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Showing posts from July, 2010

Growing Racing

In the light of the news that California is adding a provision in a bill (some would say "burying it in a bill") to raise takeout in that state, we actually have some good news for racing here in Ontario.

Standardbred Canada, spearheaded by Darryl Kaplan has detailed a plan to grow racing handles by taking 5% out of the slots purse pool and spending it on betting initiatives and more. He has a good ally: Leading driver Jody Jamieson. Jody said in a podcast detailing the idea: "It took me awhile but I now realize betting drives our business". The recent shut down of Quebec racing and the problems in New Jersey he says "opened his eyes".

We will speak more about this later. However, is it not refreshing that on the left coast racing could be further hampered by a takeout hike and here in Ontario harness-land there is actually a movement to grow the sport? There is hope in some quarters.

Other notes: Chuck Keeling has left Great Canadian Gaming. Chuck is sup…

A Sad Contrast For Our Sport

Here is where we juxtapose:

This spring: California lotteries decreased takeout. This was in response to soft sales. According to a spokesman, this reduction of takeout should help the lottery grow:

"There are more prizes to give out, so people are going to win more often," said lottery director Joan Borucki. "When people win more often, they feel like playing more often, which in turn will increase sales, and as sales go up"

What was the result of this takeout cut?

Scratcher sales leaped by $55 million in June, the first month that a new law allowed lottery officials to increase the percentage of revenues [lower takeout] in prize money."

What are they budgeting for the future?

"In its budget for the fiscal year that began July 1, the Lottery Commission projects total annual revenues, including all games, will climb from $3 billion to $3.5 billion, a 16 percent increase.

"We're on a pretty good path," Lottery Director Joan Borucki said. "…

No One to Blame But Ourselves

The Paulick Report today reported that trainer Darrel Delahoussaye "was arrested by State Police Wednesday morning and charged with several felonies and misdemeanors alleging theft by deception, illegally administering drugs to racehorses, rigging a publicly exhibited contest and tampering with physical evidence."

This particular trainer, in 1998 " used an “appliance other than whip for the purpose of stimulating speed.” The appliance was described in court documents as a “wooden stick with stripped electrical cords stuck to it.” A veterinarian and two assistants testified seeing a horse at Beulah Park “jump two or three feet in the air” and then witnessed Delahoussaye unplugging an electrical cord from the wall."

This is our fault. If I was found to have mistreated a dog the courts would never allow me to own a dog again. In racing, he is let back in our sport, with open arms.

If we can not boot people out forever who electrocute racehorses to make them go fa…

Using Slot Money to Invest In Customers With Wagering Credits

I once had a discussion with a head of a US racetrack regarding signal fees, rebating and the like, asking about how he could increase his handle on his home track. The fly-in-the-ointment with this is apparent: Charge a low signal fee and you are able to rebate players with your home track handle, however there is no way to guarantee that the rebated player will use the rebate to bet your track. He could easily use the money to bet others via his/her ADW or simulcast center.

In effect what happens is the opposite of what a track wants. The track who wants to raise its handle with a player reward system, ends up helping his neighbor who might charge a higher takeout. When we talked about this phenomenon he said "we have not figured out how to do this properly yet".

What we are left with, is a stalemate of high takeout from the largest racetracks. This hurts the game, because they are squeezing customers for every cent they are worth. And, newsflash: people are tired of getting…

Harness Racing Roundtable

Last month the Canadian Sportsman magazine hosted a round table on harness racing. Some industry folks got together and hashed out some ideas. I found it pretty interesting, and perhaps you will too.

There was quite a bit of talk about some of the usual items, although (refreshingly I might add) there was a huge focus on customers. In addition there were quite a few "out there" ideas, which was also refreshing, whether you agree with them or not.

Will Woodbine cut takeout? Are there any ideas out there worth considering?

Here are some highlights:

Nick Eaves, CEO Woodbine: "... we, for one, can’t very well withstand
many more years of 10 and 11 per cent year-over-year declines on our live pool." And in addition (this will be shocking for horseplayers who have followed WEG for some time) ".... but we are pricing ourselves in a way that doesn’t have us being competitive ..... If we could eliminate [lower takeout by 2% on non-tris and 4% on tris], then we are bri…

Ebbs & Flows

In the game that is racing whether we are betting or owning and racing them, there are certainly some ebbs and flows. It does not much matter which breed - the thoroughbred or the standardbred.

This weekend we saw San Pail defeat the two best trotters in racing in the $800k Maple Leaf Trot. It was an absolutely dominant performance.

The first quarter of 26.2 is super-fast for trotters, and the half was the fastest half for a trotter at Mohawk. With Lucky Jim lurking and Enough Talk in the pocket it would not have been a surprise to see San Pail come home slow and be soundly beaten. However, he stormed home and the others had their problems. Funnily enough, Peter Klienhans trainer of Enough Talk was quoted as saying it was a two horse race (between his charge and Lucky Jim). Maybe so on their home track, but neither of those horses seem to bring their A games up here. This game has a way of biting you in the rump.

Rachel Alexandra also raced on the weekend. Her first two starts were an…

Only In Racing

As most know, The CHRB raised takeout in January at Los Alamitos (for what reason I am not sure). Horseplayers all but deserted it. Handle since the increase is off over 27%. Despite those dire numbers, yesterday the California horse racing board voted to continue the raise in takeout experiment at Los Alamitos, instead of doing the obvious, and killing it.

It appears that the loss of almost one third of one's business has no effect on the people who run this sport. Horseplayers Association of North America President Jeff Platt who presented at the meeting:

"I can tell you from talking with some of the industry participants present at today's meeting that the significant loss in handle doesn't matter to them."

It got me thinking. Things you have never heard in business history.

"Our sales of Big Mac's dropped by 30% since we raised that damn price this winter. Let's continue it" Ray Kroc

"30% of our money went poof since we started asking for …

Meadowlands Done - A Shot Between the Eyes

Today the recommendations for the Meadowlands were released. In it, the Meadowlands as we have known it, is gone. There are seemingly two options for the track, and they are:

•Lease the Meadowlands Racetrack to the standardbred horsemen for $1 dollar a year for three years with early termination rights and an equity-based share of the Bayonne OTW parlor.

•Convert to a commercial use one of the standardbred farms in New Jersey that has a mile track, and build a 5,000 seat grandstand complete with all necessary amenities.

The first option simply seems undoable. Yes, we can go to any backstretch and hear horseman groups lament about the amenities at a track, but they don't run them. $10M a year losses at the Meadowlands, despite the highest handles in harness racing, is simply a non-starter, in my opinion. Even if they ran a 30 day meet, jam packed with excitement and stakes, it would be tough to maintain things year round there. If something is done with this, I wish them luck and I ho…

End of Harness Racing?

The Mecca of the sport - the Meadowlands - looks to be shut down, if reports are to believed.

We'll wait for the announcement tomorrow to be sure, but if this is true, this could be pretty much the end of harness racing as we know it. Customers simply will not go to high takeout slots tracks like Chester for their harness racing fix. The Meadowlands, is was and always will be, harness racing.

How Do You Grow with 35% Takeouts?

You don't.

At least that is what Pocono Downs thinks, as they have lowered their takeout on tris and supers from an insane 35% to 25%.

"Our fans have been asking that we do so in order that they collect more on those winning tickets," they said in a release today.

Pocono (and other Pennsylvania tracks) are all slots driven, yet despite that, they charge punishing takeouts. To make matters worse, these tracks sell shot machines just down the hall from the tellers which have takes at less than 5%. Not surprisingly, Pocono's handle is microscopic. On chat boards especially, Pocono (and Chester as well) are laughing stocks, and favorite whipping boys for players. When the Breeders Crown was announced to be held at Pocono more than one player said they would not touch the product with these takeouts.

By cutting the take to a still very poor 25%, at least they are recognizing that slots are not just for purses. They have a long way to go to gain horseplayer respect, but for…

Meadowlands Pace Draw; Balmoral Pick 4 Takeout Reduction Doing Well

The $1M Meadowlands Pace draw is now complete. OK Commander (whom I thought had a good chance in the final) was unfortunately scratched earlier today with a bad foot.

1. Kyle Major - Jody Jamieson/Shawn Robinson - 15-1
2. Rockin Image -Yannick Gingras/Jimmy Takter - 3-1
3. Rock N Roll Heaven - John Campbell/Bruce Saunders - 5-2
4. Valentino - George Brennan/Lou Pena - 15-1
5. Im Gorgeous - Andy Miller/George Teague - 12-1
6. Delmarvalous - Brian Sears*/George Teague - 12-1
7. Nova Artist - Brian Sears*/Lou Pena - 15-1
8. One More Laugh - Tim Tetrick/Ray Schnittker - 9-2
9. Fred And Ginger - Dave Palone/Ron Burke - 10-1
10. Sportswriter - Mark MacDonald/Casie Coleman - 6-1

Although not quite as contentious as the North America Cup Final, this looks to be a pretty good betting race. It once again seems to be a trip race, if all horses fire (unlike the NA Cup).

We'll handicap it later this week here and look for some comments.

There is no stronger correlation to betting handle change…

Interesting Perspective on Commentating

Darryl Kaplan wrote a thought-provoking piece in last month's Trot called "Stop Being So Polite". In a nutshell, he focuses on the commentating in our sport, and the lack of criticism that we see on a daily basis.

"There is nothing more mesmerizing and attention grabbing than a well-crafted critical review. From your favourite urban affairs columnist to your beloved colour commentator, to Simon Cowell, the American Idol judge that convinces you and millions like you to tune in week after week, criticism is appealing – especially when the words uttered are accurate.", says Kaplan.

He is completely right about this, and over the years it has gotten worse and worse. Like the new revamped Race Night on the Score, we need change in this regard. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being critical of a drive, ride or trainer decision. If a quarterback makes a terrible throw resulting in an interception, John Madden would not say, "he is just having a bad day. He…

Entertaining Meadowlands Pace Elims

The three Meadowlands Pace eliminations are in the books.

Elimination one went to the NA Cup chalk who rebounded back to form with a convincing score. The second elimination's fave - Rockin Image - lived up to expectation with a nice easy victory. In the last elim, one of our blog faves - OK Commander- converted at a nice 9-1 price. Sportswriter was an almost bizarre overbet at 2-5, but made the final as the fastest fourth place finisher.

We are seeing something that has happened several times the last few years in this division. Sometimes horses are sharp and sometimes they are not, and this year there is no standout. It's been a real crapshoot to bet, but you can get some prices. If anyone is under 2-1 next week, in my opinion, they are overbet.

Next weeks final looks like it will be a good one. All three elim winners are good horses.

Racing v. the Rest of the World & Notes

After about nine years New York state still can't get slots approved for NYC tracks. There is yet another round of bidding. In other news, after six years - three years less than the NY Slots debacle - a solar powered plane was developed and flown for over 24 hours straight.

My prediction: Slots at Aqueduct will have their opening day on a Tuesday, sometime within the next ten years. However, on Monday of the same week, the federal government will sign a law that outlaws slot machines.

Boy oh boy the press is really on the connections of Rachel Alexandra regarding her schedule. NTRA's Bob Ehalt: "By choosing to run next in the ungraded Lady's Secret at Monmouth, a race that was moved up a week to fit Rachel Alexandra's training schedule, our 2009 champ now shares the dubious distinction of racing through the least ambitious schedule ever by a reigning Horse of the Year."

I find it a little odd to be so critical. Just two starts back the trainer was wondering if …

$1M Meadowlands Pace Elims Drawn

Saturday's Meadowlands Pace eliminations have been drawn, Just like the North America Cup, this looks totally wide open. Who shows up? Who is sharp? We'll do some digging this week and see if we can find out.

Race 4
PP - Horse - Driver - Trainer
1 - Delmarvalous - Brian Sears - Brenda Teague
2 - Superbad Hanover - George Brennan - Kostas Tsanakos
3 - One More Laugh - Tim Tetrick - Ray Schnittker
4 - Kyle Major - Jody Jamieson - Shawn Robinson
5 - Jo Pas Fod - John Campbell - Jim Campbell
6 - Rock N Roll Heaven John Campbell - Bruce Saunders
7 - All Speed Hanover - Ron Pierce - Noel Daley
8 - World Of Rocknroll - Ron Pierce - Richard Norman

Race 5
PP - Horse - Driver - Trainer
1 - Razzle Dazzle - John Campbell - Jerry Silverman
2 - Rockin Image - Yannick Gingras - Jimmy Takter
3 - Ideal Matters - Brian Sears - Noel Daley
4 - Nova Artist - Brian Sears - Lou Pena
5 - Tobago Cays - John Campbell - Jeff Webster
6 - Im Gorgeous - Brian Sears - George Teague Jr.
7 - Shoobees Place - …

New Bets - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

It was announced this weekend that the $30,000 seeded Metro 6 Shooter has been cancelled. The bet, which required you to pick 6 winners at two racetracks, was fairly successful, but not successful enough to continue, according to the organizers.

New bets - especially hard to hit bets - are extremely difficult to make work. I figured I would give my opine on what went well, and what did not with this new bet.

The Good:

First up, they attracted about $40K a week on this bet. In harness racing this is very good. The $30k seeded was a good idea as well. I do not think we realize just how hard it is to get $40k bet into any harness pool, from scratch nowadays. Western Fair could offer a $10k guaranteed pick 6 tomorrow and would be lucky to have $300 bet into it. It's just the way it is. They got some punch.

Second, they marketed it correctly. They spent some money. They took the attitude racing has had for years (offer something out and expect players to run to it) and flipped that on it…

Those Track Handicappers Sure Are Trouble

The G20 Summit was in Toronto last weekend. The summit had the usual assortment of characteristics - protests,  high price tags,, politicos, etc. But in an interesting twist, we had a track handicapper bring us a headline.

On Sunday, as part of the G20, Mike Hamilton of WEG was arrested.

Let's have a pop quiz. Mike was arrested for:

a) Protesting the 28% Woodbine Tri takeout
b) Holding a sign that said "Free Walter Case"
c) Walking around his neighbourhood

If you chose c) you are pretty much correct.

For the full story, click here.

Trot, and Standardbred Canada, due to people like Darryl Kaplan and Kim Fisher, have been doing some good things. The story above is one example. For another, how about the behind the scenes story on trainer Riina Rekela? Nice job folks. This is not your grandfather's Trot Magazine.