Friday, April 30, 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 media mentions about Tioga's takeout reduction. It is one of the few racetracks that you can type in google news with almost all positive mentions. In addtion, I visited Harnessdriver.com today and there is a topic on Chester Downs. As most know, Chester has some punishing takeouts, like most tracks in Pennsylvania. 80% of the posts spoke about the egregious take. Chester has way better horses than Tioga, too. Note: There are free programs for Saturday and Sunday's Tioga card available at Paceadvantage.com, here.

Derby Time (as usual from a gambling perspective)

A 20 horse field, with potential slop in the forecast, provides us with one thing - chaos. And chaos can breed life-changing payoffs. You can analyze this race til you are blue in the face, you can find the fastest horse, the best closer, or the best front runner, but all of that can mean absolutely nothing with a race like this.

My keys to the Derby are the following:

1. Which horse can improve to run a huge number - a higher number than he has ever run

2. Will his odds be high enough so you can get paid for the tremendous amount of racing luck your pick will need?

Conventional wisdom states that a closer will win this race. It does make sense as there is a ton of cheap speed. However, in the Derby, conventional wisdom is not something I want to be a part of. As well, if it is sloppy and the track shows speed is holding, the closers might be nowhere near talented enough to make inroads. With this thinking I will be picking a non-closer, Super Saver. I believe he will run a big number, as he is finally fit, and I think he will be close enough and be out of traffic, which can be killer in a race like this for some horses. I also believe that I will get paid if this colt wins. He took some odd early cash, but he is 15-1 offshore. He hung like a chandelier in his last start that a lot of people saw, so I hope he starts skying.

I like Lookin' at Lucky and I think Sidney's Candy is a nice horse, but I want no part of them as they will be on too many people's exotic tickets. The latter with post 20 will need to be a super-horse to overcome that in this field, too.

I will be grouping Super Saver with a few horses in wheel positions on the three sets of exotics: Stately Victor (teetering on putting him on top on a separate betting sheet for a score-play), Awesome Act, Paddy O Prado, Dublin and Discreetly Mine.

It's a crapshoot, so I will be treating it as such. I wish everyone good luck on their tickets. Let's hope for a pot at the end of the rainbow score or two out there in blogland.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

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, topped with the usual political correctness and lame jokes. During the recent equine conference, a moderator asked audience members to watch their language.

and this on passion:

In reality, what this industry needs is for people to stand up and tell other people where to go. They wouldn’t admit it, but some folks like it when Satish Sanan gets fired up and drops F-bombs. Heaven forbid we should offend anyone while the industry spirals out of control.

on some horseman groups:

Horsemen are to blame as much as racetracks. They want days, days, and more days, and are perfectly content to race for less money to get them. Earlier this week, a $5,000 claiming race at River Downs filled with four horses. Horsemen love that, but fail to realize they’re killing their product in the marketplace.

He is practicing what he preaches. This game is falling and falling fast. Incremental change is as bad as no change at all. Writing opinion worried about who you will offend, makes you part of the problem, not the solution.

Anyway, hat tip to Tom, for writing a damn fine blog.

Another hat tip, this time to one of our "own". We all know Jessica Chapel has some writing talent, to go along with some racing smarts. Her Railbird blog is a good read and has been for some time. She was recently invited by a New York Times columnist to accompany her to the New York City OTB for a story she was doing. After the visit, Jessica answered questions that readers had of the main piece, and had it published in the City section of the Times, right here. Good questions, and better answers. Bravo.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

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 Paceadvantage.com, 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 this? Good for Tioga. Toot your own horn, as you deserve it. Every other business uses price to promote their store or business. Racing usually wants to promote balloon giveaways.


> Rumours are flying on who the new Standardbred Canada CEO is going to be. I have heard some names, but just like backstretch rumour, I will take them with a grain of salt. I did hear from two people Chris Roberts from Georgian might have thrown his hat in the ring. He is young, wants racing to grow and wants to try some new things. Banish him! He has no place in our sport :)

> WEG's pick 4 topped $50k last week. Good for them. The pick 4 has become quite the harness branded bet. Harness players are married to it, probably because of the Meadowlands. They promote their low pick 4 win take in virtually every press release, and have for years.

> North America Cup horses are starting to qualify. We will be starting our Cup Top Ten here very soon.

I'll be back to chat about the Derby later, just in case anyone wants to handicap the big race.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

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 primarily harness racing from that day forward, except on big days.

In the summer of 2007, that all changed.

I had been looking for something to add to my betting near that time. In harness, the pools were getting small, the Meadowlands handle was falling, trainers were claiming off-form horses and winning with them at 3-5, ad nauseum. Local racing had tough takeouts too. I simply could not find as much value as I used to.

Then one day I came across someone named Ron Geary. Ron was the President and owner of little Ellis Park in Henderson Kentucky. Ron decided that he wanted to try and place his track on the map, and he told the racing world he would do the unthinkable: He would lower his takeout on his pick 4, to 4%. Ron Geary made me stand up and take notice - he was someone who wanted my business.

I decided then and there that I would begin switching some of my play to the runners.

I knew enough about racing to give a 4% take bet a shot, but I don't jump into things like this unprepared. I immediately began researching some software packages and after about a month I settled on one. I shelled out the $700 or so for it, but then I needed data files. I found out I had to spend about another $1000 on those, so I did. I now had a software package, data, and began learning how to play in a new way. I was also $1700 in the hole.

I called Woodbine because I wanted to see if they were taking the pick 4 at the low takeout. "No, we are not offering it at 4%. It will be 25%.", they told me, so I was shut out there. I searched and searched a way to play and I could not find one -  it seemed like no one was taking the 4% pick 4. One thing I have learned in racing, is if a track is going to offer low takeout, their signal will not be taken by very many. If they want to offer a high takeout, everyone will offer it out. I think it might explain why racing has fallen so far, so fast.

Anyway, I finally found something. And I began playing.

I would like to say that I took down the bank, but I did not. It was a slow burn but at least I was getting paid when I hit it. And the bet really did well going from a $16k daily pool to over a $40k one. One day the pool hit 100k and that's not bad for a tiny track. Most of all, I had fun. I really did.

From that day forward I have spent a lot of cash betting this sport. I still play harness, but not as much as before.

When someone asks me why I play thoroughbred racing, I say to them two words: "Ron Geary". I'd like to thank him as I have made some great friends while playing my 'new' game. If someone reading this wants to try a 4% pick 4 for their track, let it be known that in your own way you are probably growing this sport, just like Ron Geary did.

Photo credit: Mike Lawrence

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, bettors have found what they like. Yonkers could give away $5M a card, and the Meadowlands could run all 4 claimers, but they would still dust them in handle. If harness racing had a commissioner, a task for him or her should be to make sure that tracks like the Meadowlands are not put at a disadvantage to places so few bet.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

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 business is not worth the paper you wrote the press release on.

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.

Monday, April 19, 2010

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?

Hollywood?

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 know one thing - I will be playing Tioga this season.

Their meet begins May 1st.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

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.

Friday, April 16, 2010

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 hope it is fixed in a month, because people will be having more fun with scratch tickets, at reduced take, in the meantime.

Monday, April 12, 2010

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 promote the game via horse trailers. This has been going on for some time now in other businesses, but not in racing.

Rock n Roll Heaven, my second ranked North America Cup horse, might be the first of several not to get back in great shape. His qualifier, in 154.4 was less than impressive. He is a solid 149 pacer on paper, and they usually show a little more zip than that, even if it is a first qualifier. I hope he rebounds, because he is a hell of a good horse.

Reading CG this morning, I see Woodbine thoroughbred handles started the year soft.

Greg Blanchard from Woodbine keeps tabs on the blog, and loves the game. He got a new gig at WEG this past week.

“Anyone that asks I just tell them I hope I don’t have to get a real job, because I love it. I like the people and the atmosphere around the track. I put a lot more then (sic) 40 hours in at the track every week and it doesn’t feel like work.’’ he told Nick Oakes of the Charlottetown Guardian.

Good on ya Greg and good luck!

The Keeneland meet started off well this year and I was supposed to head there this weekend. I really wanted to be able to make it, but work has gotten in the way. I need to retire sometime soon. I don't know how, but I would sure like to :) Regardless, Keeneland is a beautiful slice of Americana and if you have not gone, and you like horse racing, put it on the list.

Old doing new. The Masters can be described as Americana as well. It is generally considered old, crusty and a place that reminds us of double Eagles by Gene Sarazen, Bobby Jones, the old (and sometimes not so great) south. However, watching the Masters coverage over the web this weekend it was anything but. Masters.com was fresh, new and exciting. It was very, very relevant. Racing could learn a thing or two from the grand belle of golf. This past Friday's Zenyatta race seems to shed light on that. Getting an act together is important, but we have to have an act to get one together.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

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 ESPN.com 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.



Tuesday, April 6, 2010

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 4500 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 often pay much less than fair value, making them poor mathematical bets as well. In an article originally published in Trot Magazine and reprinted with permission on the HANA blog, a professional player looked at this phenomenon. For a $1 pick 7 in a 10k pool, 7 horses of 2.75-1 or more creates a parlay that would pay more than the $10000 that you would receive. How about a $250k pool? It only goes to 4.9-1. When jackpot pools of this magnitude can not even beat a 5-1 parlay, most of this money is dead money.

So, pick 6's with a high minimum bet are hard to hit, don't add to churn, and newbies are fed on by sharks like they are Bart Simpson competing at NFL mini-camp. What good are they? Well, they do bring people out to your track, whether virtually or in person, especially when there is a carryover. At Santa Anita for example, players have disliked the short fields for years, however there they are, betting the large pools, looking for a score. Racing is one game where you can get a good score, if you are good, prepared and bet smart. Sure you can make a half million on a lotto bet, but that does not take skill.

Beulah Park, following the Puerto Rico example has moved into this realm with this interesting bet. 25 cent mins, instead of $2 ones allows the small players a chance to fish in a big pond, while it still allows the larger bankrolled player to contrarian-handicap, searching for the big score. This is not a bet for everyone, nor should it be, but marketed correctly, and adding a couple of twists I believe it could be the bet that brings the slot players over to racing, which we have wanted for some time.

For anyone who has been to Woodbine at the slots area we know what we see - plenty of people looking for a score while putting a dollar or so into a machine. They are attracted to playing numbers and making a big hit. If a Fortune 6 is going on whilst they are playing, it is promoted as such, I think they could be enticed to play.

When we do have the jackpot up to a large number, to make it happen, in my opinion, you would have to do a few things:

i) Allow fractional betting. Allow a customer who plays slots to make a bet with ease. Don't ask him or her to fill out a ticket, ask him or her a simple question: "How much do you want to bet?" Then fractionally calculate a quick pick ticket for him or her. If she wants to spend $24, give her a ticket containing 96 combos. If she wants to spend $6, give her one with 24. And so on.

ii) Have bet takers moving on the floor. I know, I know, the racetrack/gambling lingo of "we can't do that" comes into play here. Instead of "can't", change the rules so we can. We put a man on the moon 41 years ago, we can find a way to sell horse racing tickets, at a racetrack, on the slots floor.

iii) Announce each leg, countdown the time to each leg and promote the hell out of each leg like it is a huge event. The slots players can check their tickets every fifteen minutes or so. If the quick picks are front loaded, which can be an option, more and more people would be alive. If several are alive into the later legs we might see something weird, wacky and out of this world: Slots players gathering around a television in a slots parlour to watch racing.

iv) Count the number of tickets after each leg that are alive, and let everyone know. Are there four left going into race 5? Is there only one left into race 8? Work the microphone like we actually have something to sell, and sell the score. Someone might win a million dollars tonight, we should act like it and not keep it a secret.

v) If $4M or so pools do happen (and I believe that they will; the math is there), then we look to move onto phase two: Corner store fractional bets sold via the lottery system. Dave Bryans has spoken about this before and he thinks it can be done. Just a note on that - racetracks, please do not block your internet feeds should this happen. People will want to watch.

I think if those things are done, and done right, people will remember racing, they will tell friends and they might have a good time. Maybe on the way out of the slots parlour a patron who was alive in four legs and saw the carryover wants to pick up a program to try tomorrow on his own. In that case, have a "Fortune 6 mini-program" available for him at the exit.

Wagers like pick 6's are here to stay and there is nothing wrong with that. But if we are going to promote churnless bets, feed those bets to a new market - the lottery & slots player. Gosh knows we have tried a million things to get them to play racing which has been met with a yawn. Hit them right where they want to be hit - with a quick pick chance at millions, that they can follow along with. The six race outcomes are like six cherries on a slot machine, only with horses racing around in a circle, just the way we like them.

Monday, April 5, 2010

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 Image.

Now for a fine piece of video. Listening to a stretch drive in harness racing you will hear noise, a ton of it. Yelling and screaming and whips hitting shafts. I was amazed at this race tape from Hawthorne with a jockey cam. Little sound, but amazing video.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

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 Zoltar, he told us, "No we won't show that. We show UFC, no boxing."

UFC is the Ultimate Fighting Championship, where people with a lot of tattoo's beat each other silly, and it tends to be popular. Not exactly a sweet science, and about as appealing to me as getting a root canal while being nosed out of a $40k superfecta.

Not sure what to do we ordered another pitcher, watched a bit of the Duke game and decided to buy the bout on pay per view at one of the fella's places nearby. We thought if this bar does not have it, there is no use driving half way around the city looking for one.

When we turned on the feed we immediately wondered who kidnapped Jim Lampley. The coverage seemed amateurish, and so far away from Howard Cosell saying "and down goes Frazier!" as you can get. It seemed cheap, like we might be the only clowns on the continent watching.

Someone in the room finally said, "What the hell happened to boxing?"

Boxing was once a sport, one of the more unique and followed spectacles in the sports world. If there was a big fight, chances are there would be a bar to watch it at, or a radio to listen to. The stars of broadcasting would be presenting it, as only they could. It would be the thing to do. For an interesting (albeit novelty-like) fight like this, guns would be a-blazing for this match. Now no more. That's all gone.

There are numerous reasons for its demise, some of which we've looked at here before. But one thing struck me through the evening: The fans of it are as passionate as fans of racing. When a sport you enjoy, feel a part of, or have followed almost forever is discarded like an old shoe, it is not a pleasant. Fans almost take it personally. "Why are they doing this to me?"

Politics, no one minding the store, throwing your hands up in the air and saying the words "we can't" have plagued that great sport for some time, just like it has plagued racing. There are no easy fixes, if there were they would be done already. But I hope people in both sports realize that whatever they may be doing affects people. It really does, as corny as it sounds. In my opinion, fans of great sports like boxing and racing deserve better.

When I woke up to look at the racing news I found a link to Keeneland CEO Nick Nicholson speaking of his racetrack, racing overall, and the passion he has for it.

"It's about the pageantry and excitement of the sport, the intellectual challenge of handicapping, the thrill of betting on a winner and the pleasure of an afternoon with friends in a beautiful place that looks as if it has always been there." he says.

Well said. The problem is, fewer and fewer people realize it.

Go to a sports bar this May and ask if they are showing the Preakness. Let me know what they say.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

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.