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Showing posts from February, 2011

Awards Post-Script

Last night was the big awards show, watched worldwide. The evening was filled with jokes, video, winners, losers, fashion and a dash of politics.... yessirree, I think the Dan Patch Awards were a winner (what else was there on last night anyway?);

No one even used the F word. Well, they didn't publicly anyway.

Rock n' Roll Heaven walked away with most of the hardware, as he should have. This season we had a three year old male (Rock) and a three year old female (Put on a Show) that were pretty much all world. Add a little bit of talent with Big Jim and it was a good year in harness racing.

The show was broadcast via for the first time. I thought they did a pretty fair job.

Here's my scorecard, if you are interested.

Tale of the Tape - Brennan versus Gural

Tioga Owner Jeff Gural let a remark fly at George's expense in Finley's Harness Racing Update last week; namely, that he should be racing at the Meadowlands, not Yonkers. I watched the tape …

Adios Gemmer

I was handicapping the races with my “internet friends” on a racing chat site a long time ago now. One of the participants and I hit it off. Vern, who had never owned horses before but always wanted to, responded quickly when I asked “do you want to take a shot on something at the SC sale in August?”. 
These two bettors, who never even met in person, wanted to spend between $10,000 and $20,000 on a horse who fit the maiden, who had a little bit of potential upside. After leafing through the pages we settled on three or four horses. We thought a couple might go for too much, including a Blair Burgess cast-off called Stonebridge Gem.  Vern, who hailed from the province of Newfoundland 1500 miles away stayed home, and I headed to the sale.
A couple of the ones we liked had moved out of our price range, but when Gem came up the bidding stalled at $11,000. I bid $11,500 and then $13,000. Sold! Vern called and said "good job". We got the one we wanted.
It’s hard to believe, but fast …

Weekend Notes

Tampa Bay Downs did it again today, and it is still pretty unbelievable - they out handled Santa Anita.

According to a twinkie from Canlumbo: "Tampa Bay this year 4,459k versus 4,448k last year. They ran 10 races versus 11 last year. Santa Anita last year 5,570k, today 4,270k -23%."

The chipmunks ain't buying Santa Anita's walnuts.

Bill Finley's Harness Racing Update had several great quotes of late.  First he interviewed Jeff Gural. Not one to mince words, Gural called out driver George Brennan for abandoning the Meadowlands for Yonkers, because purses are higher at Yonkers. As everyone knows, Yonkers could fall off the face of the earth tomorrow and harness racing would be better for it, because the horses and drivers would be back at the high handle Meadlowlands. For his part, Brennan did not take the bait and simply replied that Gural was entitled to his opinion. Bill also had a look at Betfair's take on owning a piece of the Meadowlands. It is some goo…

Lindy Farms Doing it Right

We have spoken before about the new horse partnership started by Lindy Farms. I know a few of the members including my pal Charlie, a thoroughbred player and board member of the Horseplayers Association of North America.

Owning harness horses in not like owning a thoroughbred horse. The differences, although they are racehorses and get the same care, vet work and feed, are there. You can buy a solid pedigree for less money, and you can catch the dream of owning a champion without having to battle a sheik at a sale in harness racing. You can have a horse that may race twenty times as a three year old, or even more than that. There are several other differences, but for a new fan, or a new horse owner, owning a nice yearling colt or filly can be had.

The "Bourbon Slush Stable" started with one yearling, but due to demand expanded that number to three - two pacers and one trotter. So far all three are showing promise and have been staked. I have been scouring their Facebook sit…

Betfair to Own Monmouth?

In an interesting bit of news, it appears Betfair is going to make a bid for Monmouth.

"New Jersey has a fantastic horse racing heritage. Betfair and TVG are absolutely committed to having a role. The racing product at Monmouth Park was vastly superior last summer. Similarly, the Meadowlands presents the most eminent harness racing destination in North America," he said.

This is not that uncommon. For harness players especially it could possibly be a good event if so. By pushing the Big M product (along with it being pushed on the exchange) the number of eyeballs on it should be very good for pool size - something sorely needed.

Ever Cash a Voucher and ......

Elmer Patzer walked up to a betting machine and started popping in tickets to see if he won. All of a sudden, whamo, he cashed for $6.5 million!

Clearly the error that occurred was an honest computer glitch, but ol' Elmer took Hastings Park to court. Today, after six years, he lost.

Uncle Mo is off to an overnight affair for his first tilt of 2011. There are a number of theories on this I guess: He is not quite ready or having some issues, they are not overly confident to try a tougher spot, or Pletcher is going for the Triple Crown. I am tending to lean to the latter. I have often wondered why horsemen in this day and age hit all the major preps. Yes, I realize they need legs under them, but horses are modern machines now as compared to 1970. The old myths (can't win the Juvenile and win the Derby, you can't win on two preps, etc) are falling almost every year.

If I had a track I would write several of these Derby preps for a special horse or two. I bet in a few years th…

Derby Futures Ten Years Hence

We have chatted a lot about CRM here in the past, and for your average every day fan who might want to become a customer, it is super-important. But what about the casual observer, is there hope to try and hook them into the business of racing?

One avenue I think helps, is the future pool wagering for the Derby. This wager as we all know is interesting for fans, because they are pre-qualified already to play futures. Your average sports fan makes a trip to Vegas and can bet the winner of the NCAA's, or the Stanley Cup. It is a part of our culture as sports bettors. And it has to up viewership.

Right now I commend Churchill with their Derby pool. They have promoted it and made it something fun. Technically it should be treated as a loss leader, because it markets your event for you.

Is this good enough? I think in ten years, this wager will be much different than today, and I think it will help racing because big events drive casual fans, and giving casual fans more ways and bette…

Rainbow Six Anonymous

I admit it. I hate to, but I have to look in the mirror and come to grips with it - I bet my first Rainbow Six.

The pick 6 at Gulfstream - a lotto bet with huge takeout - is not something I find will help racing. Certainly it won't unless they get slots players buying "cards" or tickets in corner stores. But it did serve a purpose for me today. I was working on some real work items and just could not pay attention like I should, but I wanted to watch the races at Gulfstream. I decided, for ten cents, why not?

I took a poke and bet a gazillion combos, spending $60 or something for some good old-fashioned gambling entertainment. I lost in leg two (I pitched that chalk winner) but I still got to watch the races to see how I did.

OK, I feel better now, but I am fully expecting my Horseplayer friends to submit my name for an episode of Intervention. Watch for me on A and E betting Pennsylvania supers, exactors at Golden Gate and the Rainbow six, keying chalk.

The pick 6 at …

Them's Good Eats

It's party-time in New Zealand at the wildfoods festival. A racehorse owner added something to the menu. Don't say I didn't warn you.

"Kerslake said some of the shots would be flavoured, and there might even be a possibility punters could request a particular horse. "


Hat tip to the Beav.

NTRA "Fan" Numbers v. Thorotrends "Fan" Numbers

Dueling surveys. Cue the music.

Alex Waldrop of the NTRA has posted about racings appeal and some hard-numbers from their survey done in 2009.

"...found that about 50.6 million adults in the U.S. qualify as Thoroughbred racing fans and that about 5.6 million adults say they attend a racetrack or an OTB or log onto an online wagering site and “bet a few times a month.” Some of you have questioned these numbers."

Some people have been questioning those results. The NTRA's numbers (I am NOT a poller) look more than fine to my uneducated eye. The group that did the survey seems very good and very reliable. I don't have the expertise, nor would I ever try and discount the results without even seeing the questions etc.

But reading the article there does appear to be a bit of a disconnect.

"Twenty million annual visits puts horse racing as the #2 spectator sport in America behind only one other U.S. major league sport, MLB, and ahead of the NFL, the NBA, the NHL and …

Branding, Data & Happy Birthday to the Exchange

A few racing stories caught my interest today.

First we have two from Hong Kong, one from Britain and one from Australia.

In Hong Kong there is an attack on pari-mutuel pools from the internet. Both horse wagering and things like online poker threaten their revenues. If you read between the lines in this story the narrative is much different than on its face. Internet wagering is here to stay, so it looks less of a cry for help to block it (like we heard in North America from 2000 to even today), than a cry for better taxation or more business choice for the club.

The second Hong Kong article (from Equidaily) talks about just how well the HKJC is doing in the face of new competition. As we have spoken about here several times they have addressed many issues with taxation, takeout and other means and have seemed to nip the losses in the bud.

"The job is far from done but the comeback in the past few years has been impressive, with pari-mutuel turnover now hovering around $100 m…

Tuesday Musings

It's Tuesday, right? There is some interesting stuff going on, well to me anyway.

Tom Lamarra writes a nice quick-hit blog at the Bloodhorse and today's is good again. It is difficult as we all know to go too far out on a limb in a trade paper. Tom walks a fine line, but still gives us all something to talk about. We need more blogs like that on industry websites in harness.

Jessica can not possibly be doing a better job with regards to the New England racing situation and looking at it from the customer side. This is old hat to us as it has happened in Ontario about a half dozen times. Harness handles, as reported this month in Trot, are savaged here with a lot of this nonsense. Racing must come to grips with the fact that when people leave, a lot never come back. No business in the land has ever grown by annoying customers and racing is no exception.

Last night I procrastinated from real work and got to researching betting overseas, just to keep tabs. Scott over at his blog l…

Reduce Bet Types to Grow?

The former VP of General Mills, echoing and confirming a long-held truism in consumer marketing and sales, said that choice builds sales. If you only make cheddar cheese and sell it in five pound blocks, you can increase overall cheese sales by offering different colors, different flavors and different packaging and sizes, and grow. That's common sense really.

In racing this is also common sense. Chances are if you offered WPS and ex only, your handle will be less on the race than if you offer rolling doubles, quinella, tri and super wagering in addition to the base wagers.

But is the pari-mutuel business the same as the cheese business? I think in terms of the short term it is, but looking at the long-view, perhaps not.

Right now, especially in harness racing but at some smaller thoroughbred tracks too, there are myriad wagers offered, but little pool size to support all those bets. What ends up happening is that we have watered down pools. This is nothing new, but in the grand…

Notes for Today

It looks like the plans are in full force for changing the Meadowlands. This will take some major cash, that's for sure and a lot of luck and goodwill. If they are going to one day get slots or a full casino (which I think most of us think they will someday) it is a start. The pictures in the linked story are quite nice.

The Meadowands handle has just not been there this season yet, as compared to even 2008. The racing is certainly not poor (like some would say it has been the past 12 months) and there are serious problems in harness racing. There are zero quick fixes, in my opinion.

Frequent poster here at PTP, "Walleye Fisherman" is not a big fan of New Zealand pacer Auckland Reactor. It (for him) is with major dismay I report that he is back downunder and back winning. Although some have said (like the headline) it was an impressive return, if we study the fractions of the race it was not as much impressive as expected. He crawled through fractions and sprinted home.…

ORC & CHRB on Same Path, But at Different Points

There is some news this morning on last year's annual report of the California Horse Racing Board as well as the Ontario Racing Commission racing plan. Ontario and California are two jurisdictions on exactly the same path, but one is simply further ahead on the curve.

First, business in California is poor. 

"Pari-mutuel wagering in California declined by $501 million during fiscal year 2009-10, and betting through advance deposit, the only growth area in the state's handle for the past several years, also dipped slightly."

This is no secret to anyone who follows the sport. Even ADW wagering is down, which shows there is something very wrong. California last season had their quarterhorse takeout rise, and they tacked onto their already super-high signal fees. It's really no shock ADW wagering would not be maximized in terms of handle, and it proves what a lot of people are saying: When you squeeze, you get less juice, because the lemon you are squeezing is alre…

Spokesmen or Advertising?

Jack Darling recently floated out the idea of a "game changer" for harness racing, which involves taking some cash and hiring a guy like Gretzky to promote the sport. This is nothing new of course as it has been happening for many years.

Putting on my marketing opinion hat for a moment, I believe that trying something like this can be on a list, but we have dozens of other things to try first. Having said that, let's have a look at pure advertising, testimonial or otherwise as it is the topic at hand.

Seth Godin speaks often about how businesses with a crutch (eg negative stereotypes and negative branding) are the toughest to dig out of a hole. Harness racing certainly has its share of those - it's old, it's slow, you can "beat a race but you can't beat the races". How do we attack that on television for example? It costs money and takes time, focusing on a single message, in my opinion.

Audi is a great example of a type of systematic message-drive…

Beer, Horses, Poker and Changes

It is pretty amazing to watch how things change over time. But sometimes we wonder why it takes so long.

A couple of years ago I had an interesting and fun double-bill. Heading south from the Tundra I hit Keeneland for a couple of days at the big track. Then it was off to Augusta to watch a practice round at the Masters.

We stayed at a small hotel about 45 minutes from Augusta and got in around 7PM. There was a waffle house, a Pizza Hut and a convenience store near the hotel. I figured I would get a pizza, grab a six pack and bet some races (hey, with a trip to Keeneland and for golf, what do you expect?). I ordered my pizza and walked to the store. I went to the refrigerators to grab some of my favorite libation and noticed they had hockey sticks jammed in the levers. I tried to open it and a kind old Georgian looked at me and said "no beer on Sunday's young man." Other than being happy he called me young man, I was somewhat shocked. I wondered if I went back and  bet …

Harness Day in Racing

I woke up this morning and found out I was in a wild dream. Harness racing took over the Internet!

I saw first Seth's page aggregating some content:

Four stories on harness in a row!

I liked the Equispace story on his trip to the trots. Funnily enough I was playing the races on gtalk Friday evening with Charlie. He was playing the harness races, oft times with my picks and with "What Wins" free sheets for the night. He said the same thing "harness is fun!"

Then I flipped over to HANA and Allan wrote a blog post about Tioga Downs here.

For one day at least, harness racing took over. It was pretty cool :)

Raceway Freakonomics

Does defense win championships? If you listen to any football, hockey or basketball coach, you are darn right it does. This maxim is as good as gold. But is it really true?

The authors of Scorecasting - the Freakonomics for Sports - took a look at that and let us know. It might make us feel really happy yelling "DEFENSE" in our cheap seats, but we could have spent the same time yelling the word offense.

Maxims, or the laws of a sport, jobs or whatever might not be maxims at all. Sometimes if they sound good enough, or catch on, they get matted in the culture and become the way it is. I see this a lot in marketing work. It amazes me to no end to see or read of a CEO telling a firm what he would like to see done with his marketing based on what he or she wants, based on their biases, or "feel". He or she might sell shoes, but  also sells socks as a complementary product, so they want to have a socks campaign. There are others selling socks better and cheaper than he …

Saturday Notes & The Big Game

I had my first full day of wagering yesterday in a long while. It's been busy of late and it was nice to sit around and watch some racing, from 1PM to about 11PM or so.

I was struck by the decent racing at the Meadowlands. I have not watched it closely, although I have watched several races. This meet looks much better than last meet. I also watched Northlands last night and took a poke on the pick 6. It was very hittable (although I did not hit it).

There is an excellent interview with John Doyle the NHC champion via Steve Byk's show. He is a super spokesman for horseplayers and the interview (about half way through the first link) is worth a listen.

Sometimes morning lines are odd, and we had one of the oddest today in Tampa Bay's sixth. A horse off the claim by Jamie Ness, with good lines and figures, was 20-1 ML. He paid under $5 and won easily. The sample size is microscopic but I would figure the ROI on that move, with a horse getting beaten 17 lengths in its last, w…

Playing the $25,000 Northlands Pick 6?

If so, here is a freebie.

Dave Vicary is a computer dude who presented in Windsor at the Gaming summit. He has been working overtime on a program which gives an overlay now and again. This evening there is the new Northlands Pick 6 with a guarantee. Dave has offered Northlands out tonight for free. All you have to do is sign up at no charge.

For more information on the Northlands pick 6 please click here. Horsemen, tracks and others trying to get something going is never a bad thing!

Need For Speed

There were a few items in the news today and a couple caught my eye. In general, the thought was about how we need to get moving.

In 2006 Hong Kong racing was experiencing it's sixth straight year of revenue declines. The newly appointed betting guru there decided that they had to move on these losses. The Macau casino's had been attracting gamblers and rebated offshore action was also adding a pari-mutuel pool leak. Bobby Chang, when presenting to a conference in Paris noted that when horseplayers stop betting a venue, they are very difficult to get back. He had to do something, and quickly.

What Mr. Chang decided to do was attack some of those losses regarding pricing, with rebate. The effective takeout rate was lowered to 17.1% blended (15% on rebated action), which is pretty good for a quasi-monopoly to get people back playing. The results were apparent immediately (pdf).

The terrible trend line was stemmed, which is difficult to do. This has improved, despite the world-wi…

Ever Wanted to Watch Zenyatta Being Bet In-Running?

I have had plenty of feedback from Jersey folks and some insiders regarding the post about Betfair and its possible hangups here in North America. They too seem to feel some stumbling blocks are readily apparent.

With a couple of the emails, however, it struck me that a great many people do not even know about exchange wagering - how it works or what it does. There was a poll today on SC, asking (mostly horsepeople) to vote on a one to ten scale how much they know about this type of wagering. Guess what? 70% picked "1" which is "no knowledge at all". Sometimes I forget that, since I have been following the exchange news and views since about 2001.

With that thought, I found a little video, which horseplayers and non-horseplayers should like. It explains the concepts, but it does more than that. It shows live "in running betting" (betting when the race is going on) and it uses the 2009 Breeders Cup Classic as an example. Zenyatta, who started at around 5-1…

Exchange Wagering 1,2,3

Scott over at Sport is made for Betting went through a few of the hurdles that Jersey exchange wagering will probably be going through over the coming months.I am not quite as pessimistic as he is. We'll go through a couple of his very good points.

First he rightfully speaks about the debate about laying horses:

"That [the debate] hasn't occurred yet, and there's no reason to believe American racing people will be any less antiquated than the rest of the world when it comes to explaining that you can effectively lay a horse via current wagering systems"

This was one of the big criticisms used in the past in all new jurisdictions, as Scott alludes. It always struck me as being a bit of a red-herring because racing using this argument is essentially saying "our participants are corrupt and if you give them a chance to be corrupt, they will." Sure there are corrupt people in racing, but with large purses are a lot of people out there going to take the c…

Three P's & Some Fine Women Cappers

Northlands Park opens with a Pick 6 guarantee of $25,000. That is pretty gutsy. Hard to hit bets usually need some sort of mass to get rolling and I wonder if Northlands is popular enough. For rebate players it might provide some sort of opportunity, and early on there is a chance at some sort of pool value. I think I am going to take a shot at it.

If you were wondering what's been happening with the players boycott of Cali racing, you can learn more here. Jeff Platt fills everyone in.

There has been quite a bit of chatter about the Prix D'Amerique in France this past weekend. Equidaily had pictures up and Allan spoke about the structure of the industry in France. On the surface French trotting racing looks popular with the crowds and the parades, but at times I find looking a little deeper does some good. The PMU, who runs racing in France has a virtual monopoly on wagering and the races are distributed in over 9500 lotto outlets. In a way it is 1960 Roosevelt Raceway. We can g…