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Showing posts from July, 2017

There's Big Day Racing & Really Big Day Racing

I noticed the Haskell card checked in yesterday with over $12M in handle, up around 7%. That's a pretty good number, and the race was excellent.

That $12M in handle, though, represents only a sliver of total handle for the Monmouth meet. It's that way with most big events in North America, outside the Derby I suppose. 

Down in Australia, I noticed a figure or two which I found eye opening.

The Cox Plate, Melbourne Cup and Caulfield Cup races attracted over $1B in total handle last year, representing 44% of total handle for the entire meet.

The overall spring meet is good for betting customers - a field size of 10.9 with good pool size, as well as plenty of ways to play, like fixed odds and exchanges. But to have near half of the volume on the three big events is formidable.

I've often believed that mature gambling markets are a leading indicator for North American racing. Big days have been big in these markets for a long time. The US and Canada are catching up, but maybe…

DRF Purchasers Look at the Blue Sky

After what was rumored to be a great deal of time, the DRF finally sold. Details of the deal were not announced, but speculating, it was likely for less than the (again) rumored $100M asking price.

Being a private company, it's very difficult for us to value the DRF based on discounted cash flow. What we do know about their cash flow, however, is that it relies primarily on PP sales, advertising and a margin on each dollar bet. All three of those things are not high growth. In fact, a probable argument can be made that at least two of three are in or approaching a negative growth phase.

What appears to interest this new group are a couple of characteristics that could be blue sky:
“The big opportunity for us is to digitize the print side of the business, which the former owners started to do—it's expensive and there is still a way to go to make it fully function, and then the online gaming offering,” said Z Capital Group CEO James Zenni On the surface it looks like the plan…

Forget Phelps Versus Shark.....

Proving man versus shark racing ain't dead, I, like many of you were watching Discovery's made for TV match race between Michael Phelps and a Great White Shark on Sunday. Although some people were clearly disappointed Michael Phelps did not race an actual man eating fish in the open ocean, the rest of us were pretty satisfied with the spectacle.

Discovery Network clearly used the event to push "Shark Week" on its network, and feels it's good for ratings.

That got me thinking, in horse racing, actual horses race actual horses thousands of times a year. Even though wiener dog races are the bomb, I feel the sport can do better to promote the sport.

One way, in my view, is to offer some match races of our own. Here are a few of my ideas. I hope you like them.

Match Race : Andy Serling against Someone He Blocked on Twitter

This race might help attendance, and we all know how much Chris Kay likes butts in the seats. This would not be a one-off race, because Andy has blo…

The Numbers are Great! No, They're Bad. They're Great!

Del Mar's attendance was reported down about 20% yesterday for their opener. Handle was down as well.

The sky is falling. But at least no horses died.

"A safely run racing day more than offset a downward spike in on-track attendance on opening day."

Other things that more than offset a loss of attendance:

A North Korean rocket didn't hit the San Diego Naval Yard.

E-Coli was not discovered in the Del Mar drinking fountains.

There were no (reported, at least) floppy hat injuries.

I kid. But often this represents analysis in horse racing.

Attendance could've been down for a hundred reasons - a Wednesday with something else going on, people waiting to see Arrogate on Saturday (attendance will then be up and everyone can stop hand wringing), or a big sale at Jim's Jumbo Burger. Who knows.

Horse racing's use of statistics, are in my view, so rudimentary and knee-jerk, it's no surprise we learn nothing from them.

I think that probably will have to change, es…

Racing's Forever Shifting Goal Posts

When I wrote "Why Lowering Takeout Increases Handle 100 out of 100 Times" recently, I did so because talking about injecting betting capital into a system that needs it (to spur end-user demand) is a conversation worth having. I must confess, I did it for another reason - to see, from those who are pro-status quo and don't like to talk about racing's high juice, where the goal posts would shift to.

What I saw, I must also confess, surprised me a little. I knew some shift would occur, because being 'anti-handle growth' in a game we love is not a warm place to be publicly or intellectually. But I did not expect the posts to move so forcefully into the argument that, yes, handle will go up, but not up enough to make more money.

I see it more and more as times goes on. It's not about increasing short term end-user demand anymore. It's about increasing short term handle, and making more short term profit.

Why did these goal posts shift so much the last few…

Racing's Legacy Business & a Closed Mind

About 30 years ago now I worked summer vacation in a meat plant. My Saturday job was, generally, to be a garbage man - clean up the plant and and make trip after trip, dumping whatever I was cleaning into the incinerator. The plant was not 24/7, and on weekends I was all alone. To make the time pass, and since I had no one to talk to all day, I - under the hard hat and parka - had my ear buds in and I'd listen to music.

One day, the union rep came in for something and flagged me down. He saw the ear buds. He shook his head and said, "kids today."

Fast-forwarding 30 years, I was out last week on the lawn tractor cutting the neighbor's lawn. He was in an accident at work and hurt his ribs, so I figured it'd be a nice thing to do. Dutifully I grabbed my blackberry (hey, don't judge) and ear buds and while mowing streamed music.

An older person in his 70's walked by and saw me. He told me later, "You kids today. Electronics on a lawn mower ....."


Do You Think You Can Beat the Races? Here's Your Test

In horse racing you'll find a lot of opinions, some of which are right, wrong or debatable. One that is considered an immutable law of racing, however, is that winning long term is very hard; so hard in fact, that without lower takeout through rebate, I'd submit only a handful of people could ever hope to beat the rake.

What makes the game more difficult than ever, in my view, is that yes, information is more flowing now, and fields are shorter which makes chalk more formidable. But more than that, one piece of truth has been harder than ever to test -- if you can't win while betting only the win pool, you don't have enough skill to beat exotics. Exotics are everywhere, and for newer players they're a black hole of bankroll death because the rake is high, and ticket structure (along with keeping your wits about you through inevitable bad losing streaks) is a learned skill. You can, and will, lose money faster than ever before.

With that, I was perusing the interweb…

When You Can't Find New Customers, Go After Someone Else's

Crunk >
It may be smart but it's also tacit acknowledgement, along w/ Ritvo's recent comments, that only growth comes from stealing comps customers. — o_crunk (@o_crunk) July 4, 2017 This seems to be the crux of the entire sport of horse racing right now - not expanding the tent but inviting people from other tents into theirs as a measure of success.

Each day, you and I as regular players see examples of it.

Why do tracks post drag? Is it because focus groups discovered that sports bettors have a deep attraction to watching a flashing zero for eight minutes? Maybe it's because new fans love watching horses walk around in a circle behind the gate; it brings them back to their whimsical youth when they liked the merry go round at the county fair.  In this delirious state, high-level racing researchers discovered that endorphins in the brain are released which makes them want to wager.

The jackpot bet arms race sure doesn't appear to be something that is attracting…

The Changing Horse Racing Rebate World

DeRosa did a little bit of 4th of July tweeting today on the twitter:
Parx was the third-most popular signal yesterday, but keep telling me how important takeout is to horseplayers — Ed DeRosa (@EJXD2) July 4, 2017 He's generally right when it comes to casual players, of course. Four team parlays at terrible juice are still popular in sports lotteries around the world, because people are playing to be playing. No player alive can bet into Parx juice (other than maybe spot playing) and end the year up money, but it still attracts some handle.

What's not quite correct about the Parx numbers - and this has been true forever - is that Parx still does decent handle because of low takeout. At the present time, a large player doesn't pay 30% for supers, he or she pays about 9% - rebates for Parx are in the 21% range for serials.

Without that low takeout, Parx's handle is in the toilet. I doubt they'd do more than $700,000 a day.

This has been a phenomenon we've see…

Penn National Trump Tweets

In case you hadn't heard, there was a trial last week in federal court regarding Penn National trainer Murray Rojas, and the verdict came down:
 A Pennsylvania-based trainer has been found guilty of "misbranding" animal drugs and related conspiracy counts after a split verdict in a long-running, high-profile case involving alleged race-rigging at Penn National. However, a federal jury on Friday cleared trainer Murray Rojas of the most serious charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which could have left her facing jail time. The result is fairly straightforward: those trainers (and despite what you may read in the racing press about this, there are many) who use raceday meds - through prerace or otherwise - should be on the lookout for Elliot Ness. However, proving pure fraud which will land you in the big house is pretty hard to do. Still, the case clearly shows that things have changed. Business as usual in some barns isn't business as usual…