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Showing posts from April, 2010

Ready for the Big Day

Like most everyone I am getting ready for tomorrow's races. 10:30 post? That's worse than Hambo Day, but I digress....

There were some interesting happenings today. To almost no surprise to virtually everyone I spoke to before the race, Rachel Alexandra went down to defeat for the second time in a row. The Oaks Day crowd bet her down to 1-5, and I know some money was made by some. Me? Nope. I sat the race out. I have this weird racing fan mentality sometimes and don't like to bet horses I would like see do well. Assmussen in post race interviews seems completely stumped. Most trainers I know who have good stakes horses who don't seem to come back well have that same "stumped" look. The horse looks great, scopes great, vets out, but they are just not as fast as the previous season. Time will tell if she comes back to last year's form, or if we even see her again.

I was frankly pretty amazed at how takeout is being looked at of late. First there were a ton of…

At Large & The Bird

Turf writing might not be a long lost art - we see several talented scribes plying their trade for us to read. But as we spoke about before here on the blog, opinion with teeth is hard to come by from some quarters. After all, ad revenue comes from breeders and horse suppliers among others, so the trade press must at times tread lightly. In the last piece I mentioned that I did not visit the Bloodhorse too often for my daily reads, because of my perception of that very thing. However, I have changed my opinion. The editors at the magazine seem to be using the talents of Tom Lamarra, by allowing him to be who he is (as we all know, a must for blog writing. If you are not being who you are, your blog will be worthless). Almost each time he writes he has something interesting to say.

For example, in his last piece "It's time for a horse racing tea party" he says this on conferences:

Conference after conference, it’s the same old thing: No answers and no hope for solutions, to…

Some Happenings

Apparently there is a little race called the Derby going on down south. But we have some harness action to take care of :)

> Auckland Reactor, the favorite horse of PTP frequent commenter "Fisherman From Frobisher" makes his North American debut tomorrow. He is qualifying at the Meadowlands, with Brian Sears in the bike. I am really interested to see how the colt does. I hope he does well, as it would completely energize the always cool older division.

> Tioga's meet starts Saturday, on Derby Day. There are free handicapping picks up at, in a contest sponsored by HANA. One of the pickers is Ray, who was recently in Trot, in an article on different ways to handicap, as penned by Keith over at Triple Dead Heat. As most know, Tioga reduced their takeout rates this meet to State minimums. I am planning to play it daily. I see harness blogger Allan over at View From the Racetrack Grandstand is as well.

> By the way - marketing and promotion? How about …

It's Ron Geary's Fault

I was recently asked by someone, "When did you start seriously playing the thoroughbreds?" When someone answers that question there is always a good story. Perhaps an old family story to see some great like Spectacular Bid, or Northern Dancer. In harness most people my age speak of seeing the Pacing Machine, or Jate Lobell, or Fan Hanover. My answer is nothing like that, and certainly less exciting.

When I was about eight I became a harness racing fan at Flamboro Downs, near Hamilton. Over the next ten or so years I read everything I could get my hands on for all of racing - thoroughbred and harness - I kept stats, I worked at racing, the best I could. This was fairly tough considering there was no internet, and no off track wagering where I lived.

When I moved to the big city to go to school I learned production possibility curves, finite math, and when Des Takoor warmed up his horse the last 3/8's in under 45 seconds, he was a good bet. I was a regular player. I bet p…

Pick 5 Provides No Jackpot at the M

Last night's pick 6 at the Meadowlands, with the big carryover, did not supply too much fireworks. But I guess you can thank Ideal Matters for that. The talented colt won the Matt's Scooter final easily, and standing head and shoulders above his foes, he was a likely single on many tickets. It appears the only person who thought he could be beaten was Ron Pierce.

The large pick 6 carryover supplied the Meadowlands with their highest handle of the meet, over $4M. With Yonkers and Chester taking so much of the horse population from the Meadowlands, it shows just how much importance the average player places on the Meadowlands.

Dick Powell, who runs a rebate shop, once commented on the synthetic track arguments in the US. He reverted it back to harness, because back in the late 1970's old time players would not play the Meadowlands. The movement, aggressiveness, and the exact opposite of the "four left turn" racing they grew up with was puzzling. A generation later, …

How Do They Get Away With It?

From a blog reader and bettor "What bothers me is a $10,000 payoff is being reported as 100,000 and the vast majority of horseplayers believe it is actually paying $100,000. I am trying to eliminate the posting of bull sh** payouts!"

We see it constantly in racing. A super pool has $10,000 and it is hit for a dime, so the payoffs are reported as a "$100,000" winner.

In fact, a release issued here, reported "A massive Pick 4 payout of $81,057.75 on Friday night highlighted this past week of racing at Woodbine Racetrack."

They have not had $81,000 in a pick 4 pool since - I don't even know that they ever had. The money up for grabs in this specific pool was (after takeout) about $17,000.

Would a lottery, who has $1 ticket increments be able to report a payoff for 50 cents at double the lottery pool? I doubt it. I agree with the reader that racing should change this disingenuous practice. If you have to hoodwink people to get them in the door, your busi…

Cohen's Back

Harness racing owner, CBS News dude and sometimes writer Andrew Cohen is back on Harnesslink, weaving words. If you are looking for fluff, you are probably not a fan. If you are looking for opinion, well you'll want to follow the column.

Some snippets:

Speaking of people who have frittered away their good fortune, David Brooks' creepy criminal fraud trial rolls on in New York.......

What also weighs heavy upon the back of harness racing, circa 2010, is the renewed realization that the United States Trotting Association is utterly incapable of leading the reforms the sport critically needs.

Harness racing doesn't need any verbal reminders of how shaky things are. The evidence is all around us for our eyes to see. The sport needs solutions. It needs men and women of action. It needs funding and insight and dedication and tenacity.

Lowest Win Takeout in North America?

This weekend I did a little datamining in between races. First I checked thoroughbred stats courtesy Bill at HANA here. Then I checked harness takeouts here, with this handy map.

Who was the winner in having the lowest WPS take - thoroughbred or standardbred - of the 140 or so tracks in North America?

Del Mar?


How about Saratoga?

Nope, Tioga Downs.

Yep, little Tioga Downs.

As most know Tioga lowered their take this year and their WPS take of 15% is better than anywhere else on the continent. If you check that map listed above you will see just how punishing harness racing takeouts are compared to the runners, so a harness track having the lowest take in NA of both breeds is simply astounding.

I do not expect Tioga's handles to set the world on fire. Behaviorally a takeout reduction does not bring in money in big amounts, churn from lower takeout does. And as tracks who have lowered their takeout like Tampa Bay Downs did each year since 2003 have learned, it takes time. But I do…

Lucky Jim Rolls On

The Su Mac Lad final last night at the M provided some fireworks. Rockin' Ronnie Pierce is never boring. He tried his Art Official move, but this time, no dice. He did soften up the Champ somewhat, but he had enough to hold off Arch Madness.

Head(line) Scratchers

The "California lowers takeout" headline has been making its way through the internet, on Equidaily, Paulick and others. Equidaily placed it at the top with an addendum "Calfornia lowers takeout! "When people win more often, they feel like playing more often."... Hey-y-y - wait a minute...!!!"

The "wait a minute" line was of course due to the fact racing has not lowered takeout, lotteries have.

The lottery data shows what we all know - when you lower the price, revenue will go up, because people will win more money.

Conversely, the California Horse Racing board had a meeting yesterday, with supposed data on the takeout hike that happened this spring at Los Alamitos. Overall handle, when measured against last year day by day via Equibase, fell about 30%, but the CHRB and Los Al figures appeared to compare something wholly different. Because they don't know what figures to use, the takeout hike has been extended for at least another month.

I …

A Sentence or Two

I've been kind of busy here, but there is quite a bit going on that caught my eye.

Enough Talk bested Lucky Jim this weekend. It is fun to watch two good horses do what they do best - race.

Equispace did one of his lists. One of the items was about Woodbine. It is not good when your track makes a list like that.

Illustrating a low take bet. It is amazing what can be gleaned from putting more money in a bettors pocket. When racing breeds more horseplayer value it has a chance to survive other games.

Jennie Rees has a couple pictures on her blog about the Oaklawn Park Zenyatta race. Two things: I love her bio "I grew up in Lexington, where Keeneland was your last high-school class of the day for three weeks in the spring and fall." and I love the class shown by Assmussen. It is throw back, for a time in racing when everyone respected good horses, and never once looked to tear them down, just because one was your rival.

Kelly Spencer asks why is there not an industry push to…

Marvelously Effortless

One of the reasons I enjoy racing is because at times I get to see things I have not seen before. Horses are pretty unique, because from what I can tell, they generally give their all most times in the lane with the electricity, alacrity and general urgency of the moment. Maybe my eyes are playing tricks on me, but this mare seems to be one of the only horses bred who could win a $500k grade one stakes race, while running the last 220 yards with her ears pricked.

Claire Novak sums up the day beautifully on here. That's some of the better racing writing you will read anywhere, in my opinion.

If you have not seen the race, give it a whirl below.

Two Bits, Marketed the Right Way

As many people are learning, the Fortune 6 at Beulah Park is gaining some steam. The carryover is well over $200,000 for the bet, which asks a player to pick 6 winners with a base bet of 25 cents. The kicker is, to take down the whole enchilada you have to be the only ticket. If no one hits it, carryover. If ten people hit it, carryover. You truly have to be the "one". Cangamble and Fugue for Tinhorns have spoken about it previously here and here respectively.

Pick 6 bets are perhaps the biggest horseplayer tax there is. Back in the day when racetracks shunned exotics, some races only had WPS betting. If a crowd of 4,500 are on-track and an 8-5 comes in, a good deal of people are cashing, and ready to play the next race with a set of bullets, even though they might be of the 22 caliber variety. Today, spending $372 on a $2 base bet pick 6 is like taking a wad of cash and lighting it on fire. Churn? Not quite.

Pick 6's are not only hard to hit and churn killers, they ofte…

NA Cup Winter Book & Neat Video

Trot magazine in their horseplayer issue gives us their annual take on the North America Cup winter book.

This is always a mucho-difficult call, because we have to guess how the colts will come back, and time and time again many do not. Last year there were some talented colts, and that makes it more of a problem. In the end, they settled on Sportswriter, All Speed Hanover and Rock n'Roll Heaven.

My top five? I would have to say All Speed Hanover has the edge on my list for number one. He finished the year strong and is a grinder. Those horses, unless they are freakish like the Beach was, tend to last a little longer at three. Second I will go with another who was shut down early, after being babied early in the season - Rock n Roll Heaven. He jogged in 50 in his last start and looked fresh. I would then go to Ideal Matters. Pitch his loss earlier this month; it meant nothing. I am not sold on Sportswriter, but we'll give him four. Five for me goes to the Takter trainee Rockin …

Jones-Hopkins. Not a Whole Lot Different

I got a call from one of my stable partners on Friday evening.

"Want to go out to a bar tomorrow night and watch the Jones-Hopkins fight?" he asked.

"Sure, we can catch the Duke game too", I said.

After a couple of emails, we had assembled two other long-time fight fans. If I go through my life of watching boxing, Leonard-Hearns (at Greenwood Raceway of all places), Foreman-Moorer, Holyfield-Foreman and on and on, these guys were the posse. We agreed to meet on the lakeshore near one of the foursome, at a bar which is pretty good for showing sports - which in Toronto is a bar where when a Leaf game is on, they will actually show something else on at least one television.

When we arrived, Nick asked the bartender for a pitcher of Keith's and the golden question:

"Are you showing the fight tonight?"

"The fight? Is UFC on tonight?" the barman replied.

"No, Jones-Hopkins." said Nick.

Giving us a look like we were from the planet Zolta…

Hollywood Park Becoming More and More Cutting Edge

I am all for trying new things - the old things simply are not working - but I was a little flabbergasted with the new HPS System, developed at Hollywood Park. This is a good illustration, however, that when tracks and horsemen work together, something can get done.

We'll have to see if others follow Hollywood Park's lead. If I see anything, I will let you know.