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Showing posts from September, 2012

Is This DQ To Be Overturned on Appeal?

Last night there was quite a DQ at the Red Mile, and fans were buzzing.

Odds On Equelles, the heavy chalk and very talented horse trained by Robin Schadt and driven by John Campbell, moved to the lead off a super-slow first quarter. You can see after making the lead John snatched the horse up a little bit, going a third quarter in a respectable 28.4. Younger horses, sometimes unable to stop and start quickly, crumpled a little bit in the backfield. This triggered a ten minute inquiry, and the colt was pitched.

The result of the placing was formidable. There was a bridgejumper in the show pool which had his bankroll wiped out, and the race was for a purse of $85,800.

 I am never too concerned with calls as a bettor, simply because some will go with me, some will go against me. They are a perfect definition of racing's randomness. However, this DQ does not sit right with me (nor does it sit well with the youtube poster either).

"Slow quarters" are perhaps the most inconsi…

Racing Goes Monty Python

Yesterday New York State issued a 209 page report, detailing various problems that have existed this year at the state's racetracks. The report was fairly scathing, with the state's racing and wagering board, NYRA, trainers, vets and medications all taking a big fat swat for not protecting the horse enough, and for failed planning.

As the DRF reports, horsemanship and the administation of drugs on backstretches are an issue that isn't going away. 
 Although the report’s authors said there was no clear evidence that medication use contributed to breakdowns, the report raises serious questions about the state of horsemanship on the backstretches of New York racetracks and in the U.S. racing industry as a whole. Pointedly, the report states that trainers were in large part responsible for dictating the treatments horses received and that many of the treatments were administered without a veterinary diagnosis of a specific problem, in contradiction to both veterinary et…

The Reinvestment Plan

It's clearly been a tough week for NYRA. We had the story on Monday that the politicos might be trying to get them out of managing the NY Racing franchise, the $250k art story, and today there's a not-so-flattering story about the early season breakdowns.

What I find, and I know many of you do too, is that this is not just a NYRA story. This is a story that happens virtually everywhere in our sport and has for a long, long time.

If you have a racetrack, or you are the head of a horsemen group, and you're getting a windfall through slot machines in say 2014, wouldn't you want to plan in 2012 in a different way?

Wouldn't you want to invest in, say, Trakus so it's ready for day one?

How about HD programming?

How about "on day one of the slots churn, purses will go up yes, but takeout will go down too, so our customers feel a part of this windfall and are not left out"

How about planning a marketing plan to be started day one, so it's off and running …

Mural > Customer ?

In 2010, on taking too much rake from customers and not fixing it earlier:
 According to the interim report by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, internal emails at NYRA showed that some of its executives were well aware a law with a maximum takeout rate of 26% was about to sunset or expire, and that those 26% wagers would have to be recalculated at a 25% (or lower) charge beginning Sept. 15, 2010."Off the record, we have been working on this for some time. We originally had thought that we would announce this for Saratoga but political forces intervened. Since we are showing substantial losses in 2010 and 2011 and we have been smacked around by Cuomo (and he could check the SRWB from approving), we decided to wait. Fast forward to today:
 Two years ago, the New York Racing Association's leaders commissioned a $250,000 mural that would immortalize them on the wall of the state's biggest thoroughbred track. Weighed down by lost OTB revenues and high em…

Thursday Follies

Here we go.

Only in horse racing will you see a headline that involves someone going to a hearing about the venom of a South American tree frog. Ray the bacon man is live in New Orleans reporting about those Dermorphin positives. Ray's twitter feed is usually quite good and if you are interested in frogs, trees, venom, or what's going on in New Orleans, you should follow him.

Frank Stronach has juiced up on some energy drinks and he is live and in person in Austria, for his new political party.  The party platform says he wants to ditch the Euro and lower taxes. No word if he wants to install racing wizard machines in corner stores, stop exchange wagering, or what the over/under is on when his campaign manager is canned.

Speaking of tax, I don't have Bill Gates' bank account, not even close, but man do I hate capital gains taxes. You get taxed once when you earn the money, then if you invest a few bucks in Apple with your after tax money, they come after you again. Wh…

When People Stop Asking Racing to Solve Problems

I had an email exchange this morning with a long-time racing participant and advocate. He wrote one line that we've all heard before:

"Sorry for being cynical but I’ve been fighting the war much too long"

I think there's a line that's formed, behind and ahead of him in our sport.

A lot of people have a malaise in racing - good people -  because even when they try to move the simplest of things forward, they're usually met with a roadblock of some sort. After doing that ten, twelve or a hundred times, they simply stop caring.

Colin Powell, the retired general and former Joint Chief of Staff once said:

"Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them."

I think racing has a lot of soldiers with no one to call.

Conversely, look at what happens when there is a leader, willing to say "we've heard your problem, we've studied the problem, and we've solved the problem…

Red State Blue State

There was a classic set of sensationalistic Drudge Report  headlines yesterday regarding the changing lunch menu at US schools. A set of kids from Kansas took it upon themselves to create a youtube video highlighting the 650 calorie mandated max intake for lunches, saying they're still hungry.

After the chuckle, it is apparent that a school in rural Kansas is much different than one in an inner city. Those kids have a couple of parents at home, and good food is fed, because when you work on a farm before going to school, you better get good food or you can't do your work. This policy probably doesn't fit them too well.

It got me thinking about when I was a kid. I moved from a smaller, blue collar rural town to a big city to go to University. People in the city were complaining about guns, or other big city problems. I didn't see any of those problems where I came from. My town had five guns per household, and in the city's 100+ year history there were no gun crim…


The big news today is the New York Post story on Governor Cuomo's potential plans for racing in New York State.
Gov. Cuomo, in a startling move, has decided to “privatize’’ the running of the famed Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga thoroughbred tracks with a new management company that will replace the scandal-scarred New York Racing Association, The Post has learned. “The NYRA model won’t work. It’s flawed, and it’s unable to do the job. Privatizing makes the most sense,’’ said the source. So, racing will move from a government-government type appointed partnership, to a state takeover, to a private enterprise (that will probably be a government appointed partnership). All in something like a year.

Meanwhile in Ontario, racing will move from a government-government type appointed partnership to a government led organization in some form (for most of racing), as they take away slots and give away $50 million or so over a few years.

Meanwhile, New Jersey moved from a government-cas…

Where Oh Where is the Parx Twitter Feed?

We had some serious fun yesterday (in a satirical type way) with Philadelphia Park on twitter. Early in the day Dan (@thorotrends) was looking for the Parx twitter feed. He found one:
Granted it's not supported as well as @parxcasino @parxpokerroom and @360parx but a twitter feed for horse racing exists: @parxracing
— Dan Needham (@thorotrends) September 22, 2012 That spawned some tweets like this:
@pullthepocket @thorotrends I refresh with anticipation every 10 seconds hoping for more tweets
— Inside The Pylons (@InsideThePylons) September 22, 2012 The joke of course was that the feeds for the casino are very active, and have many followers (over 5,000). The twitter feed for the track has one tweet made on Mother's Day, and is about as dead as a new stimulus package for Solyndra.

It got me thinking. what if the Cotillion purse wasn't bumped by $250k and they used that for their twitter feed?

The $250k could've been spent on employing a twitter feed operator for …

John Cashman (1940-2012)

It was announced today that John Cashman passed away today in Florida, after a battle with cancer.

The industry press, like here at Standardbred Canada, will have a proper obituary for Mr. Cashman.

Personally, I met Mr. Cashman through's Kathy Parker. I was going to Lexington for the Keeneland meet and Kathy emailed, asking if myself, and a couple of other gamblers would meet her for dinner. She said she'd invited Mr. Cashman, who wanted ideas on how to grow wagering.

I immediately liked him, as my colleagues did. You could see his love of the sport, but more importantly you could tell he wanted to grow the game. He was focused on wagering and the customer, and he wanted to know what the industry could do to get some excitement back from horseplayers.

We discussed a few ideas, and he wanted to pursue a pick 6, at a low takeout at two tracks. And that bet would be seeded. The next year the bet was created and it drew some money, but with no carryover and folk…

America's Best Racing: Doing What They Can

Several years ago the Racing Development and Sustainability Plan was floated up here in Canada. Part of the plan was to take a share of slot money and support some promotion for the sport, heavily focused on the customer. As I think most would agree, racing has several masters to tend to, and customers sometimes come pretty low on the totem pole. That plan would attack that oversight.

In the end it was not passed.

Not long after, the Jockey Club created a very similar plan. No, that plan was not about what it could not do - i.e. change crazy-high takeout rates, or pass legislation - it was a plan about what they could do. And that generally involved promotion of existing events, to create some buzz and gain column inches, and give racing a push.

Today in harness racing update, Stephen Panus and Penelope Miller were interviewed about what they and their group have done in season one (page 4, pdf file)

Give it a look if you are interested.

Who Dunnit?

I'm not sure who, but according to the New York Times today, it was the vet, in the library, with a candlestick filled with marked up Adequan.

Their in-depth look at some vet care on the backstretch's of America and Canada is pretty good, in my opinion.

One of the big expenses for horse owners has been vet work, and I believe those numbers have risen over the last 20+ years. At least they have for me.

There are some of usual criticisms about the story from some racing insiders. Trainer Charles Simon last night on twitter said,

"They continue to sensationalize things. While understanding that some guys do excessive work many don't."

I would think that's true. I know, and have had, plenty of trainers who do not get excessive vet work done.

But was the story about those people? No, I don't think so.

Like a Tour De France story about drugs, riders, and the doctors, you are not going to see an expose talk about the dude who is prescribing vitamins. Plus, the …

Add A Quarter Million to a Purse, Get Four Horses

Gary West takes a look at the $1M Cotillion Stakes this weekend at Philadelphia Park.
When nobody, or nearly nobody, wants to race for a million mazumas, horsemen lack much more than good fillies. But there it is, Saturday's $1 million Cotillion at Parx Racing with a quartet of a field.  A million bucks, 4 horses.

This year this race's purse was bumped by $250,000.

I guess if it was for $750,000 maybe they would've only got three entries. Who knows.

We've said it before, but bumping an already high stakes purse another incremental $100,000, or $200,000 (and make no mistake, these bumps are from slots money) does about as much for the gambling-sport from an ROI perspective as a Jeff Mullins poster giveaway.  Even worse, it shows no management imagination whatsoever.

Question: What can we do with an extra $250,000? Racings answer: "Let's make a purse for a stakes race bigger and get four horses"

With some imagination, how about $250,000 for seeded pools of…

Tuesday Notes

Dan Silverhas moved on from NYRA to Penn.  I thought Dan did a pretty good job at NYRA and that is likely a good hire for Penn. Good luck Dan.

I have a harness racing blog and I had to check my ADW to see if the county fair was racing today at Delaware, Ohio. There is something wrong with that. I know when there's a big race in Australia, or when the Ascot meet starts and I follow UK or Aussie racing about 1/100,000,000 th that which I follow harness. In my opinion, Jug week is the most under-promoted big week in harness.

Last night there was a strangely exciting 5 horse race at Harrington in the Quillen Memorial. There were really only two horses in it, Foiled Again and Betterthancheddar. Normally that would be a snorefest, but Yannick Gingras knows his horse is a fighter and pulled him at the half. In the end he was justifiably defeated, but not for lack of effort. I thought BTC has been off his game, so I fully expected Foiled to win the race and was happy YG gave him a shot. It …

Run the Table, Monday Notes

I can't say too much more other than this quote from Jack McNiven on the passing of Run the Table.

"I lost the best buddy I ever had," a tearful Jack McNiven told Trot Insider on Sunday evening. "That horse and I were so close. Nobody ever had a horse quite like him. I've had a lot of horses go through my life, but he was special. He was special. He knew what I said to him. He and I lived together and whenever I left the farm I’d look into the paddock when I drove by and went right to his stall when I got home. He was my everything."

A crusty old horseman, eh? Most of them aren't when you are dealing with horse's like this.

I met Run the Table for the first and only time several years ago at Grand River. I don't work with horses every day - I don't know much about caring for them at all - but with him you just kind of knew he was a special horse. He seemed to know exactly what he was there for: To Be an ambassador for horse racing. T…

Yearling Sales & Six Audiences & the Trotting Classic

Leg one of the Canadian Classic yearling sale is complete and the numbers were poor. Last year the average for the two days was just over $14,000. This year we're stuck at about $8,200, with one day to go.

Despite the downturn, there were some glimmers of hope.

The Classic, or Open (or whatever we're calling it now) is a sale that does not have the cream of the crop normally. With slots being pulled from Ontario, the low end of the spectrum will be hit the most savagely. This appeared to occur. However, quality horse's still sold at not a great price, but not as bad as one may think.

As well, it's important to know that we're dealing with a sale who has the averages bounced around all over the place. In the last four years this sale has averaged between $8,000 to $16,000 with slots. It all depends on what good horses are being offered. As David Menary put it, who bought the $90k session topper, he 'didn't see a lot of quality'. Last year there were some…

The Betting Take On Camelot's Loss

Horse racing remains the best (in my opinion, of course) fundamental betting game on earth. When a horse loses, or wins, we can have dozens of opinions why, or why not.

This morning when Camelot lost his Triple Crown bid the early reaction was based on the ride itself. Most seemed to believe being tucked away in slower fractions, getting out with about a quarter to run, caused the loss.

That may be so.

Having not watched very much UK racing at all, and of course not seeing any fractions on my screen (a whole other lament of mine with UK racing), I defer to others on this opinion. I like to watch the money.

I decided to watch the race at Betfair, just like I usually do, because in-running betting is not only fascinating, it is an incredibly accurate predictor about what's happening during a race.  When people have a monetary stake, rather than a qualitative one, it means quite  a bit.

Despite the chatter about fractions and being "in a bad spot", the punters vehemently di…

Time Between Races, Changing Models & Friday Notes

Mike Repole, the brash New York owner of horse's like Uncle Mo, was back being interviewed, and ruffling some feathers. In an article today he relayed some gems like.
“I just know the old guard is running the sport, and the old guard doesn’t want to change. It’s almost like we’re football players still wearing leather helmets.” if this was a business, the sport would have been bankrupt five years ago,” Give the article a read, if you want some flavor.

One part that gets me all the time that I cannot figure out, and I believe it goes to the core of the problems in racing:
The sport has too many tracks and almost no organized entertainment for fans during the 30-minute gaps between races. Fans—and, more importantly, bettors—gravitate to sports with more rapid action, such as football. We hear time between races is too long and we need "rapid fire action" like a slot machine very often, especially in harness racing. I think this is a complete red herring.

First, upwards of …

A Fascinating Look at Integrity Downunder

A jockey and owner in Australia have each been suspended a year for not trying to win a race, and profiting from it.

The jock is appealing, while the owner pled guilty to betting against his horse and giving misleading statements. He is pleading not guilty to conspiring with the jock to lose the race.

The owner's story (as a stand-alone story, without the accompanying video evidence of the ride) is believable. He noted that he had bet $5,500 to win on his maiden at a bookie, but when he arrived on course the track was a bog. He wanted to relieve himself of some risk - he tells investigators - so he laid some of it back on betfair.

Betfair, as they do in all instances like this, worked with the commission. That bet was outed. There is nothing in the story that corroborates his story that he was heavily long his horse.

The reaction seems to be mixed, which is what we often see in racing. On one side, the Racing B*tch noted:
Oh puhleese, save us the sob stories about the suspension M…

Tuesday Notes

Illinois announced a super-test got 26 trace-positive tests for a corticosteroid from 11 trainers. I don't know what that is for sure, but it's probable it's something for allergies and breathing. Feel free to use the comment section to fill me in.

It does go to show the reliance, in my opinion, on treatments between races. A lot of trainers nowadays treat each race like a Super Bowl. It keeps their average up and it is not horrible for the bettors, because you know the horse is likely there to win. The downside of course is that vet bills skyrocket. I don't know one trainer who doesn't want the best stuff they can find to help horses between starts. You can probably spend $5,000 a month on highly marked up treatments if you want to. This, again in my opinion, is why we don't see horse buying like we should when purses double in slotsville. The costs eat up the slot money purses.

We've been speaking about it for some time here on the blog, but it's comin…

Fun Stuff on the "Dying" Chatter

Colin's Ghost talks a little "racing is dying" today on his blog, noting that racing has been written off for some time now. He is generally correct. For as long as I can remember we've been watching racing "die", but it's still here.

Like most meme's with such a dire conclusion, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. As I noted before, I feel racing is never going to be dead, because somewhere, somehow a man or woman will want to race a horse against someones to see who is faster.  Arguing that something is "dead" or "not dead" is strawmanism (and I am pretty sure I just made that word up). It's all a matter of degree.

I think most would say Rodeo is a dying sport. It's not on TV much, revenues are down. But it is not "dead"; it is just a whole lot smaller than it was.

Take a look at this article about Rodeo in 2012: "Rodeo Attendance, Revenue Up 25%".
 "Rodeos in general are up all across the nat…

More Peeks Into the Ontario Sales

Earlier this week the CTHS sales at Woodbine were off, but not by as much as expected by some. This weekend, the open session had a very poor result.

A couple of trends may be developing, which a lot thought would happen.

One, lower quality horses are having trouble finding homes, and two, buybacks simply aren't happening. In 2011, 73 horses were not sold. In 2012 that number plunged to 38.

In Ontario for the harness sales there are two major classes of horses. Ontario has a strong sire base, and those horses can, and do, win open events North America wide. Like other strong jurisdictions there are the lower end horses, made for OSS grassroots action. Those will have to take a hit, in my opinion.

Although rumors abound on what may happen with slots at racetracks and a transitional fund, there really is not much certainty out there. In fact, there is just as much uncertainty this month as there was last month. We seem to be getting nowhere.

Darryl Kaplan writes a good …

Some Tweaks & Some Sunday Notes

Kentucky Downs handle was up droves yesterday. A push in purses helped drive some horsemen to the box, and of course Kentucky Downs now has the lowest blended takeout in North America, after reducing it large this past year. It's a neat meet; one which is different from most others. Racing does well when they do some new neat things, rather than just "tweak". We've tweaked for generations, while generational change in other sports, or businesses have changed rapidly, and fundamentally.

Speaking of tweaking, Seth Godin today writes:
 I think for most businesses that want to grow, it's way too soon to act like a direct marketer and pick a single number to obsess about. The reason is that these numbers demand that you start tweaking. You can tweak a website or tweak an accounts payable policy and make numbers go up, which is great, but it's not going to fundamentally change your business. When Vegas went huge in the 1990's they didn't tweak, they chan…