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Showing posts from February, 2016

USTA Meetings Are a Fascinating Exercise in Horse Racing Land

Hello racing fans!

I spent lunch watching the USTA meetings today. Two items they were voting on were the budgets ($120,000) for television and $250,000 for the reputation management, digital marketing and outreach program that has been going on for a few years.

In the end both things passed, which is probably a good thing.

As a sport, harness racing has been left behind badly in this vein. The Thoroughbreds have the NTRA, the Jockey Club and the Breeders Cup with dedicated budgets doing those things. The spend is in, or near the tens of millions. Individual racetracks have departments doing much of it, as well, and let's not forget the money spent marketing for big races, like the Triple Crown.

Little of the above money spent is measurable in terms of new betting dollars or new ownership - in fact, both of those metrics are down. However, they have played a role in i) keeping the sport in the nation's consciousness and ii) help when the sport gets hammered in state houses.

Ha…

PTP Downs, No Janet Jackson, But Some Good Stuff

Hello racing fans.

I noticed that the head prince of Dubai, or someone like him, announced that Janet Jackson (Miss Jackson if you're nasty) will be playing, or dancing, or singing ,or what have you, after the Dubai World Cup card.
Janet Jackson said: “I am excited to perform for the global audience at this year's Dubai World Cup. The entire Unbreakable company is looking forward to traveling with me to Dubai and being part of one of the world's most prestigious events.” With a ten million dollar purse, and Janet, I can only conclude that the recent reduction in price of Brent Crude is not overly affecting that part of the world.

This announcement is fresh off the heels of Daughtry being added to the Belmont Stakes day card, which too seems to have a little cash from the slot machines to pay some acts.

At PTP Downs we might have slots like they do below in Pennsylvania, but the cash used from them will not go to concerts - well, maybe we'd set aside a few bucks fo…

"Ok, But What Are They Going to Think?"; Facebook, Others Try. Racing Needs to

Good day race fans!

Yesterday's pop quiz generated a little bit of discussion; mainly regarding the Gulfstream Park Super High 5 which did not have a winner - because only four horses finished and it was impossible to have a winner - that carried over to the next race.

There was the customer point of view (it's silly and unfair), versus the racetrack/insiders point of view (it's a rule!).

The point being made with the quiz, and in other facets of this blog, is that the relevant part of these things is that someone, somewhere makes a policy, or creates a rule, that never asks "what are our customers going to think about this?", before implementing it.

This is not only a racing phenomenon, it's seen in a lot of places.

Here's a machine for a multi-million dollar laser, used in heavy manufacturing (courtesy, this is broken, a TED talk).


For anyone who ever worked in a plant or mill, this is a common sight. The buttons that are used all day are smudged, and t…

A Pop Quiz & Monday Notes

Good day racefans!

Gun Runner won the Risen Star as the most logical play and win of the weekend. I get trying Airoforce on dirt early in the season, but I don't get 6-5 odds. Anyhoo, Airoforce is back to the green, and those who threw him out had a positive expectation bet.

Immediately after the race, as per usual, quotes from the winning connections flood the feeds. That's fine, they won. But it is a gambling game and I personally want to hear from the well bet losers. How was the horse traveling? Did he scope sick? Was his spinning his wheels, does he look to have come up sore? That almost never happens here.

In Australia, where it is more of a gambling game, it's commonplace for most races.

The Meadowlands, as you all know, often uses their trainer notes feature to discuss sub-par efforts. They are enlightening and informative most times.

#RIPMackLobell

Crowds at @SaratogaCasino when #MackLobell broke Nevele's Pride's world record. 1988. RIP boy. pic.twitter.com…

If You Don't Screw it Up, Handle Can Explode

I remember back many years ago when the Paulick Report was in its infancy; an article was written from the horseman's perspective about internet wagering and ADW's. It was the usual - they don't pay enough, there should only be one ADW controlled by horsemen, etc - and it spawned a response from horseplayers.

Paulick, never shy from using some interesting imagery, displayed a ram fighting another ram with the headline, "Horseplayers Lock Horns With Horsemen Groups", and printed the response from horseplayers .

The article talked about a few things, many of which you have seen typed here since 2008. Mainly, monopoly markets for internet wagering will not work, and high ADW taxes won't work. They inhibit competition, which stifles innovation, reduces player rewards, reduces advertising and customer growth spend, and sends players offshore.

That article didn't do much to sway opinion, of course.  Racing in North America has Virginia ADW taxes and fees (ironi…

The Dollar Flow Gives Industry Betting Narratives the Middle Finger

The system of capitalism seems to take a lot of hits in this social media world of late.

No matter what you think about it, it's been a system that has worked better than all others for a few reasons. It brings buyers and sellers together, sets prices and allows for a maximum number of transactions. People wanting to give you money helps you learn markets and pricing, allows you to serve that market and expand it worldwide better than any other company or industry can. The market doesn't have a degree from Wharton Business School, but it's smarter than any professor whose ever taught there.

David Purdon wrote an article at ESPN yesterday about "why do people hate DFS".  It's a great article that talks about the New York Times, politicians and lawyers, activists and others telling you, a consumer, how stupid you are to play into it. It was twitter-shaming times ten.

A funny thing happened. The market gave them all the middle finger. DFS handle grew at an almos…

Wednesday Notes, and Some Good Things in Interweb Racing Land

Hello racing folks. I hope everyone's day is treating them well.

Old-time racing has a lot of trouble understanding carryovers and their driving of handle. It's like it's one of life's great mysteries. I emailed the dude who plays Castle on Castle and he set me straight.

"Dean, carryovers excel for a few main reasons. First, and most obvious, price sensitive players with big bankrolls play them because they offer a takeout reduction. Some carryover pools are actually positive expectation bets, where more money is paid out than taken in. This is the holy grail for these players - in fact any gambler worth his or her salt - and these players will bet 400, 500 or 1000% more than usual. This is why "last flashes" on carryover pools are so amazingly huge. Second, with bigger pools there is at least a chance at a big payoff. Third, in the internet age, racing channels, twitter feeds and others have reported on them more and more, and players have caught the bu…

Racing's Short-Term Post-Drag Thinking, is Long-Term Deadly

Horse racing as a whole - and this isn't a surprise to anyone - possesses some short-term thinking when it comes to business strategy. We've seen it countless times, whether it be a short-term bump with takeout hikes chosen over the longer term gain of market share, slot deals written where almost all the revenue is transferred to track owners and purses, where a short-term bump in asset prices rules the day. It's just the way the industry thinks, and has for some time. This isn't anything new.

Unfortunately, the thinking permeates much deeper than that.

When businesses (in this case, tracks, especially smaller ones) are in a state of decline, desperation plays a role.

Harvard Business Review:

"Perhaps the worst kind of waning-industry environment occurs when one or more weakened companies ...... with significant corporate resources are committed to stay in the business. Their weakness forces them to use desperate actions........ their staying power forces other c…

Positive Tests for Dummies

By now you've heard that trainers Ron Burke and Julie Miller (and apparently others who have not been named) have been slapped with positive tests for a class 2 drug called Glaucine.

Glaucine - a medication that supposedly helps with breathing and/or bleeding - is reported by Harnesslink as a drug that New York authorities recently developed a test for, but there were positives in North America for the drug in 2012, so this is a little unclear.

At this point there's been nothing "official" from the New York authorities, and both trainers will be allowed to race.

Generally when these things come up we get the "innocent until proven guilty crowd", riding in on a high horse draped in an American flag, but that's misguided. Positive tests are not an episode of Perry Mason, they simply show something was in a horse that should not be. It's tantamount to a driving under the influence ticket. You might've been slipped a mickey, you might've been p…

Jersey Exchange Thoughts

In HRU this weekend, Bill Finley had some information on exchange wagering in Jersey, due out sometime this spring.

A few items:

It looks like it will start with in-running betting only. Curious move, but that's the plan.

There's no word from Finley on what tracks will be offered, or if it will be commingled with current tracks trading on betfair. The latter is obviously preferred.

The takeout is reported to be 12%.

The last point kinda sticks in the craw. I remember writing a white paper for exchange wagering in Canada back in '08 and one line was "as long as you do not try to price it at 10%, it has a good chance to help horse racing long-term." 10% leaves money on the table; 12% leaves even more.

I guess they didn't like my white paper.

The 12% want is, of course, linked to the current 15%+ takeout in win pools. If the takeout is too low on the excahnge, then people might leave the win pools, so the story goes.

Racing's obsession with not wanting to c…

"Secret Cultures" Are a No-No For Any Sports' Growth

The Guardian takes a big swipe today at the International Tennis Federation in a story, "How a Culture of Secrecy Aids Corruption"

"Tennis authorities can have no excuses for an opaque process that only serves to protect the sport's image rather than its integrity"

Further, "The idea that investigations should be conducted in the dark, shrouded in secrecy and accompanied by an air of paranoia and unease, can only add to the impression that the ITF is more concerned about the image of the sport than being seen to root out corruption without fear or favour."

This is a systemic strategy we've seen in horse racing from time to time. "Accentuate the positive", "nothing to see here, move along", the Sgt. Shultz method. It hasn't worked, and it won't work. It can never work; for three main reasons.

i) internal investigations, not releasing negative news, or spinning it in a positive, Pravda way, allows bad decisions to be un…

The Donn, Songbird, Big Margin Beyer Anger ®, Sports Betting and What Racing Can Learn From It

Hello racing friends!

Yesterday's Donn card was successful from a handle standpoint - around $20 million - and I thought it was deserved. It was a good deep card with a lot of interesting races. The public took a bath with the Pizza Man and Keen Ice both missing the board. The former I thought was flat again, the latter raced well, but was up against it. Both horses on paper were overbet, allowing regular players to find value, which is the name of the game.

As for Keen Ice, to me he feels like a really solid ten furlong horse, which is rare in the sport nowadays. I have always respected him and I hope he has a good year.

Songbird grabbed an easy lead, and strolled home against a suspect field at 1-9. Races like that - especially early season ones - often result in a fun horse racing phenomenon.

When we see a horse who should win easy, win by a large margin, most go giddy at the margin, and the dominance. Then - oh oh - the Beyer comes out weak. At that point we generally see an ap…

For Intermediary Change, Racing Needs a Civil War

The want for change is big in horse racing and it is probably talked about sometimes far too often (guilty as charged). But it is emblematic of an industry presently losing on both the demand (customers) and supply (horse owners) side. When a business is doing swimmingly there's no need for change, when it isn't, everyone wants it. Such is life.

If you aren't printing money - and horse racing is not - the kind of change, and how an industry needs to change is the most important variable to consider.

Professor Anita McGahan's Four Trajectories of Industry Change - Radical Change, Intermediary Change, Creative Change and Progressive Change - can help.

I would suspect most would say horse racing is in a radical change state, but it is not land lines, or hula hoops. What fits more for the sport is intermediary change.

Intermediary change is needed for industries that are in a state of flux; the core product or service is being threatened, but the assets and infrastructure…

A Little Buzz, Wet Blankets & Other Worldly Betting Volume

I think this was the year the NHC got it right.

I have watched, or wanted to watch and follow the National Handicapping Championship over the years and I found it was not easy. There were some (taped) interviews, the odd leader board and general data and coverage, but it was not in the least bit engaging. When compared to a trip to Hong Kong racing for some local tweeters, a horse racing 'event' with everyone's headwear on full display, and feature video on a stable pony who likes beer, it really was no comparison.

This year it was different. With some marketing money, a push to share the event via social media, and all hands on deck at racetracks where mandatory races were being raced, it was easy to follow. Dare I say, me and a lot of you were "engaged"?

Considering racing gets most of its revenue from betting, and trying to draw eyeballs to betting is important, this should not come as a surprise, but to me it did. It was well done. It showed that someone car…