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Showing posts from November, 2014

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…

Breeders Crown Wrap Up

The Breeders’ Crown is never uninteresting. This year was no exception.

We had driver choices, where the top driver in North America booked off a horse who just might be Horse of the Year. We had a fellow (you’d know him, he has a moustache and has won a lot of races) who has not gotten as many stakes drives as we usually see him get, taking a few of the younger boys to school and winning two Crowns. We had a form reversal, where the most hyped trotting colt of 2014, looked more like his old self than he had looked the past few months. Meanwhile, his nemesis was the one who came up flat. We had a Euro win the Crown Open Trot, and his name was not the usual Euro trotter we think of, but Commander Crowe. He was 11 years old.

We saw a horse named after a character in an AMC show who was supposedly not very good; so not good he might’ve been entered in Harrisburg. He won his Crown at even money. We saw a scratch of a Jug Champ early in the day and in the same race, the fastest horse we’v…

Breeders Crown Friday Longs and Fades

Tonight is the first night of the dual evening Breeders' Crown. I'll be playing live on the twitter so if you want some picks that will probably scope sick afterwards you can follow me there. As for the Crown races themselves tonight, here are a few thoughts.

Race 7 - Aged Mare Trot

Last year's Horse of the Year Bee a Magician has been a shadow of herself this year, despite being in contention, or favorite almost all year. She reminds me a lot of four year old Rachel Alexandra; she's raced okay, but she is not herself. She was particularly flat last week and adds lasix. I suspect you might get odds if you like her, but she's been a fade for me all season and I can't change now.

I am not overly thrilled with anyone here, because they all look a little flat. Classic Martine is an obvious use and if somehow Charmed Life can race like she did a month ago, I think she airs, because at her best, she is probably the best horse in this division. I will have a look at he…

Margins & Profit: The Difference to Betting Growth Depends on Where You Take the Money

I've been doing some reading based on NBA head Adam Silver's recent comments about betting, and his partnership with Fantasy sports stalwart Fan Duel. It's of interest for a number of reasons; primarily because from a revenue perspective it provides league's with a number of options.

By partnering with a fantasy site, part of the 800,000 or so users can be promoted to watch games. Since many NBA, or NHL games do not even get 800,000 viewers for one telecast, the potential is obvious. However, what is interesting is the revenue end. Fantasy sports revenue has been estimated at several billion dollars, and they are using teams and players to generate that money. There's some potential meat on the bone for the league's themselves.

Coincidentally, yesterday we saw another CHRB meeting, where we witnessed what we usually end up witnessing at them. A fight over who is betting what, where. According to a few items I read on the twitter, the board was asking ADW's …

No Easy Answer to Breeders' Crown Conundrum, Notes

Crown elimination winners Voelez Hanover and Traceur Hanover are set to go this weekend, despite their trainer getting popped with a positive this week. Trainer Corey Johnson, according to harnesslink, had a blood gas positive (he also had one in May of 2013), and all of his horses have been scratched in Canada, and he is under a full suspension.

This is clearly not ideal for the Crown, and rings similar to the Doug O'Neill situation in the Cup, but I doubt there is too much that can, or should, be done. I suspect that it being a full suspension, the NJ commission could honor that, or Jeff Gural or the Crown could, and ask that the horses be entered with another trainer (I believe his father is under a two year probation as well, so someone outside the stable), but time is clearly of the essence, and I don't know how fair that is either way.

Racing is never boring.

As for the Crown, Friday and Saturday night are the races, and there should be some better than average races to…

Changes in Sports Culture Is Felt in Horse Racing

Yesterday there was some big news in drug land. The DEA in the US conducted some surprise visits of NFL teams, sweeping for illegal prescription drugs, poorly or unethical record keeping and otherwise. A long held belief is that the practice (among others) has been going on in the NFL with the athletes:
“They know there’s a problem. I’m sitting here with stage 3 kidney failure because of concealment of my medical records. And the lack of responsibility on the medical professionals’ parts,” former 49ers player Jeremy Newberry told KPIX 5.  “I would be very surprised if they didn’t find exactly what they wanted to find in those locker rooms.” The NFL has had a reputation for doing anything at all costs to field a team. I remember reading "You're Okay It's Just a Bruise" about the Raiders team doctor in the 1980's and believing every word of it; even if some of it was embellished, it just fit. I heard the story from a friend (my stable partner and long time unive…

Fan Duel Demo's & Growth & Racing's Big Sleep

The cash game fantasy sports avenue that has been growing recently - Fan Duel, as well as Draft Kings and others - has been making a lot of noise. Interestingly, the NBA is certainly on their side, as witnessed by the comments of commissioner Adam Silver in the New York Times.

These sites are not new, and Fantasy sports has been played for money for ages (not to mention office pools and other forms of betting) but they've since gone mainstream. People who love sports are playing them, and those with a particular affinity for stats, advanced analytics, like Chase Stuart, are devoting time to it. 

This is clearly the aggregation of a phenomenon.

What is most interesting, is that the game appears to have value. Takeout rates are not penal - in fact Fan Duel have some of the worst (if you can call these bad) - and winning is an option. Piggybacking on the popularity of sports in general, is not difficult.

The demographic also reads like a who's who, for Madison Avenue or any gamb…

Here's the Unvarnished 2014 Horse Racing Handle Story

As we all know, handle will be down this year - by what amount we are not yet sure - and there have been plenty of reasons given. Some tracks like to pull out every excuse in the book when their handle goes down (it's not our fault), or up (it was our brilliant management) and some tell the truth, but usually it's an array of scattered reasons which are difficult to decipher.

Let's take a quick trip around the racing globe for a summary.

Kentucky: Churchill Downs has been terrible; we all followed that story. Keeneland also had a down year (nowhere near as bad as Churchill on a day by day basis, but down). Ellis Park, well, they were up. The star of the show in Kentucky has been Kentucky Downs, with another big year.

So Cal: This year is one of big transition in So Cal. Instead of going to lower handle places like the Cal Fairs and Hollywood, stalwarts like Santa Anita and Del Mar (and the higher handle Los Al) have been given more racedates. So, it will be a little like co…

Wednesday Notes

Good morning racing fans.

It's been a big news cycle. We've got symbolic deals signed with China and M and M, or Eminem, or whatever, is swearing a blue streak on HBO. Just to be topical - being topical is how I get as much traffic as the Paulick Report - I am proud to announce I have signed a deal with both Magna and CDI where they promised me they will begin lowering takeout in 2030, and I have successfully taken the job as Scott Blasi's agent to get him hired to host the 2015 Eclipse Awards. "Nice moth@#%*(*&$ job Pletch!"

Now with that out of the way......

The Breeders' Crown has attracted over 150 entries. Elim's are this weekend (Friday and Saturday) and the Finals are next Friday and Saturday. This year looks a little more competitive than last, and if the races are carded right next week, we might have some playable pick 4's or 5's. Often times at the Crown, chalk tends to dominate with picking posts and strong favorites. There is a ha…

Event Meets to Event Days to One Event

There was an interesting diddy on the Paulick Report regarding Breeders' Cup handle versus Kentucky Derby Day handle. The Cup's handle has been stagnating (or falling per race) while the Derby handle has been growing. Many comments have focused on what the Cup might be doing wrong (too many races, bad marketing to upscale etc) and what the Derby has done right. But I am of the opinion that we're comparing apples to alligators.

What we've seen over the last five to ten years in racing has been handle degradation on the overall 365 "game" of horse racing. Some of it is field size related, some of it takeout related, some of it due to the fact that fewer races are being contested. But that degradation has been real.

Buttressing those handle losses has been the "big meet" increase we've seen at places like Keeneland, and to some extent Del Mar and Saratoga. Your average every day player might not be finding races he wants to bet on a Tuesday at Arl…

A Skill Gambling Game's Competitive Edge Has Always Been Clear

Using your mind and your competitive instinct to win something or get ahead is as old - as far as gambling skill games go - as life itself. Hundreds of years ago in the UK this primarily fell to horses, but since then competitive chess, backgammon, scrabble, video gaming and dozens of other avenues have entered the fore.

Most recently, though, I do not think there's been a game quite like Fantasy Sports. Strat-o-matic baseball could not quite cut it, but today's Fantasy sure does.

According to this article in the New York Times, 41 million people are playing fantasy sports. And they're doing so for money in daily or weekend leagues, unlike the fantasy sports you and I grew up on which were season long affairs. This has not only boosted companies like Fan Duel, it has boosted the leagues which embrace it.
Fantasy players consume twice as much sports as the average sports fan, according to Paul Charchian, the president of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA). Charch…

Judges, Political Betting, Ex Post Facto & the Line

Maybe it's just my nature, but when someone(s) does something(s) I may disagree with, or at times find particularly egregious, I try to keep an even keel. It doesn't really matter what it is.

I abhored the NFL's pre-Ray Rice policy on domestic violence of only two games. And watching a video of a guy in an elevator did not sway me. I was not upset with the punishment, because Rice's actions called for two games in the CBA and that's what he got. I was more upset that he got some sort of counselling as a punishment from the courts. Anyway, I digress. The point is, when a law is on the books and precedent is set, I can't be upset at the decision of the person in charge. He or she is just living by the set of guidelines placed in front of them. The policy needs changing, and to me, it's a simple as that.

Similarly, watching the Breeders' Cup Classic, when Bayern came over on the field, what I saw is what everyone saw. But I was 99.9 to about eleven signif…

4 Horses I Am Excited to See in 2015

Here are four horses (two thoroughbreds and two harness) I am really excited to watch in 2015.

Tonalist - How many horses can win at 12 furlongs from behind and get in a duel to Bayern at 10 furlongs in fast splits the Travers and still almost win? How many 3YO's are seasoned enough to stick handle around a half dozen horses in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, just miss a spill, and win going away? How many horses look as sound as this one does approaching a four year old year? How many horses are trained by connections that can likely keep him that way by not overreaching? How many horses can fire home like he did, off a no-chance trip he had on the speed-favoring Santa Anita strip on Saturday against good horses like that? He's not a closer, or a speed horse or a stalker, he's not one paced or needs a specific distance between 9 and 12 furlongs. He seems like a horse who is getting better. I am excited to see how he develops in 2015.

Always B Miki - There have been a few three y…

Beyer Is Right: Pari-Mutuel "Chaos"

Props to Beyer today for adding a semblance of common sense the nationally televised Breeders' Cup Classic, involving a semi-controversial figure to some, Bob Baffert.
There was no DQ because stewards almost never disqualify a horse – in any race, big or small – for actions like Bayern’s.  Horses don’t run like trains on a track. In the first stride or two of almost every Thoroughbred race, there is inevitable jostling and bumping. Penalizing horses for one unavoidable bump in the first stride would create chaos in the sport. TimeformUS's Justin Finch also adds to the discussion when he said this happens "1000's of times".

Both points are incredibly strong.

Horses are not machines, and when a gate breaks, high strung thoroughbred's - probably 1 of 15 or so races - can make right or left turns on one line. When that happens, jockeys who are well versed professionals to their finnicky mounts, immediately try to correct by pulling the opposite line. 


Breeders Cup End Notes

Here we are at the end of another eventful Breeders' Cup. I can't write like @alanLATG on my best day, but after playing the races for about 20 hours the last two days I can barely muster that, so I will use some bullets.

Here are a few thoughts from today (and yesterday).

Breeders' Cup handle was about flat, when we take into account the pick 5 carryover from last year, along with the fact that there was one fewer BC race this year (they ditched the Marathon, which I was the only person on Earth that found a good betting race). I suspected it would be up, with the field size, but alas, the business ain't what it once was.

Unlike in harness racing, where four or five guys control all the good mounts, there were 13 races with 13 different jockey's handed the hardware.

The Euro's - long thought to have a big edge on the green - were shut out on the turf this year (as I have been alerted, the Japanese bred who races in France is a Euro; don't blame me I look a…