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"Marketing", CLV & Trainer Troubles

Good day racing fans.

We've all seen the troubles of harness trainer Bill Robinson. The Hagarsville area trainer was given a 5 year suspension back in 2003, handed his stable over to his son and assistant, and they were both given 10 year suspensions at different times subsequently. It's been, well, interesting.

In HRU today, Perry Lefko looked at the very short-lived Bill Robinson "comeback". Just three months ago he decided to begin training again. And:

"Controversial Canadian-based trainer Bill Robinson has been hit with another positive drug test, less than three months after he returned to racing following a retirement of more two years and a ban at Woodbine Entertainment Group’s tracks for more than 11 years for repeated drug violations."

“I can’t explain where it came from, I can’t explain who gave it,” Robinson said. “We (have done) nothing wrong here. These horses, I’ll just tell you straight up, when I came back they were racing like they came out of their mother. I didn’t want to take any chances."

Honestly, I tend to believe him. It's stupid to give something so blatant when you know they are going to be after you.

However, Bill, to many, is bike racer Tyler Hamilton. Back at the Olympics in 2006, Tyler tested positive for EPO, but swore up and down he did not take EPO (he took EPO hundreds of times, but just not for the Olympics). It turns out he was telling the truth. Around that time he moved on from EPO to blood doping, and in a weird twist of fate, the blood he doped with was switched and the person's blood he used did take EPO.

Whoops.

There are people out there, in the ORC and elsewhere, that might believe Bill as I do. But because it's Bill - his sordid history apparent - there's a sneaking belief that he must have used something to trigger it.  And that's a mountain that I think he will find hard to climb. Fair or not, I guess it depends on your perspective.
Horse racing has done wonderful work marketing big days, and with deep fields and better racing, handle has followed. This is a win, in many respects. But Eric's tweet, from a conference this morning, should not fall on deaf ears. The product, i.e. the pricing and puzzle that each race is, which drives betting volume, has been very poor. The business - from an every day gambling perspective - simply can't get out of its own way.

Further to that, on the Paulick Report today, reprinted from Horseplayer Monthly magazine (it's free here), the every day product was looked at in terms of "lifetime customer value."

The handle losses from $15 billion to around $11 billion the last dozen years are not just $4 billion. They aren't just because of lotteries. It isn't because of the tawdry economy or fewer races. Fifteen to eleven, with population growth and GDP growth are understated for the first part, but the races being contested are simply non-starters. You can't win - can't - betting six horse fields with 16% win takeout. You can't beat - can't - a Woodbine 25% pick 5 with a twenty cent increment. You can't raise juice like CDI did and expect business not to drop off even more. 8 of 10 races and 9 of 10 bets in racing are quite simply unbeatable. In a skill based gambling game, this is suicidal.

These are fundamental issues that no song and dance, big day, dance party, floppy hat, Goo Goo Dolls-a-thon can fix.

Good luck this weekend everyone.

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