Saturday, January 26, 2008

Hugh Mitchell, 4 bucks for 10k, and More

Some news and notes from the world of racing that I found interesting.

Mitchell, who runs Western Fair Raceway and is a long-time horse exec, was interviewed by Bev Smith in Toronto's Globe and Mail. The story ran today. It was titled "Wagering Under Siege" and detailed most of what we know - that is, handle is in the toilet.

Canadian harness racing enjoyed its peak year in 2002. But the drop since then has been precipitous. Wagering on standardbreds in Canada is off 36 per cent in the past five years, 33 per cent in Ontario and 28 per cent at tracks run by the Woodbine Entertainment Group. That's a drop of about $310-million in Canada, $236-million in Ontario and almost $130-million at WEG.

Yes folks, that is an over one third wagering drop since 2002. When we speak here, and offer our opinion we have said how slow racing is to address issues of negative growth. With slots I think it is hard for it to change, simply because alternative cash is coming in.

Let's look at the difference between racing and the real business world. Last week the markets were weakened by signs the US economy is slowing. Notice I said slowing - they are still growing - but not as fast. Within the next 72 hours people started moving and got their butt's in gear like a sprinter out of a starting block. The gun sounded, and off they went: A large fiscal stimulus package was announced and a huge cut in the fed funds rate was achieved through an emergency meeting to handle the monetary side.

Now let me ask you, how can an entire country move into action within 72 hours of bad news, but we can't get our butts moving after 5 years of bad news?

Take a read of my Breeders Crown 2010 post below and the comments of "this can never happen" for reference on how we kill ourselves in racing.

Scott Rowe, who runs SHOP a group of owners concerned about the future of racing let's his thoughts be known on the new rules set-down by the ORC this week. I disagree with nothing he has to say. If you are a horse owner who wants to join SHOP, you can at their website here.

I was working and watching Woodbine Harness Thursday night. After the ninth race I saw the pick 7 actually went. This is a rare occurrence in the absence of a carry over. I wondered who hit that? Sure it was mostly favorites and it was hittable, but we see these almost always come in at 5 or 6 of 7.

Well, a poster on's discussion board hit it. He played..... are you ready....... a $4 ticket. It was structured like this: 17-4-27-8-6-1-6. Not bad for $10,000 cool ones, huh? Congrats! He posted an interesting tidbit throughout the last few days. Only two of 35 races were won by horses over 6-1 since Monday. It was a nice time to take a favorite pick 7!

Do you ever see a thoroughbred coming off a 500 day or more layoff, and get bet off the board due to his class drop? Maybe the horse was really good, had an injury and then comes back in the basement? Since he is even money people must be "in the know", correct?

Well no, not really. Jeff Platt from Jcapper ran a database of such starters and for the first start back they are pretty bad bets. What about second start back, when the horse adds fitness? No, bad bets there too. Courtesy of Jeff:

1st start off a one year layoff: W% - 6.7% and ROI is 0.39
2nd start: 8.7% and 0.47

They seem to get their legs in the 4th, 5th or 6th start back, where ROI approaches even. As always, this is not a blanket statement, and if you or I go bet something against a 1-5 shot off a 365 day layoff and lose, remember this is what happened overall, and is not necessarily an indication of things going forward. But having said that, I will chuck 1st start back off long layoffs and add that to my betting.

Let's boycott, says harness horsepeople at Freehold. I can't muster a thought.

A poster below asked for some other handicapping posts. First off thanks for reading and second: No worries, we'll get to them. I also want a friend who is a professional to write a thing or two up. I think people would find it interesting. Over the next while we will take a crack at several things, including money management, bankroll sizes, losing streaks, horizontal bet ticket structure and whatever else we can come up with.

Also, I am chatting with a few fellas who are playing at the National Handicapping Championship at Red Rock in Vegas. I hope to pop up some stories from them. I think it is an interesting tournament. Trot magazine did one up here for harness. They tried some things and made it (from what I saw) pretty cool. Let's hope that grows. If you are interested in joining the Trot contest for harness and live in Canada, keep your eyes peeled for it this coming year. Maybe soon I will put up some thoughts on what tweaks I think can be made to make it better for players and grow the contest to get some good buzz started. When I do, I would like to hear comments on what you'd like to see, and if you are thinking of playing in it this year.

OK, enough rambling. I have to go construct a $4 pick 7 ticket for tonight.

Note: We got a great comment in the Breeders Crown section on the low rake/no rake bets in Australia. I did a google search and found some interesting things. I think this is worth chatting about. For those tracks who read the blog (I know, you really like me :)), if Australia can offer ZERO takeout on a bet, why can't we offer something for 5% or 10%, or even 12%?

I love your ideas about the Breeders' Crown, particularly the part concerning reduced rake.

In Australia during November, the Victorian and NSW TABs reduced the rake on quaddies to 0%. Yes, that's zero per cent. Quaddies are what you in North America call a pick four. This was heavily promoted and made widely known.

The pools for the quaddie on the main Saturday Thoroughbred meeting were regularly over $1 million on both totes. The TABs in both states are part of the same corporation but the pools are separate. Roughly speaking, betting on quaddies doubled.

I think this bears out your suggestion that punters will respond to reduced rakes if the racing is top quality and the betting options are promoted well.

To grow betting on Racing,we need reduced rake all the time. Pari mutuel betting is a great gambling product which is being priced out of the market and out of business all over the world.

I hope to read more of your thoughts and see this type of thinking implemented by racing administrators.

William Child

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