anti-Stimulus Package".

No Rozelle's But We Have a Kaptain

Pro sports and racing talk at the 2009 Congress.

Robinson discussed the league offices that run such professional sports operations as the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball, which have powers ranging from setting schedules to enforcing rules. He also noted that very wealthy people with huge egos agree to cede power to those offices when they buy a sports franchise. “These people cede significant power to a centralized office,’ he said. “That’s the price of admission.”

more.

We chatted about the horse who took a short cut and was left up at Western Fair awhile back, and the time it took to correct the decision. Trot Magazine's Darryl Kaplan let loose with a solid editorial on that, and more regarding decisions like that and the speed of them. Bravo.

It seems to me that when a horse travels well inside of 13 consecutive pylons during a stretch drive, passes the horse in front, then comes back onto the track to win a race, he should be disqualified.

...for those who cumulatively wagere…

Somebeachsomewhere Wins Horse of the Year

Somebeachsomewhere won horse of the year tonight in the US, in a landslide vote.

I am not one for reflection but for a nice bit of harness racing Canadiana, here is a video of the Beach getting ready for the 2008 season. It was a 2:04 or 2:05 mile in the cold of Nova Scotia - in the smaller town of Truro, right downtown.

A $40,000 yearling colt, training in a small town, owned and trained by virtual unknowns can win Horse of the Year. This is harness racing, and this is why I like it.

No Sales Allowed

For the bizarreness, bizarrability (or other word that probably is not a word) of racing, check out Ryan Conley's article at the Bloodhorse.

In effect, Betamerica.com was giving out a 3% rebate as a promotion for Santa Anita races. But this was struck down to 2% by the horseman group in California (so they say here):


BetAmerica Wager Rewards

*** Special Notice about our Santa Anita January Rewards ***
Our right to carry racing on Santa Anita requires that we receive the consent of the race track and of the Thoroughbred Owners of California, the horseman’s group at Santa Anita. The Thoroughbred Owners of California notified us this week that it is their policy not to allow any marketing incentives on a California thoroughbred race track in excess of 2% of the amount wagered. As a result, we have reduced our January Santa Anita Rewards promotion from 3% to 2% for the balance of January.

This is like a Wal Mart having a sale on wooden lawn chairs, and the logging company who cut down the …

Racing Getting Left Behind

Governor Rendell of Pennsylvania wants video poker now.

Delaware is closer to allowing sports betting.

We're getting swallowed up. The response thus far is to ask for a slice, rather than ask for laws to be changed so we can compete on a national scale. In internet betting where we have a de facto monopoly, and creating a way to entice people to play that monopoly by making it 21st century relevant should be this sports main focus. Just like a slice or a subsidy, this chance will not last forever.

6% 6

Not here of course, but the 6% takeout pick 6 has begun down under. It is a flexi-bet as well.

NSW and Victorian TAB punters invested almost $1.1 million on the six BIG6 pools last Saturday as Australia’s newest and biggest bet type was launched.

The cross-state NSW BIG6 thoroughbred pool held $447,000, while the Victorian thoroughbred BIG6 held $422,000. The Victorian harness BIG6 on the Ballarat Pacing Cup meeting had a pool of $110,000.

Australia has about 1/20th the population and GDP of North America.

Hat tip to Equidaily.com.

Yearly Bud Ad

I almost forgot; goofy Super Bowl ad time. In Canada our network pipes in really crappy bank ads over the real ads that are running south of the border. I think I watched a Super Bowl over the airwaves one time and caught them, but generally you are outta luck if you want to see all of them up here.

So each year I have to google "superbowl ads" and take ten minutes or so to find them and watch them. This year the first site I stumbled upon turned out to be a feminist blog where they highlighted the top ten sexist ads. I felt really weird because I was reading the blog on how bad the ads were, while watching and liking some of them. I don't think that was exactly what the blogger had in mind.

Anyhoo, each year the only one with horses is Bud. So again, we run a Bud ad. If we are here next year, expect a Bud ad. And the year after. And so on.

This year's tangentially reminds me of when I was magically in love in university and she went away. I started to go look for her,…

You Think That Bump Was Bad?

Calls are a part of racing. Bumps, inside pylons, making a hole for oneself, and so on. They are a cause for concern in racing because millions are bet and we need a good way to ensure that the bettors money is taken care of. Sometimes we fight about them, and sometimes a bad call can be publicized as such.

But in last night's Super Bowl, refereeing is brought to a whole new level.

To conspiracy theorists last night's game was called to make Pittsburgh a winner. To the rest of us, who do not think that sporting events are run by a guy in shack that looks like Dr. Evil, some of the calls were the very least questionable. NBC, who covered the game, did not on the grand stage make even the slightest reference to it. But of course, on the Internet, and in columns it is bombs away. Chris Chase at Yahoo has fired the first salvo: "Officiating Dictates Super Bowl XLIII"

I have a feeling that as the week wears on we will hear more and more about the officiating of this game. A…

Woodbine - Open to Handicappers

Being an 'OJC' regular since I was a wee tyke (ok, since I was 18 because betting before then is illegal and we wouldn't want that) I have seen this franchise evolve. Most of it in terms of horseplayer respect has happened over the last several years. Back in the late 1980's there was not a telephone in the place - those evil bookies I guess - and you were generally herded in to play the game of monopoly. With nowhere else to go, you went to distribute your money, and come home. Then the next day do it all over again. I never received a perk in all those years, other than getting in free if I had a horse racing on the circuit. It is the only business in existence that one would fund to the tune of millions over the years, where you never even got a free program in return.

Times have changed.

Heading to Woodbine last night a friend and I headed up to Champions (the rooftop patio/bar), walked in for free. The very good concierge fellow Neil met us with a smile, handed us f…