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Showing posts from November, 2011

There's One Spot Left to Grab an Edge: At the Track

This morning we've got a huge surge in the stock markets. But it did not look that way early on.

As Keith McCullough writes today in his market update, the use of twitter has changed the way we think and act. As a result, the markets are extremely fast, and efficient with short-term, knee-jerk moves.
Watching the US Equity futures trade this morning captures the essence of how short-term the group-thinking associated with the Type 2 Player in this game has become:
At 4AM EST, I jot down in my trusty notebook “China down -3.3% to down -16.9% YTD, testing October lows”At 6AM EST, headline hits “China cuts reserve requirements, 50 basis points”The S&P futures went from down 8 points to up 8 in a nanosecond of what could be best described as media panting about point #2 on Twitter. Twitter, you see, is replacing what Old Wall Street calls “the tape.” On Wall Street 2.0, tweeters with analytical competence not only capture the China like headline “news” in real-time but have it syn…

The Big Push for Televising Racing

Open a story on a racing website and you'll probably read about one of racings new marketing pushes - television. The industry is hopeful that new coverage on channels like Versus might do the job.

The Jockey Club is spending $10M over 5 years on this new initiative.

On the surface it makes sense. We have a neat sport, and if we put in on television, someone new in the mass market might watch it and become a fan. That narrative resonates.

Unfortunately I'm not convinced this spend will give back the needed, or expected revenue. I know a lot of you aren't convinced, either.

If rodeo is on television Saturday, do we watch it because it's on?

The pentathalon?

Beach volleyball?


What about amateur boxing?

Did anyone watch the CFL when it was on NBC during the NFL strike in the 1980's?

All those events or sports are on television, or were on television, and have been for many years; some of them are shown many more hours a week than racing ever will be on…

Saturday Notes

Some notes and other commentary for a Saturday morning:

Canadian horsemen go south to Turf Paradise. Canadian bettors sure don't, or shouldn't. They quietly upped takeout recently. The WPS take now stands at 20.75% (note: this is not a misprint).

Harness Racing Update has some response letters to Andrew Cohen's last piece on the sports' participants turning a blind eye to cheatin'. Harness racing meets this head on at times, while thoroughbred racing doesn't.

Betfair hired a former NYRA exec to help establish exchange betting. I'd love a NYRA exec to look into lowering the takeout that they've hiked, now that gazillions are coming in the door via the slot machines. But maybe that's just me.

"Judges" can play with betting money in racing - anyone who got a call go against them, or for them knows that - but we rarely think of it in other sports. Betfair has changed all that. On Thursday in the NFL there was a close call on a 4th and five lat…

Forest City & Nick, Keith and the Billionaire

A few quick stories tonight.

First, the Forest City Pace is on tap for Saturday at Western Fair. It's not too often you get to see a Breeders Crown champ at Western Fair, fresh off the big 149.1 win, but we do. And, she has the dreaded seven post, which should make this a very interesting race. Greg Blanchard has his youtube preview and I have linked it below; give it a watch as he runs down the excellent pick 4 sequence. Programs et al, are here.

Second up, Keith McCalmont's piece on trainer Nick Boyd is out on the Trot website. Nick discusses the Risky Business TV show with billionaire Brett Wilson, and the state of the game in his opinion. HANA added his comments on their blog tonight, because it is fairly rare to hear a trainer, or industry participant speak of the bettor.

Not long after Nick began his training journey, he wrote about his outlook here on the blog. You can read it by clicking here.

News Notes and Opinions

Andrew Cohen's swan song at Harness Racing Update

Giving Thanks to the Horse Rescues

"Dogs have given us their absolute all. We are the center of their universe. We are the focus of their love and faith and trust. They serve us in return for scraps. It is without a doubt the best deal man has ever made."

I read a wonderful blog piece last night from Melaina Phipps. It was about her journey in rescuing a blind basset hound named Rufus. 

When I sent the story to a friend who runs a dog rescue she immediately replied:

"I don't know if I'm just having an emotional day, but it brought tears to my eyes."

Rufus seems to wake up each day happy to be alive. In another age or another time he probably would not be with us anymore. We can learn a lot as humans from ol' Rufus.

There are other blind dogs that are available for adoption, who need people like you and me, willing to give them a chance. I was astounded to see the vast number of them on the Blind Dog Rescue alliance website.

The people I do meet in the rescue community have amazing h…

Twinky of the Day

Today's twinky of the day came from Derek Brown, before Rapid Redux took the track to try and win his 20th in a row.

In other twitter news, a little bird told me today (I won't mention any names; it was Ed DeRosa) that @toddpletcher is apparently not the real Todd Pletcher. Thankfully the first fake Todd Pletcher (the guy before the second fake Todd Pletcher) is back twinkying tonight and he had something to say about Rapid Redux's 20th win in a row.

Tonight, all seems right in the world.

Don't Lie, Your Worldview is Your Worldview

Spring break fits a worldview. It's fun, crazy and we (well, when I was 20 at least) have to be there.

The worldview of most who like Starbucks compels them to pay $3.50 for a coffee they could get at work for free.

There are many more examples.

What worldview does racing fit? It depends on who you ask.

To me (and probably you), it's fun, interesting, entertaining, enthralling, competitive and a joy to be around.

To a PETA or WWF member it's bloodsport.

To a poker player, it's a gambling game for suckers.

To a college kid it's boring.

To a pure sports fan, it makes no sense to cheer for brown animals, when they can watch Sidney Crosby instead.

You get the picture.

The problem is, for the growth of the sport, or as a gambling game, the PETA types, college kids and poker players et al, are a target market in some way. There is not enough me's and there are not enough you's, (and some of folks like the PETA crew cause us problems.)

Seth Godin in All Marketer…

Talking Some Business Today

We're off on a Friday; and I see our US friends have a short week next week, too. It might be a quieter next seven days or so.

I just realized this a business post for the most part. I wanted to talk about San Pail and a few other things, but bah, some things catching my eye as a marketer and new business dude who's worked with a lot of start-ups got me rambling.

Seth Godin has been on a roll lately at his blog.
It's difficult to change an industry, set a world record, land big clients, or do art that influences others. When faced with this difficulty, those with other, seemingly better options see the barrier and walk away.The thing about effort is that effort is its own reward if you allow it to be. If you try something that doesn't work, try something else. If you have an idea to change the sport for the better and a superior slams the door in your face because they are focused on the fence and not jumping over it, try another door.  Trying to change racing via an e…

Thursday Notes

Good Thursday morning everyone.

First, Casino-ville:

Alan reports Yonkers revenues are down in terms of win per machine since the casino opened at the Big A. Does this mean harness purses are on their way down too? Time will tell.

In Massachusetts, the casino bill was signed, after an amendment that cut racings revenues from it, in half.

Life was simpler when we depended only on handle, no?

With apologies to Tom LaMarra at the Bloodhorse, something made me go hmmmm this morning:

Franco Harris was let go by the Meadows (fired) for comments in support of Penn State coach Paterno.

Richard Dutrow was given a stay, allowing him to train while he appeals his 10 year ban. Appeals in these cases, according to the DRF can last a year.

In Mr. Harris's case we have a private business firing someone for an opinion - not a popular one - which is their right. The thing is, the man who he is supporting has not even had one day of due process. As the Wall Street Journal reports, Grand Juries …

Racing's Piracy Paradox

Throughout the early part of the decade (and continuing to this day), the response from racing with regards to offshore websites is one of pure vitriol. They have spent countless time and plenty of money trying to do away with them. Of course they had a point: these sites were taking bets on racing, without paying for the signal. Even today, despite rules and regulations, as well as acts of Congress like the UIGEA, which prohibit this wagering, it is brought up time and again.

At wagering conferences, on this blog, and in general discussions with my betting friends, I often have put forth the argument that shutting these places down will do (or has done) nothing positive for handle. In fact, I believe that shutting them down (and not looking to work with them in some way) might actually hurt the industry; doing exactly the opposite of what was intended.

The reason I had that view, was because "Free" is a business model in the 21st century.

In the book of the same name (I am…

Cultural Differences

Via Alexa, here are the traffic ranks and more for

And here is the Racing Post, in the UK

Both sites (and papers) are racing staples. However, in the UK the Racing Post ranks 371st in traffic. In the US, the drf site can't crack the top 4000.

There's Not Much Left But the Bettor

I came across an interesting chart tonight on music sales revenue:

The graph is fairly self-explanatory.  In the late 1980's to around the year 2000, CD sales were a positive innovation for revenues. They sounded better, lasted longer and were much more expensive. Add the fact that all the previously sold tapes and LP's would have to be rebought again to fill out your collection, and we've got ourselves a big bubble.

In 2000, along came digital music, with marginal costs that approached free. The bubble was broken and sales revenue went down. Sure people once again rebought old tunes, but they weren't paying $20 for ten songs in a shiny package, sometimes with nine of them they didn't even like. They were paying 99 cents at a website near their fingertips.

This chart is not unlike a chart for racing's core revenues. We too were in a bubble that when shocked (some would say finally made fair for competitors) finally burst. There was nowhere, or nothing else, in …

Initial Stud Values. Are They a Mugs Game or Good Business?

This was tweeted out this morning:

It may be moving that way in thoroughbred racing, but in harness, have we moved at all off that opinion? I'd have to surmise we haven't.

We see it each year - a big name horse is retired and his stud fee is huge; Deweycheatumnhowe, Donato Hanover, Somebeachsomewhere to name but three. The breeding farm goes all in and brings the best mares they can find for the first crop, hoping they have a supersire (or trying to make it a self fulfilling prophecy). Yearling buyers line up for the new, new thing, and away we go.

This season at Harrisburg, the second crop of Donato Hanover was all the rage. His foals sold like gangbusters. He had two or three very nice horses in his first crop and we all heard about them. Not following his first crop via its hard numbers I was sold too - wow, the son of Dtrain is really mowing them down.  So was the narrative.

But as I looked deeper into his numbers, expecting to see the hype confirmed, I found something di…

We Won't Get a Bias

In modern society we see it almost every day. If we have a bias, that bias will be reflected in our opinions.

For many who like and revere coach Paterno, they may come down on his side, without even knowing the facts, or caring about them.

For some people who immediately thought Paula Jones was a victim of Democrat Bill Clinton, Republican Herman Cain's accusers are gold diggers.

One may expect John Corzine to be a poster boy for the Occupy Wall Street folks to hang their hat on because of the MF Global news, but because of the letter before or after his name, he is notably absent in some of the protests.

There are probably a dozen or more examples in the right here and right now.

One place we will not get a bias is at this year's RTIP in Arizona. Caroline Betts, an economist, will be talking about takeout.  More than likely she will not use the words "put on the show" or "horse racing is expensive so we need to charge a high price" in her presentation. It…

It Must be Tough Being a Thoroughbred Trainer

Horse owners can be a real pain in the ass. Trainers for that matter can, to, when it comes to making excuses for poor performances. But owners can really take the cake sometimes.

In harness racing the list of excuses is long - the horse needs to be on a helmet, he needs to be on the front, he got a bad drive, the track was sticky, the bridle didn't work, I blew a tire, he threw a shoe. There are a few more, but you get the drift.

Most of the time these excuses are nonsense - the horse simply had a bad day, or there is something wrong with him or her and it needs to be addressed. However, usually (because harness racing races each seven days), you can prove or disprove the excuse quite quickly. Just pop the horse back in, race him on a helmet instead of on the front (for that excuse) and boom, mystery over.

I spoke to a friend today and we chatted about the excuses from some owners in thoroughbred racing. They truly do take the cake.

Where harness has five or ten prime excuses, th…

Was Zenyatta Racing on Saturday?

With a hat tip to o_crunk on twitter, we have a graph of the search trends on google over the last couple of weeks. The blue line is Zenyatta and the red line is 2011 Champion Drosselmeyer.

 Even retired she trends close to as much as the 2011 champion. Unheard of. It shows there is little doubt she was and is an amazingly popular racehorse.

Tuesday Notes

Off we go on a Tuesday.

Uncle Mo has been retired. It turns out his GGT measure is off the charts again. There are people who will call BS on that, but I am not one of them. Recently I would receive calls from a trainer with a nice horse that was simply racing flat (he reminded me of Mo and how he's raced actually). His GGT was elevated and he tracked down a dozen or more vets, others with the issue - some as even as far away as Australia - and it was a puzzle. The causes were many, the treatments were all tried and it was something that was just there. So many others on the web, whether it be with a pony, a racehorse or a trail horse would share similar stories on the mysteries of liver function and high GGT readings. It is one of the mysteries in caring for horses, and racing horses, in my opinion. I think we all agree Mo is much better than he had been showing, and when I hear the letters "GGT" it makes much more sense now.

The construction business in Jers…

D Train Colt Brings $825k

The highest price yearling ever to sell in harness racing history sold just now at Harrisburg. The son of Andover Hall-D Train brought $825k. He was smashingly calm in the ring too.

It is not really that inconceivable. He could probably stand right now in a slots state for a couple of thousand (he is a looker), and at 80 mares a year for three years, that would bring his current value to somewhere around $350,000, without having raced.

He is going into the books as the highest priced yearling in racing, but I'll call some hooey on that. Laugh A Day in 1982 or 1983 sold for $625k, and with a multiplier, that is about $1.4 million in 2011 cash.

In Harness Racing There's No Celebrity

I remember heading on the streetcar to Greenwood, nightly, as a kid, to play the races. When you reached the track you'd invariably meet characters of all stripes, and often times you'd sit with them, but rarely would the conversation be anything more than "who do you like?"

One gentleman I would see at the track almost every race night, and chat with, was a nice fella who never seemed to have a job. He was kind of just there every time I was. He was a harness fan through and through.

One evening, (many months after I had been chatting with him) between races I asked how he made his living, and he quietly (looking around, almost like he didn't want anyone to know) said "I write songs".

I said "Cool. Would I know any?"

He replied, "Maybe. Have you ever heard "Go for Soda" by Kim Mitchell? I co-wrote that, along with others on that album."

Sure I heard of it. You could not be Canadian and not. It turns out he not only wrote …

Breeders Cup Post Script

A few random thoughts about the BC from the last 48 hours of being glued to the TV and interweb screens.....

Handle was down this year by about 5%, as was attendance. Unlike last year, when Zenyatta was the most popular horse in the sport (by a football field), there was simply not the same buzz. I guess that is not unexpected.

My favorite races, on pure talent: The Juvy Sprint and the Juvy Fillies. Wow, those two winners were hugely impressive.

By the time the Classic rolled around I was pretty fatigued this year, but I think it was more than just that. I could simply not find a horse to hang my hat on. In hindsight, Drosselmeyer seemed to be on the improve and seemed like a horse who, at 10f, would not be stopping like he was racing in glue, like most of the rest of them. Regardless, it was a less than stellar tilt. I hope thoroughbred racing finds some way to keep good horses around, because we need the Classic to be a Classic.

In-running betting should be embraced for the BC and …

Euro Market Notes

For those taking pick 4's and sixes etc, there might be some clues (or might not) via betfair.

In the Juvy Turf, Faraaj is liked more than Wrote, and I read more people liking the latter here in NA. Euro's are posting Caspar will not like the distance, and he is 6-1ML and 8-1 offshore. Wrote has a fair bit to book at 9-1, which popped up earlier today.

Sarafina has tightened of late and is a fairly strong fave. 

Goldikova has drifted from about 2.6 to 2.9 the last 24 hours.

Daddy Long Legs has been getting solid support throughout and is lower than his ML. Crusade is trading above his ML.

Strong Suit and Byword are pretty close in the early betting.

Uncle Mo has vastly drifted and is now around 6-1. Havre De Grace is now the chalk, which is different than the early doubles!

Don't Scratch My Cheval

Last evening before the filly and mare turf, French filly Announce acted like a punch drunk welterweight, got a little spooked, hit the rail, and brushed by (ironically) an ambulance.

She seemed fine, but according to the ESPN telecast she had some scrapes and was scratched by the track vet.

I don't know much French, but when they showed the jock and trainer, we didn't need to. They spoke the international language of 'smoke flying out of ones ears'. They were incensed.

This, in my opinion, is what happens when you pile bad policy on top of bad policy. Since the Life at Ten mess, racing came back with a response to any and everything in these situations (while ignoring the connections), so they don't have another one, instead of fixing a problem that was not that difficult to fix.

It appears what we had was a horse who might have had a scrape or two, being scratched, with no trainer consultation. This, right before a race for megabucks, with residual breeding val…

Friday Notes & Random BC11 Odd Couple Thoughts

Today at 2PM Churchill Downs begins Breeders' Cup weekend, one of a handful of successful handle and promotional weeks in the sport. It's also an amazingly difficult mind exercise for punters. The fields are deep, almost every horse is coming into it appearing fit and sound, and there is perceived value everywhere. If anything, bankroll management trumps handicapping on days like this.

I have enjoyed this card(s) since inception, when I was a kid in Northern Ontario, watching racing in So Cal, when it was cold outside. I have always loved the concept. I have some thoughts below on who I may like or not like, but since there are hundreds such places on the interweb to read those, I left that to the end of the post so it is easily skippable.

Today's News/Thoughts

Horse racing bets on exchange wagering via the Sac Bee. In Cali one might expect this to end up in a huge fight, with a huge mess that someone is going to have to clean up.

Sports betting coming to Canada? Woodbine su…

Rest in Peace

If the love of the sport of harness racing had a scorecard, we'd have a winner. Rest in Peace.

More Data Woes

We've spoken about it several times here before, and I am sure you've seen it elsewhere - the debate about data. Where major league sports have embraced what data can do to grow their sports' - fantasy comes to mind - we seem to constantly misstep in racing. And it looks like we have another example.

This was tweeted out this evening:

A few years ago I sat on a panel at a wagering conference where the topic was "Wagering in the 21st Century". Beside me was a fellow named Dave Vicary, who was a retired programmer, and a massive fan of the sport. His presentation focused on getting easy to use, cutting edge information into the hands of fans to make the game more enjoyable, and winnable, among other things.

Dave was working on a program that used artificial intelligence (with computers running 24 hours a day) that he programmed to scrape factors in the past performances that correlated to a better odds line. His lines were ROI positive, and had factors that people …