Wednesday, November 30, 2011

There's One Spot Left to Grab an Edge: At the Track

This morning we've got a huge surge in the stock markets. But it did not look that way early on.

As Keith McCullough writes today in his market update, the use of twitter has changed the way we think and act. As a result, the markets are extremely fast, and efficient with short-term, knee-jerk moves.
  • Watching the US Equity futures trade this morning captures the essence of how short-term the group-thinking associated with the Type 2 Player in this game has become:
  • At 4AM EST, I jot down in my trusty notebook “China down -3.3% to down -16.9% YTD, testing October lows”
  • At 6AM EST, headline hits “China cuts reserve requirements, 50 basis points”
  • The S&P futures went from down 8 points to up 8 in a nanosecond of what could be best described as media panting about point #2 on Twitter.
  • Twitter, you see, is replacing what Old Wall Street calls “the tape.” On Wall Street 2.0, tweeters with analytical competence not only capture the China like headline “news” in real-time but have it synthesized within seconds.
In racing we have our very own Racing 2.0, and some of it is on twitter as well. You cannot go a week without hearing how a horse looks off in the post parade or in the paddock from someone at the track, or seeing real time market action on betfair, reflecting something that you and I at home can't see.

Just this weekend a horse at (if my memory serves) Mountaineer was trading as the favorite at betfair at around 5-2. In several flashes (just like the S&P this morning), he was 6-1. What's up? Three minutes later he was scratched by the track vet. Someone (probably at the track, or with a keen eye to the simo screen) knew, someone acted, and someone wanted to profit, all within a few minutes.

The funny thing? On the tote, pari-mutuelly, while this was happening, he was still the chalk. 

Sometimes it works the other way. A horse in the gate acts up, the price surges, and he wins.

Not only do you need 2.0 information, you need a 2.0 way to expose it, and profit from it. Regardless, quick price changes are happening and will continue to, due to conduits like twitter and betfair.

At the track it is not like that - yet. I was at Woodbine not long ago and a 4-5 shot warmed up terrible. Bettors were not watching; they were looking at TV screens. One person, a long time friend, was, and he alerted me to it. We both faded the horse in pick 3's and 4's and in exotics, making a little bit of scratch. The horse was 4-5, got everything his own way and came 7th. In simulcast land people were perplexed. If the race was on betfair he probably would've been 5-2 or even higher, but it wasn't.

As most serious players know, chucking out a 4-5 shot who will not hit the top three and taking a huge swing, can make your entire year.

Long, long ago, Pittsburgh Phil would profit from being at the track and charting the horses. It was easy to make a buck from the unsuspecting public if you were there, and if you were betting something that no one else is looking at. In 2011 - with virtually everyone paying attention to speed figs, four screens, or constructing tickets on copious exotics - almost the exact same thing is being done on track, only in a slightly different way. Just make sure the tweeters and the betfair users don't get hold of the information first.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Big Push for Televising Racing

Open a story on a racing website and you'll probably read about one of racings new marketing pushes - television. The industry is hopeful that new coverage on channels like Versus might do the job.

The Jockey Club is spending $10M over 5 years on this new initiative.

On the surface it makes sense. We have a neat sport, and if we put in on television, someone new in the mass market might watch it and become a fan. That narrative resonates.

Unfortunately I'm not convinced this spend will give back the needed, or expected revenue. I know a lot of you aren't convinced, either.

If rodeo is on television Saturday, do we watch it because it's on?

The pentathalon?

Beach volleyball?


What about amateur boxing?

Did anyone watch the CFL when it was on NBC during the NFL strike in the 1980's?

All those events or sports are on television, or were on television, and have been for many years; some of them are shown many more hours a week than racing ever will be on network TV. They are not, and probably never will be, major league sports, or gain market share (in fact many of them have lost more market share than racing has).

The only time many of us do watch them - more than likely - is when the event is bigger than the sport. For the month of the Olympics we're suckers for swimming, curling or snowboarding. I am a huge cycling fan for two weeks a year when the Tour De France rolls around like I am sure many of you are.

We in racing have similar with the Kentucky Derby. It doesn't matter if the field has four superstars or a field of twenty future 30 claimers - people will watch it and people will attend it.

So why the focus on television, and putting our tracks and races out there as is? Well, a consulting firm said so, but I think it's more than that. I think it comes down to the participants' love of the sport, the love of the mass market, and the thought that we have to do something. 
  • "We love racing and if we could only show it to the masses, they would love it too. Even if one person watches and becomes a fan it's a success"
It sounds good and it's easy to rally around.

Not all agree. Seth Godin writes, extolling the virtues of not being married to old-school push marketing:

"Mass is dying. The tide has turned, and mass as the engine of our culture is gone forever."

According to Godin, and its a theme in other new marketing literature as well, we can't just "put something on" and hope this mass market finds it. It is not the way it works anymore. TV advertising in many ways is even being kicked to the curb.

I believe racing is built to market itself in the 21st century. It is not mass, in a non-mass, niche world. It has active participants of all flavors, "tribes", a multivariable fan base, a double pronged market (the fan and the horseplayer/gambler), loud and proud fans on social media and elsewhere, a foothold with the over 55 demographic with plenty of time and money on their hands, events that almost everyone knows, and much more.

It is not like football or baseball, because those sports' do not make money when we play them. Racing makes money when we play it (e.g. when we buy a horse or bet a horse).

Until we figure out our unique market and its place in the world, spending scarce funds on the conduit of television, in my opinion, is putting the cart before the horse. We need to find a way to present racing that sticks with new viewers, and gets them to participate in the racing conversation, in some way, with us. In my opinion, then and only then will we have a chance at success.

I love to watch racing on television. It's on the big screen, it's in HD, there are neat interviews and features. Don't get me wrong, I am happy it's going to be on over the next several years. I am simply not comfortable with a "put it on TV and hope" policy.

That may have worked at one time, but it rarely works now.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Saturday Notes

Some notes and other commentary for a Saturday morning:

Canadian horsemen go south to Turf Paradise. Canadian bettors sure don't, or shouldn't. They quietly upped takeout recently. The WPS take now stands at 20.75% (note: this is not a misprint).

Harness Racing Update has some response letters to Andrew Cohen's last piece on the sports' participants turning a blind eye to cheatin'. Harness racing meets this head on at times, while thoroughbred racing doesn't.

Betfair hired a former NYRA exec to help establish exchange betting. I'd love a NYRA exec to look into lowering the takeout that they've hiked, now that gazillions are coming in the door via the slot machines. But maybe that's just me.

"Judges" can play with betting money in racing - anyone who got a call go against them, or for them knows that - but we rarely think of it in other sports. Betfair has changed all that. On Thursday in the NFL there was a close call on a 4th and five late in the game. The TV cut to commercial, but many thought it was worth a challenge. Regardless, $4000 popped up to bet Baltimore at 1.30. If this play was challenged and the challenge won, it was game over with Baltimore winning (and trading at 1.01).  It turns out the play was challenged, but it was not overturned. For the bettor who may have taken a chance on that $4k, he still won. You'd see this at Betfair from time to time in the past on photos in running. The horse will trade while the judges are looking at the photo, or an inquiry. There is more in this world to bet, other than outcomes of a final score, or who hits the wire first. The internet has changed all that.

Want to watch some harness action? Check the video  of Smokin Up's win in the Miracle Mile. In Million dollar races up here sometimes we see a boat race. Not down there, for half that. Exciting, and it was a wire to wire win, to boot.

Fans of Wise Dan's win in the Clark include the owners of Havre De Grace and Caleb's Posse. Those votes are easier today.

Allan looked at the complicity in some tracks regarding kill buyers yesterday. This was spawned from a chat on twitter from a harness fan who was there.

Tonight is the Forest City at Western Fair. Interesting race. I'll be watching.

Have a great Saturday everyone.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Forest City & Nick, Keith and the Billionaire

A few quick stories tonight.

First, the Forest City Pace is on tap for Saturday at Western Fair. It's not too often you get to see a Breeders Crown champ at Western Fair, fresh off the big 149.1 win, but we do. And, she has the dreaded seven post, which should make this a very interesting race. Greg Blanchard has his youtube preview and I have linked it below; give it a watch as he runs down the excellent pick 4 sequence. Programs et al, are here.

Second up, Keith McCalmont's piece on trainer Nick Boyd is out on the Trot website. Nick discusses the Risky Business TV show with billionaire Brett Wilson, and the state of the game in his opinion. HANA added his comments on their blog tonight, because it is fairly rare to hear a trainer, or industry participant speak of the bettor.

Not long after Nick began his training journey, he wrote about his outlook here on the blog. You can read it by clicking here.

News Notes and Opinions

Andrew Cohen's swan song at Harness Racing Update was good today. He speaks of a few things o_crunk and I were speaking about on Twitter yesterday - namely, how did we let it get like this?

It's been several months and one of our horse's still needs a retirement home. He lives around Milton right now, but he really needs someone to be his buddy for the rest of his days. He's ten, he's sound and he likes carrots. If anyone is interested please email me at The only condition is you can't race him anymore.

Jack Welch once said that he wants managers that fear not to change, rather those who fear change.   I took a seminar on "the dip" today. It involved how companies that change rarely get it right the first time, and there is a dip before you can grow again. I thought of racing. We have our own dip, but we never changed to get it. Like a lot of businesses who fear change that needs change, it happened all on its own.

"Woodbine Keen to Add Sports Betting."  Good for Woodbine, but what a churn killer for horseplayers.

John Pricci wrote today that he wishes racetrack executives would play their own yearly salary into the pools at full boat rakes to see how impossible racing is. He's right. He also spoke of some of the very good work Lenny is doing at Equinometry about studying takeout changes.

There is some interesting chatter on the Dan Patch Awards of late. Casie Coleman has been lobbying for her horse to be voted over Roll With Joe. Ray Schnittker told Harness Racing Update that his filly should win Horse of the Year over San Pail. I think Ray and Casie should buy a horse together and call it "Say What?".

I don't know why there is so much chatter in the US as well on Horse of the Year. Havre De Grace is a big favorite to win, and probably deserves to win.  People seem to be talking like this is some sort of tough decision this year. I guess because a girl won it last year, and she's not as good as that girl?

I watched "Mad Money" on CNBC yesterday and Jim was teaching newbies Fibonacci retracements, and chart theory. We use "racing is too complex" as a crutch why we can't grow. 

Great story. Three Chimneys claims an old Jim Rome horse, and gives him a home for life.

Great story II - Visit the So Cal Thoroughbred Rescue homepage and marvel at the before and after photos. Well done!

Here's Greg's youtube preview. Enjoy!

And have a great evening.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Giving Thanks to the Horse Rescues

Rufus, just hanging out
"Dogs have given us their absolute all. We are the center of their universe. We are the focus of their love and faith and trust. They serve us in return for scraps. It is without a doubt the best deal man has ever made."

I read a wonderful blog piece last night from Melaina Phipps. It was about her journey in rescuing a blind basset hound named Rufus. 

When I sent the story to a friend who runs a dog rescue she immediately replied:

"I don't know if I'm just having an emotional day, but it brought tears to my eyes."

Rufus seems to wake up each day happy to be alive. In another age or another time he probably would not be with us anymore. We can learn a lot as humans from ol' Rufus.

There are other blind dogs that are available for adoption, who need people like you and me, willing to give them a chance. I was astounded to see the vast number of them on the Blind Dog Rescue alliance website.

Bear. Cute? Think so.

The people I do meet in the rescue community have amazing hearts, and I never once hear them ask for praise, pity or anything else for that matter. I think it was Freud who said we all do things that make us feel good inside because we are all inherently selfish. Maybe that's true, but it's not something I am overly concerned with, because these animals win, and they're the lucky ones for it.

Horse rescue is completely similar, I find. I come across so many in the industry who work their asses off, for nothing more than the good feeling they get from helping a retired racehorse.

People like Caroline of So Cal Thoroughbred Rescue come to mind. You won't find a day pass without her trying to raise money for her rescue, or trying to find a wonderful horse a new home, and a new loving family. There are a hundred or more Caroline's out there, doing the work that many of us are unable, or unwilling to do.

At times it must be very frustrating, because although a lot of us believe that horse rescue should be of paramount importance in our industry, many times it results in only lip service.

What to do? I will give thanks to the people like Caroline, and hope that we put forth some policy that gives her and others like her the tools to make their vision a reality.

"Horse's have given us their absolute all. We are the center of their universe. We are the focus of their love and faith and trust. They serve us in return for scraps. It is without a doubt the best deal man has ever made - With apologies to Roger Caras

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Twinky of the Day

Today's twinky of the day came from Derek Brown, before Rapid Redux took the track to try and win his 20th in a row.

In other twitter news, a little bird told me today (I won't mention any names; it was Ed DeRosa) that @toddpletcher is apparently not the real Todd Pletcher. Thankfully the first fake Todd Pletcher (the guy before the second fake Todd Pletcher) is back twinkying tonight and he had something to say about Rapid Redux's 20th win in a row.

Tonight, all seems right in the world.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Don't Lie, Your Worldview is Your Worldview

Spring break fits a worldview. It's fun, crazy and we (well, when I was 20 at least) have to be there.

The worldview of most who like Starbucks compels them to pay $3.50 for a coffee they could get at work for free.

There are many more examples.

What worldview does racing fit? It depends on who you ask.

To me (and probably you), it's fun, interesting, entertaining, enthralling, competitive and a joy to be around.

To a PETA or WWF member it's bloodsport.

To a poker player, it's a gambling game for suckers.

To a college kid it's boring.

To a pure sports fan, it makes no sense to cheer for brown animals, when they can watch Sidney Crosby instead.

You get the picture.

The problem is, for the growth of the sport, or as a gambling game, the PETA types, college kids and poker players et al, are a target market in some way. There is not enough me's and there are not enough you's, (and some of folks like the PETA crew cause us problems.)

Seth Godin in All Marketers Are Liars speaks about the inability (or fallacy) for an industry or business to use marketing to attack one's worldview, especially when that view is entrenched.

If we market to a poker player a message of the 'great value he gets at the track', he'll laugh at us. He's heard the old saying "you can beat a race, but can't beat the races", and knows 25% takeouts are virtually impossible. If we market to a college kid selling him some sort of sizzle, he won't buy it for a second. He knows it's a half hour between races, either from trying racing or hearing about it from his friends at one time.

Godin says it is virtually impossible to win these people over by marketing.

What he does suggest, is to change the product instead.
  • "If changing your offering is the best way to get your message to spread, then that's what you should do instead of whining about how hard it is to get your message out"
I think he's correct. It's why I have never been a proponent of throwing marketing money as a panacea; because we would be targeting people who will never listen to us. We have to change our product first.

How about running a 4 in 48 at the track with some giveaways to attack the college kids' worldview that we're too slow?

How about building a low takeout exchange to attack the poker players worldview that this is a game for suckers?

I am sure you can think of many other things to try.

At that point I submit we'd run into the second problem: We'd have to convince a racing executive or horsemen group to change something that is probably completely at odds with their worldview (we can't lower takeout, we can't change whipping, we can't decrease time between races etc).

We're not the first business or industry -nor will we be the last- to suffer from the above symptoms. When we are dealing in worldviews change is very, very difficult.

Cloudy's Knight's Tale

What a nice way to spend 40 minutes on a Sunday morning - watching the Arlington Park produced story on Cloudy's Knight. That's what owning horses is about.

If you are interested you can watch it on youtube here.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Talking Some Business Today

We're off on a Friday; and I see our US friends have a short week next week, too. It might be a quieter next seven days or so.

I just realized this a business post for the most part. I wanted to talk about San Pail and a few other things, but bah, some things catching my eye as a marketer and new business dude who's worked with a lot of start-ups got me rambling.

Seth Godin has been on a roll lately at his blog.
If you try something that doesn't work, try something else. If you have an idea to change the sport for the better and a superior slams the door in your face because they are focused on the fence and not jumping over it, try another door.  Trying to change racing via an effort is all that many of us ask of racings executives and participants.

I use a lot of items to handicap, and I use several items to enjoy it. One product I use is my Blackberry playbook. I can watch race video, read my printouts and pp's with ease. It's slim, light, can fit in a big back pocket, and it has been reliable. I paid $600 for mine, and this Friday you can get one for $199 via Black Friday sales across North America.

Big George Foreman, harness owner, grillmasta(!) and the former heavyweight champ is on twitter. He talks about harness racing sometimes, and his love for horses. I was surprised to see him so conversational. You can find him at @georgeforeman.

Yesterday was interesting at Aqueduct. Out of the nine winning horse's yesterday, seven had the #1 pace adjusted late fig, and the other two who failed to win with the top fig, were second. This is one of the more fascinating areas in handicapping. Some days things click with certain horses or certain metrics. Track bias, for example, can turn the entire odds board on its head. If you have a deep closer with top figs, they can be 3-1 fair odds on a fair track, 8-5 fair on a closing bias track, and 10-1 on a pure speedway.

Equinometry is a fine addition to the blogosphere. He looks at things handicappers are interested in, like takeout and ticket construction.

Grabbing and capturing and holding customers. Your cable company does it, as does your phone company, and many others. Once they have you as a customer and cultivate you, it makes it difficult for you to switch. For a subscription model, LTV (or lifetime value) is pretty much the only method you need to look at (with a healthy respect and back-modelling, for initial CPA's). It's the same way for racing via the net. If I land you for a month you might give me $100 in revenue. If I land you and keep you for years, you can be worth millions. I just do not see this in our racing ADW model - I simply see cannibalization and an intransigent focus on initial CPA's. I could be wrong, but that's what I see.

Speaking of models along these lines, started shipping their Kindle Fire this week at a bare-bottomed $199. It costs them more to make it, but their LTV says it's worth it. When you have a Fire you are linked to the Amazon cloud, Prime, and it spurs website sales. It is disruptive to the iPad.
  • Disruption occurs given two criteria. The first: that incumbents move upmarket to the most profitable segments, ignoring low-end competitors at the bottom of the market. The second: that the low-end competitor introduces a product with a scalable technology or business model advantage at its core that has the potential to displace the incumbent. This is exactly what Amazon has with the Kindle Fire. 
 Does racing have a disruptor to pull out of the hat? Probably, but it would take about 45 jurisdictions to agree to implement it. That would take effort.

Have a great Friday folks!!!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thursday Notes

Good Thursday morning everyone.

First, Casino-ville:

Alan reports Yonkers revenues are down in terms of win per machine since the casino opened at the Big A. Does this mean harness purses are on their way down too? Time will tell.

In Massachusetts, the casino bill was signed, after an amendment that cut racings revenues from it, in half.

Life was simpler when we depended only on handle, no?

With apologies to Tom LaMarra at the Bloodhorse, something made me go hmmmm this morning:

Franco Harris was let go by the Meadows (fired) for comments in support of Penn State coach Paterno.

Richard Dutrow was given a stay, allowing him to train while he appeals his 10 year ban. Appeals in these cases, according to the DRF can last a year.

In Mr. Harris's case we have a private business firing someone for an opinion - not a popular one - which is their right. The thing is, the man who he is supporting has not even had one day of due process. As the Wall Street Journal reports, Grand Juries in Pennsylvania are a little bit different - they allow for something called "presentment".

"They're one-sided and unfair, and in some instances can be inquisitorial," said Bennett Gershman, a law professor at Pace University and a former prosecutor.

So, it's fine to fire a guy who supports a fellow who has not even had his say yet - in court or otherwise - via a one-sided presentment.

But, Mr. Dutrow, who was banned for 10 years on facts already in evidence and ruled upon, happily earns a living while he gets his say.

Racing is a sport, and a club, where training and owning is a privilege not a right, and exclusions can and do happen, just like they do in the NBA or NHL. Free speech, right or wrong free speech, about someone who has not even had his day in court is a basic human right.

Flame me if you must (and reading the web I am sure you will because opinions on the Penn State stuff usually do resort to it), but the fact that Franco Harris is looking for a new job, while Mr. Dutrow has his old one, seems intellectually odd.

Agreement reached between rival groups in California.  Do we have a show of hands? How many people think this is good for customers? This simply looks like more cooks stirring the broth to me.

Horse's slip through the cracks, but there is usually someone there to help. The story of Jug winner Nicks Fantasy. 

Sometimes they slip through the cracks via nefarious means, and it's pretty sad. The Truth about the Shergar horse kidnapping.

Silly season is upon us. Horse retirements to stud abound. Seriously, do we really, really, really need Daylon Magician retired to stud? The sport is broken.

Hong Kong does not like Australia thinking outside the box on sectional time, or beaten length bets. Is it just me. or when a monopoly like Hong Kong preaches to a non-monopoly like Aussie racing trying to compete does it rub you the wrong way too?

There's a double-carry at Aqueduct today. Yesterday a 1-2 and 2-5 winner both won, but only 5 of 6 did the job. I keyed three winners - and walked away with zip. I couldn't find the others with a magnifying glass.

The first "Santa kicked out story" of the season. That's it, I am going to the track dressed as Santa. When they kick me out they'll be saving me money.

Someone gave a vote to Check Me Out over San Pail in the Hambo Top Ten this week. Last week Check Me Out won the Matron after a break. The thing is, although visually impressive, it really wasn't. She came home in 57.1 and came her back three quarters in what she is capable in. The field was a 158 trotting field. If Usain Bolt fell on his face against high schoolers at the start, got up and still won the race in 13.45, we would not be super-impressed. There was no need to change the San Pail vote, in my opinion.

Have a great day everyone.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Racing's Piracy Paradox

Throughout the early part of the decade (and continuing to this day), the response from racing with regards to offshore websites is one of pure vitriol. They have spent countless time and plenty of money trying to do away with them. Of course they had a point: these sites were taking bets on racing, without paying for the signal. Even today, despite rules and regulations, as well as acts of Congress like the UIGEA, which prohibit this wagering, it is brought up time and again.

At wagering conferences, on this blog, and in general discussions with my betting friends, I often have put forth the argument that shutting these places down will do (or has done) nothing positive for handle. In fact, I believe that shutting them down (and not looking to work with them in some way) might actually hurt the industry; doing exactly the opposite of what was intended.

The reason I had that view, was because "Free" is a business model in the 21st century.

In the book of the same name (I am re-reading it now, which spawned Sunday's post), Chris Anderson of wired looked at the free economy in China, as it pertains to knock off purses, shoes and watches - you know, the stuff that's in the back of a Yonge Street or Canal Street shop, that no one is supposed to know about. In China this market is pretty much the entire market. As an example, if a star is seen with a new Gucci bag in a snapshot at an awards show, the bag will be mass-produced in China as a knock-off before Gucci even mass produces them for sale. It's a huge part of the economy.

The thing is, as the author states, this is not really that bad for Gucci bags. On the contrary. He contends that it's good for Gucci bags.

It turns out that the middle class in China is growing leaps and bounds and they are the primary market for the pirated products (mainly young women). They want the real bag or shoes, but they can't afford it right now. Anderson referenced a survey done in 2007 that showed young women - by an overwhelming majority - would save four months salary just to own a Gucci bag because the sub-culture of these items had been ingrained into them on the streets of their town, and elsewhere. In effect, the pirated items lit a fire inside them.

Over the next several years as China's economy grew and many of these young women began to become upwardly mobile, sales of the real things grew as well.
  • The sales of pirated items didn't destroy the market, it primed the market (Free, p. 204)
This concept lies inside a theory called the "piracy paradox". When we think about it, it makes perfect sense.

In racing, when offshore sites were shut down via the UIGEA and now are doing a small fraction of the handle of earlier this decade, one would think all would be well. Racing handles should be growing, shouldn't they, as this money comes back into the pools? It hasn't. Not even close.

I believe this has not happened because racing has its own piracy paradox.

People who used offshore sites did so because of a few benefits:
  • Lower takeout - they were tired of paying 22% or more, because they could not beat 22% or more.
  • Convenience - if I want to bet Belmont, Woodbine, and Santa Anita, at a decent price, I need three ADWs. Offshore you can bet them all, in one spot
  • Payoffs - If you wanted to bet a $50 exacta at a small track you could. It would not knock it down to a small payoff.
This was exemplified in a comment right here on this blog from an offshore player several years ago:
  • I was using pinnacle offshore until the debacle [internet gaming act]. Because of the rebate I found a way to make place bets profitable. I wound up with a 3.2% loss, but a rebate of 7%. It actually was a rebate of 6.2% as they did not give a rebate on 2.20 horses. Now the kicker is, I went from betting about 30 to 50k to 1.3 million that year. It made the churn factor possible. If takeout is lowered it may have the same affect. I now have changed my play where place betting is profitable, but it is so small that I have stopped. I would definitely go back to the pools if takeout is lowered significantly.
Shutting down his offshore site did not bring him back to racing, it made him an ex-bettor. Multiply this gentleman by a thousand, or ten thousand, and we have ourselves a paradox, and lost handle.

What offshore sites did was keep people interested in racing, and I think what they siphoned out of the pools was made up in eyeballs, and ancillary wagering.

If a pick 6 with a massive carryover came up, they would be there to play in the pools (offshore sites would not accept a pick 6 wager). With some offshore sites having capped payoffs in many bets, and no ten cent wagers, these folks would keep an on-shore account to play those too. And so on.

It kept bettors happy.

It kept bettors engaged.

It kept them betting into the pools, supporting purses and profits.

Shutting them down was not wrong. It just didn't help us much, and it probably hurt us.

Racing must find a way to engage the people who are no longer playing our sport by attacking what they don't like, or didn't like in the first place. The concept of "Free" is one way to do it, but Free is a bad word in our game (just look at tracks and horsemen asking for ADW's to be disbanded because they think they don't pay enough, the pure hatred of 5% takeouts at betfair, or new consortiums of protection like Monarch).

We fight to protect our slices, until there are no slices left. The business model needs a drastic review. And possibly a little bit of Free.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Cultural Differences

Via Alexa, here are the traffic ranks and more for

And here is the Racing Post, in the UK

Both sites (and papers) are racing staples. However, in the UK the Racing Post ranks 371st in traffic. In the US, the drf site can't crack the top 4000.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

There's Not Much Left But the Bettor

I came across an interesting chart tonight on music sales revenue:

The graph is fairly self-explanatory.  In the late 1980's to around the year 2000, CD sales were a positive innovation for revenues. They sounded better, lasted longer and were much more expensive. Add the fact that all the previously sold tapes and LP's would have to be rebought again to fill out your collection, and we've got ourselves a big bubble.

In 2000, along came digital music, with marginal costs that approached free. The bubble was broken and sales revenue went down. Sure people once again rebought old tunes, but they weren't paying $20 for ten songs in a shiny package, sometimes with nine of them they didn't even like. They were paying 99 cents at a website near their fingertips.

This chart is not unlike a chart for racing's core revenues. We too were in a bubble that when shocked (some would say finally made fair for competitors) finally burst. There was nowhere, or nothing else, in many towns and cities across North America to gamble on in a legal way. When that changed, racing found it difficult to compete, and handle was lost.

That is where the similarity ends. The music industry could fight their revenue losses in myriad ways. Because album or CD sales were not the be all and end all, and their entertainers were worth something, they could thrive. Music is heard by more people than ever before because of digital downloads and youtube. With cheap pricing and cheap broadband comes more supply, and more demand. Concert revenues can grow, as can sponsorship of tours. This is, in part, why despite the curve above, total worldwide music revenues has grown every year since 2000 and now stands at almost $68B.

If racing followed the same path we would have seen the handle bubble burst, but we'd shift to alternate forms of horse racing revenue to make up the losses. The problem with that, is that there are no other sources of horse racing revenue. We pay networks to show us not the other way around. People won't pay $160 to watch horse's run around in a circle like they do to watch Bono sing around in a circle. We can't sell a jockey's jersey for $97 either.

We're left only with the bettor. That's it.

So far (I don't think it's a stretch to say) we have not embraced growing new bettors and keeping our old ones happy. We haven't cultivated them like online stock trading firms do their customers. We haven't offered them new ways to play, like an exchange. We haven't lowered prices for them - in fact, in places like California we have done just the opposite.

That's probably because we have been given slots for a little while and the subsidy has eased the pain, as most subsidies do.

But sooner or later, all that's left will be the bettor. When they ask why they should continue to patronize our sport, or tell friends to join and support the industry to help it grow again, we'd better have an answer for them.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Initial Stud Values. Are They a Mugs Game or Good Business?

This was tweeted out this morning:

It may be moving that way in thoroughbred racing, but in harness, have we moved at all off that opinion? I'd have to surmise we haven't.

We see it each year - a big name horse is retired and his stud fee is huge; Deweycheatumnhowe, Donato Hanover, Somebeachsomewhere to name but three. The breeding farm goes all in and brings the best mares they can find for the first crop, hoping they have a supersire (or trying to make it a self fulfilling prophecy). Yearling buyers line up for the new, new thing, and away we go.

This season at Harrisburg, the second crop of Donato Hanover was all the rage. His foals sold like gangbusters. He had two or three very nice horses in his first crop and we all heard about them. Not following his first crop via its hard numbers I was sold too - wow, the son of Dtrain is really mowing them down.  So was the narrative.

But as I looked deeper into his numbers, expecting to see the hype confirmed, I found something different.

From the published statistics on Standardbred Canada:

Out of his first crop of stellar mares, 100 were registered. 43 made it to the track for a 43% start rate, 18 took a lifetime mark in a race. 4 out of the 100 made over $100,000. 15 out of the hundred (15%) made his stud fee back at two.

If we contrast that with an "old" sire, who has good press but is not in the first crop narrative, we see a difference.

Kadabra had 30 taking a lifetime mark in a race. He had 60 out of 109 make it for a 55% start rate. He has (at the time of writing) 6 horses who have made over $100,000. 28 have made more than his stud fee.

If we look at only the numbers, and factor in the amazing group of mares Donato got when compared to Kadabra, one may think that Kadabra rules the roost. But that would not be correct.

Donato stands for double Kadabra's price. At Harrisburg, Donato had three foals sell for $200k or greater, one for $290k. At all the sales Kadabra had $210k filly sell, with everything else around $100k or lower.

We've seen this time and again, in my opinion, with first crop sires who catch, or first crop sires in general. The buzz, the excitement, the buy the hype is there. And it seems to happen each year.

Donato had a good year and looks like a nice sire (especially when you factor in the talented and wonderful Check Me Out), but is he that good?

Is the first crop sire method a mugs game, a self-fulfilling prophecy, or is it simply good business?

It might be a little bit of all three.

Friday, November 11, 2011

We Won't Get a Bias

In modern society we see it almost every day. If we have a bias, that bias will be reflected in our opinions.

For many who like and revere coach Paterno, they may come down on his side, without even knowing the facts, or caring about them.

For some people who immediately thought Paula Jones was a victim of Democrat Bill Clinton, Republican Herman Cain's accusers are gold diggers.

One may expect John Corzine to be a poster boy for the Occupy Wall Street folks to hang their hat on because of the MF Global news, but because of the letter before or after his name, he is notably absent in some of the protests.

There are probably a dozen or more examples in the right here and right now.

One place we will not get a bias is at this year's RTIP in Arizona. Caroline Betts, an economist, will be talking about takeout.  More than likely she will not use the words "put on the show" or "horse racing is expensive so we need to charge a high price" in her presentation. It won't be based on qualitative bias or industry talking points, but on the quantitative and what those numbers show.

We need the quantitative in racing, because when we manage the sport like you or I manage our businesses - with return on investment in mind rather than on innuendo or bias - we have a chance for it to grow.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

It Must be Tough Being a Thoroughbred Trainer

Horse owners can be a real pain in the ass. Trainers for that matter can, to, when it comes to making excuses for poor performances. But owners can really take the cake sometimes.

In harness racing the list of excuses is long - the horse needs to be on a helmet, he needs to be on the front, he got a bad drive, the track was sticky, the bridle didn't work, I blew a tire, he threw a shoe. There are a few more, but you get the drift.

Most of the time these excuses are nonsense - the horse simply had a bad day, or there is something wrong with him or her and it needs to be addressed. However, usually (because harness racing races each seven days), you can prove or disprove the excuse quite quickly. Just pop the horse back in, race him on a helmet instead of on the front (for that excuse) and boom, mystery over.

I spoke to a friend today and we chatted about the excuses from some owners in thoroughbred racing. They truly do take the cake.

Where harness has five or ten prime excuses, thoroughbred racing has a hundred or more.

Aside from the usual dozen or so excuses from both sports', we have:
  • You sent him too long
  • You sent him too short
  • He doesn't like poly
  • He doesn't like dirt
  • He doesn't like turf
  • Your 3f work sharpened him up too much
  • Your 5f work was too long
There are surely, with different distances, surfaces, and all the rest, many, many more.

The thing is: The horse in question does not race each week, or 35 times or more a year. He might race six times, or not even enough to run through all the excuses for bad efforts! It could be two or three years before you run through them all.

I feel for every thoroughbred trainer out there; the ones who have to put up with excuse-making owners who are unable to see and understand their horse's ability. It has to be a tough job.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Was Zenyatta Racing on Saturday?

With a hat tip to o_crunk on twitter, we have a graph of the search trends on google over the last couple of weeks. The blue line is Zenyatta and the red line is 2011 Champion Drosselmeyer.

 Even retired she trends close to as much as the 2011 champion. Unheard of. It shows there is little doubt she was and is an amazingly popular racehorse.

Tuesday Notes

Off we go on a Tuesday.

Uncle Mo has been retired. It turns out his GGT measure is off the charts again. There are people who will call BS on that, but I am not one of them. Recently I would receive calls from a trainer with a nice horse that was simply racing flat (he reminded me of Mo and how he's raced actually). His GGT was elevated and he tracked down a dozen or more vets, others with the issue - some as even as far away as Australia - and it was a puzzle. The causes were many, the treatments were all tried and it was something that was just there. So many others on the web, whether it be with a pony, a racehorse or a trail horse would share similar stories on the mysteries of liver function and high GGT readings. It is one of the mysteries in caring for horses, and racing horses, in my opinion. I think we all agree Mo is much better than he had been showing, and when I hear the letters "GGT" it makes much more sense now.

The construction business in Jersey must be good! Tom and John Cancelliere purchased the brother to Donato and the brother to Somebeachsomewhere at Harrisburg yesterday. To get them they only had to shell out, oh, about $1.2 million.

I spent $0.012 million this season on two yearlings, in contrast. The thing about yearlings is: It doesn't really matter how much you spend, you can still dream of having a nice horse.

Alan looks at the improvements at the Big A in a recent trip there.

I can't figure out the press releases coming out of Europe this past month. There is supposedly Chinese money there to fund the ESFS, then there isn't. The Italy credit markets are pointing to implosion, but apparently not. There's a rumor a day that makes almost no sense in reality. California racing gives them a run for their money. With four day weeks to five day, with SA compared to Hollywood, with a BC included or not included. No wonder every Cali racing press release is usually accompanied by a commenter asking if "Baghdad Bob" wrote it.

I am not overly concerned with the HOY debate in the US this season, as there were simply no horses who wowed me beyond belief. However, thoughts like this do go to show why some folks who own a dominant female racehorse don't step out of the class much.

A writer opines: "For Havre de Grace, her bid to be horse of the year probably ended with her fourth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Classic."

Argh. A mare steps out, like everyone begs her to do (she already won a Grade I against them) for the good of the sport, and she comes a very nice fourth. But that counts against her? She would've been better served to never face the boys; she'd probably be 1-9 to win HOY this season.

There are so many clever folks in interweb land, and two on twitter who make me chuckle, involve supertrainer Todd Pletcher.

A fake Mike Repole tweeted this recently:

People keep saying I'll make Uncle Mo the favorite. Maybe. But the bigger news is that the Mo-Stay Thirsty exacta will pay $2.40
His counterpart, a fake Todd Pletcher, chimes in with gems like:

Can never b to prepared, prepping winners circle photo; photog asked for my better side, we both laughed. 

and after Mo and Stay Thirsty finished second and third last in the Classic:

Sorry folks -- Gone Fishin'

Very clever stuff.

A sad note this morning for boxing fans, which I am and probably always will be: Joe Frazier has died. I have fond memories of listening to fights on the radio with my dad as a wee lad (no chance at TV as we only had a couple channels in my remote town). Several of them involved Smokin' Joe, whom I loved. He was a prototypical blue-collar fighter that you could easily cheer for. Every fan I know will remember those times, and remember Joe. He passed on my dad's birthday, and I bet my father is telling him this morning how much he admired his work-ethic and tenacity. I hope Joe rests well.

Monday, November 7, 2011

D Train Colt Brings $825k

The highest price yearling ever to sell in harness racing history sold just now at Harrisburg. The son of Andover Hall-D Train brought $825k. He was smashingly calm in the ring too.

It is not really that inconceivable. He could probably stand right now in a slots state for a couple of thousand (he is a looker), and at 80 mares a year for three years, that would bring his current value to somewhere around $350,000, without having raced.

He is going into the books as the highest priced yearling in racing, but I'll call some hooey on that. Laugh A Day in 1982 or 1983 sold for $625k, and with a multiplier, that is about $1.4 million in 2011 cash.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

In Harness Racing There's No Celebrity

I remember heading on the streetcar to Greenwood, nightly, as a kid, to play the races. When you reached the track you'd invariably meet characters of all stripes, and often times you'd sit with them, but rarely would the conversation be anything more than "who do you like?"

One gentleman I would see at the track almost every race night, and chat with, was a nice fella who never seemed to have a job. He was kind of just there every time I was. He was a harness fan through and through.

One evening, (many months after I had been chatting with him) between races I asked how he made his living, and he quietly (looking around, almost like he didn't want anyone to know) said "I write songs".

I said "Cool. Would I know any?"

He replied, "Maybe. Have you ever heard "Go for Soda" by Kim Mitchell? I co-wrote that, along with others on that album."

Sure I heard of it. You could not be Canadian and not. It turns out he not only wrote and produced with Mitchell, but also with Rush.

I still remember his name. It was Pye.

I chatted about this tonight with a friend who had a similar harness racing story.

Yesterday (or any other year) watching the Breeders' Cup, there are tons of celebrities - owning, betting, or being there. And time after time on television and otherwise I honestly find (my conversationalist tonight agreed) there is a real "look at me and who I am" type atmosphere surrounding some in the sport. Maybe I am mistaken, but that's the vibe I get. It even seems to seep through on Facebook and twitter at times.

In harness, whether it be owning, or training, or sitting in the stands it doesn't seem like that at all.

Right or wrong on my friend and I's comparison, it's a huge reason why I am a fan of this sport. It's one where if you have a million dollars and a champion pacer, a desk job at a bank and a 12 claimer, or if you are sitting in the stands betting, we're all a part of it, and no one seems to care one way or another who you are, what you do, what you have, or where you came from.

They just seem to care who you like in the fifth.

Breeders Cup Post Script

A few random thoughts about the BC from the last 48 hours of being glued to the TV and interweb screens.....

Handle was down this year by about 5%, as was attendance. Unlike last year, when Zenyatta was the most popular horse in the sport (by a football field), there was simply not the same buzz. I guess that is not unexpected.

My favorite races, on pure talent: The Juvy Sprint and the Juvy Fillies. Wow, those two winners were hugely impressive.

By the time the Classic rolled around I was pretty fatigued this year, but I think it was more than just that. I could simply not find a horse to hang my hat on. In hindsight, Drosselmeyer seemed to be on the improve and seemed like a horse who, at 10f, would not be stopping like he was racing in glue, like most of the rest of them. Regardless, it was a less than stellar tilt. I hope thoroughbred racing finds some way to keep good horses around, because we need the Classic to be a Classic.

In-running betting should be embraced for the BC and we should have it here. It was completely fascinating yesterday on Betfair. Hansen traded high when he looked beat and there were several others who took mucho action during in-running betting. Exciting!

Todd Pletcher did not have a good Classic, just like last year when Quality Road came 10th or 11th (and the year before for that matter). Stay Thirsty and Uncle Mo almost dead heated for second last. Ironically, with the slow final time, Mo as a two year old when he zipped 8.5f in 142.3 and galloped out in about 149 for 9f, probably would have finished better than he did this year. There is something wrong with that horse, but I guess it is not a newsflash.

Here is where we juxtapose: The Breeders Cup and Kentucky racing this year wanted to ensure that no horse raced who was not fit to race, after last year's Life at Ten fiasco. No fewer than three horses were scratched, and scratched quickly before the gate sprung this year. It was all about horse safety and public relations. However, how does one explain the non DQ of Golidikova then? Her rider almost mugged Courageous Cat, causing a massive check that was very dangerous. Is horse safety paramount for the massive TV audience, only before a race is run, but not during it?

The Turf Sprint - can they run that on Friday, or not at all? It's like handicapping a slot machine. After spending an hour, I used seven horses in my horizontals, and had no strong feeling I would get past it.

Hansen wins! He was an ultimate fade for many, but he came to play. Union Rags did travel further and raced well, but I don't take anything away from a horse who zipped out quickly, looked beat and fought everyone off like a good horse should. My only regret is that I wish Union Rags was named NKOTB. The saver exacta would have padded my bankroll.

I'm a Mo fan (last year's Mo anyway), but the bettor part of me wishes he went in the mile. I was unimpressed with his last and he would've been a major-league throw out for me at 4-5 or lower. The way he fought yesterday, he would not have won any race, at any distance.

There was plenty of chatter on Twitter during the Goldikova non-DQ. Most of it stemmed from fans noticing a football game was on one of the monitors in the stewards shack. Like seriously guys, the world is watching, there is millions of dollars at stake, both in purses and betting. Shut off the football game.

The Horse of the Year dogma might be challenged this season. What older male horse, on dirt, at Classic distances was good? Ummm, not sure. I think the most impressive horse this year was a 2 year old filly, and that sure won't fly. Even if she was proven (and everyone agreed) to be the best horse in training, she would not get a sniff.

The pick 6 live bombers in the Classic told the tale of how the pick 6 tends to work on BC day. Ruler on Ice and Rattlesnake Bridge - both longshots - were the only live horses. There are pin-seekers with ABC tickets during this day, looking for the pool shot, and it brings up some wild and wacky live combos.

The Breeders Cup overall, I feel, is too much. There are so many races, and with high rake, huge fields and many possibles it is a bankroll killer. I love it, don't get me wrong, and I am the furthest from a BC basher as you'll find, but I wonder if there is not a better way. A week long festival maybe, with some of the undercard races on the undercards? I have no idea.

How much of the handle loss in 2011 can be attributed to lack of churn via longshots winning? The velocity of money en masse, is certainly better for rebetting when it's in the hands of many, rather than a few.

One word that would've brought tons of energy to this Breeders' Cup? Frankel.

Tom LaMarra liked Hansen with me, and we both liked Turralure. I'm betting more with Tom next year, because that intersection of thought was about the best I did this weekend.

Caleb's Posse ran a great race, and did it like a lot of great races are run - with little variance internal splits. He ran 23.68, 23.20, 23.90, 24.07 as per Trakus. He's such a nice horse.

I pin seek at Breeders Cup's because that's what I do. This year the closest I came to hitting my score was in the Juvy Turf, when I played Excaper in pick 4's and supers. I was close to making it a more than profitable year on that play, but no dice. He raced fantastic. I hope you fared better.

Twitter 'shot' of the day (well of today as this was tweeted this morning):

You're a bad boy Derek!

Have a great Sunday everyone.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Euro Market Notes

For those taking pick 4's and sixes etc, there might be some clues (or might not) via betfair.

In the Juvy Turf, Faraaj is liked more than Wrote, and I read more people liking the latter here in NA. Euro's are posting Caspar will not like the distance, and he is 6-1ML and 8-1 offshore. Wrote has a fair bit to book at 9-1, which popped up earlier today.

Sarafina has tightened of late and is a fairly strong fave. 

Goldikova has drifted from about 2.6 to 2.9 the last 24 hours.

Daddy Long Legs has been getting solid support throughout and is lower than his ML. Crusade is trading above his ML.

Strong Suit and Byword are pretty close in the early betting.

Uncle Mo has vastly drifted and is now around 6-1. Havre De Grace is now the chalk, which is different than the early doubles!

Don't Scratch My Cheval

Last evening before the filly and mare turf, French filly Announce acted like a punch drunk welterweight, got a little spooked, hit the rail, and brushed by (ironically) an ambulance.

She seemed fine, but according to the ESPN telecast she had some scrapes and was scratched by the track vet.

I don't know much French, but when they showed the jock and trainer, we didn't need to. They spoke the international language of 'smoke flying out of ones ears'. They were incensed.

This, in my opinion, is what happens when you pile bad policy on top of bad policy. Since the Life at Ten mess, racing came back with a response to any and everything in these situations (while ignoring the connections), so they don't have another one, instead of fixing a problem that was not that difficult to fix.

It appears what we had was a horse who might have had a scrape or two, being scratched, with no trainer consultation. This, right before a race for megabucks, with residual breeding values based on the result; not to mention a plane ride worth ten K, friends and family and everyone else making the trip, and gosh knows what else to make it happen.

If I went through all that and you scratched my horse for what might be a scrape or two - especially without letting me know -  I'd be pissed too. I think we all would.

I'm just a small horse owner and a dumb bettor, but I see no reason why what we wrote here on the blog last year ("The Way We Handle Scratches in Mayfield") after the Life at Ten incident is not workable.

The lines of communication must be set, consistent and open, and the protocol for scratching should be clear to all Breeders Cup participants. The responsibility for a final say on scratching (and any malfeasance for not scratching), must reside with the trainer. This is the World Series of Racing, not the third at Mountaineer.

Putting a vet in that situation in such a huge race with so much at stake, is simply not acceptable. It's unfair to everyone involved and a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Maybe Announce needed to be scratched, but there has to be a better way to ensure the connections are respected.

The commissions last year decided things like disallowing interviews before the race (that's forward thinking in a social media world), or blaming Jon Veitch, helped "solve" the problem. When much of what you are worried about is public relations focused, you don't get at the root problem. There are consequences for that inaction.

This year, the victim of it might be a French trainer, jock and horse owner. It's a long flight home, on what was supposed to be a weekend to remember. And we don't have to speak French to know it.

Update: Although it has no effect on the point of the post - connections need to be consulted to avoid problems - thankfully the connections (after the race) agreed with the decision.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Friday Notes & Random BC11 Odd Couple Thoughts

Today at 2PM Churchill Downs begins Breeders' Cup weekend, one of a handful of successful handle and promotional weeks in the sport. It's also an amazingly difficult mind exercise for punters. The fields are deep, almost every horse is coming into it appearing fit and sound, and there is perceived value everywhere. If anything, bankroll management trumps handicapping on days like this.

I have enjoyed this card(s) since inception, when I was a kid in Northern Ontario, watching racing in So Cal, when it was cold outside. I have always loved the concept. I have some thoughts below on who I may like or not like, but since there are hundreds such places on the interweb to read those, I left that to the end of the post so it is easily skippable.

Today's News/Thoughts

Horse racing bets on exchange wagering via the Sac Bee. In Cali one might expect this to end up in a huge fight, with a huge mess that someone is going to have to clean up.

Sports betting coming to Canada? Woodbine sure hopes so.

Why is Uncle Mo the morning line fave, many are asking? He is, because he is. He is 4-1 at Betfair in a sub par field.

Cangamble lists some free stuff for the Breeders' Cup (among others).

If Blame didn't retire after his gruelling 12 start career, what's the over/under on his odds for this Classic? I am thinking 4-5.

Putthebabiesdown is 60-1 currently at betfair. There's no story there. I just love saying Putthebabiesdown.

A little bird told me purses at Santa Anita this meet are up about 3%, not the 20% or more that the takeout increase promised. If true, it proves that when handle goes down like it has, purses can not go up in the logn run, no matter how much spin or creative accounting is used. It's just math, and that works in most of the world (Greece excluded).

I am having a Breeders Cup Party today and another one tomorrow. So far it's me and the dog and that's going to be it. Do I have no friends, or do people not like horse racing? Leaning the former.

Today's menu for the party after a meeting is finalized: Chips, dip, wings, pizza and bones.

I had a super fun time last night on Google+ with a video handicapping meet up with five other handicappers. What a great time. That's a great service.

@sidfernando made a crack this morning on twitter about The Odd Couple remake; one starring Herman Cain and Rick Perry. It made me think of my favorite exchange in the history of that series (paraphrasing, because my memory is not what it used to be):

Oscar (teaching Felix how to bet): You can bet win place or show. If you bet win and the horse wins, you win. If you bet place and the horse comes in the top two you win. If you bet show, and the horse comes in the top three, you win.

Felix: That doesn't sound right.

Oscar: What do you mean?

Felix: Are you telling me that if you bet show, all you have to do is pick a horse to come in the top three in this five horse field, and you win?

Oscar: Ya.

Felix: How do you lose so much money?

Gambling always sounds so much easier in theory than practice.

Some random BC thoughts:

Secret Circle kicks it off. Key or don't key? I am on the fence. Trinniberg, Seeker, Sum of Parts are others I am looking at. Secret Circle is even money and getting hammered at betfair.

Software players are all over Stopshoppingmaria in the Juvy Fillies Turf and I think she may be some value, despite that. The chalk looks formidable.

Stacelita is taking money, and rightfully so off her last monster effort and resume. I was alive to an "all" in that leg of the pick 4 (with some paying monster prices) and she never looked interested, was off in the middle of the track, but still won easily, killing my payoff. Aruna is one I might go off the board to there for a shot. Misty for Me might be overlooked.

The Distaff looks like a slam dunk off the huge fig Plum Pretty ran in her last, but what about that fig? If she regresses off the top, it looks completely wide open. Early on in my capping I found her a decent key horse, but now I am not sure. She is currently about 4-1 at betfair.

Tomorrow is super interesting. In the classic, each time I handicap the race and come to Uncle Mo, I can't help thinking Quality Road.

Golidkova, key or fade? Leaning the former.

Union Rags, key or fade? Because of his professionalism, I am leaning key. Hansen has me thinking, as does the rail horse at a bomb price.

I don't like Uncle Mo or Havre De Grace in the Classic (as they run one-two!), and I'm going to take a shot in exotics, pitching them both out of the top two. I am looking at a Flat Out-Game On Dude-Rattlesnake Bridge- To Honor and Serve box.

My biggest fade for the day is Euroears. So he'll win.

My best long one to play, that I really like, is Jersey Town. I think his last was a clunker, he'll be better and he likes the distance. He's 24-1 at betfair, and that's too much for me.

Rapport - for some reason - in the Turf Sprint is a horse I want to use on the bottom of tickets at a huge  price.

I like Majestic City and don't mind the ultra-bomb Excaper to hit the top four somewhere.

After spending too much time on the Marathon, I settled on Cease.

Good luck everyone and enjoy the weekend!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Rest in Peace

If the love of the sport of harness racing had a scorecard, we'd have a winner. Rest in Peace.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

More Data Woes

We've spoken about it several times here before, and I am sure you've seen it elsewhere - the debate about data. Where major league sports have embraced what data can do to grow their sports' - fantasy comes to mind - we seem to constantly misstep in racing. And it looks like we have another example.

This was tweeted out this evening:

A few years ago I sat on a panel at a wagering conference where the topic was "Wagering in the 21st Century". Beside me was a fellow named Dave Vicary, who was a retired programmer, and a massive fan of the sport. His presentation focused on getting easy to use, cutting edge information into the hands of fans to make the game more enjoyable, and winnable, among other things.

Dave was working on a program that used artificial intelligence (with computers running 24 hours a day) that he programmed to scrape factors in the past performances that correlated to a better odds line. His lines were ROI positive, and had factors that people understand, in a very hard to understand game.

He had several other ideas too, like being able to highlight horses on video through a user experience.

In general, Dave was an innovator and someone we want in our sport.

Because this venture of his needed data, he received it from Standardbred Canada. Tracks like Sudbury Downs or Woodstock Raceway, with handles around $7000 would be carried by his software and promoted by him, through his website. It seemed like a mutually beneficial relationship - a data provider and industry group working together with an innovator to grow the wagering base in Canada. After all, SC's mission statement says they are there to "promote harness racing in Canada and beyond". A year or two ago, he went live.

Dave was not going to get rich selling his printouts - that's just silly - especially for tracks with $7,000 of nightly handle. In fact, he was giving it out for free of late. In addition, no developer is going to spend thousands of hours programming for a market that is small like Canadian harness racing is (just ask app creators what they program for, iPad's or Playbook's), because they would be working for below sweat shop wages. Dave's work filled a void that would likely never be filled by anyone and possibly open up harness racing to a younger, tech savvy audience. The cost to our sport? A data stream that likely is gathering dust, or being used as a paper weight.

It seemed like a win-win, and it also seemed to honor Standardbred Canada's mission statement quite well; it's how things are supposed to work in a niche sport.

But apparently not. Right now it appears Dave's data has been shut off (including the personal account he paid for, and had been using to bet into the pools himself, providing much-needed liquidity to this Province's small harness tracks). Why, I do not know, but I expect they wanted money or a slice of his (probable) miniscule revenues.

It is surely disappointing, but unfortunately not unexpected in our industry. We've seen this played out, oh so many times and it is probably one of the reasons the handle clock on the SC homepage has been red each year since about 2001.

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