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Showing posts from August, 2015

Mainstream Phun

I have purposefully not used 'ph' on this blog, unless I am talking about Philly Park - er I guess it's Parx now so I can drop it - or for American Pharoah himself. But I could not think of a better blog title.

Today on the Fox Sports website:

We see why athletes and politicos worry about things being taken out of context.

It reminds me of the Brett Coffey tweet:

For those reading the blog who are new to horse racing, Jose Lezcano was not trying to "hurt" American Pharoah by poking him in the eye, inflicting pain, or even giving him one of those delicious snow cones at the 3/4's so he had a brainfreeze headache. It was just race riding, or sour grapes, from whatever your perspective.

As for the ride by Jose Lazcano, well, Kiaran said enough for you to know:

I am not one for slamming jocks and drivers for rides or drives, unless it's obvious. We never know what happened in the race, or if the horse was no good, etc. But (excuse my language), no chit Sherlo…

Digging Deep, Being Great

It was almost seven years ago. I was at Mohawk and the great Somebeachsomewhere was racing in the Simcoe Stakes. He didn't seem to be quite himself on the racetrack, but as per usual, he fired to the lead and then grinded to the 3/4's like a 1-9 shot should. But a funny thing happened. He was starting to wilt. As the finish line drew closer his margin grew smaller, but he reached it in time.

After the race the horse was immediately scoped. Something was likely amiss, and it was; his lungs were full of mucous. Some horses are so good, so tough, and so great, they win when they should not. They hang around when others would be long beaten. The Beach was one of those horses.

Today in the Travers Stakes, American Pharoah was beaten. It was his fifth trip across the country. He fought through a Triple Crown series, and in at least one of those races he certainly was not at his best. He had a relatively short break after his win in the Haskell. He was racing at the graveyard of favo…

Horse Racing Needs Reinvestment, Cultivation For Growth. It's More Than About a Pen

The national advertising numbers for the last seven days just came in. Sitting at number 4 is a gambling daily fantasy sports site.

The $12 million spent is about 12% of this company's 2014 revenues. They are investing a lot of money to gain and keep critical mass, as they fight with competitors like FanDuel, and other gambling pursuits, like racing and poker.

Yesterday we looked similarly at Hong Kong horse racing, and specifically its handle and revenues since 2005-2006:

What this table shows is the Hong Kong Jockey Club's reinvestment in the customer base, not unlike what Draft Kings is doing. Handle, in 05/06 was about $59B in Hong Kong dollars, and that yielded $3.2B in revenue. Four years later handle increased to $67.6B, but if you check revenues, they went down, to $3.12B. There were no protests, nor were there groups upset about this, it was all part of a larger plan - to grow revenues long term through this reinvestment.

Five years later, handle was up to over $100B …

Dysfunction is Infectious

Yesterday, the Baconater penned a piece on his site, "California Gets It Wrong On Lasix".

"I can’t in good conscience place any more bets on races in California – not after what happened at the California Horse Racing Board meeting last week. The CHRB voted 5-2 against the recommendations of its own Medication Committee that a trainer’s private veterinarian not be allowed to give race-day injections of furosemide, or Lasix, the diuretic used to treat exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage."

We have a policy that works in almost every other racing jurisdiction and has for years, a policy that is absolutely, 100% common sense, that was passed after due diligence, and it's voted 5-2 against?

Although some might say California has been the state or fiefdom with more dysfunction than anyone else, it appears to be clear there are others that orbit around the California sun.

We've seen cobalt in the news lately, with hard and fast rules set, in other countrie…

Hong Kong Betting Growth

There was quite a conversation on the twitter about Hong Kong Jockey Club betting growth this early evening. Hong Kong, since 2006, has rapidly grown handles, and has been reaping the benefits of such growth.

"The record turnover this year is the result of a lot of hard work. Since the 2005-2006 season, turnover has increased 79.7%, which is testament to the successful strategies the club has undertaken in that time to revitalize Hong Kong horseracing," Engelbrecht-Bresges continued."

Via BH. 

Hong Kong's betting growth was spurred in large part, due to a change in policy in 2006, "Betting Duty Reforms". This change allowed the Club to pay revenues to the state from gross profits, instead of from a set amount of takeout. The club began trying to get back lost punters who were frequenting Macau (with lower takeout), investing more in the customer, through various reforms, and, in general, using good old fashioned business school metrics to increase wage…

A Different View of Horsemanship, Lasix and a Beholding Opportunity

I was chatting on the twitter box with Brad Thomas last week about the secrecy shrouded in horse racing. To find out if a horse has a cough is hard enough, let alone a physical issue; "none of your business" is a  mantra.  I noted to Brad that harness racing is a little different and we see yet another example of it.

In today's HRU, George Teague, trainer of three year old star Wiggle it Jiggle It, who banged off an impressive 48 score in the Battle of Bandywine last evening:

 "He's got a muscle issue on the back. You can't do much with him. He's raced, not trained."

We've often noted his little hitch, so maybe that was an ongoing issue. Regardless, you know what you're getting with Teague.

EL Titan, trained by Riina Rekila won the big invite, defeating JL Cruze last evening, also at Pocono. She had something interesting to say, about her star horse's early season schedule:

"He's had allergies too so he's not at his best in …

Hayward Ain't Blowing Smoke

Charles Hayward wrote a testimonial in support of the USADA involvement in horse racing today. He typed:
I submit that the major contributing factor was lack of confidence in the integrity of races by the wagering public and by the owners of horses who subsequently left the industry. Some might suggest that the drop can be attributed to the foal crop decline or the financial market correction in 2008. However, while the handle was reducing in 2004 onward, the foal crop actually increased from 2002 to 2007, and double-digit declines in foal crop did not begin until 2010, long after the handle falls had started. We can quibble with that, but I think it has a lot of merit, and using a catch-all like "integrity" is not hyperbole.

Super-stables, with satellite operations at many tracks - certainly those fueled by slots - win a lot of races. And in some cases, these wins are not on the up and up. At smaller tracks - most with purse levels allowing you to barely scrape by w…

Oh That Smarty Jones

For those who have been around Thoroughbred racing for awhile, we all know the horses in recent history who competed in the Triple Crown. You could have not read about and followed Animal Kingdom, or Mine That Bird or I'll Have Another the last several years, on social media and elsewhere. Some of these horses, though, have captured the imagination of the public, and some have not done quite as well.

For the last few that have competed for the Triple Crown, i.e. in the box when the gate springs in the Belmont Stakes with a chance at glory, the google search stats are below.

The highest rated horse in terms of search interest is not American Pharoah, it's a horse who, of course, never won the Triple Crown, Smarty Jones.

Sometimes we forget the charisma, and backstory, the colt had.

He jogged in front of 8,500 - it seemed on the short side - at Philly Park, of all places, and at least part of this draw was his everyhorse status:

''I'm here for this wonderful Cinderel…

Putting One Over On People

Sometimes some tweet storms are really interesting. This morning:

You can do a lot stringing 140 characters.

Horse racing - unlike anything really - rewards, and condones 'putting one over on people'. Unloading a claimer with a bum knee, with few starts left, is considered good business. Even the aggrieved party accepts it as part of the game, with the vernacular "he unloaded that rat on me." It's like some sort of strange badge of honor. This doesn't happen all the time, of course. I remember selling a horse once and watching the trainer explain how the filly's stifles were bothering her, that her ulcer issues needed taking care of, etc. To him, and others, that - not unloading one - is good business.

But as a rule, horse racing has always been the old west, and putting one over on someone is not frowned upon. It's accepted and it's part of the culture.

I really don't see that changing, unless there's a massive shift in the way horse raci…

Everyone Wants Control, But It Doesn't Work That Way

Yesterday evening, Northfield Park in Cleveland had a $12,000 super high five carryover, and realized $151,000 in new money. This past weekend, the Meadowlands only received about $380,000 in new money on their super high five carryover of more than $231,000.

At the Saratoga Gaming and Law conference, the bill which would put the USADA in charge of much of racing's testing (and penalties) was looked at and discussed. Most of the horsemen lawyers at the event (and others in the sport) are against ceding control to the USADA.

A day earlier, at the Jockey Club Round Table, a partnership between Stats Inc and Equibase was announced. This will allow Equibase to offer other products so horseplayers can scour databases and check angles etc.

All three items represent horse racing wanting control of something that they probably have no chance of ever controlling successfully, or have never controlled successfully.

Signal fees are going higher at places like the Meadowlands, but controlling…

Newbie & Non-Newbie Things You Need to Know about the Hambletonian

The Hambletonian card takes place tomorrow starting at 12 noon. It's a 16 race affair, highlighted with the Hambletonian - and before that the Oaks - but there's much more on the card than just those two big tilts.

Here's a primer, especially for those who know little about harness racing.
The card has 16 races and about $10M will be bet. This is the highest bet card in harness racing, and perennially the best racing card in the world each year. There's a free Trackmaster program for the card. Lots of past performances for harness racing big days are free. The last race has an 8% Super High Five with $231,000 already in the pool that will have to be paid out. Expect the pools to be over $1 million. Must bet, if you like betting. If you don't, skip it and watch a band. I think there's a band. There's a pick 5 to start the card and everyone and their brother, sister, mother and mother's gardener will be keying Broadway Donna in leg two. She should win easi…


I stumbled upon a letter to the editor recently while looking for something else. It was in response to a TDN article, where the splits between ADW's, host tracks with other live venues, and OTBs were explained. The explanation was looked at from the demand (customer and handle growth, and determinants of handle growth) side, which tends to be rare in the horse racing industry press.

It looks self-serving to share it here, but alas, I think it shows something really important, so I do.

I often use the example that I don't know how to change a piece of equipment on a horse, I don't know when my colt needs Gastrogard, or Legend, I don't know what to do with a presumed bone chip, how to train the horse back, or what to do with a new feed on the market. That's what we, as owners, pay people for. We should never expect those people - those with a specific skillset - to understand Lifetime Value functions, churn variables, elasticities, return on ad spend, or seller-rese…

Hambo vs. Haskell. Two Strategies, Only One of them Sustainable

This weekend, the Hambletonian is being contested, as part of a big stakes weekend at the Meadowlands. This is hot on the heels of another big Jersey weekend, where American Pharoah won the Haskell.

The Hambletonian, as a stand-alone event (much like say a Derby) will have a huge attendance and decent handle no matter what. If the field was comprised of claimers, the card was mediocre, there would still be a handle floor. Just send a couple of press releases out about the horses, and that's that. Most bettors would say this is exactly the method of operation in horse racing, and it has been for some time.

This year the Big M's first major press release didn't mention a horse. Or a driver. Or a Triple Crown winner, human interest story, or who won the race in 1935. It was about the bet.

"Great Betting Opportunities" was the title, and it talked about:

"Friday night kicks off the racing for the weekend and it begins with a bang, a carryover in the $.50 cent p…

The Serendipitous American Pharoah Experience

By now you know, (unless you are on the blog by accident searching for pulled pork recipes, or were vacationing on Mars) American Pharoah won the Haskell on Sunday.

Before the race, some who called the race a slam dunk for the Triple Crown winner probably missed the fact that Keen Ice (he who raced sneaky good in the Derby and was moving well wide in the Belmont closing to be a good third), Upstart (an early Beyer sensation and quality animal) and Competitive Edge (the hot wise-guy horse for the Preakness that some thought would beat Pharoah at Pimlico if entered) were all in the race. Or maybe they just knew something. If you've seen a more impressive performance in a $1 million, $1.75 million race let me know.

After the Triple Crown, the narrative that AP would be retired to preserve his stud value - then, likely at its zenith - was making the rounds. It was not based on a deep dislike from fans for horses retiring early, it was reality. Fans are pawns for the breeding game and…