Saturday, January 30, 2010

DQ'd From Awards

For those that do not know, horses owned by Bulletproof Enterprises have been disqualified from receiving their year end O'Brien Awards tonight.

Jackson Wittup, Chair of Standardbred Canada announced, “After reviewing the suspension ruling from the ORC along with the O’Brien eligibility policy, the committee has determined that the O’Brien award for the three-year-old pacing filly category will not be awarded on Saturday night.

“In the three-year-old pacing colt category, Well Said, who received the most votes in the balloting, is declared the official winner and his connections will be presented with the O’Brien trophy on Saturday night.


Earlier this week the Ontario racing commission put a freeze on all horses owned by Bulletproof. The stable made upwards of $10M this year, and is the leading barn in harness racing.

Andrew Beyer is at it again, speaking of the turnaround claiming trainers. This time he is talking about Kirk Ziadie.

"One statistic in particular suggests that Ziadie, 41, is either a cheater or an amazing horseman. Over the past five years, when Ziadie has claimed horses from other trainers, those acquisitions have won 47 percent of the time in their first start for the new barn. It is a mind-boggling number. Ziadie improves almost every horse he gets his hands on, and he improves upon the work of almost every other trainer."

Bill Shanklin looks at pari-mutuel growth versus movie theaters.

Youbet is offering a 0% pick 3 for Sam Houston as a promotion. Yep, zero percent. ADW's competing with poker, and other ADW's offer us some bargains which we can take advantage of. The Sam Houston pick 3 was cut to a 12% take several years ago. They used to handle around $2000 in each pool, but now are doing well over double that.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

O'Brien Award Picks 2010

Each year here at PTP, our pal Greg makes his O'Brien picks. His record has been pretty pristine. Since I can't hit a 1-5 onto a 2-1 ex at times, he has the reins this year as well. Here they are:

The time has come once again for the annual O’Brien Awards banquet, which will be held Saturday night at the Delta Meadowvale in Mississauga, Ontario. There are some competitive categories this year, and we’ll run through them here and attempt to look into the minds of the voters to pick a winner.

Three-year-old colt pacer: Well Said & If I Can Dream

Well Said won the North America Cup and a division of the Simcoe north of the border, taking the former in a track, stakes, and national record, while If I Can Dream won the Confederation Cup and the Breeders Crown.

Well Said did throw two clunkers in Canada, missing the board in both the Burlington and in the Breeders Crown, but I’m guessing his connections and that North America Cup performance will push him over the top and to the O’Brien Award. Pick: Well Said

Three-year-old filly pacer: Not Enough & Yellow Diamond

Not Enough was the talk of the early season in Ontario while Yellow Diamond came on towards the end of the year after a bit of a dry spell in the summer months. Not Enough won an OSS Gold Final at Western Fair, the Fan Hanover in 1:50 flat at Mohawk, and the Canadian Breeders in 1:50 flat at Mohawk. Yellow Diamond clicked for victories in an OSS Gold Final at Kawartha and the Breeders Crown at Woodbine.

With both these fillies owned by Bulletproof Enterprises and trained by Tracy Brainard, there isn’t much to choose from them, but I’ll give it to Yellow Diamond based solely on her Breeders Crown win. Pick: Yellow Diamond

Three-year-old colt trotter: Muscle Hill & Equity

Muscle Hill swept through the Canadian Trotting Classic and the Breeders Crown at Mohawk and Woodbine. None of his wins were overly fast, but he crunched the competition each time, just like he did all year long wherever he raced. Equity was the star of the provincial program, winning Gold Finals at Mohawk, Georgian, and Western Fair, and the Canadian Breeders at Mohawk.

Unfortunately for Equity, once Muscle Hill hit the required three starts by racing in the Breeders Crown, the award was decided. Pick: Muscle Hill

Three-year-old filly trotter: Elusive Desire & Yursa Hanover

Elusive Desire was the top Ontario-sired filly all year, winning Gold finals at Georgian and Kawartha; the Canadian Breeders at Mohawk, and the Super Final at Woodbine. She also didn’t disgrace herself against open company, winning the Simcoe at Mohawk in gutsy fashion and just missing in both the Hambletonian Oaks and in the Breeders Crown. Yursa Hanover did most of her damage in the States, taking the Matron and a division of the Del Miller, but she did win a Bud Light split at Flamboro and a section of the Casual Breeze at Mohawk.

Elusive Desire should win this one handily. Yursa Hanover had a good season, but Elusive Desire was better all around. Pick: Elusive Desire

Two-year-old colt pacer: Sportswriter & Wellthereyougo

Sportswriter came within a head of finishing his two-year-old campaign undefeated, losing the Breeders Crown at Woodbine to All Speed Hanover. Before that, the son of Artsplace broke the world record in the Metro, and won in both the Nassagaweya and the Champlain. Wellthereyougo, a Camluck colt, won the Battle of Waterloo at Grand River and an OSS Gold Final at Flamboro on his way to a $295,000 campaign.

Sportswriter should be one of the locks of the night. Wellthereyougo was good early but didn’t finish off his provincial campaign in top form while Sportswriter raced and beat the best two-year-olds out there. Pick: Sportswriter

Two-year-old filly pacer: Fancy Filly & Put On A Show

This is probably the biggest toss-up of the night. Fancy Filly didn’t miss the board in 12 tries, winning ten of them while Put On A Show had seven wins from nine starts to go with a pair of second place finishes. Fancy Filly won the Breeders Crown at Woodbine and a division of the Eternal Camnation at Mohawk and Put On A Show won the Shes A Great Lady and a split of the Eternal Camnation at Mohawk.

As I noted, this is a complete toss-up as both of these fillies are more than worthy. I will give it to Put On A Show for her Shes A Great Lady win, and although she didn’t win the Breeders Crown, she went a very tough trip and just missed to Fancy Filly by a length. Pick: Put On A Show

Two-year-old colt trotter: Il Villaggio & Text Me

Il Villaggio was a terror at Mohawk, winning the Champlain and the Wellwood Memorial before breaking stride in his Breeders Crown elimination. Text Me was this year’s Ontario Sires Stakes Super Final champion in his group and also won a Gold Final at Mohawk. He only missed the board once in 13 starts, winning three of them.

I have to give this one to Il Villaggio. He showed real potential at Mohawk, beating the best trotters on the continent while Text Me only ventured outside of the Sires Stakes program once, where he was defeated by Il Villaggio in the Champlain. Pick: Il Villaggio

Two-year-old filly trotter: Costa Rica & Poof Shes Gone

Costa Rica won ten of 16 starts overall this year, earning just shy of $1 million. She was this year’s Peaceful Way winner at Mohawk, but then didn’t have as much success in the Breeders Crown, finishing fourth. Poof Shes Gone did make over $1 million, thanks to a 10 win campaign. Included in those victories were the Breeders Crown, the Ontario Sires Stakes Super Final, a division of the Champlain, and a Gold final at Mohawk.

My choice here is Poof Shes Gone. Costa Rica got the better of her in the Peaceful Way, but that was the only time. Pick: Poof Shes Gone

Older male pacer: Bigtime Ball & Shark Gesture

Bigtime Ball had a big year, winning 14 of his 21 tries. He won the Gold Cup at Woodbine, the Ontario Masters at Georgian, and several editions of the open pace at the two WEG tracks. On June 30 at Georgian, Bigtime Ball became the first horse to tour that oval in sub 1:50 fashion, winning in a stunning 1:49. Shark Gesture claimed the Canadian Pacing Derby in 1:48.1 for his only win in Canada. In the United States, Shark Gesture won the W.R. Haughton Memorial and the Graduate to go along with several invitational paces at The Meadowlands.

As much as I’d like to see Shark Gesture win this because he’s probably one of the toughest horses I’ve ever seen, I think Bigtime Ball will win. Shark Gesture defeated Bigtime Ball in the Pacing Derby, but Bigtime Ball got the better of him in two subsequent starts. Pick: Bigtime Ball

Older Mare Pacer: Darlins Delight & Dreamfair Eternal

With Southwind Tempo disqualified from this category due to Ross Croghan’s positive, Darlins Delight gets the nod as a nominee. Darlins Delight won seven times from 17 starts in 2009, banking $371,052 and going over $3 million in lifetime earnings in the process. Dreamfair Eternal was the terror of the open mare ranks at WEG, and won the Roses Are Red at Mohawk in upset fashion, sweeping by in the stretch to win in 1:49.2.

My pick is Dreamfair Eternal. She was great in the opens all year and then added that Roses Are Red victory to put her over the top. Pick: Dreamfair Eternal

Older trotting horse: Armbro Chronicle & San Pail

Armbro Chronicle banged out another $340,000 campaign last year thanks to a multitude of wins in the open trot at WEG. San Pail also won the open several times, but added a big pot when he took the Maple Leaf Trot at Mohawk against some of the best trotters in the world, including Lucky Jim.

This one would’ve been close if not for San Pail’s dramatic win in the Maple Leaf Trot. That was a race to remember and will give him the O’Brien Award. Pick: San Pail

Older trotting mare: Classic Lane & Gostreet

Classic Lane was this year’s Classic Oaks champion at Mohawk, winning the final by a nose after winning a leg of the event the week before at the Campbellville oval. Gostreet had a big year on the “B” tracks, taking the Ontario Masters final at Georgian and setting a track record at Grand River among her 14 wins.

Give the O’Brien here to Classic Lane. Gostreet had a solid campaign, but Classic Lane came out on top in the Classic Series in gritty fashion and probably would’ve won the Armbro Flight as well later in the year had she not gotten locked in behind a tiring Buck I St Pat. Pick: Classic Lane

Driver of the Year: Jody Jamieson & Brad Forward

Jamieson won the dash wins title in Canada and North America, set a single season record for wins in Canada, won the WEG driving title and banked $11 million. Brad Forward represented his country well in the World Driving Championship, but this is a no-contest. Pick: Jody Jamieson

Trainer of the Year: Casie Coleman & Tracy Brainard

Coleman conditioned Sportswriter to a great campaign and had over $4.4 million in earnings. Brainard won the WEG training title, earned $5.89 million, and had top horses like If I Can Dream, Yellow Diamond, Not Enough, and Shacked Up.

History has already been made with two women being finalists, and I think Casie is going to win in a highly-politicized vote. Pick: Casie Coleman

O’Brien Award for Horsemanship: Per Henriksen & Rick Zeron

Henriksen sent out solid trotters like I Wont Dance and Magic Fruit as part of a successful campaign while Zeron continued to be the most successful trainer-driver on the WEG Circuit. Pick: Rick Zeron

Breeder of the year: Charalambos Christoforou & Harry Rutherford/Diane Ingham

Christoforou bred Equity, who is a finalist in the three-year-old trotting colt and gelding division along with Parlay, who was also successful in the provincial program. Rutherford while Ingham bred Il Villaggio and top three-year-old trotting filly Raising Rachel. Pick: Ingham/Rutherford

Horse of the Year: Muscle Hill

Like I said above, I think once Muscle Hill hit three starts in Canada, this was his year.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Them Swedes Do a Racing Video

At the year end harness awards gala in Sweden they put together this video. I was surprised that there appears to be a horseplayer included; he is seen at about 3:16. Nice set up. :)

Maybe sometimes commenter here Janne will come and tell us how many of these folks speak English. Most did a good job faking it if they could not. Hat tip to Standardbred Canada.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Owners

In harness racing the chat boards, owners, trainers, bettors all have an opinion on the Brooks brothers. Currently the blue-bloods have their own stuff a-happening.

When the news broke that jockey's at Penn National took a stand on Saturday night, by not riding horses from a certain owner, I did not read much about it. Until this morning when Ray Paulick wrote an article on what has been happening that the racetrack, with regard to horses owned by Michael Gill.

Jockeys at Penn National Race Course apparently took a vote of a different type on Saturday night, allegedly telling track management they would refuse to ride in any more races in which Mike Gill-owned horses were entered. The vote was taken following the fifth race, after third-place finisher Laughing Moon broke down past the wire, causing another horse to also go down. Laughing Moon’s jockey Rickey Frazier escaped injury.

It was the second breakdown of a Gill-owned horse at Penn National in three nights, Melodeeman having suffered a similar catastrophic injury on Thursday night. Melodeeman was trained by Anthony Adamo and Laughing Moon by Darrel Delahoussaye—Gill’s two trainers at Penn National.


The gutsy piece has spawned something like 150 responses.

more at link

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Will Meadowlands Racing Ever Be the Same?

Alan at his blog goes through the comprehensive report for New Jersey racing which was released this week.

Alan believes the report is a harbinger of the following:

• There will be no VLTs or sports betting at New Jersey race tracks.
• There will be a significant cut in the number of racing days in New Jersey for all breeds.
• Purses will no longer be artificially inflated.
• While not specifically mentioned, the days of racing at Freehold Raceway may be numbered.
• The Hambletonian will be looking for a new home.
• The long term goal is to redevelop the Meadowlands and move all racing to Monmouth Park.

More

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Talkin' Bout the Horse & Julie Krone on a Champion

We speak of betting and industry issues here a lot, but sometimes is it not just fun to bask in the glow of the horse? Three things today:

First up, little wee horses. Here is a picture of Somebeachsomwhere's first foal. She is a little filly with a great family - her brother is the former fastest horse of all time Jenna's Beach Boy.



Not to be outdone, Deweycheatumnhowe's first one arrived earlier this week.



Last up some awesome video for harness and thoroughbred fans alike. Who will play Julie Krone in an upcoming movie is the question. The answer is..... we're not sure. But we hope that they are good under saddle. I had not seen this video on Youtube before - Julie and the great Moni Maker going for the under saddle world record at the Red Mile. I loved this video. Being so used to watching horses with jocks gallop it was weird to watch - but magical to watch too. How fast is she? How talented to keep her gait like that going that speed? Awesome stuff.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Offer an Alternative Will Ya?

Ray Paulick has a thought-provoking article on his site today about California thoroughbred racing thinking of going back to dirt racetracks. He calls it "Priority #1, Horses or Horseplayers"

Southern California-based trainer Bob Hess crystallized the often toxic debate over synthetic tracks as well as anyone I’ve talked with on the subject: “My horses are happy on it, and they’re lasting a lot longer,” said Hess, a 44-year-old, second generation horseman and a graduate of Stanford University. “My clients are getting more bang for their buck. But without gamblers, we are nothing: there are no purses and no owners. The reality is the gamblers hate this shit. They have no confidence in it. From what they tell me, it’s inconsistent and changes from track to track. Most gamblers tend to play speed, and if you play speed out here, you’re screwed.”

He goes on to talk about the death rate on synth versus dirt and how we balance the two for the betterment of racing.

In betting, I am neither pro or anti-synth. I started betting thoroughbreds seriously late in the game. I learned to play plastic tracks and have no problem with them for betting. If I had played all my life at a venue that changed, I probably would have thought differently. We hate change, that is obvious and understandable.

Being indifferent to the surface for my handicapping, I do not really care (other than my respect for horseplayers who do not like them), but what I do care about are the horses. When people within the business (we see this especially from old-time cappers in the Daily Racing Form) rail on synthetics, that is fine, however what is not fine to me is they never offer an alternative to help the horses.

Unlike harness racing where horses very rarely break down and die, in the runners it happens fairly often. It makes me sick to my stomach and I often turn the days racing off whenever I see it. It might be "part of the game" for some, however I have a visceral reaction to breakdowns, and it is more than part of the game for me. On that front, synthetics seem to help:

According to statistics compiled by the CHRB’s equine medical director, Dr. Rick Arthur, the number of equine fatalities per 1,000 starts has declined significantly at every track in California. Santa Anita Park, for example, had 2.81 fatalities per 1,000 starts in the four years prior to the synthetic installation; that number has fallen to 1.64 per 1,000 since the conversion. (Hollywood Park has gone from 2.87 to 1.57/1,000; Del Mar from 2.47 to 1.65/1,000; Golden Gate Fields from 3.90 to 1.84/1,000). Click here to see the complete set of statistics.

So do we help horseplayers? Of course we do. But do we do it at the expense of the horses by moving back to what was not working before?

It is ironic to me that some who complain and want to go back to dirt are often the same people who complain that racing is not on mainstream television. Well, with a snapped leg and a faceplant in the homestretch happening way too often, how in the hell can we ever be mainstream?

There has to be a better way. I sincerely hope that racing does not move backwards, it moves forwards and works on finding that better way. Synthetic tracks have problems, but dirt had problems too.

Note - Dick Powell, who runs an ADW with large players, has a good comment on the Paulick piece "When I was a kid, I remember the old-time harness players complaining about the mile track at the Meadowlands when all they knew was the half mile tracks at Yonkers, etc. They adjusted." That goes well with our post below. A generation after mile tracks went mainstream in harness, handicappers flock to them, and many abhor the smaller ovals. Change takes time.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Handicapping Post Positions

Darryl Kaplan wrote a good article on the Trot backpage last month on post positions. We all know harness racing has changed; it is a speed game. If a horse can make the front on a half mile track, back things down a little bit, he/she is a very good bet. It is not uncommon to see a horse get the outside post one week and be 30-1, then draw the rail and be 6-5. There is too much of a breadth in odds on half mile tracks.

Kaplan offers some statistics:

Over the first 11 months of 2009, there were over 10,000 races held in Canada on half-mile tracks. The win percentage of the rail horse was 19.5%. The outside post averaged 5.3%. If you add in the 7,000 races from the five-eighths mile configuration, the rail post won 18.1% of the time while the outside only scored in 5.0% of races. In Ontario, the gap was even greater, at 20.0% for the inside and 4.2% from the exterior post. That means that in the jurisdiction with the most purse money and wagering on the line, one in five won from the ‘pole’ and 1 in 24 from the outside.

At a 1 in 5 rate from the pole, that means that as a bettor (with the large takeout on half mile tracks) would need to average around 9-2 odds on any rail horse we bet to make money. The impact values are flat-out huge, and it makes probably three-quarters of all half mile track races unhandicappable to serious players.

Overall, betting post positions is an interesting handicapping method. Here are the stats for many tracks we all play.

Flammy: 1 in 5 races won from the rail, but you lose 18%
London: 21% win from the rail, and you lose 21%
Freehold: Almost one in four win from the rail, but you lose close to 20%

On larger tracks, where wire to wire winners are not as prevalent (around 1 in 3), there is value, and I think this is why large tracks are prone to handle much more betting dollars. The middle of the gate is a pretty tough nut to crack, and this is where we can make some money.

Woodbine: Posts four and five win a third of the races, and you only lose 8%. Subsetting those posts can be profitable.
Mohawk: Pretty much ditto. But post four is profitable and dart throwing post five will break you even. With free HPI points you can get a toaster.
Meadowlands: Post five and six win about 3 in 10, and are not too bad ROI-wise.

I think it illustrates that half mile tracks tended to live by being the only game in town. It is very difficult to make money if you are betting the rail, and they win most of the races. There is simply no way to bet horses in a subset of 25% losses, with 25% winners - you truly have to pick your spots, or expect to go on a long losing streak. Half mile tracks either have to lower takeout drastically in the win pool (betfair would be great for half milers as there would be a lot of short shots that would be traded), or find a new way of doing business.

Conversely, larger tracks rule the roost. There are spots that show some promise for cappers. I don't think it is surprising that most of the handle lies at those venues.

Money Talks

I read in a book somewhere, I think it was on marketing or maybe psychology, an interesting take on opinion and human nature. Some smart fella who wrote it said that people can have loud vociferous opinions on something, but you get to see their real opinion when you ask them to put money on it.

The Rachel Alexandra-Zenyatta horse of the year fight in the US was another time the money talked.

Fan polls, wishes and wants all pointed to Zenyatta. She won web poll after web poll. The wishers had a strong point. She was 14 for 14 in her career and voters not giving it to her as a swan song is not something we would see too often. She was the first female to win the Breeders Cup Classic, as well.

But the cash did the talking. On Betfair Z was not the chalk. Rachel was picked to win. Web polls are cool, but they don't cost you any money.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Some Happenings

I have seen two topics on chat boards now about John Campbell being washed up. I saw two topics last year at this time saying the same thing. He drives with zero power, with no claiming trainers early in the meet, then when the stakes horses come, he smokes. I noticed last year he had less than 10 wins for the first month or so, only to finish the year with $3.4M in winnings (only at the M). The previous season he did similar. In something like 800 drives he made $3.5M. In contrast, Pierce and Miller made $4M, but drove a couple of hundred more times.

News on Bulletproof's (harness racings leading owner) Jeff Brooks.

"An undercover video showed Jeffrey Brooks removing duffel bags from a safe-deposit box at a London bank. The next day, a person allegedly working for the Brooks brother rented another safe-deposit box, and when police opened the box it contained more than $3.6 million in pounds, euros and U.S. currency in envelopes marked "Jeffrey Brooks Securities."

In a story reported by newsday.com, an affidavit filed Friday, Jan. 15, alleged Brooks did not report assets in a scheme he named "Czerny Kot," which is Polish for black cat. The affidavit stated Brooks had set up shell companies overseas that hid at least $25 million, used to funnel money through a bank in San Marino.


Business is down and not looking good. Bettors are keeping their cash in their pockets. It is time for (wait for it)........ us to raise prices! California ups their take at Los Al by 2%. That'll fix the problems, I am pretty sure. Interestingly enough, the projections call for revenue to go up by the takeout increase. Yep, it appears those in California think that handle will stay the same when they raise prices. I know someone who owns a hotel. He rents 100 rooms for $100 a night, but business is slow. I will advise him to raise his room rates to $150 and he will make way more money, because he will still rent those same 100 rooms. Business is easy.

Since the ORC stepped in telling both sides to wise up in the harness contract disputes things have been different. Now Northern Ontario has an interim deal to show harness racing while they work out their differences. It is amazing what proactive leadership can do!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Freak Accident at Flammy


Four year old mare Sycamore Ruby, driven by blog commenter Rebecca Titus, had her bit break during a race, causing some mayhem. Todd Gimblett, Flammy's track photographer took some pics of the event that can be seen here.

Thankfully no participants were hurt, and the mare is reported to be no worse for wear. Rebecca, we're glad you are alright!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Parallels..... Everywhere

I flipped on to Google News this morning and caught this article on steroids and baseball via the New York Times. It reviews Mark McGwire's mea culpa for using steroids during the magical home run derby of 1998 where he demolished Roger Maris's record of 61.

The writer contends that this mea culpa (among others in baseball) is simply a well-manicured show; throw a few tears and a few 'forgive me's' and baseball hopes all is forgotten. As well, he surmises that although the commissioner says that with testing this is all in the past, it is not the case at all.

I find what baseball is going through is extremely interesting from a sports marketing perspective. In the old days almost everything to do with drug use was covered up (and is/was in many sports), or simply not spoken about. Today that has all changed. Twitter, facebook, TMZ, youtube.... they all spread things like wildfire. Meeting challenges head on seems to be the only way to combat problems.

In racing we have a parallel. Drugs are a part of the game, whether their use be small, big or almost non-existent (I am not smart enough to know). On backstretches it is rarely spoken of. On chat boards, twitter, facebook, in simulcast centres, it is commonspeak - e.g any time a horse wins with a form reversal via a trainer change, the reason was the 'juice' . There seems to be a fairly healthy debate in racing about how to tackle these perceptive, or real problems - throw people out forever, throw only the egregious violators out, talk about it openly, keep it behind closed doors. Ask ten people, get six or seven different answers.

As I have said before, I have no solution how to tackle this issue. I would like people who are caught using drugs who have no intent to harm the horse, the public, or their fellow owners to be treated like human beings. The others who are harming horses and our game with visceral intent, I would like thrown out forever. On a case by case basis, this is easier said than done. Like baseball, or the Tour de France, or football, it appears there are no easy answers. There rarely are easy answers to a complex problem.

The second parallel I see combing the web is the chatter about racing showing races (or data, which invariably the discussion goes to) free and easy on the web. As most know, a popular youtube site with many many races was recently shut down, due to copyright problems. I compared that earlier to boxing (for an excellent look at boxing and racing, Equispace wrote about it here) and their lack of foresight in digitizing and producing their footage, and feel quite similarly today when I look at racing.

I was watching ESPN (TSN up here in the Tundra) and they had a one hour show featuring Mike Tyson's best knockouts. As anyone over 30 who watches the sweet science would remember, Mike Tyson was a brute. He was completely unstoppable in his early career. I remember having to study one night for an exam and listening to one of his bouts on the radio. It lasted 22 seconds and that was pretty much the norm for his early fights. This brutality even spawned a catch phrase. When someone was confronted with something they did not want to do: "I'd rather get in the ring with Mike Tyson", was heard quite often.

The produced "best of" show was not overly well done, because much of the footage was grainy and it seemed cobbled together. Some of the knockouts were missing, as well. Enthralled with some of them, however, I began to surf the web for a DVD of some of the great bouts over time, including Tyson's. What I found was a hodge-podge of DVD makers, some sure to be pirated, but no compilation DVD's from anyone in a position of power. One would figure that the World Boxing Council, or one of the myriad acronyms in the sport would have all of the great bouts throughout history digitized, available and documented. Should not Liston-Clay, Foreman-Ali and the hundreds of amazing bouts in history be there for all to see?

Nope.

Forty some years ago NFL films was created so that the sports entire history - every snap, every play, every locker room shot, every news item, everything - could be kept in a vault. Should they need it, it is there. Should local news need a clip when doing a story, it's there. For historians or fans, it's there.

Did it happen by accident? Of course not. Back in 1964 Commissioner Pete Rozelle asked for $12,000 of seed capital from each team (like herding cats I imagine) and they bought an existing company who was taping games. The rest is history.

What did it do for the sport. According to the Wiki: "The real value of NFL Films is how it packages and sells the game and many credit it as a key reason that the NFL has become the most watched league in the United States."

NFL - foresight and strong leadership. Boxing - a mess.

Which one is racing? It is pretty obvious, is it not. I remember about four or five years ago wanting to see Secretariat's career on DVD. I could not find it. I went to the web to see if I could find his Belmont win. Nothing. Recently much of this has popped up on the web, but uploaded by individuals, just like we see in boxing. In fact, try and even get the historical running lines for some horses - either you can't or you get charged money for it.

Boxing has fallen on hard times. There are several competing belts, no one knows who is a champ and who is not, the best don't fight the best, they worry about other things (if a boxer was a horse he would probably not be going to the Breeders Cup to face a foe in a bout that fans want to see), their history is hard to find, or watch. Their TV ratings are abysmal now, after a half-century of being highly rated. It had no leadership, fighting factions, lack of foresight, and a fan-base that looks nostalgically at the game, wishing that things were like they were.

If that sounds eerily familiar, it should, because its us.

Over the years we have fought about rules, we have raised takeouts in the face of paid-for studies telling us not to, we have wrung our hands at government interference, we have considered bettors a necessity rather than a customer, we have worried about this week, or this month; because thinking any further ahead was too tough. Sooner or later these things bite you in the butt.

There are parallels with racing to many sports and many of these sports' problems. Easy answers, no. But it would be nice if we start recognizing problems and working towards solutions. Our future probably depends a great deal on it.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Neat Stuff & Good Comments

SC did a neat poll from bettors, trainers, fans and industry types on the "Best of the Decade". Some of the choices were obvious, some not so much, but some of the comments made it a good read. The Race of the Decade was the Beach versus Art Official - $1M+, an upset and a 51.4 half makes it a well deserved choice. The horse of the decade also was not too surprising as well.

There was a great post from a sharp fella today at r2 on youtube and racing videos via that medium.

"Is that not just the sort of thing we should all be excited about, and falling all over ourselves to use? Did I mention it’s free? Racing has opportunities to do better with their use of APIs in other areas, such as tote odds, and hopefully, someday even charts and the like, but for now moving race replays over to a web platform that plays nicely with the rest of the web is an overdue development."

WEG's replay channel I see is getting some play. If they can somehow make this a little more interactive they will be in good shape I think.

Last up, some excellent comments on the Harness v. Tbred post. It seems we are losing, mostly due to pool size.

....I do not like betting thoroughbreds, but since I am more than a ten buck bettor......... I have to. Pool size, pool size, pool size. If 20 tracks closed or they did not schedule races on top of races maybe I would bet more on harness racing.....

..... I dont know why the dividends down here are lower than the gallops. Is it the same in the northern hemisphere, do gallops pay more more and if so why? [Post position bias, shorter fields, more obvious winners. Same down there as up here]....

..... Harness with a 7.30 post time gives you to get home have dinner and handicap this 3 to 5 pm post times are useless to me [post times, advantage harness. I agree with this 100%]


...... Will return to harness if .....
Fair start pole: as someone in the above comments stated, the FSP must be moved. Maybe not as drastically as beyond the start, but at least to the actual start line. [agree 100% - with slots paying up to 95% for purses at places, give refunds on breakers before the quarter]

...... Much like some of the other posters, I've found myself dabbling in the T-breds, not because I feel I have an edge, but strictly based on the pool sizes. [when a die-hard player like Lou is 'dabbling in the tbreds' we better get our asses in gear]

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Harness Bettors v. Thoroughbred Punters

How do we differentiate ourselves from thoroughbred bettors? What are the pros and cons of being a harness bettor?

In a recent article at R2 about "positioning racing", it was surmised that betting racing is akin to a game. I think most readers, since we are bettors and take the game kind of seriously, feel that way. But I wonder, since the article is of a broad nature - what makes us harness bettors, and what can make other bettors harness bettors?

I think some of the differences in betting harness versus thoroughbreds are the following.

- Favorite win percentage: We can churn more in harness, so if you are someone who likes to cash, pick winners and grind your way that way, it is a good sport for you to play. A 14 horse field of maidens in the thoroughbreds is a head-scratcher.

- Week to week form: In thoroughbreds horses may race six or seven times a year. For a hard-hitting claimer or conditioned horse in harness racing that number may be 35 or 40. You can follow a horse, get to know him, and use that knowledge to make some money.

- Warm ups, driver/trainer intent: There is, and always has been a solid edge for on-track players in harness. I was at the track not long ago and watched a horse warm up lame. He scored out lame, too .......... and he was 4-5 on the board. You might bet him, or use him in horizontals if you were at home. At the track he was an auto-pitch.

- Using numbers: Talk to a harness player about speed figs, or pace figs and 99% of them will look at you like you are from Mars. Pen and paper handicapping in harness rules. In thoroughbreds it is common-place. There is an edge for those who broaden their mind and use numbers.

- Post position and trip/pace handicapping: Picking a paceline in thoroughbred racing I think is akin to having a crystal ball. In harness racing if you see three speed horses, two have a decent leaving post, one driver scores out, and one of them is taking no money, you have a paceline scenario that will probably be accurate. Speed wins harness races. A 6-1 shot who has the pocket, or the lead in soft fractions is not a 6-1 shot anymore; he is more likely 5-2 or lower. Sharp handicappers who can figure this out will be extremely successful.

There are many, many others I am sure, and that is where you come in. I would like to write an article/study on the typical 2010 harness bettor, and use that to look at new markets (those who have never played harness before who might).

If you are a harness bettor what attracts you to the game? If you are a thoroughbred punter, what keeps you from playing harness? If you could think of one thing only which differentiates us from the thoroughbred bettor, what would it be?

I'd love to hear some answers and opinions, so accept my thanks in advance if you offer to comment!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Too Much Racing

ESPN's Bill Finley on racings handle losses:

"Reversing the trend won't be easy, and it might just be impossible. There's too much competition for the gambling dollar out there, racing is burying its remaining customers with outrageously high takeout levels and the game doesn't seem to attract any new blood as far as fans go."

More

Ron Pierce and John Campbell do not invite each other out for dinner, but I don't think they have ever done this.



The last time I saw two 104 pound dudes scrap I think it was around grade three.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Reactor is Coming

Auckland Reactor is coming to the US from New Zealand and he landed in the barn of the very sharp Kelvin Harrison. I don't think many will have to worry about the horse being cared for in that barn, but US racing in general takes a barb from a turf writer: "In the States, with suitable mile racing and who knows what pumping through his system, it would not surprise to see him do something freakish, especially as their aged pacing ranks have little in the way of returning star power."

Ouch.

It will be interesting to see how the colt does over this way. I find it virtually impossible to judge downunder horseflesh. They seem to race a ton of distances and the bike they race in looks a bit like something Henry Ford would build in 1904. Watching him I think he was nowhere near his best in his last couple, and I was impressed with some of his earlier miles (or mile and a halfs or whatever), but I am totally on the fence.

One person who is not on a fence is a blog reader who sometimes calls himself "Northern Ontario Walleye Fisherman" in the comments section. He says, via HD.com: "A month of silence and the PR department kicks in to overdrive again. Bottom line, best mile win time 153.2. Has lost 4 of his last 9 races his best win 153.3. Finished 6th last time out in a 150.1 mile. As the PR department tells everyone this horse is capable of walking on water so they have decided not to fly to North America he will walk the Pacific landing in Long Beach California."

He must learn not to mince words. Ouch again.

Regardless, this should add some energy to harness racing in the older division in 2010. The 2009 three year crop was anemic, and there are no superstars graduating. Shadow Play is done, Mr. Big long gone to the shed. It will be super-interesting to watch this horse and see if he is good enough. If he is, a sprakling stud career should happen.

Doubling the Time and Some Good Writing

The appeals process in racing is an area that I know the business would like to change. Driver/jock gets days, driver/jock appeals days, driver/jock takes days when he is vacationing in the Bahamas - that's the way it generally works. The Kentucky commission did something today, albeit small. They doubled the days for Calvin Borel for a riding infraction from 3 to 6 days.

"We're trying to put a stop to these frivolous appeals," [Commission exec director Lisa] Underwood said.

The judges are convenient whipping boys in this. However, appeals cost money and they have to be sure there will not be one. I would submit if a panel is created who judges that an appeal is obviously frivolous (throw a couple of bettors on there, not insiders who go to Thanksgiving dinner with the participants), then the appealant will have to pay for the proceedings and have his days at least doubled, to be served immediately. Workable? I don't know.

Cangamble has an excellent summation on how bettors have changed over the years, how there is less dumb money, and how rebates (arguably the life preserver of bettors) are slowly being phased out. The premise being, that the quest to take more of a shrinking pie, shrinks the pie even more. It was a good read.

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Proactive Racing Commission

About two years ago there was a horseman/track fight at Georgian Downs. This lasted some time, and in the end nothing really changed - other than customers leaving racing. Most of us were critical at that time (owners, bettors and others) that the commission did not intervene earlier to get things done. Fast forward two years and things have changed, a whole lot for the better, in my opinion.

In a letter today from ORC Chair Rod Seiling, he implored the horseman group and the racetracks in Sudbury and Sarnia to get their deals done. In addition, the commission has intervened to make sure that happens.

Therefore, under the Commission’s mandate to act in the public interest, I have asked ORC Executive Director John Blakney to work with the parties of the respective disputes to immediately find a way to reopen the markets so that horse racing’s customers can continue to watch and wager, and the industry can continue to earn revenues that flow back to the entire horse racing industry......

I am dismayed and disappointed that the respective parties are so short sighted that they opted to penalize the most important component of their joint business, the customer......

Are racing’s customers in such great supply that it can afford the luxury of turning off the signal? Today, customers have many options on where to spend their “disposable” dollars. They don’t need horse racing, horse racing needs them!


The above took them only 72 hours, or less. That is proactive, that is customer-centric and that is a fine job.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Interesting Opening Night in Jersey

The Meadowlands opener last night provided some good payoffs, and some excellent value for handicappers.

The pick 4 payoff was a record, over $69,000. But this was not one of the head scratchers. In fact, an online service I checked produced the pick 4 with a 3x3x3x3 ticket. Not bad for $81. I got three of four, like a lot of you I assume.

The Meadowlands has branded this bet. With a low takeout (15%, the best in North America) we know we are not getting shafted, and it does provide huge value. It is perhaps the only bet in harness racing that virtually everyone wants to play and year after year this bet actually goes up, despite massive handle losses.

There were some horses with a good deal of board value this night, which does make the M the place to play. For example, Canadian players would have pitched Village Bolero in race 11. Others certainly would not have played the heavy chalk in the last at those odds either, seeing he looks nothing like a mile track horse and never has been on one. There were plenty of deep fields and room for a lot of opinion.

My chat board funny from the night was on two boards with folks talking about the Meadowlands opener - two people complained that any place that lets Rucker back in, they want nothing to do with. There are still people today who have stopped betting that place because of that decision.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Opening Card at the Meadowlands - Trainer Thoughts

The first card of the year happens tonight at the Meadowlands. I have been doing a little bit of digging on some trainer stats.

We all know that betting hot trainers is usually a futile pursuit. Virtually no one can make money betting hot folks off the claim, or overall if they are supertrainers, because they are horribly overbet. But at times, looking at them as a subset can help a little, in my opinion.

Last year for the first few weeks of the meet, some trainers stood out.

Ross Croghan was 8 for 32, but you lost your shirt betting him. (Ross will not be an issue this year as he is on suspension)

Mickey Burke was 6 for 30, but you lost your pants betting him.

Mark Kesmodel was sneaky good. You made 78 points on your bankroll betting all his early starters. I think he will have his charges ready for the meet. 3 of those wins were with layoff horses of 30 days or more. In 2007, he was ROI positive as well, so definitely this is a pattern.

On the other side of the coin, Mark Ford and Bruce Saunders did not have banner starts to either the 2007 or 2008 meets. They are both quality trainers with quality stock, so we'll see if this holds this year. I do remember Mark sending some last year that had a full season under their belts, and they seemed a bit dull.

On the bias front (I am never much with bias in harness racing) speed wins races at the Meadowlands, not unlike many other places, and it is somewhat underbet there. This is a bit more pronounced the last couple of years with the small field size. They simply do not mix it up like they used to. However, perhaps with the full fields the next few cards we will see some second over tows get the job done.