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Showing posts from March, 2015

Horse Racing Mish Mash

Good morning everyone.

Ringer! Horse wins - at 30-1 - while racing under the wrong name. Although the win pool was higher that race (why, with 20.75% win take is a win pool ever higher at Turf Paradise is beyond me) than others, it looks like nothing untoward occurred. On the surface. I see the betfair starting price was 30-1, or right in line.

Cali Chrome I - When trainers make decisions with horses, there's a willingness to not believe them on face value. I understand that, because if I see another "he worked great", when he worked terrible and is pulled out of the next race with a suspensory I think my head will explode. But, I find it a bit odd that Art Sherman is now somehow called soft on horses (by some), for wanting to give California Chrome a little time off after Dubai

The horse has been in training, under a routine since he was two. He made nine starts at three and he even had a little stall time for a hoof that needed repair during it. The plan all along was …

Cali Chrome's Not a Regular Horse, the Racing Gene and Monopoly ®

Good morning everyone! I hope y'all had a pleasant weekend.

The big news this weekend - excluding the Derby preps - was that California Chrome is off to jolly old England to race at the Ascot meet. This caused some major consternation on the twitter box; mainly, I think, due to the fact that trainer Art Sherman will not be handling the horse.

But it's more than that. Others think this decision - in a sport that tends to treat horses like this as some sort of managed 401k - is batty. For the record, I would not go to England with California Chrome, I would go back home. But 1) I don't own him and 2) Who cares what I think.

The handling of California Chrome was destined to be different in the first place. This is not an ownership crew whose main goal is to maximize stud value, or do what others before them were expected to do. They don't seem to care what the high foreheads say they should do, either. What they are doing, it seems, is taking advantage of what this cool h…

They Gotta Get it Together

Today was a long day, and at times it was excruciating.

I got a set of emails from a long time fan just now, which shows the frustration.

"Bleh, they take 15 minutes to circle but can't take 30 seconds to look at the Florida Derby stretch drive, add the whipping of International Star..... it feels like it's not worth my money anymore."

Make no mistake, this is not an isolated complaint from a "whiny horseplayer". This has been going on for awhile.

We don't hold our breath for stretch drives to watch the majesty of the horses, we do that because we're sure the horse we want to win is about to get bumped as he's cruising by, or taken into the outside fence. It's not like the stews call herding often, and when they do it's usually interpreted a hundred ways.  This has gotten out of hand.

We never know what time post time is because they'll drag a post by making horses walk over and over again in a circle. Today, unbelieveably, they stre…

Friday's Blog Post

I could not think of a click-worthy title today like, "If you bet these six angles you will be able to buy Grenada". I went pretty generic. Sorry, it's all I got.

First up, there were a lot of tweets asking for some help rescuing seven standardbreds from New Holland, PA on Wednesday. I heard this morning that all were purchased, are in quarantine, and will be at a home very soon. The social media push raised over $7,000 in less than a half day.

In HRU today (pdf), Phil Langley is interviewed. In a couple of questions he doesn't sound like a guy who won 38-13, but I guess a pass is in order. He was slammed quite a bit of late. 

I did find his point about an ADW interesting. I have been looking into something like this, but I think my harness ADW plan would look much different than theirs.

On the flipside, Jeff Gural is looked at in DRF Harness. The meme surrounding Jeff Gural at the present time is his self-admitted "kick in the pants" method of operatio…

Doesn't Lasix Free Racing Help the Envelope Pushers?

I'm not a status-quo dude, obviously, and I do understand the push from the higher forehead crowd regarding lasix use in Thoroughbred racing, but sometimes I wonder.
At its March meeting on Monday, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission voted to approve a controversial measure that would allow the state’s racetracks to write Lasix-free races. The final vote was 8-4 in favor of the rule.The proposed rule would allow tracks to write one or more races with conditions precluding entrants from having Lasix within 24 hours of the race, in contrast to the current statewide rule which allows administration at four hours in advance of race time. If you were a trainer who tries to get every edge possible, would you not be entering in these races? Lasix is a performance enhancer, and there are plenty of other things that can be, and are, used to stop bleeding and dehydrate horses. Sure, using these products on raceday is a no no, but without detention barns who'd know?

The Fast Obsession, Preps & Takeout Hikes

If you received a quarter each time you heard "young people want instant gratification, so we need to reduce time between races" in this sport, you'd have a lot of quarters. There's this strange obsession with fast.

Cricket has experimented with changing three day long events into one day, golf is always talking about speeding up the pace of play, and in baseball it's spoken about often. Most recently, "fast4", a new way to play a tennis match in one hour has been experimented with.

A lot of that makes sense. For the grassroots, playing a round of golf in Toronto is an exercise in futility. Fight QEW traffic, play a round on a course completely jammed, pay $80, and take an hour and a half to drive home. Oh joy. For tennis, which as a kid we all know took so long to play 3 setters, a game in a hour on Saturday morning sounds wonderful.

But horse racing? I don't really understand the obsession.

Sure heading to Woodbine or Belmont on a Saturday and si…

As the Kids Say, Harness Racing - SMH

You've seen and heard some of the reversals in the sport of harness racing the past week. Some of those things are head scratchers and continue to be. They just seem to continue.

This was a letter to the editor in harness racing update today from a USTA Director:

So, harness horses - who race weekly - who are off two months, should be entered off no qualifier.  And if you don't like what you see - silly things like form - you should not bet.

In a sport where people are already taking her up on that, it's probably not wise.

This shows the massive disconnect between the people who bet a billion or more a year and the people in power. A race is not a horse, it is a collection of horses, which make up a probability of victory array. If you don't allow bettors to have an idea what form a horse is in, the whole array is turned on its ear. I mean, seriously, this is basic stuff.

If someone in the Thoroughbreds asked for a rule like this, well, sheesh. Hey bettor, here's a…

Harness Racing, as is Custom, Runs Back to the Warm Status Quo Blanket

Harness racing has suffered mightily with horses retiring at three. In a rinse, wash, repeat custom, a horse is invested in as a two year old, he races at three - in a tightly controlled and managed schedule - and profit is maximized for the two year old shareholders, by retiring the horse in the fall. It didn't matter if the horse was good or mediocre, great or poor. It's just the way the quid pro quo ecosystem, created and managed, worked.

Thoroughbred racing - although fans gripe constantly about it - is nowhere near as bad as harness racing with this issue. Horses like California Chrome, and Shared Belief (even if he was not a gelding) tend to ply their trade at four, unless they are so crazy well bred, or injured. The simple reason? Money. California Chrome will go for $10 million in a week or so in Dubai, after racing for $5 million just last fall. Shared Belief will race for tens of millions over the next year or two if he stays sound.

Trying to be more like the Thorou…

Rags PP's, User Interface, Top Notch

If you watch The Sting, you notice most scenes take place in what looks like a 1960's betting establishment. In the back of the room, behind closed doors I sometimes think there were dozens of handicappers studying the races, getting wind and weather updates, compiling scores for each horse, under the cloak of secrecy. If this was true, and they were making these figure scores, I picture the end result would look exactly like "The Sheets".

The Sheets have been published for over 30 years, and just last year they took the leap into offering their figures out, in partnership with TimeformUS. Although I am not playing regularly much anymore, I did take them out for a test drive recently.

A few comments:

Although I do not have the data to back it up (who does, really?), and never being a regular user over the last 30 years, my gut tells me the figures are very good. The Sheets "show how much quality the horse demonstrated on that day. Briefly, the rating includes speed,…

Breeders Cup Ratings Aren't Half Bad Y'know?

Boxing is a sport devoid of leadership, which was sabotaged from within. It lacked central authority and was surpassed mightily by newer, fresher pugilistic pursuits like MMA.

Boxing is dead.

Sound familiar?

NBC ran a special boxing card, in prime time last week. Being a big boxing fan for like forever and I didn't even watch. I did not know any of the fighters, and, well, the game is dead. So they tell me.

Despite a three hour long show, it attracted 3.4 million viewers and won the night, even with the coveted 18-49 demographic.The press was giddy at the massive number.

Horse racing, another old sport, seemingly on its way out, has a prime time event once a year on NBC as well: The Breeders Cup Classic. Last year the ratings for the hour long Bayern win were up, and an estimated 2.6 million people watched.

I must admit, I was flummoxed. Our best show in primetime versus boxers who many have never heard of, in a completely dead sport, and we got our goose rumps kicked. I kept thi…

Chris Borland & Breakdowns

Yesterday, Wisconsin product and promising sophomore Chris Borland, announced he was retiring after one year in the NFL. Borland, who is 24, and slated to earn tens of millions through his playing career in the game he loves, is retiring "out of concern for his long-term mental and emotional health, citing the sport’s irrefutable link to concussions and serious neurological diseases."

Breaking it down, he is saying "Football is so inherently dangerous, so obviously flawed, that the incentive of living a childhood dream after a lifetime of training and for millions of dollars isn’t strong enough to continue."

The NFL knows about this issue and has met it with dozens of rule changes. Fans, some coaches, and others lament the "changing of the game", but over the last five years there have been seminal new policies: Running backs can not lead with the head, any hit above the shoulders is called, tacklers can not lead with any part of the helmet, concussio…

So, Where Can I Watch That Big Race?

I noticed this slide from Rob Key's presentation yesterday to the USTA.

New fans and some old, have a hard time finding where to watch a major racing event.

For us, who know the sport, know exactly where and when to watch, for example, yesterday's Rebel Stakes. But, put yourself in the shoes of a newbie. If a newbie said "I really want to watch prep races for the Derby and get to know the horses, can you point me in the right direction?" How would we answer them?

Do you get TVG or HPI TV on your cable system?


Do you have an ADW account?

What's an ADW account?

I think the DRF might stream it, one second. Oh, no they don't. One second.


- Person asks " where can my friend watch the Rebel tomorrow, on twitter-

OK, I will give you my logins for my ADW account. No one knows where you can watch it.

OK, what time is the race?

5:42 but that could be delayed.


They drag post times a lot of the time. There's really no schedule.

OK, so I have to use …

Rainbow 6, Not Innovative, But Lucrative

Yesterday, the Rainbow Six was hit at Gulfstream Park. The sequence, which did not look overly difficult on the surface (I didn't handicap it, so I don't know for sure), only had two bomb winners. Not a bad deal for the winner who spent $336.

The Rainbow Six has been a very successful bet for Gulfstream. Although many lament its churn killing tendency, it has drawn headlines and bettors to the south Florida oval, and has done so for some time. Of course, the Rainbow Six is not Gulfstream's idea, it's the idea of someone else. The Jackpot Six was first introduced in Puerto Rico, then Beulah in Ohio tried a "Fortune Six" and that did have some success for that little track.

Business author James Suroweiki said, "Intellectual-property rules are clearly necessary to spur innovation: if every invention could be stolen, or every new drug immediately copied, few people would invest in innovation." He's right, and when it comes to horse racing, there ar…

The Niche Inside a Niche

Today Woodbine announced they were replacing the much-needed-to-be-replaced polytrack with Tapeta, another synthetic surface.
“A surface that will endure racing and training through hot and cold climate extremes for more than eight months a year is critical for our horsepeople,” said Lawson. “We also considered racing fans and horseplayers through this process. Field size, the number of quality races and wagering on Woodbine’s thoroughbred racing product has grown appreciably in the synthetic track era. We see those metrics continuing to improve with the installation of Tapeta.” This is a much different response that we've seen in the past when racetracks have made a switch. It took into account handle figures, which through demagoguery for the most part, were never used to buttress a synthetic track, but something that didn't seem to matter much.

Horse racing is a niche sport, and polytrack has been a niche inside a niche. There are players - like me, and many of you wh…

5 New Exciting Horse Racing Features of the New Apple Watch

The Apple Watch is here, and for horse racing, the innovations are as exciting as the introduction of the Grand Slam.

I have some of them right here, on my cutting edge blog.

Perhaps the most useful for horse racing aficionados is the new "Minutes to Post" feature. Apple has a built in time estimator - using proprietary electronic sextant technology - which can tell you, at various racetracks, what zero minutes to post really means. It can also estimate, through big data, how long a Frank Stronach track will drag post time to hit a pool guarantee. This will be a great help to horseplayers who cherish silly things, like their time.

The most excellent "Time to Penalty" feature will be used by both insiders and casual fans. When a trainer gets a TCO2 positive, we never know when that person will be finally suspended. In some states it could take months, in others, like California, it could take two Presidential terms. The new watch can estimate, within 11 hours, when…

Racing a Niche Part VIII

Dan posted an article today on the twitter.  It's from Australia and is critical about the way racing is mass marketed. You could read the same article in some quarters here across the pond.

"Maybe the VRC has done market research and worked out that the least promotable thing about horse racing is horse racing."

I was reading an article recently about the promotion of niche sports.

"Recent research has indicated that niche sports cannot borrow directly from the sport management literature focused on mainstream sport. Distinct differences have been found between mainstream and niche sports with respect to sponsorship, fan related attributes, spectator expectations, and participant motives"

Racing does "borrow directly from sport management literature" - mass TV, concerts, food trucks, cross promotions etc - to market itself, when, if it is niche, that's probably exactly what isn't needed.

Is racing a niche sport, or is not, is probably …

For Those Who Seek Change, Reality Really Bites

Two of the more strange, weird, wacky and asinine policies in horse racing involve uncashed ticket revenues and breakage.

Uncashed tickets from you, the customer, happen when you forget to cash a 25 cent voucher, tear up a ticket, or take one home from the track and don't get back to cash it in time. Breakage involves taking a tote price down from say $2.57 to $2.40.

It has been proposed time and time again, that uncashed ticket revenue be returned to its rightful owner, in some form. This could be done through a seeded pool, player rewards, or what have you. It's also been proposed that breakage be eliminated. The technology is not only there, it's been there for 40 years to pay to a penny.

Both should be slam dunks.

But when you dig deeper, reality bites. Horse racing is like congress. Everyone has a finger in the revenue pie somewhere, so bad policy can keep right on rolling on.

Take for example, California.

The state used to get a portion of uncashed ticket monies, bu…

Those Dreaded Losing Streaks

Much has been talked about regarding the similarities of daily fantasy sports and horse racing betting. I agree more and more each day.

After several months of normally distributed results of my play in DFS, I am currently in the middle of what we've all been in the middle of with horse racing - a losing streak.

It feels remarkably the same. You are looking at a set of players (a horse), who on paper is exactly what you want to see (good trainer off a drop, looks great on the track, good early speed, chalk is a deep closer from a hot overbet barn) so you bet it. And the team stinks (you sent the horse to the scope barn).

This breeds the usual doubts: What am I doing wrong. I can't pick a winner even after the race. Has the track changed? Is the CIA plotting against me? It's like you know you are going to lose before the race is even run.

Usually a streak can be explained with math. When you are betting a 50/50 proposition, it can go against you for a perfectly acceptable s…

I'm With Stupid & It's a Killer

"Customers are stupid" is a familiar refrain, or lament, in some businesses; and those businesses usually have one thing in common: They are failing.

Seth Godin today listed ways to make your customer feel stupid. Because of this, they tend to leave and never come back, or don't purchase in the first place. I'll list a few of his rules and offer some thoughts to them as it pertains to horse racing.

"Collect money as though you're in the long-term relationship business, but in every other way, act like you don't expect the relationship to last."
This is like getting a split fingered fastball that's not split or fast; an easy one to park. We love you very much, and despite us signing a billion dollar slots contract, your concession prices are going up, takeout is being hiked, we're adding new ADW taxes, and please give me $1,200 for Derby seats. I know racing's demographic is not young, but a few people might be around for at least a coup…