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Showing posts from August, 2014

Pacing Derby Night to Execs: "It's a Betting Game"

It's was a big night at Mohawk Raceway this evening. Three "Grade I" races were contested, along with several "Grade III's". In total, $2.4 million in purses were given away.

Big night for handle I bet? Yes.

Over $5.1 million was wagered on the card. It was the largest handle at the Milton oval in its existence.

However, what if I told you that for all that purse money and all those stakes, the handle after the first eleven races was $2.7 million, but the handle for the last race - one race, a nondescript $30,000 conditioned affair - was $2.3 million alone.

You'd think I was cray cray as the kids say.

But that's what happened. The last race of the evening had a carryover of the Super High Five, and bettors, going after a takeout reduced pool went to work.

Stakes races, pomp, pageantry, a hundred or so horses and a couple of millon dollars brought in $2.7 million through 11 races. A takeout reduction in one race brought in $2.3 million.

This is a be…

Horse Ownership, Owner Breadth and Reasons to Leave the Game

I had a fun conversation today with Brad Thomas and Chuck Simon on twitter about horse ownership, big stables and the ever-changing game.

We've all seen what's been happening: Big stables get bigger, vet bills and supplement costs grow, partnerships are formed which drives down the price of breeding stock (both on the higher and lower end).

There's a real crowding out going on, and it has been going on for some time.

Why is this an issue? Because it has decreased owner breadth, and made for bad betting races. Since owners (suppliers) and horseplayers (the demand which allows for supply to occur) are the complete, unequivocal lifeblood of the game, this is a huge issue. With slots especially, aggregate demand for horseflesh is looked at and trumpeted, but the make-up of such demand is as, or more important.

In HRU over two weeks, this ecosystem was looked at. Some of it is probably hard to read, but I feel it is steeped in logic. The horse ownership demand curve is hurting,…

Thursday Notes

Happy Thursday everyone.

It's a good weekend in racing.

Tom Durkin's last day is Sunday. "End of an era" is used a lot these days in sports and entertainment. This time it really means something. We grew up with Tom - both in harness, "here comes Nihilator on the outside with swift and powerful strides" and in thoroughbred racing, "Sunday Silence in a racing epic" - and I, like many, can't feel anything but a bit sad about him leaving. Good luck Tom. Enjoy life.

The card on Saturday at Mohawk is astoundingly good, from a fans perspective. We've still got that silly "winners pick posts" thing going on, which makes stakes finals more of coronations, not races.  Unlike previous or some current big cards, however, Mohawk has at least tried to make things better for the punter too. The Super High Five will be paid out, and we should get good value. 

The Zweig is Friday at Vernon and Monday is the Cane Pace, the first leg of the very…

The Betting Spiral, To the Power of Two, And What's an iPhone?

I follow some fun, smart people on twitter and last evening, one (Crunk) tweeted that he thinks handle for August will be off close to 4.5% in the US, year over year.

A link followed from Alex titled "Is Horse Racing Entering the Final Furlong" from a UK paper.

“It’s football and these other sports which are helping to counter the ongoing decline in attractiveness the industry is seeing in the dog and, in particular, horse-racing markets,” Ladbrokes’ chief executive, Richard Glynn, warned at the bookie’s half-year results earlier this month.“If turnover trends do not improve and if the current cost structures are maintained for horse betting in particular, it may rapidly reach the point where it becomes unsustainable as a product.” 

..... and as turnover has fallen, racing has been after more money.

"The bookie believes that next year racing will only account for a fifth of winnings at its betting shops — down from 40pc in 2005 — unless “drastic acti…

Fantasy Sports & the NFL's Multi-Pronged Attack; Much Different Than Horse Racing's

Good Tuesday everyone.

With the NFL Season approaching, people who play Fantasy Sports are in high gear, ready to draft their teams.

Fantasy Football, long ago a part of a geeky stats and football subculture, has gone beyond mainstream. The market is worth billions and information is at your fingertips. The culture keeps on growing and growing and with it, so do revenues.

How big is this market? Well, ESPN alone (one of many companies or media enterprises who run leagues) has 14 million players. There are dozens of ESPN's, and sites like FanDuel where much dinero change hands have exploded.

This has now, as the article above alludes, caused some hand wringing by governments and others, because Fantasy Football had a carve out with 2006's Unlawful Internet Gaming Act of 2006 (the same carve out horse racing has gotten).  This is gambling, no doubt about it.

This niche market, that has grown beyond niche, is a testament of the power of a medium, when intertwined with gamblin…

Monday Musings on the Racing Weekend

Hello horse racing peeps.

Although I don't mean it to, these Monday posts with weekend musings are becoming a trend. Somehow I don't think it's overly groundbreaking, but, anyhoo, here we go.

I watched the Pacific Classic and was pretty impressed with the Shared Belief victory, despite it being trip and pace aided. It's nice to see a horse win a big race like that, look fresh and sound doing it, when the connections skipped the Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown to do just that. We've seen horses scratched the day of the Derby, or before it, because it was on the calendar. It was on the calendar for Shared Belief, too, but they didn't take the bait.  As for his Beyer, well, I agree Mike.

I am unsure why old Game On Dude takes so much flack. The old boy shows up, and even with a ridonkulous 45 and change (on poly no less), he still didn't give up.  It seems every time the horse loses, twitter chimes in with "Dude no good". Dude is very good.

Sweet L…

CHRB Meeting: If You Can't Ask a Proper Question, You Can't Get a Proper Answer

As most know, I have long given up on California Racing steering themselves out of the abyss, and don't pay much attention anymore, but I got an email with a link to yesterday's meeting. And I listened.

"Racetrackandy" on twitter - not employed by the industry, but a guy who probably works harder for it than a lot of people who are paid by it - drove up to make a public comment, as is customary at CHRB meetings. His comment - well thought out - regarded takeout rates in California, their changes, and the analysis of them.

It was an academically sound question and comment: 'There is a proper takeout rate for wagers in California that increases purses and increases payouts to customers to encourage more betting, both short-term, but particularly the long-term. Can California racing move toward this number, professionally and academically, rather than specious, arbitrary changes that no one can learn a thing from?'

The response, and question, from CHRB member Ma…

The Horse Racing Media

I have tried to catch up on a little reading the last several weeks. I forgot how good for the mind and soul it is to read something that I am not clicking to read all day.

One book I grabbed was by sportswriter John Feinstein called One on One. I've always enjoyed his writing, and had not read one of his books since The Last Amateurs, about the Patriot League way back in the late 1990's, so I figured it was time. I didn't love the book but one set of stories - on Tennis - were pretty compelling.

Tennis, like boxing and horse racing, has left much of the North American's public's consciousness the last twenty or so years.  The days of Borg and McEnroe ( I remember getting up early on Sunday's as a kid for Wimbledon, just because of them) are long gone, and with them, so seemingly did Tennis's popularity.

Feinstein laments (rants) that the Tennis media is one of the reasons for its downfall. He says (paraphrasing) that those who cover and broadcast the sport…

Analyzing Industry Decisions, Properly

Horseplayers are generally pretty bright. To have a modicum of success you have to analyze hundreds if not thousands of factors, put those factors into an overall odds line and pull the trigger. Even when you do that, then you have to structure tickets properly. It's like analyzing a business case.

Jeff Platt is a pretty smart horseplayer, and analyzes data better than most.

In a two part series on the HANA blog, he looked at the thinking behind the daily double takeout changes in California. As most know, they changed the double takeout from last year to this, dropping it about 4%. They also, for some reason unbeknownst to anyone I have spoken to, eliminated the rolling doubles, only offering three per day.

So, when analyzing the above, you have to take into account variables like the overall handle change, daily double handle changes, and the lost number of daily doubles. Some standardization is in order.

At the CHRB meeting last month, as Jeff spoke of in part one, this was no…

Boost Ownership By Catering to What Racing Is All About

I had a neat chat on social media yesterday with a few geeky horse racing and business folks. We were trying to come up with some sort of linear function of what horse ownership is.

Clearly, when approximately 50 cents out of every dollar invested in horseflesh is your rate of return, it's much more than just about purses; which is pretty interesting, considering how much horsemen groups particularly place on the purse variable in racing; not to mention the empirical data that is accompanied it.

What's it all about? A lot of things.

Over at Thoroughbred Commentary, York Racecourse was looked at in this regard:

"Since 2011, owners with runners at York have enjoyed the use of a dedicated lounge and dining room, with unobstructed views of the racecourse and parade ring. A recently completed building was also set aside to congratulate connections of winning horses.  They instantly receive a USB stick with a still photograph of their winner, together with a DVD of the ra…

Monday Musings on Price, and the "What Have You Done For Me Lately's"

Good morning. It was an interesting weekend in Horse Racing Land, so here are a few thoughts on that, along with some general musings.

It's One Race, Take a Breath

I read on the twitter, after Palace Malice lost in the Whitney, some serious angst. Pletch could not find a thing wrong with him, sheets guys were looking for bounce clues, hand wringing ensued. Pletch must've panicked a bit when the blood came back good too, because he added blinkers for his next work. This is the horse that ran like a quarterhorse with them on in the Derby.

Sunday, Father Patrick, the very good three year old of Takter's who has only lost once, lost again. He was beaten by the good Datsyk.  Father Patrick, who can sprint home as fast as any trotter out there who is not named Sebastian K, had no response, crawling home in only 28.2 off cheap splits. Enter hand wringing.

We truly do live in a what have you done for me lately horse racing society.

Both Palace Malice and Father Patrick - like thous…

Gold Cup & Saucer, Grassroots Appeal, Even on the Interwebs

Tonight is the 55th edition of the Sobey's Gold Cup and Saucer in Charlottetown, PEI. The event, which has been branded the old-fashioned way - without money spent on branding - is a stalwart of the grassroots harness racing season in North America. The $75,000 purse Gold Cup is contested at midnight Atlantic time (11 eastern) in front of a raucous, fun crowd.

I was perusing the social media-a-sphere (that's not a word, but I like it) today. There is the Garrity at Saratoga for $250k, there are a half dozen or more stakes at Mohawk, where the Grand Circuit has moved into town and the who's who of the sport are in those places. However, check it out:

"Gold Cup" and "Charlottetown" and "PEI" are all harness racing topics being spoken about, moreso than many other topics in the world of harness racing. That's tantamount to a $75,000 open stake at Remington Park being talked about as much as today's Arlington Million.

As I mentioned on tw…

Early Favorites to Replace Collmus at Churchill Downs

If last night's scuttlebutt is true, and since it is reported by this guy, who looks officous and newsmanlike it probably is, Churchill Downs will be looking for a new announcer.

I've heard down the grapevine that the new caller needs to be "accurate" but most importantly needs to work for peanuts. As we all know, Churchill doesn't pay overly well, so this makes sense.

My grapevine, which is sometimes wrong but most times really wrong, has given me the inside scoop. Here, six or seven dear daily readers, is the early line.

The Big Board 9-5 (with Churchill Downs increased takeout, 7-5):

I'm hearing this is the heavy chalk. At a meeting an unnamed board member with a lot of pull apparently said "we can get a day laborer - maybe even an intern - to type the names of horses on the board. Who needs sound because a lot of people can read good. This will help raise on track attendance. If you are not at the track you won't know what's going on."


Cub Reporter has the Inside Scoop on Social Media Imposters

As we see with today's Paulick Report’s expose about a purported con man, sometimes you don’t know who you are speaking with on various forms of social media. Is that person really who he says he is? Is she really an accountant from Jersey who loves reality TV? Is he really a hairstylist from Vermont who rescues abused malamute huskies in his spare time?

Fortunately you need to worry no longer. Cub Reporter has been scouring the archives,, various media outlets and been using state of the art identification software, just like is being used by people in government (and google) who know pretty much everything about everyone. He has the inside scoop on who is real, and who isn’t in social media in horse racing.

“Don’t tell anyone Pocket”, he said in an email to me. “OK, I won’t say a word. Your secrets are safe with me, Cub”, I replied

So, here is what he told me.

Twitter's Gate To Wire: This is someone who many of you know. He wants 72 hour security barns for all r…

Monday Notes

Good morning everyone.

Ray Paulick has an amazing story about a con man that a few of you might remember in your travels on social media the past year. Because you and I do not think like this gentleman, it shocks us how someone can be so creative and brazen, but when you think about it, a few well-placed emails, seeded stories and what have you can make for a persona that sounds legit.

Although I am sure this can work in any type of environment, it is conducive to work in horse racing. Racing, through backside innuendo, rumor etc, has always been ripe for this sort of stuff. A lot of folks are predisposed to believe a good deal of it. To overuse horse cliches, it's best to get any story from the horses mouth in this sport.

Racing is on soft footing in Trinidad and Tobago (hold it, they race there?). It seems a government imposed 10% betting tax on each tax bet has helped kill the business. Punters have moved play to the non-taxed sports betting circles, or moved offshore and handle…

All Hail The English Beat & We Don't Have No Stinkin' Positives

In a not a newsflash to us bettors moment, Jeff Gural of the Big M was happy with attendance this meet but.....
The new Meadowlands did attract some new faces, many of them younger ones. The problem, Gural found out, is that it is very hard to get those people to bet. "Even as we continue to work to get younger people in there I don't think they are going to bet," he said. "It's not their thing. To give you an idea, we probably sold one program for every three people that were there on Hambletonian Day. What does that tell you? Two-thirds of the people there didn't need a program, so they were either betting on names or not betting at all."  When you sell food trucks, or English Beat concerts, or what have you, you attract people who like food trucks and English Beat concerts. When you attract people without a proclivity to gamble, they don't gamble.

It's the culture of North American racetracks versus those overseas. In the UK, for example, when…

The Big L & The Numbers

Lasix is again in the news. I'd make that statement up to the power of 47, but I don't know how to do that on my keyboard.

I wonder sometimes, racing sure spends a lot of time on issues that don't make a lot of difference in the grand scheme of things. No matter how you feel about lasix use on raceday, there are probably a dozen other medication policies that can be enacted ahead of a lasix ban. 

Like Bacon said in the linked article above, scare tactics and demagoguery come into play.

Some off the cuff comments:

Lasix use in the US, where 98% of the horses use it, is pretty silly. 98 out of 100 horses do not need lasix. Scarring, blah, blah, blah. I think you're full of crap.

Banning lasix like they do in the UK and elsewhere is a charade. There are other drugs and remedies that do similar and they are used in a uniform fashion. They will be used in the US too if the lasix ban goes into effect.  There won't be an "L" on the program, but unless you have…

Lottery Bets, From a Gambling Perspective

By now I am sure many of you have heard of the Equilottery. If not, the company advertises itself as a conduit that “allows lottery players and horseplayers to compete in the same pari-mutuel pools on live horse races.” In effect, you go to the store and instead of betting numbers on a lottery, you bet numbers on a horse race. The concept of getting new money into the pools is perhaps the most intriguing characteristic of the venture, because, as we’ve said more than once in this column: In 2014 horse racing is not your grandfather’s horse racing.

 Back when horse racing had a monopoly (or near monopoly) on gambling, it attracted virtually everyone; sports fans, gambling addicts, recreational bettors and almost any other slice of the population enjoyed the pursuit in some form. As time moved on and lotteries, sports betting, slots, table games, and dozens of other avenues, both online and offline, dotted the landscape, a great many of these bettors were lost.

Now, horse racing is lef…

Data Bog In Full Court Press

Alan over at Left at the Gate has an interesting post up this weekend. It expounds on the Saratogian article "Season passes inflate track figures: Daily paid attendance includes 6,300-plus pass holders", about Saratoga attendance figures.
 The Troy Record's Nick Kling figured on Twitter that, based on an assumption that a season pass holder is likely to average around ten visits a meet, "total reported attendance for meet will need to be reduced by about 4700/day or 188,000 for entire 40 days to reflect an accurate picture." Even if Nick is underestimating the average amount of visits, the announced figures are surely exaggerated to a sufficient degree to affect year-to-year comparisons that generally only vary by a few points at most. We wrote about racing, and racing policy, specifically about Saratoga attendance not long ago.

"Does raising admission fees at Saratoga matter? Who knows. NYRA has a built in excuse and it will be hard to measure it…

PGA Tour Goes Horse Racing

With a h/t to Phil J, this appeared on the Golf Channel website this morning. "PGA Tour's Silent Strategy a Double-Edged Sword". It's in reference to Dustin Johnson abruptly leaving the PGA Tour over personal issues. Speculation has run rampant, and the writer questions the Tour policy of keeping these things quiet, rather than telling everyone what the reason is.

This is not unlike horse racing. You'll see a trainer on a suspended list for "something" but that something is not announced. In shedrows, with handicappers, speculation occurs and it is usually something sinister. "He was using R24 rocket fuel on his horses and he will be suspended for life." Nine times out of ten it is not rocket fuel, but an overage for something or a mistake of some sort. Frog juice positives happen very rarely.

The PGA, like horse racing, is very different than other sports. The players and the participants are a big part of its structure. In the NFL or MLB thi…