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Showing posts from July, 2014

Hambo Week & Other Notes

Good day horse racing fans. The big news today is that Scott Blasi has returned to the Asmussen stable. Twitter is reporting that we've so far seen no pictures of him hugging a horse. #fullstorytwitter.

Here are a few ramblings.

The Horseplayer Monthly is out. Too many stories to mention, but I liked Mike Dorr's article on Jackpot Wagers, and I think it's a must read. Lenny makes a great point on rake, and my pal Melissa talks about first crop sires, which I can use some work with.

CDI, with strong revs from Derby and Oaks days had a decent revenue bump this quarter. Imagine how they would've done if they just raised rakes for those two days instead of the whole meet? Probably much better. 

The big story this weekend is for harness fans - the Hambo card......

A free program is here. 

There are quite a few guaranteed pools and pick 4's etc, so check your local listings. Post time is noon.

Dominated by trots, one of the best pacing races of the day (or any Hambo Day…

Monday Notes

The weekend - with plenty of action in both the Standardbred and Thoroughbred world - is done. Here are a few things that caught my eye.

Bayern's last was eye-popping, with a solid figure, and one wondered if he would carry it through to the Haskell. He sure did. In some of his previous outings he looked a little nuts, but he has seasoned.

At the Meadowlands Saturday we saw mostly prep races for this week's big Hambo card. A few of the races were pretty ugly, with some no-try efforts. Archangel, who has been bottled up and wacky in the pocket of late, was rolled on the front end to a 1:50 score. Thinking Yannick is not the biggest Ake Svantstedt fan, the Cashman Final should be interesting. Sebastian K returned to the winners circle after slipping all over the track in the Maple Leaf Trot, where he was beaten.

The Equilottery is making some headlines. Here is what the horse lottery looks like from a horse racing bettor perspective (page 4, pdf

Hong Kong lasix study here. What I…

A Common Refrain No One Talks About Much

In HRU today, owner of the ill-fated Modern Family spoke about the state of horse racing (pdf page 4), in the article titled "Domback Wants Out". 
 Before his run of bad luck Dombeck was already disillusioned with the sport and he admitted that other issues have played into his decision to scale back. He says it's too hard to compete against the giant stables at the classier levels and that he feels that lower level races are
dominated by drug cheats. This is not an opinion you read in the press very often, but in grandstands and shedrows we've all heard it countless times.

Owning horses is not an investment vehicle and never really has been, as much as the powers that be try to make it one. It's about doing something with your money for entertainment, and like buying a lottery ticket because you might just get that home run horse.

Breakdowns, competing against 4 horse super stable entries, trying to claim a horse in that cess pool at some tracks is something that…

Controlling the Message

It was recently announced that there were several morphine positives in the UK. One of the horses who tested positive was the Queen's horse. Yes, that Queen.

This has made headlines, and most of them scream like the one in the above link does. Short version: Racing is crooked, even the Queen does it.

Morphine positives, and other obvious egregious drugs that find their way into positive tests, are often due to some sort of contamination. An easy way to tell if the positive test is a mistake of some sort, is by releasing the levels of the drug in the system. 1 parts per billion, which will test, could not performance enhance an ant, let alone a twelve hundred pound racehorse. If we see those levels we know darn well it's an error.

I understand why racing has to release tests like this to the public, but they need to have some sort of narrative to go along with them. It's one thing for the trainer in question say "there was only a small amount in the system and it prob…

Monday Notes

Good morning everyone.  Here are a few things that caught my eye over the weekend.

Sebastian K was beaten at Mohawk on Saturday, as most know. Intimidate, the always fast but sometimes not sharp and sound trotter, nailed him in the final stride. It's pretty clear the off track bothered Sebastian K, as it does with tons of horses at Mohawk. Shoeing is pretty important on those days and Sebastian, who is reported to race barefoot, probably slipped and slid his way around the oval. 

After the race Modern Family, the super-nice trotter of Daryl Bier's who finished fourth, passed away in the paddock. That's horrifying. He was a nice trotter. The first person to comment on the passing in the Sc story was Intimidate's owner. They have class.

In Las Vegas a redone and remodel superbook is planned at a Westgate Resorts casino in Vegas. One line caught my eye:

"The spokesperson echoed Siegel in saying the biggest change will be a move more toward sports betting, with two-…

Takter Reaction Shows How Hard it is to Run The Sport

In Harness Racing Update, driver/trainer Jim Takter was "steaming mad". As most of you who watched know, Takter, driving a longshot against two other of his stablemates, sat on the outside and did not advance, in a stakes final last weekend. This caused crawling fractions and a good old fashioned boat race. 
 “Why should I put pace into the race? I had no reason to do that. I was screwed no matter what I did; she couldn’t even keep up anyway. This whole thing is (expletive) bull (expletive).”
Takter said “It’s upsetting because I’m a standup guy,” Takter said. “I do everything right in this sport. Go after these scumbags doing all this dirty garbage.”  Jim doth protest too much. No one is calling him a crook. No one is saying he deliberately boxed in a challenger. All people are saying is he did not advance with a horse on the outside - which is against the rules of racing - and because he had two others in the race, including the leader who clearly benefited, the perception …

Horse Racing's Data Bog & The Decisions It Makes

With most of us, at work in our jobs or while we are handicapping the races, we need data to make a decision. If we do "x" we need to know what happens to "y". Reading a couple of headlines it makes me wonder how racing does the same thing. I guess the short answer is, it probably doesn't.

As Alan at LATG talked about today in his Saratoga notes, NYRA has increased admission prices to the storied track, but they've also changed their policy on "spinners" who buy more than one admission for free stuff.
Excessive spinning will be limited to two extra vouchers at a time, in an attempt to prevent hoarding and to give more people a chance to get the items; and the extra vouchers sold will not count towards attendance.  So the phony crowd figures - to me one of the treasured traditions of Saratoga - will become a thing of the past.  So, if racing tries to answer a question like "did a fairly large percentage admission fee increase hurt attendan…

Doubles, Doubling Down, Expectations & Other Monday Notes

The "Del Mar Double Caper" was in full effect the last week. As you may know, double takeout was set at 18% for the Santa Anita and Los Al meets, and this was planned to be carried over the rest of the year. Now, after some negotiation with the horsemen and owners, double takeout is being set at 20%, a 2.68% reduction from last year, but a 2% increase from earlier this year at other So Cal tracks.

Chris, who has run racetracks for years, summed it up on twitter:
This entire 18% rake reduction debate on DD is amusing. They act like something is being given away.
— Christopher Schick (@jogburger) July 13, 2014 If you don't quite understand his point, maybe the head of the California Lottery can help. They lowered their takeout percentage on scratch tickets and ended up making more money:

"Increasing the prize payout percentage improves the product's value to the consumer, provides us with a powerful message that gets consumer attention, and gives us a tool to …

Meadowlands Pace Night: Different, But Good

Last night's Meadowlands Pace night is in the books. For the two big races, Sweet Lou took the Haughton and He's Watching - a $3,000 yearling purchase - joined Somebeachsomewhere as the fastest three year old in harness history with his Pace win.

Some notes, or things that caught my eye .......

This was not a Pace night of old, where most of the accompanying races were overnights, with ten horse fields of high conditioned horses or claimers battling heads. These races, a harness staple, have been long gone from Jersey as neighboring states have added slots. It's a shame, because those races had high handles and brought in the gamblers. Instead, we had a stakes card with several low priced winners. It wasn't bad, it was just different.

Trixton looked amazing to me..... losing. Father Patrick, after a brief scare from pocket sitting Nuncio, won fairly easily in this anticipated tilt. Early Hambletonian odds? How about Takter-Takter-Takter at 2-1, 5-2 and 7-1 for Trixton,…

Meadowlands Pace Card Analysis

For harness bettors there are a few cards each year that are must-bets. The Meadowlands Pace card is certainly one of those. There are pool guarantees, an extra pick 4 and usually some excellent opportunities to make a little bit of money.

If you can read a harness program you can see the obvious contenders, but I'll look at a few horses I will be including on my tickets that are not so obvious.

Race One, $100k Sires Stakes Trot: True Blue Stride is a nice trotter who missed a week, which is not uncommon for a Harder student. He is 8-1 ML and up against some horses who will show speed, but if he looks good on the track I will take his inflated price. 

Race Three: 3YO Open: I think Unlocked is one of the fastest three year olds out there if he can put it all together. Tyler Smith's mount will take a beating and is a likely winner, so this colt's odds will be high. I dislike betting horses who break for no reason, but he's a use for me.

Race Six, Misteltoe Shallee: At 10-…

Racing's Lack of Understanding Numbers & the Need For Real Research

From the Bloodhorse:

"The higher takeouts took effect Jan. 1, 2011, amid howls of protest and calls to boycott California racing. Fortunately for California, the decision has proved to be a good one. Nearly $146.5 million in total purses were paid during FY13, which is up 13.7% from the total purses paid in FY11. Handle on California races dipped slightly from $2.9 billion to $2.88 billion for FY12—the first full year following the takeout increase—but total handle has completely recovered. Total all-sources wagering on California races reached just shy of $3.04 billion for FY13."

It's numbers displayed like this which makes it hard to develop sound policy in horse racing.


FY 2011 wagering, where the handle fell precipitously the six months following, and after a takeout hike in 2010 at Los Al, which also lost wagering, was over $3.4B. Now it's 3.04B. There's much more to the story, like Lenny spoke about here.  

Even despite that chart - which …

The Euros & Lottery's

This tweet showed up on my timeline yesterday:
Look at the change of equipment on Your So Vain before and after Åke...
— Tristan Sjoberg (@TristanSjoberg) July 9, 2014 That's trotter Your So Vain last year (above) and this year (below).

It's a little weird to post it, because when you do it looks like you're taking a shot at Brad Maxwell (last year's trainer). I'm not. Brad is an excellent trainer and Your So Vain was very good last season.

What it does show is the difference, I feel, between Euro trainers and North American trainers with trotters. The rush to get a trotter right to make money at two and three has a modern domestic trainer reaching for the equipment shelf.  If he won't trot straight, add a head pole, if he won't trot, add trotting hopples. The list with finicky trotters can be endless, which in my view is why you see so many dressed like Robocop.

A good many of the times, again in my view (although I have spoken …

Monday Musings On Handle and the Big Days

TimeformUS has their usual interesting (and more in-depth than anywhere you'll see) take on handle numbers in Thoroughbred racing for the second quarter up on their blog. June, where handle ticked up slightly, was a good month for racing, with decreased field sizes. Of course, this was skewed by a Triple Crown try, where not only Belmont, but pretty much everyone had a good weekend. But even leaving that out, I think the numbers are good.

Loss of race dates means handle will be off as a rule, yes, but it does not have to be a death knell. There are people who want to bet races, if the races are good enough, and a lot of them are waiting in the wings for opportunities. As is often said, give us 7 tens instead of 10 sevens. That racing did this with ten sevens is a positive.

Hong Kong, which prescribes to the seven tens theory, saw a record handle this year of US$13.1B. Only six or seven short years ago handle in HK was around US$8B. They've grown and despite hiccups, have held…

It's Not That Difficult to Be Honest

Several stories reported the handle decline at Churchill Downs this week. They were fine stories, but they pussyfooted around the real issue, as Brandon said on twitter.
Frustrating how reluctant media is to attribute any of Churchill's handle losses to idea that bettors might've responded to a price increase
— Brandon Valvo (@BValvsRacing) July 2, 2014 If, after a much publicized price increase, your local lemonade stand had their sales crater 25% this summer, we would not have to hire Columbo to figure out why. The business would not say it's been a little too humid for foot traffic, The World Cup was on, or demand was really, really high, but they ran out of lemons.

Racing, an insular business, has been run with increasing rates of takeout for so long it's become a way of life. Insiders do not want to talk about it, nor do they want to have it publicized that a policy initiative was a mistake. This is why something as simple as a price going up and having people co…