Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Runnin' Around

Busy day today. I have been working, playing racing, and had about 67 emails and 14 phone calls. Not bad at all. I think I earned my salary today.

Anyhow a few things on my mind.

I played Will Rogers Downs today for the HANA race betting day. Where is Will Rogers Downs? It's in Oklahoma. The racing is actually pretty good, and with my jcapper sheets and some free tools available it was not hard to make an opinion on the race. However, should I mention my opinion sucked? I lost.

I did play race 5 and caught that one though. My best bet of the year (best bet as in getting an edge) I think was in that race. I had supertote up and the three horse, who was fairly long, had almost 40% of the show pool. The 7-5 chalk had about 14%. I fired a show bet and the $4 winner paid $3.40 to show when the three horse ran out. Any bet is a good bet if you are getting a mathematical edge, and they come in many shapes and forms.

Overall the race in question (Race 6) had a darn good pool boost. About $50,000 was bet, about $25,000 of it new money. I wonder if they have ever had a race there with 50k in the pools?

I watched Mountaineer tonight as well, while catching up. In the third race I monitored the action at Betfair. The rail horse, who was 18-1 had a boatload wanted at 7-1 at the exchange. Someone knew something, or they really liked him. He won fairly easily. He keyed a $2400 tri.

Speaking of betfair, here is how they changed racing. "Britain's first internet betting exchange opened in 2000 with 36 customers. Now it is responsible for more transactions than the European stock markets. But how does it work - and who are the big winners?" Answer here. (hat tip to Equidaily)

OK, tomorrow I will hope to have a good discussion about the Breeders Crown announcement here on the blog. I want to hear what folks think of this decision to race all the races on one day. It has generated some buzz already on chat boards and so on. I will have a post up as I chatted with Moira Fanning and she gave me a nice response which I will elaborate on. I am sure Greg has some comments.

Where is Reinhart anyway? He is my guest poster and I bought him two beer and a Pepsi at Woodbine last week. Now he disappeared back to Pittsburgh and I don't hear a word from him. Was he kidnapped by Luc Ouellette and he is making him muck out stalls, like forever, without the use of the Interweb? Where's Chip?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Monday Notes

Ken Middleton interviewed Norm Clements on the Pacing Machine, Cam Fella and wrote about it. I liked Norm's dream event:

1. Cam Fella (1:53.1 - $2,041,367)
2. Niatross (TT1:49.1 - $2,019,213)
3. Albatross (1:54.3 - $1,201,470)
4. Nihilator (1:49.3 - $3,225,653)
5. Somebeachsomewhere (1:46.4 - $3,328,755)
6. Bye Bye Byrd (TT1:56.1 - $554,272)
7. Dan Patch (1:55.1 - $1,000,00+)
8. Bret Hanover (TT1:53.3 - $922,616)
9. Adios Butler (TT1:54.3 - $509,875)
10. Cardigan Bay (1:57.2 - $1,000,837)

We know racing ain't much without betting, but I as a fan would pay to watch that race. I don't think you could sell enough tickets. The fair odds line would be a blast to make.

Bill Finley of ESPN interviewed HANA's Mike Mayo about the Will Rogers Downs race tomorrow that bettors everywhere are supposedly betting into. Bill is definitely a horseplayer first, and columnist second.

It is the betting dollar that drives the entire racing industry, which should make the horseplayer the most powerful segment in the industry. Instead, it is its weakest. The player is neglected, underappreciated and has no voice. That's why takeout rates are outrageously high, the advance-deposit wagering systems are a mess and a lot of tracks care more about slot machines than they do horseracing. Face it, we've been pushed around and don't fight back.

It is great to read a mainstream columnist speak passionately like that about the game of racing. We don't get to read that too often in our press.

Check
out the PP's for this race via the snappy Trackmaster platinum programs. Look at the data given to thoroughbred players. Great angles, comments and all the rest. We need that for harness.

Wagering conference anyone? Registration is closing soon.

Back tomorrow with our new Breeders Crown thoughts. An interesting turn of events!

When Bad Things Happen to Good Folks

Veteran Ontario pacer The Masters (pictured, courtesy Iron Horse Photo) passed away recently in his sleep, apparently of a heart attack. He was only 13, recently retired from racing, and he was a family pet of Stephanie Horner (pictured). He raced 263 times and compiled a 46-32-27 win, place show record in his long career. He made over $500,000.

I was in the paddock at Western Fair Raceway about a year ago. One of our horses was in and The Masters was in an adjacent stall. He had just finished his race and was getting a bath. I chatted with Stephanie, telling her how much I liked the old timer. She beamed at having him, and felt she was fortunate. She spoke about how he would never see a claimer, how she was riding him, and how he would have a long life at home when he faced mandatory retirement. In a day and age where horses are all too often treated like a commodity, I was happy there were people like her in the business. I wished them success, petted The Masters on the nose and moved on.

I never want to see any horse pass young, but to see this one leave too early is triply saddening to me. The Masters was a horse who truly represented harness racing, and his owners did what all good owners do, or should do. They were not rewarded for that compassion, and that makes me sad. To the Horners and co-owner Ray Webb, please accept my condolences on the loss of your friend.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Rules, For Each To Decide

Commenting on blogs, and stories has always been a hot topic, with no clear answer. At conferences, I follow what is said is good policy and bad policy, and I often read opinion on the topic. For example, just recently I read a fairly long and detailed paper on the subject which I agreed with. Essentially, the piece noted that anonymous comments are fine, if and only if they are on topic. I usually prescribe to this theory.

However, sometimes I find I am in a bit of a dilemma in rejecting or posting comments. If something is unverifiable, takes a bit of a liberty, or makes an attack comment on a topic that I am not well versed on, I tend to be on the fence. I particularly dislike drive-by comments. This happened just recently in a response to the 'racing media' story below. I like to able to verify is an opinion is valid, rather than just post them. Therein lies the dilemma.

Others have open posting, and don't make decisions, which is their own prerogative, of course. Sometimes it makes for entertaining reading, that's for sure.

I think we do have some sort of responsibility for civil discourse in the blogging world, though. I never post a comment with someone calling someone else an 'idiot' anonymously, for example. Seeing this is still a young medium I guess we will see how it all shakes out, but that is the way we do things here at this little blog, and I do enjoy seeing how others have decided to run things on theirs.

Back to harness racing tomorrow.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Saturday

Well the buzz on the thoroughbred boards is all about the great racing today, including the tilt in the Florida Derby between two solid racehorses. It was a joy to watch. However, might as well do what we do here and talk some harness.

Mr. Feelgood downs Auckland Reactor in the Interdominian. The Jug champ was on.

Ramegade Bruiser won the first leg of the Spring Championship. It was shocking to see Secrets Nephew pulled up, however it looks like he is fine.

Nice to put a name to the face at Standardbred Canada. Jeff Porchak is the web-man there, and is bringing the organization into the 10's with some solid work. Way to go Jeff.

It was a fun night at the track today/tonight. We got there early for t-bred action and the stretch drive of the Florida Derby was electric. The harness racing was not too bad either last night, with a good many competitive races. Nice to have my Newfoundland stable-partner in town. We watch the horses race, have a beer or two, and make fun of each other when our picks stink.

I watched the races early as well from Dubai. That was more than interesting. I followed along with Nick Mordin, whose picks were placed up at HANA. For those who have not read "Winning Without Thinking" by Nick, and have a bit of an analytical handicapping mind, I recommend it.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Here a Widget, Everywhere a Widget

Yahoo announces a widget for your TV. Possibilities for racing? Not hard to come up with some, that's for sure. There is a revenue model for television stations themselves with this as well, if we flip the thesis around.

Bloggers, New and Old

Recently I wrote a post about the media and racing, making a case that the media is too close to the business to be critical and give it the push it needs often times. One of the respondents wrote a rebuttal that was quite good and made me think. However, one part I do disagree with:

Traditional journalism has also been replaced by bloggers or, as one person now calls them, sloggers. In the absence of a name or a face, they are people who sit by computers and criticize.

There are some sharp people out there, who are accountable (their posts are archived) and that argue, debate and put forth alternative points of view with passion and a point. Whether you are heaping praise or being critical, you have to do so with a point. It does not matter if you have a journalism degree or not, and it certainly does not matter if your name is Bill, or Sue or Chalk Eating Weasel.

For example, one new blogger wrote a response to Ray Paulick's comment below where Ray stated he was “guilty as charged for siding with horsemen” in many of his opines. "Mr. Paulick's claim that not siding with the horsemen would leave the sport without horses is an oversimplification to the point where it becomes an insult to the reader’s intelligence", he says, among other things. We very rarely read such politically incorrect opinions in the regular press and hey, maybe it is link bait, but it is good link bait. What he says is essentially correct, or at the very least debatable, no matter how much we as insiders don't want to hear it. You would never read this opinion in the mainstream press in this sport.

He is a man with an opinion, who backs it up with some fact and some passion. If he is a 'slogger' pass me more slog please.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Hamilton on Sky Art

We spoke earlier this month about the loss of Sky Art. Mike Hamilton is a mentor to a new owners group that had been having some luck with the young guy, when he was injured in a race. Mike reflects on the sad experience on the Woodbine blog. Every horse owner should read this piece (in my humble opinion).

But after hearing the quiver in the surgeon’s voice as she described the nature of Art’s condition and the odds of his survival and recovery, not to mention the muffled sobs of several owners who were on the other end of the phone, I knew in my heart there was only one option.

more

When Racing was Racing

Beach Towel, the Remmen trained pacer from the early 1990's passed on this week. For those who weren't around the Toronto area back then, this was a great time for the sport. The North America Cup was in its 5th or 6th edition and because simulcasting was still in its infancy the on-track buzz was exciting for big races. In that edition, the US's best, Beach Towel, was against Canada's best, Apache's Fame.

Apache's Fame was trained by Bud Fritz. If Rick Zeron is married to a microphone Bud Fritz can be described as someone who was divorced from one. Bud was an old-time horseman. He wanted to show up, race, and then go home to bed. Ray Remmen was similar - a trainer driver - but he did a better interview.

Their horses were near co-chalk and the battle was sure to be good, but a funny thing happened. Beach Towel made a break just before the quarter. Apaches Fame set-sail and the rest was history. I remember the stunned crowd at Greenwood that night, me included.

Beach Towel would go on to post many top class victories from that point on, and he ended up with Horse of the Year honours. He was a good broodmare sire and sired the dam of Somebeachsomewhere. Here are his running lines and career stats (should be up for a day or two on Trackit).

Mythbusting Trends

When we chatted below about trends for big races like the Derby, we were noting that taking this backfitted stuff with a grain of salt should be the strategy. The Downey Profile looks at the phenomenon of breaking trends. H/t to Railbird.

Value

Nice pick 4 at the M last night - 55k. This is one of the only tracks that advertises their low rake for this bet right in their press releases. Nice work and people are noticing that Monmouth and the M are excellent value for players (the short fields on the runner side throws a wrench in that of course, but so it goes with Slotsville and Non-Slotsville tracks).

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Opinion

Being fortunate enough to know Bill from the Horseplayers Association, I marvel sometimes at just how sharp he is. When constructing the HANA track ratings he wrote several times (he is an engineer, so I guess this is built-in) warning that doing anything to rate tracks in a qualitative way was a hornets nest that should be steered clear of. So he stuck with things like takeout and field size when looking at tracks. I thought about this today reading Brooklyn Backstretch's review of her trip to Gulfstream (check it out, some nice photos). The reaction to her post shows just how far apart horseplayers and fans are in this game. I have read reaction to Gulfstream many times on the net and I am continually amazed at times how one faction considers it a place which is fun and pretty, and another likens to experience to swallowing barbed wire. Opinion is one thing, but it is wild to see the divergence of opinion. (Pocket note - I have never been there, but it looks nice enough to me in pictures).

In my live Ontario harness track ratings last year I rated Georgian Downs highly. I went last night for the races and I stand by those. The fields were good, they have two pick 4's and the driver colony with purse size is excellent. In terms of amenities, it is clean, the staff friendly and the food is not bad at all. The side bar is quite the spot for after the races. It adjoins the paddock, and many of the trainers and drivers head there afterwards for a beer and/or food. It is a very nice atmosphere. The last time I was there was in August, and the place was packed. Last night, in the terrible weather it was not. They were absolutely right to cut dates in January and February there. It is good for them, and good for the fans.

Changing business models can happen quickly. Blockbuster video, with the old model of renting VHS and DVD's has moved into several new ventures. The latest is a partnership with TiVo. This is not at all dissimilar to horse racing moving to the Internet, but when we fight for slices, it all goes to hell. Notice what they are charging for this new service? Less than retail stores have for a long time. This is correct, and the way it should be. The fixed cost of setting something up is expensive, but the variable cost is small. Thus, the price becomes less. This is something we have not learned with ADW, and we are paying for it. Racing can not charge the same takeouts on the internet as they can at a track and maximize revenues.

My last post on opinion is a response from a reader to my Media post below. I don't agree with some of it, but the blog world is pretty ridiculous if it does not share well-thought-out differing opinion. I post it here in its entirety:

It is so easy to attack horse racing from a journalistic perspective. The game is on the decline and nothing will save it or return it back to its glory years.

There are few journalists who truly understand the game from the inside out. They have either never been gamblers, horse owners or racetrack operators. They are, for the most part, merely passive observers, armchair quarterbacks if you will.

Some of the best journalists I have known are ones who didn't need platforms to be seen or heard. They spoke from an understanding grounded in experience. I think of Gary West, who has ruffled many feathers in the industry but has one of the best understandings of the game. Bob Fortus is another.

They understand physiology and can make accurate and intelligent commentary, sometimes which causes friction among the tracks they cover and/or advertisers.

But this happens in all sports. Racing is not exclusive to criticism, it's just it can't help itself.

Traditional journalism has also been replaced by bloggers or, as one person now calls them, sloggers. In the absence of a name or a face, they are people who sit by computers and criticize. Sometimes they have valid commentaries, and sometimes they are merely expressing opinion without fact.

In the end, racing has to take a serious look at itself and where it is heading. The MEC fallout underlined how racing doesn't operate for the good of all but merely as a series of independent operators. Stronach had a vision, perhaps based on individual greed, that would change the game and bring it back to its glory.

That will never happen, so attacking racing is like fishing in a stocked pond.

And you can say writers are being pulled off the beats because they are too critical.
But the bottom line is, racing coverage is shrinking, and journalism as a whole is at stage, similar to racing, from which it will never recover.

You can remove writers and let the bloggers/sloggers talk about all the wrongs of racing, but coming up with a solution is considerably more challenging.

This isn't just about advertisers and they clout they hold. This is about managing editors and/or sports editors who have no passion for horse racing, and when they pull a writer off the beat, be it in a traditional newspaper or a trade publication, it may be because that employer no longer serves a valuable purpose to the bottom line. That could mean bodies are needed for more relevant coverage. If the writer happens to be critical, the paper may simply say, who cares.

I truly doubt the amount of advertising really matters that much.

Having said that, I have seen examples where a writer is pulled off the beat and replaced by someone who isn't nearly as knowledgeable and therefore can't be as critical. In some cases, if it is a one-paper town and the advertiser has clout, it may threaten to pull business if the offensive writer is not pulled.

In summation, take all the shots you want at racing. It will survive in spite of itself, but the weak will not inherent the turf. The strong will, and there will be fewer and fewer people covering racing from a traditional standpoint, and those who choose to blog or slog may not matter anyway.

Nothing short of a miracle plan will make racing relevant.

But be thankful there are at least publications that cover the game.

Million Dollar Horse, No Driver? And Share the Delight

The soap opera downunder continues. Auckland Reactor, who is the focus of a driver suspension, won last time easily for new driver Tony Herlihy. The $1.2M final of the series goes this week, so one would expect him to drive him in the final, especially since he said so earlier in the week.

But apparently not. He will drive his previous mount after all.

The stuff.co.nz report states that Gotta Go Cullen's owner, Ian Dobson, was not impressed by Herlihy's initial decision to abandon Gotta Go Cullen and had called his lawyer in Christchurch with the intention of charging New Zealand's top reinsman with collusion.

You figure it had to be something like that. At Betfair, Gotta Go Cullen is 200-1. The Reactor is 6-5. This is not a hard decision on paper.

Today the story took another turn. We have yet another new driver.

In other news, our old friend here on the blog Andrew Cohen has a nice colt, Share the Delight. He had some bad luck last year and seemed to be always just a little short of greatness. His gait problems as a 4 year old are certainly behind him, and he looks to be finally putting it all together. I look for good things from him this year, and I think this will be a marvelous year for the aged division with him, Shadow Play and others.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Cam Fella

The Cam Fella final was this past weekend at Woodbine and it got me thinking about the Pacing Machine. 100 years from now they will be talking about him, not only for his racing career, but for his stud career. He has sired something like 16 millionaires, sires colts and fillies that can both go like the wind, and his mares and studs produce as well. The consummate professional racehorse and the Northern Dancer of the hoppled-gaiters. He left us too soon quite frankly.

I remember as a kid in the early 80's going to see him race - he was by far my favorite horse, as he was most Canadian harness watchers. In fact, I still have my "Cam Fella the Pacing Machine" button that they gave away at one of his races. Cam took on everyone, everywhere, and rarely would you see him throw a bad race. Nowadays where a 12 or 14 start season is considered pushing it, Cam would have a laugh at that. He won 61 out of 80, his last 28 races of his career were 28 straight victories. And not fluff wins either. Free For All stakes wins against horses like JD's Buck, Sokys Atom, Millers Scout, Coal Harbor and many other hard hitting racehorses. Most of his races he was under the stick, eventhough we all knew that he did not need a whip. He knew where the wire was. They simply don't make them like him anymore.

For thoroughbred fans who read the blog (seriously, thanks for looking in, since us poorer cousins need all the help we can get!), I know many of you do not even know who Cam Fella is, and that is a true shame. It's not your fault but ours. Regardless do me a favour and watch this Youtube race clip of him. This was back in '83. The owners of US based It's Fritz wanted to have a race with Cam on the big track. It's Fritz was winning everything down south, and there was an aura that Cam's crew was afraid of him (from the papers at that time). Of course it was just promo and so on, but that is what was said. So Mr. Clements and the Cam Fella Express (as they were called) went down to the Meadowlands for the big race. It is perhaps one of the most talked about races in history. I was not there, but being a horseplayer I can imagine folks ripping up their tickets on the Pacing Machine about the three quarters, only to find out what we all knew - he was 100% racehorse. Boy, I loved watching that horse. He represented everything that harness racing is about - toughness, blue-collar, and a sport where everyone has a shot.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Is the Racing Media Too Close to be Critical?

In the UK racing scene (hat tip to Scott), a senior writer at the Racing Post recently blasted the paper in his resignation letter for being beholden to its advertisers, which in his opinion is not healthy; "Almost all the racing media is now under the effective editorial control of the bookmakers either because bookmaker advertising is essential to their survival, or because other racing correspondents have been made aware of, er, the side on which their bread is buttered."

"The agenda of Britain's only racing/sports newspaper is now being dictated entirely by its main advertisers," he said.

I often feel the same way over here, across the pond. I read some articles, on both websites and in print, where the racing writers appear to be reticent to be critical. It seems to me, at times, it is an old boys club, where advertisers rule the editorial roost. After all, can we blame them? If you anger a breeder, or an ADW who advertises with you, you are not going to replace that advertiser with Target, or Wal-Mart. You are pretty much toast.

There are independent voices. Often times Ray Paulick is one (although some have said he shows some bias towards horseman and against some tracks). Andrew Beyer, despite the DRF having mucho-advertising from tracks and ADW's, looks to me to be one who would tell someone to go take a hike if they tried to silence his opinion. Here in Canada, Darryl Kaplan of Trot writes hard-hitting opinion from time to time that flies directly in the face of the "protect my slice at all costs" thinking that affects this business like an infected boil. Harold Howe of the Harness Edge is not averse to running critical pieces and letters. But overall, the business itself seems to have very few voices who challenge the status-quo with the verve it may need.

On television as we have touched below, it is a different story, as most simulcast shows have staff that are employed by the track. It is simply not realistic to demand that Mike Hamilton or Greg Blanchard at Woodbine ask a tough question of their track on the air. If they think the detention barn does no good they clearly can not slag their boss.

But I do wonder if we have lost some independence in print, and on the web in racing because of these close-knit ties. Perhaps it is further evidence of the power of the status quo in racing, and that it will take much, much more than handle losses and a few closed tracks to unhinge it.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Saturday Shockers

Darlins Delight tried this week (unlike last week), and unsurprisingly jogged.

There is some chatter lately about the Kentucky Oaks being on Bravo. Ray Paulick explores this tonight. I have no idea what to think about that, other than the simple fact is the sports channels are ditching this sport, so it being on any channel is better than the alternative. Heck for some tracks I can not even get streaming video.

A little bit of news from Woodbine today regarding their participation on Sirius Radio's Down the Stretch. I would surmise they spent some cash as a sponsor or something. They do similar to get the product on the Score for both harness and the runners.

Further, they have changed their simo-screen a little bit. The camera work is better and uncluttering the screen allowing for less noise is a good thing. In my next wacky thought, I would like to see some innovation using TrackUs and ADW. One day, and I think it is not far off, I believe that we will be able to tag a horse in our ADW and have it flagged so we know where it is. In a 14 horse turf race at Woodbine t-breds, where the start is like two miles away, it would be the coolest thing in the World. One thing I like about harness is that the horses are much easier to keep track of on a TV screen, or even at the track. It sure does not help our handles any, though.

Watch for some changes in the Breeders Crown this year. I'm thinking something might be up with Pennsylvania. Just a guess, but to go along with the obscene exotics takeouts, they have like 100 gazillion dollars of slot money to spend.

Speaking of Pennsylvania, at the Meadows they have experimented with the starting gate, allowing outside horses to start up to 14 feet ahead of the inside horses. We need this now at London, or Grand River or Woodstock. Completely change the way half mile track races are run. What have we got to lose. I think the daily handles at Woodstock are even less than the annual sales of a BJ and the Bear collectibles store at Ebay.

Speaking again, this time of Grand River, Kelly tries to promote as much as possible, and she is at it again. This time with an edition of Harness Cribs. She goes to Paul MacDonnell's house for a visit, and tapes it.

Aaron Merriman drove his 1000th race tonight of 2009. In comparison, I have worn about 150 socks so far this this year. Imagine if he before the year, started some goofy charity thing where he has to, say, eat a hot dog before every start? He would need a titanium race bike, built to seat a grain silo. Anyhow, that's a whole lot of drives.

My buddy Jeff Platt of Jcapper and the Horseplayers Assn of NA was interviewed by Case the Race this week. Jeff's a good guy and usually has something interesting to say.

Friday, March 20, 2009

High School and the Beav

Cute post over at Green But Game picking a Derby winner. I never had hair like that in high school, but in some strange way I wish I did. I could have went as Rick from Magnum PI for Halloween every year without even getting dressed up.

For another Derby opine, Jay over at HANA is compiling a list. He is a super-sharp player and worth following. He's been on the Friesan Fire bandwagon for quite awhile now, and he maintains him at number one.

The Animal Planet show Jockey's has been renewed. One line in the story strikes a chord for me, "The project also represented an admirable risk for Animal Planet, since some of the network's viewers object to horse racing in general." Sometimes we forget this. Thankfully people like Peter have their pulse on Aunt Maude, and he is 100% correct. The way we sell the sport to Aunt Maude needs a sea-change before it can ever become 2009-mainstream. h/t to Railbird.

Saturday starts the Trackmaster challenge for harness players who are interested.

GTW says that he wants jockey's to be twittering during the race telling us how their horses feel. He's kidding of course, but it is a well known fact that beating the feed with on track bettors on cell phones is going on right now in the UK. Man, that would be cool.

Speaking of Betfair all I want to say is "damn kids!". I remember being 23 and getting dressed up like these punks to go out drinkin', but I was not up $150,000 with the horses at the same time. More like trading in beer bottle money for admission. Yes, that is a true story.

Mario! The legendary Glen from Newmarket's favourite driver Mario Letizia "schools the big-name drivers tonight" (a Newfoundlanders words) and goes gate to wire with Bhakti at the M in race nine. He paid a generous $20. Congratulations Mario, you da man; and congrats to Beav as god knows he prolly had a hundred on his nose!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Purdon Appeals & Plonk's Big Win

Driver Mark Purdon has appealed his rather harsh suspension and should be able to drive his star pacer. In this case the appeals process seems to have worked. The commission lets drivers know that not trying hard with a chalk is a no no, and Purdon can still drive his horse. Not a bad outcome.

Jeremy Plonk at ESPN looks at Derby horses who have had a blowout victory and that this usually signals a good shot at the Run for the Roses. About 40 years ago Tom Ainslie wrote his take on the "big win". Loosely this stated similar to what Mr. Plonk asserts - big wins are horses that repeat. The logic is pretty infallible, and it works in harness racing too. Namely, a horse who wins easy is doing it on his own, and has much left in reserve. If he is making solid horses look ordinary, one can expect him to become a good horse.

Long ago in racing this was not as big a deal as today. In harness, horses like Albatross, Cam Fella and many others did not have the "big win". They were grinders representative of the sport - tough animals. Nowadays this has changed. Horses who destroy other horses in fast times are always a force. Somebeachsomewhere - blew out horses winning by 2+ lengths under wraps several times early in his career (he was never in a conditioned race, only stakes from start one). In his second lifetime start as a three year old, Tell All broke stride, was 17 lengths back at the half, and went on to win the Count B by 6. Last year Muscle Hill won the Haughton by 6.

You can't teach speed, it is god given. And speed wins races, big. Very few champions do not exhibit the tendencies that Mr. Ainslie wrote about long ago.

PowerCap has written a wonderful piece on what it is like to be a horseplayer. All I can say is: ditching classes as a kid and hopping on a streetcar to Greenwood, studying the program like it was my text book in the hopes of finding 10 winners, I could not agree more. This has been a many decade puzzle for me. A puzzle I will never figure out, finish or master; and it is what keeps me coming back, each and every time.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Suspension: 6 weeks for a Driving Error

Driver of Auckland Reactor Mark Purdon was suspended six weeks for his drive of the pacer last week.

Chairman of stewards Martin Knibbs said Purdon was charged under rule 149.1, which states : "a driver shall take all reasonable and permissible measures. . . to ensure that the horse is given full opportunity to win or obtain the best possible placing in the field".

In our piece below we looked at how chalk is driven here from time to time, and I think we should open the lines of communication between drivers, judges and the public. And I would like to see it done only when the driver makes no effort to win. However, six weeks for this is way too excessive. This driver at least got his horse to the outside, was probably outdriven in a new land (he says so himself), and he succumbed to the vagaries of harness racing. On any given night in North America and elsewhere you can see a horse driven like this as a favourite, mistake or not.

What do you think?



Details on the hearing itself here.

Software, Horses & Other Things

Ian wants to bet harness racing, but he is asking for software. Not much out there, huh? I know it is a game of watching replays, charting and knowing a little about many things, but knowing who is the fastest horse is not just good for the runners.

When at the Gamblers Book Shop in Vegas a couple of weeks ago, my horse stable partner chatted with Mr. Schwartz who runs the joint. He is asking for harness racing material. He says he gets bettors in there all the time asking for harness material.

Speaking of software and data, it seems a few heavy hitters have gotten together to create a new company hoping to be able to assimilate and gather huge piles of data. One of them "Christophe Bisciglia, 28, arrived at Google after raising and selling horses online during his high school years." Hey Chris, pay $20k for some harness racing data and write a cool program for me, huh? That'd be cool.

Phil mentioned Oscar Oscar in the comments section and his stunning 150 maiden win. I remember Chris Ryder winning in 150 with a maiden about three or four years ago. It was with an Aussie horse I think. Anyone remember the name?

Mike Mayo (who came in the Top Ten at the Horseplayers World Series a few weeks ago) is asking for folks to play into certain pools on certain days. Could you imagine if a bunch of harness players got together and bet Kawartha Downs on a Tuesday? Talk about a pool shock.

Reminder: Bettors wanted for the Wagering Conference in Windsor in April.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Direct Line from Judges to the Public

I am not the first to note, nor will I be the last, the difference between us and the rest of the world when we look at judges inquiries. In Australia recently, the driver of top 4 year old Auckland Reactor drove him in a way that made the public say, what? The judges are on this, and they will be reporting back. When you drive a favourite without purpose, it is looked into.

In Hong Kong this is taken to another extreme - the rulings and or questions on rides are placed in the newspaper. On their website they have full, almost real time, judges decisions. Watching the racing in the thoroughbreds in Australia I was flabbergasted to see a (real time) judge and jockey meeting on the feed for a suspect ride, where the public sees that the judges are responding to their hard-earned dollars at laser-speed.

In North America? Nah, not so much.

Friday night at the Meadowlands, 2.6 million dollar winner Darlins Delight was making her second start of the year in the Overbid. In her first start, from the eight hole she closed in a whopping 54 flat to come second. Handicappers easily factored in the bad post, and the lack of effort, because it was her first start of the year. Regardless, if she had better flow, driver Gingras put her in position to win. On Friday of this week, making her second start, one would think it was 'go' time.

It wasn't.

Sitting in fourth as the even money chalk, the opportunity came to pull, to give the horse a shot, and give the fans their money's worth. Yannick Gingras chose to sit and get boxed. She was bottled up, boxed in, and did not extricate herself. When she did she flew home in 26 flat, coming fifth.

4/5T 4/4Q 6/4T 7/5T 5/4H 1:51.4 26 *1.00

When the race was over all we saw was dead air. No comments from anyone. Just silence, while in simulcasting centres around North America, at the track, and in bedrooms and living rooms people were all saying "what the hell was that?" Racing had no answer.

The next evening, like clockwork, Brian Sears sat in a similar position with a heavy chalk in a 50 claimer. The week before he quarter poled from third, brushed to the lead and won in 149.4. This week, in virtually the same position he sat (yes, I know he was up in class), got boxed and came flying late to come fourth in 151.4 - a full two seconds slower than his last race. Again, dead air.

3/3H 3/2T 5/2Q 5/3 4/4Q 1:51.4 28 *1.70

I in no way think, or imply there was funny stuff going on in these races, and I am the first to admit that horseplayers will complain about drives and rides when it is not warranted. However, in these instances the public demands quick and noticeable respect. There needs to be an interviewer in the paddock after these races asking questions that the public is asking. They can not ask themselves, so they need someone in their corner doing it for them. It is not too much to ask a response on something as simple as a favourite not being driven like one.

If the drivers are put off by these questions, well my response is simple - tell them to go drive somewhere else. Bring in drivers who will answer the public, and who respect the people who pay their salaries by explaining themselves.

Media training is no doubt needed so they can answer these questions better (everyone is not John Campbell), and educate the public, but that should not be overly difficult.

This goes on today with drivers who know where their bread is buttered already, so to say this is undoable or unworkable is nonsense. On the Score last year driver Luc Ouellette was driving a horse from the ten post. The plan was to give him an easier one from off the pace and look for some flow, as the previous couple weeks saw him on the front. He won the race, but he did not go right to the back, he left a little and got cover. He said in his interview after the race (paraphrasing) that he went by the odds board and saw the horse was 3-2, so he realized that he had to give the public a run and get the horse in early position. He showed bettors respect and drove the horse with them in mind.

We often ask, what can harness racing do to stand-out, to be a purple cow. Well this is one way we can - give the bettors a brand new way of looking at our sport by being honest with them. Drivers at the top of this sport make many hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. I don't think it is too much to ask of them to answer a couple of questions from the judges, on camera, after a race.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Outside the Box

Use Trackus for more than it is currently is.

This one idea could change how the claiming game is played. That's thinking. Think of what we can do with this for handicapping?

H/t to Gathering Man.

Do we have outside the box mobile internet plans in racing, in a niche or unique way? Mobile use for accessing news and information more than doubled the last year, according to comScore.

Whipping Debate: Readers Weigh In

Long time blog reader Peter has a neat question and answer post on whipping. He is a horseman, bettor and fan, and has been for many years.

(1) Who should decide what is appropriate whipping?

The answer is, Aunt Maude should decide. Everyone knows an Aunt Maude. She is not a stakeholder. She is not an animal activist. She is not a vegan or a tree hugger. She is a normal person, might have a cat, and could live in a backwater or a big city. She is practical and ordinary and like most ordinary people, she recoils from slashing and pounding on a beautiful animal. Auntie doesn't have to think about it. Her approval or disapproval is immediate and there is no second chance.

(2) Who should not decide what is appropriate whipping?

Pretty much everyone who has been successful in the horse business has a vested interest in business as usual. It's the same in every sport or business. No one puts away the corked bat until they have to. No one stops making gas guzzlers until it's already too late.

(3) What about the "whipping is essential for safety" claptrap?

Absolute bunk. For a hundred years the driver took a hold of a runaway or a breaking horse and now all of a sudden a whip is a cure all. You have to be simple to buy that nonsense.

(4) What about "the bettors like to see the horse whipped"?

The reality is that the bettors rightfully demand that a horse be driven with purpose and encouragement. I know of no way to appease a bettor who has lost his wager. This one is for someone cleverer than I.

(5) Who cares about Aunt Maude anyway? She is a nickel and dime punter.

Okay, this is the most important point. Politicians care about Aunt Maude. They care about live attendance. If their constituents go to the races, races are good. And the industry lives off political will. Auntie votes. If Auntie turns up her nose, the local member might also.

Woodbine Says Yes to New Whipping Rules

Woodbine Entertainment has come out with further support for the banning of one-handed whipping.

.......during its summer meet Mohawk Racetrack receives complaints from customers who are outraged at the sight and sound of horses being whipped one-handed though the stretch by drivers. With strict enforcement of a rule requiring one line in each hand, drivers will quickly adapt and this will serve as one of the initiatives going forward to improve the public perception of harness racing in Ontario.

It's going to happen. Not an if but a when.

Friday, March 13, 2009

It's Tweeteriffic

For my real job I tend to follow things in the web world. The rise of Twitter has been really interesting the past year and a half or so. For awhile, like most new things in the web world, growth was for new adopters and some techno-geeks. Then as with most growth curves (you can mirror the above curve with Facebook traffic or youtube traffic), you tend to reach a mass where the thing snowballs. You are seeing it with this company right before your eyes. Right now someone is signing up who has never heard of it before, and that someone is not a tech-geek, he/she is someone like you.

Harness racing is starting to be embraced. Harnessracing.com has started on Twitter, among others in the game. I would not be surprised if this years Standardbred Wagering Conference is on twitter, so folks can keep tabs in real time.

Like we spoke about during the Arizona Symposium on the blog, there is most certainly some way to use this better, and intertwine it with other avenues for racing. I am a big believer that there are plenty of things out there to use properly, or create, that we just have not thought of yet for racing. I hope if we do brainstorm and come up with something, it is written up with a 2.0+ mindset that can catch fire. Because when you are using some of these things early and they are unique, it can be a boon to business. It would be a hell of a neat thing to see harness racing with a curve like the above for a change.

Graphs courtesy quantcast.com. Full Twitter rankings and stats here.

Change From Within

"This business model does not need tweaking, it needs to be revamped." Driver John Campbell here.

More change. Long time blogger Jessica C has changed her Railbird blog around to focus on tech and the changing world, and its regard to racing (among other things). If you like the talks here about new marketing and so on, it will be worth a bookmark.

Online music is changing from within, well not really, according to some who say "How Not To 'Save' The Music Industry: Ask The Folks Who Benefited From Old Inefficiencies." Draw your own conclusions regarding parallels to racing.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Change Refunds and Up Satisfaction

In times past, insider gambling on horses (when purses were equivalent to a Happy Meal) was something to be concerned with. When you can hit a tri by doing some funny business and cashing $2000, it was big money compared to the purse. Racings response to this was to regulate several things, including stuck in gates, breaking horses, and declaring a race official regardless of myriad issues that may happen during, or before a race. This was not a terrible policy of course. If a horse did not look to have a good break from the gate and a driver knew he had money down he could break the horse and get a refund. And with racing being the only game in town, tracks keeping the money and not having to refund it was not something they were going to change. They liked money from people who had no other place to gamble. They could not shop at another store and racing knew it.

But in 2009 times have changed.

If a football game does not start, or something strange happens, even your neighbourhood bookie will give you a refund.

If a slot machine stops in between a cherry and a bar you get a refund.

If a lottery ticket spits out a letter instead of a number, you turn it in for another one.

Can you imagine the customer response in a casino if a machine makes a mistake or a dealer makes a error and the response was “all bets are final”? Even if it was a policy you would be getting a free buffet coupon or a couple of beers from a trained customer service professional.

During the accident last week at Woodbine the ORC judges ruled by the letter, as was on the books. Two horses finished, so that’s that and the race is official. A day or two later I bet a horse at Aqueduct and he got stuck in the gate. I looked up at the quarter and could not find him anywhere. The inquiry flashed and after a brief period the race was declared official.

We have people betting their hard-earned money on these races. If a horse breaks at the gate, or gets stuck in one, the customer did not even get a chance to play our game. Think if you were new to racing and one of your very first bets had this happen. You would immediately think you could turn in your ticket for a refund and as a customer you would be incredulous if it was any other way. But you would be sadly mistaken, and you would certainly be upset and wonder why in the hell you decided to play in the first place. Is this really the way we want our customers to feel after betting a race? In 1950 they had no choice but to come back. Now they have plenty of choices.

Today customer service is of the utmost importance for all businesses. Racing is working towards building a better customer service plan. But how do you capture customers when the rules you are working under were written for a different era? Many things in racing need an overhaul, and we have to fight and claw for every customer out there. A good start would be a change to the refund policy. Don't think like a bean-counter, think like a marketer. Not only will they just churn any refund money right back into the pools anyway, they will be a happier customer, and Lord knows we need more of those in racing.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Good For Them

Part of last years Wagering Action Plan, authored and tailored by Standardbred Canada, was working on new initiatives to try and bring racing to the masses. They today announced "Adrenaline", a festival of racing, this year to be held in Sarnia Ontario. This type of thing is desperately needed and I applaud them for it, with both hands.

Buzz

I was just doing my late night scan of the UK horse betting blogs. They are always interesting and I can usually find something that catches my eye. This time it was the Cheltenham Festival. Virtually everyone is speaking of it, and markets on Betfair are reeling (I saw a couple with over $15M US matched). Quite the buzz.

But buzz doesn't just happen, it is created. Virtually all the news of the Festival is put out by betting sites and the festival itself, with a web presence of targeted social media marketing.

It strikes me as odd that me as a harness racing blogger was contacted by several firms and bloggers speaking of the Festival in the UK (which I know absolutely nothing about), but racing here across the pond has never said boo to me in a calculated buzzmarketing way when they have an event.

It's a different world out there.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bettors: Now is Your Chance

Standardbred Canada is looking for participants for their 2nd Annual Wagering Conference. Do you have to be a trainer, or an executive, or have a fancy resume? No. You just need to be a bettor.

Click here and fill out the required information if you want to be a part of it. It is a good experience.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Late to the Party

I often read Seth Godin and link him here as you know. He seems to emote common sense business in the new economy. A couple of days ago he spoke of today's emergencies and how the writing was on the wall for some time, yet no one seems to do anything. He wrote a section about media:

Six years ago, I gave a mildly controversial talk to the newspaper publishers at an annual convention. I explained in detail why they were just a few years from bankruptcy and how they could use the momentum and assets they had to build up a hyperlocal internet presence and permission asset now, because it would be too late when the emergency hit. Of course, my talk wasn't an emergency, they had other priorities, and so the dire prediction comes true.

Sure we will speak about racing like this as well. But is racing the only business who has not looked forward with the writing on the wall? No. I remember four or five years ago having dinner with a friend who runs a fund. He got rid of his mortgage and housing holdings because the bubble was going to burst he said, or alternatively, the government would soon act. He noted that the then Treasury Secretary was probably going to go to Congress soon to sound the alarms and if I had a few dollars, some well placed puts might be worth a few bucks. Sure enough the sec did go to Congress, everyone ignored it, and the bubble was allowed to grow. There was no emergency. Lucky I did not buy puts. Short term ones anyway.

This reminds me of a long ago conversation I had with a few in racing about rebates. I was getting them and my handle exploded. I am not the worlds greatest handicapper, but I won enough to make me an every day player, and the rebate bump made me a large every day player. I wanted others to be able to get this as well, as I know how many people leave our game because it is so hard to win at. Most of my friends were leaving for the poker table at the time, and on some gambling chat boards we were considered outcasts for even playing the game of racing. The writing was on the wall, and I thought if I showed folks some numbers they would embrace this new way of doing things, and we might raise handles.

But I heard crickets. I was told that racing "could not afford it." I was dumbfounded. Here is a way to raise handles, increase customer satisfaction, and grow racing and all they could say was "we can't afford it?" How could we afford not to, I thought.

I then read the Harness Tracks of America conference transcript on rebates way back in 2004. I was amazed that it seemed like every person that was speaking on behalf of the tracks could be so outside reality, my reality as a customer anyway. Do these folks even make a bet? Track heads are speaking about bettors like they are consumers buying cars; and even worse they are arguing with them. Could they be this out of touch with what their customers do daily?

Now, several years later we see that handle is getting killed. It is now an emergency. Thankfully rebates are no longer a bad word and 4% rebates (something racing said was 'impossible' a few short years ago) are considered something for every day players. Tracks are now paying people to play and they have been embraced, even in California, the staunchest anti-rebate jurisdiction on the continent. But is it too late? I guess we'll find out. I hope before the next emergency.

I don't know where we are going to go in racing or what to do to fix things; I am not that smart. But I know our prices are too high, and we have no idea how to distribute our product properly to gamblers, and until we address those issues and make them our focus, the sport's future will continue to look bleak.

Muscle Hill Getting Ready

Greg Peck gives an update on world champ Muscle Hill.

“He won’t start until Memorial Day or after,” Peck said. “I don’t have the schedule in front of me, but that’s usually when the New Jersey Sire Stakes for three-year-old trotting colts starts, that Monday (the first round is Memorial Day, May 25). It will be then or after, might be the second round or something like that.

This is the first year since maybe Mack Lobell that I have looked more forward to the male trotters, rather than the pacers. I sincerely hope that this guy comes back good because I think we are in for a special year. He is one of those rare horses who makes other very nice horses look ordinary.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sad Day For Mike's Crew

From time to time we update you on the group of new owners that Mike Hamilton of Woodbine is mentoring. Their newest yearling buy was Sky Art, a nice little Modern Art colt. Unfortunately he had to be put to sleep today. My sincere best wishes to the stable on a very tough day. You can leave Mike a note on his blog if you wish.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Aaron Merriman

Woodbine regular Jody Jamieson is looking to do some double or triple duty by driving on the big circuit as well as at Georgian Downs and Flamboro Downs. His thoughts are pretty level headed, “The opportunity is there for guys like me to drive, and I want to be known as a driver that did it when I had the chance.” He is absolutely right. In a time where people are getting laid off, governments are spending money like drunken sailors, the Dow is tanking, it is a great time to be a harness driver. You can make millions in a sport that is slowly fading away, if you want to go for it.

Beginning about six or seven years ago, slots money was proliferating, and tracks needed racedates, lots of them. The opportunity to drive many, many races was there for those who wanted to work at it. One that did was Tim Tetrick. In 2007 he hopped around like no man has ever been able to before. He drove in a mind-boggling 4728 races, something that 25 years ago would have taken a Doug Brown or Steve Condren three or four years to achieve. I was of the opinion at the time that with racedates we would see someone break that mark. I thought someone could, if they wanted to, drive over 5000 races in a year.

I think this year might be the year.

Driver Aaron Merriman is doing it, and doing it the hard way. He is doing double duty at the Meadows in Pittsburgh, then hopping on the highway to Northfield (near Cleveland). Unfortunately, unlike Messers Tetrick and Morgan, though, Aaron is entering the Palone Zone, and is part of a super-competitive driver colony at Northfield, so he has little chance to drive contenders every race. The win record is not in jeopardy. Regardless, we might be seeing something stunning. So far in 2009:

Merriman, A
833 140 136 130 $557,728


He has driven 833 races in about 64 days. That works out to 13 drives per day. Over 365 days that would mean Aaron would drive more than Tetrick did in '07, and (if he finds a few double cards, and picks up more drives at the Meadows when Palone is on stakes engagements) can threaten the 5000 drive mark.

If he achieves this he must be made of steel. It will be fun to watch his progress.

As for the driver race, Morgan is in his usual spot at number one. Palone is hot on his heels, but with a ton less drives.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Interesting Note on the Domestication of Horses

A new study shows that horses were domesticated about 5000 years ago. Dogs it says, were domesticated about 15,000 years ago.

Compared to dogs, domesticated as long as 15,000 years ago, and such food animals as sheep, goats and pigs, horses are relatively late arrivals in the human relationship.


This struck me as odd. If I was a dude and saw a dog and a horse 15,000 years ago I think I would want to chat with the horse, rather than a snarling dog. Not to mention I would think a dog could be less useful in carrying something for me, like a stick or whatever the heck was used at that time.

Then again, it is 2009 and I am typing this on the interweb thing, with a laptop wirelessly connected to billions of people. So my relationship to domesticating a horse in 3000 BC is not exactly like feet to socks.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Nice Pool and Good for Kentucky

Big pick 4 pool at the M tonight:

$1 Pick 4 (Pool $227,949) (4-6-4-2) $6,870.00

Not a bad payoff as well with a $4.80 winner kicking off the sequence.

Not too long ago we were griping about sure you can raise a takeout on a pool, and sure you can just go through the motions. However, when you brand yourself with a pool, your track can win. The Meadowlands clearly (with the 15% take) has branded their pick 4. If you want to play a pick 4, you play it at the Meadowlands. Whether it is true or not is irrelevant. People think so, thus it is.

If an exec at the M ever wanted to raise their branded pick 4 to 25% (like some track we know did not long ago) they should be canned immediately. It is their bet for North American harness racing and they have taken this and ran with it by sticking with it. Ask a Madison Ave exec and he will throw a "6 in 60" at you. It costs $60 million and takes sixty months to brand something. It does not happen overnight.

I challenge other tracks to do the same thing - get a bet, make it low rake, and brand it. You have four hours a night to advertise it for free, there is no excuse for this. It's basic business.

Big news out of Kentucky today for bettors. No takeout hike to 'pay for stuff':

Clark also said he isn't pushing the other bill dealing with pari-mutuel taxes because he didn't think it could pass because of "so much pushback" from the tracks.

Good for the Kentucky tracks for standing up for bettors. Four or five years ago I bet they just would have silently pushed it through, then wondered a few years later why handle was down in some sort of ritualistic hand-wringing exercise.

Hmmmmm

She liked to watch the horse segments on Oprah. As far as I am concerned she is a mare.

For those who had not noticed, there is a big carryover tonight at the Meadowlands for the pick 4. This type of carryover usually ends up generating quite a bit of money. As well, their takeout is the lowest in North America for this bet. It makes it tremendous value.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Busting Some Myths

"Jocks (or drivers) that stay around for a late mount mean the horse is a good bet"
Horseplayer


Below we spoke about statistics and how they can be backfitted, and/or used improperly. The use of databases are a relatively new thing, because computers are super-fast now, and more and more people are using commercial database software. I remember as a kid hearing the above quote almost each race day. If someone stuck around, or showed up with only two drives, one of them late in the card, that last one was like printing money.

Dan on the HTR Software board ran those numbers for the runners. I would suspect a lot of money was burned on this angle throughout the years. Databases can be Mythbusters.

In a nutshell:

Win percentage for all the top riders chosen: 18%
Win percentage last race of the day (top riders): 17%
Win percentage last ride of the day (they 'stuck around'): 18%

Impact value for benchmark: 1.49
Impact value for "stick around races": 1.49

It is hard to find a deviation on impact values for any stat that is zippo. To have them equal is astounding. Sticking around for a late mount is correlated to winning about as much as what they had for lunch that day is.

Woodbine Accident - "Like the First Episode of Lost; Bodies Everywhere"

The Toronto Star has a story on the nasty Woodbine spill with quotes from the trenches. It is a story which shows the horror that went on at the track, that you and I watch on a tiny screen. It seems like Roger, Mario and Robert will be out a long while. But again, it could have been a hell of a lot worse.

Cangamble has a link to Youtube video if any of you are interested in watching, and the Star has a link as well.

Photo courtesy WEG

As I typed this, or not soon after we see a big pile up at Aqueduct. I am not sure I have seen back to back accidents like that in a long time, if ever in the two sports.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I'll Take 5 Days Please

In Bermuda, after a few horses tested positive recently the President of the racing club talked about strengthening rules to make sure it does not happen again. But the racers had a vote and are now asking not for tougher rules, but for easier ones.

However, members are now pushing for reforms that some claim are "far more lenient" than the exisiting regulations, such as reducing the fine from $1,000 to $250 and a one-year ban to just five racing days for first time offenders.

They also want to be able to use a pain killer on race day.

Wow, no wonder they don't let the industry police themselves.

h/t to Standardbred Canada.

We Are Not the Only Ones

We are tough on racings clinging to the status quo here. Many are. But sometimes we forget we are not the only ones.

Books:

I am not a member of the Author's Guild.

Please don't blame me for their ludicrous positions. They have spoken out against public libraries, against used book stores online and now, against the Kindle reading books aloud.


Music:

I used to have a record label, but I never joined the RIAA. You know, the guys that under Hilary Rosen made the multi-billion dollar mistake of trying to maintain the status quo by suing their users as a way of stopping file sharing. It's hard to overestimate how damaging relying on this single action was to an entire industry.


They all share one thing in common - they try to protect their slice no matter how detrimental a policy may be to their long-term health.

Bill Finley writes an article on changing things up via lowering prices to bettors on ESPN this week. Not too long ago racing would reply scathingly to this analysis, and talk about 'costs' and 'pirating' just like music did. However, slowly they are finally climbing aboard. Is it too late like it was for music? I hope not.

That Was Some Nasty Accident

I am not sure if anyone was watching Woodbine last night for the 5th, the Ontario Boys Final, but that was a nasty an accident that you will see. I am sure it will be on Youtube, but honestly I am not for posting this kind of video evidence on the blog, so I will leave that to you to find if you want.

It looks like potential broken bones for three of the drivers. Miraculously, the horses appear to have escaped with no more than some cuts.

Safety in harness racing (touch wood) is something that is damn good. These things happen very rarely. But when they do, with inside out close quarters racing, there can be a pile up. Last night was one of those times.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Monday Notes

I went to Woodbine Saturday night. The upstairs was pretty dead, but the slot machines were busy. I hung around down there for awhile. It must be maddening for Woodbine at times. I heard about five times from a bartender "no you must finish your beer before ordering another one" to people. Not to mention when a husband comes up to the bar to order a beer and a drink for him and his wife he can't, because the other person has to be with him. The Ontario government loves slot money. But they don't want anyone to know they are in the gambling business, so they create these little rules. I guess it makes them feel better, and that they are above nasty gambling. For gosh sakes, those machines can suck the life out of some people. Let them triple fist Corona's and wash them down with a shooter if they want to.

Ramegade Bruiser was beaten by Secret's Nephew in the Open pace. I don't think the Bruiser will beat Secret's again this meet, all things being equal.

In the runners, the grapefruit horse won a stake at Santa Anita on cruise control. People get giddy this time of year about 3YO's beating up on sub par competition. We know when the chips are down and a horse can run with them it can be another story, but I was impressed with this horse. He has a bit of a funky action (in my opinion) but he looked dang good. Video here.

This One's For Phil, the Dutrow horse who improved like six thousand lengths off the barn change, got an easy lead and faded in his stakes engagement. Bettors made this horse a 100-1 shot to win the Derby. Those odds should not have been surprising.

The Jockey Club Fact Book is out for 2009. We can click anytime we want on the handle graph. No worries, racing is hard at work on it. I think they are going to start a commission.

Cangamble has a great post on breakage. Either we use an abacus to compute prices in 2009, or someone wants horseplayers money. Your guess?

Question: We often hear from folks that racing needs you to lose, and they want you to lose quickly as they will make more moola. What gambling company thinks the exact opposite? A successful one.

Ok, we have a horse. We paid $13,000 for him at a sale as a three year old (he winked at me and I put up my hand). We've lost money with him every year. He hurt himself a bit last year and had some time off, but he made it back to the races last night. Why in the hell would we keep a horse we lose money on for four years and get excited every time he races? I have no idea, but we do. Thanks to Peter for the picture. This horse struts around like he is a world champion. We don't tell him that he isn't.

Simply Mavelous! She's a blog contributor and reader's horse. She wins in stunning style and pays $68 at Woodbine Friday. I bet her the start before this at 6 or 7 to 1. This time I stayed away. I expect a check in the mail for not putting the kibosh on her this week :)

Should be a big handle at Woodbine tonight (Monday). Mountaineer cancelled due to weather, as did a couple of other tracks. The only three tracks in North America to go tonight are Woodbine, Northfield and Pompano.