Skip to main content


Showing posts from May, 2016

Excellent Racing TV Coverage (With No Fluff), Nuncio & the Canterbury Biz

In North America, we are used to watching the big races covered by the networks in a certain way. Of late, that means celebrities, parties, clothes and interviews about celebrities, parties and clothes. Despite hard-core fans despising it, it does seem to work well for ratings.

And of course, if you want to watch analysis about the race, there are dozens of other sources, including the track feed.

Over in Sweden it's not much like that.

Yesterday's Elitlopp coverage (covered by Sweden's racing network and broadcast on TV) was something we really weren't used to. The races on the undercard, the interviews, the features and almost all coverage was related to the racing. Even when they interviewed trainers, it was done in split screen with the other screen showing the horses scoring out on the track; or (gasp) the odds.

While the race is being trotted, the coverage continued its race-focus excellence. Because the horses are not easy to see on screen, the producers often u…

A Tale of Two Betting Menus

Horse racing's betting menu has grown by leaps and bounds the last several years. Over the past twelve months, we can see what racing has done in this vein, via a tweet from Crunk.

These numbers look somewhat compelling for those with a bullish view ("wow, look at the Jackpot bets!), but (according to Crunk), 82% of bets for racing come from WPS, Ex, Tri and Supers. So, this is a teeny bit biased.

What's pretty clear, though, is racing has pushed customers from the easier to hit to harder to hit bets. Worse, by pushing them into jackpot bets, these folks are not churning any money, and horse racing becomes a strange sunk cost endeavor.

While racing has stagnated and lost market share since 2006, sports betting on the other hand has not. By the end of this year, legal betting on sports -- without legislative change, or through an increase in distribution - will have increased about 90%.

While racing has pushed players into hard to hit bets, sports bettors avoid them in big…

Racing Club

Racing is an interesting club and frankly, kind of an exclusive one to get let into. Just this week we saw it again action.

First off, we had two horses pass away, one from a heart attack and one from a fracture, at Pimlico. People who were watching horse racing for the first time, and others who don't like the sport in the first place, sprang into action, tweeting and press releasing the tragedy, some of them for their own gain.

This was tough for Racing Club, so some club members rose to the occasion to hammer those people about their terrible bias. It just happened on TV. What about the food you eat. The other days of the year are just fine.

Later on in the week, Michelle Beadle - a woman that seems to make Racing Club go full-on #bringhomechrome - spoke out about not liking horse racing much. That was bad enough, but wow, she covered horse racing once and said she liked it. What a hypocrite.

Racing Club is a bit of an odd bird.

If a newbie likes racing, Racing Club likes them…

Canterbury Park Pushes the Right Buttons for Opening Weekend

Canterbury Park - the Shakopee, MN racetrack that lowered takeout's this season - had a very nice weekend opener. Friday through Sunday, handle was up over 30%, year over year.

Although the weather cooperated, and on-track wagering was up, it's still (by any measure) a super result for the track who had hoped to generate some buzz with simulcast players. Wagering outside the state via ADW and other racetracks was up 34%.

Canterbury debuted an HD signal (to a couple complaints on social media, mainly regarding the lack of visibility of the odds in full fields), and odds that update every ten seconds, giving players a pretty good experience for a smaller racetrack. They also flew in Katie Gensler to help with the two new candidates for paddock analyst, and the pre-game show had a professional feel.

The track catered to both its on-track and off-track customers by doing the right thing with the takeout decrease -- they promoted it. It's messaging is on the starting gate, the …

Preakness Headlines, Good and the Bad

This weekend's Preakness Stakes card (and the accompanying Black Eyed Susan card) produced great numbers. Considering the weather on Saturday, this was a little surprising. However, as we've been seeing for some time now, big stakes days (not just in the US, but in the world) keep growing.

I found the race itself entertaining, with Exaggerator cashing in for the slop players with a very nice middle move and victory. Nyquist, game as he always is, never gave up while racing on the pace. He's a really good horse. 

What was not so nice was the fact that two horses on the card perished. When such a thing happens on big days, we tend to forget the horses rather quickly, because the conversation makes a quick and predictable veer -- Those who knee jerk and try to make hay that racing is cruel, and those who push back, trying to protect the industry while being completely tone deaf.

In a lot of cases, it really is as banal and transparent as:

"Wow, we had 135,000 people sh…

Betfair's First US Harness Racing Exchange Card Starts Slow

Last evening the Saturday card at the Meadowlands was available to players at Betfair for the very first time. The impetus for this, as you all know, was the passing of exchange wagering in New Jersey.

Although some of the races were tradeable, with strong favorites, the volume of players seemed to be very weak. I was quite disappointed with the liquidity, because liquidity is a staple of the exchange, and, in my view, this should've been taken into account, with the use of many market makers.

When I wrote a white paper back in 2008 about betting exchanges for harness racing in North America (in this case, Canada), I typed the following as a main plank of their success or failure:
III - "A Market" -- Market makers must be employed, or core traders must be offered a low (or no) takeout on the condition of making a tradeable market. If a stock is bid 10 cents and ask 50 cents, no shares will trade. It's the same with horses.  It's really not that difficult to achi…

The Kentucky Derby Coverage Needs a Reboot

As most know by now, the ratings for the Kentucky Derby were down from last year and the lowest since 2012. When the ratings come down, industry folks, folks on the twitter or the facebook, or commenters to stories look for reasons. Those reasons usually begin and end with not liking Johnny Weir, a dislike of hats, or lamenting interviews of some star who likes a horse because he's named after his first puppy.

This ain't one of those posts. I have, frankly, no idea why the Derby ratings were down. It's probably just random.

What I do take issue with is the Kentucky Derby race coverage.

Pop Quiz: Find me Tom's Ready in the screen grab below.

For any sporting event, whether it be well-known ones like baseball, or football, or lesser known sports like hockey, the nets constantly have tried to improve the product so people at home can enjoy it more. We see first down lines, and umpire computer boxes, we see 360 replays in HD, we see every stat imaginable.

For the Derby we …

Frankly, Stronach Doesn't Give a Damn

Frank Stronach has tried the Wizard, quadruple quadrefecta's (or double superfecta's, I can't remember), energy drinks, politics and I'm sure one hundred other things. He's been called some funky names - both good and bad - but he keeps right on plugging.

His latest iteration - let's call it Frank three point oh - involves a $12 million race at Gulfstream. The "Pegasus World Cup" is a race where 12 owners will place hold a spot in the gate by ponying up $1 million each. The winner will receive $7 million, and all entrants below the top three will receive $250,000.

Frank is spicing up the offer - he'd darn well need to, because most will lose the average price of a house in Toronto, Seattle, um, Boise - by offering owners a kicker:

"In addition to the prize money, participants would share in 100 percent of the net income from pari-mutuel handle, media rights and sponsorship.", notes Paulick.

With say $10M in handle, which about 10% (one…

Customers Are Pretty Low on the Totem Pole

There seems to be a lot of confusion and consternation about Churchill's "sick 6", as Steve Crist framed it. It's new to some people, some don't know the rules, some are just plain upset. Some had no idea they even did this to last weekend's pick 6 pool.

But is this anything new?

When a takeout is hiked, or a bet has money taken out of a pool at a 49% clip like last weekend, the customer is usually the last to know. It's just plain wrong.

Banks in most countries, by law, have to provide written notice of any hidden changes 60 days or more in advance, several times, including ugly pop ups on online banking. Some are even made advertise a change. Monopolies or oligopolies like power companies have to do similar. Anything with a public, or public trust link is held to a pretty high standard by consumers.

In racing, when Woodbine creates a new bet with a high takeout like the pick 5, they are not required to print it on the program, or advertise it on the TV …

Jersey Exchange Thoughts, Churchill's Pick 6 Pushback & Tuesday Notes

Betfair's first foray into America begins today in New Jersey. The betting exchange, which has been beta'd for a few weeks, has seemed to come off without a glitch.

Reviews from beta users have popped up - here's one that's a very good read - and I have heard privately from other newbies who have been more than interested in this (to them) new way of betting the races.

Racing in North America is married to an old system; exotics etc, so the learning curve is likely steep for many. In other parts of the world, where fixed odds wagering has been going on for centuries, this form of wagering was kind of old hat. Because racing's customers skew older, and change is something that isn't embraced, it will be interesting to see how many try the new system. That's really the biggest question for me.

As a user since 2003, I can without equivocation say, trying it is a no-brainer. I can also say, the pari-mutuel handle I have placed into Thoroughbred racing since 200…

Annual Post-Derby Derby Ramblings

Good Monday everyone. Here are some thoughts about Saturday's Derby, in my usual rambling fashion that somehow a few of you get through every year.

The Menu, and racing, was a feast.....

I thought the race office put together two marvelous racing cards for both the Oaks and the Derby. It wasn't short-field star studded, with some trap races placed in the serials, it was, from top to bottom, amazingly enjoyable to handicap. Although the handle per race was down for both cards (more later), gold stars all around, from this handicapper.

Although I saw a few tweets Friday about problems with admission, it appeared things ran rather smoothly at the track. Perfecting a big event with so many people is difficult, but it incrementally gets better year after year.

Tepin's win was awesome. The turf racing was especially interesting. It was a grand day(s) of racing. 

Narratives busted (until next year at least).......

Cathryn Sophia could not get the distance... whoops maybe she could…

Derby 101 – Your 2016 Kentucky Derby Glossary

You, me, and the six or seven other readers of the blog all know the so-called “Derby lingo”. We’ve heard many Derby-centric words, phrases and themes since we were knee high to grasshoppers. We live horse racing, we know horse racing and we are horse racing.

Meanwhile, out in the real world, where people watch those little people shows on TLC, make preserves and find soccer interesting, they know very little.

It’s always been a main goal of the blog to promote the sport with newbies. So, once again this year we will examine Derby Lingo as a customer service, and we submit the following glossary. Enjoy!

“Mint Juleps” (alt, julip), noun – A mint julep is a drink people order at the Kentucky Derby. They're not consumed anywhere else, because, frankly, they don’t taste very good. In effect, they are horse racing’s version of egg nog.

 “The Trainer Interview” – You will read, hear and watch a lot of trainer interviews. These are simply questions asked by someone that the trainer ha…

Derby Handicapping - Final Bathing Index ® Figures & Selections

As most know, we've worked hard this week on our popular Annual Derby Bathing Index ®. The crack team and I have been hot and heavy, looking at pictures, seeing the baths live, and watching video.

The original bath post (here with live bath shots and early analysis) received almost 1.2 million unique visitors, which is just short of the traffic my blog gets when I write a post mentioning Sid Fernando.

I must say, the traffic never ceases to amaze me, but with the past success of the Derby Bathing Index ® I suppose I shouldn't be. For those new to the Index ®, it has produced winners like Mine That Bird, Monarchos, American Pharoah, Big Brown, Street Sense, Animal Kingdom, I'll Have Another, Orb, Super Saver and Smarty Jones (along with a few others) since we started in 2001. I'd link to the posts for verification, but I can't find them right now.

This year we feel will be another banner year for the Index, so without any more delay, here are this year's Final…


I find myself, as per usual, at odds with most of the general public when it comes to suspensions. I realize this happens time and time again, because my philosophy always lies in intent, and what said suspension accomplishes.

Last evening - this was a hockey game, but could be football, or any other contact sport - a Capitals defensemen leveled a check at another player, which - because the puck was nowhere near the player - was interference. The other player had no idea the hit was coming, and was concussed. It was scary, because injuries like that can hurt a career, or end one, and the kid is only 21.

The offender said he thought they were both making a play on the puck, and - like D men are taught - you take the body. The offender clearly screwed up, but there's no real intent - he'd have to be an idiot to intend to do that in a 0-0 game, giving a powerful team a power play, and maybe costing his team the game. In addition, if the hurt player did look up and brace, this is…