Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Dope On D Barns & Tuesday Notes

There is some chatter scurrying around the Interwebs and email that there is a suspected push for a detention barn by some for the upcoming Santa Anita Derby. I don't know how accurate or not that is, but from harness racing's experience with them, we have learned quite a lot about surveillance barns.

Detention barns - security barns where the horses for the upcoming race are housed for 24 to 72 hours - have been used by harness racing for many years for their big races. They were also extensively used at Woodbine for claiming races, and when a trainer (thoroughbred or harness) comes off a positive test.

D barns are not symbolic, or just used for public relations like some think. Those of us who've had horses in them for years had quite the chuckle when a trainer was caught with "Air Power" before the Wood Memorial a few years ago in D. At Woodbine's D barn no one I know even brings a can of Diet Coke in it. Security is good and these barns are serious.

Being a bettor I keep statistics looking for a betting edge and I found several by monitoring trainer patterns in detention. What ended up being pretty clear was that most trainers were just fine having their horses monitored pre-race, but some were not. The latter's horses, on average, could be anywhere from an approximate 2 to 5 lengths slower than when they were allowed to ship in at post time. (note: Nick Kling on twitter spoke of a similar experience at NYRA)

Some trainers would try to blame their horse's bad performances while monitored in the detention barn on them being "higher strung", but statistically that did not wash. First, some horses would race many times in retention and I can't remember even one who raced terrible in "D" their careers. Some trainers win percentage would actually improve over a statistically valid sample, too. As well, high strung horses are a random variable, and they can't be (by simple math) concentrated in one or two barns. This is kind of like the "natural high readers" for TCO2 tests we'd hear so much about, where one trainer would have several milkshake positives, while other trainers, some with thousands of starts and post race tests would have none. How can these random high readers all be in the same barn? It's probably statistically impossible, or at the very least, a trillion to one or more chance.

Many trainers liked detention barns and they still do in harness racing. They are likely not treating their horse before post time with anything (as they are supposed to) and feel others may not be doing the same thing pre-race. They feel detention barns give them a level playing field. I don't blame them for thinking that, whether it's correct or incorrect. When we hear of frog venom given four hours before a race, or any number of other things, it naturally makes one wary of their neighbor.

If this goes ahead for the SA Derby and any trainer wants some security barn tips for making your horse feel at home, give your local harness trainer a call. To him or her these barns are second nature. And remember - leave the Air Power at home.

Notes:

Calidescopio, last years Breeders Cup Marathon champ, raced Saturday with a repaired quartercrack. The hoof injury was deemed minor and the horse raced, coming a listless fifth. I don't think anyone can blame the trainer for entering - he knows his horse and if he thought it was fine that's what he gets paid for. What was a little odd was the dissemination of that information. Some people heard about it, some didn't. I really like what the Meadowlands is doing with their layoff information of late. Thoroughbred racing can't even seem to report first time geldings properly and it shows, perhaps, just how far down the $10B betting market is on their importance totem pole.

Eric Cherry, manager of the VIP Internet stables wrote this today:
  •  Let's not forget that takeout is a FEE! We don't pay our bills in percentages, we pay them in dollars. It costs the same to put on our show, the races, no matter how much is bet. Our main concern should be how much money is available to convert into purses and not the percentage of takeout!
Bill Finley says "suspensions don't work", and he is probably right. Even on the small scale they don't. In 1980 a top driver made $80,000 a year and would get about a $200 fine for feet out of the stirrups. Now a top driver can make ten times a much; and his fine? $200.

Have a nice Tuesday everyone.

1 comment:

Sal Carcia said...

If I remember correctly, the detentions barns in NY were stopped because of budget recommendations made to the NYRA by the State Comptroller. I remember Charles Haward on a morning show at Saratoga citing the average TCO2 levels being much lower with the detention barns than without.