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Showing posts from February, 2014

Horseplaying Synergy

I haven't bet more than maybe $1,000 since January 1st. I've had the blahs. Signal fee hikes, people arguing, short fields, low payouts, bad weather. Blech. I've downloaded a grand total of zero racecards in my software package, and looked at no more than six harness past performances.

But tomorrow we're ending this self-imposed exile from the land of Nobetsville.

Is it because Derby season is here? The weather is warming up? Food truck day at a track near me? Because Belmont added stakes races to a card that already has stakes races? Some track actually lowered rake giving us a better chance to beat the game?

Nope, none of those. I'm going to start playing again because of the synergy of my fellow horseplayers.

This past month I worked on the Horseplayer Monthly a little bit. That seemed to get me energized. I chatted with some friends who are talking about angles, bias, and data modeling. They're talking about an edge they may get at this track and one that …

#Horseplayers Is Something to Get Behind

I think Jerod Dinkin struck the right chord in his Horseplayer Monthly column that was posted on the Paulick Report today.

In it (read it please, it's a well-thought out tome), he looked at Esquire's Horseplayers - the television show - and gently told his fellow horseplayers who are not overly complimentary of it, they should be looking at the big picture.

I agree.

I was on the phone today with a professional player. He was grinding, like he usually does, trying to make a living. We talked a bit about the show and he didn't really get it. Why? They don't do what he does every day. I can relate, because the way he bets, is the way I do, and have for a long time. I don't spot play, and neither does he. I don't play tournaments, and neither does he.

But what we both agreed, is, like Jarod noted, although as Horseplayers we're rugged individualists, skeptical by nature, and a little jaded; getting behind this show is of paramount importance. It's not abou…

Silence Does Not Mean Happiness

Good morning everyone.

I've been perusing the Gulfstream Park DQ story (which keeps getting stranger it seems) and came across an article by Paulick titled "Controversial Calls: Stewards’ Rulings Need More Transparency, Accountability." This was a mainstream article, that had no real controversy (I think most - inside and outside the industry - would agree with it.)

However, sometimes in the comments section you learn something.

A commentor, Kcollinsworth, wrote a pretty neat bit of prose about the business. 
 Mr. Paulick, you list those who have a vested interest in horse racing, and, last on your list are the horseplayers. This comes as no surprise, not because the horseplayers deserve to be in the back of the bus, but because despite decades of lip service, at the end of the day horseplayers are taken for granted, disrespected and sadly enough at some tracks, ridiculed by low to mid level track employees who ought to know better, since their paychecks are made p…

Big Ideas Rarely Happen in Horse Racing.

Reading the tech blogs is fun. There are ideas that are neat, smart, dumb, ridiculous and completely unworkable - and sometimes they're even the same idea.

The culture is to think outside the mainstream, to think the stereotypical "big". Why is that? Because most of these ideas - even the crappy ones - can get funded. It pays to think big.

Godin the other day wrote a blog post that exempfied this. "We need a competitor to the Olympics"
 Ford, Nike and Netflix each put up a few hundred million dollars. The games would be held two years before each corresponding Olympics, benefitting both athletes (who can't always wait four more years) as well as curling-starved fans (not to mention advertisers)..... I think it's time to try again in a post-broadcast economy. To reflect a world that actually has electronic communications at its disposal, the games would be held in ten cities at the same time (each sport centered in a specific city), not one, reusing …

Gulfstream DQ's...... It's a Riot!

Ray Paulick sizzled an article on the Bacon Report this afternoon about the Gulfstream DQ, titled "Character Attacks on Gulfstream Stewards, GM Deplorable". 
 It’s one thing to allow mind games to be played inside your head, but it’s entirely another to start posting vicious allegations of wrongdoing by horse racing officials entrusted to oversee the game. That, sadly, is what happened in the wake of Saturday’s disqualification. This is in reference to horseplayers, who in the wake of the DQ, began to form some X Files, Twelve Monkey's conspiracy theories about why the horse was DQ'd. In the comments section, its started a alphabetical riot.

I read Malcolm Gladwell's David and Goliathover Christmas. In it, he looked at conflict's and their resolution. He leaned on studies that showed when a Goliath looked at where a David was coming from, escalation of the conflict could be avoided.

The "character attack" on the GM or the stewards is not coming f…

Monday Notes, DQ's, Dan Patch & a Bit More

Good morning everyone.

There's still a lot of chatter about the Gulfstream Rainbow Six DQ in customer-land. Andy Beyer weighed in sensibly in the Washington Post today. I, like Andy, don't for a second buy the conspiracy theories and everything else in this situation. But like him as well, can surely understand it. Horseplayers have been maddened at the inconsistency for so long, that any time it happens in a public way, they blow up.

As for the rumor swirling about GP's Tim Ritvo being 'on the phone to the judges stand when the inquiry was taking place', well this should help:
Just spoke with TIm Ritvo of Gulfstream Park. He was on the phone but not with the Stewards. We had a good conversation. I believe him.
— Andy Asaro (@racetrackandy) February 24, 2014 If you don't know Racetrackandy, take it from me, he carries no one's water in the business.

I've spoken with Tim before too, and he is not a dumb guy. Only a fool would call the judges in that si…

A Seven Figure DQ

Yesterday in the last race at Gulfstream, a bettor had one horse to win the jackpot Rainbow six.  The horse was disqualified, and one person got a bad beat of epic proportions.

I am not here to argue the call was bad, or good. There's enough opinion out there on that (in my timeline, the call being a bad one beats the people who think it was good by a decent margin), but it's not the point.

Bettors have been arguing for years that the system for inquiries, judging and its consistency have been a pox on racing's house. Whether it's been suspect and completely inconsistent calls on herding, to lack of transparency, to the Kentucky Breeders Cup stewards watching a football game on one of their monitors, this lack of professionalism and seemingly arbitrary standards has been griped about.

Although the industry likes to say "it's just those HANA whiners" or a bunch of complainers who lost a bet, that would be wrong. People who are complaining have a right to c…

Governments Doing Some Good for Racing?

Good day folks.

Before you decide to flame me, hear me out :)

In New York, the government-racing partnership seems to be a little suspect. In Ontario, it's suspect too, but mainly because the current, sitting government pulled the rug from under the sport with an unexpected move that decimated many livelihoods. However, two plus years hence, the partnership between to the two to try and move racing to a more demand led (handle and attendance) sport is well underway.

From SC, tracks have reached an unprecedented agreement:
 "This is a unique in-the-world agreement between eight tracks to share resources, coordinate schedules, to provide a consistent level of racing and purses year-round to the benefit of both the horsepersons of Ontario and also for the horseplayers, so that we'll be able to put a signal out around the world that's consistent good quality racing and a great product for people to wager on." This coordinates racedates, scheduling of off times, p…

North American Soccer Must Be Big, It's on Apple TV

So, I break down and buy one of those iPad things. I don't know if it's because I am tired of seeing Apple Fan Boy Sid Fernando basque in the amazing Appleness of his electronic products, or I am just stubborn. Regardless, I buy one.

At the same time I decide I will buy Apple TV, because I am getting annoyed with plugging in my laptop or fiddling with my android TV box to watch the races on the television (that beam thingy, or whatever the youngsters call it, where you can play your iPad on the TV is cool).

Surfing around the Apple TV interface I see there are various apps. You know, Youtube, or Vevo - those type apps. Then I see "Major League Soccer". Because Apple TV apps are prime real estate, this intrigues me.

I know nothing about Major League soccer - I think that guy who married a Spice Girl plays on one of the teams, but I could be mistaken - but there it is. You can watch games n' stuff, look at stats, that kind of thing.

 Doing a little research I find…

Twitter Judging, Not Just for Horse Racing

There was some griping yesterday about judging. Ya, there was some race at Santa Anita - which I don't watch - and my twitter exploded, but there was something else on twitter, too.

Oh that Ice Dance.

The two best ice dancing teams - honestly I only know this because of twitter.... honest - are the American's and the Canadian's. It's a pretty big rivalry. The short program was contested and the American's received some high marks, with the Canadian's in second. When the judges scores came up, it appeared that the Canadian's lost their marks for this scoring gap to the American's on something called the "Finn-Step Sequence". A few of the judges said the American's kicked some maple syrup eating Canuck ass in the Finn Step, and that's that.

Since I don't know a Finn step from a Danish Danish, that's fine with me. Good on ya, Americanos.

But, interestingly enough, after the Canadian's went, and before the American's did, …

The Harness Racing Bubble

Finley wrote a blurb on the Tetrick Meadowlands interview from Friday.
Some four months after being fined for kicking Captaintreacherous in the stretch drive of the Tattersalls at the Red Mile Tim Tetrick still isn't apologizing for his actions. Appearing on the Meadowlands' "In the Sulky" program Friday night with Sam McKee Tetrick said the anti-kicking rules in the sport need to be changed. ""The way the rule is written now, I think we need to change the rule," Tetrick said. Interviewed on a major telecast, a harness driver said he thinks kicking, nudging, striking a horse with his boot, or whatever you want to call it, is not only no big deal, it should be allowed. And amazingly, the interviewer seems to be just fine with it.

Outside the bubble, "boot" and "horse" should never be used in the same sentence.

Harness racing is not a popular sport. If it was, the New York Times would have a story this morning titled "Racing'…

That's a Neat Tweet, And a Good Blog Post

Peter Rotondo, fashion dude, horseplayer, reality TV star, Breeders Cup employee, son of a guy named Peter, and all around cool guy, retweeted the funniest tweet on my timeline today:

I watched the entire USA-Russia game standing behind a foreign radio guy calling the game while watching harness racing on his iPad.
— Willie Geist (@WillieGeist) February 15, 2014 For those who do not know European trotting, this might sound funny, but to many of us it ain't. It's a huge game across the pond. Years ago, when the chances of seeing a harness racing commercial in North America were less than seeing an Andy Asaro and Mike Pegram hug, the Swede's were hiring top firms to create some amazing advertising. 

Speaking of making me laugh, Cangamble has not been blogging too much lately. Maybe he was giddy his Fort Erie racetrack is racing this season, or something, because he had a good post yesterday.

Powerboat racing is big stuff in Japan, handling almost as much money as horse ra…

The Branding Tree, Tech and Racing Culture

Seth's Blog had a neat post on branding yesterday.

"Over time, for some brands, it has become something significantly more. A mirror on our identity as consumers, tribe members and citizens."

- This is racing. It's not Wal-Mart. It's a living being. It's feed men and grooms; riders and drivers and trainers; bettors and bet takers.

"When someone criticizes one of these brands, these 'us' brands, we take the criticism personally. So, if you're a Harley tribe member, someone criticizing Harley Davidson is like a personal attack."

- "NYRA made a mistake with the takeout snafu." Saying something so obvious can get you labelled a hater in some quarters.

"The risk is that when your brand stumbles, you won't have to merely confront those non-customers that might have thought less of you. You'll need to understand that when you fail, we all do. It's personal, and you might need to do more than mutter an apology. H…


If you pop onto twitter or chatboards, or if you are at your simo-center in front of a bank of televisions, you'll often hear thoughts about race scheduling.

"Why is that [a grade 2 or 3 race] going off at the exact same time as that [another Graded stakes]. How hard is this to schedule races not on top of each other?! This business is frigged up!"

Like you, it makes me wonder. With 15 tracks, let's say, racing on a Saturday afternoon, this is close-to-impossible, but it seems to happen mid-week, or with stakes. It's like clockwork.

I do a little work with Horseplayer Monthly (check it out here for a free copy) and for the next issue I said to myself "let's ask someone about scheduling, why this happens, and what can be done to fix it."

Then it dawned on me, who in the hell do I ask?

As @o_crunk puts it on twitter "who is "racing""? Is there a head of scheduling races at some head office? Maybe Stronach is in charge and he can sc…

"I'm Shocked to Find There's Gambling Going On In Here"

I did not get to watch the Fox Sports 1 coverage of the Donn Handicap this weekend, but I used a focus group to tell me how the coverage was: Justin Horowitz's mom.
Watching the @FOXSports1 show w/mom a casual fan. She says "I like this but they're really trying to get you hooked on gambling" #success
— Justin Horowitz (@ItstheJHo) February 9, 2014 Selling gambling during broadcasts ruffles some feathers in the sport, but this is a sport about gambling.

We should not be shocked McDonald's sells hamburgers in their commercials, and we should not be surprised that a telecast would sell what racing does; because the purse of the Donn was not paid for with Will Take Charge tee shirts, obviously.

Probably the number one rule for marketers - ever, but particularly in this day and age - is that you have to embrace and sell what you are. For years racing telecasts did not do that; they tried to be everything to everyone. You can do that with the Kentucky Derby, but for …

Chris Makes Me Go Hmmm

With apologies to @jerseytom, Chris Kay makes me go hmmm.

In Bob Ehalt's column today, regarding the massive shuffling of slots purses to Belmont day stakes:

"We wanted to create a day that will grab people's attention," said Chris Kay, NYRA's CEO and President.

Putting aside the fact that some of the purse hikes are obscene (here's one guy who is more than perplexed) and probably won't create differing field size, or be ROI positive in virtually any way,  let's just look at that statement.

'We want to grab people's attention'

It's the Belmont Stakes. It's a Triple Crown race. You do not need to grab people's attention, you already have people's attention.

Here is google trends for the Belmont versus the Breeders Cup.

This event already dwarfs the Breeders Cup; on Triple Crown tries even in 2010, when Zenyatta was on 60 Minutes and her every move was making the rounds on earned media like she was a female human version of B…

Stepping Up to the Plate & Sydney Seelster Updates

For those of you following along on social media (or if you read my blog piece; thanks for the shares everyone), there seems to be a nice final chapter brewing for Sydney Weaver.

Social media reported the current trainer will be selling back the Camluck mare to Sydney on Wednesday at Flamboro Downs.

That does not diminish what we saw last evening. People whom I have never even conversed with messaged me to know more. Messages like this:

Joe Bellino, of the Bellino family who owns Jug winner, tremendous racehorse and new sire, Rock n' Roll Heaven, offered out this:

Rock n' Roll Heaven - as he should've - had a good first crop year at the sales. This isn't pinching pennies, folks.

That's only a smattering of the reaction.

Some people don't seem to understand that reaction, and that's okay, because the way small time harness racing works is not the cold, hard calculated way racing works as a whole. It's built into the culture that you don't kick anyo…

Not Your Average $5,000 Claim

A horse was claimed at Flamboro this evening out of a $5,000 claimer. It's not often that would be news, but this claim was different. It spawned what I saw were hundreds of tweets, facebook and chat board posts, (and gosh knows how many texts).

The horse in question was Sydney Seelster, a six year old mare that was purchased last year as a Christmas present for 13 year old Sydney Weaver. Sydney, who has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair, has been described by some as harness racing's number one fan. She achieved her grooms licence, and wants to be a horse trainer when she grows up.  She was surprised last Christmas by a friend of the family (one of the good guys in this sport, who has been around forever) with her namesake horse.

This story - obviously a heartwarming one - was captured both inside and outside racing's media and made headlines. WEG's video recap of the story, which was broadcast nationwide, won a Hervey Award last year, and is well worth …

Fixing What Isn't Broken

There was a rumor going around that NYRA had a "big announcement" coming. Well, it was announced today that purses were upped and some races were shuffled around for Belmont Day. (sorry bettors, nothing for you from slots, like you may have been hoping).

The first reaction in board rooms around racing is "great idea, a big day for us to watch and get excited about". Inside baseball folks live for this stuff. It's warm and fuzzy and energizes us as fans - who are not the target market, but it's who racing appeases more often than not.

However, it smacks of bean counting to little old me.

As Godin wrote awhile back, what we're seeing is a tweak. 
 The reason is that these [corporate benchmarks and doing something to do something] numbers demand that you start tweaking. You can tweak a website or tweak an accounts payable policy and make numbers go up, which is great, but it's not going to fundamentally change your business. They've tweaked Belm…

Myth's Busted & Old Time Racing's Roots

Back many years ago now, yours truly (believe it or not, I was actually invited) presented things from a customer and gambler perspective at an industry conference.

While insiders talked about the "sport" in almost every instance, I was talking about what a lot of us like to bet. At one point at the harness conference I presented the heretic point of view that we liked i) full fields and ii) we don't care who is driving the horse.  This was not said too often - the prevailing thought was big "names" and "stars" draw handle, even if in a five horse field where one of them is 2-5 -  but as serious horseplayers you and I know that to be true.

Tonight in HRU (pdf), Jeff Gural in one paragraph shows how far the game has come.
"Gural said he has also changed his mind on the impact name drivers have on the betting handle. When Sears and Brennan left he said he thought their absence would lead people to bet less on the Meadowlands product. "It doesn&…

Horseplayers Are Creatures of Habit & Signal Fights Kill the Habit

Signal fights are in full force so far this season. The DRF reported today in "Multiple Contract Disputes Wreaking Havoc":
As with any quarrel, everyone suffers. Monticello Raceway and its horsemen are losing money. Drivers, trainers and the Illinois standardbred tracks are losing money. Fans and bettors are losing the opportunity to enjoy their favorite tracks. No one is happy. The Horseman's rep:
 “Sometimes you have to fight for the future because if you don’t, you won’t have one.” Everyone loses, that's a given, and horsemen have very few arrows in the arsenal to fight issues. It is what it is. However, racing, in my opinion, has missed the most salient point in signal fee interruptions and strikes on who loses most.

While horsemen and the track do not have a choice - i.e. the singal impasse will be settled, and the track will race and horsemen with a horse in the barn will enter him or her because that's their business - customers do.

Back in 2006, Hong Ko…