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Showing posts from April, 2011

"If You've Never Been on Your Feet Before...."

" ... you better get up now" bellowed Roger Huston 20 years ago (video below for those who have not seen it).

Fast-forwarding to today, I am increasingly impressed with the work done on the web, by professional writers, bloggers and more when it concerns the Kentucky Derby. One especially, Kentucky Confidential, has broken through with some excellent stories, insight and more. If you've never bookmarked a Derby website before, you better think about it with this one.

If you want to read a very nice interpretation of likely Derby chalk Dialed In, pop over to Wire Players and read Ghostzapper's tome. I do disagree with the conclusion, because I think Zito is one of the few trainers who treats preps like preps; and this horse is likely to improve by 10+ Beyer points, I feel. However, good pieces like that make you think and re-think. If your beliefs are entrenched you will be a terrible horseplayer. Ghost is making me think and that's the kind of analysis we need …

Tuesday is Here; And Quite a Bit is Happening

The No Mo disclosure arguments in interweb land have continued this morning, carrying over from Gary West's piece, and a knock down, drag out discussion on twitter.

Alan over at LATG writes:

"Whoa, touchy, touchy, Mike Repole. For one thing, with all his talk about not disclosing, that's exactly what he did when it was convenient for him! When he was trying to concoct an excuse for the colt's shockingly poor performance in the Wood. Now, with Uncle Mo seemingly on the road to recovery, Repole doesn't want to disclose any details about the horse's gastronomical condition that he brought up in the first place!"

The full transcript of Repole's thoughts are a decent read. He makes one solid point, I find. What if something does happen to Mo and it is released before the fact that he had a procedure or two done? The PETA types are all over it, when you and I know that getting a cryo or an injection has little to do with the mishap.

Having said that, I do …

Derby 2011 - Common Sense Prevailing

Today with the launch of Kentucky Confidential, Claire Novak reports on "Derby Fever". The fever, which I am sure would grab any of us slugs if we owned a horse like that, grips you hard, and sometimes it makes your decision making process cloudy.

Not so for two ownership groups and one trainer. Jaycito was pulled earlier this week from Derby consideration, and it is reported now that The Factor has also been pulled.

Co-owner of The Factor George Bolton: "We're doing the right thing."

Jaycito, with a sore foot and missed time might be the quintessential 10f horse in this weak crop, but he is still pulled. The Factor, a speed threat, probably had a punchers chance to take them home, but with minor palate surgery and a decent future as a miler or even Preakness starter, it was the right thing to do.

That's horsemanship, and common sense, and those connections should be commended. I feel better about horse racing this morning than I have for some time.

We c…

Easter Monday Notes

When I was in school (not sure about you) we got Good Friday and Easter Monday off. In the real world I seem to get neither. I think that's why all my friends growing up wanted to go to Teachers college. Remember when old people told us when we were in school "you'll never have it this good"? I think they were right.

Anyhow, there is something special today for players - The Calder Pick 5 at 12%. On Twinspires the deal is even better (they are offering 0% takeout). How the world has changed. Only two years ago opening days for tracks would feature a bobblehead giveaway. Now tracks are finally offering price breaks to get bettors through the door, virtual or otherwise. Thank goodness.

The sequence today seems chalky on the surface, but I do not have scratches yet, nor have I gone through it completely. If it does come up chalky, the payoff (when compared to the usual 25%+ take) will be pretty good, and some players will be satisfied.

Big spread in the Jersey paper on…

Rainbow 6 - Getting this Bet to the Masses

Yesterday's Rainbow Six mandatory payout day was a success, by all counts. The bet attracted over $3.5 million of new money, and the $5 million pool was spread out to many bettors, with the chalky result. As we noted early on with the Beulah Fortune six, this bet can market itself, generate some buzz and get people to look at your product.

The bet itself attracted the horseplayers it wanted to attract at the outset. Players like O_crunk had a nice ticket for around $300, and split it with a newbie betting 'lady friend'; they hit. ITP, a pro player, threw in $8,000 and hit it multiple times (and no he is not blowing smoke). The Twinspires players pool fared less well, spending $100k, and not getting a lot out of it. I would assume they had many combos multiple times, and may have took a hit in the last leg with a 10-1 shot winning.

There is little question this was a good bet for Gulfstream. The GP pools yesterday, when compared to the same day last year, were up 81% overa…

Rainbow Six - How Huge?

The question buzzing on chat boards with regards to the weekend is: "How big will the Rainbow Six pool be tomorrow if it carry's over"?

If you read the racing press, a conservative estimate of $2M has been floating around of late, for the mandatory payout. I think this might be way low. I have a sneaky feeling that this bet will be played like few other carryovers of this size we have ever seen.

 First is the obvious, the carryover and mandatory payout. People have taken a poke at this for the entire meet, and many have cashed and liked playing it for a small amount$2 pick sixes scare people off; "the syndicates win and I can't". 10 centers can attract more players and more dollars. As Dan puts it "three horses in each leg is less than half a tank of gas"GP is a top track. This is not like the Beulah carryover.Holiday weekend!Huge fields and a couple of weak ML chalk. This gives one hope it can still pay. The buzz is out there already.

Today's Video

I remember going to a horse sale several years ago. We were there without a trainer, just spectating. Out walks a big brown horse and the bidding stalled at $4500. I looked at his running lines and he looked okay, the trainer was honest and he was big so I thought he might like a bigger track. Up goes my hand. We owned a new horse. The next problem was finding someone to bring him home, because I don't think he'd fit in my house.

We do crazy things as horse owners, and to the outside world we are frankly completely off our rockers. When horseplayers hear we have to raise takeout to pay for our hobby, one can see them getting upset, because let's face it, we are kind of nuts. It appears someone feels the same way.

Note: Strong language alert for those who do not like such a thing.

The Derby is the Days of Our Lives

Bill Finley writes about the puzzling Derby picture today. One excerpt caught my eye.

"Figure this brainteaser out, out-handicap your pari-mutuel rivals and you might just be holding a winning superfecta ticket worth $498,234.80. This is the guy who has a firm opinion on someone. He has convinced himself that Decisive Moment is going to run the race of his life. This person is crazy."

Wow, he's talkin' bout me! I am a little nuts.

Recapping the futures and the soap opera this year, Finley has a point. Especially when we look at the major contenders.

Uncle Mo - In the Wood he backed up, ran in and out more than a drunk marathoner, changed leads on the straight, finished in a Beyer that a Scooter Davis off the claim nw of a race since 1999 for 5 claimers could run, has a GI infection, and he won't eat. Hey bettors, climb aboard!

Jaycito - Sore foot, hasn't worked since the last Pointer Sisters hit, might or might not make a race this weekend, and Baffert cont…

Social Media Primes the Pump

A year or so ago Dave Carroll had some baggage issues on United Airlines. It seems his guitar (he was on his way to a gig) was broken by baggage handlers. He wrote a song about it and it became a national sensation on youtube, showing that companies or organizations can no longer hide, or be unwilling to be transparent.

We have written many times here that horse racing in many ways should be more transparent as well.  Our game has always been one that is guided by the mantra of 'it's my business and no one else's'. The claiming game, where it is better to hide a problem than publicize it - almost to the point that you are looked at as "sharp" if you can put one over on someone - might be the best example. If you are selling your home you can't hide a leaky roof from a home inspector and get rewarded, nor should you feel good about doing such a thing, but in horse racing it's considered part of the game. How do we attract honest owners with money if w…

Monday Notes

Usually top trainers go with their safe bets with horses turning three, but Jimmy Takter is not one of those. I could not agree more with him about Grams Legacy. This colt is a monster. I watched his qualifiers last season and his second where he was coming home like a rocket and broke showed his potential. I bet him first out where he was babied around the track (at a juicy 5-2) and he looked good again. His issues caught up with him, but the raw talent was always there. If he is right this year, watch out for this horse.

Takeout increases don't work. When hula hoops were losing popularity Wham-o did not juice the price of them upwards, they got to work and created the Super Ball and Silly String. The reporting in the racing press on this issue, which now apparently involves regurgitating press releases, is embarrassing.

The psychology of cheating. Interesting article. Hat tip to O_Crunk.

No love for Oaklawn announcer from Saratoga Spa.

Bob Pandolfo has been surveying the landscape …


Guest Post: Does the Blue Grass Deserve Gr I Status?

Many of you who follow various online blogs and racing websites have seen someone with the screen name "Tinky" commenting, including on this one. He submitted a piece via email to me, regarding the Gr I Blue Grass at Keeneland. I have reprinted it here for you. For an alternate view, please see Jeremy Plonk's ESPN piece from last year where he said "I've read ridiculous accounts in the racing press about the need to strip the Blue Grass of its grade, and how it's become irrelevant to the racing landscape", and supported it with his facts and opinion. It's a lively debate, one which probably won't go away anytime soon, especially with the modern (some would say) less than deep three year old crops.

In October of 2006, Keeneland debuted the Polytrack surface on what had previously been a traditional dirt track. There have now been five runnings of the Blue Grass Stakes since the switch. Would anyone care to recite from memory the winners of those…

What a Weekend of Racing

If you are a horse racing fan you have a lot to talk about concerning yesterday's racing, and I think it proves without a shadow of a doubt how interesting the game is.

Here we go.
Live horse racing to a willing customer-base who are treated right is not dead. Oaklawn jams 62,000 fans in for the Arkansas Derby. Their average of over 11,000 fans per day is as good as some pro teams get in traditional "sports".I am never one to be hyper-critical of announcers. In fact, because they have a tough job (and it is) I cringe when one of them makes a mistake because it will light up chat boards with barbs thrown by folks, some of whom probably make 15 mistakes a day in their job. However, yesterday's call of the Arkansas Derby was pretty awful. Terry Wallace makes mistakes, has for some time, and there is no way to get around that.The Factor is no factor. Immediately after the race I felt he was simply not a tractable horse, but hearing some of the rumors of a flipped palate,…

Saturday Notes

Woodbine racing forecast for today - windy, cold, windy, grey. I can almost "see the track from my house" and I doubt there will be too many people sitting outside.

Hopefully it clears up a bit for the night card, where bettors are again taking a poke at the $100k guarantee. It's a good card this evening (free program here). Late in the card, St. Elmo Hero has a stern test tonight with a fairly good field of preferred horses. He should win, but like last week, he might have to be good to do so.

Christie and Gural (strange political bedfellows, if you watched the O'Reilly Factor last Thursday) both seem to agree the Meadowlands has little shot to open May 7th, after the tellers failed to approve the contract. Are you at all like me with political decisions? If a guy like Gural and a guy like Christie are agreeing on something, chances are it's truth, and they are on the right side of the issue.

Hastings Park is up and going for their new meet. 15% WPS take and fre…

A "New" Stakeholder, Bad Beats & Evil Plastic

The tellers union at the Meadowlands plays chicken with the sport of harness racing. The union, by not voting, said no to Jeff Gural and his takeover plans. They would have been paid about $19 an hour, with full benefits, while his plan to build a new track and save the M was put into place. Why would some folks with a job which has pretty much been made obsolete and will continue to be made obsolete do this? There is a new stakeholder in racing to add to the many - people who punch in bets.

Speaking of bad beats, how about last night's Rainbow Six at GP? One lucky bettor has a 40-1 shot put up via a DQ in the second last leg which allows him/her to be alive on one horse in the last; a 4-1 shot with a great chance. Fast forwarding to the lane, his/her horse, for about $1.2 million has an eight length lead and looks unbeatable, only to falter late and be nipped at the wire. For your next bad beat, remember this poor bettor.

I have not spent much time at all watching California rac…

Speculation II

We wrote about horse racing and speculation a few days ago, and it has continued. This morning, Mike Repole and Todd Pletcher issued statements on the health of their colt, Uncle Mo. Pletcher revealed he has an internal bug, which is being treated, one surmises, with anti-biotics, and Mike says that if the colt is not 100% he won't make the Derby.

On twitter and in the press rumors of shaved knees and surgery are still there, the latter with hearsay evidence and nothing more.

The statement from Pletcher and Repole did not address a question from the Paulick Report through their publicist concerning recent speculation about whether Uncle Mo may have had surgery to remove a bone chip following his Breeders' Cup Juvenile win in November. Uncle Mo spent time at an Ocala, Fla.-area farm before resuming training in South Florida this winter. The Paulick Report has heard from several sources — none of which have a direct connection to the colt — that surgery was performed, but neither…

Horseplayers Are Winning

After decades of being called some not nice names, things are changing.

California, who has trumpted the "takeout does not matter and it does not make a difference" argument when they raised their takeout to groans in September, has suddenly changed their tune. They are offering a low takeout pick 5 for the Hollywood meet. It's a "no mas" offering, which I highly doubt players will embrace. They are far too soured on California racing because of the rake hike in the face of falling demand.

Ironically, this announcement comes on the heels of Calder's announcement. They have lowered pick 5 rake to a North American low 12%. That is a huge drop for a CDI track.

Horseplayers are winning. You are no longer betting degenerates, you are customers.

Banning Race Day Meds - One Tough Call

Today it was announced that Kentucky is looking at a banning of all raceday meds, primarily the bleeder shot lasix.

This is an intellectually challenging discussion for me, and we can see with the divergence of opinion, it seems that's confirmed by some others. Unlike whipping, where Ontario and other states made changes, there is more to it than simply a fear from participants of doing things differently.

My biggest fear lies in the fact that banning lasix will simply allow those who don't want to follow the rules more of an edge.

In the 1990's when milkshaking was a common process to make a horse last longer it was deemed a bad practice and banned. The people who did not want to follow the rule looked for edges in changing the ph level in horses and continued to shake. Later on, when D barns were prevalent, pretty much disallowing the benefit of milkshaking, the practice changed to dangerous blood builders. There are always people who will not follow the rules, and ther…

Tuesday Notes

There is quite a bit happening today and we have some fun and interesting articles and work being done in blogville.

Equispace's Space Sheet is damn cool and a great tool for Derby junkies. His dog did what he did this morning, not as a punishment, but as a thank you for compiling those cool stats. Good job.

Cangamble looks at drugs and racing and covers almost all the bases that I know of, except maybe CERA. Where there is money, there are people looking for an edge, and they are very sophisticated.

Full $1.5M North America Cup spring book odds are up. I agree with the chalk. If he stays sound, he should top the list as he's a nice talent. If you notice James Dean is qualifying him in Florida and then bringing him up here. For handicappers this signals who he learned training from - the great Stew Firlotte.

Dana is a true fan and is always looking for ways to have some fun come Derby time!

Frank Mitchell writes about Bellamy Road in his last piece. This is very salient to a ha…

Speculation Sets Horse Racing Apart

Since 2007 we have said on the blog all along that horse racing represents the best gambling game in the world. It is an intellectual pursuit, which attracts people with some smarts, because it is a thinking man or woman's game.

This past weekend's events bring that into laser-like focus.

Uncle Mo races and is expected to crush. Uncle Mo loses, looking more like a claimer than a stakes colt.

Is he injured? Is he challenged by an extra half furlong? Did he have a cough? Will he run in the Derby? Will he be retired like Eskenedreya was?

If an NFL quarterback has a bad game, we ask him why he had a bad game. He might have a tender ankle, and although he won't use it as an excuse, we can probably surmise that was the problem. Sure there might be whispers of a drug problem or staying out all night the night before with a mistress, but we can ask him and hear it from the quarterback's mouth.

In horse racing there is no such thing, because horse's whinny. If we add in th…

Sunday's Here & It's All About Mo

Why is horse racing a fantastic sport? It's Masters Sunday and about all people are talking about (that I know; yes that's a small sample) is racing.

The Uncle Mo performance is the most talked about loss since Rachel could not fend off Zardana last March. If you go on chat boards, or read some comments, it was somehow a fait de compli - a perfectly expected loss. One wonders why the horse was 1-9 and 1.15 on betfair then, of course. It certainly was not expected, it was shocking. If the colt stopped the clock at 9f yesterday what he stopped the clock at 9f in his BC Juvy gallop out, he wins easily. Something happened to this horse.

What happened? That's anyone's guess. I believe he looked awful, and at the quarter I was worried because he would not settle. After seeing him run in several times, and have no response on the far turn, it looked that he would be beaten by more than he was. But good horses like him don't give up easily.

Opinion on the net is scattered.…

Uncle Mo's Loss a Tough One for Racing

I admit it, despite watching racing do some completely bizarre things to not help itself, I love this crazy sport.

Last year, Zenyatta was a joy to watch and I cheered for her each and every time, because she was good for racing. Rachel was similar and regardless how she looked early, where most of us were sure she was a shadow of herself, we hoped we were wrong. I find I am having the same feelings with Uncle Mo.

The Derby is my day to bet. The pools are very large and it is where on an annual basis I try and make a life changing score. Uncle Mo was causing me some trouble, because I think he's an amazing talent, and not only feared betting against him, I did not want to.

I have had several sharp handicappers, a couple who do this for a living, tell me since last year that they thought Mo has soundness issues. One who can play legally on betfair has been laying him beyond belief. Although I take everything in, I have constantly resisted that thought and looked for every opportuni…

It Does Not Take Long

In the annual procession of carnage (otherwise known at the Triple Crown Trail), Mo looks horrid and loses the Wood. Before the race he was trading at 1.15 at the UK Betting Site Betfair. He was solidly chalk in the Derby portion of the antepost betting as well, trading at a tidy 5-2. It did not take long for that to change. A minute after the loss, $5000 pops up to book Mo at 9-1 and only one soul wanting to buy him at 500-1. He will probably be  higher later today, as he has already traded some at 30-1. After the way he looked I can't see anyone seriously biting at only 9-1.

Saturday Notes

I'm watching the Masters and waiting for the Wood. I keyed Uncle Mo, like most. Oeuf on face? We see.

Tonight marks week two of the WEG 100k guaranteed pick 4. There are free programs on the Woodbine website for those interested.

Equidaily highlighted the Balmoral Park carryover and guarantee tonight on his website. Expect a push to that pool tonight. The article is correct: It can be huge value.

Jody J has been twinkying again and he offers some excellent thoughts on tonight's card and drives.

He's worth a follow!

Good luck everyone.

Tuesday Notes

Woodbine decides to try and keep a good thing rolling. After a modern day handle bump Saturday, with $116k bet into the $100k guaranteed pick 4, they have decided to continue it. Another interesting thing - it was first spoken about, and de-facto released, on Facebook.

In other news, is harness racing beginning to kick some butt by doing something crazy: Getting together and promoting. The strategic pick 4's this past weekend all rolled. The pick 4, since the Meadowlands blazed the trail for everyone with a 15% takeout (when low rake was not kosher in this business), has become harness racings bet. It's nice to see tracks using that branding power.

Flipping horses for profit? Without commenting on Paulick's assertions (which I know nothing about), this is in general as common in places in our business as getting a morning cup of coffee, unfortunately. It's very hard to attract good, honest, decent people to invest in our business when some practices that others find a…

Woodbine Takes a Stand & Wants Our Business Again

With a good opening day handle, an excellent harness promotion and some other bettor-focused policies, Woodbine again is becoming a player in North American racing for long-suffering punters. If you try, people will notice, and they are.

For a good number of years (the post monopoly years) players, fans, some execs and some pundits were always stumped at what they saw was a lack of effort. After 100 years of being the only game in town, where "if you build it, people will come" was the rallying cry to some success, it was something that took awhile to change. Sure, there were gym bag giveaways, maybe mugs or a poster were handed out, but very rarely did a track venture to the deep heart of the problem - attracting more and more people to want to sit and handicap and bet - your product.

Woodbine Entertainment was a poster boy for this system (just read the comments on this blog from horseplayers since 2007) and players were fed up, leaving in droves. They had lo…

Saturday Notes

The weekend is here and it's snowing. Yep, snowing. I had heard the polar bears are moving north due to shrinking ice-caps, but I am pretty sure I saw one in the Park this morning. Anyhoo....

The Maryland Jockey Club defends Kegasus. The Preakness campaign with the tubby half horse half dude has been getting some press of late, which is the whole goal of the thing. People that sit upstairs on Preakness Day eating fresh crab while studying pedigrees don't seem to like it, while the kids drinking their faces off in the infield don't seem to mind. Since Kegasus will not be visiting them in the Turf Club, they should just relax.

St. Elmo Hero goes to Woodbine. Tonight is the night he tries to win his 25th in a row. The gelding has been off time with foot issues and some sickness, and Woodbine is some-kinda tricky track, so this does not look like a slam-dunk. Jody Jamieson is no dummy, and he'll be in contention, however, and he seems confident. This makes for one of the m…