Skip to main content


Showing posts from August, 2011

Status Quo

Godin has a nice piece up on defending the status quo. When I read it, as I surmise you might, I thought it paralleled what happens when racing is presented with new ideas.

Here are a few items that Seth says organizations go through, which are a sure sign the status quo rules the roost.

"When you are confronted with a new idea, do you:

Highlight the pain to a few instead of the benefits for the many?

Focus on short-term costs instead of long-term benefits, because the short-term is more vivid for you?

Fight to retain benefits and status earned only through tenure and longevity?

Undercut the credibility, authority or experience of people behind the change?"

There are dozens of others, so click the link if you are interested.

If you visit a racing website and someone has a new idea, like changing takeout, or updating a tote system, or allowing betfair to partner, you will see each of those at work. Someone, somewhere might lose a fraction of their slice. You are just a dumb b…

See You at Peelers Win Streak Ends

It's bound to happen sooner or later to virtually any horse. They throw in a bad one. See You at Peelers was looking like an easy winner until the top of the stretch (she even had the pocket horse gapped out, just like she usually does), when whatever was not right with her, kicked in. She was badly defeated, coming sixth.

She dodged a bullet where she came home slow at the Meadowlands a month ago in a slow time, but fortuitously hung on. Today there was no such luck. She was pushed much more than her last near miss, and could not even muster a check.

Congrats to the connections for a glorious run with the filly. It is so difficult in this day and age to have them on their toes, healthy and sound each and every race. Takter and crew pulled it off for 22 straight trips behind the gate, at a dozen or more racetracks, in two countries. That's pretty amazing, and nothing to hang your head about.

Xtreme Under Saddle

Xtreme racing was held at Georgian on Saturday evening, and one of the cooler spectacles was the trotters racing under saddle.
Xtreme racing handle fell this year to about $177k. This is probably not unexpected, and it shows that even good ideas to promote our sport through change without money behind them can have a tough time. With Xtreme racing we are trying to break into the entertainment market (although the betting and handicapping is superb, sans the high takeout and small pools). Breaking into the entertainment market takes money.

It is one of the reasons I wholeheartedly support the SC vision of taking money out of slots to promote. Without money pushing events, they are really tough to grow.


See You at Peelers goes at 3PM ET today at the Meadows. If she is as good as last week she'll be tough to beat, but with tons of speed inside her and some decent competition, she might have to work for it. Should something strange happen, I like longshot's Swinging Beauty…

Racing Lawsuits Getting Stranger

Andrew Cohen in yesterday, explored the Crys Dream story.

As most everyone knows, the filly was suspended in Ontario for 90 days for a Class II. The owners of the filly went to New Jersey court (New Jersey was giving the Ontario ruling reciprocity) and they won, so she could race in Jersey.  She raced in the Hambo Oaks Final, and came third.

But now, Cohen reports things have gotten strange:
What’s unusual about the Crys Dream litigation is that Gulotta and Company also are asking the federal courts to impose money damages, including punitive damages upon Zanzuccki. If the plaintiffs win this part of their case, if the state is forced to pay, racing commissions everywhere will trembleAmong other allegations, like future damages caused by the fact that the horse missed those two starts, Crys Dream’s connections essentially allege that they lost the Hambletonian Oaks Final-- that they suffered damages by coming in only third-- because the horse didn’t get to race …

Weekend Notes

There is a teeny chill in the air evenings nowadays, and it's a sure sign of ..... solid stakes races.

On Saturday, The Travers and the return of Uncle Mo in the 7f King's Bishop highlight the thoroughbred action. I have handicapped neither, but there is plenty of commentary on the interwebs. Ed DeRosa at Twinspires seems to break down the Uncle Mo return, in terms of the pick 4, pretty correctly. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. I love this horse, but I am never confident in a return in a spot like this. As a bettor we can place faith in the connections and say "they don't want to cheapen the horse, so one would think he will be ready", and that is usually super-sound thinking. However, with Pletcher I take it with a grain of salt. I was sure Super Saver had to be ready for the Travers - or why enter him - and he stunk. I was sure Esky was sound for the Derby and he was scratched. I was sure Quality Road would be just fine for the Classic last year. Yo…

A Chat with Perretti Farms' Bob Marks

One of the most successful breeding operations, not only in Jersey, but in North America announced last week they are dispersing their holdings.

The name Perretti Farms has always been respected, and virtually everyone in the harness community was saddened by the news. We asked frequent blog reader Bob Marks, who handles the marketing for Perretti, some questions, and we post them here.

We first asked Bob: When decisions were made to disperse, how much of it hinged on pure economics, and how much on simply wanting to call it quits. Did the uncertainty in racings future play a major role?

"New Jersey is at a disadvantage when compared to neighboring states that have racino revenue, so that played a role" wrote Bob.

Bettors and breeders are on the same page with that one. Not only does the lack of casino revenue hurt entries for us to bet on, it depresses yearling prices on the supply side. When both ends of your spectrum are being hit - supply of racehorses; yearlings and race…

Three Reasons to Watch Harness This Week

One, Wednesday evening Balmoral Park has a carryover on its pick 5, and it's low takeout pick 4, back to back.
Via their Press Release:
Multi race mania will be the theme at Balmoral Park on Wednesday. One carryover and two guaranteed pools will bring the national gambling spotlight to the mile track . Handicappers across North America can get a head start on their competition with free program pages for races 2 through 10 right now courtesy of the USTA and Track Master on the handicapping section at
    The 50 cent Pick 5 wager is offered on races 2 thru 6. With a carryover of $7,416 , the USTA and Balmoral Park have created a $25,000 INSTANT GUARANTEED POOL on the Wednesday Pick 5. Post time for the second race is 8:30 Eastern, 7:30 Central and 5:30 Pacific.
   Balmoral will also offer a $15,000 Guaranteed Pick 4 pool on races 7 thru 10. The Pick 4 immediately follows the conclusion of the Pick 5 and has a one dollar minimum and a low takeout of $15%. Through Aug…

4 in 12 Days. It's Why We Need Rules

Racing tends to govern down to the letter, but only if the letter is written. The problem as I see it is that sometime, somewhere, there will be someone who pushes an envelope, and we need another rule.

It was reported this past week on twitter and elsewhere, and today on the Paulick Report, that trainer Richard Dutrow's filly, who raced four times in twelve days, was put on the judges list. The outrage on the web has ratcheted up several notches, because in her last start of the tough stint, she was eased.

It's true there was no 'rule' broken, but it's a big reason why this sport needs more and more of them.

It doesn't matter if trainer 'X' once raced a horse four times in 15 days, or another trainer raced one three times in eight days, or whatever anecdotal evidence we want to give to excuse it (I am sure we all know someone who never wore a seatbelt, but didn't die in an auto accident). What matters, is that in this day and age, when racing pur…

Super Weekend of Racing

This weekend had plenty of fireworks for racing fans and bettors

For me, it started on Saturday which was my very first viewing of the Saratoga broadcast on NBC. Clearly they are dealing with a horse racing, rather than a pure betting audience, and that was whom they targeted (it's no Bet Night Live). I thought the production was excellent, as was the crew. Thumbs up. ....

For Canadian fans, the Alabama was disappointing, as Plate winner Inglorious simply had zero pop. She raced like a sick horse. However, all signs seemed to be fine the next morning, as reported by Keith of Triple Dead Heat via twitter. .....

The Gold Cup and Saucer was again a compelling and interesting event. The little track had over $275k bet, which is a huge accomplishment. For video and some nice shots of the big crowd, please see below. .....

Today at Chester, See You at Peelers shook whatever has been ailing her and dusted some decent rivals like they were in lead sulkies. The 150.2 score was pretty …

Slots at Racetracks: Poor Policy Haunts Racing

The DRF yesterday compiled figures in terms of handle, field size and purses for slots and non-slots racetracks. The results, although alarming, should not be a surprise to anyone who follows the sport, or who has followed how these slots agreements were written.

"Racetracks that received subsidies from slot machines in 2010 generated on average only two-fifths of the betting that non-subsidized tracks generated even though they distributed nearly equivalent levels of average daily purses"

In harness racing these results are commonplace. It is normal to see a track give out $100k in purses, with less than $40k of nightly handle. It is also not uncommon to see upwards of 90% of all purses come from the slot machines.

What went wrong? I believe it can all be traced back to the singular policy-focus on the supply side, with a hopes that this would increase demand.

As far back as 1995, while lobbying for the machines, the narrative focused on purses leading racing to the prom…

Thursday Notes

......... I'm currently out east for Old Home Week and the Gold Cup and Saucer and the weather is about 77F/24C with not a cloud in the sky. Oh, and I have to work. Lovely. Here are some Thursday thoughts.

..... See You At Peelers goes for her 22nd win in a row in the $350k Valley Forge at Chester on Sunday. Thoroughbred fans that are following her streak (via places like Equidaily who have promoted her) must be flummoxed with her schedule, no? Supermare Zenyatta was lucky to be seen once every five or six weeks during her streak, but Peelers is entered like a harness horse. I don't blame them a lick for scratching last time in the soup by the way.

..... This Saturday's Gold Cup and Saucer is heating up. I don't think people outside the sport, or the area really understand what kind of an event this is. Dave Briggs speaks about it today in the Guelph Mercury:

Everyone loves a good party, everyone loves a good race. You get both here,” Anthony said. “Mix in the food, pa…

The Disconnect, Jockey Club Style

I was reading more about the McKinsey Report commissioned by the Jockey Club this evening. I came across what I think is something that is a little bit disconnecting.

Keep in mind I am just a dumb horseplayer, so I expect I am probably missing something.

The report calls for an increase in spend for TV coverage, to try and drive eyeballs to our sport. That's cool. Revenue can come from eyeballs over time by cultivating them - even with interruption marketing. It's a mass market strategy, and that's fine.

However, on takeout, it appears that strategy is completely turned on its head.

"I think we heard a lot from our most important customers that the pricing of the product is a little bit too high. But, in general, we thought a better way to deal with it - because of the regulatory environment - was to give targeted rebates to our best customers as opposed to a general reduction in takeout."

Instead of mass marketing to bettors - who supplies us with about nine…

Cup & Saucer is Set - Pure Magic for Race Fans

On Monday, Blissful Breeze won the third and final trial for this year's Gold Cup and Saucer, and the field for this Saturday's final is set.

One thing we have learned from this spectacle the last several years, is that it's hard to keep people away from it, despite the relatively small purse. On an insider posted that Mark MacDonald, recent Canadian driver of the year and the perennial $5M + winner, has booked off his Saturday stakes drives at Mohawk to compete in the Final in Charlottetown.

That is something rarely seen nowadays - drivers booking off solid mounts where they are going for hundreds of thousands of dollars in an evening, to compete in one $60k race. But for those who have been to the Gold Cup, it probably does not surprise them too much.

Delaware's finest trainer (if not the best colt trainer in the US) George Teague only had one horse qualify for the final - Western Ace. His other entrant, Southwind Lynx, is in a $20k race this weekend. I hope …

Tuesday Notes: Welcome to the Future

....... There is plenty of reaction on the interwebs and various social media outlets regarding the McKinsey Report. Bill Finley spoke about overlapping post times, Valerie talked about how blogs and other outlets have been saying similar for years, Teresa had a recap, LATG and Handride talked about similar. For a full list, you can check the raceday360 trending topics list.

....... On twitter, I thought Dan from Thorotrends made a great comment: "The study lacked a cohesive, convincing, sophisticated road map to customer acquisition. For the price tag, it needed to."

Having said that, the Jockey Club - whether this study was worth it or not - has begun to put their money where their mouth is. $10M is to be spent over the next five years on a variety of the issues.

...... Does this sound like "what might have been" for a harness racing lover? Standardbred Canada, since about 2007, has been compiling a list of things that need to be changed to grow that sport in Ca…

McKinsey Report - Nothing New

I have not spoken too much about the McKinsey survey here too much (if at all) when, or since, it was announced. I felt - mainly because they were interviewing (for the most part) industry insiders (the ones who have presided over our lost viewership, handles and revenues the last twenty years) - that there would be nothing new in it.

The results are in:

"The nine recommendations involve fewer, better race days; innovative wagering platforms; integrated rewards systems; improved television coverage for racing; free-to-play online games to educate the public; social games to develop interest; safety improvements; new ownership tools; and best practices at racetracks."

I think we all knew the above needed fixing before, but we now have a survey that tells us it's broken. I am guessing that was why the company was hired: The Jockey Club needed a road sign containing long talked about recommendations to rally the sport around, and they got a road sign.

What did trouble m…

Best of Best Wins a Super Confederation Cup

People have called half mile track racing anachronistic, something that should be done away with in the speed game, and worse. Often times this description fits, especially in stakes finals like the Jug, where the draw of your colt in the elimination means everything (e.g. draw a seven and you are pretty much toast, as you ain't winning your elim, and the elim winners pick their posts for the Jug final).

If you watched the $500k Confederation Cup final today, you certainly can't call it anything but exciting.

Best of Best Hanover, who drew horribly in his elim (and flipped his palate for good measure), showed his class and his talent, winning the final in 152, due (a lot) to a brilliant backstretch move by driver Jackie Mo.

Darryl Kaplan at Standardbred Canada spoke eloquently in last month's Trot Magazine about the Open draw for stakes finals, and what we witnessed today was exactly what he was talking about. Just because a horse draws a rail in a $50k elim, gets things h…

Confed Cup, GC&S Trials & M Action

While thoroughbred racing basques in the Million (and the excellent undercard), harness racing's stakes schedule seems to never disappoint with more stakes than you can shake a stick at. It is a wonderful part of our sport. Here's a bit of a rundown, and look forward.....

Last night at the M, the Haughton elims prove that the older division in harness racing is, by far, the most exciting division in the sport. Next week should be an excellent tilt.

It pays to watch replays, and have an opinion on how a horse finishes. Krispy Apple looked horrible at the wire last time, and she blew as a 50 cent on the dollar chalk last night.

Mel Mara - too fast too early, physical issues, or what? He goes from a 26 second last quarter horse that would be 2-1 in the Metro futures to a 28 second last quarter horse, where we are wondering if he gets out of nw2.

$225,000 was bet into the Larry Lederman race last evening. Way to go.

Today's Confederation Cup is one of the highlights of my summ…

For the Long Term

A lot of us, including most of you who comment and give the blog a read, love racing. Most of the time we get into discussions about the long term health of the sport. Usually the decisions made in racing are very short term in nature - like a quick bump of purses hoping things will get better, cutting off an ADW which does not pay a high signal fee, or signing a status-quo deal after a horseman and track dispute. However, at times, there are some decisions that are made that want to change the way our sport operates, with a long-term vision in regards to its health.

Yesterday the Hambletonian Society announced that in 2018, no horse will be eligible to race in the premier event, unless they are sired by a horse four years or older.

The hope is that, in the long term, we will see more and more excellent three year olds not have their careers cut short, allowing them to go on and perform for fans, and the people who love watching great horses race.

This is a very bold step. The Hambo …

Gold Cup & Saucer Field is Set

The final goes for $60k - chump change in slotsville - but this year's Gold Cup and Saucer on Prince Edward Island has attracted a good field, from all over Canada and the US.

Included in this year's mix is Southwind Lynx, who won the $1.0M Meadowlands Pace as the three year old, trained by the Delaware based George Teague. I find that amazing. A small race a long way away, attracting such a trainer and horse. It's like Todd Pletcher sending Super Saver for a cheap race in Idaho; just to be there. This is what this little race has become.

Here are the fields for the trials which go this weekend. This year the Cup will be able to be bet in Canada, across the US (through various ADWs) and even in Europe. They are certainly trying to grow the GC & S brand.

Sobeys Gold Cup Trial 1
Post Position: Horse
1: Secret Weapon
2: Fleet Sensation
3: Fire On The Water
4: Pan Larceny
5: Oakmont
6: Im Gorgeous
7: Chasin Racin
8: Awesome Armbro N

Sobeys Gold Cup Trial 2
Post Position: Horse

Tuesday Musings

..... Do you want to make a bet Saturday and I guarantee, win or lose, you're going to feel good about it? Try the 5th at the Meadowlands - the Larry Lederman race.

.... One of the most accomplished bloggers in the space is Foolish Pleasure, and she takes a shot at polling today. I could not agree more. Remember last year with the HOY voting? 'Older males who race classic distances, have a leg up'? What nonsense.

.... Slots wealth should be used in better ways. No kidding. No one inside this sport or outside of it, has ever given me a good reason why slots states and provinces are not mandated to have the lowest takeouts in the country, and of course, set aside cash for a marketing slush fund. When up to 90% of your purses come from gaming handle, what in the hell are you waiting for?

..... Tom LaMarra on twitter asks this morning:

..... Daily Racing Form ad - taken out by a gambler - stirs some controversy. I have no idea why a gambler would do such a thing, but some of t…

The 747 is Slowly Turning

Western Fair CEO Hugh Mitchell, at a recent round table, possessed one of my favorite quotes (I have mentioned it before):

"Making changes in racing is like turning around a 747 on a tennis court".

This, in reference to the lack of central authority in racing, power groups fighting over their slice who are unwilling to give an inch etc, is met with a nod from virtually everyone in our sport.

Our little blog here is read by both insiders and bettors, and it has always amazed me that on many items we discuss, there is a virtual church chorus of agreement: Yes we need change, and much of it is common sensical. The problem has always been getting there.

However, I think we are starting to.

Recently we have seen some changes that have been spoken about at conferences and in back rooms for years: Things like lowering the takeout, concentrating on race dates that card good bettable races and don't just dole out slots money like food stamps, and so on. In addition, the dam is b…

If You Go To Stud at Three.....

.... don't expect to race in a Meadowlands major stakes race.

In what is sure to be a lively and heated discussion about the future of the sports stars and personal property, Meadowlands' owner Jeff Gural has thrown it down:

People like betting on star power, and Gural announced that he’s going to make horses sired by four-year-olds not eligible to the Meadowlands’ major stakes, including the Meadowlands Pace, the W.N. Reynolds Memorial, and John Simpson Sr. Stakes

"Anybody in the entertainment business knows you need stars," said Gural. "But the breeders have destroyed the ability to see our stars by retiring our very best horses at their prime."

Gural said he has asked the Hambletonian Society, Woodbine Entertainment Group, and The Red Mile to join him this year in making horses sired by four-year-olds ineligible, but up to this point he said they've been mostly reluctant. 


While, I'm at it with "wow's", can someone (wh…

Hambletonian Hank's Picks and Pans

My name is not Hank, but I thought it was catchy. 
Saturday at 11AM begins the best harness card of the year (although of late, the Metro Card and NA Cup Card is giving it a run), and Hambo Hank is here with some thoughts. For a free program, you can get one here.
The daylight Hambo card is geared to speed over the years, almost without fail. If the first couple of races are wire jobs and that apparent bias exists, I will be constructing my late horizontals accordingly. It looks like there is a chance of rain later in the day.
Race 2, is The Perretti Matchmaker for $100k. This is the first big question mark race of the card, and if you pick soundly, you might get paid. Both Autumn Escapade and Buck I St Pat stopped like they were hit with Hong Kong poison darts last time, and both are back in. I doubt the latter will supply you with any odds though, and we probably have to a take shot on something else. I’ll try Jersey AS. You cannot find a hotter trainer if you looked, and the mare …

Hyperbaric Chambers

A hot topic over the last year is the use of hyperbaric chambers in horse racing. Most of the chatter we hear in the sport publicly, talks about how they help heal maladies, like a sore tendon or a hairline, quicker than conventional. In the backstretch it's different - a lot of people are talking about how they boost red blood cell counts (like EPO does) and this gives trainers an edge because with a boost, the horse gets less tired.

In this week's edition of Harness Racing Weekend Preview at, trainer Noel Daley tells how he uses the chamber on one of his charges, and he does not avoid the RBC angle (of course, this is 100% legal, so I want to be clear he is doing nothing wrong):

“It simulates high-altitude training,” said Daley. “It’s like what some people said worked for Mine That Bird in the Kentucky Derby, when he trained in New Mexico and then shipped down to near sea level and won. Some people think that helped. It helps the body naturally increase re…

Taking Frankel Down a Notch

Handicapping racing is a wonderful mind exercise, and many times (which often offers us value) people see different things, or there are external factors at play that we have to analyze. One of the things thoroughbred racing adds for a mind-stretch is the need, with different distances, to really dig deep into pace, and internal fractions, and judge a horse on how he finishes and who he beats.

Frankel's win at Goodwood last week was sparkling to the eye. Yes he got a slow first half, but he relaxed and then sprinted home nicely as a good horse should. But, we had to dig deeper: Is there something to put this horse over the top in that race? The solidifying factor was Canford Cliffs, the second place finisher who is an awesome horse himself - Frankel dropped him like a cheap internet connection. Wow!

But today we learned, as is often the case in racing, Canford Cliffs was the outlier, not Frankel. He was retired due to a leg injury sustained in the running. When we saw him bear out…