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Showing posts from May, 2013

Racing's Pricing Evolution

Good morning everyone in racing land!

Bill Finley, fresh off his Sweden trip, dishes on Grand River's lower takeout plan in Ontario (pdf). Bill makes some excellent points, not the least of which is that in simulcast land, smaller tracks with small pools have a tough time making lower rakes work.

Pricing has evolved in racing over the last fifteen years. We've gone through several iterations.

For those who don't follow it like gambling geeks do, here's a summary.

First, was the 'no reduction in price, anywhere anytime; we are still a monopoly and no one cares about price' phase. This was when you'd hear things like 'pricing does not matter because I walked the grandstand and people don't even know what takeout is'. Near this time, slots were introduced to several jurisdictions, where all money went to purses and profits, with nothing to the customer. The customer did not matter in this phase, because they'd bet cockroach races at 30% rakes,…

Magical Racing, ABR, Grand River & A Big Northfield Carryover Tonight

Good morning racing fans!

Good racing is magical, and we saw quite a bit of it Monday at Belmont. A holiday card with good attendance, good handle and a big following on various forms of digital media. The Met Mile, which was the highlight of the day, did not disappoint. There's something about days like this that reminds everyone what it is to enjoy the sport.

Harness racing is not like that - a smaller following, less watched races and so on. However, it's that time of year when for people like me and many of you, we start to get excited.

This weekend the Meadowlands cards are outstanding, with NJSS finals.

At Western Fair, the Molson Pace is on tap, and Greg and Ian have a attracted a fantastic ensemble. Foiled Again, the nine year old iron horse goes for his third Molson Pace, against upstart Betterthancheddar and other wiley vets like Aracache Hanover.

At Yonkers, the Lismore and Rooney for three year olds is slated to go.

And at Mohawk, the Burlington StakesSomebeachsome…

Intimidate & Old School Harness Racing

Yesterday we saw the Elitlopp, one of the World's most interesting and watched harness races, for trotters. Nahar, owned in part by the  Vancouver Canucks Sedin brothers, was a deserving winner.

Trotters are a unique breed of racehorse. Unlike today's ready made pacers, or thoroughbreds like a Shanghai Bobby (or it seems every Wes Ward trained two year old in April), trotters take some serious seasoning. There have been countless trotters who find their feet later on, and if they are not chewed from racing too hard too early, they can turn out to be world beaters.

In Sweden this occurs as a matter of course, which is why you see six and seven and eight year olds compete and win an Elitlopp. The horsemen, and the system, let's a horse develop.

In North America this is generally not the case. We go full boar from July of their two year old season onwards. By the end of the three year old campaign, with stud around the corner, some of North America's trotters have lost th…

Saturday Racing, Orb (Again) & Memorial Day

Good Saturday morning racing fans!

Tonight there is some solid action in harness land, with the $200,000 Dan Patch. It's a good race,with returning four year olds, facing some seasoned champs. I'm looking at A Rock n Roll Dance for John Campbell in an upset.

Orb! Jeremy Plonk takes the same stance that PTP took here. Alan today asks a more important question. What do we do with him in the Belmont?

What do we do indeed.

If you chalk Orb's loss to inside paths, or bad trips, you will probably receive the odds needed to bet him. His average Derby and Preakness Beyer certainly puts him at or near favorite status. His breeding and running style likely means he should improve with distance, juicing up a fig, making that Beyer even more formidable. He's in your wheelhouse.

If you're more in line with me and Plonk, well, that's where it gets tricky. Does he bounce back? Does he have an issue we can't see? Will three weeks sound him up if so?

Like Alan is with Palace…

Where Are the Professionals?

Yesterday on social media there was quite the brouhaha regarding yesterdays CHRB meeting. Apparently the CHRB Chair led what several called an unprofessional meeting. I can't really comment on it, because I have not listened to the meeting. Whether what was reported was opinion or fact, truth or fiction, doesn't really matter in the following post, though.

I was speaking with someone from California a few weeks ago about the situation there, and let's face it, it's a mess. A major track closing with seemingly no back up plan. Massive handle losses since 2000. Short fields, track changes; we can go on. This person spoke about the people who are running the sport in the Golden State and said they were good people. I have no reason not to believe this. If you love this sport you love this sport. You don't try and hurt it and I think no one out there is trying to do that.

What I said to this person was 'it's all across racing. We simply do not have CEO smart, …

Beyer Figs, Hidden Positives & Pop Bottles

There was (is) some twitter chatter this morning about Beyer figures. As we all know, their creator, Andy Beyer used them in the 1970's to try and standardize racetimes in a number, to make it easier for him to see who was fastest on a given day, at a given track. These numbers, like most, have a lower win percentage than favorites, but had a very strong ROI.

Over the years, as more and more people used them, or created their own, their handicapping predictability does not change, but their value gets eroded. 35 or so years later, pure speed figures are what they are.

In handicapping, Beyer figures when used by Andy and a few other sharpies was the holy grail. They're still one of the most sharp, interesting and formidable items to happen in handicapping and will forever be.

That got me thinking to back when I was a kid. In harness racing we could not use Beyers or track variants because there really wasn't many. But we could make our own 'figures' in some instanc…

Orb Excuse Chatter Revisited

My pal Left at the Gate looked at Orb's Preakness and the talk surrounding it. Namely, i) Orb was pace compromised and ii) Orb was path compromised.

The meme being that he was too far inside on a bad part of the track and he was too far back at the half to make a run in slow fractions.

To me, it makes not much sense at all, and is excuse-ridden, in a game full of them when horse's who should not get beat, do.

Here is the quarter. Notice what path the winner, Oxbow is in. Now, notice where Orb is.

What's Oxbow, maybe the 'one and a half path'? Orb is not in a much different spot, maybe in the 'one and a quarter path' (as we grab a our handy protractor and do some grade 11 math).

Later on in the first turn, the Bloodhorse "Race Sequence" confirms this (Oxbow 6, Orb 1), as both Gary and Joel drift slightly off the inside path. Note that Rosie on Mylute (5) is hugging the wood.

Now, at the half, let's have a look:

There's Oxbow on top again, …

Paid Content At the DRF?

In Fast Company, the DRF CEO was interviewed and relayed the organization's commitment to leveraging their vast information and technology ecosystem, to gain revenue by initiating a paywall.
For the past year or so, Hartig and DRF have given away much of this coverage for free online. But as DRF pivots into even more specialized coverage designed to help gamblers improve their ROI, Hartig has come to feel he’s offering a valuable service for which users should pay. In July, DRF will launch a paid content area of the site. “It will piss off a lot of folks,” he acknowledges. “But it costs a lot of money to invest in this editorial, and in the technology to give you real-time information.” This strategy is probably sound. The world has changed since Chris Anderson wrote "Free" , but many of the tenets still apply to the DRF and others. It was no shock that Churchill Downs Inc bought Brisnet for nearly the same purpose - to offer incentives to get you, the user, to bet …

Monday Morning Qu-Orb-erbacking

The morning after a loss at 3-5. It's a tough place to be in racing.

Orb, who many (me included) thought had the best shot to win the Triple Crown in a long time, as we all know, sputtered yesterday and came a terrible fourth. Yesterday and this morning the narrative developed that it was premature to think he had a huge shot to run the table, and do something not done in 35 years.

"The proof is in the pudding, he lost". Take that.

I think that's revisionist, and somewhat folly.

Each horse race is a series of percentages, a probability. Knowing what we know about Triple Crown losers in the past is the variables that befell them. Namely:

1) Did they beat who they are going to have to beat?

2) Can mother nature trip them up?

3) Do they have physical issues?

4) Do the connections know what they're doing?

and the Granddaddy of them all:

5) Can they get 12 furlongs at the Belmont?

Analyzing each of these with Orb, the probabilities said they were just fine.

Did Orb b…

Saturday Harness Roundup

Last night at the Meadowlands and Woodbine, several big, interesting miles were recorded. It was quite the evening for those who stayed around after the Preakness Stakes.

At the M, the handle was just over $3 million, which (considering the stock racing) was not up to snuff.

The race of the night was the Cutler, where no one could get by Sevruga. It was a blanket finish, providing us with one of harness racing's greatest win photos of the year:

I like the way Guccio has been raced so far this year. After he seasons a little bit, we might see something special from him. He can close like a train, in a sport where closers are at a supreme disadvantage.

The race, for interest, of the evening was the Meadowlands Maturity. Sweet Lou got a nice trip and nailed Warrawee Needy at the wire. It seems Burke is wanting to trip out Lou this year and I think that's wise. In his first two starts of the year he has paraded sound, and miles and trips like that help keep it that way.

The disapp…

Sometimes You Just Never Know

A horse who wins at 8.5 furlongs, 9 furlongs and 10 furlongs with authority. A horse who looks magnificently sound, who strides out in his last work like a Champion. He's got a great trainer and a great rider. The whole world seems to be cheering for him and he's 3-5 to boot.

But he races poorly.

Sometimes you just never know.

Orb, obviously a fine horse, didn't fire. Mylute, who (with respect) is not in the same zip code in terms of talent, not only closes from behind him, but widens on him. It'smyluckyday made the Florida Derby look like a mirage.

I guess the excuses can and may come. He had a trip like Union Rags had in last year's Florida Derby, which was (wrongly, in my opinion) blamed for his poor performance (and started the 'replace the rider' rumblings), but it probably wasn't that. People can talk form cycles and see a chink in the armor, but I doubt it was that either. Sometimes horse's just have a bad day. And I think Orb had a bad day.

Preakness Day & Some Notes

Well, today's the day. Whether you're looking forward to watching drunk kids getting thrown out of the infield, Beadle bashing, or to do something wild and wacky - bet and watch the second leg of the Triple Crown, there's something for you.

Orb might be fair odds at 7-1 in some blogs, but he looks like the horse to beat by most.

The Pimlico surface has been kind to closers, and on paper there is a great deal of speed.

However, as most pace models aren't showing, there is a strong chance the speed might not show up as expected.

Itsmyluckyday and Goldencents are coming off poor performances, so the pedal won't (shouldn't) be to the metal for those two. Titletown Five, the best E number on paper, is supposedly grabbing leather. The other two Lukas's probably won't gut each other either. We might not see a brisk pace.

Since Orb has shown he can race up close or as a deep closer, perhaps it doesn't matter either way.

If I were betting a speed ticket to…

A Marketing Percentage From Subsidy Cash? And Some Preakness.

Probably one of the funniest things I've noticed of late is the "Petition to Stop Tweeting Horses" that's live at
We ask that Twitter be restricted to only humans and large, multinational corporations. And parody accounts. Some of those are hilarious. Tweeting horses minimize the contributions to the discourse on racing from actual humans. And corporations. And sometimes sports networks.
I'm pretty sure I know who wrote it, and I am also pretty sure I will not publicize that, because the man will get stormed by the IRS, or even worse, by the dude who runs the Orb account. Regardless, a hearty well-done to this person for giving us all a much needed chuckle.

In Canada, with slots, it was proposed that 5% of the purse share of slots go to marketing & bettor/fan development, back in 2009, with the Racing Development and Sustainability Plan. Some factions deemed this "too much", "crazy" and "a laughing stock". Well…

Sharp Cookies Serve Up Some Preakness Fare

There are some sharp cookies out there in horse racing land.

One, Dan Needham wrote an incredibly interesting piece about Preakness viewership, with several great arguments. It's a must read. Funnily enough, it is probably the only horse racing blog article retweeted by someone with 750,000 followers.

The second sharp cookie in today's horse racing bakery is my pal @keenegal:
@pullthepocket @thorotrends I think Departing as Orb’s “nemesis” needs to be played up more.Things are too kumbaya for great tv and sports
— Melissa Nolan(@KeeneGal) May 15, 2013 I think she is so right. As Shanklin wrote about, that we linked yesterday, the storyline between Orb and Departing is as compelling as anything in our sport, and many others. It is so horse racing. It is exactly what this sport was always about, and for purists like me and many of you, what it will always be about. This is horse racing, not horse coronation, and even if it hits someone in the pocketbook, you bet that person …

Ontario Horse Racing Policy Evolves

It's been about fifteen months, but the gaming strategy in Ontario is finally evolving; some might say, as it should've done before any hard decisions were made. In Monday's Globe and Mail, Premier Kathleen Wynne seems to be backtracking:
 Ms. Wynne is questioning the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.’s privatization and expansion strategy endorsed by her predecessors, according to government sources. She is no fan of the proposal to build a downtown Toronto casino, the sources said. The OLG plan - strong on principle, but in my opinion, poorly executed - involves expansion of gaming across the province, to increase "$ per capita" spent on gambling. To achieve that, it needs something that some folks find wild and wacky: The support of taxpayers who pay everyone's salary.

That last part is the sticking point. The citizenry, through their municipal elected officials, seem to want more gaming in their backyards about as much as having an appendectomy. This pl…

Obsequious Orb? Maybe Not

I've been following brown animals running around in a circle for awhile, and I'm sure some of you have done it a lot longer than I. I can't remember, though, another Triple Crown seeking animal that has seemingly got the whole industry behind him or her like Orb has.

He's impeccably bred.

His trainer, as people from my small hometown used to say, "is good people".

He runs a hole in the wind, looks sound as a dollar bill, and is magnificent.

He looks like he can go the distance with Hidalgo, in a storied sport which seems to be breeding fewer and fewer 10 furlong horses.

His works might have to be renamed "ohh and awww" affairs. 

And he's pretty darn fast.

This feels like the one.

Having noted the above, I read the following piece by Bill Shanklin, and it looks like not everyone has thrown in the towel and finally hopped on the Orb coronation. And (if you don't follow owners in this game) who hasn't should surprise you.
 ..... instead…

Some Interesting Chatter From Thoroughbred Players About Harness Racing

I'm like a lot of you. I bet both the thoroughbreds and the standardbreds and they are two similar, yet very different games.

The thoroughbreds, with distance changes, breeding, surface changes and so much more, present a unique (and some might say unparalleled) gambling puzzle. Harness racing, with its 'sameness' (standard can mean a one mile standard) is also unique in a completely different way.

Why don't more thoroughbred players look at harness racing? That was a question posed this past weekend to some serious betting peeps; people like Mike Dorr, and Mike Maloney, and Dan Needham, and Ed DeRosa, and Seth Merrow. In case you missed it, it's here (pdf).

Originally when thinking of posing this question, I assumed that the piece would have a snippet of an answer or two, followed by a lot of commentary, but this was not the case. The answers were so comprehensive, so well expressed and so bang on, there was little of that needed.

It always amazes me how into it h…

Stakes Season Is Fast Approaching & Other Notes

When the second week of May happens in harness racing there's a different feel in the air.  Sophomore pacers and trotters begin to qualify and the four year olds and older are beginning to swing into gear.

Last night at the Meadowlands the first real stakes-type night occurred and we got some answers, and maybe even more questions.

In the first TVG FFA Leg, Golden Receiver won in what looked like was a fairly leisurely 149.1. It was a weird race, with Warrawee Needy bottled up in the pocket, hot as a summer day. Outside Razzle Dazzle made a charge, then proceeded to almost walk the last fifty yards. Sweet Lou, whom I thought would show more flash, was kind of flat, coming third.

In the second leg, fresh off a really nice closing effort, Hurrikane King Cole went a monster third quarter, just like the old days (when he usually gets himself in trouble). He was nipped by Fred and Ginger in a sparkling 148.1. Both horses raced really well.

This is the first salvo for some of last years…

Follow Friday & Remembering Everyone Shares A Love for Horses, And Horse Racing

Social media has changed the world, and horse racing is no exception. How we talk, communicate and relate, has never been easier. With that comes the expected spats, arguments and protracted chatter we all seem to either feel bad about later for acting so stupidly, or complain about. A lot of us are as guilty as the next person.

I had a chat - through a new crazy invention called a "phone" - the other day with someone I had heard about, not personally, but from social media. Like all too often, what we hear about a person, or what we see about them with one tweet or one facebook post, was not accurate. Our preconceived notions can be dispelled within about 30 seconds of real life communication.

I don't think I am a bad judge of character, and many people I speak with on social media are exactly as advertised (e.g I met my long time horse buying partner in the stable on a handicapping chat board, immediately liked him, felt he was honest as the day is long, and to this da…


It was announced that Hollywood Park was closing down at the end of the year.  The southern California racing meet will now, apparently, be split between Del Mar and Santa Anita.

One of the unique aspects of thoroughbred racing is different meets. It allows both your customers and your horsemen to start fresh, and it is a part of the thoroughbred racing brand, in California and elsewhere. Kentucky racing is not Kentucky racing without a Keeneland meet. New York racing is not New York racing without Saratoga.

Tom LaMarra summed this up with a tweet tonight, that I thought was pretty sharp.
One issue with Hollywood closure is it will create monotony. (See PA). The public rejects it. KY has issues, but the 5-track circuit key.
— Tom LaMarra (@JerseyTom) May 9, 2013 I am not sure those who are analyzing the loss of Hollywood Park have thought about this. Without Hollywood there is a "sameness" for your customers and horsemen. I believe, like Tom, it can hurt your brand, and cost…

What About Palace Malice?

Brian Nadeau wrote a summary of the Derby on the Xpressbet blog this week where he looked at three horses he thought raced better than they finished.  I agree with his choices.

But I think the most overlooked horse in this years Derby field in terms of how he raced and where he finished was Palace Malice.

Palace Malice, first time blinkered, was as close to a complete runaway you are ever going to see in the Derby. He was keyed up, fractious and really a total mess. Usually when you and I watch such horses race, they are walking across the finish line, even in a sprint. They expend so much energy, they have nothing - not an ounce - of will left.

Palace Malice didn't really do that. He was first through a suicide quarter of around 22.4, then ran off around the turn in about 23 flat. His 3/4's was near the same speed of the winner of the Sprint two races earlier. The horses who were dealing with him were Goldencents, Falling Sky, Vyjack, Verrazano and It'smyluckyday.

Those …

Solving the Puzzle

Yesterday I called Jeff Platt, the dude who created Jcapper software, to ask a quick question about something.

As per usual with a handicapper, the quick chat turned into a longer conversation than that.

After talking about the Derby, the pace scenario, what he missed and I missed, what he saw and I saw, I asked him "what are you up to"?

He said he was going through handicapping books and looking for obscure ideas, angles and such, and running them through his extensive database. One of the books he was getting ideas from was a totally unknown binder book from 1936. Yep, 1936. He said he found a couple of nuggets in it, and they seem to work.

How about that?

Coincidentally, I had been doing similar one evening last week. I skimmed through Cary Fotias' book, Blinkers Off, and noticed again some of his interesting ideas on new pace tops, pace lows, when grouped with certain efforts. I started digging more and more to see if I could find an angle that worked.

We then moved …

Tuesday Notes: Handle, Derby & Boy Are We Stupid

Good morning racing fans!

Times Are Changing

Handle per race day was down in April, with purses down, and I think, even with Ohio, getting slots, this narrative will go on for some time:
 Purses at U.S. racetracks are heavily subsidized by casino revenues. In most U.S. states, revenues for casinos have fallen this year as more and more states have legalized casino gambling, leading to increased competition for the gambling dollar.The Apple Doesn't Fall Far From the Tree

I've been caring for my dog who is getting on in years, so I've tried to stay around and watch him pretty closely. I've been getting some down time by reading. Instead of reading business books, which I have on the night table all ready to go, I foolishly went through my handicapping library last week and pulled out several to read again. Last evening I read Bet With the Best, from DRF press, published back in 2003. In the first section, Beyer noted nuggets of information that you could glean with tra…

Beyer's Old School, Half Mile Tracks and Beadle-Bashing

Good morning racing fans!

Andy Beyer wrote a fantastic article today in the Wa-Po/Drf, about Orb's Derby win being "old school".
The old school believes a trainer should not manage a horse to fulfill the personal ambitions of the owner or trainer. The old school believes a trainer should be guided by the development and the capabilities of the animal. The old school believes judicious handling will eventually bring rewards. The way he characterized the 'new school' was amazingly accurate, and so well-written
Every year he was a general masterminding an all-out assault on the Derby, and he threw his troops into battle knowing they would have to sustain casualties in the pursuit of his objective.  "Sustain casualties" in the pursuit of the Derby. Think about that the next time you see a horse off the Derby trail with a hairline or bow.

Factory stables have commoditized horses to be pawns that are used to achieve a Derby win.  Does the horse need time …

An Industry Derby Win For Orb & Way Too Many Notes

Yesterday we had, as is almost always the case, another interesting Kentucky Derby.

The winner, Orb, has brought an almost giddy like glee to the sport. It's been said in racing 'when you lose, shake the winner's hand, say congratulations and mean it'. This year everyone means it.

Orb is not a factory stable horse, or a horse rushed to just race in the Derby. The storied connections have said many times, if the horse tells them he belongs they will race, if not, they won't.

The trainer, long known for pointing horses to big races only if they're ready, and carrying a deep respect for the colts and fillies entrusted to him, is well respected and a marvelous horseman.

The horse; what about the horse. He's pure class. A beautiful looking animal with readily apparent soundness who clearly appears to like his job: to do what he was bred to do. He's not a flashy speed type who rolls and tries to hold on. He magnificently has poise and can seemingly do whateve…

Derby Day

Derby Day is upon us. It's the biggest day of the year in horse racing and has been for a gazillion years. It will likely be for a gazillion more.

It's a day where people out of the blue call you and ask you who you like because they're making their yearly bet....... and you're that cool dude or dudette that knows horse racing.

It's a day where horse racing people are all friendly; even to Joe Drape. It's a day when you don't get looked at funny for wearing a floppy hat. Where you can hear a newbie say "I think Sadler's Wells is a good dad to distance horses". Where you see celebrities at the track, doing, well, what celebrities do.

It's a day where after you've spent months looking at who is in the race, you finally look at the past performances, post positions, weather, pace scenario, workouts and say "I have no idea who I am going to bet."

It's a day where Dan at Thorotrends can tweet, "famous May 4 birthdays incl…

Old Horse Racing Books, Same Horse Racing Problems; TV & the Derby

With apologies to Messers Beyer, AInslie et al, my most favorite handicapping book is Thoroughbred Handicapping, State of the Art, by William L. Quirin. Quirin's work was outside the box, whereby he was one of the first to look at a handicapping angle, and instead of showing a race where a horse won using it, drilled down into the data and created impact values and profit ($net).

Rereading the book, I had to chuckle at several instances, when we compare racing to today.

In one section, Quirin looked at the angle "closer to the lead". This angle did provide a flat bet profit, but did even better when filtered with "returned within ten days". One would think out of the 267 horses he looked at with this angle very few would have "returned within ten days", but 66 of them did. The horse he used to show what the angle looked like in the PP's was Crockford Lad, who in 1982 raced 22 times. He was making his fifth start on February 27th 1983.

This is a fa…