Saturday, February 28, 2009

Beware Useless Stats

"The team that scores the first goal has a better chance to win"
Hockey commentator

In horse racing I would bet dollars to donuts that I hear more bizarre statistics than I hear calls to the post. This is not the only sport/game where this occurs, for sure, but it is pretty prevalent. Gathering the Wind noted recently the stat that "no unraced 2 year old has ever won the Derby" (since some horse) and he correctly asked how big is the sample, how many even tried, what their odds were and so on.

Of course a two year old that is unraced would not be a likely starter for the Derby, and an unlikely winner. An unraced two year old has problems, has had time off, and very rarely would be lucky enough to be pointed to such a race. Ask any trainer what his Derby hopes are for a 2YO in the barn with a hairline fracture or growth problems - he'll say none - and it has nothing to do with his talent level. If by some chance the horse beats whatever problem he had, tears it up and looks like a contender (like Dunkirk this year), it is because he is. Dunkirk does not know he did not race in December of his 2YO year. He just knows he can run faster than anyone he has been up against so far. It's a useless statistic.

This goes on and on in racing and in the racing media.

On the eve of the NA Cup we might hear: "No son of "X" has ever won a North America Cup". I am pretty sure that no son of Twin B Champ has ever won the North America Cup and in fact, I don't think one has ever tried. But let's change this around. A son of Twin B Champ is in a NA Cup elimination. He wins the elim at 2-5 by six lengths in 146.0. Are you not going to bet him in the final because none of his offspring have ever won the race?

The "No BC juvenile winner has ever won the Derby" angle was one of my personal faves that was propagated in the press as some kind of jinx. Take any horse in October and place a line on them to win a race at a mile and a quarter in a 20 horse field seven months later. Fair odds are probably 80-1. There have been what, 25 BC Juvenile winners? If fair odds are looked at we might not see it for 50 or 100 or even 200 years and it would be a perfectly acceptable occurrence. Street Sense winning both should be considered lucky, not beating a jinx.

Brian Sears this year, and his 3rd or 4th rank in the Meadowlands driver standings has brought out some comments (and we see this with a lot of drivers and riders). Recently I saw (on a chat board) a handicapper say "boy Brian Sears is driving bad. He is not very sharp this meet." Because horses win races, drivers don't, one would rightfully assume something else must be at play for his lack of wins compared to last year - namely the stock he is driving. One quick check of the database shows that Brian has driven 60 less post time favourites this year compared to last. At his win rate with chalk of around 38%, that works out to costing him 22 wins. If he had driven the same amount of chalk for the hot barns he would arguably be ahead of last years win total. He is driving more than fine, just like he usually does. As we all know, when you are not first call on the first couple of barns you can not be the driving leader, and most of the time this is capricious. I am sure if he knew Casie Coleman would have a UTRS in the States like she has he would have been begging for the drives. Ditto a couple of other barns. If he landed those drives we would probably be reading on chat boards how hot Brian Sears is, and how he is putting on a driving clinic.

Statistics are there for us to use, but it does not mean we have to use them at face value. Dig, think, link, and look for causal relationships and we can understand them better (and be better handicappers).

If you answered the hockey commentator above (we hear that about 100 times a season) with- "What a useless stat. Of course they win more games, they are up one nothing" - you are ahead of the game. They might as well be telling us that a man with two legs has a better chance to win a foot race against a man with one.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Politicians (and posts) are Comical

I always tend to get a laugh from a GTW post.

Common Sense on Integrity

Recently the AAEP released their thoughts on racing, and how to put the horse first. Many of their recommendations I agreed with, some not so much, but I applaud the effort. One thing I do believe that we need to do better, and we don't need vets for this, (we need only racing) is apply common sense on integrity.

First off let's state a couple of things I believe are fact. 99% of people in this business want to win fairly. The one percent ruin it for everyone else. Horsepeople love their horses - most would not even get into the business or have it any other way. Sometimes those good people - the majority, get dragged down with the 1%, and I believe this is wrong. And I believe it is racings fault.

If a positive is announced - say a slight banamine overage where there was no intent whatsoever to cheat - there is a cry from virtually everywhere that the person "cheated". This is never, ever challenged. There is never, ever education that goes on after a positive like that. We just let everyone say that trainers cheated the public. All sides, horseman groups, tracks and commissions, should find a way to make sure the public understands that an overage, or a mistake, is not an intent to be the devil incarnate, or to hurt a horse.

Conversely, I think all sides should be against, and stand firm against the evil in the rare time it exposes itself. If it is proven beyond a doubt that Joe Blow jacked a horse with god-knows-what to steal from fellow owners and bettors, and mistreat his animal, he should be sent packing. No one wants to see a horse treated like a pin-cushion for financial gain. No one.

It is insanity that someone with snake venom that can kill drivers/jocks if a horse breaks down (not to mention kill a horse) might get six or nine months, and some puny two part per billion overage for a vitamin can get someone three months. And they are both called "cheaters".

How do we implement policies to make sure the public knows the difference and we help our game? I have a couple of ideas.

1) Employ an action plan on innocuous positives. We all know that during the off time a horse can be treated for literally dozens of things. Most with over-the-counter items (which are still illegal on race day in many cases). Educate horseplayers that horses are tested more than an olympic athlete for virtually everything. Educate them that when someone gets a penicillin positive they were not trying to cheat, they were trying to get a horse to feel healthy after getting an infection, and they treated him with respect. If Pete from down the road has a trace caffeine positive, educate the patrons that this had no bearing on the race he came third in. Tell them that the level of caffeine would not wake up a mosquito, but let them know that their money is so important to us, that this person still will receive a penalty. The commission rulings should be laser-like and filled with information, as well. The goal being - full transparency so the patrons feel confident - but details that say exactly what the positive is, and explain how/why that effects a horse. If the person did not mean to cheat - tell the patrons that! Let's change the mindset.

2) Make sure all the i's are dotted and t's are crossed for the nefarious violators. If someone was harming a horse, get rid of them. Good-bye, see you later, go work at Wal-Mart. Use your private property rights, your legal expertise, whatever you have to but just get rid of them. And to the horseman group, should it be of their satisfaction that they are guilty: stand with tracks and bettors against them, and do so publicly. Society can not stand when a horse, against his/her will is given something dangerous for financial gain. Get rid of these people and speak with one voice. They are bad for racing, and bad for horses.

I believe that horseman organizations, grooms, tracks, bettors, trainers and everyone else are on the same side. We get too bogged down in the details and we seem to think we can not handle the truth. Treat our patrons with respect by being transparent, and do likewise with horsepeople. Transparency and education can go a long, long way.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Original Capper

Blog writers can be quick hitters who are kind of lazy (i.e. me!). Others can write something magical, worthy of a spread in the Sunday Times. This is one of those. Colins Ghost's description and story on one of the original handicappers, PJ McKenna.

No wonder newspapers are having trouble nowadays.

h/t to Equidaily.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Canadian Gaming Summit - Wagering Conference

The Second Standardbred Wagering Conference has been announced. It is to be held in Windsor, across the river from Detroit. Too bad it was not held in football season as I am pretty sure delegates could show up a day early and get Lions tickets for a donation of a canned ham. C'est la vie, no Lions games this April.

There are some interesting topics this year which are sure to be full tilt.

No Holds Barred:
Bettors take on racetrack execs, tell it like it is for customers of harness racing and offer suggestions for the future of racing.

If some people I know at the track are invited there is a good chance there will be profanity. Horseplayers yell at TV screens. What in the heck are they gonna yell to a real live person? :)

True Confessions:
Exploring the industry’s systemic issues that prevent true progress in harness racing and exploring a new funding model that would benefit racetracks and horse people. Can we resolve the dysfunctional issues and move forward?

With all the acronyms in racing I think they'd need more than an hour just to introduce themselves. Should be interesting.

Outpacing the Runners
How harness racing can regain former customers that have turned to thoroughbred racing.

This one will be pretty cool I think.

So, some nice topics, which should yield some chatter. One good thing about the above program is that last years panels have been actually working on change. This year represents year two where updates on the proposed changes will occur. Let's hope they are changes for the better.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Your Inner Elwood

I have a post on money management to get up, because I was thinking about that recently with my bet sizing. I think it is a good time for a refresher. But this is still supposed to be a fun game, and it does not have to be cold-calculating thought all the time.

Lately if I am getting a square price on a bomb (my ROI on longer plays is fairly good) I have been betting more than usual. Sometimes it works out, often times it does not.

In betting, you have to bet within your means and with your hit rate as a consideration. But sometimes you just have to let it fly, and shoot for a score. It keeps you fresh and it gets the blood pumping.

The inner Elwood is not right very often, but when he is, it is pretty damn cool.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Oscars - Behind the Curtain

The Academy Awards were on last night. I did not see them but I figure it was a love-fest of back patting and a political speech or two telling people who live in Nebraska they are nuts. As most know, several of the awards are handed out behind the scenes, like 'Best Supporting Actor in a Short Film Made by Someone From the Lower Congo.' Those really get my blood pumping. I read Mary Forney's piece this morning about Oscar nominated horse films. I guess she missed some of the winners behind the curtain because she did not mention it. For those of you who have not seen, here is the list of awards handed out last night, beyond the glitz of the stage.

First, the nominees for best supporting actor in a horse movie.

"Don" in Hot to Trot

versus Joe Pesci in Easy Money

"Don" squeaked it out by a whisker.

Best Actor in a Horse Movie or Short. Unfortunately when all the other nominees saw they were against David Caruso, they all got scared and asked their name to be withdrawn. Caruso wins by acclimation.

Finally Best Picture. It was a tough battle between Phar Lap and Stanley Kubrick's The Killing. Since I have seen Phar Lap eleven times I was happy it got the nod.

In other minor news, some movie about a bunch of kids in India won some awards. I am not really sure it deserved it as the only movie I saw last year was Iron Man. It was shut out, and it is a shame Downey did not win best actor. He was the bomb in Iron Man.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Believe Me!

In horse race betting, in my opinion unlike any gambling game, people tend to not believe others who win. This is expected because so few actually make money betting racing, but also because the internet has given so many kooks a forum for lying about their wagering. As we have mentioned before there is a bettor in the UK playing racing, and documenting his daily balances. But a funny thing happened. Because there are many ways to doctor betting data and screenshots, there are some out there who do not believe the kid.

But technology is cool. He found a way to up his credibility - a video of his betfair interface.

For the record, the lad is doing quite well. He is up around US$60,000 so far in 2009. Better than I am, that's for sure.

Friday, February 20, 2009

You Can't Be a Customer

When I was young(er) and foolish(er) (a few years ago) I was shopping for an ADW. I saw a guy wearing a You Bet hat. I said to myself, "this looks cool. I will try them." I called. I could not be their customer because of where I lived. I then tried another that I saw. No sorry, I can not be their customer.

This goes on and on in racing. People calling and wanting to be a customer and being told that they can not be. "You will take what we give you and like it or you will not play racing!" seems to be the mantra. I am not the only one. It seems if you live in a state which does not allow it, own a pit bull as a pet, once voted for Barry Goldwater, or were caught with a cheat sheet in grade 4 math class in 1977, you are not allowed to bet racing.

Want a glimpse of the pure unadulterated insanity regarding this? Click here for customer requirements from a popular ADW (of course the nonsense has nothing to do with the ADW, it is the business which makes it this difficult). After reading it I feel like someone is going to spring a pop quiz on me, or perhaps they are playing a cruel joke. One thing I know what I don't feel like when I look at that mess - a customer.

Marketer Seth Godin explores this in a simple yet poignant piece called "Sorry you can't be a customer."

Here's the thing: From the rational consumer's point of view, this is silly. They should take my money and we'll both be happy.

Racing is not exactly healthy. We should not be turning people away, but each day it happens. If racing is not going to work on fixing much of this, Seth is correct with his premise that we need to be able to turn them away with a plan. A customer could walk in your door tomorrow and be a million dollar bettor, and over a lifetime supply you with revenue to run 10 North America Cups. He/she should be respected the moment the "can I be your customer" question is asked.

Monopolies can do this. An energy company in Alaska is needed by everyone, or folks would probably be pretty cold. I am sure they can be a little non-customer centric. Racing is not one. I hope we come to terms with it soon.

Old Headlines

A web archive of Equidaily from August of 2002. Check out the headline. Eerie.

Oh, and of course one from here. Glad I changed the blog. The first month was hard on my eyes. But I still can't help wondering if Woodbine's Sunday racing would have been more successful in 2009 if what we had offered out way back in 2007 was tried.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

$18 Million and One Body

The V75 carryover hit close to $19M. I think they go Wednesday's. Anyone hear if it was hit, or was this a carryover to this Saturday? I tried reading a Swedish harness racing program. I might as well be betting on yak racing. I have no idea what is what there.

Scott links an article that says a state in Australia wants to merge greyhound, harness and thoroughbred racing under one umbrella with a commissioner type figure. Wow, we can't even agree on getting one commissioner here.

Bettors Are Oh So Different

I always have a little laugh when I hear racing speak to us like 'gamblers' who want to buy a lotto ticket or pull a slot machine. It might be the only gambling business who truly does not know who their customer is.

Even though the evidence is overwhelming (and anyone who bets know this) that we bettors love to figure out the puzzle for ourselves, there is a simple poll out on the USTA page which shows this nicely. The poll asks "How often do you pay attention to public handicappers like Bob Pandolfo and Rusty Nash?" Only two in ten say they will bet those selections.

This, I believe, is why software programs that spit out a figure are less popular than those who allow for user factors. And it is also why I believe that marketing racing to lottery players or slot patrons is fruitless.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

It's About Time

I once had a friend who claimed a horse with a cracked knee. The response from folks in racing was the usual, "buyer beware" or "boy, you got burned." It is a part of the game and it is accepted as such. I say poppycock. What if you spent $200,000 on a house and you found out that the previous owner did not disclose a foundation problem and the house is ready to fall down? Would your neighbours say "buyer beware; too bad so sad"? Of course not.

It is about time we brought the investment in racehorses to some sort of level that is on par with other investments. In one small step, vets are calling for horses that receive a catastrophic injury during a race in which they are claimed to be sent back to the original owner. The hope is that shady owners, running badly damaged horses for financial gain, or to hoodwink another owner will think twice, and possibly give the horse time to heal and race soundly.

Ask people in any other business and this would be considered common sense, and ethical. It would be implemented already, or take minutes to implement with unanimous support. I bet it won't be embraced with alacrity in racing though. The minute you want to take something away from someone, somewhere in this sport, no matter how bad it is for the business, there tends to be a fight.

Man who gathers wind has a post up on this stuff. Some interesting other tidbits.

Experimental Rankings

It's that time of year. Stan Bergstein has released his three year old experimental ratings, which he has been doing since My Three Sons was a hot show. He rates Harness Herb's top rated colt, Nebuapanezzer number one, thinking he will pace 1:48 this year. Well Said is second and Art Colony and Major in Art round out the top four.

Unlike last season, where there were a handful of colts who seemed to be solid stock, this season's crop looks fairly weak. However, more often than not a colt we have not heard of (or two) jumps into the mix. Or a colt or two improves and comes to play. I think we might see that this season.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sterling Serling

You know how I feel about the thought that drivers make horses go faster by magically yelling at them differently or whipping them harder, namely it is a quick way to go into the poorhouse. Perhaps it is an apt day (a day which Brian Sears won a ton of races at the Meadowlands) that I came across a snippet of a quote from Andy Serling on jockeys. For harness folks who don't know him, Serling caps for NYRA tracks. He is, in my opinion, the best thoroughbred handicapper in a public forum in North America for the runners.

In response to a capper who said "World class riders become world class riders because they make horses run who don't appear like they can run on paper", he said:

Not at all. The top riders are the ones that win with the highest percentage of their mounts that are supposed to win. That's all.

That is a sharp a statement on jockeys or drivers that you will ever see. I can see why his picks on the pre-game show have an ROI over 1.0, while many of his compatriots who tout driver/rider switches because they think that they make horses go faster are stuck in the 0.70's.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Counting Cards With Phones

Neat little story. Apparently customers of casinos are starting to use Iphones to count cards. The story says that the app can be downloaded and works like a charm. The downside? It is illegal, as 'using a device to count cards' is not kosher and can land you in the greybar hotel.

Since Nick Stokes works in Vegas in the crime lab and your chances of getting off are slim, you probably want to heed this warning.

Coincidentally.......... my last post. Standardbred Canada is in big trouble!

In a case of deja vu, I just remembered Brenna groomed one of our horses. She did a great job.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

I Feel Like I've Joined the Club

Many a poster in the thoroughbred blog alliance have mentioned they get hits for "Chantal Sutherland Nude Photos" search strings. I just checked my blog and I am proud to announce that I have had my first hit for that.

Where I have mentioned something that hits for that is beyond me, and I am pretty sure I have no nude photos here on the blog of anything but nekkid horses, but I am happy to be part of the club.

Now if I could just get some hits for "guy who wins obscene amounts of money betting horses" I'd be on easy street.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Harness Information and News Sites

Our friend Rebecca asked below:

"Hello, I was just over at the left the gate blog and noticed a really complete list of TBA blogs, is there any sort of list like that available somewhere for harness blogs? And how does one get to the Paceadvantage blog on a regular basis? I think a list would be nice because sometimes when one has a little extra time one could visit all of the blogs on the list and learn even more view points. Because as I have told many people just reading this blog has really opened my eyes about how the gamblers feel, and just how important their thoughts and needs are. Like most people my world was only as big as what my eyes could see, I definitely feel wiser seeing more of the world.
Regards, Rebecca"

So people, any ideas for her? Fire away if you can help. I know what I read, but I would like to hear what others do, if you could take a minute. If there are any harness sites, or blogs who want to promote their sites, go right ahead below.

Friday, February 13, 2009

There is Always Something Out There

The interweb is cool. There are some people out there in racing with a passion for it, and they create things. Maybe they are not saleable, or their websites are not able to be monetized but they are just kind of neat. One fella is Ray from Paceadvantage and he often offers stats from his database of harness racing. Often times there is something eye-opening with them, like the stats on layoffs of 29-40 days we explored in our layoffs article.

Another one today I saw was this fella who decided he did not like that when he handicapped a horse who raced at Yonkers, he did not know how to standardize the time for the ship to today's track. So he created a time converter. It's here. If you are into this kind of thing, I would imagine you'd get some use from it.

I also noticed Nick Nicholson's interview that we linked below. He is the President of Keeneland. I watched that web video with interest. It is completely refreshing to hear a track head speak like he does. He wants to get better, offer players more information, and takes nothing for granted. This is one of the largest handle tracks in the world, yet they work and work at it. He seems like someone who gets it. Youtube of the video is below, and it is worth a watch.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Keeneland Ranked #1 by HANA

The Horseplayers Association of North America ranked Keeneland Race Course the number one player friendly track in North America. I went last year for the first time and I could not agree more. They believe in three things that I believe in 1) Low takeouts (they wanted to lower to an across the board 16% take, on par with Australia, and were rebuffed by many) 2) Excellent customer service (I got wished good luck after every ticket I bet) and 3) They respect horses (say anything you want about Polytrack, but it was put in to protect the horses, a noble goal).

For Keeneland's President, Nick Nicholson's video comments on the ranking click here.

Carryover & It's Funny, Just Because

Why we do not experiment like dogs with carryovers and seedings is beyond me. With a relatively benign $68,000 carryover at the Meadowlands, over $227,000 was in the final pool. Three winners took home $72k each.

And, talk about cutting to the chase.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Screaming Headline

On today Andy Beyer's recent column is in huge Drudge-like letters "The Racing Industry is About to Learn Some Hard Economic Lessons."

In the article he explores the dysfunctionality of racing in raising their prices while bettors are leaving.

Imagine the following discussion in the executive suite of a modern-day corporation.

Executive 1: "The economy is killing us. Customers are deserting us. Our business is terrible. What are we going to do?"

Executive 2: "I've got an idea. Let's raise our prices!"

Executive 1: "Raise prices! Brilliant!"

Surely no business - not even the Detroit auto industry - would be foolish enough to do this when the country is plunging into a deep recession. But there is one industry that believes raising prices makes economic sense.

Handle will be down again in 2009. And it will be in large part self inflicted.

February Blah

So there is nothing much going on. I frankly can't believe how blah its been lately. So for viewing pleasure, from someone else who thinks it is blah, here is a video from a chat board showing who is who of the Belmont/Aqueduct on air talent. I need this done for Woodbine. I constantly get Blanchard and Hamilton mixed up.

h/t to Bigmack

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Border Alert - Winning Horseplayer Crossing

I don't know how many times I have crossed the border to the US, both pre and post 911, but it is never much of an issue. "Citizenship?, where are you going?, How long away?"; "Canadian, Bills game, an afternoon", are simple answers.

However, crossing as a professional horseplayer is a different story.

A friend of mine is off for a month long vacation throughout the US. His trip is pretty cool - Mountaineer, Chicago area for some riverboat poker, St. Louis for the same, Oaklawn Park for racing, then across to Vegas for a couple of weeks. Crossing the border should be easy, but it was not. Why? He is a winning horseplayer, and apparently even border guards do not believe there is such a thing as a winning horseplayer.

When he was asked what he did for a living he said (the truth) "bet the horses and play poker". Red flag. Or for our Quebec readers, flag rouge. Just who is this guy? "Pull over sir."

So he was asked to park, was interviewed by several guards, had his car searched and was finally let go.

There is a lesson to be learned in this, I think. One, never say you are going on a a holiday to those places as a single man. They will think you are lying, or up to no good, or both. Two, never say you are a professional horseplayer. It is pretty clear that no one believes you can possibly win at the track so you must be engaging in tomfoolery.

Fans & Keeping Them

Hong Kong has long been a leader in offering data and information to their customers. They took a new step recently by making it more interactive. With all our millions in slot money I can not believe that the harness racing brand has not created something so simple and easy. I mentioned it last year at a conference and I heard crickets, but I think it is so important for us.

While some in racing are deciding that they should raise takeouts and make it more difficult for fans to bet, NASCAR is doing the opposite. We of course can afford to be anti-stimulus because racing is so healthy, but it is nice to see a failing sport like NASCAR trying to lower prices and be more fan friendly. I have to stop being sarcastic in posts, but such is the way it is.

For decades now, fans have been getting perpetually bilked by the greedy, gluttonous purveyors of big-time sports.

Now that the economy is in the toilet, the purveyors suddenly say they want to accommodate their fans.

Shouldn't this have been their mission all along?

Hat tip to Paulick.

Monday, February 9, 2009

More Time to Bet

This is very cool. Wifi in the skies. You can bet from the air.

Question: If someone from California is betting Woodbine while in Arizona airspace will they be thrown in the clink?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sunday Fun Day

Ok, not that fun, but I am as creative as a chipmunk so it is the best I can do.

Some notes that I found interesting:

Bill O'Donnell, the new head of the Ontario Harness Horse Association seems eminently proactive. When whipping rules are discussed, the participants usually get up in arms. O'Donnell, showing some independence and practicality, stated "For me, personally, I think in this day and age if there are enough complaints I am all for something new,"

The Horseplayers Association is counting down the continents best thoroughbred tracks in terms of rakes, field size and playability with wager variety. Some of the tracks are doing some interesting things, and the interviews in the stories at the Bloodhorse generally teach us a thing or two.

I notice standardbrred wagering is up so far this year in Canada. That's good, but most of gains I believe are from the race date switch from Georgian to Woodbine. Some were opposed to this, but switching dates from a track with $200,000 handles to $1M handles is something that should have been done quite awhile ago. If we do not start acting like a business, we will not be a business much longer.

The Meadowlands Pick 6 is carrying over quite a bit to Wednesday. It stands at $68k.

Adam Heathcote, the young fella from the UK who began trading the horses recently, has been doing well with his 0-GBP150,000 challenge (note-he is trying to make 150k this year at the horses). His bankroll has been growing and he has made around $50,000 so far this year. Well done.

"It's not just about having a race track in operation for the purposes of subsidizing horses running around a track." - MPP George Smitherman. Get used to hearing this more and more over the next ten years, and not just from Ontario politicians. Hat tip to Cangamble.

Mr. Feelgood is feeling good. Thanks to Scott for pointing it out.

I see the Ontario Racing Commission is being reviewed. Hector Clouthier is one of the people testifying, or whatever the heck goes on at the government thingys. That's good. He knows what he is talking about.

Standardbred Canada says 'no comments without names.' This is insane. They have a moderator, moderate. Opinion matters, someone's last name is irrelevant.

Bill Finley: Writing Good Stuff

ESPN's Bill Finley writes good stuff. Each time I open his opine column I find I either 1) Learn something or 2) Respect an opinion.

This week he looks at some stats on sythetics, the pick 5; and throws in a little harness racing, namely Jeff Gural's panel on trying to get horses raced beyond age three.

Bill touches all aspects of the sport in both thoroughbred and harness. He was one of the most reputable columnists to tackle the Ledford case a couple of years ago, as well. It is a page worth bookmarking, and if you are interested, I highly recommend his book on synthetics. It was a good read and I learned a lot.

Friday, February 6, 2009

New Harness Commissioner; Edition Four

Richard Shapiro today at the Harness Conference called for a commissioner. I am sure he is the type to read important things, but if he ever came across the blog, he would know we agree and we have given him some candidates. I was first a big fan of Jason Bourne. But then Matt Damon turned into a bit of a weenie. Then I was a big fan of Fusion Man. I should have stayed with him, but since Christmas time was here and I was following the exploits of the big red dude on Google Earth I figured anyone who could fly reindeer should be able to fix the ADW stuff. So I threw my support to Santa.

But I think I found someone new. The pilot who flew that freaking plane into the Hudson river. I listened to the black box. Whereas I would be screaming like a baby, this fella sounds like he is cooler than a really cold cucumber. Getting people to agree on the whipping debate with Mr. Cool at the helm is as easy as pie. Amazing stuff. So: Pilot Dude for Harness Commissioner!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

HTA Conference: Get Moving

Today in Vegas, a top level gambling expert told harness racing that the "Industry is the Customer" and we better get cracking.

Contrary to the general perception that horses, horsepeople, owners and breeders are the foundation of the industry, "the demand from customers is what is essentially important. That is the essence of the argument that must be dealt with or else you are swimming upstream and the current will push you back ultimately.

"Legislators are going to look at racing and say, 'is this worth saving?' The vulnerability is very, very strong. Especially under these harsh economic times, you'll see a lot of revisiting of this whole model."

Further, we must look outside racing for answers and stop being insular.

"You should, if you haven't already, look carefully at the United Kingdom, which has a viable horse betting market. It's a market which also has legalized sports gambling. The internet has the potential to generate new markets and new interest with new generations."


Maryland Raises Pick 3 & 4 Takeouts by 83%

In addition, the commission granted a request by the Maryland Jockey Club to raise the takeout on two types of wagers, the Pick 3 and the Pick 4, from 14 percent to 25.75 percent.

It is irrelevant what this does, or does not do in terms of the bet itself. Racing just needs to know that anyone that hits a pick 3 or 4 in Maryland will have much less to rebet, because they will be returned less. A 20k pick 4 pool at 14% with five winners returns $3440; at 25.75% the winning tickets are now $2960. This results in (at a churn rate of six, the number racing itself uses for churn rate) a loss in $14,000 in handle per pick 4. Over 200 race dates this results in a loss of handle for racing of $2,800,000, for just the pick 4's. It's a silent handle killer, and in the words of others, "An Anti-Stimulus Package".

No Rozelle's But We Have a Kaptain

Pro sports and racing talk at the 2009 Congress.

Robinson discussed the league offices that run such professional sports operations as the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball, which have powers ranging from setting schedules to enforcing rules. He also noted that very wealthy people with huge egos agree to cede power to those offices when they buy a sports franchise. “These people cede significant power to a centralized office,’ he said. “That’s the price of admission.”


We chatted about the horse who took a short cut and was left up at Western Fair awhile back, and the time it took to correct the decision. Trot Magazine's Darryl Kaplan let loose with a solid editorial on that, and more regarding decisions like that and the speed of them. Bravo.

It seems to me that when a horse travels well inside of 13 consecutive pylons during a stretch drive, passes the horse in front, then comes back onto the track to win a race, he should be disqualified.

...for those who cumulatively wagered more than $13,000 on the race, for Western Fair (the racetrack caught unfairly in the storm), and for racing fans across the ­country, things were less equitable. Was there a good explanation given as to how that decision could have possibly been reached? No. Did the Commission post the reasons for the non-call on their website the next morning? No. Did they call an emergency meeting to ensure this could never happen again? No.

I imagine a person in Darryl's position has to walk a fine line while writing his monthly column. He is an insider and works closely with standardbred Canada, insider groups and so on. But he has taken on some tough issues that need to be discussed. For that he deserves thanks.

Somebeachsomewhere Wins Horse of the Year

Somebeachsomewhere won horse of the year tonight in the US, in a landslide vote.

I am not one for reflection but for a nice bit of harness racing Canadiana, here is a video of the Beach getting ready for the 2008 season. It was a 2:04 or 2:05 mile in the cold of Nova Scotia - in the smaller town of Truro, right downtown.

A $40,000 yearling colt, training in a small town, owned and trained by virtual unknowns can win Horse of the Year. This is harness racing, and this is why I like it.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

No Sales Allowed

For the bizarreness, bizarrability (or other word that probably is not a word) of racing, check out Ryan Conley's article at the Bloodhorse.

In effect, was giving out a 3% rebate as a promotion for Santa Anita races. But this was struck down to 2% by the horseman group in California (so they say here):

BetAmerica Wager Rewards

*** Special Notice about our Santa Anita January Rewards ***
Our right to carry racing on Santa Anita requires that we receive the consent of the race track and of the Thoroughbred Owners of California, the horseman’s group at Santa Anita. The Thoroughbred Owners of California notified us this week that it is their policy not to allow any marketing incentives on a California thoroughbred race track in excess of 2% of the amount wagered. As a result, we have reduced our January Santa Anita Rewards promotion from 3% to 2% for the balance of January.

This is like a Wal Mart having a sale on wooden lawn chairs, and the logging company who cut down the tree telling them they can't.

Only in racing.

In Conley's article it seems in our bizarrily, bizzare business, we don't even know if we are allowed to have a sale; something that capitalist businesses have used to grow since 2 for 1 sales on beaver pelts.

Cash-reward rebates in racing are regarded by some in the industry as no different than other “cash-back” programs offered by many retail/service entities, such as in automobile sales, and are lauded by some as ways to retain large churn in pari-mutuel pools.

Here’s a fact: Some domestic advance deposit wagering outlets are openly offering cash rebates to customers that wager on California racing signals.

Now, here’s a question: Is this legal?

And here’s the answer: Nobody really knows for sure.

When the aforementioned sons and daughters of all of us start taking their MBA, all they will need is this article to answer what is wrong with racing. We can't even have a wagering sale to stimulate handle and fan interest and to explain why, we need lawyers, horseman groups, and a 1500 word article to tell us.

The funniest thing? After reading it, I still have no idea what is going on.

Racing Getting Left Behind

Governor Rendell of Pennsylvania wants video poker now.

Delaware is closer to allowing sports betting.

We're getting swallowed up. The response thus far is to ask for a slice, rather than ask for laws to be changed so we can compete on a national scale. In internet betting where we have a de facto monopoly, and creating a way to entice people to play that monopoly by making it 21st century relevant should be this sports main focus. Just like a slice or a subsidy, this chance will not last forever.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Reality TV With Little People on Horses

It's been circulated around the thoroughbred blogs and so on, but I bet dollars to donuts many harness fans have not heard of it. Jockey's on Animal Planet. Here is the promo.

They only showed about eleven crashes.

6% 6

Not here of course, but the 6% takeout pick 6 has begun down under. It is a flexi-bet as well.

NSW and Victorian TAB punters invested almost $1.1 million on the six BIG6 pools last Saturday as Australia’s newest and biggest bet type was launched.

The cross-state NSW BIG6 thoroughbred pool held $447,000, while the Victorian thoroughbred BIG6 held $422,000. The Victorian harness BIG6 on the Ballarat Pacing Cup meeting had a pool of $110,000.

Australia has about 1/20th the population and GDP of North America.

Hat tip to

Monday, February 2, 2009

Yearly Bud Ad

I almost forgot; goofy Super Bowl ad time. In Canada our network pipes in really crappy bank ads over the real ads that are running south of the border. I think I watched a Super Bowl over the airwaves one time and caught them, but generally you are outta luck if you want to see all of them up here.

So each year I have to google "superbowl ads" and take ten minutes or so to find them and watch them. This year the first site I stumbled upon turned out to be a feminist blog where they highlighted the top ten sexist ads. I felt really weird because I was reading the blog on how bad the ads were, while watching and liking some of them. I don't think that was exactly what the blogger had in mind.

Anyhoo, each year the only one with horses is Bud. So again, we run a Bud ad. If we are here next year, expect a Bud ad. And the year after. And so on.

This year's tangentially reminds me of when I was magically in love in university and she went away. I started to go look for her, but I liked a horse in the 3rd and went to the track instead.

You Think That Bump Was Bad?

Calls are a part of racing. Bumps, inside pylons, making a hole for oneself, and so on. They are a cause for concern in racing because millions are bet and we need a good way to ensure that the bettors money is taken care of. Sometimes we fight about them, and sometimes a bad call can be publicized as such.

But in last night's Super Bowl, refereeing is brought to a whole new level.

To conspiracy theorists last night's game was called to make Pittsburgh a winner. To the rest of us, who do not think that sporting events are run by a guy in shack that looks like Dr. Evil, some of the calls were the very least questionable. NBC, who covered the game, did not on the grand stage make even the slightest reference to it. But of course, on the Internet, and in columns it is bombs away. Chris Chase at Yahoo has fired the first salvo: "Officiating Dictates Super Bowl XLIII"

I have a feeling that as the week wears on we will hear more and more about the officiating of this game. And it will make the third race tossout at Woodbine look like child's play.

What I also think, is that the NFL will be on this like white on rice. It is something that sets them and us apart. If we have an officiating error, or fans questioning a toss, it can take a month to even address it. This will not happen here.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Woodbine - Open to Handicappers

Being an 'OJC' regular since I was a wee tyke (ok, since I was 18 because betting before then is illegal and we wouldn't want that) I have seen this franchise evolve. Most of it in terms of horseplayer respect has happened over the last several years. Back in the late 1980's there was not a telephone in the place - those evil bookies I guess - and you were generally herded in to play the game of monopoly. With nowhere else to go, you went to distribute your money, and come home. Then the next day do it all over again. I never received a perk in all those years, other than getting in free if I had a horse racing on the circuit. It is the only business in existence that one would fund to the tune of millions over the years, where you never even got a free program in return.

Times have changed.

Heading to Woodbine last night a friend and I headed up to Champions (the rooftop patio/bar), walked in for free. The very good concierge fellow Neil met us with a smile, handed us free programs and sat us down. We chose a table by the wall because it had a plug-in nearby and both of us had laptops. Yes, you are allowed to bring laptops there and not only can you bring them, you can use them to connect wirelessly to the internet. Understandably some sites are blocked, but you can log into BRIS if you are downloading data, as well as many, many regular websites. In addition, you can bet on HPIbets right on your browser.

There are several tracks doing this now, but Woodbine was one of the first.

For American readers who are dedicated horseplayers and might be heading up here for a race or two, bring your laptop if you want to. Horseplaying is welcomed, and if you have not been here for awhile, Woodbine has changed and given us a much better experience than we might have been used to.

O'Brien Awards Winners

Greg did not do a bad job..... Gregstradamus. Not bad for a guy from Pittsburgh.

Most were expected and it seemed like a good night. Full results here.

Most Trafficked, Last 12 Months


Carryovers Provide Big Reach and an Immediate Return

Sinking marketing money directly into the horseplayer by seeding pools is effective, in both theory and practice In Ontario and elsewher...