Skip to main content


Showing posts from November, 2013

Thoughts on Tonight's TVG Pace & A Few Price Horses For the Card

Today is a great day for horse racing. In the afternoon, several exciting tilts are occurring at Aqueduct and Churchill. There's plenty of chatter about that. For harness fans, tonight's TVG card at the Meadowlands is very interesting highlighted by the TVG FFA Pace, featuring the Captain taking on older horses.

Can the Captain win this race? No use wasting too much ink, that was broached on page three of Harness Racing Update right here.

A look at the others.

Pet Rock is my most likely winner. He has a good post, is sharp, and is simply the most talented and effective horse in the older division this year. He is versatile, so iIf he gets any kind of a trip, unless he has an off night, he will be there.

Foiled Again is a horse who needs a trip of some sort. He is a grinder and needs to be in the thick of it. This is why his Meadowlands record is so poor - in many of his races he is coming from off cover, or from far back. That's not his game. I assume Yannick will place him…

Football and Racing

We chatted a little bit earlier this week about the changing attitudes in horse racing. What was practice 30 years ago is practice today, but the lens has changed. This morning, I read this article (h/t to the Drudge Report, even though I think he doesn't read this blog) titled "Kids Flee Football in Light of NFL Violence"
participation in the country’s largest youth football organization, Pop Warner, declined 9.5 percent from 2010 to 2012, as first reported by ESPN’s “Outside the Lines.” “It’s a bloodsport, but in the proper context it can be played,” Mr. Fink said. “I love football. I don’t want it going anywhere. I’m not trying to ruin the sport — I’m trying to save it.” This is probably not too shocking. As things change, attitudes change.

But it does play a role on the future of a game. What if in one or two generations, with fewer and fewer kids playing the game, interest wanes? The pipeline of parents watching and coaching their sons, their sons coaching and watchi…

Cub Reporter Scoops Thanksgiving Wishes

In waiting for this football game to start, I received an email from Cub Reporter. Cub says, "hey Pocket, check this out. I got all these Happy Thanksgiving texts sent to my phone". Print 'em if you want to.

OK, I will.  Here they are.

"I give thanks for NYRA. And the people who work for NYRA. And the letters N, Y , R and A. I like NYRA. - Steve Byk

"I give thanks for my advertisers...... and Brad. I love Brad and I miss him. Come home Brad. We can go to a Bears game - Ray Paulick

"I'm quitting twitter and I'm thankful for that" - Gary Stevens

"I'm thankful for my deep pocketed owners. These guys keep giving me well bred Derby horses, and well, I kinda suck in that race. " - Todd Pletcher

"I'm thankful for the judges. Their poor eyesight this year bought me a new Range Rover." - Boots Tetrick

"I'm thankful for the bettors. I love the bettors. Have I told you, I love you. I want to kiss you. - Jeff Mullens&#…

It Sure Is a Different World Now

Sid (@sidfernando) wrote a really neat piece last night, titled "History Lesson: Drug Usage Comes Full Circle".

In it he describes the 1970's, where lasix was being used, even though you were not supposed to. Gosh knows what other brown bottle backstretch pre-race was being used at that time as well. Some people today long for the old days of "hay and oats" but those days simply did not exist. When you add money at the end of a rainbow, there are always going to be some people who bend the rules to take advantage of that.

I was a little amazed at the brazen way this was conducted (the track knew what was going on, so did the vets and trainers), but I guess I should not be. Bettors - in the dark about these practices - were not given any respect. This was the only gambling game in town, they would keep coming.

Flashing forward to today, these practices and issues are here and they are not going anywhere. The clear difference of course, is they are not as accept…

Today's Horse Racing Sports Marketing Challenge

One of the toughest challenges for horse racing comes from the "we're a sport not a gambling game" crowd. There are about 50,000 races per year in North America, and 50,000 of anything is hard to sell as a sport. But the industry tries. And tries.

Chickenhead (not his real name) posted some prose regarding the challenge of that task on a chat board. I post it here.

As a sporting event, the average day of racing stacks up very, very, very poorly against an average professional sporting event. Let's take baseball.

I can get tickets to a baseball game for just about the same cost as a going to the track. Not good seats, but I can go to the ballpark for the same price. I can buy those tickets, and plan my trip, months in advance, to see whatever team I want to see. I know what I'm going to get. I can invite friends, plan a day around it. While I'm there, I know I am going to watch several hours of professional level competition.

If the average day of baseb…

TVG Pace and Other Notes

Who do you think is going to win the big race at the Meadowlands this weekend? The Standardbred Canada poll is currently running. If you want to have some idea of the odds board, these polls are sometimes decent to look at. This one, I think, is close to on the money.

Pet Rock and Foiled Again, around 2-1 each. Captain T around 4-1. The rest longer shots.

One horse that will not be 2-1 is Bee A Magician. She's slated to go for her last start of 2013 later on the card. She tries to make it 17 for 17.

Iliuvthenitelife was stopped with for the year yesterday, when she came off the track for her 2:15 training mile, lame. That's terrible news for a brilliant filly. She was certainly one of the best fillies we've seen since the clock changed to 2000.

A jockey in Hong Kong got an eight card banishment for not riding a horse to win. I know harness fans, we can only wish.

DeRosa at Brisnet is doing a hell of a job seeking out some of the big winners at Twinspires and interviewing…

TV is "Dying", But Here are Four Reasons Racing Has an Edge

Today there was a Business Insider story (h/t to @joedrape) titled "TV is Dying and Here are the Stats to Prove It"

It's a good read, that broaches all topics related to the changing landscape of print, online, mobile and tablet. It also is neat because it shows how out of touch some of the cable companies have been for some time. The statistics are compelling and the evidence of that narrative are formidable. Both scripted and unscripted television are up against it. More people are watching via Apple TV and others by buying episodes, Netflix takes viewership away, and people are finding cable more and more expensive as they raise their prices.

Knowing the above is happening, one might be curious to see that in Canada, it was announced yesterday, Rogers Sportsnet paid magabucks to televise hockey in this country for the next dozen years. They are going to use their massive media platform to show games like they've never been shown, and leverage their brand to increa…

In 2013, It's a New World

Today, this is the headline page of the Drudge Report, one of the highest trafficked websites in the World.

This isn't a PETA website, or a touchy-feely urban liberal weekly. It's a conservative leaning stronghold and has been since the late 1990's.

The next time you see kicking brushing a horses legs with a foot and other things that are commonplace and defended in racing, I think it's incumbent to remember, it's not 1913 anymore.

The stories linked today all go to this feature in the Hollywood Reporter. 

People Seem to Be Wishing for Hong Kong

I remember, oh it must have been five or six years now, when a neat video was pasted on the chat board at It was a little grainy, but it showed a horse with his head out of his stall, watching the horse who was beside him, who was chowing down out of his feed bucket. When the horse finished, this little rascal stuck his head in his pals bucket and started eating too.

Maybe you think it was one of those funny youtube videos, but it was much more than that. The horse who stole his neighbors food was a Hong Kong horse that had to race the next day. His neighbor's horse was a fellow trainers. It turns out there was a supplement in that feed bucket and it caused a positive test, hence the brouhaha.

This video (and testimony) clearly showed evidence that the trainer in question did nothing wrong. After all, how can one account for that? There was no intent, nothing. It was a freak occurrence. Freak occurrence or not, the trainer was suspended. I remember being shocke…

Big M Weather Throws Wrench Into the Betting Opener

Last night's Meadowlands opener, by most on-track accounts, was solid. The crowd was estimated at 15,000 and they bet a whopping $530,000. Total handle for the evening was soft, however, falling just short of $3M. The late pick 4 guarantee was also not hit, missing by about $12,000.

The card itself was pretty good, but Mother Nature did not cooperate, and that made betting these races problematic. The cold and swirling winds caused a pronounced speed bias, and even last quarters of 32.1 were hard to close into. While the handle for the first race was very solid, you could see the bettors cash leaving the balloon after we saw that one, and perhaps the first two or three. I did not hear a lot about the second pick 4 guarantee on the simulcast screen. Perhaps that's why it was not hit.

Funny enough, I was playing Mountaineer last evening and there was a stout outside closers bias in their snow and cold (they cancelled after race 6). The rest of the tracks were brutal last evenin…

Harness Rules and Regs: I Never Really Thought About It Like That

I, like many of you as harness fans, was a little perplexed about judges fining "laying back in the bike". I know it's a little bit of showboat, and I figure it probably doesn't matter much in the grand scheme of things. However, a great point was made in this month's trot magazine. 

Laying back in the bike truly does spread the field out more. In a sport where heads and necks decide races, getting an advantage like is shown below (obviously when the horse is on the front end on a half mile track) is definitely something (can see the big difference with Tetrick driving the nine, versus Ron Pierce beside him)

Also in that piece, I love the juxtaposition with the old school and the new school.

When the commission before the Little Brown Jug announced kicking, whipping and laying back in the bike were being called before the races for the week began (in the drivers meeting), some took that for what it was, and some bitched.

Driver Scott Zeron:

“On Jug Day and that …

Big M Opener Has Some Bettable Races

The Meadowlands opener is on tap for around 7PM ET. I've been looking at harness PP's since I was about six and I must admit, I had a lot of fun with a few of the races. They are a really nice puzzle. The handle should be quite good for the debut of the meet, so if you like harness racing, it's a must play card.

There are free past performances right here from Trackmaster. 

The stakes previews will probably appeal to casual fans. Former Hambletonian winner Market Share is in race two. In race four, one of the sharpest fillies in that good filly crop - Charisma Hanover - gets a prep. In the Free For All preview, Foiled Again is back, against several good horses.

If one was longershot shopping in each of the bigger events I think I would lean to Uncle Peter in the Market Share race, simply because he should (or could) get a super easy lead. In the fourth, Carols Desire is a nice filly who may bounce back, second start in the new barn. Dynamic Youth has always been a favorite…

Pennsylvania Racing Starting to Implode?

I'll spare the trainer deets. We've seen that movie before. But this was shocking.
 The Robertson indictment alleges that Robertson, in exchange for cash given to him by trainers known and unknown to the grand jury, would provide false workout times to racing officials and to Equibase. The times Robertson turned in allegedly, at times, included completely fabricated time for horses that did not workout at all at the track. The indictment alleges Robertson profited personally from the scheme, the betting public was defrauded and Robertson’s employer, Hollywood Casino and Racetrack, was denied of its right to Robertson’s honest services. If that turns out to be true, let's get this straight: 

Not only do we have to beat some of the highest takeout rates on the planet in Pennsylvania, we have to beat falsified information too?

This story is likely to get a lot of play. Paulick and Matt Hegarty will be on it.

In other news, Finley reported on the safety of the track a…

Today's Pop-Racing Quiz. How Can You Score?

It was a wacky day in horse racing, and we have a pop quiz.

1. Today's hearings in Washington on horse racing resulted in:

a) A hearing which should result in a new horse racing bill
b) A big boost for New York Times racing page readership
c) Everyone learning that 99.993020402% of tests in thoroughbred racing are clean
d) A realization that Congress's 9% approval ratings are slightly too high

2. Alan Mann of Left in the Gate and Timeform US fame will lose:

a) His primary for GOP state sentator for district 4
b) His run for councilman of the Bronx, ward 9
c) His job as President of the Royal Delta Fan Club

3. Tonight at Penn National:

a) The three horse won race two
b) The four horse in race 5 had a late equipment change
c) There was a late jockey change on the seven horse in race 6 to Fox Mulder

4. With the report of the FBI racing probe of Pennsylvania racing today, rumors abound that they are investigating:

a) How a state with $200 million in slot money can have 30% takeout…

Around the Regulatory Merry Go Round

I took a break this morning to read the live tweeting from guys like Baconator and Matt Hegarty regarding the testimony in Washington regarding this new-fangled horse racing act.

As far as I can tell:

Hearings are short on Thursday's because the work week in Washington is Friday's off. I may be wrong on that, but that sucker was quick.

Drugs in horse racing are bad: Even Adequan or a children's Flintsones vitamin.

Drugs in horse racing are good, because trainers would only use Adequan or Flintstone vitamins and would never think of using anything else. 99.999483902042042% of the tests (or something like that) are clean. We're awesome.

Someone said bettors don't consider possible drug use when they handicap. I have no words for that. 

One person submitted 75 pages of testimony that I am pretty sure no one read. Note to self: If ever giving written testimony to Congress, do it with power point.

One congress dude mentioned respect for "the bettor" in his op…

Margin Price Setting, Racing's Historically Huge Issue

A few years ago I was speaking to a racetrack executive, who ran both the track and the casino at his track. I won't say who it was because, this is a blog and I am not Woodward, Bernstien or anyone remotely close, and more importantly, I have not asked him if I could. He was speaking to me about how they tweaked their slot machine "margins" to make more money - they moved them down a half a point.

Inflation was happening - slots machine manufacturers were raising prices, the labour market was getting more expensive, myriad things all businesses go through were getting more expensive - but the margins were falling, to try and increase revenues. That's the way things work.

In racing, it does not work like that. When people want "more money" they ask for an increase in the margins (takeout) because they have control over that, through the Interstate Horse Racing Act and other mechanisms. This is why, while the margins have shrunk in slot machines (say from Ve…

Video of the "New Meadowlands"; Ready to Open

There's a bit of a buzz regarding the grand opening of the new Meadowlands grandstand happening. The place does look pretty sweet:

Cub reporter informs me of a few new initiatives this season, as well as some rumors dispelled, right from management. These, to my knowledge have never been released to the public: 
 There is no truth to the rumor that employees will be docked $50 pay if, when referencing the Meadowlands, they fail to say "new" in front of it, says my source. It is true that racing jack-of-all-trades Nick Salvi, will, daily, be dressed as a comic book character.
It is not true that Director of racing person Darrin Zocalli has been named head of social media for his fan deference, humility, and all around happy-go-lucky nature. It is not true JLO will be performing the national anthem and a medly of hip hop and country hits opening night, says Marketing King of Marketing Justin Horowitz (@itsthejho). "I tried to get cousin JLO", he told me - fully a…

Monday Notes

Happy Monday everyone.

Here are a few notes that caught my eye.

In the Matron Stakes yesterday the big story, as usual, were the three year old colt pacers. This stake, unlike many others which have the elimination winners picking their posts, had an open draw. It immediately made the race more exciting, because the two best horses drew the 7 and the 8. What happened was an exercise on why not allowing post picking is so much better for the racefan.

Vegas Vacation, who showed in his line in the prep that he was back to his old self, would have to leave a little bit to get into contention. It was also paramount to keep tabs on his rival from the 8. John Campbell, driving the 4-5 favorite Sunshine Beach, needed to secure the lead, or something near the lead. He did, but got stung by Simon Allard driving Emeritus Maximus. This resulted in a park to the clubhouse turn and a 53.2 first half, on a cool evening. That fast first half set up a 55.1 back half for Vegas to close into, and we saw …

It Takes a Complete Racehorse

I was handicapping the NFL this week. Tonight's game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos is highly anticipated for both fans and handicappers alike. On one side of the ball, the 9-0 Chiefs have a solid running game, a quarterback that kind of dinks and dunks and a stifling defense. On the other side of the ball you have well, a passing game. The 8-1 Broncos, at home, with that passing game, are 8 point favorites.

It's a fun match up to handicap.

Overall, and to build a dynasty, the passing teams, who rely on one player, never tend build that dynasty. Conversely, the teams that exhibit some class on both sides of the ball are usually the teams that win in the playoffs and are remembered. Brad Johnson and Trent Dilfer have two more Super Bowl rings than Dan Fouts and Dan Marino. It's not an alternate universe, it's the way it's done.

I think it's the same for racehorses. You need brilliance - you need to be a Fouts or Marino - but you need a lot mor…

Friday Comments & a Little Branding

Happy Friday everyone.

I received a comment on the "Marketing Paradox" post from a couple of days ago (thanks for all the RT's, and thanks for the link Seth). It's anonymous so I don't think this person will mind me highlighting it:
 I've never understood the focus on how much a customer bets versus how much that customer loses. If Linda's handle does not multiply by 3.5 when her ROI rises from .93 to .98, then she is actually paying less to play the game. That reduction has to come from somewhere: purse reduction, lower ADW or racetrack profits, or another customer losing more money. If Linda manages to get her ROI above 1, then she becomes just another mouth for the game to feed. What the game really needs is more people losing more money, so that Linda's gain doesn't come out of the pocket of the horsemen, the ADW, or the track. That should be the (best unspoken) focus of marketing efforts.  This person's math is fine, and he …

The Inside Scoop on the Paulick Report Changes

This evening we were alerted to the following tweet from Ray Paulick:
Just ended terrific 2-day brainstorming marathon with creative team at Paulick Report. #thebestisyettocome#morecowbells
— Ray Paulick (@raypaulick) November 14, 2013 We have heard this tweet was accurate, and not from a tweet bot pretending to be Ray Paulick. We also, and don't be spreading this around, have a plant at the Paulick Report where we learn the inner workings of the website. For a small fee we get fed information that is to be kept top secret. Yes, we have the scoop on some of the planned changes. I post them for you, in part here.

Tuesday Feature: "What's Cooking with Mike Pegram"

In this new feature, Mike Pegram of California takeout hike fame conducts a cooking class, via youtube. You'll learn the secret of making McNugget's and other fare from someone who knows. Contestants will cook a dish and Mike Pegram will take 22.68% of the food on each plate and give it to, well, hims…

A Bird in the Hand Redux

As an addendum to today's post on racetrack marketing, here is an example to what I am referring.

This player was one of those people who played at a smaller, but worthwhile rate. When he was catered to by a wagering company that was responsive to his needs he bet more.

This year he lives in a place that has been taken over by a track run ADW.  He is unable to bet as he was accustomed.

Shutting out good customers should never be done. If you don't understand them, try to. For goodness sakes, do not enact legislation that sends them away.

Horse Racing's Self-Made Marketing Paradox

A Bird in the Hand is Worth Two in the Bush - Unknown

The big push for racing of late is trying to get you - the horseplayer - to play into their track owned internet betting systems. Like racing has done over the last century, when they can't compete properly, they look to change legislation. In New York and Pennsylvania for example, there are new "laws" being pushed which help siphon off competition, in hopes the lack of competition helps their bottom line.

Racing customers need to be cultivated, and marketing efforts for internet wagering have kept a lot of players around through cultivation. There are ADW's right now at this very minute that will take a $100 a month player and give him or her a few dollars back as a rake reduction. These ADW's large and small, provide a service to those actively looking for a better deal and they have helped (this is not an opinion, it's math) handle.

But they are starting to look more and more like a thing of the past.

Tuesday's Notes

Hello everyone. It's your co-racing curmudgeon (I joined @gatetowire) here with a quick look at some stories that caught my eye.

Turf Paradise seems to have a timing issue. No times on the toteboard.  In my best racing curmudgeon prose :well, at least they have a $13.99 rib eye steak deal. Betting, times, reasonable takeout, a picture that does not look like its filtered through a lens Thomas Edison once owned...... all overrated.

I was watching the San Diego-Denver game on the weekend. With about nine minutes or so left San Diego narrowed the gap to 28-19, pending either an extra point or a two point conversion. The play there is to go for two, clearly, to make it seven points. As this article points out (h/t to @insidethenumbrs), if you go for two and miss you then have ten minutes of playing time to plan your attack.  The paid commentators were aghast anyone would even think of such a strategy.

A parallel was noted in a Patriots game a few years ago, that is in a horse racing h…

I'm Happy You Comment to Me, But It's Probably a Waste of Time

Over the past twenty four hours I don't know how many comments I've gotten on harness racing. I wrote a post about the American National card and the comments were filled with nothing about the American National card. Via email, I have gotten some comments, too. Most of them have to do with the products' presentation to a national audience.

Here is a smattering.......

"How do you play that game?"

"I told you once, I told you a thousand times, it's built for the 10th century and will never change"

"Every time I see a harness trainer in the news it's for drugs, why would the drivers be any different?"

"Why anybody would bet on the fiasco that is harness racing is beyond my comprehension. RIP."

"its horrible how they abuse these animals, should be ashamed of themselves, no wonder the sport is dying and Balmoral was only full of hillbilly inbred drunks sat night."

"For entertainment, do you go to the movies, or…

The Big Night at Balmoral

Yesterday evening the stars of harness racing were out, and we saw performances and storylines that were anything but uninteresting.

We'll start with Maven. The ultra-talented Glidemaster miss proved she belongs with any trotter by virtue of her second place finish to last year's three year old of the year, and this years probable Dan Patch winner, in 152.1. It took a track record to beat her. Well done Maven. Hopefully she gets more respect for being a world class horse.

I have been on the fence with Iluvthenitelife for this entire season. I think she's an excellent horse, and I know the three year old filly crop is decent this year. She beat them twelve times in a row and I am sure she is above the median of three year old fillies the last twenty years. But I have yet to see her do something you don't see other three year old fillies do. Until last night.

As handicappers who don't sing for their supper we are taught to watch the race within a race, for a couple …

Harness Racing Fans Get to Watch a Good One Tomorrow

Tomorrow evening, Champion trotter Bee a Magician goes for another win, trying to make it 16 for 16 for the season.

The almost perfect trotter is pretty much a joy to watch. Trotters, almost without fail, don't go two straight years without some sort of difficulty. They are a breed, with a gait, that can go off at any time. So far she's been pretty magical.

I read this evening something pretty cool that I did not know. This season she is not only the fastest three year old filly trotter, but the fastest three year old trotter, by virtue of her 151 flat world record performance in the Del Miller at the Meadowlands. In the past quarter century, this has only occurred two other times. Those two mares were the incredible (probably on everyone's short list as one of the greats of all time) Peace Corps, and C R Kay Suzie.

A few other Bee a Magician tidbits:

She is the first female trotter ever to win over $2 million at two and three. This year that's even made more impres…

Money Shows Why Going to Stud at Three Is Such a Draw

Today in Harness Racing Update:

It’s a huge dichotomy that Ray Paulick (he was speaking about Thoroughbred racing) noted this past week on social media:
“Retirements of "sound" 3yo's like Verrazano and Orb remind me that business part of horse racingcauses major disconnect with sport & fans. Few top 3yo's have improved their stature at 4 (versus declining stature), so retirement is usually a "sound" fiscal decision.”
In Thoroughbred racing it’s probably better than some season’s past where Triple Crown hopefuls were retired during or just after the Triple Crown. In harness racing it has been better of late, with the industry trying to keep horses on the track after age three, but one wonders if that will keep going. Why; because of money.There is simply not enough big money for older pacers and trotters, and as Paulick alluded, it’s not close enough to offset the risk that your value as a stud is more likely to go down than up. 
On-track in harness raci…

Cub Reporter: Major Changes Coming to Next Year's Breeders Cup Telecast

It's all over the interwebs: The ratings on NBC for the prime time showing of the Breeders Cup Classic were down by a fair amount.

During the 8PM to 9PM timeslot, it came third to a football game, another football game, and some show I have never seen called Mike and Molly. It beat some of the cable sports on at that time, like the National Whiffleball Championships.

Ok, I made that last part up.

This is not great news and there probably are some excuses that make total sense. For example, Thorotrends posted  "[the] Big drop in 2013 primetime Breeders' Cup viewership likely/mostly due to 2012 being artificially high with Notre Dame/Pitt OT lead-in."

That is likely true, so I will end my post because there is no need to continue it. The ratings are fine and this is just a blip.

But that would make it a more boring post than I usually post.

And of course, I just received an email from Cub Reporter.

He wrote "don't use this because I am still working on it, b…