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Showing posts from July, 2012

Tuesday's Here

At Saratoga, and at New York tracks' in general, handle has been up this season. Although they've had some wickedly bad press, and the politico's are heavily involved, the bad press, I believe was never really bad press as far as bettors were concerned. The message that went through early this season was twofold to punters. 1) There was a takeout reduction on exotics down to 24% (how this organization ever let it get up to 26% is shameful, but that's another story) and 2) Field size and betting opportunities should be better, which means more value. Value + value = a few more dollars in the til. New York's tagline this year is of "better racing, lower holds", is resonating.

Conversely, California struggles. The brand has suffered the last half dozen years and they can't seem to get their act together. Del Mar registered a paltry gain the last couple of weeks and other than the seaside buzz, punters seem less than thrilled with racing in that state. Abo…

NBC Does Niche Sports Right

Every time I flip on twitter someone is annoyed that NBC is tape delaying some of the events for prime time television. Columnists have joined in, and one of them has even been suspended, for tweets like this.
America's left coast forced to watch Olympic ceremony on SIX HOUR time delay. Disgusting money-grabbing by @NBColympics Tape delaying is nothing new, and since money makes the world go round it's not surprising. However, I think this is a very smart move, and the ratings seem to agree.

Let's look at the sports.

Diving. The last time I dove I was 23 years old and I did a cannonball off a dock, after about five beers and a watermelon liqueur shooter. I don't know the rules of diving without a beer or a dock. Do I really need to see diving live?

Synchronized swimming. I can barely walk and chew gum at the same time. I really need to see it live so I can critique the judges scores on that dolphin throw? Nope.

Swimming is on and Michael Phelps, well, he's doing so…

Bally's & South Point Use Racing to "Build Excitement"

Do you ever read a news story and you have to think about it before deciding how you feel? I think I just did.

South Point casino has invested "millions" in Bally's iView technology, which is supposed to bring the excitement to table gaming to the slots floor. And they are using horse racing to do it:
The iView system, created by Bally Technologies, brings virtual horse racing to slot and video poker machines at South Point. Video screens added to the casino’s existing machines allow everybody playing to see, and potentially participate in, a horse race bonus round. Players can pick from a field of animated horses on a touch screen and win extra playing credits if their pony comes in first. To engage players, the casino will trumpet “First Call” over a loudspeaker, and an announcer will call the minute-long race.
So, horse racing - the virtual kind - is being used to fuel the excitement in a bonus round at a slots parlor.

This brings up my conundrum. My bog. My enigma…

Wednesday Notes

The OHRIA report was released yesterday. The broad based thoughts give everyone a glimpse that no one really knows what's going to happen. There's two-pronged blame to go around for that, in my opinion. When the government lays down public policy that is unclear which results in the businesses affected from making a proper decision (think of the muddy health care law in the states), it's their bad. When an industry can't put forward a plan because they have to appease everyone and everything because of their dependance on the subsidy and lack of previous foresight, it's their bad.

It's not a newsflash, but every slots at racetracks deal out there is a colossal mess. Other jurisdictions have a chance to fix it, in my opinion, but all you hear is crickets. If some of those deals fail, I believe that's mostly on them.

The Hambo and Hambo Oaks elims were drawn yesterday. The highest handle day in harness racing is less than ten days away.

Best line I've hea…

The Power of the Horse

I was looking for something on the interwebs last night and I noticed this picture of Zenyatta at Churchill Downs, in her final race. We've all (most of us I figure) have seen that race, and I think that's a marvelous picture - her losing contact with the field, the sky, what everyone was thinking at that time.

After posting it I got about five retweets and twelve or fifteen comments, most from people who don't follow me, and who I don't follow. That mare was, in my opinion, the first social media horse in racing history. She lives on today in that same vein. I believe if a Zenyatta picture is posted in ten years, the interactive result would be the same.

It got me thinking: Great athletes get us interested in a sport that we've never watched. I remember being a kid and watching Bjorn Borg battle John McEnroe for the first time - I was interested in tennis. Earl Campbell, running over linebackers like they were feathers, got me interested in football in a big way.…

Saturday Notes

There's a stupendous card tonight at Mohawk, for fans of good horses. The gambling might not be too bad either, with all but two or three races with fewer than ten horses.

Warrawee Needy is back, with the ten post, in the three year old Breeders Championship. I highly suspect that morning line won't be hit for us, but if it is I'd be backing up the truck. I think the colt wins this easily.

The $750k Maple Leaf Trot looks to encapsulate a changing of the guard. San Pail, flat in a couple of races this year is out with an injury, and the three most talked about horses in the division are Chapter Seven, Mister Herbie and Daylon Magician - all four year olds. This is a really interesting race. Daylon Magician is better now than he was a few starts ago, Mister Herbie looks to be sounded up, and Chapter Seven, well, is Chapter Seven. This race is really cool.

The Meadowlands has a $58k Pick 6 carryover. I may wait for one more and then dive in. If you are so inclined Derrick ov…

Hopping Aboard the Lasix Train, Just Because

Do me a favor. Go up into the bar area where trainers are at a place like Woodbine, which races both harness and thoroughbred horses. Ask a question about a first time starter, or any horse really, regarding its bleeding meds.

If you speak to a harness trainer you'll likely hear time and time again:

"He scoped with a little bit of blood, but I'd rather not put him on lasix"

From the thoroughbred trainer you'll likely hear:

"He scoped with a little bit of blood so I put him on lasix"

Almost all horses of both breeds bleed a little bit at least, so why is virtually every thoroughbred on lasix but much fewer harness horses are?

I went through the entries for this weekend's big card at Mohawk. We aren't talking 2 claimers here, but the best in the sport: The 13 race card has purses totalling $2,014,000.

The $166k Breeders Championship for Fillies: 1 of 10 on Lasix, 9 of 10 without
The $159k Breeders Championship for Trotting Colts: 1 of 10 on Lasix,…

There's Giveaways & There's Bands, But There's No Substitute for the Bettor

I know we've all said it before. Until we find a way to get revenue from selling Todd Pletcher t-shirts or Zenyatta dolls en masse, this is a gambling game. Balmoral Park, through a direction change in 2009 has concentrated on growing handle by attracting people to bet, through lower takeout and better betting races. The man in charge of most of it is a bettor himself, and knows the math behind it. It's working.

Here is an edited Press release from this afternoon. Count the times you read the words or a genre of words "handle, bettor, takeout, value, horseplayer and gambling" and compare it to a press release for another track. It's eye-opening.

Balmoral Park reported surging handle growth in the first half of 2012 showing an increase of 27 per cent in handle versus the first six months of 2011. Total combined Q1 and Q2 handle of $80,909,290 for 76 programs in 2012 was an increase of $17,469,771 compared to the 2011 combined Q1 and Q2 handle of $63,439,518 on 75 …

A Meadowlands Casino Makes Sense

One thing I like about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is that he is a comparative advantage opportunist. He knows he is next door to a high tax, high regulation state and he is constantly talking about trying to draw both business and customers from New York, for his states' benefit. It's not rocket science, it's common sense.

Today, Jeff Gural spoke about what he thinks should happen with a Meadowlands Casino - he wants one of course - and I agree with him that it's inevitable. It's inevitable because it makes perfect common sense.

Atlantic City is a destination resort, and like Las Vegas, that's its draw. A casino at the Meadowlands (or slots) would be a completely different animal. It would likely not compete too much with AC, and the benefits (their proximity to Manhattan) would bring in a new market that is not spending time driving to AC.

Having a neighbor do something that your state cannot, or having a neighbor offer a service that your state canno…

Letting the Pricers Price

I've always been a little bit fascinated with racings pricing model, since it isn't something that's done by virtually anyone else.

This was looked at in this week's Thoroughbred Daily News by one of those bettor people!.

Racetrack Appeals Come From All Ages

Our industry encapsulates just about everyone on the age, economic, and gender spectrum's.

On Friday at Woodstock, a trotter, Rubaiyat, appeared to break stride before the wire, and was placed from 2nd to 3rd. This is something that happens almost each day in harness racing, and judges have to make a bang-bang decision at times, making their job difficult.

Not long after the replay, the trainer of the horse in question and others watching the replay thought it was a bad call, and the walk to the judges to ask for an appeal was done by the trainer.

This time it was not your average everyday trainer who has been around for years; the horse was trained (and owned) by seventeen year old Hannah Beckett.

According to her dad (to be clear, I do not have both sides of the story), this didn't go overly well: "She was apparently deemed to be somewhat unimportant by the judge to whom she spoke."

If that's how it went down, I don't think anyone would be overly surprised…

Meadowlands Pace Recap & Some Fisticuffs?

Tactical blunders from trainers, horse's who aren't what they used to be, bad drives, or it is what it is and that's racing?

Maybe it was a bit of everything.

That was a fascinating Meadowlands Pace, and it was pretty frustrating for bettors.

From the rail out:

A Rock n Roll Dance - A bike change which helps when you want to show speed, a score out and a pretty solid, handy horse. Winner, winner, chicken dinner.

Pet Rock - A pretty sound animal, who was also scored out, showing some intent to leave. Second place.

Heston Blue Chip - He was fired up leaving hard last week, so I bet dollars to donuts the barn did not want to fire him up off the gate. That was a mistake, and they paid for it, because this horse raced really well.

Sweet Lou - He had a head nod in the post parade and he was given words of a phrase that result in the worst ROI known to man for harness bettors: "he needs a helmet". That's code speak for, "we are not sure why he isn't racing as…

One Big Issue, One Big Question

I like betting elections, and a friend asked me who I thought would win the US election later this year. I told him I have been betting Romney on dips. He asked why, and I told him, my political betting (I've bet every one since 1992), always hinges on a simple point and its worked for me. In this years case, if you get rid of all the yelling and screaming and tangential stuff about labels and such, and just put one dude's resume against the other dude's, it's not a hard bet. One guy ran businesses, has a market background, and one guy has not, and does not. The economy is the #1 issue with the mushy middle, ergo I bet the dude with the more applicable resume.

The problems at the Meadowlands over the last several years are similarly tied to one big issue, in my opinion. All the rest of the problems are noise right now, stemming from that issue. This was looked at today in HRU (on page four, pdf). To me it is stunning how places like Hong Kong, and even Ontario can add…

Time To Roll At Some Gambling

Tomorrow is the Meadowlands Pace Final (first post 6:35PM) and I figure I would throw my hat in the ring. If anyone cares to read a gambler's take, that is.

From the rail out:

1. A Rock n' Roll Dance - I think he has a good chance to win the race, but I fear the odds will not to be my liking. He has a big win on his card, and everyone saw him get locked in last time.

2. Pet Rock - I think his odds might be in my wheelhouse, but I don't think he will end up above my fair odds line. I think he'd need a lot of things to go well for him to win.

3. Heston Blue Chip - If this colt settles he would be my most likely winner. However, again, I feel he will be too overbet.

4. Sweet Lou - Like in the NA Cup (where my fair odds line was well above his board odds) I feel the same way this time. Sure he may improve in a week and be back to his North America Cup elimination form, but at his odds, there is no possible way he will be on my ticket.

5. Bolt the Duer - This guy never see…

Thursday Was Drug Day

Here are a few thoughts on a Thursday. Since everything seemed to flow from drugs today, we'll talk about that. I didn't even watch those hearings though. I figured they'd be a lot of rehashed entrenched positioning.


I wonder why people at Congressional hearings on racing decide to take a slap at harness racing. For comparison's sake, I guess, like somehow if a horse runs, it's drug free, but oh those harness racers! Regardless, it strikes me as a weak-minded argument. Maybe it was at home in Congress. OK, that was too easy...... I apologize.

I wonder why, too, that a statement like that would even find an audience. Really, a few years ago when there was that Aranesp/EPO/DPO raid in Kentucky that found a pile of it, does anyone really think it was all for harness horses racing for $1450 purses at the Red Mile?

Speaking of raids, I wonder what happened with the DeFlorio thing. Remember:

"Aranesp, the potent form of EPO was blatantly being adver…

More New York Times Chatter

Twitter went kind of ballistic this morning when Joe Drape's latest piece in the New York Times hit the wires. In the article, the writers looked at vet records for I'll Have Another, before he was scratched two days before the Belmont.

What they found was nothing that would not be found in many horses a week before a race. Since most horses have ailments, like humans do, they are treated for it before starts. It's not cruel, it's not illegal. It's just what's done.

I was not a fan of the article as is based on its (what I think) lack of clarity, but in my opinion it does bring up a discussion that racing can have, and should have.  How much is too much?

I read an article not long ago where a trainer was interviewed and he discussed what he did when a new horse entered his barn. "Inject everything" was his main thought. Of course, add some jugs, joint meds etc. Then he raced the horse, to try and get back all that money he put into him.

With slots mon…

Tale of Two Studs

You have to colts that won some big races. They both reached the pinnacle of the sport as sophomores, but they didn't have big names behind them. They were inexpensive yearlings, were not bred to the nines, and aren't brothers to some out-of-this-world colt or filly.

One of them had breeding farms fighting over him, and the other, well not so much.

I found it kind of surprising that I'll Have Another could not get a serious offer well over $5M for his 'services'. I guess I was equally amazed that Somebeachsomewhere got one of the biggest stud deals for a pacer that we've seen in some time - somewhere in the $10M range.

The thing is, maybe these farms know exactly what they are doing.

Somebeachsomewhere has exceeded all expectations early on with his first crop. At $10M - this colt by the Ontario sired Mach Three with no super-duper brothers or sisters - looks like a bargain. To say his offspring have his speed might be an understatement, and if someone said to…

Harness Racing Stakes Season Becomes A Puzzle

Last night the Meadowlands Pace elims were held - there were only two this year - and we saw a pretty curious two races. This unbelievably fast group is being whittled away a little bit (Warrawee Needy is out, and Hurrikane Kingcole was not as his best it appears), and we are seeing the "super" taken out of the word superhorse for a few pacers.

It tends to happen each year (I've relayed it several times on the blog), unless the horse is a true superhorse. The modern trainer has the screws tightened in April, and a couple of months later the horse's do not develop quite as much as people think. Sometimes they even regress.

This prompted a tweet from a bettor:
@GregReinhart 1st week of July and this "strong and deep" group of 3yo's are already "corked and diminished"
— Inside The Pylons (@InsideThePylons) July 8, 2012 Whether that turns out to be true or not, we'll see, but there is certainly something going on.

The jury is definitely out o…

Meadowlands Pace Elims & Saturday Notes

Here are a few things that caught my eye this Saturday.

The Meadowlands Pace elims go tonight (next week's is the $600k final, yes $600k) and they are a puzzle. This year, unlike many others, there are no standouts up until this point, and this Final can go any number of ways, in my opinion.

In elim one, there are in-form horses, capable of 148 type miles, including Bettors Edge, Allstar Legend, State Treasurer and A Rock n Roll Dance. There are two freaky speed horses, Sweet Lou and Hurrikane Kingcole. Who shows up? It's a guess.

If we are trip handicapping, the horses who will likely show speed are All Star Legend and Sweet Lou. Hurrikane King Cole will likely head to the back, or mid pack, and A Rock n Roll Dance will want some sort of covered trip I would guess. I surmise Sweet Lou is my most likely winner, but I wouldn't be betting much if he was under 8-5.

In elim two, it's as - or even moreso interesting. I mean, you've got a horse like Heston Blue Chip that…

M Pace And Injuries & Sickness

One thing a horse owner does not want to hear before a big race is about lameness or sickness. Racing a lame or sick horse is right up there on the insanity scale with poking yourself in the eye with a hot stick, because not only will your horse race terrible, it can have season long ramifications.

Yesterday the Meadowlands Pace was drawn sans Warrawee Needy. He's sick, and after have a day or two of (I'm speculating) antibiotics and a lung flush at the U of Guelph, he's still not making the trip. This is a nice horse with some physical issues. They might as well get him right, because in this crop you have to be at your best. Just ask the 2-5 Sweet Lou in the North America Cup, or 3-5 Hurrikane King Cole in the Hempt.

Speaking of Hurrikane King Cole, he's in the Pace elims, despite rumors swirling he was sick too. I hate to see driver switches on a top colt, because it has some shades of panic, or at the very least, that they're looking for excuses, and 99 out of …

Tuesday Notes

Here's today's pop quiz:

Which of the following is true?

a) A top sprinter tests positive in an Olympic Trial race for steroids, appeals, and is still favorite for the London Olympics 100m, where he races and wins.

b) A School Bus driver gets his second 12 hour suspension for drinking, found with an open bottle of Jack Daniels under seat of school bus while driving toddlers to kindergarten. While waiting for a trial, the school board and parents groups allow him to continue drive children to school.

c) Tour de France leader gets caught swapping his blood with a cow's in his trailer before the seventh stage. He appeals, and Tournament organizers allow him to finish the race. He wins by 84 minutes, in a record time.

d) Florida doctor gets arrested for distributing Oxy pills to people with a small scrape on their finger. Drugs turn up on streets at $30 a pill. Doctor allowed to prescribe pain killers while awaiting trial.

e) Horse Trainer is caught with positive test for a dr…

Does Harness Racing Need a New Triple Crown?

In literally hundreds of racing articles, both standardbred and thoroughbred, we’ve heard that racing is one of the few sports that don’t have a season. There seems to be no beginning or end, and those who say that seem to have a strong point.
However, I was doing some office work a few weeks ago and took a look at some internet traffic stats on the bellwether Daily Racing Form website (, via Quantcast.

What we notice is a large spike in traffic and interest starting in late April, and it lasts to about late June. This coincides almost perfectly with Triple Crown. If we go back and look at years past, it’s exactly the same.  There is a season in thoroughbred racing; the fans are telling you when it begins and ends. 
If we pull up the same graphs for harness racing, whether it is website statistics, search terms, or news mentions, we do not see such a spike throughout our calendar.  Even storied races like the Little Brown Jug, Hambletonian, or other big money events like the …

Harness Gets More & More Interesting

It sure has been an interesting year so far in harness racing, and if you've been following along, there's been some high drama, and a whole lotta shakin going on.

Last night at Pocono, the three year old filly and colt pacers, and the older pacers were all in action.

American Jewel continued to impress. However, if I told you she woulda been sitting off a 54 half, with a back half of 55.2, you would tell me "Pocket, she must have won easily". That was not the case. She had to really work for it, and looked to be possibly beaten for an instant near the top of the lane. Regardless, even if not at her best, that was a nice job by a nice filly.

A Rock n Roll Dance finally showed what he can do, when at his best. The colt has not seemed to put it all together this year, but last evening he sprung beautifully off a covered trip and won in a fast time. The chalk - the mind-bogglingly fast Hurrikane Kingcole - was out of it after being first over. He is a quirky horse and a…