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Showing posts from 2011

New Years Wishes for 2012

With the New Year almost here I wanted to do something none of you have ever seen before.

This ground breaking idea that no one has ever thought of doing (I am very, very smart and forward thinking) is a "Wish List for 2012".

Get ready and fasten your seatbelts, because here we go........

I hope in 2012 I don't get any more hits on my blog from someone searching for "Chantal Sutherland Nude"

I hope in 2012 someone wins the NHC in Vegas, stands up on a chair and goes completely nuts like Howard Dean did in Iowa a few years ago.

I hope in 2012 I get a DQ that helps me cash a ticket.

I hope in 2012 all out of town harness drivers use a travel agent before the Breeders Crown.

I hope in 2012, NYRA takes some of that slot cash and invests $0.49 in a big red pen so they can mark any prospective takeout changes on a calendar.

I hope in 2012 I figure out an angle that no one else is on, for more than a week.

I hope in 2012 Tampa announcer Richard Grunder pronounces e…

Racing Must be Pretty Complex eh?

Today in the Saratogian, NYRA board member Charles Wait said:
Wait said he doesn’t believe anyone at NYRA should lose their job. "I don’t think so," he said. "It’s something for the (board’s) Audit Committee to review."

Asked if firings would follow a similar mistake at the bank — Adirondack Trust Co. — that he chairs, Wait said, "It’s not comparable. The racing laws are quite complex. We (NYRA) missed it and made a mistake. The first thing you do is apologize, which we’ve done." That's pretty interesting, because I just had a look on Wikipedia about the US Banking System, then drilled down to the recently passed Dodd Frank Act . \With the latter and its gazillion sections, and 243 new rules, my head almost exploded. It's a wiki version of War and Peace.

It seems that "we have to lower takeout back to 25% in September 2010" is much easier to understand, but maybe that's just me.

o_crunk wa…

NYRA Lowers Rake; Could Spur Handle Increases in New York

Dana Byerly of Hello Race Fans looked into her winnings from exotics at NYRA tracks (which are eligible for a 1% rebate) not soon after the overcharge was announced.

She came up with the following:

$46 back might not sound like a whole lot of money, but it illustrates the power of that 1%, even for one person, with regards to handle bumps.

Dana clearly will not ask for a $46 check in the mail. If she does get it back, she'll do like we all do; she'll rebet it. When she does rebet, she will win a little money back more than likely, and perhaps churn it five times. If she does that, her handle has gone up by $230.

It's why we've always said takeout reductions do more than just churn - they make the game more fun, and a fun game is a game people want to play. Dana will have some fun with that money, because she will have $230 in free bets. 

That's only "1%"

She isn't the only one, of course, as it was reported that $8.6 million was overcharged. If thos…

When You Work, Good Things Happen

I had a flashback over Christmas to when I was 12 and my dad put my name in to work at a gold mine and city joint venture for the summer. It'll "be a good experience" I was told. Well, getting up at 5:45 in the morning and working my butt off for $3.25 an hour when all my friends were sleeping in and having fun was not a good experience, it sucked.

But in the end I must admit, I learned a lot picking up rocks, digging holes and cutting grass that summer.

I'm now glad I started working at a young age. When you work, you get better.

In harness racing, particularly in Ontario, fans for the last quarter century felt racetracks were not working to up the bet. This blog probably has fifty articles about the malaise and the board room driven "put a race on and people will come" attitude.

As we've noticed the last year or two, this attitude is changing. Nowhere is it any more apparent than at Western Fair. Greg Blanchard has been an excellent hire and its sta…

Kling Searches for Barry

The NYRA story seems to be rolling on, with new articles in Horse Race Insider, ESPN and in the Troy Record, where we find this quote from Nick Kling:
I haven't spoken to Schwartz about the current mess NYRA has stepped into, but there is one thing about which I have no doubt. If Barry had remained NYRA's Chairman he would have had a calendar on his desk with a BIG RED X marked on the date Sept. 15, 2010. That is the day the takeout was supposed to drop to the statutory level one point lower than what NYRA had been deducting.

People like Barry Schwartz speak too plainly for 21st century politics. That, and his frustration with opposition to later attempts to lower the takeout even more contributed to his departure  I think he makes a strong point - racing needs leadership, bold leadership, from those willing to take a chance.

Jack Welch, the former GE CEO, once said that he does not want managers or executives who fear change. He wants managers and executives that f…

My Email Christmas Wishes

I thought I would share some of my email and twitter greetings from people in racing this Christmas, along with a few others. I hope they don't mind.

Here we go!!!

"Happy Holidays to all the folks in California racing who get along - all three of you" - Keith Brackpool

"Happy Holidays and Happy New Year. We're happy with our 2011 for two reasons - we had a 9% increase in handle, and that PTP dude stopped yelling at us for awhile when we dropped takeout" - Jamie Martin, Woodbine Entertainment 

"I bought Dancer for $1.2 million yesterday. If he's not the favorite to hit the chimney first, I am gonna make him the favorite!" - Mike Repole


"I was going to write a nice Christmas story on this card, but I can only type 140 characters or less" - Sid Fernando

"What Sid said" - Ed DeRosa

"I'd like to wish seasons greetings to PTP for alerting me that Ray Paulick wa…

More NYRA Takeout Tidbits & Some Fat Quaddies

Frank Angst reported a few more items today in the Thoroughbred Times on the NYRA situation.

A long-time player who a lot of you know, Joe Riddell was none too pleased:
Joe Riddell, who regularly wagers on NYRA tracks, said for the over-charging to last 15 months points to real problems with NYRA and the NYSRWB.“We, as an industry, have told our fans that we don’t care,” Riddell said. There were a few other notes, mainly about fans and their reaction to the story on chat boards and social media. In particular, Frank looked at the Pace post by Rutgers who said he tried to contact both the state and NYRA. It's an interesting piece with some good reporting by Frank.


The social media aspect of this is something that certainly should not be overlooked. It's a different world now.

For the record, despite some arguable missteps with a tough story, if I had a track I would hire Dan Silver, NYRA's internet dude, in about a second. FWIW.

Thankfully there was a comedic el…

NYRA Takeout Situation - The Plot Thickens

There's one thing about social media, it's tough to hide.

This evening there is quite the discussion about NYRA being ordered to pay back bettors for not lowering the takeout in September of 2010. The initial narrative was that the provision in the clause was very complex, so giving them a pass might be in order, but it turns out (as I noted earlier) the section itself really wasn't.

Alan at LATG tonight:

"Section 32 above actually isn't all that complex. In fact, it's relatively straightforward"

and he quoted the section.

Alan also noted that The Thoroughbred Times had a story that talked about the sunset provision in it.

So, people seemed to know.

But here's where it gets really interesting. A frequent poster on Paceadvantage (I have read him for awhile on there and chatted back and forth with him several times), has been dogged on this issue for some time.

Tonight he posts:

"On January 8, 2011 I e-mailed the NYSRWB about NYRA’s takeout on some …

NYRA Takeout Center Stage - Mystery Solved

Thar she blows.

It's always something that stuck in our craw, like in this blog piece : The New York 1% takeout hike to fix the NYCOTB system was still in effect when there were no NYCOTB's.

It made little sense to us, and we wondered why.

Even on chat boards like Paceadvantage when it happened, bettors knew the 1% hike was supposed to expire and be repealed in two years, citing the appropriate section of the statute (click to enlarge):

What happened? I assume we'll find out after they conduct an investigation, because today it was announced NYRA should have lowered takeout, but didn't.

They'll have to pay back all the money, plus (what I assume is) interest.

 The state Racing & Wagering Board voted unanimously on Wednesday to admonish the New York Racing Association for overcharging bettors millions of dollars over the past 15 months.

The action happened at a board meeting after racing officials discovered NYRA overcharged by 1 percentage point the amount i…

With a Private Racetrack, Life's a Little Different

If you opened up Twitter when Rick Dutrow was reinstated with a stay and could race at New York tracks off his 10 year suspension, there was quite a bit of incredulity. Harness racing went through a similar situation at the Meadowlands a few years ago during the Ledford raid and subsequent suspension.

NYRA and the Meadowlands are/were considered public entities, and using things like private property rights are not in the arsenal.

With the announcement that Jeff Gural has been granted a 30 year lease at the Meadowlands, that is all about to change. He told Harness Racing Update in a detailed interview:

When asked if anyone who has applied to race at the Meadowlands would be rejected, Gural replied, “ I would think so.”

Woodbine Entertainment does similar, so arguably the two tracks stand as one. If someone gets a long suspension, I highly suspect you won't be seeing them race at the Meadowlands now if granted a stay.


Several people had an influential year in harness racing t…

Off We Go on a Tuesday

The 25th is almost here and not much is happening in racing, but I found a few stories relating to the spirit of the season that I thought I'd share.

Penelope over at the NTRA wrote a wonderful tome about finding a horse, claiming him, and giving him a nice spot to live. Great stuff.

West Point Thoroughbredswrite about their horse retirement thoughts today too. Nice work.

One horse who will not be having his birthday in a couple of weeks (it would've been his 38th) is Gamblon Horton. He passed away this year at the home of our friend Keith Gamble. When I wrote this story last year on him, I had hoped he would make it one more year. From the piece, you could see Keith's pride in the old boy:
"He still does a half ass gallop when he gets excited and he is a little harder to feed now with few teeth left but I soak his hay cubes all day so they are like a thick soup and his grain I mix with apples, corn oil and hot water and turn it into a porridge. I keep my finger…

Battle of the Ads - Low Juice Edition

I don't think I am going out on a limb here by saying that horse racing sure is funky.

Check out these two ads.

The first one, from Hollywood Park, is sham-wowing the Players Pick 5 because of the low 14% takeout. It's from a state which hiked takeout 12 months ago, saying low takeout didn't matter, and bettors will keep coming for the entertainment.

They've supposedly got the best rake in the country, and perhaps we can get a deal on a ginsu knife, too.

Second up, the strippers at Calder. They say "hold it big boy".

They're at 12% takeout. That sounds good.

Anyhoo, it's great and all that tracks are promoting the low rake, and it can be argued the Players Pick 5 may have saved Cali racing's handle from completely impoding in 2011 (last time I checked it's off something like $220 million).

But these two commercials rank right up there on the strange scale.

In the end, Pocket gives the nod to Calder. Not because of the exotic dancers, but for …

Your Betting Beta Can Be a Killer

There's a very interesting story today in the Wall Street Journal about wealth (and keeping it).
Lee Hausner, a California-based psychologist who works with the ultrarich, has one client she calls "The Phoenix," a real-estate developer and investor who borrowed and spent heavily. He has surged and crashed twice over the past decade, reaching a net worth of $400 million, losing it, then hitting $200 million and losing it again. "He's an impulsive risk-taker," she says. "He always lays everything on the line. It's a story on "beta", or the volatility of our net worth. Risk takers have a hugely high beta and that is never going to go away, however, there are ways to stay in the game.

Some of the tips - for those types and we regular folks - about keeping our wealth are pretty common sense. We should look at what we spend and where we spend it, sock some away that's untouched, and monitor our bankrolls to ensure we…

Friday's Here

When I was in high school I never got suspended. It seems to be different nowadays, because I am pretty sure I did worse than these two high school kids who were suspended for Tebowing.

I hope they treat this Friday as a snow day. I would.

Off we go:

Let's imagine this for a second: You are an author who self-publishes and your new book has sold a few copies to friends and family, but gotten no major press. Suddenly Oprah calls and wants you for an interview. It turns out she loved the book.You're excited.

Your spot kills, you're going to sell hundreds of thousands of these books!

Oprah asks where can people buy the book and you say:

"Send me a letter with a check for $29.95 and I will wait two weeks for the check to clear. Afterwards I will ship you your book COD. If you order now I should have it to you in eight weeks."

Your potential best seller is not a best seller anymore.

This phenomenon from a horse racing perspective was explored a little bit in HRU this…

$1.4M Winners, Trakus, A Bettor's Wish & More

We've seen it too much in racing: A $1M or more winner, toiling in a cheap claimer, getting beaten badly.

The Dubai Race Night blog focused on one of those times yesterday - $1.4 million dollar winner Diamond Stripes.
 Just yesterday, at Sunland Park in New Mexico, Diamond Stripes was last, beaten almost 30 lengths, racing for a bottom rung, $5,000 claiming tag.  In his three starts since returning from an 18-month break, he’s been soundly defeated by nearly 60 lengths. We don't have any details (yet) - maybe his current owner plans to retire him. Maybe the old owner is coming back for him. But it always spurs some anger, regardless of the situation; and some bad PR too. It also provides us with a harbinger of the bigger picture, and why it's so maddening: If we can't even retire a horse, or be responsible for a horse, who has made someone over $1 million dollars, the rest have little chance.

A lot of times we hear the good stories, like the one not long ago regard…

Racing's Infrastructure is a Huge Barrier

If we ask any industry watcher about someone in racing (virtually anyone), the words "out of touch", "not smart enough", or even worse come to mind as labels. It's easy to be critical of those in the sport when the business has lost upwards of half its handles the last while. And make no mistake - some of it's very valid and on-point.

I thought similar early this decade, but the more and more I think about it, (for the most part) it simply isn't the case.

I have a good friend since University who's nice guy from a working class background. He's a normal, honorable, grounded guy with no pretensions.

But he's scary smart. I mean really, scary smart.

For his GMAT to get into business school he scored a "perfect" which only a handful of people in North America do each year (when I gave him my score he was sheepish to tell me his). When we both took our first year CFA I was dumbfounded with the work. He passed with flying colors; doing…

Off We Go on a Wednesday

One of the better horse racing writers on the web today gets virtually no publicity at all.

Dan over at Thorotrends works extremely hard on his blog posts and they are fun, informative, thought-provoking and interesting. Praise coming from a blog dude that writes his posts in about ten minutes may need to be taken with a grain of salt, but I think I'm right on this one. Take a look at his most recent post on television and racing, and see if you agree. His other excellent posts are below that one.

The RCI bans private vets from administering lasix on raceday. I guess it's a good rule, however to me it smacks a little bit like the city of Washington D.C. banning handguns. I'm not sure it's going to be followed by bad racing people, who are using more than lasix as a pre-race.

Alan's yearly "Naughty and Nice" list is up for harness racing in 2011. Who's on it? Find out here.

I was asked why I was not talking about the political machinations in Jersey t…

5 Claimers Can Do the Twitter

I saw a twinky from a stock market follower the other day when Tim Tebow was trending via the micro-blogger.

He said (paraphrasing) "It's times like this twitter shows its power; long $twit"

Today it showed its power and what it can do in promoting a racehorse. Rapid Redux - for most intents and purposes a 5 claimer - won his 21st in a row. He trended on twitter just before post time (and still is at this time).

What's neat about that is if you click the trend hyperlink for Redux, it opens up a page which has new media associated with it. You can see pictures and videos of this lil' racehorse.

In effect, this is not unlike contextual advertising via pay per click, or Facebook advertising via that medium, but in a way it's even better.

What we have are people who have no idea who Rapid Redux is. They click the trending link. They see pictures of him (some of them live pictures) and it introduces them to a racehorse.

And it's free.

It's point and click …

Monday Notes

Here are some things that caught my eye this morning, if you're interested:

It was downright fascinating to not watch Luck last night, but 'watch it' on twitter with racing peeps. Some of the 180 degree comments like "I don't think Tim Tebow can even swoop in and save this one" to "if this doesn't help horse racing, nothing will" were interesting.

I watched the first Deadwood long ago and thought it was the worst show on earth. I didn't like a character, everything was slow, it was too raw, and more. But I ended up liking the show. I didn't watch Luck, but if I did, I have a suspicion I would feel like the LA Times reviewer, who said:
it's difficult to imagine any show that would prepare an audience for the first episode of "Luck," which moves with slow and often maddening deliberation and
Even the master of the multiple storyline, Charles Dickens, took pity on his readers and appointed a protagonist, but Milch and directo…

Balmoral Handle Trending Up

Let's end the week on a happy note. Those takeout cutters and hard-workers at Balmoral had some good news to share today. Enjoy your weekend everyone. Here's the press release:

Chicago, Illinois - December 9,2011 - by Michael Antoniades 

      On the heels of a very strong November, Balmoral Park rolls into the holiday season showing strong gains in handle compared to 2010. The combination of large fields, guaranteed pools, low takeout and monster payoffs has made the Balmoral Park signal extremely attractive.
     There was no stronger barometer than the average wagered per race. Balmoral Park showed double digit gains in November versus the same days in 2010.
                        Race Day       Average handle per race    Gain in 2011 per race                                                           2011           2010                           Saturday         $ 98,645         82,581             $ 16,064          18%                    …

Friday Notes, Stories, Twinkies and More

Here are a few things that caught my eye today, if you're interested.

I follow some of the things that Three Chimneys Farm does with regards to aftercare and industry promotion. If I am in the market for a thoroughbred yearling anytime soon, I am buying one of theirs.

Twitter has been a pretty cool medium, I must admit. Where many (me included) use linked in to network in business; for racing fans, breeding farms, turf writers and some fans, twitter is the go-to. I had to jot down some thoughts about Twitter last week. Who do I call? No one. I pinged @sidfernando on twitter and asked him some questions. I wondered what some thoroughbred fans and bettors thought of harness racing last week too. I asked Claire, or Dana, or Chris, on twitter. There was no need for a focus group. 

Twitter and Harness Racing was a topic in this weeks Harness Racing Update. To see which drivers, trainers and others are engaging on twitter, and what we have to do to get more involved with the micro-blogg…

Moving Away from Racing 1.0 is Very Difficult

I've had a busy day here. I worked at a real job, I bet two races (1 for 2 with a positive ROI for the first time - in what feels - since the Bush administration), I chatted with a professor of finance about computer teams, takeout and pricing, scanned some releases on the RTIP conference and chatted with a couple racing peeps on twitter and via email.

For the racing side of things there seems to be a palpable frustration towards the business and its seeming unwillingness to change.


Today Tom LaMarra wrote a piece on social media and racing from a panel at the RTIP.

It was agreed we have to embrace it.

In 2008, Jessica, Alan, Dana (and others that you know from the blog) spoke about the same things at the NTRA conference.

It was agreed we have to embrace it.

Yesterday Caroline Betts, Phd and an honest broker reported to the industry that we need to find a way to lower takeout in a real, detailed, measurable way.

Some people said we have to look at that.

In 2007 on …

RTIP Takeout Thoughts - It's a Punt

The panel on takeout rates today, with an industry insider, and our pal economist Caroline Betts failed to deliver too much to bridge the industry's long-suffering handle losses, in terms of pricing. One of the presenters mainly focused on data accumulation, rather than an actionable plan to test lower takeout levels, and this is what dominated the industry press.
Steve May, the business manager for the Racing Commissioners International, said that a project he undertook to examine takeout rates while studying for his master’s degree at the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program failed to generate any firm conclusions on how takeout rates affect betting because he was unable to acquire enough data on handle at racetracks and handle by bettors. "The conclusion is blank," May said. "I don’t have enough data. It would be unethical to say there is a conclusion. There’s a lot of work that need to be done on this, and to cite studies from 1976 is not go…

Authenticity With Twitter Can Go a Long Way

It was reported in the National Post this morning that Alec Baldwin was kicked off a flight for not turning off his wireless device when he was asked to.
“He was on his phone. He didn’t want to get off his phone. Then he snuck into the bathroom, he became a little bit irate, and they had to remove him from the flight,” another passenger said. The 30 Rock star, who I personally find hilarious at his craft, went on tilt on twitter afterwards:

 American Airlines twitter account replied:

If the early reports from the Post story are accurate and Mr. Baldwin was clearly the one in the wrong, that was about the most unauthentic reply we can ever see.

American Airlines has its problems, but what I would've done (with my marketer hat on today) is the exact opposite. I would have replied that FAA rules call for cell phones to be shut off at a certain time, and that we as customers abide by those rules when politely asked. When we don't, we're pitched off a flight no matter who we …

There's Never Been a Better Time for New York to Slash Takeouts

The trend across racing is there, and it's prevalent. Handle will be down to close to $10 billion this season, another 7% decline.

But there are a few bright spots, and what to do to achieve some success is hitting racing over the head with a hammer:

Slots tracks that take some of their slot money to lower takeout and promote racing via alternate means, can, and do, win. Charles Town Race Course spent a little cash to be shown on TVG, promoted their big events, and lowered takeout precipitously. This is what happened:
In August, Charles Town had their 15th consecutive handle growth month.

Woodbine Racetrack, who has received oodles of slots cash since inception in the late 1990's, decided to finally do something with it a couple of years ago, other than stuff it into purses and some new coats of paint.  This season they lowered their trifecta takeout, expanded lower cost wagering to the US, and paid TVG some slots cash to show their races.

The result? Handle was up 7.5%.


We Do Have a Racing Season

You'll often hear folks speak about how racing does not have a beginning and end, like football or baseball does. That's certainly true. 365 days a year you can watch and bet racing, virtually 24 hours a day. This certainly does bother some, and despite the obvious differences (baseball and football are sports, while we are a participatory sport and gambling game), they have a point.

If we scan most racing related websites, it seems we do have a season, don't we? This is a 2011 look at traffic trends to, via quantcast.

This works like clockwork each year.

When April rolls around we begin to see stories on nightly sportscasts, newspapers and the interwebs focus on the Derby.  The Derby is watched and the winner is spoken about time and again. With the Derby winner fresh in the minds of the general public, and with only a two week gap to the second leg of the Crown (will the horse or won't he keep on the Triple Crown trail?), interest is still there.  Into June, …

It's Probably Time Enough

Finley writes in HRU today (pdf), regarding banished-from-racing Walter Case Jr. 
On the surface, Case, who has also had numerous problems with substance abuse, is not exactly a nice guy. And I am not interested in scrathing beneath the surface or examining whatever demons might have made him so troubled. I just don't see what any of that has to do with his right to drive a standardbred race horse and the right of an owner or trainer to hire him to do so. The more I think about this question, the flimsier and flimsier the excuses to keep him out of racing are. I can simply find little behind the arguments against him, and they tend to fall back on a catch-all "we don't need people like that in racing".

Those arguments bother me.

This is a sport that does not even ban trainers for life if they are criminally convicted of animal abuse. Why ban a driver who served his time? 


You have said for so long in comments and elsewhere here on the blog that our stakes ra…

The Results are in: Rebranding TV Coverage Works

The results are in from the recent Bet Night Live experiment on The Score Television network, and they are solid (see below).

 For those who have not followed the story, here is some background,  from a post on the blog a couple of years ago:

For those that read the blog, a hot topic for us in local racing has been the use of television to show things the old fashioned way, versus targeting bettors in a targeted way. As most who watch Race Night on the Score know, the human interest stories, while the great puzzle of handicapping the races is going on are maddening.

As I have said before, and you have agreed , "if we have to watch another story on a feed man from north of Guelph who owns four pet ponies during a telecast I think I am going to have a seizure". In my view, not using a show like this in promoting what you are selling (i.e. gambling on the product from home) is wasted airtime.

Well it appears this might be changing. Race Night will be rebranded to 'Bet Nigh…