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Showing posts from May, 2011

Should Racing Run Their Own Exchange?

As exchange wagering becomes more and more debated in North America (we have to remember it's old hat overseas, where punters have embraced the concept in droves), one item that tends to filter the landscape seems to be, "why can't racing just run its own exchange?"

On the surface this does have appeal. The sport is controlled, Equibase, slots tracks and some corporations like CDI have a few bucks in the bank. Why not?

This is nothing new in Internet business, as well. Bricks and mortar auctioneers saw Ebay in '98 and someone said "why don't we be Ebay?". Newspapers saw Craigslist and said "why don't we be them?".

At the present time, it is really not that difficult to get an exchange going. With a small investment (sometimes under $100k, if you give away a slice of the commissions), the resources and the back end can be had, and it can be up and running in no time, really.

There are a number of reasons, in my opinion…

The Undefeated Filly

Fillies with the ability to race top colts are a rarity in both standardbred and thoroughbred racing. We've had the undefeated Zenyatta tackle them twice, until her final race and only defeat. On the harness side the top filly (easily) of the last decade, or perhaps in a generation, Rainbow Blue, never did. This year, however, it might be different.

See You At Peelers is a monster and not your average everyday filly with a nice record. Yesterday at Tioga Downs she stretched her win streak to 15, and in doing so set a world record without breaking a sweat. For those folks who weight the driver so much in betting decisions, she did it with a pilot who is not even close to a household name. She is undefeated with three separate reinsman.

Each year it seems we plead for a filly to take on top males, but that is most times wishful. Generally, the filly is not as good as we think - beating up on slow mares - but since she is winning we want to see it. With Peelers, this is not the case.…

With a Different Mousetrap, Two Horse Races Can Spur Interest

As California and New Jersey continue to flirt with the possibility of developing exchange wagering systems, discussions of the pros and cons of such systems have begun to percolate. Both The Paulick Report and PTP deserve credit for having focused attention on this important issue, and for providing forums for discussion.

The two aspects of the issue which are most polarizing, and which predictably attract the lion’s share of opinions, are take-out rates, and whether or not giving bettors the opportunity to “lay” horses might lead to an increase in attempts at cheating by trainers and riders (in the form of stopping horses).

What tends to get lost in the heat of such arguments is the fact that exchange wagering platforms are intrinsically superior – and by a very wide margin – to the pari-mutual platform with which American race-goers are so familiar.

That superiority is incorrectly assumed by many to be all about low take-out rates, for while the narrow margins found o…

The Pre-Race Appearance Puzzle

Mike Maloney, interviewed in the USA Today not long ago, commented that there are about "10,000 factors" that go into handicapping a race. I think many of us can agree, that's not far off. It is all a part of this great puzzle of handicapping.

Steve Haskin adds some much-needed insight and clarity into the Preakness Stakes telecast where Donna Brothers and Gary Stevens commented on Shackleford's nasty pre-race appearance.
There is no denying that NBC analysts Donna Brothers and Gary Stevens both became concerned by the way Shackleford was sweating and acting up before the Preakness. So the horse wins, still dripping sweat crossing the finish line, and everyone is in an uproar for being misled by the experts.

Well, guess what? Brothers and Stevens are indeed experts and know how to look at a horse as well as anyone. They are getting paid to provide viewers with their observations and that’s all they did.  Touche. These two "horse folk" added what they k…

Saturday Notes

One-quarter of the big harness racing weekend is complete. Foiled Again won the Molson Pace in 151.3, as expected by punters who sent him off as the overwhelming favorite. The race itself was tactically interesting, because there was only one leaver, the rail horse Legal Litigator. When Yannick Gingras got the two hole (you knew he would ease first up at some point), the race was pretty much over.

Tonight there are two races on tap: The NJ Classic at the M and the Dan Patch at Hoosier Park. Tomorrow the Swedish Elitlopp takes centre stage in one of the coolest harness events around.

For the Western Fair pick 4, close to $10,000 was wagered into the pool, which was fairly good. Last year they did about $3000 in the same pick 4. Pick 4's at very small half milers are sometimes hard to get going, I find. Northfield who does over $600k in handle can barely break $10,000. I suspect it is because of the payoffs - with chalk so prevalent, there is little reason to go deep, and with that,…

Ted the Dog Picks Molson Pace

I watched HRTV last week and all these dogs are picking horses. My dog can pick horses, I think, because he watches me pick them all day (I didn't say he watches me pick winners, only horses). So I tried a little experiment - a very high level one - to see what he has learned and if he has the goods to be one of those HRTV dogs. I figured I would try out this newfangled Playbook video to see if I could share these incredibly scientific picks with the world, and since it uploaded, I think I succeeded.

I suspect he has been studying post position data from Western Fair.

The HANA Pool Party this evening on the pick 4, starting in race 9 at about 9PM or so, is rolling. Check their site for tons of free stuff.

Good luck!

Accident in Last at Mohawk; Twitter Updates

In what was looking like an innocent and exciting finish to the last race last evening at Mohawk, an accident occurred, with several drivers and horses getting caught in the melee (2:30 mark).

Mark MacDonald, truly one of the nice guys in the sport, went down hard. He had a bad accident a few years ago as well, and it appears he is banged up pretty bad. According to Chris on Twitter

"Prayers for Mark Macdonald! Several facial fractures, broken teeth, broken shoulder. Feel awful for my buddy. Horrible to see and watch"

Jody J, whose horse went down, reported he was ok via twitter:  "Very bad accident in the tenth at moh. I hurt my shoulder and banged my head but my friend mm is who I'm worried for."

Reports say the horses are all ok.

It looks like Jody might make his mounts at Western Fair this evening. Legal Litigator, with the rail, was to be driven by Mark, but a driver change will obviously be listed shortly.

Harness Time

With the commencement of the Preakness (and Kegasus) Pull the Pocketsus says that it's harness racing time. Maybe not, but it sure feels like it.

Friday night is the $300,000 Molson Pace. This race, which has grown from a $30,000 Invite to a major race shows a bit about the power of branding. The top rated pacer in North America, Foiled Again, headlines the field of pacers and the event has created some buzz. HANA has the video of Greg's picks and will have more freebies tomorrow. Allan has his picks up. 

Saturday is the New Jersey Classic. Can Big Jim move forward, or does he even have to? In addition, the Dan Patch at Hoosier - usually a good one - is on tap.

Sunday is the Elitlopp; a fabulous event. Arch Madness and Define the World head the NA contingent. Blog commenter Janne, who is going to win?

If you are a harness fan, this weekend is a good weekend to be watching.

Positioning Racing

In the late 1970s, the groundbreaking book “Positioning; the Battle for Your Mind” was published. To this very day, it is often quoted by marketers. The authors contend that you, your business, or your organization must define who you are and market that definition into your customers' minds. You “position” yourself, and hope that the position you have carved out is a good one. If it is, you succeed; if it is not, you fail.

If we look at business history there are numerous examples of successful companies who have positioned themselves and stuck with that positioning message:
Walmart positioned itself as a leader on price. Low prices are what we think of when we hear the name Walmart.Mercedes positioned itself as class, power, speed and excellence. It is not a car, it is an experience.In an often used example, Avis positioned itself as the "#2 car rental brand," but said "we try harder." That resonated with people (they stood out by saying they were not #1) and …

Marketing Racing - Harder Than it Looks

If you visit a blog, maybe attend a horsemen association meeting, or read the comments on various news stories, an invariable cure for racing ills will be listed as 'marketing'. As Daryl Kaplan has written many times, we market less on a per dollar revenue basis (and it is not even close) when compared to poker, lotteries, or even bingo, so there is some merit in that proclamation. However, when we get down to brass tacks and have to decide what to market, the strategy and road to the promised land becomes as clear as handicapping Mountaineer slop.

Seth Godin broached a marketing subject this week with a solid thesis when looked at in today's landscape. Looking at the massive interest in the apocalypse one would think the world did end. It did not, but with everyone talking about it - in the media, on facebook, twitter etc - it sure had a good marketing plan.

Godin's point in the article is pretty simple: If you have a story that people want to believe, you can market …

Sunday Notes

Some items catching my eye this Sunday:

The World did not end, apparently.

Shackleford confounded many of those who thought a hot pace might fold the leading group. He ran a 103, which is not a bad number for this group, and carried his speed nicely. Animal Kingdom I thought raced well, firing from off the pace, and leaving two horses with 100 type capabilities (Sway Away and Dialed In) in his wake. I thought they were clearly the two best horses yesterday. There was no bounce for the Animal, and Shack's Florida Derby and Derby were not fluke efforts. Sometimes as handicappers (especially those looking for a score) we make things more complicated than they are.

Big Jim won his 2011 debut in impressive fashion. The last 50 yards showed (in my opinion) he was tired, but schoolers and one qualifier can only do so much. What happened to Lookingforadventure? The top rated colt early last year simply could not stay with Big Jim. The super-fast and freaky Grams Legacy stayed flat and roa…

A Good Weekend of Racing Ahead

The betting market for the Preakness has tightened on the exchange, but there is still little action. As thought, the ML on the Animal (that's what I call him, since we met in the Derby), might be a little low, because there is a whack ready to book at 3-1. He is the clear chalk, however. Dialed In is sitting at about 5-1 and Mucho Macho Man has about $500 wanted at near 7-1. Friday is payday, so that loaf might be the construction worker looking to buy.

If you are planning your betting attack today and tomorrow like I am, Crist lists the exotics and races for them here in a nice graphical way.

It's not a secret who I like in the Preakness, but I always like to look around for others choices. I am pretty amazed at the variance out there in blog land. It's never chic to go with a favorite, but this year (probably because there are no present superstars?) the picks are all over the map.

Tioga Downs has turned into a top level racetrack. Not only have they lowered takeout, th…

1/2 Man Half Horse Brings ROAS, Preakness, "Chip Surgery" & Data

The post draw is complete for the Preakness. I was slightly confused at the low morning line given to Derby winner Animal Kingdom - thinking 3-1 would be more than fine from out in post 11 especially - but it is what it is.

It's not like you could take too much advantage of any Preakness feelings anyway - Betfair did not even offer a book before today.

There has been copious chatter on the web about disclosure, with rumors abounding regarding an off-season chip surgery for Uncle Mo. That surgery question would not be answered, even when the connections were pressed. A lot of us thought it was over-the-top to be so secretive if your horse had a procedure because the general public knows that any athlete - human or equine - will have sports injuries to tend to. Enter Pretty Katharine. The world record holding mare's early season progress as a three year old was updated in the media. 

Lo and behold: “She wintered in Ontario at Anna Meyers’ farm, Emerald Ridge Farm,” noted traine…

Quick Filly Starts the Buzz

Last evening top Canadian trotting filly Crys Dream made her three year old debut and the track was abuzz. The filly, who was 7 for 8 last year, winning most in laughers, showed the winter may have only helped. Leaving 7th in the field of nine, driver Luc Ouellette moved her off third over cover and roared home.

She is essentially the first pure buzz horse of 2011, and it is really rare for a trotting filly to hold that honor. Often times they rarely show brilliance, only capability. Not this one.

Usually the three year old colts have the sport talking, but this year that crop looks somewhat suspect. It may be the year of the filly, as filly pacer See You At Peelers is a superstar and has already qualified well.


Western Fair has put together a nice card for Friday's Molson Pace elims. Over the last three or four years they have worked very hard at that event and it is paying off. Branding an event takes work, no matter if you are putting on a horse race, sporting event or …

Monday Action 'Round Racing

May, beginning with the Derby, it seems racings season begins to heat up for both thoroughbreds and standardbreds; both here and overseas. Here are a few of the items catching my eye this Monday:

Greg updates the $300k Molson Pace Eligibles on the Western Fair site. Greg brings an infectiousness to that track and was a tremendous addition.

When are women trainers deserving of headlines, even ones that that talk about their looks? When they can train with the best of them. This lady is a top, top horsewoman.

Paulick highlights what's been happening with the Preakness probable starters.

With governments moving more and more into the red, change occurs and for racing that usually means you are on the short end of the stick. It was announced today that accounting changes at the Ontario Lottery Corporation will impact the slots share to municipalities. The cities will not be happy about that, and one can bet that the fight for slot money is game on.

Nick and Jason put on a nice little pr…

“Woodbine 2010” Redux. How Did They (we) Do?

About three and a half years ago I wrote an article called “Woodbine 2010”. In it, I listed ten things that I hoped Woodbine/Mohawk would implement by the year 2010 to help get racing back on track. In 2007 things were not (on the surface) horrible yet, but all the signs were there and bettors were warning about the trends.

Here are the ten points from the 2007 article verbatim, and a 2011 summary with any changes. I was wondering how they (and me) did, so here goes:

2007 Point 1: The Pick 7 - would be scrapped. I would immediately lower pick 4 takeout back to 2003 levels, which was 14.75%. Why they raised prices in a falling handle landscape in the first place is beyond me. We right this wrong. Lower takeout would then be advertised. "We have the lowest win 4 rake in North America" is our tagline. If this grows, I would seed this pool on Saturday nights to a big number and hope to get new money into the pool.

What has happened since 2007: The pick 7 was scrapped and they “ki…


Mike Repole, on Bob Baffert's off-the-cuff comments that he was "trying to get a price for the Derby":

"The Kentucky Derby was neither the time nor place and I was thinking that I didn't need to address such stupid, idiotic statements."

Apparently, comments like this by Repole were a perfect time and place. Four days before the Derby:

"If he doesn't go off the favorite, I'll make him the favorite. If you're going to go by the Wood Memorial, I'm not afraid of any horse. ... If you want to make Dialed In the favorite, go ahead please, help me."

I don't know about you, but this is game-set-match Baffert. At least Baffert's hyperbole we knew was tongue-in-cheek.


Black Caviar made it 13 for 13 last night in Australia. Video recaps and many links on

Ted on fractional wagers. Yes, the industry has embraced them, which is a good thing. However, when Thalheimer told them to embrace them, it was a three pronged …

Brand Humility: A Needed Concept for Change & Success

For literally decades the horse racing brand was sound. The stands were full, betting was stout and the state of the game was more than fine. California racing especially had a strong associated brand – the big pools, sunny weather and a place one could always get a bet down.

In 2011, this brand is being challenged; not by Indian Casino’s or slots, but by customers.

When customers challenge your brand it means one thing and one thing only – sales will fall. Organizations meet the challenge different ways, one of which is by clinging to the old brand exceptionalism, and looking for blame rather than solutions. Today marketer Seth Godin looked at this phenomenon:

“So, your brand doesn't do anything wrong. What it does is the best it could do under the circumstances. Someone who knew what you know would make the very same decision, because under the circumstances it was the only/best option…. you say it is not fair or expected” he wrote.

He goes on to say that once this thinking is…

Around the World in Futures Betting - Preakness Odds, Top Sires & Even Some Harness Action

In the early 2000's offshore sites permeated the landscape and each one of them - fighting for their slice - would have odds up in record time for many horse racing events. Of late, this is not the case. As we noted last year, the "Horse of the Year" futures were not even offered at an exchange, let alone a bookie site, and stalwarts like Pinnacle Sports did not even offer Derby betting. One wonders if it is a sign of the times, seeing there are simply less people interested in the sport, or if a lot of these sites have said "no mas" to betting giant Betfair.

Regardless, if we do some digging, we can find some futures action out there, and some of it is pretty interesting.

"All Horse Racing" has the only Preakness Book I can find on the net so far (pdf alert!). When you see the 5-1 offered on Animal Kingdom and 7-1 on Dialed In, it might come as a shock, but when you look at the last horse offered, we see why they are so high. The Factor is listed at…

Animals, Numbers & 65

There is plenty going on this Wednesday in our sport.....

65 is the number, and racetrack management, New Jersey racing, and everyone who has a lick of care about the sport is not happy. For this Friday's card at the Meadowlands, only 65 horses were entered and SBOANJ President Tom Luchento is none to pleased:

"It is beyond comprehension how there could only be 65 horses in the entry box for Friday. It is like a kick in the teeth to the SBOANJ, Jeff Gural and all those who stepped up to help. It is a disgrace." he wrote.

On this blog since about 2007 we have written about the need for some sort of organization which dictates a semblance of a schedule for the good of the sport. Chester and Pocono with their over-the-top breeding bonuses and Yonkers with their slot money were a harbinger, and it was as plain as day. What we are seeing now is not really due to the horsemen (although of course they could easily fix this by entering), it is because of a lack of central author…

Animal Kingdom and the "Bounce"

Horse racing has changed rapidly over the years and old dogma is being challenged virtually each year. No longer are the hard and fast Derby rules being clung to, by bettors or trainers, and it seems almost every year one of the rules falls by the wayside.

One theory that permeated the landscape of handicapping for decades has been the "bounce". As you all know the theory prescribes that an all out effort might take something out of the horse and when he/she races next, this might cause it to throw-in a clunker of some sort. It especially can affect horses with gaps in their schedule, or those who come off a layoff, because a taxing race after only workouts (or in harness racing, schoolers) can exacerbate any tweaks.

I guess this is not really theory, it is more common sense. If you or I are not fit enough (for me this is not an "if") and we do something strenuous, we feel it the next day, or sometime the next week. It's the same for horses.

Derby winner Anima…

Monday Notes

As we saw with the Derby aftermath, when good horses race bad - and it happens a lot - often times the result is sickness. St. Elmo Hero, who was a badly beaten 8th last week, was a casualty of a high white count.

Uncle Mo ships to Winstar for a recovery. A common sense person might ask if this is the result, why was it not done about a month ago, rather than putting the horse (and everyone else) through the three-ring circus.

My chuckle for the day "What's Osama Bin Watchin'" h/t to Crunk

Why fewer bettors are playing horses. There are some good points here, and it all follows the script of 'ability to win'. The industry's squeeze the lemon has not worked. In fact, that policy never works in any business. h/t to Crunk

Not a very nice break for Arch X 3. It's unable to heal enough to ever race again. I suspect he'd service a book at a little farm somewhere, so it's hard to feel too sorry for him. He's a nice horse.

Read this story on Online…

Plenty of Disclosure in the Post Derby Transcripts

I thought we're supposed to be an old boys club that is tight lipped about everything? Perhaps it is just from some participants that this has reared its head.

The synopsis of the post-Derby mahem was frank, honest and extremely detailed.

Some thoughts:

Archarcharch looks like he is going to be fine. The hairline was "a clean break" and he is ready to undergo surgery. I really like that horse and when you read the story and how disappointed the connections are it truly shows how you can be on top of the world one day and at the bottom the next in our sport. That horse is as game as they come.

Often times as bettors we strike out a horse off a poor effort because of some preconceived notion like distance limits or bad rides (or whatever it is we make up to fit our handicapping view). A lot of times we are off base. Pants on Fire bled pretty bad in the Derby and looks to be a no-show for the Preakness. “We’ll take him back home to a big old fluffy stall and see how he is in…

Derby Line by Line

It was quite a show today. So much for a boring Derby (I don't know about you, the Derby is never boring).

Here are some thoughts:

My software called for a fast half, and after all, it's the Derby - we always have a fast half. Not this time and there were no rank speedballs to throw a wrench. Shack went 46 in the Florida Derby, but Castanon almost stole the thing here with almost a 49. I think the jockeys with the speed had "don't be Joe" on their lockers.

When you turn on the pre-game show and see people who think pace is something owners do before a race telling us about "hearing the rail is bad", it's time to go long. Archaracharch was felled by a hairline, and early reports say he's going to be ok, but the trip he got was fine.

@Insidethepylons hit the super on twitter, and the tri. However, he is heavily bankrolled. You need to be to hit that sucker.

No one hit the super high five. It carried over.

2011 was was the Year of the "Woman-…

Oaks' Done, on to the Derby

The Kentucky Oaks was an interesting race with many possibles, and one strong possible (off a huge fig) showed that was no fluke and ran beautifully for the win. The super and super high five paid well, and with three of the top four on paper hitting the ticket, it shows just how good this game can be with big field and big pool days.

Now we're off to the Derby, with another race with a big field, that will be hugely bet.

I, like most, am not overly thrilled with the field, but when there is $100M bet, you could card a field of 19 ants running around a donut and I could get excited.

My pick, if anyone cares, centers on Dialed In. I think he is the most likely winner, because he is the horse with pure talent, in a field devoid of it, and he shows me no signs of having been tweaked. For evidence of that talent I offer his maiden win below. You can not teach that type of athleticism.

I give him about a 27% chance and I would bet him at anything over 5-2.

The other horses I think had …