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Showing posts from July, 2013

A Wacky Week in Racing

In the past week or so we've seen some pretty wild stories come out of Thoroughbred horse racing.

Early on, we had the Monzante story, which appalled many on social media. 'How could a grade I horse end up in a 4 claimer in the first place' was the main narrative. That narrative got legs from a simple piece from the frequently read Paulick Report, and one wonders of the story would've even got reported en-masse if the bacon wasn't put in the pan to sizzle. Not long after, despite questions about horse owner responsibility, rules and regulations in Louisiana, a gaming company's responsibility to be accredited for safety and many other issues still hanging out there - memes that MLB or the NFL or NHL would have to deal with head on and with a vigilant press nipping at their heels - the story has seemed to wilt.

Last week, Frank Angst reported on the death of a horse at Mountaineer. In "Horse Death Exposes Holes in Regulatory Net" Frank broke down a time…

Friday's Racing Notes

Good morning racefans! Here are a few notes for today........

There was quite the dust up, apparently, when the Meadows carded the Arden Downs 2 year old races late in the Adios card tomorrow. With them so late, drivers with Hambletonian Oaks mounts at the Meadowlands are unable to drive them as they will be in transit. The story is in HRU, page two, pdf.

I was - still possibly will - interested to bet against Bee a Magician tomorrow in her Oaks elim. She'll be 1-5 more than likely, but I wonder if she was hitting the bike last week and we'll see a bounce. Trainer Richard Norman reports she looked fine in training this week, so maybe I am way out in left field on this.

Smiling Eli has lost a lot of luster of late, but I can't see why so many have dropped him so far down the Hambletonian top ten lists. To me he is the most talented colt of the bunch and if someone wants to give me a non-favorite price I would probably gladly take it. He's a solid number one on the Pocke…

Monzante: A Few Days In .... What Up?

We're a few days into the Monzante story and more facts, opinions and just-about-everything-else has emerged, or sunk. Like a lot of stories just like this, they meander, narratives change or move, sometimes facts become more clear, other times they get murkier.

So far, as I follow it, and in my opinion, a few themes have been established. In a broad sense, of course.

- I think the death of Monzante, like others before him, will help his brothers and sisters in the long run. Stories like this, which tend to tug at most of us, have a way of changing the way a system operates, incrementally, by speaking to the individual. For example, through moral suasion perhaps another good horse is claimed out of a race like this to be retired. That opens a spot for an everyday horse at a retirement farm. Without being too melodramatic, Monzante's death will - not might - save another horses life.

- The journalism crowd seems to be having an internal discussion about how to report is…

Today's Socialist Party Horse Retirement Briefing

Happy Wednesday everyone.

The Monzante story (at least on my timeline on social media) seems to have evolved into a bigger picture narrative on horse retirement, and that, for me, is welcomed. It's a huge issue. Caroline Betts, who runs a horse rescue and is a USC economist-sharp-cookie on a lot of things, went into a late night twitter montage.

That's a lot of money. Taking care of horses - they're big and they eat a lot among other things - is expensive. Maybe that's unworkable but there's a starting point if you were really serious about doing something.

I wonder if it's money well spent?

Back in the 1960's the National Football League had some issues and the big one was was television. Pete Rozelle, the commissioner, had to convince the owners that television was the way of the future and that the only way the sport could grow was to work out a collective plan to exploit it for the leagues gain. The owners were up in arms. At that time live gate was…

Social Media and the Big Picture

We've seen some social media brouhaha's over the last few years, but none that I can quite remember has ever rivaled the death of Monzante. His euthanization in a low level claimer has prompted calls for just about everything from getting rid of claiming races to NTRA accreditation of all racetracks, to name but two.

I've read a lot of great points from a lot of good people on social media the past 36 hours. People feel passionate about this, and it shows.

A couple of meme's tend to surface at a time like this. In one, some wonder (and use it as a wedge issue) "why is this horse more important than any horse in a low level race that breaks down?"

It's not, of course. What it is, is different.

For horse rescue people and horse lovers this drives a stake through their heart. "If you people can't even ensure a graded stakes winner gets retired before he breaks down at god knows where, why in the hell are we getting up each day to place your other …

"They're Not Pets"

So I have this dog.

We're not sure what his life was like before; only after we got him from the pound. The vet X-rayed the old boy and said his wounds are from long ago, probably from getting hit by a car and never taken to the vet to properly heal. He was happy for quite awhile after we got him healed up. He was on several meds and they were working well, and we made sure he didn't do too much. Lately, though, like will happen to all of us, he is slowing down quite a bit. A month or so ago he had a bad seizure which I was sure was a heart attack; figuring that was the end for him. Nope. A trip to the vet and some more meds, and there he is bouncing back. Touch wood, no more seizures.

He keeps me up at night and because you have to watch him to ensure he's doing well, I can't leave the house as much as I want to. His vet bills are through the roof and his meds are about as expensive as a human would have in the same situation.  It's not easy.

Conversely, each day …

Happy Weekend Of Betting, Golf, Racing and Fair Starts

Good morning racing fans.

Big Night, Big Card

There's plenty of action in racing this weekend. In harness, some of the best mares in the world battle in the Roses Are Red at Mohawk. As well, there's a really good matchup in the Maple Leaf Trot in race seven, where Market Share heads back to Canada. Included in the events are the Canadian Breeders Championships. The entries are here and I'm sure there's a free program up, but I can't find it.

Betting is Frustratingly Weird

Since Sunday I am mired in a betting slump. Slumps are weird things. If they last too long you are probably doing something wrong, but so far I don't see that. I am betting some horses I would bet when I am rolling; they're just racing really, really bad. When you are in one, you do some strange things too, like bet a horse you would not bet if you scanned things a little more closely (I  looked at a couple of bets afterwards and said "what the hell was I thinking?") It snowballs…

Harness Racing Must Be Represented in Ontario's Transition

The current state of affairs in Ontario horse racing is nebulous. The OMFRA panel has been working, consulting with the industry on their draft plan. The plan is clearly a draft and could look very different when things are shaken out in October.

Woodbine - the elephant in the room - will likely control racing, whether the Transitional Plan says so or not. One part of the plan calls for betting revenue to be filtered into a central organization, to be distributed to tracks who have the best handle, or are putting on the best Ontario product. 

Dave Briggs interviewed WEG CEO Nick Eaves and he took issue with this part of the plan:
 Eaves was clear his company has "no interest in … moving into a new model which has us transferring our hard-earned economics somewhere else."  If that part of the plan is scrapped, it will be good for Woodbine and probably pretty good for thoroughbred racing. Woodbine, I believe, will ensure Woodbine is in good (better than it looked 14 months …

Cub Reporter Gets Exclusive "Left at the Gate" Interview

For those who don't know, long time independent and unaffiliated blogger (and someone I've grown to know and like via email over the years) "Left at the Gate" is a part of a new handicapping product "Timeform US". The product incorporates speed and pace figs from, and through number crunching and other proprietary thingys, spits out some pace projections, trainer numbers, a final fig and a lot more.

This morning in my inbox I found an exclusive interview conducted by the whistle-blowing-Ed Snowden of the horse racing blogosphere  (who only goes by the moniker "Cub Reporter") with "Left at the Gate". Cub Reporter gets some of the top interviews in racing, and because he is affiliated with no one but the horse racing underground, he tends to ask some good questions. He's (or she's, I have never met him or her) a real digger.

I print it for you here:

Cub Reporter: Hi Left. My journalism prof told me to always start a…

"Everyday" Player Behaviour, "Soundbites" and Racing Notes

Two major meets - Saratoga and Del Mar - open this week.

For the former, Dan over at Thorotrends has a wonderful post on it. If you are planning to visit and you aren't a regular, it's a must read.

Although it is fodder to get flamed, I honestly don't look forward to either meet (when compared to fans, that is). It's not because I don't like watching good horses, the setting, or anything else. In Saratoga's case, for years the meet was not offered on my ADW (I have been playing racing on the 'net since the 1990's), so I never really made it an important part of my summer. As a player I need to be able to bet something, to, well, bet something. As far as Del Mar goes, I have not looked at it much either, mainly because of the rake hike several years ago. Before that point I did play it somewhat. I find both meets too long.

I think it's more than that, though. As an everyday player you simply need downtime. I find the dog days of summer to be that dow…

Meadowlands Pace-O-Rama & Look-See At Handles

Last evening the Meadowlands hosted two huge events, the Meadowlands Pace and the Haughton Memorial. If harness racing called stakes grade I's, these would be two super-duper grade I's.

In hindsight or even on paper, the Haughton was the race of the night and it didn't really disappoint. It was deep, interesting and filled with a lot of unpredictability. Pet Rock, who has been stellar this season, was let go at 9-1 from the outside, and David Miller on a speed track, took full advantage. He swept to the lead and never looked back.

What was most interesting in this race was pure harness racing, and pure harness race handicapping. It's one of the reasons why in my pre-race analysis I noted that we have to handicap ourselves more than the horses in the race itself for these deep, interesting races. Generally, you (and the drivers) can find themselves in a bad spot or a good spot based solely on what the other drivers do. It is rarely like this in thoroughbred racing.


Meadowlands Pace, Speed Shows & Gary West Metaphors

Tonight the biggest nighttime card at the Meadowlands occurs: Meadowlands Pace night. There's a good set of races assembled, and two races in the late pick 4 are especially interesting - The Haughton and the Meadowlands Pace.

Past performances are available here.

In both races I think as a handicapper we have to do what we always have to in contentious races - handicap not the horses, but ourselves. The Haughton is a deep seeded affair with no clear standout. Warrawee Needy, who just tied a world record last week, is fast, but so are so many others.  I think the crowd may overbet Warrawee Needy, Sweet Lou and Golden Receiver. I will let those horses beat me.

Four horses that should provide some sort of odds board value are Pet Rock, Bolt the Duer, Razzle Dazzle and Foiled Again. Pet Rock was beaten by a first over Sweet Lou in crawling fractions which happens all the time with horses of this caliber, so don't hold that against him. Bolt the Duer did nothing wrong last week in …

Hambo Horses, Meadowlands Pace & Taylor Swift

An old harness racing saying is 'time only counts in jail'. I always found that a pretty ridonkulous statement, because time does many things. Other than the obvious - whomever has the fastest time wins the race - time tells you how a horse stacks up; if he has the chops to compete at a high level.

Never is this more needed than with a two year old trotter.

When Muscle Hill uncorked a 53 and change in the Breeders Crown at two, you knew that it was highly probable that an assault on 1:50 as a three year old was going to happen. He was a good two year old, yes, but he was a good two year old who was really fast.

Wheeling n Dealing is a whole other case. He was nine for nine last year at two and won a lot of awards, but he never really stepped it up in the time department. He got a lot of cheap halfs, and seemed to lay over his competition, because he was so professional and seasoned.

At three, a trotter has to answer the bell, because others simply catch up, and there are more …

Upside Down

Yesterday at an industry meeting near Toronto, this speech was given:

"The one point that I want to discuss is your future and what it depends on. It is more than about the money, it is about the customer. Your future depends on how many people are coming to the track and how many people are coming to the track and betting. The government is going to support you based on how many customers you have and how much money they wager, so that's your future. Everyone, collectively, has to think about how you attract bettors and customers to the track and regain interest in the industry."

"I said this yesterday: two years ago if we had one of these (industry consultation sessions) I don't think we would have heard 'customer' or 'horseplayer' mentioned. It would have just been about how much money there was and how we were going to divide it up.

"The future depends on the customer --- the same as McDonald's, it depends on how many …

Incentives Aren't There To Grow the Sport

Bill Finley wrote a piece at about a mini-championship set of races each month, at various racetracks. These sets of races would not be competing with others, as we see so often now, and Bill thinks they would help to drive eyeballs. In addition, it would help the sport because, "You cannot, week after week, put out a product that your customers keep telling you they despise, and expect to do anything but fail."

I agree, and you agree.

Leaving aside for a moment the dearth of leadership to get something (that's seemingly makes sense and is so simple) done, I think it won't get done because the incentive to get it done is not there. It's pure capitalism, really, in a sport that sometimes we think works in pre-1950 Albania.

A pro sports team wants to make the playoffs and there is a strong incentive to do so.  The players make more money yes, but so does the team. Two home games in the least adds 40,000 fans at $80 or $100 a pop. Making the playoffs also …

Woodbine Comes Full Circle

A number of years ago horseplayers were not overly enthused with Woodbine. Higher than average takeouts, very little movement on cutting edge issues - like seeded pools, open signal expansion, guarantees, social media expansion and many others - made some of us scratch our heads. It always seemed to me that it was a company looking to protect what they have, rather than one who pushes for new money, who strives to reach more people, and increase betting pools.

Five years after I presented on a panel (representing the customer) with some industry types, including some friends at Woodbine (I was not overly complimentary), I think it's time to give some credit, where it's due.

Woodbine has come full circle.

Last weekend the Queen's Plate card drew $1M more in handle than last year and set an all time record. Handle at the harness venues, only four years ago that would garner less than $1M on a slow night, has improved dramatically. It hasn't been by accident.

Woodbine has…

Racing Horses, Just to Race Horses

A buddy of mine named Norm Files (@normf66 on twitter) is a huge racing fan. Harness, quarterhorse, thoroughbred, it doesn't really matter. I'd run into Norm at the track sometime and he'd fill me in about his vacation, which 99 times out of 100 was via the car, somewhere that had some track with horses racing.

The last time I spoke to him he hit the fair circuit in Indiana, if I remember correctly. I'm a fan, but I don't much want to go to a fair track somewhere, some of which do not even allow wagering. But for Norm? He loves it.

Maybe I am getting older or more seasoned, but I kind of understand what Normie is about now.

This weekend in HRU was a little story about racing horses in a place where no one gets rich, no one gets headlines or stud deals, or makes stakes payments that can total the GDP of a small country. It's in the Maritimes in eastern Canada.

For the full story, it's on page 5 (pdf). 

Interestingly enough, not only are races like the ones d…