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Showing posts from February, 2017

If #harnessracing is Afraid of the Answer......

There's a saying, apparently, from the legal community - never ask a question if you don't know the answer.

Today at the USTA meeting Jason Settlemoir put forth a motion that the USTA ask its membership the feelings on a question regarding slots and marketing. In a nutshell, it asked if a percentage of slot money should go into a slush fund to be spent on marketing and ancillary items to promote and grow the sport.

When the 54 director votes were tallied, the score was 47 to 7..... against.

Yes, the leadership of an organization voted down, in a landslide, asking the grassroots membership a question. 

Sure this seems super-silly, but why they did it, I think, is an easy one. They knew that if they asked the question the answer would be a resounding "yes". Then all hell would break loose. They'd have to try and get that done.

If harness racing is afraid of the answers to questions, they don't ask them. That seems to be the mantra of the sport. And it's p…

The New York Times New "Anti-Trump" Ad Campaign Isn't Wrong, & Racing Can Learn From It

The New York Times is running their very first TV ad campaign.

The goal of the new campaign is to increase their paid subscription base. This base, with every Trump tweet against the NYT, grew in Q4. But despite the top-line growth, advertising revenue was down in Q4 by more than subscription revenue was up. They clearly need to build up the subscription base, in this chicken and egg corporate scenario.

A tweet caught my eye about this marketing spend, and it echoes something we hear in racing quite a bit:
What I don't get about the NY Times ad campaign is that it is targeted at its base audience and employees. Won't encourage any new converts. — Rory Cooper (@rorycooper) February 26, 2017 This is indubitably correct. They are absolutely preaching to the choir. But is that bad? Not in my view.

Currently there are many millions of 'soft readers' who completely agree with the Times editorial slant, who do not pay. Using Trump, "truth" and his tweets which sh…

The Number of Races Aren't as Important as You Think

'Spreading a product too thin' is something that major league sports, like the NFL, grapple with.

"For the 2016 season, that meant a total of 110 NFL television windows when you add up the three every Sunday, plus Monday nights and Thursday nights, Thanksgiving and Christmas, That’s more than the league has ever had before, and the ratings data suggest that some fans felt that football was spread so thin that they simply couldn’t keep up with it all.

The NFL may realize that’s a problem, and there are already indications that the league is looking at scaling back".

In racing we (obviously, look at field size numbers) spread much too thin, but there are clearly forces at play -- mainly about keeping the supply side humming.

However, and more broadly, there is a parallel to horse racing.

When we examine the monthly quarterly Equibase handle numbers, we may see a headline "Handle down 2%, races down 2%" and think everything is fine. But that's missing…

Survivorship Bias In Super Bowls; It's Why in Horse Handicapping We Need to Study the Losers

There, as often happens in sports, was quite the discussion about play calling, play execution, and just about everything else after the Falcons blew their massive lead on the weekend in the Super Bowl. This is, generally, what we as sports fans do when something weird like this happens.

"If team X [ran the ball], [passed the ball], [killed clock] etc, they would have won the game!"

Maybe if one or two of those things happened, yes, this startling win might've not occurred, but this analysis sometimes has a built in error with something called Survivorship bias. This is, from Wikipedia: "the logical error of concentrating on the people or things that "survived" some process and inadvertently overlooking those that did not because of their lack of visibility"

We see the success of something (a big comeback) and start attributing, because the success is apparent. What we don't see is the times this success was not achieved (in this case, say for e…

The Horse Can't Lose

Mark Cramer's book, Value Handicapping, was the first book I ever read about making odds lines. It provided me with a good gambling lesson, namely, anything is possible. If you have a horse in the race, that horse - somehow, someway - never has a zero chance to win.

For casual football fans that lesson was proven yesterday, when the New England Patriots came from an impossible spot (about a 1% chance in the 3rd quarter) to win the Super Bowl.

Yes they needed a lot of 'luck' that involved a lost fumble (it's about a coin flip on who recovers one), a catch that could not be caught three times if you threw it a thousand times, an actual coin flip in OT (not even giving the other team a chance at a score) and about ten other things. But, they had a "chance".

When something weird happens we tend to see a lot of this:

Somehow, a series of fortunate or unfortunate events (depending on your perspective) resulting in a surprising result, gets turned into "the mat…

Packaging the Derby Preps

There were three Derby preps yesterday, which is always nice for fans. Two of the races had potential superstars, and one had the top seeded Derby horse in training. Even though it was early in the season, when we should take results with a grain of salt, I don't think anyone was disinterested in the preps.

What I often wonder is, why weren't the preps packaged in a way where, say, the three races are raced in sixty minutes? With this timing tweak, TVG, XBTV, and major track signals could show all three preps at proper intervals in packaged form. A one hour Derby prep "show" with three scheduled races seems to me to be effective marketing for this sport (or any sport). It would probably increase handle in each of the races, as well.

As a sport, I think the Derby (through Churchill Downs Inc.) does things better than most. But I don't think the sport can't do better. Always improving is at times elusive, but should always be a goal. In a sport like horse racin…

Progress in the Sport - We Learn Things if You Let Us

The Pegasus' timing was wrong. How do we know? Because some people - not employed by Gulfstream or Equibase or any alphabet - had access to video, and the brains to decipher what they were seeing.

10 or 15 years ago no one would've even known.

Meanwhile, January's handle numbers were released.

Hold it, who is the person with the funny avatar? Where are the real numbers, the ones from the industry?

They're not being published until the quarter is over.

Reporting of handle has progressed, and it's gotten better, but it's not coming from the industry. Social media discussions, and some (like o_crunk) with access to the numbers, have provided that progress. We are smarter because of it.

As above, we don't need a degree in statistics to figure out that January was a decent month for the sport, with the tracks in the middle down a wee bit.

This industry data has still not been unleashed; it's really been about one or two people doing some datamining. But thin…