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Showing posts from 2014

Chris Kay Must Dig the Bowl Season

It's Bowl season and tomorrow and Friday are special days, stacked to the hilt. In fact, pretty much every day is stacked with Bowl, after Bowl after Bowl.

Bowl season has always been big business, although it looks a little different than the old days.

I remember being a wee lad in the 1970's, and growing up in a small northern place, it was tough to watch Bowl games. We had two channels; one was English and one was French, and I could not speak a word of French, so we had one channel. Interestingly enough, the French channel was the only channel that ever showed NFL games - for years I thought the NFL was "Le LNF". And also rather interesting (to me anyway), they constantly showed Minnesota Vikings games. The Purple People Eaters were less imposing when they were "Violette" things that ate running backs. Anyway, I digress. The only channel showed Bowl games, did it one day only: New Years Day. I could watch the Cotton Bowl and the Rose Bowl, and I think t…

Merry Christmas Vegas Horseplayers

Vegas racebook patrons (what's left of them) will likely be unable to wager on New York racetracks in the upcoming days or weeks. 
 NYRA, which showed a profit for the first time in 13 years, reportedly is asking to almost double the fee for its signal, which would mean between 10 to 12 percent that Nevada would have to pay. The knee-jerk reaction from many in the sport is "good, they should pay more," but that's way too simplistic. Nevada racebooks and others are part of a distribution network that takes a racetrack like Belmont and allows a customer base to bet. It's no different than a car dealership, or a million other distribution points that allow a business to sell their product. NYRA can go and purchase a casino in Vegas if they'd like and take all the money from the signal, but that's not feasible, so others sell their product for them.

Casino's, like ADW's and others, are not charities. Floor space for a racebook could be …

ITP & Sid Are Both Right

Two of my pals - Sid Fernando and Inside the Pylons - were having a twitter chat today. It began with some chatter about Hong Kong, the way things are done there, versus here across the pond. Sid stated racing in Hong Kong can do many of the right things because it is a stand-alone entity with government as a strong partner.  ITP stated that racing could've been like that here, but it hijacked itself. In the end, I suspect they both agree with each other.

In Hong Kong, racing and governments have a symbiotic, linked relationship. When racing does well, they do well, because revenues are taxed at the back end. This is likely why, when they had to fight the Macau casino's in 2006 and were losing customers, the Vice President of Wagering (they have one of those) reacted quickly with a rebate program. It was done to protect wagering, revenues etc, for the long term. There was no horsemen group, no state, nothing standing in their way. They just got it done.

When that happens here …

First Time Gelding's a Microcosm of Racing's Big Issues

A horse gets gelded, a horse wins first time gelded. At times - probably a lot of the time - we have no idea the true timing of such. That's been going on forever.

In Hong Kong (oh Pocket, here you go again with the Honk Kong thing), a horse gets gelded and wins first time gelded. We know exactly the timing of such, because vet work is documented, and a vet and trainer who didn't report it would be on the next plane to Ulan Bator.

Hong Kong has a tight system that can enforce proper reporting, and procedure, so their betting customers can feel 100% confident in the data. North American racing does not have that.

What if the industry here really wanted to ensure that when a horse is gelded, the date and time is accurate, and the reporting is accurate through the system? Well, it would be pretty much impossible the way a horse is structured wouldn't it?

For something accurate and real to be implemented here, you'd need big penalties for not reporting this properly. Trac…

Horse of Year Voting Hijacked By Team America World Police?

As corrupt Cuban politicians get richer, North Korea succeeds in scaring movie theaters and Justin Beiber is still somehow popular, the world got even more strange with today's Horse of the Year announcement in harness racing.

When Jenn Biongorno, accompanied by the lovely, tiny, Justin Horowitz, announced the winner, most didn't quite know what to think.

You see, harness racing is a sport with trotters and pacers. One move their legs slightly different than the other. That's really all you need to know about that. But there's only two. Trotter of the Year was announced, and it was a three year old filly named Shake It Cerry. A case could be made she deserves it, because although she did not win the Hambo Oaks, she was pretty good. Not long after, Sweet Lou was announced pacer of the year. Lou had quite the year, and he too deserved it.

All that was left was the announcement for Horse of the Year. Was it going to be Sweet Lou - the pacer of the year - or was it goin…

Rake, Blah Blah Blah, Rake

Those business buzz-words like synergy or accretive make me think of classes way back when, when profs told us how business works. But, in reality, they are how business works.

I was reading this today regarding some of the deals being made by major sports leagues and DFS sites, like FanDuel:

"The appeal of daily fantasy sports to sports leagues isn't hard to understand. Nigel Eccles, CEO of FanDuel, told that his company's research showed that fans' weekly TV sports viewing jumped from 17.5 hours to 24 hours when they start playing DFS. Consider what that means for TV ratings, and TV ratings translate to more money for rights fees, cable subscription fees and advertising rates."
So that's like seven hours more a week. Many might say pfft, so what, no big deal.
Consider how much more a TV network can earn with an extra seven hours a week. 
Consider that the average Netflix watcher watches 10.5 hours a week of Netflix and it's worth $20 bill…

Commissioner Gural

People clamor for a racing commissioner and we're told over and over again how it can't happen.

Jeff Gural made news again today. Over the past couple of years, the practice of "kicking" or whatever apologists want to call it, has been in the headlines. Many of the alphabets, on air talent, or insiders were either frozen regarding what to do about it, defending it, or were just hoping it would go away.  After driver David Miller's interview with, where he brazenly stuck his finger in the face of the rules by saying, "“I realize that people are really down on this idea of kicking” but it was worth every bit of the $750 fine", once again, Gural didn't run and hide from it.

It was announced today that Gural's three tracks have created a zero tolerance policy on kicking.
“We have a responsibility to our horses and to the public that we are putting forth the most integrity-driven and safest product possible,” said Meadowlands Chairm…

ABR Lives In an Industry with No Clue Who It Is

A story on the Paulick Report about "America's Best Racing" popped up yesterday. The article, generally, focused on the ABR insiders and they tooted their horn a little (a couple of times with incredulous numbers). In the comments section (and in some places on the twitter) the project tended to get skewered.

I understand why people get up in arms about the whole ABR project (some are very good friends whom I respect). I get it. Where I diverge from that thought is based more on organizational behavior, not the nuts and bolts (i.e. the criticism of the job they are doing and tactics used).

Racing is odd, fractured, does not really have any idea who the customer is. It taxes based on slices not profits for revenue. Its best friend is a lobby group who wants slots. Racing is a gambling game so it has stalwarts like in print and online. No, hold it, it's not a gambling game, so it has breeding heavy industry news at the Bloodhorse. But it is not only a breedin…

Notes for a Friday

Hi everyone. It's pitch black here at like 4:15PM (I love December), it's kind of cold, but at least it's the weekend. Bachelor night again, with the dog and I probably playing the Meadowlands and watching sports of some sort. Right now the choice is heavily slanted to curling, but hey, it's Canada.


Yesterday we spoke quite a bit about fantasy sports and racing's rather perplexing belief that somehow it can work for this sport. Scanning the twitter I see some asking if it can work in any way at all. I guess it could, but one has to realize that horse racing already has a fantasy league at the pari-mutuel windows. We bet a horse to win a race in the win pool, bet them to win in a set of races in a pick 4 pool, and bet them to win and run in a certain order. Daily fantasy games provide the casual fan a chance to wager on something that was previously not bettable. If someone wants to wager on racing, head to the track.

Mike Dorr had a look at what Fantasy …

The Daily Fantasy and Racing Juggernaut

There was a panel this morning at the RTIP about Daily Fantasy Sports, its growth and possible benefits to racing (through crossover). You read that right, some are looking at an industry that no one heard of in 2010 (Fanduel had fewer than 1,000 players in 2010, according to the WSJ), that has had exponential growth rates, to somehow help racing.

I am sure Matt Hegarty will have a story on the panel later, so check his feed for that.

The DFS industry is in no way helping racing, and I doubt it ever will.Why? Because it's taking people who are betting racing, converting them to their platform, not the other way around.

This year there will be 800,000 to 1,000,000 DFS players, up from 1,000 in 2010. Like Ebay in 1995, which experienced 70% monthly growth rates, these firms attract investment money. For Fanduel, these investments are from organizations like NBC/Comcast and other heavy-hitters. Because of that, an eco-system is produced, which encourages growth. 

Like any startup,…

Seeing the Writing on the Wall & Changing the Culture

With the Arizona Symposium going on, it struck me how much they talk about change, almost each year. These ideas are generally a lot about inside baseball - which is not a bad thing - but they rarely look at the big picture.

We talk a lot about changing things up here on the blog when it comes to horse racing; things like higher field size, better pricing, exchanges, etc have been talked about since 2008. But, many of the changes we advocate, on the surface, seem much ado about nothing. I fully agree that whipping changes, or stopping kicking does not mean much in terms of handle. Changing medication rules to those that are fair and effective is not something that will make people come to the racetrack, or buy horses starting tomorrow.

These changes (and others) are cultural in nature, and in the long term, when the culture changes from "it's just a horse" to "it's a horse" things can begin to set the table for improvement. Statements changing to "even…

Das Boots, Chapter 52

Doug had a look at driver David Miller's reaction to being fined $750 for booting McWicked in a stakes race on Sunday.

“I realize that people are really down on this idea of “kicking” but it was worth every bit of the $750 fine"

That's a fancy way of saying, screw the rules for a gambling sport, they're not for me. 

We've gone through this before, and it's frankly pretty silly to be even talking about it any longer. The sport is paralyzed to do even the simplest of things like placing a horse when a driver cheats on it by kicking. It's had a leadership chasm forever.

But this little thing - a driver outside cheating, beats a driver inside who doesn't cheat sometimes taking betting money and another owner's money down with it - cuts right to the heart of the game. It makes people think this:
Sometimes I wonder why a lot of people don't take harness racing seriously. Then people say this and I'm reminded why
— Doug…

Who Cares? It's Just a Betting Fee

I've been reading the twitter and a lot of chatter about Monarch signal fees, takeout, NYRA ADW taxes and the like are filling it. Some seem to think none of this is really a big deal because bettors will play no matter what.

Back in 2009, New Hampshire added a tax on winning wagers at horse and dog simulcast centers. It was really "no big deal", according to many - it was not even as bad as a takeout hike, it was only on winning wagers of over $600.

It was a big deal:

"In the 2010 calendar year alone, the amount of money bet on simulcast Thoroughbred races at Rockingham Park, The Lodge, and Yankee Greyhound Park dropped by a combined $19,438,111. The overall handle at the three tracks, which no longer conduct live racing of any breed but also simulcast harness and greyhound racing, was off a total of $24,064,567"

"While Paul Kelley, the executive director of the state’s charitable gaming and racing commission, said it is difficult to ascribe a hard n…


Selling chickens is a really complex thing.

Long ago, in Florida, there was a distributor who sold the highest quality chickens. They wanted more people to consume their high quality chickens, so they contacted a group of chicken farmers in New York. They wanted them to sell their chickens at their Friday, Saturday and Sunday chicken fairs, which were all the rage because they were invested in for years. It was a ready made market of chicken sellers, matched with chicken buyers and they wanted in.

The local chicken sellers were wary, because their chickens were not the highest quality. With new high quality chickens entering the market, their local chicken sales would go down. Not to worry, though, because these high quality chickens were selling for $10 and the Florida people only wanted $3. The $7 in profit would be added to the overall chicken revenue pie. Sure the Northern chicken farmers would not sell as many chickens with this new entrant in the market, but they'd still ha…

The Smaller Horsemen are the Next Target

Reading Charlie Hayward's commentary today, "Good News in American Racing This Fall", there was this comment Charlie highlighted:

"Now the content provider gets 3-5% depending on the track while the simulcast site gets 15-17%, the blended takeout being 20%. Why shouldn’t it be 10-10%. In fact if a site doesn’t provide live racing why not 15-5% to the content side. The fact is the larger tracks have been subsidizing the smaller tracks by this split of the simulcast money"

Many of these tracks - small thoroughbred and small harness tracks - depend on simulcast dollars for their purses. If their track is racing live at 20% rake, then offer a new signal from a popular track like Gulfstream, they lose live handle at 20%, so they need some sort of comparable split to realize revenue.

A likely response from local horsemen is to kill the signal all together. What that does is hurt customers.

There is only one pie. More money for Stronach's slice means less money fo…

The Topsy Turvy World of Betting & Betting Business

If you are a bit of a betting and business of betting geek, the past twelve months have been pretty interesting.

In racing, we've heard from every nook and cranny in the landscape what's been going wrong.

Early in the year, handle losses, at say Churchill Downs, were due to falling foal crops. Then we heard a lot about polytrack from the usual suspects; i.e. when they get rid of the plastic, the roads will be paved with handle-flowing lollipops. Then we heard a little about those dastardly college football playoffs causing a ruckus in the betting landscape.

First off, I'm a guy who had to ask on twitter where Murray State was (I know the 50 states, and I am sure Murray is not one of them), thought the hashtag #BBN was in reference to the Backstreet Boy Nation, and watched some of the last Tennessee game only because I really like that mascot dog they have. His name is "Smokey". Anyhoo, I am certain my handle has not dropped 60% this year because of that. So let&#…

The Economy Has Grown Since CSI Miami Has Been Cancelled

If you want to get one of the global warming people upset, mention the weather in Duluth this week and say "oh ya, what global warming".

If you want to get one of the anti-global warming people upset, post a link to some guy who is getting millions in grants blaming your high thermostat on wind/drought/hurricanes or no hurricanes/no wind/lots of rain, all in the same week.

If you want to get a horseplayer upset, blame some of the $26.1 million in handle losses at a track on the new interest in the college football playoff format
 In addition to weather and field size, Kay mentioned the closing of four Atlantic City casinos and heightened interest in college football due to the new playoff format could have played roles in the handle decline. Maybe there is more to this story. Maybe there is something we don't know. Maybe that Chris Kay is this Chis Kay and he really likes college football.

Whatever the case, this is not the first time this has happened. Blaming handl…


NYRA announced more signal fee hikes (even planning for a 3% reduction in handle; how's that for ya), Monarch - the Stronach betting arm - is fighting for more money from us, and racetracks. CDI raised the juice and that worked out really well for them, didn't it. Handle will be down in 2014 and will probably be down in 2015 if the above headlines are any indication.

I've just about had it.

So, rather than wax on about these issues from a customer perspective (hint, they're really bad for the growth of horse racing), this post will be about puppies.


I went through my twitter feed looking for something for a column (I was searching @chare889 's feed actually), and saw so many puppies. They made me feel good, so here are a few from the past few months.


"He is saying I did not do it daddy"
— Animal Life (@fabulousanimals) November 18, 2014
Respect. “@eonline: The last surviving 9/11 rescue d…

Changing the Track Allocation Mix Has Not Helped Gross Handles

Handle in US Thoroughbred racing will be down about $50 million, or 6% in November. When looking at October and November together (to standardize the Breeders' Cup handle, which was up slightly, year over year), it's down about 2%. Down 2% is about the mean monthly handle losses in 2014.

The story is much deeper than that, however. The allocations of racedates, by track, are different in 2014 than they were in 2013 over that period.

In Canada, where there were 17 tracks in Ontario, the track numbers were culled, mainly due to the loss of slots. Out of the 17 tracks, only eight or nine did proper handle, the rest were an afterthought with bettors. The thought was, if racedates were taken from the small handle tracks and given to higher handle tracks - those with better racing, more of a following and better signal distribution -  it should result in more handle. That occurred. In 2013, racedates were off close to 20%, per race handle was up greater than 20%, and overall handle…

Two Sports' Two Horse of the Year Votes

California Chrome won at Del Mar yesterday, trying turf for the first time. He was very impressive.

In the TVG, Sweet Lou - the sport's most dominant pacer - won easily, as dominant has he has been for some time.

California Chrome lasted the entire year at a high level, winning early fast, and late fast, on a new surface. He was only a couple of lengths from a Triple Crown, which makes his late season fitness and sharpness something not seen very often. As o_crunk put it on twitter, usually early season three year old stars are only found late in the year "on milk cartons." He won six races in nine tries in what can be described as a throwback type season.

Sweet Lou has won 11 of 19, set track record after track record, won ten in a row at one point, all in the hardest division to win races in - the older "handicap" division. It's not 1990 anymore, you have to go fast every race, and there are no easy ones for older pacers. O_crunk's words fit well here…

Saturday Notes

Good morning racing fans.

The TVG trot and pace is tonight at the Big M. Unlike last season where we had a three year old in the mix, this year these races are more traditional. The Trot seems a better betting affair than the pace, with Sebastian K possibly providing some board value - as strange as that is to say. Sweet Lou's last race is this evening over a very jam packed four year career. For the HOY watch, if Sebastian dispatches this field easily, I expect the voters to give him the nod over the two year old. This is a sport that rightfully demands more than just perfection from a two year old to win HOY. For reference, Somebeachsomewhere didn't even get a sniff.

"Grinding versus Rapid Bankroll Growth" - No that's not a story about racing, but daily fantasy sports. It shows just how similar the two games are. The article, in effect, says that one should bet win (play 50/50 games) to see if one can become a long term winner, then branch out to exotics (tourn…

Good Gambling Play Should Near Always Reflect the Rake of the Game

Yesterday's post about Fantasy gaming sites led to an interesting discussion. These sites keep between 5 and 10% and payout the rest.

During the discussion, some felt that because they are difficult to win at - even though you may get paid near half the time in a 50/50 contest - losing can get old real fast. Others feel the market is so large, and a fair portion of users are used to playing props and sports lottery type games with terrible takeout, that that level can be withstood.

Currently, for example, if you bet $50 in a 50/50 game and land in the top half, you get back $45. One post on twitter noted this:
@Pullthepocket@o_crunk To be blunt,it needs to be installed/accepted as a loss leader, to start. Clock the handle -- and public reaction.
— Richard Witt (@rich_witt1) November 28, 2014 So, in effect, you would win $47 instead of $45. That's lower takeout. But if this is advertised, people would flock to it. Why would anyone want to enter a 50/50 game when they get ba…