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Showing posts from January, 2011

Exchange Wagering Signed into Law In Jersey reports the law that allows exchange wagering has been passed and signed into law.

What's next? I would assume a fight about what to charge. We'll see at that time what the powers in Jersey hope to accomplish. If the rake is changed it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know it will fail , but if they get a good deal from Betfair for a share of the gross profits instead (and a nice hunk of remarketing thrown in), it has a chance to help change the Jersey landscape, in a state that badly needs an influx of new customers, or eyeballs on their product.

Animal Alert!

Kangaroo's forced the cancellation of races in Australia last week. h/t for the video to Standardbred Canada.

I am still partial to the bears at Sudbury Downs, though.

I so wish the video of the deer at Mountaineer was around somewhere. That doe kept up with the horses for at least a half a furlong.

NASCAR or a Horse Race?

The yearly Prix D'Amerique in France is always an absolute joy to watch. The stands are packed and the racing - which looks more like a stacked-turn NASCAR race than a horse race - is top-notch.

Deep fields with 15 or more runners has been tried at times here, but only as a novelty. Clearly the way we do things, and our fan base which does not take to change very well, is not conducive to this type of racing. However, there is no denying that it is interesting, and does offer up some amazing betting opportunities to punters. Could you imagine a quadrafecta at 20 cents in this field? You might be able (if we had pool size of course) to make a life changing score.

I watched a little bit of the betting on Betfair, and despite not being offered in France there was a little bit of action. This race, and races like this can be a huge promotional vehicle for exchange wagering, especially in-running. Once again, critical mass is needed, but Rome was not built in a day.

Over here 9 horse …

St. Elmo & A Rob Lowe Lid

There were two big stories in racing this evening. A horse trying to go 23 for 23 in the Complex at the snowy Meadowlands, and the O'Brien Awards, broadcast for the very first time by Woodbine.

St. Elmo Hero is absolutely, positively, for real. On a cold night he was stung big-time to the half by one of the four horse entry against him in a brutal 53.3. Tetrick shut him down to get a little rest for about an eighth of a mile, but along came another challenger. He looked like he could easily be beaten, but not a chance. He motored away to win in a very impressive 149.1. When the video is up we'll link it.

Tonight's O'Brien Awards, streamed for the first time was fairly entertaining.

Most of the night went to plan, however I was struck by a couple things.

Riina Rekila lost horseman of the year and I was surprised. Riina is a fantastic horsewoman and exactly what this sport needs.

Western Silk beat Put on a Show?! Are you kidding me? The greatest mare since Rainbow Blue do…

No Whipping, DRF Solid, Is this Horse a True 999-1 Shot?

If you use anecdotes to bet, to buy a horse or to do pretty much anything instead of using hard facts, you tend to miss out.

As we have spoken about before here with betting, in the 1840's Austrian physicist Ignaz Semmelweis did a study he thought would change the way that babies were delivered. The infant mortality rate was very high at a hospital he studied but the good doctor found out that if nurses and doctors simply washed their hands, this rate could be severely reduced. He brought his findings to the hospitals. They asked “Why does your data show this?” Semmelweis could not say why, he just told them that it did. The hospitals would not succumb to his wishes and change their washing policy - in fact they fiercely resisted. If he could not tell them why his data showed this, they wanted nothing to do with it, because this was the way things were done for centuries.

At the time no one knew it, but this was one of the very first studies into germs and the harm that they can …

Hulu Meet Racing

The Wall Street Journal has a story up on Hulu - the web streaming television service - today which details their possible changing business model. The change in tactics has to do with cannibalization, and ad revenue.

"...its owners—industry powerhouses NBC Universal, News Corp. and Walt Disney Co. are increasingly at odds over Hulu's business model. Worried that free Web versions of their biggest TV shows are eating into their traditional business, the owners disagree among themselves, and with Hulu management, on how much of their content should be free."

I have never really understood the model in the first place, and although it was an ad revenue driver, this is not overly surprising to a lot of people.

In the old days CEO's said "get me online for some of that internet stuff" and built websites. Later on they worried about selling something profitably. Now it seems we are at "get me some of that online video stuff everyone is watching" but …

Lose Your Shirt Owning Horses? But We Might Get Relief

I thought the biggest news of the day was that Georgia might be serving beer on Sunday's, but there is more. John Craig challenged the farming losses on our (Canadian) tax returns. At most we can claim $8750, which is not enough. And he won.

Much to the delight of the standardbred industry, the Federal Court did not agree. In the ruling (click here to view the PDF), Justice John A. Evans stated that he was "not persuaded that the Judge made any error of law in applying the somewhat more flexible and generous test in Gunn for determining the circumstances in which section 31 permits farming and non-farming income to be combined so that farming is a taxpayer’s chief source of income."

Cool, I can now lose even more money and get some of it back. And so can you.

In response to the increase in horse ownership this affords, Woodbine and major Breeders are going to lower takeout rates to help spur wagering and get horse racing on the front pages again. Nah, just kidding.

There …

The Industry Matures

Our industry is maturing in fascinating ways, right before our eyes. Coming to terms with things that have held us back or made us protect the status-quo for so long is a sure sign. I don't know if it is too late, but debate on myriad subjects by a more and more well-informed industry, is welcomed.

One example that really sticks out is pricing. In 2003 I watched an industry conference put on by the TRA. It involved people like Maury Wolff, Dave Cuscuna (both bettors) and a couple of industry execs. The topic was bettor behavior and the rebate business. Cuscuna and Wolff argued with hard numbers about how they bet, their volume and bet size at different price points, and how the system is set-up for ADW's to attack these price sensitive customers by offering something racing has never offered them - lower juice.

The debate at that time was in its infancy on the big stage (although for years before that, bettors like Ernie Dahlman in New York was pushing people to look at it, beca…

I Always Respect the Blogosphere

"You never know who you could be reading". That is the way I handle reading blogs of all stripes, twitter, chat boards and Facebook comments, and that is the way I handle the new social media as a rule.

There are blogs out there for example, that are filled with awesome information, from people who are passionate about things. You do not have a long-running blog if you are not passionate about some topics, and there is a very good chance you will get info that is not only worthwhile, but educating.

As I mentioned, just yesterday tech bloggers (who are very sharp at times) absolutely killed analysts who get $100k+ salaries on their Apple quarterly predictions. These folks, in their spare time, almost hit IPAD sales, and revenue figures to the number, while the "pros" faltered. I don't know some of these people's names and I could not care less. What they say matters.

We have all heard dozens of stories like that. Anonymous people with strong opinion.


California Screaming, Atlantic City & Other Stuff

I listened to the CHRB meeting this week. I promised myself that no matter what I would not say anything bad about it. I'll let the Thoroughbred Times talk about it here.

"Jamgotchian got up to speak a number of times, and at one point when he got off topic, Brackpool told him he was done. Jamgotchian kept talking, so Brackpool told him to sit down. He still continued to talk, so Brackpool yelled, “Sit down!” As Jamgotchian walked away, Brackpool mumbled into the microphone, “A very small man.”

Another quote I saw today:

"In fact, I found myself wondering whether any sensible and unbiased person could watch yesterday’s debate and believe that the sport will be saved from its precipitous decline into the mire by having people repeatedly spout the racing mantra?"

No, that is not about the CHRB meeting, it is about the racing situation in Britain, where they have some people making decisions that should not be making racing decisions.

Some neat statements on the Woodbine …

Charlie Seems Excited

Charlie's first foray into harness racing seems to be going well. The 30 year old thoroughbred player, and board member of the Horseplayers Association of North America, has never been involved with ownership of the hoppled ones before, but he took the jump with some shares in the Bourbon Slush stable. They have three in training with Lindy Farms' head trainer Frank Antonacci in sunny Florida.

Frank has been using social media for the most part to keep the stable updated and Charlie forwarded along this week's update.

It looks like the two pacers are doing well - going around 2:40 and having a nice break. The trotter is in 2:51 and progressing it seems. Those three horses seem to be right on track. We know how tough it is with yearlings (in both sports) and things can change quickly, but so far it looks like things are good.

In addition to a Facebook page (you can see it here), Frank is also giving some video updates, interviewing the people involved. I find this really impo…

Harness HOY at the O'Briens

What a difference a sport makes huh? You really have to condition yourself to think differently when dealing with Horse of the Year items in thoroughbred and harness racing.

The O'Brien this year is a tough one - or is it?

I read my monthly Trot Magazine and checked the tale of the tape, but as you know you don't really have to look at stats if you follow the sport. Regardless, for those voters who are not every day watchers or bettors, I thought it was a good summary.

The Candidates:

Big Jim - The two year old superstar of 2010 is certainly in the mix. If he won the Metro instead of going goofy on the sloppy track, he might be a big winner. Divisional NA champ, however.

Crys Dream - the best two year old trotting filly since Snow White. Divisional champion. She's going to have a tough time though.

Dreamfair Eternal - the best older mare in racing - north and south of the border. She should get votes.

Rock n Roll Heaven - the slam-dunk no question winner in the US, but he only ra…

Old Tux Club

There has been plenty of opinion on the Eclipse Awards this past Monday. Others have gone through the winners and losers and that's great - a bunch did a good job and stated their opinion sometimes eloquently.

One area not touched on out there as much has been the Awards themselves. I have read comments on chat boards about the crowd and I do tend to agree. On TV at least - it seemed like it was a sad bunch. One fan commented that even when Mary Lou Whitney spoke of horse retirement there were people sitting on their hands. On Ustream, where there was a live chat board going on, the comments echoed this as well. At 9:36 the live attached chat board exploded, however, with pure glee and passion; at a level I would submit was 100 times more than the room did.

That is not saying the room didn't at that moment - for the owners and trainers there Zenyatta was a solid choice, I believe this is because the people in that room know how difficult it is for a horse to race 20 races and fi…

I Think I am Cheering for the Pack this Weekend but....

Bears fan Brad, and my favorite dude to argue with on the interwebs Ray P have started a handicapping contest. And the winner (hold your hats) gets one free year of Bris PP's. That is a freaking awesome first prize. You can sign up here and it's free, i.e. no takeout. Good for Ray, he's coming around to the dark side!

Takeout fighter and general all around good guy Bill Finley has a newsletter out for harness fans, called Harness Racing Update. It is pretty good and you can get it for free here. Andrew Cohen spoke about rake last time, and Allan over at View From the Racetrack Grandstand added a letter to the editor regarding some of our other issues. Good reading!

Is it just me or is the chatter on the web less caustic today regarding Horse of the Year? It seems the choice, although some people disagree with it, is being fairly well-received, in a broad sense. The chat boards are another story.

Nice article on retired horses and taking care of them here.

What's with the &…

Canuckland Doesn't Miss Out - Thanks to Ustream and Youtube

Up here in the Tundra we never get to see the Eclipse Awards because TVG is banned like a trans fat plate of fries. I received an email yesterday evening that I could watch the Awards on Ustream. That was cool, because I have never seen them before and I wanted to see them, like many up here. For those of you in the land of beavers who have not seen the coverage and announcement of the big vote, Youtube has it up now, and it is below. Gotta love the Interwebs, huh? The surprised look on Jerry Moss's face certainly tells us that this vote was not expected by that crew.

What Are We Going to Do Now?

With Big Z winning the horse of the year, it ends a chapter lasting a couple of years where arguing about the mare and her rivals (some of it pretty nuts) ruled the roost. It got me thinking, what in the heck will we talk about now?

Here are a few items I think - no I know - will be happening in the next while.

Blame and Zenyatta will be entrusted to paint Moneigh's for horse charities. Someone on twitter will complain about Zenyatta's minimalist style, and say the Horse of the Year vote was a huge mistake.

It will be said someplace somewhere, that "Synchronicity" was a much better album than "Zenyatta-Mondatta" and it will be related to tonight's vote. Do Do Do Do Da Da Da Da was on the latter, so these folks might have a point.

DRF Headline: Zenyatta might have 60,000 friends on Facebook, but Blame got Steve Crist's vote. Take that!

Zenyatta won Horse of the Year, or did she? Jessie Ventura goes in depth on Conspiracy Theory.

A psychology paper will be …

401k's for Horses? Harness Twitter Peeps & Lightbulbs

You know sometime when you hear an interesting idea and say "why didn't I think of that?" Reading the interview of one of our blog friends here - Caroline Betts - that moment came for me. She runs the So Cal Thoroughbred Rescue and when asked if she had something she could do for retired horses what would it be, she replied:

I think my “nirvana” is for all industry stakeholders – state and local governments, owners, breeders, trainers, private owners of racetracks, and fans/gamblers – to agree that a 401K should exist for every thoroughbred racehorse prospect, with the funds contributed by all and centrally managed and dispersed. How large should it be per horse? Just large enough to ensure that if that horse cannot or can no longer race or breed, there is a reputable, approved non-profit specializing in the retirement and/or transitioning of racehorses that is willing to take it in at the time of the horse’s retirement.

That is amazingly interesting, and seemingly workab…

Horse of the Year Dogma

I, like a lot of you have followed the horse of the year chatter in thoroughbred racing. In harness, it's easy and it usually is. There are no set rules or criteria for our voting, and Rock n' Roll Hanover is the horse. If he is not voted HOY in harness I am pretty sure Fed Ex messed up on sending the ballots out, and they got re-routed to the planet Zoltar. In thoroughbred racing, as seems to be par for the course, the debate is about as clear as a mud milkshake.

As this article says, there are no "rules" per se. But as Steve Crist and others note, there is a fall-back dogma.

“There have never been any rules for it or guidelines,” Crist said. “If you look at the history of the thing, it’s usually the best horse in the open division, and the times people have gone elsewhere are because there was no standout horse in that division.”

Indeed, male dirt horses dominate Horse of the Year voting. And when a season lacks an older-male dirt horse, voters have as an automati…

Chipmunk Attack

I had someone say something a couple of days ago (I have not asked permission from him, so I won't post his name) to me: "In all my years in racing, I have never seen more momentum for horseplayers and fans to finally force long-needed change."

He was referring to the organized boycott of California racing.

I am beginning to agree. I have been working with the group as much as I can because I clearly support the initiative, and often scan the news (I am on the massive California email list sent out by a couple of people in racing, too) . There is a big narrative change.

Only two weeks ago it seems it was all a joke of some sort - "those whiny horseplayers; they'll get tired of it soon, stop whining and fall into line." But I find the opposite has happened. My email box is littered with comments, sometimes from bigger players who I have never heard from. I hear from the HANA folks and discuss some items with my pals and everyone feels there has not been this mu…

One Pen. One Line.

Jeff Gural about five or six years ago said (paraphrasing) - 'when the government comes to take slot money for itself, racing better have an answer.'

In Indiana, that time is here.

"The proposed Indiana budget bill includes a line item that would almost cut in half the amount horse racing receives from racetrack slot machines.

Currently, the industry gets all of the 15% of adjusted gross revenue from slots at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino and Indiana Downs. The budget bill offered by Gov. Mitch Daniels would reduce that amount and shift 43% of the industry’s revenue to the state’s general fund."

Lamarra, Tanner, Cummings & Pricci

Tom Lamarra gets kudos for breaking the barrier. He writes about the California situation here.

I received a note from Kate at the USTA regarding my post about "CRM" and my feeling we lack it in racing. She forwarded an editorial from Mike Tanner, President of the USTA, that agreed.

"We need to gather a significant amount of demographic and psychographic data, and then use technology to organize and synchronize our business processes to effectively deliver a message that will resonate. It’s called Customer Relationship Management. Getting started isn’t cheap, but if done correctly, it can be very effective. Want proof? The casinos live and breathe it." he typed.


"Knowing our current fan base can also tell us who our potential customers might be, where we might find them, and how we might best connect with them." he said.

I met and listened to Mike at a wagering conference and I came away impressed. He, like Kaplan at SC, are a part of age-old ins…

San Diego Union-Tribune Beats the Racing Press

Today the player action in California regarding the boycott of California racing was discussed in a lengthy article in the San-Diego Union Tribune. This struck me as interesting, as the racing press has ignored the story.

If a group of retiree's were protesting something, it would make a retiree magazine first, and a regular paper (if they're lucky) somewhere down the line. If a bunch of poker players organized to change something, poker mags would have it, and it might make mainstream papers later. If a bunch of cigar smokers were asking one of the brands to do something, I suspect Cigar Afficianado would at least mention the story before the New York Times.

But not in our sport, thus far. There were some columns on this at Horse Race Insider, or Bill Finley's spot on ESPN. Actually, Standardbred Canada ran a story and Ray Paulick ran a story with the picture of a chipmunk - so there is no excuse it should not have been on a radar. But the big US racing "trade" …


John Pricci this morning talks about customer service being important in racing, and he cites some of the things Gulfstream Park did this meet in helping that cause. I have a slightly different take on it, kind of like I explored below.

I don't believe racing has to do as much with customer service as it does with CRM - Customer Relationship Management.

CRM, defined by Wikipedia below is this:

Customer relationship management (CRM) is a widely-implemented strategy for managing a company’s interactions with customers, clients and sales prospects. It involves using technology to organize, automate, and synchronize business processes—principally sales activities, but also those for marketing, customer service, and technical support. The overall goals are to find, attract, and win new clients, nurture and retain those the company already has, entice former clients back into the fold, and reduce the costs of marketing and client service.[1] Customer relationship management describes…

Eyeballs are the Most Important Metric

I remember working back in the mid to late 1990's. A research report came across my desk on a dot com company that I had a bit of a laugh at. The stock was listed and had little chance of profit for a few years, but they were growing "eyeballs", so this analyst thought they were a buy. I telephoned a friend who is an investment banker and we shared that laugh. We both found such metrics completely false in determining profitability.

A couple years after the dot com bust happened, it turns out the metric was not a specious one, the stocks were just overbought. Eyeballs are a metric that any business needs, because when you have eyeballs, you have critical mass to make money. Just ask Google.

After several years in racing, where the braintrust has concentrated on trips to state houses for alternative gaming money, dealing with horse owner issues, raising prices or managing like bean counters looking at next weeks revenues rather than next years, it has completely missed th…

Horse of the Year Offshore - Nowhere?

At this time last year the talk was hot and heavy with Rachel versus Zenyatta and their Horse of the Year battle. And in the words of our UK pals, it was easy to get a "punt" on who you thought would win.

Wynn's casino had it up in November (Zenyatta favored at 1-3), betfair was rocking for awhile, with plenty of action as I remember it . Zenyatta was favored early, then Rachel by a scant hair late. Ehorse and other offshore books had odds up as well fairly early.

This year? Betfair has the Derby odds up (there seems to be a 15-1 arb opportunity for about $18 on To Honor and Serve if anyone is interested), and some others have it as well, including the Vegas books. But I can not find one book offering odds this year on the Horse of the Year (other than a passing reference on a chat board with no link).

It is a super-strange battle to begin with. Usually offshore books are damn close on things like this. If you read "The Political Punter" there are some great stori…

Lend Me $7K? I'll have a 20 for 20 horse. And Betting Maxims

Zenyatta just missed going 20 for 20, but one horse completed that task at the Meadowlands this weekend. St. Elmo Hero won his 20th in a row. He has been chalk all but once.

The interesting part of the story is the fact that this gelding was claimed out of his first career start (a win of course) in a $7000 maiden claimer. Checking his lines, there was nothing in them that showed he would go on to be a good horse, so that $7k plus allowances seems to me to be a shot taker.

It paid off: The horse has now won $145,000, racing primarily at lesser tracks.

See screenshot below for a snapshot of his career, courtesy the link to Track It stats.

One post today that won't surprise you folks in the least, since most of you are bettors, comes from the Horseplayers Association. A dude on a Hold em/Sports betting chat board or two or three asked a simple question to those players: "Why don't you bet horse racing?" Their answers are here.

I think my favorite was this one: " It jus…

Interesting Betting Pattern at Santa Anita

In today's six race at Santa Anita, according to a chat board or two (and now the drf), there was some funny wagering patterns. So, I had a gander at them.

The 4 horse "Bad Boy" was 1-9 for a lot of the betting. At about two minutes to post, it appears some money left the pool.

There was $77,606 at three minutes to post in the win pool, then there was $75,680 at two minutes to post.

The winner dropped from 8-1 at five minutes to post to 3-1 final. The second place horse moved from 13-1 to 5-1 over the same time period. "Bad Boy" closed at 9-5 and did not hit the board.

At an offshore exchange, it appears there were no weird patterns, so it seems this was all pari-mutuelly fuelled, possibly by one bettor canceling ticket(s).

Good Retirement Initiative & Hailing the Grey

"Dignity After Racing" is launched for our retired harness racing pals. They are bred by us, and taking care of them, since they allow the participants in our sport to earn a living, seems like a no-brainer. However, (although I have not many anyone who thinks horses are expendable after they stop racing) we do not spend enough taking care of them.

"An Organization of horsemen, breeding farms, racing centers, and horse lovers devoted to seeing these wonderful horses that so many of us benefit from have a life of dignity and love after their racing, breeding or days behind a buggy have come to an end." says the mission statement.

That's good news. The participants need to help, and many of them do, but the more we can get to jump on board, the better.

I have always wondered why we have not done more in this genre. With the slots money coming in, why didn't we allow for a very small slice to go to retirement? In Ontario a portion of wagering goes to it, but i…

Big Start to the Meadowlands Meet

Despite a possible storm tomorrow in the NYC area, it looks like it is full-steam ahead for the Meadowlands 2011 harness meet.

We have been used to short fields, but the race office has put a couple of very nice race cards together, which feel a bit more like old times. Friday's card has a plethora of ten horse affairs, and Saturday's is not a whole lot different.

I've been a busy dude for the past couple of days and that will continue, so unfortunately (or fortunately, is more apt), you will get no pearls of wisdom from me :)

Good luck to everyone who is playing. One thing is for sure - 2011, even for a couple of days - looks more like 2005 than 2010. That's a good thing.

Owner/Bettor Respect - Why Fight When we Can Solve Problems?

There are a fewtopics out there in cyber and media land about the connections of a horse (those who supply the product), and the people who bet on them (those who demand the end-product). Usually it ends up in a food fight.

The story about a recent article in Ireland where the jock of a horse who faltered as chalk (i.e. was taken for a bit of a fitness trip) said,:

"I've always been a man to look after a horse. That's the way I ride them and that's not going to change."

it prompted the question to be asked "Who is more important, the connections of the horse racing for a purse (i.e. the owner and rider and trainer) or the people who supply the purses they run for (i.e the betting customer)?" This question spawned a ton of responses, most of which were like this:

"I don't care about the bettor. I care about myself and my horse. We've got slot money funding 95% of our purses. Let them whine all they want. Good riddance."

"Don't as…

Racing Businesses v Our Businesses

There was a post today that I read with someone talking about how tracks raise revenue. He gave two options:

1) Raise take
2) Raise Signal Fees

For the raise in take or signal fees, this example was given:

"If a track has a $1 million handle with a 20% takeout rate, the takeout is $200K. Rise the takeout to 23% drop the handle to $900K and the takeout is $207K. One reason why the takeout is so high, is time and time again it has been profitable for the tracks to raise the takeout."

That gentleman is correct. This is racetrack business right there. Raise the cut, lose some customers, but gain a little bigger share: Poof, more money. It is the way this business has been run for a century, for the most part (takeout in 1906 was 5%, it is now 22%).

Conversely, you have to go into work tomorrow and you have a meeting on growth strategy. You would like to continue growing and you have 20 clients, but would like to have 25 at the end of the year. That is your goal for growth.

If you wa…

Some Large Bettors Say No To Santa Anita

I received an email Saturday night around 10. It was from an acquaintance on the left coast who is more than likely one of the largest individual bettors in North America (one never knows for sure because they are notoriously quiet) asking me to ring him. I had not spoken to him for over six months, so we had plenty to chat about. The conversation at one point was about the California takeout hike and the loss of betting handles there since the meet began. I called him today and asked if I could write up some of our conversation, and he said yes.

"They really have no clue the damage they have done to the gambling customer there, do they?" was the immediate response.

This bettor told me that he has not played a cent into the track this meet.

"I have not even watched a race - actually no, I have watched two races because friends owned the horses in them but that is it."

He went on to relay that people in his craft (he has been betting for a living since he…