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Showing posts from February, 2013

Wintertime Tracks Like the Big A Should Be Different

Bill Finley wrote what I thought was a pretty common sense piece at ESPN yesterday.
Somehow, though, that simplest of philosophies [decent races, ok takeouts, larger fields] has been forgotten at so many racetracks. Small fields, unplayable races, too many racing dates and high takeouts have become the norm. He was speaking about the sweeping changes at the Meadowlands, where races are carded not for horse owners, or to give a trainer a layup or two, but for customers. Handle is up about 33% compared to last season.

Example, when there weren't enough entries to a stakes series:
 The racing secretary's office also deserves an A-plus. It has consistently filled the races with 10 or more horses. When it looks as if a race is going to fall short of a full field, in many cases it isn't held. With 11 nominees to the Overbid Series of stakes races, the racing office took no chances on winding up with a six-horse field. The race was scrapped.  A lot of tracks can learn from…

Pletcher Talk

There were a couple of articles published recently about Todd Pletcher's Derby record. One was rather, well, odd, and another from Ed DeRosa focused on some statistics.

Skipping the first one and just looking at DeRosa's, he does make a decent case on expected winners, versus actual winners from the Pletcher stable. As Crunk pointed out on twitter, we can have a little bit of a discussion on Ed's numbers regarding expected winners via pre and post-takeout odds, but on a whole I thought he made a proper case.

Not looking at numbers, but spying the landscape from a birds-eye view, I think Pletcher's 1 for 31 record in the Derby is probably at the very least disappointing, though. When you are a top trainer and you are given such supreme stock, you pretty much have to deliver.

This is not unlike a coach drafting Tom Brady and Adrian Peterson and being given carte blanche to sign six top defensive free agents and delivering one Super Bowl in a decade. The media would scor…

Zero Minutes to Post For Dummies

If you're like me, you play quite a few racetracks. Some tracks - a lot of them lately it seems - stretch out zero minutes to post to an eternity. This helps their handle because the longer it takes between races, the more money is bet.

Tracks that do not play the game are at a disadvantage, because, well, 0 minutes to post means zero minutes to post at these strange tracks. Because we're getting conditioned that zero minutes to post is not really zero minutes to post, we think zero minutes to post at some tracks does not mean zero minutes to post and that we have plenty of time to wager. We don't and we get shut out. Those tracks get fewer dollars in handle.

Now that that's perfectly clear, here is what I do at some tracks when I hear zero minutes to post.  I hope this is a helpful guide.

The Meadowlands - At zero minutes to post I like to have a shower. If you want to catch the race you cannot take a long shower, but a shower can be taken. As soon as I see the "0…

OLG's Gambling Expansion Looked At

SC ran a link to a story on Sun News about the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp's gaming expansion plan today.  In the piece the outline of the Liberal Party's plan was noted:

- Create 29 gaming zones bundled for private operators to bid and build a casino in each zone. Some zones, such as London and the Waterloo Region, call for both slots and table games. OLG would oversee and regulate the industry
- Move some facilities to more densely populated areas
- Have private operator build new casino resort in the GTA, preferably downtown Toronto
- Launch online gaming site — — in the fall, allowing Ontarians to play the lottery or gamble online
- Cut the horse-racing industry’s $345 million take from slot revenue at racetracks as of March 31. Horse racing would continue at some of the 14 tracks but others would close

This plan is in response to the massive deficit and revenue shortfall the government has created. They are forced to look for more revenue to bridge tha…

Monday Notes

Here are a few things I caught up on and decided to share, if interested.

Jason Settlemoir is the GM of the Meadowlands, and he has been working tirelessly to bring the Meadowlands back to where it once was. A lot of the things he is doing are working. The handle has been good, and there is a renewed optimism at the swamp of late.

I first saw Jason at a wagering conference in Jersey in 2009 where I was presenting on a panel about the future of wagering. He was helping Gural at Tioga and Vernon at the time, fairly fresh in the business. I noticed him one day in the hotel lobby with a couple of other people chatting racing. The chat wasn't about legalities about a deal, managing the ticket sellers, working with horsemen groups, or the mundane things that every track manager has to go through each day. He was talking about things we all talk about as fans and bettors on twitter or chat boards - changing racing for the better, why don't we try this, and on and on. You could tell he…

An Interesting Evening on Twitter

Yesterday was an interesting one. We had the speed-laden Fountain of Youth, the Big M had a huge handle night, and I got nosed out of a huge super. Well, two out of three things were interesting.

I have contact with some heavy hitters on twitter - for example, the world renowned @o_crunk tweeted me pictures of his turntable, not once but twice - but I checked my timeline and saw this one. It was a little bit curious.

Bob Baffert, who follows three people, and never speaks to anyone that I've seen on twitter (I don't know for sure, I do not follow him), decides he wants to chat. About me having or not having kids?

I wonder if I said something bad about his horse, or his collection of sunglasses, but I find nothing in my timeline. It's a mystery.

Later I check his timeline and see his wife, Jill, tweeted this:

It appears that Jill has noticed a twitter account that is run by someone posing as their child. 99% of parents would likely be upset at such, so her tweet makes sense…

Friday Fireworks

The news today, oh boy.

Are the horsemen in California looking to up takeout again? As the Bloodhorse reports, it looks like the horsemen want to raise the juice on the Pick 5 from 14% to 23%, a 64% increase. Ironically, I did a piece on the last takeout hike yesterday.

One figures that the TOC braintrust sees a lower rake bet that's taking away from the pick 6 must be stopped because it's costing them money. This is short term thinking, and probably extremely flawed. Low takeout, low base-ticket pick 5's have been branded as a bet in racing, and this brand has grown all of them. If California changes the rake, they make make a few more dollars in the short term, but it will not revive a pick 6. California, and other players, will simply look to play other pick 5's around the country, not shift their wagering into a $2 base bet, that's virtually unhittable for them.

Back in 2008 at a wagering conference I had a long chat with a fellow panelist about low denominatio…

A Look Back at the Los Al Takeout Increase

In the spring of 2010, Los Alamitos decided to try and increase revenues for purses by raising the takeout. Their horse population was not stout and they didn't much want to drop a day a week to get purses and field size up (the easiest way to increase a purse, or handle 'per race' is drop a day, but it doesn't grow the pie, generally). This was a last ditch attempt to get that done.

It was passed as a "temporary measure", where if handle or revenue looked to be hurting, they would review the policy and revert back to the old takeout rate that fall. It was also a test case for raising takeout at all thoroughbred tracks in the State.

As the following graph, prepared by USC economist Caroline Betts, showed back in 2010, it was probable the takeout increase was having an affect:

It appeared the initial news about the takeout increase filtered the horseplayer information channels like, HANA and elsewhere. There was a decrease rather quickly. H…

Small Ball

There was a lot of chatter about Paulick's article which talked about corporate responsibility and some recent racing decisions yesterday. Even (it appears) former NYRA CEO Charles Hayward got into the discussion, which spurred even more chatter.

In the article, Baconater used Maker's Mark bourbon as an example, and it is a good one, in my opinion. Maker's Mark was having supply issues so they played small ball - they talked about changing the alcohol content of their product with the hopes of keeping sales just as they were. It was a seeming 'tinker', but that tinker snowballed. They backed off.

What happens in horse racing is similar. The 'tinkers' affect the brand, and turn into a real issue. If a faucet keeps dripping it can turn into a gush.

The problem I have with small ball in horse racing, is that not only do the tinkers rarely help change the industry, they deflect from the industry looking at their real issues.

New York is perhaps the best example…

It's Not the Stray Cats Fault

Hollywood Park is cancelling their Friday night cards and the rock concert that accompanied them.

According to Holly Park Prez Jack Liebau, "We had a lot of people that seemed to come just for the concerts. We’re not in the concert business.”

This might make it more difficult to compete with the "Dodgers and the Giants" but nevertheless, it's the right thing to do. Hollywood Park is in the betting business, not the concert business.

Mountaineer Park in 1998 had $30,000 handles from their live crowd. They then decided they were in the betting business. They distributed their signals to everyone (even those "evil" rebaters) and pushed the bet with Mark and Nancy on a nightly basis in a neat time slot. Despite non-winners of a race since Bob Dole was majority leader for 5 claimer conditions and trainers named "Scooter", their handle was $1M a night.

Gulfstream Park is in the betting business. The Rainbow Six is a bet, not a stakes race, or a new ba…

The Future of Derby Futures

Steve Crist wrote about Derby Futures the other day and a lot of what he offers - deeper fields, lower takeout etc - are worthy. But, what about going outside the parimutuel pools? With Churchill looking at Exchange wagering, this might not be that far off. That's where, in my opinion, Derby Futures can really take off.

Futures wagers, as we all know, are interesting for fans, because they are pre-qualified already to play futures. Your average sports fan makes a trip to Vegas and can bet the winner of the NCAA's, or the Stanley Cup. It is a part of our culture as sports bettors. And it surely ups viewership of these events.

Right now I commend Churchill with their Derby pool. They have promoted it and made it something fun. Technically it should be treated as a loss leader, because it markets your event for you.

Is this good enough? I think in ten years, this wager will be much different than today, and I think it will help racing because big events drive casual fan…

ADW's A Good Teacher & Caviar Quotes

Advance deposit wagering causes much consternation in racing, but what they do, and the gap they fill as a reseller is not unlike what any reseller does in business.  What racing is currently learning from ADW's is looked at in HRU today, page 4, PDF.

Another learning experience has to be the lady in the US who bet over $1 Billion at casino's and lost $13 million over years. That's a 1.3% takeout. If she played horse racing at a track, with 20% rake, and nabbed a 0.78 ROI like most people do, she would've bet $59 million dollars, not $1 billion dollars before going broke. When people say "lower the take and people will bet more" they aren't blowing smoke, they're just doing math. 

I stayed up and watched Black Caviar win last night. When I saw here trading at 1.14 at Betfair I must say I was a little surprised. Harvey Pack is famous for relaying that we should not bet a horse doing something for the first time because you likely won't get proper …

Hang Em High, Don't Hang Em

There were two big suspensions handed down this week. One in Ontario involved a trainer using EPO. Another in Nebraska involved a trainer using frog juice. EPO is dangerous for horses and also takes money away from hard working honest people racing their horses. Frog Juice is dangerous for horses, is dangerous for participants, and takes money away from hard working honest people racing their horses. Both are considered Class I drugs.

In Ontario the ORC handed down a 14 year suspension and a $60,000 fine.

In Nebraska the commission doled out a 2 year suspension and a $1,000 fine.

I realize there are circumstances and all the rest with suspensions, but that divergence doesn't pass the smell test. This is why today, and for years, participants, fans and bettors have wanted uniform rules and regulations. State houses, commissions and horsemen groups have failed the horses and honest trainers and owners miserably, in my opinion.


Woodbine has cancelled Bet Night Live. Bet Night …

Rejected ABR Brand Ambassadors

America's Best Racing recently announced their horse racing brand ambassador program. Six people will be hopping on a bus, touring the nation promoting horse racing. It's kind of like the Partridge Family without the musical instruments, bell bottoms, or Danny Bonduce.

Out of the six chosen for this task, there were many others who applied and were rejected. I scoured my contacts at the NTRA and got my hands on some resumes.

The proper thing to do would be to send them back to their rightful owners.

I post them for you here on the blog.

Joe Drape sent in a cover letter:

"Hi my name is Joe. I would like to travel on a bus and share stories about horse racing. In my spare time I will take pictures of vets and trainers on the backstretch doing what they do. I will post these pictures and write about them on the New York Times my facebook page. It will promote my paper horse racing, and we'll all have a great time."

Richard Dutrow tried, but it appears he was rejec…

There's An App For That

When we think of horse racing lotteries it begins and ends with the V75 in Sweden. The V75 is a pick 7 which runs each Saturday, with a ten cent minimum play. The bets are sold in convenience stores, online, or at racetracks. When carried-over, the pools can be greater than $30 million.

What Sweden possesses to get this type of wagering implemented is an organization that mends pari-mutuel horse wagering and the gambling system. All forms of betting fall under the authority of the government's Lotteri Inspektionen. Under this is AB Trav och Galopp (ATG) which manages Sweden's horse racing industry and is responsible for the Swedish Horse Racing Totalisator, along with Svenska Spel which has control of all other sports gambling.

What's interesting about this structure is that it runs fairly smoothly, when it comes to promotion. I was on Google Play last night looking for Android racing apps, and came across the app for the V75. 

The app contains video replays, analysis of t…


In 1963 there was an interesting meeting between some entrepreneurs and the owner of the brand new McDonalds. I - your cub reporter - got my hands on the minutes, and I found them eye-opening.

Present: Ray K, and Tim and John with a business idea for him
Date: May 9, 1963
San Diego, California

"Good afternoon Mr. Kroc. We'd like to present you with "Menubase", a new idea to gain revenue from your 15 McDonald's restaurants. Menubase is a system where we handle all of the menu's in your restaurants. It works lik…