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Showing posts from January, 2015

What Will New York's PETA Investigation Say?

Good day everyone!

New York's PETA report is due out very soon. Will it point to the future or just deal with the present?

New York is in an interesting position, and to change racing (hopefully for the better) they are a jurisdiction that can certainly, and probably has to, lead. The Aqueduct issues, politics; things are very real in New York State. It's an opportunity to move forward.

Here are a couple of things I hope happens:

The first thing I did after the Kentucky Report was published was congratulate Steve Asmussen's lawyer on twitter. As has been my opinion from the beginning (and as much as I am flamed for it at times), this episode has nothing to do with Steve Asmussen. He does not need to be "made an example of" and it's an injustice if he even serves one day for being the fall guy for the sport. He's had to hire lawyers, go on TV (where he was clearly not at home), and some owners have questioned him. All for a video where you have to extrapo…

What Kind of a Game Does Horse Racing Want?

PETA has filed an appeal request of the KHRC's report in Kentucky today. As I noted before, the whole "exoneration thing" is troubling on a couple of counts, i) exonerated of what exactly? Asmussen was not jacking horses with rocket fuel or beating them with a stick; he did nothing wrong, and was just playing the horse racing game and ii) the giddiness inside the sport with the "exoneration" was so short sighted and so horse racing, it was once again an excuse to embrace the status quo.

It's the latter that most of us seem most concerned with.

Case in point, which I have not heard from anyone is untrue (although, that might not matter, this could be in almost any stable. Regardless, please let me know if this is challenged and I missed it): Teardrop (it's on page 6).

Teardrop was an Asmussen trained two year old filly who seemed to be having lameness issues. June 18th, Blasi says the filly is lame. June 20th, she is walked the shedrow and lameness seem…

Hey Bartender, When Even Necessary, Losing History is a Bad Thing

It was reported today (h/t to the Paulick Report), that Churchill Downs is stocking 16 owners suites with a contraption that serves mixed drinks. Its name is not Phil or Patti, but, well I don't really know. It's a big black box, that (presumably) doesn't talk.  There's no word if this spring the owners will be watching Trakus chiclets underneath hologram Twin Spires while sipping their gin and tonics. But maybe that's in the works.

I am a bit of an enigma when it comes to history. I think we lose it far too fast, and it's not a good thing, yet I work and admire disruptive technologies that make our lives better, more cost-effective, and our society more efficient. I think we might've gone too far, and forgot where we came from.

Sure it's only the age-old bartender-customer relationship that's no more at Churchill, but it's just one example of many. The scenes between Richard Dreyfuss and Robbie Coltraine in Let it Ride which exemplified the cu…

UK Racing Is No Longer Doing What it Does Best

What do you think of when you hear the words "a UK horse race"? I think of big fields, and being able to bet a horse with a decent shot at 6-1. Maybe you do, too.

For what seems like forever, the UK racing product's space in the market was win betting - whether at a bookmaker or exchange. When you picked up a book like the excellent Dave Nevison's No Easy Money you read about his replay watching and his "tissues", where he would be focusing on one thing and one thing only: Win betting. No exactas, or scoop sixes, nothing of the sort. 500, 1000, 2000, on the nose please.

If you study marketing, you learn that being first in a prospects mind is most important. For others, doing what you do best very well, is a way to stand out in a crowded market. For horse racing, slices, not the mass market is most important, simply because of the variety of gambling games offered, especially in Europe. Horse racing will not outcasino a casino. The UK racing fixtures, with…

Upstart, Relaxed Horses, Dez & the NFL

Good morning everyone. Here are a few items that caught my eye.

Upstart was a very handy winner of the Holy Bull on Saturday. This looked like a really nice horse last year, but after his tough Juvy and time off, you just never know how sound and happy they come back. As his trainer said "They need to leave horses at some point, and he kind of did that yesterday". I'm a big fan of this horse but I can't help but think last week's 40-1, which looked like an overlay, this week will be an underlay.

Upstart got a good trip, moved and separated when asked,  ran a good number (a 107 TFUS number), did so willingly and like a good horse should, and looked sound afterwards. There's simply not much not to like. 

With some closings on the east coast, GP's handle on Saturday was good. 

I was very interested to read Don Swick's comments in HRU (page 7, pdf) this weekend. Don, a long time harness trainer, moved to the thoroughbreds as well and now trains both. Ha…

The Judges Do Things Right

In tonight's Harness Racing Update, there's a column looking at how our judges judge, and how other leagues do things wrong. You can read it here 

Also in what I thought was a very good edition was Gural not allowing Traceur Hanover to race in the Meadowlands Pace, and news on Maven and her quest for a Prix D'Amerique.

Fascinating #DeflateGate Racing Parallels

I must say I am having a hoot reading the media (and social media) regarding DeflateGate - the fact/rumor that the New England Patriots (illegally) deflated balls in their last game (they are easier to grip and throw).

What's making it extra-special is that the stories and tweets sound almost exactly what happens in horse racing when some winning trainer gets nabbed. It's uncanny.

The Washington Post today has some prose up that could be on the Paulick Report or the DRF.
 “The Patriots are suspected of cutting so many corners, their home field should be an oval,” -  (aka "pushing the envelope")But numerous coaches said they don’t trust how the Patriots go about their business — complaints that go back to the beginning of Belichick’s tenure as head coach in 2000. - (we can't catch him, but we're pretty sure)Belichick, for his part, claimed he had misunderstood the NFL rules. “The rules are very, very clear,” former Tennessee Titans Coach Jeff Fisher told th…

Paging a Leader

Someone needs to get a hold of this industry and lead, or everyone will be racing for ribbons.
In 1994, Roman Chapa suspended 9 months, saying "he used a nail on his mount" in a race, his 1st major infraction.
— Ray Paulick (@raypaulick) January 20, 2015
In 2012, Roman Chapa fined $100 in Texas for hitting horse in face (was lugging out), not showing up for hearing.
— Ray Paulick (@raypaulick) January 20, 2015
Jockey Roman Chapa, twice caught w electrical device & under investigation in Texas, taken off all mounts today at Sam Houston.
— Ray Paulick (@raypaulick) January 19, 2015
UPDATED: Banned twice for buzzers, Roman Chapa under investigation in Texas for winning ride
— Ray Paulick (@raypaulick) January 19, 2015Read more

Mid to Low Range Racing Stock Ownership Sets off Alarms

Diversification explained with cows
— zerohedge (@zerohedge) January 20, 2015 I was reading a little bit about gross horse betting turnover, both in North America and abroad recently, and noticed an interesting article regarding Irish racing.

"In 2014, the number of horses in training fell by 6.4pc, owners by 6.2pc, entries by 12pc ..."

This is occurring in tandem with increases in prize money: "What was most galling about the 2014 figures is that the contraction at the industry's core continued despite an increase in prize money of 6pc, with another 10pc extra due to be pumped into purses this year on the back of a 25pc increase in Government funding."

In addition to that increase in gross purses, there has also been a decrease in races held: "Despite real activity - including field sizes - plummeting, the number of fixtures has swelled by 16pc since 2004 to 355."

More money to be raced for, more horses earning checks …

Plenty of Buzz

Good day racing fans.

Paulick - as he often does - has an energetic story with a battery of comments that's creating some buzz (see what I did there?).  Jockey Roman Chapa, twice banned for buzzers, is under investigation again. This set off a usual firestorm from those who want the business to tackle its issues a little more forcibly. It also highlighted (made people remember) a lot about the PETA tape last year, which has kind of been swept away this past week. Chapa was mentioned on that tape, and the Asmussen stable knew about his history, yet has no problem (it seems) happily using him on their horses.

I think the public's reaction to this is expected because horse racing seems to rarely deal with issues where they show they actually believe that cleaning things up is a priority. Overages and the like are stuck in legalese, there is a grey area. But with buzzers, there is little grey area. Either you have one and are caught, or you don't have one and aren't. "…

Assmussen Cleared, But We're Not Sure of What

The big news in horse racing land today is signal impasses, lost handles, infighting, fewer owners, that the Steve Asmussen "investigation" has been wrapped up. For a good read about it, the TDN had a good article.

For those of you wondering what he was cleared of, well, I am too.

Unless butchering the english language is a crime, the PETA video and expose didn't show any rule breaking, as far as I could see. There was no magic potion, devlishly being injected at post time to snare a big cash and laugh all the way to the bank. There were no mob contacts, trips into dark shadow basements to buy the latest synthetic EPO, or meetings with shady figures.

There was a stable doing every day business.

Big stables nowadays - I believe this, but it might be naive - do not deal in magic potions. Asmussen, and those like them, run large enterprises and make a lot of money doing it. They'd have to be nuts to risk it all. What they are doing - and this is what rubs everyone the…

Reasons to Switch, and Eaves Steps Down

Bloomberg Business Week produced a comprehensive look at Daily Fantasy Sports gambling today. For those looking to educate themselves on the demographics, growth rates and strategies, it's a very good read.

For a gambler to "switch" from game A to game B it takes some sort of impetus, or catalyst. For a poker player featured in the article, who needed something to do after Black Friday, he chose DFS:

"Max Steinberg, 26, is a Vegas-based professional poker player with career winnings of more than $2 million. So like a lot of online gamblers, Steinberg is now into daily fantasy sites such as FanDuel. Steinberg works with his twin brother, Danny, and their older brother, Aaron. Together they wager about $75,000 on hundreds of contests each weekend during football season, and an additional $3,000 per night on basketball. When baseball starts, they’ll spend about $10,000 a night, and more than $1 million over the course of the season."

DFS sites offer a gambler …

How Much Has DFS Hurt Racing's Betting Revenues?

As is usually the case, conversations with Crunkster have got me thinking. With regards to the effect Daily Fantasy Sports (DraftKings, FanDuel etc) handle has had on horse racing revenues:

This is a completely dicey question; not only with racing and fantasy sports, but right down to the age-old question about how much that new McDonald's has hurt my downtown burger business. It's hard to quantify.

Here are the numbers.

Draft Kings - the smaller of the big two DFS sites - has "soared past $200 million in prize payouts" as of December 19th. FanDuel, the larger of the two, paid out more than $500 million in 2014, and have guided the VC street that their revenues will be over $50m. o_crunk gave us a link on the twitter box which said the CEO of FanDuel estimates revenues near $100 million industry wide. Using the industry analyst rule of thumb, dividing total revenues by 10% (about the average takeout) leaves us with total betting handle on DFS in 2014 of approximatel…

Tough Jobs and Monday Musings

Good day everyone!

Yesterday was an interesting day for football fans, primarily due to officiating. In the Dallas-Green Bay game, Dallas appeared to convert a 4th down with a chance to go ahead by 2 or 3 points, only to have the call overturned on replay. This caused quite a controversy. For the uninitiated, if a player gets both feet down with control of the ball, makes something called a "football move" with intent to do something and the ball comes free, it's a catch. If a player does not make a "football move" and the ball comes free, it's not a catch (when the ball hits the turf it's the Calvin Johnson rule). From what I read, about 50% think it's not a catch, and 50% think it's a catch. Some like Howie Long and the NFL Network's Rich Eisen are flummoxed because they think he was reaching out to the end zone, most officials are pretty sure they got it right and he wasn't really reaching out to the end zone (a football move).

One th…

Cobalt Positives Rock Harness Racing

In today, Bill Finley reported on the cobalt positives at the Meadowlands. Two of Corey Johnson's horses - who raced in the Breeders' Crown; one of them winning - tested "about 5 times" too high (the threshold set in Indiana, of 25 parts per billion is what I believe the Meadowlands uses to trigger a positive). Mr. Johnson was already making news before the Breeders Crown, because one of his horses tested with a high TCO2, a week before the big race, and he was in the process of being suspended in Canada.

Right now the purse money will not be redistributed, because the New Jersey commission does not test for the drug, and has no policy in the matter. Gural, as most of you know, sends samples to Hong Kong to be tested.

Breeders' Crown head Tom Charters comments:
 "There is no consensus among scientists, the scientific advisory committee of the RMTC, and I am on that board, the USTA, and state regulators. This is something with a lot of…

Racing's Vision is its Achillies Heel

I finished an enthralling, comprehensive read recently: America's Game, A History of the NFL. I am a fan of pro sports, and the NFL in particular, but it's more than just about the game. The machinations, decision making etc of a sport, from inception, through competition, disruptive technologies and the like, are pretty fascinating to me. This book left no stone unturned, and was a wonderful read.

Being a lover of pro sports, and also a bit of a business geek in real life, I have always been amazed at a common thread that most, if not all, successful entities possess: Vision. Using a set of guiding principles, and doing what one does best has been waxed poetic upon by people with fancy degrees, so little old me can't add to it. But it's an immutable truth that exists.

Pro football in 1930 was not like it is today. Tim Mara bought the rights to the New York Giants for $2,500, college football was the flagship of the sport of football. Stadiums were a quarter full, reve…

Drib Drab Handle Drib Drabs

While infighting, higher juice, fees, squeezing the lemon economics and more are consuming the sport of horse racing, Daily Fantasy Sports continue to show potential.

New York Business Journal looks at ESPN's potential foray into the market, worried about ad revenue cannibalization:
On Monday, The Sports Business Journal reported that ESPN executives are weighing all options for how the media giant can get a foothold in an industry expected to process $31 billion in entry fees by 2020. For now, ESPN benefits primarily from cashing FanDuel and DraftKings' checks for their massive advertising spending on its cable channels and websites. $31 billion in entry fees - if realized - would be close to 300% what horse racing currently does, and in 2011, there were fewer than 1,000 daily fantasy players. 
Meanwhile, Cangamble - who is playing more and more DFS (he sent me an NBA team last night that scored the highest point total on Draft Kings in several tournies) - sees a bit of …

Where Is Handle Going in 2015?

I started to write another prediction handle post, like I have other years. Interestingly, I went back and looked at my "Where is Handle Going in 2014" post, and realized...... I barely have to edit it. So, I have striked out a few things, and left it exactly where it is.

Horse racing is Bill Murray. It's groundhog day. It's its method of operation.

Anyhow here is my new post, with a few strike outs. Easiest post I've ever written.


Like we've seen over the past several years, the decrease in racedays causes handle to fall. A decrease in field size causes handle to fall. The other main driver of handle - the price, or takeout - has generally been falling, because rebating has not been a bad word like it was early in the decade.

What will happen in 2014 2015? Well, we are likely to see a further reduction in racedays. With slots revenue falling, as well as handle stagnating and foal crops receding, we aren't pulling out our pocket Kreskin…

Out With the Old, In With the New, In With the Old

Happy New Year everyone! The blog post title may be cryptic, but horse racing is cryptic, so take that.

Gulfstream recorded $1.2 billion in handle for 2014, which is up from $826 million in 2013. They raced more days and rejigged the whole schedule, to maximize their handle.

GP President, Tim Ritvo: "We believe with no head-to-head competition this coming year our commitment to grow the sport of Thoroughbred racing in Florida will produce even greater results."

That may be true, but little birds tell me that source market fees may enter the landscape in 2015 in the Sunshine State.  We've been through SMF's on the blog about as many times as Britney Spears ends up on TMZ, so no need to rehash it, however, if Florida does embrace them, the short term gains they're seeing will certainly be lost in a matter of years.

Gulfstream really rocked the Casbah with handle, though, so that should be good news for overall handles, should it not? Well no.

Crunkbase ® reports t…