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Showing posts from October, 2011

Fan Friendly

Keeneland announced they had a 9.3% increase in all source handle for the meet that concluded this weekend.

Is there a more fan friendly track than Keeneland out there in racetrack land?

I dedicate the bulk of my wagering money to tracks that I feel want my business, and it got me thinking. What tracks do I find fan-friendly on the thoroughbred and harness side? Which tracks do I feel good about supporting?

Top Three Thoroughbred Tracks

1. The aforementioned Keeneland: I don't have poly-fright (in fact I like the big fields, the uncertainty and modeling jockeys), so that isn't a strike for me. A polycapping database, they keep their fans informed, they lobbied for a takeout reduction early in the decade (that was rejected, but prescient), a willingness to card large fields at all costs without dogma, and a fine on-track experience. Hands down, a track I love to support with my money.

2. Tampa Bay: There is plenty of work to do for Tampa to reach Keenland for me, but any track …

A Great 'Blue Collar' Horse Does the Sport a World of Good

Admit it, in a world where we're talking about 99ers and one percenters, no matter where you fall on that spectrum, you love to cheer on blue collar horses, owned by blue collar folks. In the sport of horse racing, to find that horse you have to look no further than shoe-in Horse of the Year, San Pail.

Moved as a three year old to a mom and pop stable, the horse was an unraced gelding that "no one wanted". Years later as a seven year old, he has climbed the mountain to the top of the sport. He has raced 107 times, with 49 wins, and has amassed a bankroll of almost $3 million dollars. With each of those wins, the winners circles get bigger, the turnstiles spin a little more, and more and more people turn their televisions on.

Last evening at the Breeders' Crown, the San Pail Fan Club reached a crescendo. He would get his biggest test to date. He would not only have to race the top trotters on this continent, but from Europe too.

Landing on Friday, Commander Crowe and…

Breeders Crown Complete

We'll have a ton more on the BC no doubt, but a few quick notes.
If you came wanting to bet chalk, you were probably rewarded nicely, as no chalk was worse than second, and seven favorites won. The two pick 4's (even with the longest shot of the night clicking in the last leg), were microscopic.Clunker of the night: Big Bad John. The Jug winner was leading, and came lastHorse that could've went around three times and still beat them? Chapter Seven. Handle was $3.7 million, which is good. Woodbine, since starting to be more customer and bettor-driven in about 2009, has started to turn a bit of a corner. Tough night at the office? Tony O'Sullivan. Alsace, perfect trip and no fire. Drop the Ball was nothing like she was last week. I bet he thought he was winning both those races, easily.Tim Tetrick horses won a lot of races tonight; without him in the bike. It shows when we replace a good driver with another good driver, who cares.I bet against Sweet Lou at Lexington, and …

Saturday Notes

Happy Breeders Crown day.

Here are a few notes that caught my eye:

The Aqueduct slots parlor opens with long lines. I am reading on a few chat boards and blogs like Alan's the need for capital improvements at the Big A, and the general excitement that somehow a bigger purse will make life so much better.

I guess because I have seen multi-millions in improvements here in Ontario since 1996, purses 300% higher than they used to be, and racing handle at the same time be decimated (it's been cut in half) that I have no glee for the Aqueduct casino for the future of the sport.

With the folks in line at the racino today - all there to pull a lever - it tells us just how bad of shape we're in. Not to mention, now with a casino on the premises, when you hit a $500 tri in the last, you stop in at the machines on the way out and lose a few hundred, killing your churnable horse racing bankroll. It's one of the reasons why every track in existence since they were introduced in the…

Breeders Crown, Here We Go

Tomorrow evening at 6:30 starts a big night at Woodbine. I'll take a look at a few races here, and if you have any horses you like (or want to call me a big dummy for my selections) please comment below.

As usual, since everyone can read the odds board and know who the chalk bets and likely winners are, I will probably focus (and bet) several price horses.

Race 1 - Mares Open Trot

This one is a real head-scratcher for me. The wiseguy horse and software horse (we were on her here on Hambo Day at a nice price) is Jersey As. I can't do it, because I can't bet short priced horses who are going to get away 7th or worse. I am going to go bomb shopping here if the on-track looks cooperate. Emmylou Who has looked lame in the back her last two in the PP, but she's raced well. If she looks any better tomorrow, I am on her. Pembroke Heat Wave has not been bad all year and has been here at McNair's farm for awhile. After Friendly Amigo brushed and crushed in Lex I thought she…

Breeders Crown Free Program is Out

This weekend's Breeders Crown (Crown, not Cup!) program is out, and it's free. You can get it here.

It's the first time all Breeders Crown races are on the same card north of the border. Going through the races (I will throw up some analysis later if anyone wants to chat about them) and replays, I am finding some interesting tilts.

Last year we had a couple of bomb winners, but the chalk was pretty poor in a lot of cases. At first glance this year's chalk look more like Woodbine in '09 where we had a steady parade of cheap prices. After looking at it a little more closely, the two year old races might be worth betting, and with the weather report (cool with a chance of rain), it may add a little bit of intrigue for bettors.

Anyhow, just a note above on the PP link, for anyone who doesn't know they can get one gratis.

More Protection as a Business Model - Texas to Ban Out of State ADWs

Hurting industries often do curious things. 

"The Texas Racing Commission has begun informing out-of-state wagering companies that it's now illegal to accept online horse or greyhound bets from Texas."

Apparently, the following internet websites may be forced to no longer allow Texas residents as customers.

"According to the TRC, letters were sent to (a Churchill Downs affiliate), XpressBet, AmWest Entertainment, USOff-Track, eBet, Premier Turf Club, The Racing Channel, PayDog and Racing2Day."

If they don't comply? They will apparently be snoozin' in the grey-bar hotel.

"The letter concluded that the TRC "may pursue criminal action against violators under Chapter 7 of the Texas Penal Code.""

This is not dissimilar to what happened a few years ago in Arizona. And we all know how that worked out.

Other than drive customers offshore - you know, the ones who wish to patronize racing via that brand-new invention that mi…

Accountability for Business Decisions

Over the last couple of months we have followed the Netflix story here on the blog, and used it from time to time as an illustration showing the difference between the business world and the racing world.

For those who have not followed along, the story is pretty straightforward: The online video streaming company raised prices in Q2, much to the ire of its customers, and they paid for it, as their stock dropped from around $300 to $220. This loss of market cap was mainly due to future quarter projected earnings. The market said - you need to grow eyeballs, and raising your prices is not the way to do it. The company was punished.

After the exacta of annoying your customers, and your shareholders, a mea culpa was issued on their blog. They backtracked some, and tried to re-energize.

However, today Netflix's quarterly earnings came out. The price hike, although good for a short term revenue bump (sound familiar high takeout proponents?), killed their subscriber growth.
Netflix repo…

Breeders Crown Notes

The elims this past weekend are complete. A lot of the time there is very little news in the elims, but this time there certainly was.

The biggest story was in the 3YO FP division, where See You At Peelers confirmed that her condition is not very good, and like we see in racing quite often, a new star is starting to emerge.

SYAP again stopped like she was hit by a Hong Kong poison dart. They tried her and she simply had no response to pressure. I would think we've seen the last of her, but if they do decide to race next season, maybe an extended layoff can do the trick. Regardless, when she was right, she is a tremendously classy mare; one of the best we've seen in awhile.

Taking the baton is Drop the Ball. She always had an amazingly quick brush, and you knew you were looking at a quick horse, but she had serious trouble putting it all together. I don't think she's there quite yet, but all you can say is wow. Her Canadian record was effortless, and she finished the ra…

A Yearling Sale Unlike Many Others

I’ve been to dozens of yearling sales, but this one was certainly different.

On Friday evening I headed out to central Nova Scotia, on beautiful sideroads through places like Pugwash, Wallace and the Wentworth Valley. The destination was Truro, where there was a yearling sale.  
“Breeders usually lose a few thousand a horse, and owners are lucky to not lose about the same”

I read that earlier about this, and other sales out this way.  
The purses are simply not there, the bet is not there either. We’re not talking Ontario, Pennsylvania or Indiana, where slots drive purses (and yearling prices) into the stratosphere.
Anyone who has been to Harrisburg or Lexington for a sale sees the who’s who of harness racing. $300k colts with Jerry Silva or Jeff Snyder’s name on them are commonplace.  Syndicates are formed, planning is intense. If someone hits the jackpot it could mean millions. 
As I walked into this venue I quickly learned it is not that kind of sale. What I saw was refreshing. The…

Cooling Off

On July 31, 2011 supertrainer Lou Pena was given the boot from Yonkers Raceway.  Sometimes in this type situation a trainer may "cool off", other times they keep right on winning. I figured I would look at a few numbers to see what happened this time.

At Yonkers, before he was sent packing, his numbers were pretty remarkable.

He had 242 wins and sported a 39% win percentage. His "UTRS", or batting average, was a super-duper 0.535. Off the claim he was 18 for 26 (no not a typo) in 2011, for a 69% win rate.

Since Lou cannot (officially) race at Yonkers any longer, I figured I would look at his two main stomping grounds since the Yonkers ban, to see what's been happening. Has he cooled off, or is he humming right along?

At Pocono, where he seems to be hanging his hat most now, his stats are very un-Pena like.

Since August 1st he sports 122 trips to the gate, with 20 winners, yielding a 17% win percentage. His UTRS is 0.296, about average for an everyday stable. He…

Breeders Crown, October 19th, and Marketing

The six million dollarBreeders Crown elims have been drawn and they are an interesting set of races, starting this Friday. The link contains program pages and entries.

The biggest shocker (for me) is that See You At Peelers is entered. She, coming off a sickness and a heart issue (and off a crawling qualifier) was not expected to be here, but she is. I am assuming Takter zipped her in 52 or 53 Monday and made a decision, and I hope someone asks him about it.

Next Saturday the finals will all be run on one card, and it is sure to be an entertaining evening.

I began to wax a little melancholic this morning when I heard on CNBC it is the 24 anniversary of Black Friday, where the markets dropped precipitously, destroying about a half of a trillion of wealth. Growing up I learned life ain't free and not only do you have to go to work early, you have to invest early. With that, I tucked away as much work cash as a could as a kid in the stock market. By the age of 18 I amassed about $250…

You Can't Regulate Risk

Mark Davies today wrote about a betting conference he was attending, where the afternoon topic was betting integrity. 

The session looked at somehow plugging an integrity hole, where Mark agrees it does more harm than good. You know the drill - there might someone, somewhere doing something to undermine the sport, so we must over-regulate the betting of the sport, or at the very least, shout it from the highest mountain.
But what concerned me about the session was the extent to which it – and so many sessions like it – served only to perpetuate myths which rapidly take on the status of fact in the public pysche.  The example proponents used to further their case for some sort of betting regulation was a potential situation at next year's Olympics: An athlete who "might finish third in a heat, in order to save him/herself for the final." This is the exact same argument we see in racing, primarily about eliminations in harness. The colt or filly's driver might not tr…

UK Jocks (Not Unexpectedly) Whine

In the 1970's in the NFL, football was downright dirty. Players had tricks they used to get an edge that were right out of a scene from Braveheart. Clotheslining was legal, so was (said by one player I saw interviewed on the subject) 'jabbing your fingers into an opponents neck and grabbing his voicebox'. That sounds pleasant, huh?

At this time in the sports' history, highlight shows were popping up, and those highlight shows were becoming popular (only a portion of games were even shown in the early to mid 70's). The brutality of football and these laissez faire rules resulted in some very bad injuries, and some stomach turning episodes. To combat this, Rozelle had NFL Films never show, or distribute the brutal stuff - the dark side of the game would stay hidden, come hell or high water. Rozelle's reasoning was simple: Selling the game to new markets would be hampered if the brutality of it was not snuffed out.

After that policy not being overly …


After listening to the Google earnings call last night I was amazed by some of the new, fresh ideas, in addition to the business savvy to meet earnings targets.

Conversely, racings strategy seems to be: Let's try and squeeze every penny out of our existing customer base, because we have no strategy to grow the customer base.  

Read Jeff Platt's article on the new (and it appears "secret") idea from "Monarch" who controls many track signals you play via ADW.

I am a horseplayer advocate. I can’t sugar coat this for you. It is my opinion that if this goes through, and Monarch pulls track signals from ADWs, the result is nothing short of a knife in the back for horseplayers everywhere.
Controlling signals and raising rakes to grab more and more of a shrinking pie, while angering your best customers. Nice business strategy, boys.

With my wagering handle down about 80% from several years ago, sometimes I wonder why I continue with the other 20%.

Quick notes:


Will Dutrow End Up Like Bill Robinson? I'd Bet on It

The news was fast and furious today as The New York State Racing and Wagering Board revoked trainer Richard Dutrow's license for 10 years. After sixty four rulings, and public pressure, I guess they have had enough.

This, in my opinion, completely parallels what happened with super-trainer Bill Robinson about ten years ago in  Ontario. The perennial training leader not only had whispers surrounding his horses' performances, he also had a string of violations. In 2004 after another positive, the ORC and Woodbine as well said enough is enough. He was fined $100,000 and thrown out for five years. In addition, Woodbine ruled him off the grounds so he could not train during appeals, and went to court with all guns blazing to defend their right to do it.

WEG head David Willmot:

“Gamblers are paranoid and more often than not are convinced that something funny is going on. If we as an industry do not have their confidence we’ll lose them as customers and we are doing everything we …

We Can Learn from Business 101

In racing, many lament its inability to think on its feet, or listen to its customers and respond in a timely fashion. For those who follow business outside the sport, we see such things each day.

Less than a month ago online streaming company Netflix announced that they were restructuring their offering by splitting the DVD rental business and the streaming business in two. In addition, they forced a price hike on customers, letting them know that the hike in DVD rental costs would be spun off to their streaming catalogue allowing them to expand the shows offered.

Customers were incensed. On chat boards, on facebook and everywhere else they did not want to login twice, be forced into the new DVD business (called "Qwikster"). As well, the share price was hammered.

Fast forward only one month. Just moments ago, Netflix has backed off their plans to split the offerings in two. They have added hundreds of new shows, TV's and news in their content since announcing the hike (…

Sunday Notes

It's Thanksgiving weekend here in the Tundra, but there is no Tundra. I went for the morning coffee on the deck with a sweater on, and ditched the sweater. It's about 21C/70F here and there is not a cloud in the sky. What a weekend!

Last night at the Red Mile we had some good racing, and the meet - despite harness racing (and racing in general losing its edge - is amazingly interesting. Strike An Attitude who always had mucho talent, has begun to put it together late in the year. She won in 48.4, off some weird internal fractions set by Drop the Ball. I think the catalyst in the win might have been Idyllic. She is a crazy mare and when she ran over top Gingras' helmet it appears he thought he was going slow and sped up the second quarter in a stunning 26.2. Internal fractions that are not close to even usually sets it up for a horse sitting just off the pace.

I've been watching Keeneland as I do each spring and fall. Not only does Nicholson and crew do a fine job with …

The Definition of Irony

About ten months ago here was an ad being run by Santa Anita (and Cal Racing) at the start of their meet on a major website, in support of a takeout hike:

Fast forward to today: Here's that same track at the start of this meet, this time running an ad promoting the virtues of low takeout.

It appears that a $250 million dollar handle loss is starting to sink in at the marketing department. 

Three Heat Drama in Futurity

The standardbred breed is known for its kind, docile nature and its toughness. Horses can go a big trip three days before a race to sharpen up, a three minute mile two hours before post time, a two minute mile an hour before post time, and then race. So, when we see a rare three heat effort, it is no surprise the horses can put on a show. That's what happened yesterday in what amounted to a match race between Man of Many Missions and Dejarmbro for the Kentucky Futurity crown at the Red Mile.

It was an exciting a race as you'd ever want to see.

Saturday/Sunday Racing Action

Here are some news and notes that caught my eye this weekend (so far!):

Short fields makes for some pretty awful racing, but when you are watching excellent horses do their thing it makes it a whole lot easier to watch. Yesterday at Belmont we got to see Uncle Mo look sound, happy and impressive in his win. Ditto Havre De Grace and Stacelita.

At the Red Mile last night we got to see similar. Although the purses for these events are not juiced, horsemen and horse owners made the drive to the storied track to race, and it was a great night to spectate. San Pail stamps himself (again) as the best trotter in the land with his victory. And what about Drop the Ball? She is quite simply (when on her game) freakish. In the Allerage for older pacers, two of the hardest hitting horses in all of racing were noses apart, with We Will See beating Foiled Again.

I thought the freshening of early year standout Arch Madness might do the trick, but no dice. He could not sprint with San Pail. In the fil…