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Showing posts from May, 2010

Bet Night Live & Some Notes

Has anyone caught Bet Night Live on the Score yet? I had a look tonight, and I was quite happy with what they have done. I spoke about some of my thoughts with it last month. I truly believe that preaching to the choir is a waste of airtime, and with this new format they are not doing that any longer. I wonder what you folks think about it. To the readers who are south of the 49th and are wondering what the heck we are speaking of, the outline is here.

I have been delinquent this week with too much on the burner. I did not even chat about the Elittlop won this weekend by Iceland. My Swedish pal Janne is going to be upset we did not cover such a big (and great!) race. Next year I think I will give him the keys to the blog for it.

I got a golfing injury on the weekend. I went to look for my ball in the woods and got pegged with a branch in the ear. Yes, I got injured not by a club, or a lost ball, or bitten by a rattler or alligator - but by a tree branch. Luckily I got to the emergency r…

Cohen Causes Stir. Weekend Harness Action

As most harness racing fans know, Andrew Cohen has been speaking of trainer Lou Pena's success, in two harnesslink articles. The first one is here, the second (with follow-up reaction) is here. These articles are some we do not see much in harness, although in thoroughbreds Andy Beyer has spoken of such things several times.

We have all seen Lou's horses go, and go they do. Since moving east from Cal-Expo he is a one man wrecking crew. At Chester he is 4 for 5 off the claim in 2010 (12 for 16 off claim at Chester since he got out east last year), for an 80% hit rate. At Freehold he is 2 for 2 off the claim in 2010, at the Meadowlands he is 4 for 12, making 2010 a 10 for 19 run. Overall his numbers are remarkable: 172 for 580 for a 30% hit rate, and a 0.430 UTRS.

When we compare those numbers to his Cal Expo ones: In 2008 (his last full year out west) he was 101 for 848 for a 12% win percentage. Going back in a database for 2008 and 2009 at Cal Ex his off the claim numbers wer…

Notes for a Thursday

There is plenty of action this weekend in our sport, but we'll hopefully get to that before Friday. Being busy lately I have to get a few housekeeping items posted.

First, Mike Maloney is not only a good player, he is a decent southern gentleman. He is on the board of the Horseplayers Association of North America, as well as the NTRA players panel. At a recent HANA Day at the Races at Keeneland, he went on camera to speak a little bit about the organization and to present Keeneland with their #1 Track in North America award (their takeouts are very low, and they try hard there to offer good bettor value). Here is the clip from US racing channel TVG. Since many of you are members of HANA (some of you a part of the 30 or 40 initial members), I thought you might find it interesting:

Second up, kudos to the Hambletonian Society. They, along with Yonkers and the Meadowlands created the Metro 6 Shooter, a seeded pick 6 that goes into effect June 5th. We will no doubt be speaking more abou…

Racings Maturation

When I started going to the track, and long before that for many others, there seemed to be a mantra for tracks that was followed: Set a post, card some races, open the doors and all will be well. Since about 1990, this was clearly not good enough. With competition, an aging demographic which was not being replaced, and the changing of society, simply putting on the races was a recipe to, drip by drip, hurt the business. That writing has been on the wall for some time, and the response by racing was muted. However, over the past six to ten months, this seems to have changed a little. It appears we are starting to mature as a business, moving from one where experimentation was considered heresy, to one which is starting to realize that without it, we're done.

The Monmouth experiment, spearheaded by a governor and racing management that has demanded the sport stand on its own two feet, or die, looks to be resultant of that maturation. What they have done is the antithesis setting a p…

Much Learned this Weekend

It's a holiday weekend up here so I have tried to stay away from the computer. In fact I have barely watched any racing. But I did catch a couple of replays.

Auckland Reactor fell way short in his debut, but it was in a race which was pretty impossible, won by Real Joke in 147.3 off a 54 half. Julie Miller is a trainer who can take a horse and move it up big time; a lot of those horses are off great trainers too. Now she finds herself in that position as Lou Pena (who is winning at a mind-boggling clip) took Real Joke off of her for $40k a couple of weeks ago. Boom!

One More Laugh went wonky, which we have spoken about and were worried about before. He broke twice in the Hempt, which was won nicely by Fred And Ginger.

The NJSS was held Saturday and this week it was no fooling around with Ideal Matters. Two left turns and an easy win. He seems ready to break 149 easily.

Entertaining elims at London for the Molson Pace. This weeks final will be a good race and we will cover it a bi…

News & Ray's Robot

Sportswriter qualified again this morning and went in 151.4, off an even half. They seemed to be looking to find the bottom of him to see how he is, and it seems they found it. His last quarter was 28.1. Time will tell how it goes for him this season, as many colts who seem to lose a wow factor early like he has, still have good years. Just last year Well Said was in and out, but still had some really nice 'ins'. If we remember, he qualified like a 148 pacer and looked right on-track, but then had two sub-par starts at Chester and in the Burlington. He had four or five nice miles the rest of the way, that showed his natural ability.

I watched the first at Churchill today while taking a lunch break. 12 year old Kid Rigo was making his 100th start - not too common in thoroughbred racing. In standardbred, this is very common. You will see a lot of horses with more than that at age 7 or 8. Harness racing is great if you are an owner who wants to watch your horse race …

25 Minutes Old & a Hopeful Long, Happy Life to Come

Being a now city-boy I don't get to see this much. I tend to get them when they have a running line, or much bigger than this in a sales ring. This colt's pic is from a blog reader and friend. The little fella is only 25 minutes old and was born Saturday evening.

Tweaked Horses & Stakes Season

It's not our grandfather's racing anymore. Horses 30 or 40 years ago could race more, bounce back easier and hold form longer. Today more and more colts and fillies who are pushed in tough races get tweaked and they are harder and harder to bring back off a layoff. In harness racing there are countless examples of this, as there are in thoroughbred racing. That sport is waiting right now to find out, for example, if Rachel Alexandra is suffering from last year's tough sked. In a youtube video (the Meadowlands is doing a great job with this series) top trainers speak of bringing a horse back and the challenges of such. It was a good watch.

I was going to link some news and stakes action for this weekend, but VFTRG beat me to it. He lists Auckland Reactors debut, and this weekend's Molson Pace elims at Western Fair here.

This years Upper Canada Cup at Georgian starts this weekend as well.

Sportswriter is in to go tomorrow for a qualifier (his third). Unless there is someon…

Try or Qualify?

As hard-core gamblers who play racing and other sports we are almost immune to changes in performance due to effort. No team wants to lose the second half of a double-header, no team wants to lose the home half of a home and home, and often this is reflected in the odds. In racing this is tantamount to a trainer whose first of a layoff numbers are 2%, and second off a layoff is 15%. The horse will be 15-1 in his first tilt and maybe chalk in his second return race.

That's fine for a lot of bettors, but what happens when a horse, who should win easily, is a no-try? In the grandstand that is called a stiffaroni, and it happens. Is this good for racing? Because you and I and many others can 'guess' a horse's connections willingness to go all out we might not think much of it, but what does it say to the general public?

On a chat board recently a harness bettor spoke of the race last Saturday at the Meadowlands. In this race, Ideal Matters was 2-5. Slam dunk right? No, not r…

Preakness: Do You Have $850k in Your Betting Account?

In the 1970's or 1980's some bettors would stand by the $50 window, looking for some tips. Nowadays, things are much more transparent.

Yesterday, about noon, Preakness betting was alive and well with windows open at the UK's There was action on the usual horses, and the odds were relatively settled. That is, until someone who really, really, really did not like Northern Giant logged in. The colt's odds plunged like a skydiver with one button. This man or women placed US$8500 to book on Northern Giant - at 100-1. If Northern Giant wins, this person is on the hook for about $850,000; and to book that, you need at least $850k in your account. Northern Giant was 25-1 on the tote board.

By 6PM, some of this was nibbled at, but most punters were not buying what he was selling:

$7800 left - come and get it. Not too many people did.

Of course Northern Giant ran poorly; in fact he came last, so this punter knew quite well what he/she was doing. However, after the race…

Preakness & the Pletcher Wheel Back

The Preakness is hours away, and like most bettors, I feel (as usual with this race) it tends to be formful; completely unlike the Derby.

If people believe Super Saver is a slam dunk I do not blame them in the slightest. Mine that Bird and Charismatic - two Derby bombs - carried that sharpness over quite well, so a sharp, fit, logical, handy horse like Super Saver should be, and will be the chalk. History tells us that the horses who were sharp and showed fine fettle in Louisville, usually carry that form over to Pimlico, no matter who the horse really. It is the extended break to the Belmont where we go price shopping.

However, this year we have something that might send a red flag out on Super Saver. Harvey Pack said "never bet on a favorite doing something he's never done before." Of course those horse's still win - they do every day - but Mr. Pack believed the price offered was too low on these horses, so he looked elsewhere. In the era of supertrainers one might …

North America Cup Picture Getting Clearer

With many of the colts surfacing now through two qualifiers, or some races, the Cup picture is starting to become a little more readable.

This morning, All Speed Hanover (my top rated horse for the Cup as of last month), Woodstock, Sportswriter and Malicious all qualified. As expected, Noel had his two charges a little tighter this week, as per his training style. They both passed with flying colours. Last year, All Speed was the better of the two of course, and I think this year will be no different. He is solidified as a top contender for me.

On the flipside, Sportswriter was one I tabbed as my fourth rated choice last month, tepidly. I will be dropping him out of the top five after this mornings qualifier. Most handicappers will tell you he is not there, and Brian Sears echoed that sentiment this morning. "I feel he is still a few races away from being very sharp, but he does feel like a very nice horse." said Sears. Major red light.

Malicious, who ran second to Sportswriter…

Harness Capping - ROI Tri Numbers

We get very few hard ROI numbers in harness racing, because data is not free, or readily available. As well, unlike the thoroughbreds, interest and pool size make doing the work not as profitable, either for sale or for personal use. But there are some folks out there doing some, and coming up with some interesting statistics.

I had a friend ask me for some thoroughbred data the other day and I sent him a bunch of angles that he has heard are good bets. All were ROI negative. In fact, if you look at any regular or popular angle, the ROI's are generally horrible. With takeouts so high playing the norm IV angles makes this a very hard game to win at. In harness racing, it is just as bad. Usually you can find some things that are negative plays (which help, because you can jump off those for being overbet and search for plays elsewhere). We'll share a few here, from our pal Ray (one of the participants in the Tioga Challenge).

First, let's check something we know has a decent h…

Gambling is Really Bad. Unless We Need Money

Texas, like most states faces a shortfall in revenue. One item placed on the table is legalizing gambling. When government's need cash, good ol gambling becomes less of an evil, and more of a neat place to get some dough.

I enjoyed this clip last night from Bill O'Reilly. John Stossel kills me. I like watching him, especially on topics like gambling and other free-to-do issues.

Kudos To Woodbine

We posted a few weeks ago a comment from a 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!"

A small thing for some, but ethically is he wrong? I did not think so, and I know many of you who play the racing product agree. Well, I do not know what happened - whether he and others emailed or what - but whatever happened, it has changed. Woodbine is no longer (in their press releases) reporting payouts like this. In their most recent press release.

" On Friday night, More Moss upset in the fourth race, returning $127.80 to win. That kicked off a Pick-4 that paid a whopping $24,257.50 for a .20 cent combination."

According to the charts, this pick 4 was reported as a $121,000 payout. They used the smaller denomination (one person hit the pick 4 for 20 cents on this occasion) when reporting it.

There are a cou…

Very Cool

Thoroughbred champ Zenyatta. Live and in person.

Ad (digital):

And in real time.

I would say that Ponch took this photo, but that would date me.


Betfair & Racing - Two Entities, Two Different Goals

We often hear racing labeled old and out of touch. When the pari-mutuel industry is not growing it is easy to want to assess blame. Usually this blame lies at the feet of the executives; after all, who else are we to blame? Let's get 'em! But I think there is much more to it than that, and it is pretty unfair to lay blame at the foot of people who for the most part are smart and passionate.

I believe the people in racing are not to blame, what racing has become is the reason we lack meaningful change.

Many racetracks are owned by large casino companies, public companies or non-profits. The way to grow profits is through expanded gaming, with a dash of bean counting, protection of your slice, and some cost cutting. Rocking the boat to win big - where at the end of the journey lays a pot of gold for your racing product - is not overly important. I think this is why when you ask racing a question about changing takeout, or betting exchanges, or a wholesale change of the racing p…

Slots & Summer

One day, maybe 20 years from now, I believe that an MBA class at Wharton or Rotman or Columbia will focus solely on slot funding for racing. It will probably have an
exam question like: "Slots Subsidies for Racing - list 36 things that went wrong and discuss." About $200M alone will go from slots to purses in Ontario this year. Probably 3X that will go to Pennsylvania tracks (powerhouses and the epicenter of the sport like Penn National) this year.

The model is as follows: Person comes to slot parlor, puts money in machine, loses. Money is taken from machine, given to racetracks for some profit and an equal amount is placed into purses. After awhile, no one comes to racetrack, handles fall. Purses then fall, racetracks profits then fall, the business of racing slows. Then money is started to be taken away from racing by government while they ask the question "what have you done with all that money". The last item, which we have not reached yet, but will likely: ra…


The harness boys are starting to roll with technology and we are seeing some good stuff.

Mark Mac and Mike Hamilton of Woodbine are highlighted here at R2.

Tony Montini is slowing down, but he is up and giving out some solid information to players on Twitter here.

For Flammy watchers, trainer Blake MacIntosh is on giving out info.

Mike follows Swedish driver Erik Adielsson here, although for me this is futile. Erik's last post: "Rix FM säger sig spela "bäst musik just nu". Jag vill veta, vem spelar sämst musik just nu?"

Tough for me to understand. I can barely speak english.

Speaking of micro-blogging, a live harness betting blog is being held on Saturday evening on the HANA site here. The evening racing for picks and discussion: Tioga Downs, to support the takeout reduction, Woodbine and the Meadowlands. Handicappers (yes, even the Fisherman from Frobisher) are invited to join in.

Finally - Targeting Bettors via Television

For those that know the blog, a hot topic for us in local harness racing has been the use of television to show things the old fashioned way, versus targeting bettors in a targeted way. As most who watch Race Night on the Score know, the human interest stories while the great puzzle of handicapping the races is going on are maddening. As I have said before, and you have agreed in spades, "if we have to watch another story on a feed man from north of Guelph who owns four pet ponies during a telecast I think I am going to have a seizure". In my view, not using a show like this in promoting what you are selling (i.e. gambling on the product from home) is wasted airtime.

Well it appears this might be changing. Race Night will be rebranded to 'Bet Night Live' at the end of the month. The new show will "centre around a four-race wagering contest through WEG’s online platform HorsePlayer Interactive."

At the Standardbred Wagering Conference in 2008 I spoke to seve…

The Gods of Louisville

Once again the Kentucky Derby stamps itself as the most interesting race on the continent, from a betting or fan perspective. I can not think (apologies to my overseas friend's who play big fields all the time) of a race which provides so much, in such a short period of time.

In studying and playing the race, here are a few thoughts:

Yesterday's race, with no standouts and a sloppy track represented the most random odds board the race has ever exhibited. There were 20 horses and the longest shot was 31-1. There were probably three or four horses in that race which had true odds of 400-1, but you would not have known it. In fact, at Betfair each year you can usually get one or more horses over 200-1. This year the highest I saw was 70-1. Pure randomness.

Lookin at Lucky is being called Lookin at Unlucky by almost everyone. Has a horse had back to back starts like this before, ever? It's a shame because he is a very nice horse.

Super Saver was not a very much talked about horse…