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Showing posts from September, 2013

Internal Memo Uncovered: New Email Policy Sweeps California Horse Racing

Through a source I can’t name (OK, it was Cub Reporter), I got my hands on a new internal memo circulated through California racing this morning. As you know, there was a story in today’s LA Times, where two emails that referenced 1960’s sitcom “Hogan’s Heroes” caused quite a stir for the CHRB Chairman. With this turn of events, California Horse Racing has announced a new policy.

Although I have been warned this is top secret and I should not post it publicly, I accidentally hit "post" so it's too late now. Here it is:
MEMO: To Everyone in California Racing. New Email Policy Announced. Destroy After Reading
From this point forward any and all emails from any participants or employee or fan of California racing will not be allowed to reference any television show, movie, actor or actress, past or present, when corresponding with each other. 
Here are some real world examples:
If Rafael Bejarano is fouled in a race and 'overacts' to ensure the stewards see the fou…

Racing Needs a Goal, With a Dash of Peyton Manning

Leadership and goal-setting are probably overused concepts. We read about it, we get shuffled off to some retreat to take seminars about it in the corporate world and it's one of those buzz-things that everyone studies or promotes. But they get a bad rap, because it is vitally important to any franchise, sport, team or business.

A couple of years ago the Denver Broncos were pretty much a 0.500 team. Then along came an aging quarterback off a severe injury. A year later, that aging quarterback looks like he is about 25, and the team looks close to unbeatable. The quarterback who was a four time MVP along with a Super Bowl MVP continues to rewrite records.

Not far east, the Kansas City Chiefs won two games last year and were in disarray. On the offseason they went and hired a CEO as head coach. A man who works hard and knows how to run an organization. This year, with pretty much the exact same player roster, the Chiefs are 4-0, and look to be headed to a great season.

Peyton Mannin…

Saturday Fun & The Captain

Yesterday was quite an interesting day in racing land.

At Belmont there was a collection of stakes races, which (other than the coupling of entries) made for some good betting affairs. I got my butt kicked, but still enjoyed it.

In the Beldame, Royal Delta was a strong favorite at Betfair (1.33) but lost to the three year old - Princess of Sylmar. Junior on Roman Invader appeared to think the race was seven furlongs; how else do you explain the 22.4 second quarter, and that seemed to put Royal Delta in a precarious position. She wanted to engage, went fairly uneven fractions, and could not hold off the filly, who was stalking on the best part of the racetrack. The time was a sparkling 147 and change.

Someone on twitter said, she 'might be good enough to try the Classic', and that might not be wrong. She was full of herself at the line, and if one wants to extrapolate, she probably could've went another eighth in 13 seconds, which would have put her with Palace Malice in th…

Uncouple Everything

Long ago when purses were $250 at Dresden Raceway, or $400 at a meet in Oklahoma coupled entries had its place. If you can make $125 for the win, but can make $1,250 for betting the other half to win, there was some incentive. It's not that way any longer, and bettors know that.

For evidence, look no further than Betfair. They uncouple horses. There is no 1 and 1A and 1X or 2 and 2B/ They have done so because it encourages betting, and most importantly, their customers demand it.

A quick anecdote. I was watching the races recently and there was a 1 and a 1A at a major US track. I did not mind the one, but I feared a huge overbet. The 1A was more than solid and had great late pace numbers on a track that was playing to late. The entry was 3-1 and I sat on my hands. I flipped over to betfair. The one was 9-2 and the 1A was 18-1. There was $4,000 matched on the 1 and 1A uncoupled, instead of(in a short field) almost nothing of note bet overall. (the 1A won easily, and those …

USTA Decision Short-Sighted

Today the USTA decided to reject the RCI model rules on medication.

I was not privy to these discussions, but this smacks of a "they're different so we should leave this to them" meme. What should have been thought of instead, is that, yes, we're different, but making this work is vitally important, because (in no small part) leaving this association makes us look like a bunch of chemical dependent  cowboys.

This, in my opinion, is terrible PR, and a short-sighted decision from a sport which is well-known for it.

Cub Reporter Sniffs out the Santa Anita "Tweaks to the Betting Menu"

Today it was reported that Santa Anita "will be proposing some modifications to both our wagering menu and associated takeout rates for the forthcoming traditional meet."

I know, I know, as a horseplayer this frightens you more than a late night text from Anthony Weiner.

I have called around and I found out some inside information on these takeout changes and 'tweaks' along with their promotions, though, as a public service. Cub Reporter, the underground reporter beholden to no one (not even that dude who bought the Thoroughbred Times), informs me he has clandestinely sat in meetings where, and I quote (because I am putting those little quote signs around it) "I've got the scoop".

"It seems everyone was invited for their opinion, in a big board meeting at Frank Stronach's compound, which strangely looks a lot like that place in Austria that Charles Bronson and Donald Sutherland broke into in the Dirty Dozen." said Cub.

"Some of the …

The Snowball Effect

Today (dovetailing on our last blog piece) the Wall Street Journal reported "Blackberry's Slump in Four Charts".

In 2009, the smartphone maker had a 50% market share in US Operating Systems. Now it is 2%.

In modern society, where tech is based on sharing and consumer decision making is quicker than ever, these kind of losses can be seen in a brief period of time (MySpace, anyone?).

In racing, which is built on a pari-mutuel system, it is not really that much different.

When a track loses handle, and it reaches a pool size inflection (or tipping) point, the snowball rolls pretty fast.

Remember "B" tracks with $700,000-$1,000,000 in nightly handles? A lot of those fell from a million to $500k, then to $300k and it happened pretty quickly. They did not lose 60 or 70% of their "fans" in that period of time, they lost that in dollars, as people shifted their play to other places with better pool size. Racing, like a smartphone maker, needs a critical mass…

Netflix, Blackberry and...... Horse Racing?

Last night at the Emmy Awards, Netflix- the online distributor of streamed content - broke through with a big win.

The Netflix created, funded and produced "House of Cards" director David Finch, won for best director Emmy for a drama series. Old time networks, and cable networks, were fairly stunned. I mean, House of Cards is not on "TV", how did it win?

Netflix has long been an interesting beast. From early on being a stock darling, they were signing up subscribers and charging them what the market thought was a pretty cheap price (around $8 a month). Analysts who did not like the stock constantly pointed to the fact that their content could go "poof" at any minute, and competition, through legacy networks or otherwise could crush them. In 2011 and 2012 that appeared to be happening. They lost suppliers, were being priced out by others, and places like Amazon started Amazon Prime, and the networks were working Hulu Plus.

It looked to be the downturn of …

Parx & California Fight Negative Branding

Yesterday I noticed an interesting "teachable moment" in horse racing. I found it fascinating, and maybe you will too.

Parx (Philly Park) has their big day today - The Cotillion and the Pennsylvania Derby. When Keeneland or NYRA or a dozen or more other tracks have a big day, most of the chatter on chat boards or social media is about, well, the big day. But with Parx it is usually different:

Is rumor true PARX to have zero-gravity room where horsemen float about & simply grab $100s out of the air Saturday? #purseinsanity
— Marcus Hersh (@DRFHersh) September 20, 2013
A couple of $1 million races at @parxracing tomorrow, Pa Derby & Cotillion. Friendly reminder the Parx treifecta takeout is 30% #larcenous
— Michael Dempsey (@turfnsport) September 21, 2013 It never seems to fail. Parx's negative branding on some of their egregious takeout rates (it's not only Parx, it's the entire state of Pennsylvania's tracks) usually ends up trumping any good buzz. If…

Driver Unhappy..... With Following the Rules of Racing?

Harnesslink reported today that a driver who was fined for breaking the rules of racing didn't seem to like it much. 
 Before the start of the Delaware State Fair on Sunday, the Little Brown Jug, in a letter, re-issued the OSRC rulings in the race paddock that state: Penalties Mandated by the Ohio State Racing Commission.. No Excessive whipping; Whip cannot go behind the shoulders; No whipping below the shafts; No excessive laying back in the sulky; No kicking—feet must remain in the stirrups unless pulling the plugs. That's fairly straightforward one can think. You can't kick a horse, whip the stifles where it cuts them, or in the genetalia, which is well, flat out cruel. All are against the rules.

 The problems began on Sunday when driver Ronnie Wrenn, Jr. was fined for taking his foot out of the stirrups multiple times during the race card. He was not kicking or touching the horse but there are times when your foot does split out.It was reported that…

Wise Dan Enters Zenyatta Territory

Yesterday, as almost everyone knows, Wise Dan galloped to an easy win in the Woodbine Mile. He sat slightly behind a fast pace and romped home with ridiculous ease to set a new track record.

What was also ridiculous was the buzz this horse is generating. While winning his 9th in a row, he is finding himself in that rare spot in racing: A horse who can draw viewers, handle and some serious interest.

Woodbine set a new handle record for Mile day, and just about everywhere yesterday afternoon, almost everyone on my twitter feed was watching one racetrack, and that was Woodbine. Often times the Paulick Report puts a topic up on a race result. Very rarely there are too many comments, even in a sparkling victory, but at the link above there's a lot of congratulations.

If we compare all of that to Wise Dan's last win at Woodbine last year, well, there is no comparison.

When horses race longer and longer, and win and continue to win, they create a following. Wise Dan has that followin…

Exchange to Debut at Cal Expo, Harness Racing's Social Media Stars, & Get Your Wings!

What do @jerseytom , @gingras 3 , and others on social media for harness racing have in common? According to an article in today's Harness Racing Update, they're stars on twitter. (pdf, page 5).

Also in Harness Racing Update, Chris Schick talks about exchange wagering being approved for Cal Expo.

He said:
The commission on winning wagers will range from 5 to 10 percent, depending on the volume of play of the customer. That is considerably higher than the rate paid by European customers. Betting will also continue as the race is
progressing, with players having the opportunity to bet on or against horses as the race unfolds. If you have not tried in-running betting, you can there. Let's hope there are market makers, because if so, it is extremely entertaining. It should be up and running by January 1st.

19 have entered the Little Brown Jug. It goes next Thursday. 

There's a huge card tonight at Mohawk highlighted by the Canadian Trotting Classic. I like Your So Vain to win…

Upcoming European Op-Ed Piece Will Anger American Horse Racing

I opened my inbox today and I found something pretty shocking.  It appears an unnamed European horse racing executive, or participant (the details are sketchy at this early stage), has written an op-ed about American-European horse racing relations to be released in a top American newspaper. This was uncovered by the dogged work of a man or woman only known as "Cub Reporter". This appears to be a first draft, so when it is released it might look much different.

Cub asked me to not publish this - just to let it play - or I quote "I'll go Snowden on your ass". Since I don't know what that means (I rarely follow the news) and I already cut and pasted it below, I'm going to let it fly.

A Plea For Caution, by an unnamed source

Good day American Dirt Cowboys. I come to speak to you with honor and deep respect.

Horse racing in Europe and horse racing in America have had a long history. We have had such stars as Frankel grace our racetracks, and you have lots of …

For Racing, Newspapers Are More Than Firestarters

My cottage neighbor behind me has a neat little house he built that has a nice sitting area, screen room and old cast iron stove. On cooler nights he lights a fire and invites everyone over for a couple of beverages if they so choose. He's always after newspapers - flyers, the dailies whatever - not to read, but to use to spark a fire. There are a lot of people today who think that's about what they're good for. Who needs a cumbersome paper anymore; after all, I have an iPad!

Bill Finley thinks that the lack of newspaper coverage of the sport can hurt attendance figures and did hurt them at the last Saratoga meet.
The subjects of the News and Post came up at a NYRA Board of Directors meeting in the late spring, but the problem was dismissed in the time it would take for one Board member to say "It's no big deal. No one reads newspapers anymore." OK, so newspapers aren't what they once were. But the combined circulation of those two papers is still at …

Premier Wynne Talks "5 Year Plan"

In a letter sent to the racing industry in Ontario, along with the transition panel, we saw some new prose. Specifically we see talk of a "5 year plan".
I require that you establish the specific amount of recommended government investment required during the Five Year Plan to achieve a vibrant, sustainable horse racing industry that is accountable, transparent, customer-focused and of net benefit to the taxpayers of Ontario.  In year one of this process (cancelling the slots revenue from racing) this was a "one year plan". A year later it was a "three year plan". Now we're seeing "5 year plan" floating around.

Most observers were shocked - not that slots were cancelled, most might say that was inevitable - that a massive industry like horse racing was given only one year to change.  Five years is more like it.

Whether this plan includes funding for five years or more is the question. However, it appears this is a step in the right directi…

In a Betting State of Mind

Jerod's a good horseplayer and a sharp dude. In this month's edition of Horseplayer Monthly he wrote a super-good article on making sure you set the table to be a good player. If not - if you are distracted, are not comfortable, have not done the work - you are probably going to fail.

He wrote:

"As a father of two little ones, in a two person working household, with a job that requires a fair bit of travel; free time is at a premium. In my own experience, this game requires a huge time commitment to be effective. Even with the aid of a sophisticated handicapping software provider, time is the single most key ingredient to successful play. Perhaps this is not the case for others, but my best results have been in years where free time was abundant. I’m sure many of you out there in Handicapping Land are in a similar situation in one form or another. I’ve found myself quite frustrated over my recent handicapping results, but only have myself to blame as no one is putting a g…

Booting is "Out of Control"

John B on twitter last night said the current harness driver practice of booting the hocks has gotten "out of control."

Hock kicking involves dropping the feet out of the stirrups to sting or scare a horse into going faster. As one poster put it, "it's for hillbillies" and built for another time, but it's going on each day. It's illegal, it always has been illegal; in fact, all you have to do is ask Walter Case about it if you want to know if it's okay or not.

After John posted that (he was referring to Winds of Change being booted in the Champlain Stakes at Mohawk), I went to a chat board where an everyday bettor said "check the boots in the Scioto race on Pet Rock"

So I did.

As John pointed out "I am surprised his leg was not broken". Watch the video here (the leader at the 1:50 mark) for some of the most blatant booting you will see.

Last year's Jug (if you remember twitter chats at that time) was a bootfest, and its just a…

Luc Blais and Intimidate Stay Old School

In thoroughbred racing, horses off a handful of starts - much fewer than years ago - head to Kentucky to race 10 furlongs in a 20 horse field in front of 100,000 people, in May. In harness racing, years ago a trainer would let a horse race into his or her own, and they'd let them tell you when they were ready to go faster. Now, trainers have their horses peaking in qualifiers in April, ready to go fast in start one.

Modern racing seems to be all about throwing a horse into the deep end of the pool.

It is that way, unless you are trainer Luc Blais, and your horse is a trotter named Intimidate.

Last year the industry was shocked that this Quebec bred gelding, racing very cautiously in slow times most of the early year, won the Breeders Crown. This year the industry was shocked when the horse came back to prep in Quebec, racing in 2:01, or ten full seconds slower than he was racing in. Like, isn't he supposed to qualify in 1:53 and be ready to go 1:51 May 10th? That's the wa…

Inside Scoop on the ABR Fan Pool: Why is the Dude So Low?

Good morning everyone.

I opened my email thing this morning to check the electronic mail, and lo and behold I get an article sent to me from Cub Reporter. Cub Reporter is an independent turf journalist who touches stories others will not touch. He fears no one - not the Jockey Club, not Joe Drape, not even the King of Austria, Racing, Frank Stronach - so he generally has something interesting to say.

Today he has been focused on the America's Best Racing Fan poll, out this week which shows Game on Dude in 5th place.   Game on Dude, as most know, has been stellar this season, and eminently unbeatable, while running fast times. According to Cub Reporter, this made him say "Cub, you must dig deep and uncover what's going on with this poll". And he wrote about it.

He told me not to publish this here under any circumstances. So I post it for you now.

Game On Dude: Oversight or Sabotage? By Cub Reporter

This week, America's Best Racing published a fan poll showing G…

Sometimes I Wonder If Anyone Bets

When a 'new' idea comes about in horse racing, it always seems to be an old idea that's repackaged. Today on the Paulick Report, Fred Pope talked about NYRA raising their signal fees to get more from the people who show their races. So, in effect, Woodbine or Beulah would have to pay more to show the NYRA races, as would Twinspires, Keeneland and others.

Racing usually ends up talking about splits, like somehow giving team A more cash from team B will make team A and B richer. I never quite understood it, but each month, or quarter there it is. It pops up about as frequently as a Kardashian on a cover of a magazine in a grocery store check-out line.

Reading comments, or hearing racing's bigwigs talk back and forth, it usually makes me wonder: Does anyone who makes these decisions even bet?

It started with the dismantling of offshore internet wagering (and before then at Woodbine, where getting "rid of offshore pirates" was the big policy of the day). Racing w…

The Pull of the Horse

I saw a tweet from @thorotrends the other day and he said something like 'twitter is not doing a perfect job, but it is a good medium for horse fans'.

It always amazes me. When you talk about the horse, or horses, or their care, or retirement, or anything along those lines, social media explodes.

Yesterday, we had some chatter about the Drunken Spider needing a new post-race career, after I saw a tweet from @railbird notifying me of it. She knows I liked that horse and bet on him a few times, and had some fun with his name on twitter when he raced. I wrote a post asking folks to share the info of this cool horse and his quest for a long term home and that was that.

Not long after, I log in to see my hits through the roof. Retweets, more retweets, some Facebook hits and all the rest. In two hours it is probably my most popular post of the week in terms of traffic.

An hour or two after that I beg for a few more retweets and my twitter friends respond; the Baconator, Dan, Sid, C…

You Could Own the Drunken Spider!

One of the coolest horses on the planet is for sale as a riding horse: Drunken Spider.

The Drunken Spider raced at Tampa this winter, and he usually tried his best, but he moved to Suffolk in the summertime and looked even more marvelous, winning a race.

The racing wars have passed him by and he is now for sale, to a good home.

No, we won't be cheering "C'mon Drunken Spider" as he comes down the lane, and that's sad, but we can call him from the field for a nice dinner.

For folks in or around New England, this is a rare opportunity to own this fine horse for a very low price.   Please visit CanterUSA, or pass along the link to friends who may be interested. 

Cane Pace Kicks In Some Questions

Yesterday's Cane Pace was a pretty interesting affair, that might've provided us with more questions than answers.

The first jewel of the Triple Crown (really it is) was a hard fought race with the season leader Captain Treacherous coming out on top in 149.2. The last three quarters of 1:23 and last quarter of 28 seconds, might provide us with a few clues. Are these horses a little bit tweaked? How could no one get a win in that slowing pace, from off it? Is this crop any good at all?

It seemed, while watching, Vegas Vacation had a ton of pace, but other than him the result was pretty surprising. We're used to seeing bigger speed and fractions, so something must have been up.

We'll have to wait until Lexington more than likely, to see these horses meet again, and that should provide more evidence.


Harness racing, as most know, is a sport without a leader. And a sport without a leader lets things go, when they should've been taken care of long …

Controversy, Cubed!

Throughout horse racing history there's been a ton of controversy; it's kind of a big part of the game.

The past 48 hours have us in throw-back mode, with talk about non-DQ's in a huge race, a leading trainer's help administering something before a race, and an oldie but a goodie: A jock with a buzzer.

Last evening in the $700k Metro Stakes there was plenty of contact in the lane (video here), with Some Major Beach taking the bulk of it. Many observers felt the winner forced his way out and caused the brouhaha, but he was left up. Reaction from twitter (in HRU, pdf, page three) was quick and forceful.

Via the chart, seven horses were charted as having, or causing interference. One guesses - we don't really know - that the horse who came last was the culprit, which is the reason we saw no placings? Again, since judges decisions are not reported, we don't know.  This, in my opinion, was a curious decision, and I feel in such a rich race, they simply let the cont…