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Showing posts from March, 2016

Runnotsohappy, Final Four, Florida Derby

Good morning racing fans, bettors, and others who if you are not one of those two are here mistakenly.

Open the floodgates! Runhappy has a bruise on his foot and his 4 year old debut will be delayed. There is a chance that comments on Internet stories, like the one above, will be so incendiary, computers everywhere may break into flames. Make sure your McAfee is updated. Stay safe.

The Final Four goes this weekend and most are expecting ratings are going to be down. No, not just on my twitter feed where everyone who lives, lived, or might move sometime to Lexington seems to be #bigbluenation fans. They've rejigged their TV deal, grabbing more hard dollars from TBS and others.

An Op/Ed in the TDN discusses this strategy from a horse racing perspective. As Mike Dorr on the twitter likes to say, gross transactions mean something in commerce. Fewer transactions, less hope to succeed.

The Florida Derby, easily the most looked forward to prep this season, goes Saturday for a million buck…

With Horses, It Appears No Doesn't Mean No

An article today in the Guardian detailed the tough fight people who want to do right by the horse have.

A man was charged via a law -  on the books for some time and passed by the people of California, having to do with the transfer of horses to slaughter - but those charges, for whatever reason were dropped. 

This was "exasperating" to horse welfare advocates, including our (and many of your) friend, Caroline Betts, who was quoted.
“Tons of horses are crossing the border every week for slaughter. This was the one chance to hold someone accountable,” said Caroline Betts, a University of Southern California professor, and founder of Southern California Thoroughbred Rescue. “I think this will embolden California horse traders. They’ve been getting away with this stuff for 18 years. The law’s well written, but with zero enforcement, it’s meaningless.” When you read the article, the sickening nature of the practice is detailed, including, cases where

"the captive bo…

Parx's Downtown OTB Closed

Thanks to @boycottracefive on twitter, I saw this link about Parx's flagship downtown OTB being closed.

This article struck a chord with me, because back when I was in my senior year of university I did my research thesis on Philadelphia's strategy for off track betting outlets, and what effect they may have on total and live handle at Philadelphia Park. The policy was constructed and passed in the early 1990's.

Twenty some years later this one is gone.

Although the following description sounds like they didn't try - not putting in enough slot money to make it an attractive venue, for example - I suspect it's more than that.

"The Turf Club was not the most glamorous of properties, but it was one of those neat throwbacks. It hadn’t been updated in years; the televisions were all old CRT sets."

With internet wagering, and gross wagering falling US-wide, it is probably just a sign of the times. I still believe however, that there is room for OTB's i…

Crowding Out the Little Guy: It Probably Does More Harm Than Good

The pizza industry is going through quite the shift of late in the US, with the big chains dominating the smaller ones. With only 48% of the restaurants, 61% of the revenues go to the big shops, and that number is growing; last year at a rate of over 7%, while mom and pop's saw their sales fall almost 2%.

Why is this happening? Better pizza? Are Americans ordering pizza more? According to the author above, it's not that, it's that the big chains can invest more and more money in technology, bringing the pizza to the customer.

Domino's and Papa John's have been married to different ways to order over the web, including text, twitter and apps. Customers have embraced the new mediums.

Mom and pop pizzeria's can not invest in technology like the big dogs can. They suffer, and it's more than that - pizza sales can suffer as well. Despite the massive market share gains by the giants, pizza sales were down in 2015 versus 2014. It's shuffling the deck chairs, n…


California Chrome won the Dubai World Cup in convincing - if not dominating - fashion yesterday, picking up a cool $6 million and adding a jewel in what was already a tremendous crown resume.

I am an unabashed Chrome fan; I love his constitution, his toughness, his will to win. I expected him not to do what he did, and although I might not be the greatest handicapper in the world, the fact he blew away my expectations only adds to my respect for the horse.

With the win, as Sid Fernando notes so well today, not only was the smashing victory good for the horse, it was good for his stud career. The new owners who took a shot on this horse made out great, even if he is retired tomorrow.

Smiles all around.

Well not really. After the race social media exploded, not with last year's #bringhomechrome tweets, but with #whatthehellperry? tweets. Co-owner Perry Martin's post race interview made the rounds and the crowd was none too pleased.

In a nutshell, Perry appeared mad at Victor Esp…

#Chrome, and Thursday Notes

Good morning racing fans!

California Chrome drew the 11 for the Dubai World Cup on Saturday. Despite a solid field, including American horses Keen Ice and Frosted, Chrome is the story.

As Claire Novak notes today, "there's something about Chrome" and there is. Yes, Kentucky Derby winners that race at a high level always have a strong pull (15 million people watch him win that race, more than any other in racing, by far), but this horse seems to have even more pull than that. He really stokes the fires in the sport, from the common fan to the bluest of bluebloods.

 As an aside, who was the last Kentucky Derby winner to win a grade I race on dirt at five? I ask because I don't have the foggiest. The list must be short.

I think Frosted is a better horse right now, but I too am a Chromie (although a lesser one than those found on Facebook!) and will be cheering for him. Sound horses with personality are always a favorite of mine and I think the colt deserves another big …

The Two Streams of Marketing Racing, Monday Notes of the Weekend Racing

Good day racing fans. There's a snowstorm here, so I figured I'd take a break from work and shoveling to jot down a few thoughts. If you don't like this post, blame the storm, not me!

There was quite the chat on twitter yesterday about Doug O'Neill's social media marketing initiative. Most tend to believe that marketing to millennials often revolves too much around fashion and booze and too little around horses and betting. Since at your average racetrack, a consumer of any age can consume horses and betting, while they can get fashion and libation anywhere, it's not a bad point, of course.

In general, I find talk about 'marketing' the sport can disintegrate into bumper sticker slogans, when it really needs some nuance. There, in my view, are two marketing streams racing needs to pay attention to. The in-your-face, and the targeted.

In your face marketing is social media, wiener dog racing, booze, fashion, red carpets, Wes Welker and human interest. As …


This week everyone was (and is) abuzz with March Madness. The 64 team tournament is a television staple and has been for some time.

Other than the usual - the games on at sports bars and basements for a few weeks - there's some major league betting going on. The American Gaming Association estimates that this year, $9.2 billion will be bet on the tournament.

That $9.2 billion, with an estimated 40 million people partaking, is being bet on schools like Stoney Brook (I found out that's a school on Long Island) and Austin Peay (it's in Tennessee and is named after a governor of the Volunteer state). It will be bet on games played by players like Taniki Smith, Jimmer Davis and Craig Petrie junior. I don't think too many people could find Stoney Brook on a map, and I am 100% sure you don't know who the players I listed above are, because I made them up.

The brand, the event, the buzz drives the interest. It drives all that money.

This is not unlike the Triple Crown in h…

Arguments Against Drug Disclosures are Built for Another Time

There's a good piece on the Bloodhorse regarding yesterday's meeting about potential drug disclosure rules that took place in California.

In effect, it goes a little like this: Horses move from trainer to trainer. When a new trainer gets a horse, he or she has no idea if it was injected in every joint last week, or last month, or last year. If the animal is being treated for allergies, or an ailment, it's a secret. If it had a hairline cryo'd, if it has an issue with his back, or stifle, it's "buyer beware".

Some jurisdictions have already dealt with this issue, like Ontario, but as often is the case in racing, SOP's are not created industry wide, but in each state, like they're on an island. It's California's turn to talk about it.

Not surprisingly, some trainers are vociferously against this.

"Ellis also brought up the competitiveness of the claiming game and how the potential requirement to disclose treatment methods and use woul…

Wednesday Racing Notes

Good morning racing and betting people.

There was another barn fire in harness racing, this time in South Florida, claiming 12 horses. Thankfully about half the barn's inhabitants ended up escaping the carnage. There's a gofundme link at the end of that story.

Trainer Peter Moody has been cleared of the serious cobalt charge that he knowingly jacked the horses. I don't know about you, but that was never in doubt. A successful stable like that, with all that money flowing through it, is not conducive to such things. He will no doubt serve time, as he should for this infraction, but many years it will not be.

We have spoken before about the strange stakes schedule in harness racing, primarily with three year old colts. It's just odd. DZ shares just how odd in the DRF today. Harness racing is one sport that is badly, badly in need of a commissioner of some sort. So many riches, so much purse money, so much potential.

Northfield will have a big pick 4 pool tonight with that…

"It's the Ideas, Stupid", Derby Buzz, and Handles

I was reading an article about an SXSW panel which was focused on big data and marketing through digital mediums. The panelists were political marketers.

The gist of it: Although people like to give credit for "big data" and digital marketing for political victories (in this case, 2008's election where it received effusive praise from the mainstream press),  unless you have a message, it's all pretty useless.

The panelists talked about this cycle and the Jeb Bush campaign (who had the ultimate digital strategy and tons of money), versus the Sanders and Trump campaigns. As most know, Sanders' campaign has been fueled by the grassroots and Trump's is similar. It would be completely foolish to give any credit to digital marketing in one case, considering Trump himself (not likely) or his group sometimes tweets out, and then has to delete some bizarre things.

Both men have a message that is resonating. Both men's digital marketing and 'big data' arm a…

"That's it Buddy, We're Going to Try and Save You"

Sometimes you come across a story in horse racing that reminds us about the resiliency the animal, and the innate goodness of the humans who care for them. We have that and more with Phoo's Boy.

In 2012, a two and a half month foal and his mother were dropped off at a farm they would call home until the foal would hopefully embark on his training career. At ten o'clock on a Friday evening, everything was fine.

At some point overnight, something wasn't fine. The next morning they found the little foal with a two inch bullet wound in his neck, with an exit wound ten inches in diameter. He was still alive, doing what most of you who work or deal with see animals in pain do, soldiering on, with a will to live.

"He’s such a little fighter, he kept walking the field. He just kept walking and walking and the mom was right behind him keeping anything else away from him.”

The little colt was brought to a clinic and the owner-breeder (one of those crusty guys who you'd t…


This weekend the Big M is carding a $7,500 claimer. In some corners of the interwebs this is like some sort of shock and awe. These "cheap" horses at the flagship track?

In reality, the Big M, surrounded by slots tracks, is doing exactly what it should be doing; carding competitive racing, while at a competitive disadvantage. And when you card competitive racing, it brings in handle.

For the low level ten claimers, the Big M has averaged about $225,000 in handle per race in 2016. Bettors want a deep field of claimers over a short field of conditioned horses, especially if the favorite is solid, and this is proven over and over again with handle.

Thoroughbred racing is a bit different because stakes racing is pretty interesting in that sport, with shippers, cutbacks or stretchouts, and horses trying better for the first time. However, the good old deep claimer holds its own there, too.

Last weekend:

GP, $6,250 claimer, 12 horses, handle $1.4 million

Tampa, $5,000 claimer, 9 h…

Racing Popularity By Region, Stats and Analysis, Horse Rescue Notes

Good morning racing fans!

There was a chart whipping around the twitter yesterday, which showed Thoroughbred racing handle by state, as below:

The current leader in handle is New York (primarily NYRA) in yellow, taking over from California in blue. Florida handle, in grey, has been rising, while Kentucky handle in red is trudging along.

The above graph does not take into account dates, nor does it look at inflation. For example, since 2010, the compound inflation rate is around 10%, requiring a $2B handle to be $2.2B, just to hold even.

A few points.

New York handle taking the lead might be a little bit surprising, but there have been some positives for that signal.

OTB's were closed, for the most part, and those users were cycled into more modern means, like NYRA rewards. More rewards (and no OTB surcharges) help churn and customer retention. They had a takeout decrease, which surely helped a little bit through added churn. The negative - an ADW tax - has probably hurt somewhat. …

The Party of No, Complicated Bets and a Tuesday Catch-Up

Good day racing fans!

Paulick has a story up on exchange wagering - the buy and sell market that people call new, but is in fact old now - as well as a poll. The poll, "do you want to see exchange wagering in your state, yes or no", has the no side winning.

Question: Does any poll in horse racing that offers customers something new, at a better price, (or something else they want) ever not answer "no" from insiders?

I don't remember too many; which makes the lament, the hand-wringing, and the wonderment from insiders why handles have been down for 15 years all the more perplexing.

Racing builds walls, and customers pay for it. And I don't think Mexico will help.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, sports betting is growing, by giving customers what they want. This has been happening in tandem with the massive rise of Daily Fantasy Sports (which did $3B in handle last year).

Las Vegas sports betting seems to keep setting new handle records each month.

It amazes me th…

Seamless Consumption, Today's Betting Sites Need to Compete, Allowed all Content

Dana passed along an article today on the twitter about marketing on the web. Generally, it's about the buying process and how things have to be pretty seamless in this new world we live in. Give it a read if you're interested.

For sports' properties, this is paramount., MLBTV, all work towards not only keeping you engaged, but allowing you to purchase their products - tickets, jerseys etc - and, if you wish, watching their games right on the web. It's a one stop shop, and they do what needs to be done for you as a customer to maximize your utility (and their bottom line).

In racing, It doesn't quite work like that. is the granddaddy of all racing websites. Not only does it have a history, it supplies past performances, news, up to date betting information and of late, through, a betting platform.

What every customer wants is included in their offerings, and just announced, it gets even better. DRF will be offering lower takeout…

2016 Handle Numbers Show a Maturing Landscape, Some Learnings

Soon enough, February handle numbers will be released showing an approximate 6% gain. While people tend to focus on the top end, and get down in the dumps or giddy about the short-term big number (in this case, giddy), it's much more enlightening to look deeper into them.

What we have seen, of late, is the bigger signals doing better, while the smaller ones are stagnating. The big signals are doing several good things, along with an obvious handle boost - racing more races.

Case in point Gulfstream. In February 2015, GPX raced 216 races and garnered $176M in handle. In February of 2016, handle skied to $219M on 240 races.  Handle per race rose from $816k to $915k, a nice increase.

The approximate 6% increase in handle for the entire sport from 2015, came almost solely from this Gulfstream handle increase.

Other big signals, concentrating on carding some better racing, have done well, too, though. Aqueduct raced 17 more races and gained almost $18M in handle.

Overall, January and …