Skip to main content


Showing posts from June, 2016

Churchill's Pick 6, Same Stuff, Different Day

Last evening a gal, or guy, had two horses going into the last leg of the Churchill Jackpot pick 6 for an entire pool shot. If either horse gets up (both were pretty long), this person or persons walks away with three quarters of a million dollars; yep 750 large. This is a life-changing score to any customer, and it's why many of us play the game.

He or she never had a chance.

A cell moved through, and the race was cancelled. The bet carries over to tomorrow.

The Churchill pick 6, seeded with Derby money, has enough bad press already, but this one, frankly, takes the cake. In all my years in this sport, as an owner, breeder and bettor I've seen some crazy things that have worked against the people who pay for purses, but I don't think I've ever seen anything as callous as this towards the sport's customers. The race was cancelled, without any planning, foresight, or even a modicum of respect.

This is not a question of being upset a race is cancelled because of we…

We Like Who We Like. Data and Gambling Outreach

This week there are rumors (probably true rumors) that Hockey Night in Canada is replacing the young, hip anchor George Stroumboulopoulos with the (older, more generic) anchor he once replaced, Ron MacLean.

"Strombo" was tapped for the job when Rogers paid billions for the rights to the NHL a couple of seasons ago. Rogers wanted to expand the base, go younger (where have we heard this before?) and attract new viewers, so they made the hire, and the fire.

Traditional viewers (and in Canada, traditional hockey viewers are pretty much everyone) seemed to enjoy Ron MacLean. He knew hockey and we knew hockey. That resonated.

How much it resonated might surprise some (it surprised me).

Here's a poll from Toronto's largest newspaper, asking if hockey fans liked the move back to MacLean or not.

Those numbers are insane.

Hockey fans do not want newbies asking questions, they want questioners who know the game asking questions.

This is not too dissimilar to a take in Awful Ann…

Gambling Growth; "Banning" People from the Sport

The Olympics in Rio are slated to go in less than two months, and Russian Track and Field athletes are under a blanket ban due to doping inquiries. A window was left open, however, for athletes that can 'prove their innocence.'

In the U.S. there's a current discussion about putting people on a list who may or may not have done anything wrong and denying them a constitutional right. Some might find this similar. The big difference of course is that the Olympics is a club not a country.

Some may say horse racing is not a right either, but oftentimes the lines are blurred. A trainer may get caught with a drug program in full force, weeks later his son takes over the barn like nothing happened and the horses are allowed to race. "A right to make a living", the lawyers tell us; and they have a point, because racing's quasi-public/private relationship is real. 

To me and many of you, though, that's like banned Russian athletes training with the head of the dop…

Canterbury Park's Handle Report Card, So Far

I was asked a couple of months ago what I thought Canterbury Park's handle would do this season. As most know, the Minnesota racetrack announced a takeout reduction; from the low 20's in exotics to 18%, and 17% to 15% in the straight pools.

The answer I gave was "I don't know." It's a small track, with small pools (where there is a struggle to get noticed) and the landscape for smaller racetracks this year has been soft. With so many factors at play I simply had no real guess.

What I can say, however, is the little track has been doing the right things, and bettors have been responding.

Although it is problematic to analyze micro results, or to get too concerned day to day - for example, I wondered why handle was off Saturday, but there was a $150,000 bridgejumper in 2015, and Saturday of 2016 was a quarterhorse day - we do have some data:

Currently from 2015, the track's Thoroughbred handle is up by about 4%. Its per entry handle is up about 10%.


Belmont Day Thoughts

Yesterday's Belmont, as you all know by now, went to Arkansas Derby winner Creator. Exaggerator, the 7-5 chalk, faltered after a wide trip and was no threat.

Creator earned a 120 TimeformUS figure for his effort. Destin, a nose back, earned a 121.

Creator, not-coincidentally, was the horse the 'rabbit' (Gettysburg) was entered for, in a bit of old-time horse racing skullduggery. Not soon after the race, Gettysburg was transferred back into the barn of the original trainer; the trainer who noted he would not get 12 furlongs. Then later on, apparently Toddster told them to take a hike.

While that all happened, the sport yawned with its favorite line - "it's part of the game" - while the rest of the world looked on wondering what kind of insider game they're up against when they lay down their $2.

Creator's rider - Irad Ortiz Jr. - gave the big grey a masterful trip, saving every inch of ground like a real pro. It likely made the difference because Dest…

Number 9

Gordie Howe, "Mr. Hockey" passed away today, at age 88. Throughout the world (and in Canada especially) the man was a true sports legend.

Number 9 played in a time that many people who watch the sport today are unfamiliar with. The game was nowhere near as fast, and players with skill, or moxy, or pure smarts could dominate the game, and make it incredibly entertaining.

Gordie Howe was not as gifted a scorer as many would think, but he played the game with such vigor, he was a game changer. Nicknamed "Mr. Elbows" for his prowess in the corners, he would intimidate opponents, come up with the puck, over and over again, setting up goal after goal. He was the quintessential power forward; a Gordie Howe hat trick - a goal, assist and a fight - carries his name.

For many, it's when hockey was hockey.

Horse racing (to many of us) brings back similar memories.

Remember in the 1980's (or before that for many of you) having to head to the track to see a star horse?…

Dazed and Not-So-Confused

Trainer (this is apparently the story; no one is really talking much) fails drug test > his horse is scratched > racing becomes dazed and confused.

I don't blame anyone for being a little upset about this. Although we know nothing about this case in particular, probable trace elements of THC are not the be all and end all in this world, and will likely be perfectly legal in 50 states and 10 provinces at some point during our lifetimes.

But, from the information we do know, I'm not a bit confused.

State run enterprises and their employees are usually under such rules because drugs like THC are still (for the most part) against the law. In addition, working with 1,100 pound animals in a dangerous environment poses particular risks. Drug, alcohol and other rules will be enacted and continue to be enforced in the sport, whether the product is legal or illegal.

Because the laws are on the books, NY State had zero choice in their enforcement of it. In the super-litigious U.S. …

The Small State-Small Track Conundrum

There was some news out of Michigan horse racing today. A bill passed the House that would outlaw all internet wagering in the state on horse racing. For those who use a letter in front of someone's name to decide whether to cast blame or praise, well, you can't do that in this case, because the vote was 104 to 4.

The reason is the same given for passing many policies such as this, falling revenues.
From a high of nine tracks in the state, only two remain — Northville Downs and Hazel Park Raceway — and staying in business has been a challenge. In 1999, horse racing generated $13.2 million in revenues to the state on wagers of $416 million and boasted of 42,300 jobs across the farms and tracks. By 2015, according to the state’s annual horse racing report, those revenues had shrunk to $3.5 million on wagers of $106 million. Although this is clearly anti-consumer - through restricting choice and increasing prices - most industries who lobby for such policies, do so because there…

My Top Innovators in Horse Racing

It's often said innovation in horse racing doesn't happen much, if at all. It's said the business is too constrained for innovation; fiefdoms control much of the signals, video, data, and just about everything else, causing an environment that is 'innovationless'.

I won't argue that's, at least in part, true.

But, commentator, physicist and author Peter Diamandis once said, 'Companies have too many 'experts' that block innovation. True innovation comes from perpendicular thinking.'

You can still think in perpendicular fashion, despite being blocked. There are certainly some in the sport who think without shackles. 

Here are a few people and/or organizations that I think have been trying to innovate in the sport of horse racing. I'm sure there are others, but these ones, over the years, have caught my eye.

Mark Midland -- Mark is the man behind Derby Wars and Horse Racing Nation, after a career at Youbet. Mark is always trying to think of…