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Showing posts from October, 2014

Case Reversed on Appeal - Trainer Found Guilty of Fraud for Doping

Last year when we wrote about this case, we were pretty surprised the accused was not found guilty of fraud, e.g. fixing a contest. A case like this set some precedent.
On Sept. 28, 2010, Riesberry was videotaped by hidden camera injecting something into the neck of a horse at Windsor Raceway. The horse raced about an hour later, placing sixth.
A few weeks later, on Nov. 7, 2010, Riesberry was arrested as he entered the racetrack. A syringe filled with performance-enhancing drugs – epinephrine and clenbuterol – was found in his truck. Reisberry was charged with fraud, attempted fraud, cheating at play and attempting to cheat at play.After a lengthy trial that began in 2012, Riesberry was acquitted last year by Superior Court Justice Steven Rogin. Despite finding that Riesberry was a cheat, Rogin found him not guilty of two counts of fraud, saying the Crown had not proven that the betting public had been deprived of anything. However, on appeal, the higher court changed that d…

Pocket's Breeders Cup Classic Picks Based Purely on Science

Science is the rage these days; analytics, Cosmos, Bill Nye the Science Guy. They're everywhere. I figured I'd jump on the bandwagon and give a Breeders Cup analysis that is solely based on science. Not conjecture, not on workouts, not on if I spoke with Hank Goldberg. Science. Sure it's link bait, but that's what we do here on the blog when we're not someone really famous like Ray Paulick.

Here we go.

1. Prayer For Relief: When I was in university there was this really smart dude who graduated a few years earlier as a Rhodes Scholar. He was super smart and a nice guy to boot. He parlayed his brains and expensive education into being a ticket scalper. He was at the dorm one day and had to get rid of two Madonna tickets, 11th row. I went and it was a fun show, even though I was not a big Madonna fan. Anyhoo, during the show she played Like a Prayer. That's really the only thing positive I can think of with this horse. He's 0 for 2014. Some people like him, …

Breeders' Cup Handle Should Be Fine

This year has been fairly poor in terms of wagering numbers. Some tracks like Kentucky Downs and Woodbine have been up, others like Churchill Downs have been getting killed, but the downs, so far, have beaten the ups. It's blah out there.

What will happen this weekend at the Breeders' Cup? Will they beat last year's handle?

I have handicapped the races, with more work to do, but I have come to the opinion that handle will be good this season, surpassing last years numbers. The fields are much more interesting, field size is quite good, with a breadth from top to bottom that breeds confidence in having to go deeper. Sure there are potential keys, like for example a Shared Belief or Dank, but those potential keys have some serious holes (Dank's form is terrible and Shared Belief isn't faster on paper than several in the Classic). The fields seem so decent this year that even the scratch of American Pharoah does not change the dynamic much; instead of using he and Dar…

Halloween Breeders' Cup Costumes

The Breeders' Cup is almost here, and for the first time that I can remember, day one falls on Halloween. In some circles this has caused hand-wringing because a dad or a mom with kids who go out trick or treating will not be watching the event live, like they usually do. Thankfully, only four or five people that watch or bet horse racing fall into the demographic with young children, so handle will be likely unaffected.

Anyhoo, I spoke this morning with Cub Reporter, and he told me something interesting. Santa Anita - on the cutting edge of promotion, with concerts like the English Beat and food trucks - is having a special Halloween weekend, to try and boost attendance. They've encouraged everyone to come dressed up in costume, and from what I hear, several people are. I've even got the scoop on who they will be going dressed as.

Here we go. Don't tell anyone.

The first (and most obvious), actor Ed Helms will be going as TVG's Todd Schrupp.  That joke doesn'…


Last night we saw a tremendously interesting football game on Monday Night Football, where the Washington Redskins - ten point dogs - beat the Dallas Cowboys in Dallas. In the third quarter, probably the toughest quarterback in the game - Tony Romo - took a huge hit to his back and went down in pain. He returned to the locker room, fearing the worst (he had back surgery last year in a game, coincidentally against the Skins), but came back in and finished the game.

I watched his press conference last evening and he was asked if he took a painkiller "shot" to get back in.

"Yes, I took something", he said.

A shot for a track and field athlete can be worth a jail sentence, an EPO regimen for a cyclist has them on Oprah begging for forgiveness. For a hockey player or football player a lot of things are no big deal.

Meanwhile in horse racing, Doug O'Neill is getting (another, it seems it happens so often) holiday for a drug positive. On the Paulick Report last evenin…

If a Newbie Wants to Bet the Cup, There Are Avenues

The Breeders' Cup is a cray cray (I am learning this lingo from the youngsters and can't get away from it) time. There's information from everywhere, and as Mike Dorr said today on twitter, the more he reads, the more expensive his pick 4 gets. For us, we can weed through the information, the works, the data and the opinion because we've been at this for years. For newer players, it's intimidating.

The thing is, it does not have to be. If a new player, like we all know, or have had over for a Breeders Cup or Derby party, has an ADW account and wants to play from home, I think keeping it simple is sound advice.

A good avenue for such on the web might be the DRF Live site. Marty and the guys and gals do a nice job there, offering out quick stats or what have you on a days races; in real time. If a newbie was sitting at home, he or she does not have to listen to all the talking heads on TV talking about everything, nor do they have to buy a PP and read Swahili. They c…

Keeneland's Pari-Mutuel Checkers

Keeneland's fall meet is now over, ending with a handle decline and a big thud. I think these tweets from everyday type horseplayers summed it up pretty well:
watching Keeneland .there are 20 lengths from winner to last horse with fav's rolling in..Is this really what you wanted? #GladItIsOverToday
— Angle J (@Raps7) October 25, 2014
Used to feel kinda shit about Keeneland ending during the halcyon days of the recently departed poly era but now, nothing.
— Drew Roberts (@DrewRoberts63) October 25, 2014 The meet that everyone looked forward to, that everyone prepared for, that everyone was sad to see go, is relegated to just another meet now. The 2014 Fall Meet was very different than the ones we've been used to since 2006. Keeneland's edge with worldwide players was that it was pari-mutuel chess - a deep handicapping mind game with a stout payoff if you're right. This fall it moved to pari-mutuel checkers - a rudimentary 40%+ dirt chalk fest that has befallen trac…

Breeders' Cup and the Non-National Pick 6

Dan posted a neat link from 1984 on the interwebs yesterday. It is an SI piece that looked at the inaugural Breeders' Cup on NBC and it lamented the television coverage. The fact that it did not explain the horses and races as well as it should've generally stuck in the writers craw. The piece went on to present a rather ominous future for the event, in terms of television ratings.

I guess some of it, at least, became true.

I am certainly not here to beat up on the Breeders' Cup - I think most of the criticisms of the BC are weak. It's a spectacular event, it draws betting and a crowd to the live venue.  3.1 million people watched the Classic in 2010 because of Zenyatta, and if she was in the Jockey Club Gold Cup against Blame and others instead, it would've not even been televised. It's a brand that has been built, and it is a big brand.

The Breeders' Cup - how the races are explained, shown or on what network - has never been, in my opinion, the problem.…

Racing's Sports Betting Conundrums

In the quest for more revenues, or more spinoffs in some fashion, some in racing have held sports betting up as another avenue for such. Most recently this looks close (close but maybe far) in Jersey, with Christie signing on.

Regardless what happens, there are several opinions about what sports betting at a racetrack does.

It's more competition and another drag on handleIt's a carve-out where racing could get more revenue, like comes from slot machinesIt's an avenue to draw like-minded people to the racetrack, who may cross over and bet I think I side mostly on the first of those bullets.

From the Paulick article we see the dichotomous opines on this issue. The first comment, by Fred Pope has some merit. Not surprisingly, I guess, Pope comes out for having control on sports betting and the carve out. "Are we going to allow our partners to throw us under the bus?"

Irwin has a more sink or swim opinion, "If racing cannot compete with these other forms of gamb…

A Big Scratch & Other Cray Notes

Years ago now I went to a race in western Ontario - Clinton I think - where a trotter we had was in an OSS. We traveled quite a few miles, got lost and had a pretty frustrating trip. Post time for the horse was something like 1:45 and after asking someone on a dirt road for directions at about 1:20, we stormed to the track, arriving just before the off. After sprinting to the tarmac, we watched the trotter break stride, never get on stride, and finish last by about a hundred.

Fun trip!

Yesterday I was watching the interview with Michael Owen on TSN (so nice to see Woodbine in HD on the Sports Network, BTW). He took the red eye from London to Toronto - in his dashing suit - and took a $15 or so cab ride to the track to see his horse, Brown Panther, contest the Canadian International. He had to do TV work the next morning, so he would leave the track immediately after the race for London.

That, as we all know, puts my travel story to shame. Brown Panther was a runaway in the paddock and…

Have the Volume Players Finally Had Enough With Horse Racing?

There was a comment on the Paulick Report yesterday from an unnamed source, purported to be from a US betting syndicate.
not in a position to discuss specifics but we have scaled back dramatically in the u.s due to margin compression. major tracks have priced themselves out as far as we are concerned and our returns are just not commensurate with the positions risks we take.  What this commenter is referring to is what we've discussed at the blog here for years: The signal (Host) fee squeeze, and added taxation/fees in places like New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania and  Virginia* along with New Hampshire**.  For years, the price that tracks charge for their signal has been increasing, some tracks have formed a consortium to have the Monarch's or Troutnets of the world negotiate for them (which is why you see some signals off your ADW in 2014... and some smaller tracks handle decimated); much to the cheers of racing insiders. Despite warnings of the damage this can do to handl…

Keeneland Juxtapositons, the Anecdotal & Leadership Bogs

There was a fascinating article today on Keeneland's handle. Officials at the track are leaning on weather as the culprit as a major reason handle is down. I know you've been following, and before yesterday weather was really not that bad (they've had the same number of off the turf races as last fall). But because of bad weather, fewer people want to bet an off track, field size shrinks because of scratches off the turf and so on. You know the drill. (if you read the article, Matt cites other reasons field size is down.)

Quickly doing a juxtapose dance, here's a similar story from 2011.  "Keeneland's Spring Meet Thrives Despite Inclement Weather"

"Withstanding the rainiest April on record in Central Kentucky, Keeneland's 2011 spring meeting ranked among the best in the track's 75-year history, posting strong attendance and handle figures. "If it were possible to chart adverse weather with all the race meet statistics, this would be on…

Wednesday Notes

Good morning folks.

Many of you saw Modern Legend win the Canadian Pacing Derby for small-timer Dave Drew. Keith McCalmont at Trot has a really nice article on the owner-trainer.

Sometimes you just have to shake your head. High percentage trainer Pat Sheppard was recently suspended for a positive TCO2 test (tubing). The ORC allowed him to keep the horses stabled where they were, but bring in new trainers. One of them, yesterday, was assessed  .... you guessed it..... a positive  TCO2. It looks like he had been training the stable for less than 10 days.

Ontario changed its thinking (was forced to change it with slots being taken away) and slowly moved towards adding dates to the tracks that brought in handle and were growing, and taking away others who weren't. Last season both average handle and total handle was up and that has continued in year two. Despite losing 10% of the racedays from last year, total handle is up over 2%. 

Churchill and Kentucky Downs are fighting for Sept…

Tuesday Notes

Good morning racing fans!

Barry Irwin is stoked with the O'Neill thing and Bill Finley wrote a good piece saying what a lot of folks want to say. Bill is up for Barry's Award.

Tweet of the Day:
HAW 8.59 starters per dirt race this fall meet, KEE 8.23 starters per dirt race this fall meet. Go figure.
— Marcus Hersh (@DRFHersh) October 13, 2014The decision on Kentucky Downs-Churchill Downs September dates might be today. Bettors want KD, some horsemen want CD. I scratched my head a little about the Churchill Downs stabling question. It's not like folks who stable at Churchill Downs with dirt horses have nowhere to race. When Turfway was on, the non-poly horses had nowhere to go, and for most of 2014, Indiana Downs has gotten them.

Santa Anita's daily double obsession is not really an obsession with fans. They did not meet that "guarantee" yesterday, and the cross country thingy is no great shakes. Both bets have a 20% takeout, which is higher than last meets 1…

Sunday Notes

Good morning fellow racing fans!

Last evening at Balmoral Park, the Am Nats were contested. After Odds on Amethyst broke, Father Patrick cruised. The hard luck Thinking Out Loud won the older split, and the most interesting and controversial race of the night was the older trot won by Creatine.

A few thoughts on those races......

Creatine was five or eight the best - proving once again a good four year old can win these races - but no matter how you slice it, there was a violation. What got many so upset was not the judges leaving him up, but saying he didn't go inside a pylon, when he clearly went inside at least two and probably three or four (judge for yourself). This was a strange situation. Do they throw out the best horse in a stakes race because the driver was impatient? Do they call it to the letter of the law? Pylon violations are this sports' nemesis when it comes to judging.

It was a strange race to begin with, quite frankly. The rail horse was 9-5, who could not c…

Innovation Through Reselling, Handle Notes, Doubles & Top Horses

Back in the 1990's a friend and I decided we'd create something that scraped the box scores of football games and packaged them in searchable form for fantasy football team managers. It never got off the ground other than in rudimentary fashion.  But the fact remained that a couple of guys who liked the challenge of fantasy football, could put together something that the NFL didn't publish on the web (yet); and do it for almost no money.

Netflix packages a series - a series that maybe 200,000 viewers watched live - and shows it to people interested in watching it in a new way; by binge-watching on the web. Amazon or Etsy or - well dozens of others - harness their technology to sell something for you, or with you in a unique way.

Racing often talks about "taking control of their product", but I think that's overused. When someone has complete control, stagnation can ensue, and customers can leave, because no matter what the product is, there are complimentar…

Stakeholders Are Customers, and Racing Better Consult Them

The historical definition of a stakeholder generally leans to those factions who are directly correlated in the corporate umbrella; the company itself, and its shareholders. When we hear of "stakeholders" in horse racing we often hear about the usuals: Racetracks, horse owners, and trainers, through horsemen groups. Those are the legs of the stool.

Through evidence of shocks to a business, industry or corporate entity, stakeholder theory was broadened in the 1980's by R. Edward Freeman.  He believed that there was more to it than advertised. Stakeholders could be governments, customers, employees or others, should they possess a few characteristics; namely, characteristics answering the question, "do they matter?"

He or she who yells loudest does not make a stakeholder, although those who yell do possess characteristics of a stakeholder. A customer, or groups, begin to be stakeholders who need to be taken seriously when they fit a profile, as detailed by the Ve…

Hong Kong Kinda Resides at Keeneland

I got sent some numbers today comparing Hong Kong to US racing. As we all know, Hong Kong last year, for the first time, drove more handle for their small, abbreviated meets than United States racing had for the entire year. This year their betting topped $US13B. This is up from 2007, where approximately $US8B was bet, and probably the mirror opposite from the US again, which has seen precipitous handle drops since 2008.

I know what you may be saying, "Pocket, how does that place drive handle without the horses using lasix?", ok, I kid, but that's pretty remarkable. Especially since this business tells us that recessions, and stuff like the Winter Olympics (that Los Al excuse never ceases to make me laugh) can really kick some handle-butt.

All kidding aside, my response to said emailer was pretty simple, "What about Keeneland in the Nick Nicholson era?"

In 2013, Keeneland drove over $302 million in handle to its races. In the last year before Nick Nicholson joi…

Suffolk, Chicken Dancing, Doug Squared & Pet Racing Issues

Good morning racing fans.

Here are a few things I found interesting this morning.

Paulick gives the skinny on Doug O'Neill here. Mitchell in the Bloodhorse talks about it as well.

Another Doug (McPherson), even though I can't relate to him much since he's younger than me, writes a good blog and looks at some Keeneland numbers and handicapping stuff.

"How Suffolk Missed the Chance to Cultivate new fans".  It ain't Suffolk's fault. The industry that sells 1980's rock concerts and chicken dance contests tends to be surprised when people show up to the track for 1980's rock concerts and chicken dance contests. Then they hear from those folks that 'there's too much time between the races and that the racing form is too complicated'. Then the industry says "there's too much time between races and racing is too complicated, so we have to fix it." The problem as I see it, is fairly obvious, and a good start to rectifying…

September's Handle, The Big Keeneland, And Pure Speed

Good morning everyone.

I saw the September handle figures released yesterday, and down double digits is not a good metric. There was one fewer Sunday in September this year.

As we've talked about before: Giving us worse gambles at higher prices is not a recipe for growth. It's not about days or number of races (yes, there is a correlation), because when fewer races are carded on a card, the races should be better gambles, bringing in similar handle. This is not happening.

In 2014, racing has put forth three major changes:

1) Signal Fee Hikes and ADW taxes
2) A Churchill Downs takeout hike
3) Changing a surface at a track which achieved record handle after record handle on the old surface

Maybe the people who fear change are right. With change like that we can't stand anymore of it.

Yesterday, Keeneland showed its new colors with an assortment of Primed Pricy Pletcher Speedballs ® (PPPS, or for the digitally inclined hashtag PPPS) and other such sameness. It's looking m…

O'Appeals, Keeneland & ABM's

Good morning racing fans!

Apparently the Breeders Cup is not allowing Doug O'Neill to race in the Breeders' Cup this year because of his Class II suspension from 2012 (or 2011, I lose track). This is really all the Breeders Cup could do, despite it being nothing about nothing. As we all know, some ghost trainer's name goes down, the money is still funnelled into the stable.

As we said yesterday here on the blog, when comparing this penalty to what would've happened in Ontario we showed holes in the system. Again, in this case another hole is exposed. When a trainer is suspended in places like Ontario, the horses must be moved to an accredited trainer with no connections to the suspended trainer. The trainer must be approved by the racing commission. With California's reputation of a less than penal pentalty system it's likely this will not happen, but I think we can all agree it should in this case, and all other cases like it.  As long as the system is consider…

Top Ten Things I will Miss About the Keeneland Poly

Tomorrow we embark upon a new era at Keeneland; the polytrack, which replaced the dirt track, is now dirt again.  It's a melancholy time for those of us who liked betting the poly, but I'll see if I can pull it together and share my top ten things I will miss about Keeneland polytrack.

Number 10 -  Every time I wrote something about a Keeneland poly race on the blog, a dirther (guys who really, really, really like dirt) would respond "POLY SUCKS YOU IDIOT" in my comments section. I will really miss those guys.

Number 9 - Off the turf - no scratches!

Number 8 - Rider race strategy based on pace in sprints.

Number 7 - I'll miss the dirt focused TV talking head. He'll mention that speed at Keeneland sucks today because the horse who just went 45 flat to the half for six furlongs did not stagger home and hold on.

Number 6 - Presque Isle shippers. With just a teeny bit of form they'd show up, especially from a good barn, and pay some prices.

Number 5 - I'll m…

45 Days, Class II?

With all the talk nowadays about race day medication like lasix, one sees the headline today about Doug O'Neill and must wonder. I am of the belief - I realize it's asking a lot - that a multi-billion dollar sport can do two things at once, but maybe it can't.

Doug O'Neill, as reported by the DRF, was suspended 45 days and given a $10,000 fine for a class II drug called Oxazepam. Class II drugs are deemed "non-therapeutic" by the RCI and other jurisdictions.

A few thoughts:

The positive occurred in June of 2013. About 15 months ago, and is only now being administered.

If the violation occurred a few hundred miles north, in Ontario, the suspension would be a minimum one year and maximum five years, even for a first offense. In some other jurisdictions (twitter tells me, but since this dude works in racing, I will link it) it's two years minimum.

If the violation occurred in Ontario, the horse would be suspended three months, and the trainer would not race…

Wednesday PTP Notes

Good day racing fans!

There's quite a bit going on in raceland, so here are a few thoughts.

Alan over at LATG does not have trouble holding feet to the fire in New York. Despite listing bands on his blog that I don't have the foggiest about even if I google them, he plays NYRA down the middle.  NYRA, like some other entities in horse racing, is at a crossroads. It's profit maximization versus politics and some of it is head-scratching.

The Paulick Report story about Kentucky Downs versus Churchill Downs on September dates, ended up yielding a defacto poll in the comments section. When I was a kid I remember watching the Reagan-Mondale election results. This might be more lopsided. For a synopsis on this brouhaha, please read Matt's article here.

There's a drumbeat, which has been active for some time, about racing needing to be operated by more non-profits. That might sound Khrushchevian, but in this day and age it does make some sense. Racing is a strange, regulat…