Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Wacky Week in Racing

In the past week or so we've seen some pretty wild stories come out of Thoroughbred horse racing.

Early on, we had the Monzante story, which appalled many on social media. 'How could a grade I horse end up in a 4 claimer in the first place' was the main narrative. That narrative got legs from a simple piece from the frequently read Paulick Report, and one wonders of the story would've even got reported en-masse if the bacon wasn't put in the pan to sizzle. Not long after, despite questions about horse owner responsibility, rules and regulations in Louisiana, a gaming company's responsibility to be accredited for safety and many other issues still hanging out there - memes that MLB or the NFL or NHL would have to deal with head on and with a vigilant press nipping at their heels - the story has seemed to wilt.

Last week, Frank Angst reported on the death of a horse at Mountaineer. In "Horse Death Exposes Holes in Regulatory Net" Frank broke down a timeline whereby a trainer reportedly put something in the trash after a horse had died in the paddock, but no one thought to look into the trash to see what it was. Reading the story is painful.

Just this week, the DRF wrote a story on a horse owner in somewhat glowing terms. What they failed to mention was the Wake at Noon incident and this angered many on social media.
I guess she wasn't the only one. In the comments section there was apparently quite the kerfuffle, and the comments had to be deleted.
Over the past twelve to twenty four months stories like the above have occurred both outside and inside the industry, but we just seem to muddle along, despite the masses in comments sections and social media having their voices heard, loudly. Maybe that's why there are still quite a few people asking for Federal oversight of horse racing. In fact, a recent survey from "an industry organization" asks that question point blank (you can take the survey here).

When rugged individualists, free market folks, businessmen and business women - people who make up a big slice of the racing and bloodstock market - are asking for Federal help, you know there's probably a problem. They can't seem to turn to (or rely on) industry organizations or the turf press to help them. They feel disenfranchised and frustrated.  Where else should we expect them to turn?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Friday's Racing Notes

Good morning racefans! Here are a few notes for today........

There was quite the dust up, apparently, when the Meadows carded the Arden Downs 2 year old races late in the Adios card tomorrow. With them so late, drivers with Hambletonian Oaks mounts at the Meadowlands are unable to drive them as they will be in transit. The story is in HRU, page two, pdf.

I was - still possibly will - interested to bet against Bee a Magician tomorrow in her Oaks elim. She'll be 1-5 more than likely, but I wonder if she was hitting the bike last week and we'll see a bounce. Trainer Richard Norman reports she looked fine in training this week, so maybe I am way out in left field on this.

Smiling Eli has lost a lot of luster of late, but I can't see why so many have dropped him so far down the Hambletonian top ten lists. To me he is the most talented colt of the bunch and if someone wants to give me a non-favorite price I would probably gladly take it. He's a solid number one on the Pocket list, if Pocket had a list.

You can tell we're not run by a commissioner's office, but separate commissions. The DRF headline out of Louisiana screams "Louisiana regulators drop probe into Monzante's death" and it's followed by prose relating to the fact this is 'over'. After something like this happens in any sport, some forward looking response by a commissioner or league office - due to the fact this story has brought intense emotion and anger - would be expected as a matter of course.

The Dream of Glory Trot day is next Saturday at Hanover. The day includes a match race at low takeout, which is a neat idea. The card is also being exported to some ADW's. Some tracks in Ontario are trying, and little Hanover seems to be one of them.

Alan wonders - albeit briefly and with seemingly not much alarm -  if the early Saratoga attendance numbers are a cause for concern.

I have not looked for a moment at the weekend's race in Thoroughbred racing, however, I will be handicapping one card for certain: Haskell card. That's usually a fun card, and the track is almost always filled, giving us the feel we like on big days.

Hong Kong head betting honcho Bobby Chang is right. He noted several years ago that bettors that leave their venue for Macau rarely come back; his broad point that racing needs to keep people engaged more than a slot machine does. This meet, despite seeing "Del Mar this and Del Mar that" everywhere I don't believe I've even watched one race from start to finish. I have not played California racing, other than a bet here and there in so long now.

Dumb bettor looked at the new Social Media marketing plan for harness racing in HRU (page 5, pdf) 

If horse retirement advocates want some support, they might look to serious gamblers. Long time Woodbine bettors Jim and John Cherry retired one of their mares in the 1980's and paid for her upkeep and care her whole life, until she recently passed away (this despite owning a farm). NHC winner Mike Beychok claimed and retired the horse he won the pot on. Two things about a real gambler, not a fake one or wanna be or one with a gambling problem, but a real gambler: 1) They're the best people to lend money to, because they pay you back and 2) Deep down they're softee's.

Enjoy your day everyone and good luck at the windows, should you be playing.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Monzante: A Few Days In .... What Up?

We're a few days into the Monzante story and more facts, opinions and just-about-everything-else has emerged, or sunk. Like a lot of stories just like this, they meander, narratives change or move, sometimes facts become more clear, other times they get murkier.

So far, as I follow it, and in my opinion, a few themes have been established. In a broad sense, of course.

- I think the death of Monzante, like others before him, will help his brothers and sisters in the long run. Stories like this, which tend to tug at most of us, have a way of changing the way a system operates, incrementally, by speaking to the individual. For example, through moral suasion perhaps another good horse is claimed out of a race like this to be retired. That opens a spot for an everyday horse at a retirement farm. Without being too melodramatic, Monzante's death will - not might - save another horses life.

- The journalism crowd seems to be having an internal discussion about how to report issues like this - timing, the facts, the opinion; the can of worms. I know it's not popular to defend journalists in this day and age, but I think horse racing has some very good ones. When they talk and discuss (sometimes loudly), their craft - and horse racing - is better for it. Since the initial story, I've felt the down-the-middle reporting of the DRF's Matt Hegarty has been excellent (as one example).

- The 'it's my property and I can do what I want with it' horse ownership crowd has been taking it on the chin in the press, on social media, and is in a standing eight count. I shed no tears for them. If they want to treat a horse purchase or sale like they're buying or selling a timeshare or 100 shares of Apple, go do that and get out of horse racing. Racehorses are animals that are bought to race; to be on television, who have fans, have people who watch and bet them, and are a fabric of North American culture. The way they are cared for while they race, and after they race is a vital part of the ecosystem that keeps everyone in racing employed. If you want cattle, buy cattle. Racehorses are not livestock.

- The forwarding of a discussion regarding ownership responsibility is good for everyone. As one micro example, in Canada we are allowed to write farming losses (which racehorse ownership here is) off our incomes, to a max of about $9,000. My stable consists of three people who recently paid for a horse who was needing a home for well over a year. The $200 or so each a month came from the stable as an expense. This expense was written off as a loss, and we all received some income benefit from that at tax time. These losses can be carried forward as well. We're all looking for a home run horse where we will pay oodles of tax on it some time. Taking care of the stable's stock now can make that tax bite less in the future, and it makes everyone feel good to help a horse we own at the same time. It's expensive to care for horses after they race, but it isn't as expensive as one thinks when you look at it from that perspective.

- Dan might've summed up perhaps the most interesting item of the week.
He's probably right. If this happened in 1992, no one would even be talking about it.

Since the story broke I have tried to look at all sides, while staying out of protracted arguments and focusing on the big picture. Whether I have succeeded or not in that is not for me to judge. However, from as dispassionate a position I can muster, I think some good is happening in horse racing land regarding this story. At least I hope so.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Today's Socialist Party Horse Retirement Briefing

Happy Wednesday everyone.

The Monzante story (at least on my timeline on social media) seems to have evolved into a bigger picture narrative on horse retirement, and that, for me, is welcomed. It's a huge issue. Caroline Betts, who runs a horse rescue and is a USC economist-sharp-cookie on a lot of things, went into a late night twitter montage.

That's a lot of money. Taking care of horses - they're big and they eat a lot among other things - is expensive. Maybe that's unworkable but there's a starting point if you were really serious about doing something.

I wonder if it's money well spent?

Back in the 1960's the National Football League had some issues and the big one was was television. Pete Rozelle, the commissioner, had to convince the owners that television was the way of the future and that the only way the sport could grow was to work out a collective plan to exploit it for the leagues gain. The owners were up in arms. At that time live gate was the major revenue driver for football. The owners, especially in small cities did not want to do this, fearing a loss of gate revenue.

Eventually Rozelle convinced these businessmen that pooling some revenue would benefit everyone; that no team would be left behind. That the league would be stronger, more competitive and would have a foot-hold on the television market that other more scattered leagues would not. It worked. Multi-billion dollar TV deals has made the NFL the most successful sport in the western world.

In the words of Art Modell, the then Cleveland Browns owner: Rozelle got "a bunch of fat cat republicans to become socialists".

That was hyperbole, because they got together to try and monopolize a medium - to step on the necks of other sports leagues - and they did; but the fact they did something together to be cold-hard capitalists is not lost when you look at sports history.

Similarly in other businesses today we see "green friendly" initiatives, "above and beyond workplace and environmental policies", and much more. Are they knitting peace quilts at Greenpeace rallies? Are they purely altruistic? A simple link via Wiki:

"Businesses can use ethical decision making to secure their businesses by making decisions that allow for government agencies to minimize their involvement with the corporation. For instance if a company is and follows the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines for emissions on dangerous pollutants and even goes an extra step to get involved in the community and address those concerns that the public might have; they would be less likely to have the EPA investigate them for environmental concerns. According to some experts, most rules and regulations are formed due to public outcry, which threatens profit maximization and therefore the well-being of the shareholder....."

Nice play Shakespeare.

In racing we can't really get over that same hump can we? Do capitalists like CDI, for example, need to mix in a little more socialism when it comes to horse retirement?

One would think they need to. If stories like Monzante and frog juice keep propping up in Louisiana, how tenuous does their hold on a slots license become? What about for Boyd Gaming?

If one falls, does alternate gaming get hit in Florida too? What about Pennsylvania or Ohio? What about New York?

Car companies have played the game well. Other businesses do this as a matter of course; not because they plan to move to socialist Albania, but because they want to ensure their businesses make money, right here in capitalist North America.

What's holding racing back? I don't know, but I think they need to get their asses in gear and salute the socialist flag when it comes to horse retirement. It'll probably pay off with cold hard cash in the long run.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Social Media and the Big Picture

We've seen some social media brouhaha's over the last few years, but none that I can quite remember has ever rivaled the death of Monzante. His euthanization in a low level claimer has prompted calls for just about everything from getting rid of claiming races to NTRA accreditation of all racetracks, to name but two.

I've read a lot of great points from a lot of good people on social media the past 36 hours. People feel passionate about this, and it shows.

A couple of meme's tend to surface at a time like this. In one, some wonder (and use it as a wedge issue) "why is this horse more important than any horse in a low level race that breaks down?"

It's not, of course. What it is, is different.

For horse rescue people and horse lovers this drives a stake through their heart. "If you people can't even ensure a graded stakes winner gets retired before he breaks down at god knows where, why in the hell are we getting up each day to place your other stock for you?"

For racing fans it puts a pall on the game they love.

For people like Waldrop and America's Best Racing and others who are working their ass off to promote the sport, this brings headlines that "racing doesn't care about anything but money" and unravels a lot of good branding work.

Slots tracks are getting hammered - a lot of times like they should - for not doing enough for horse racing. These clippings find their way into some government pinhead's office who puts them in a big book, and when his boss wants to come after racing's share of gaming for schools or health care, there it is.

For horse owners who care about what happens to their stock after they leave the barn, like the owners of Armbro Proposal and Convocation to name but two, it makes them weary as well.

Why was Barbaro's breakdown different than others? Why was Ferdinand any different than others? It's not because people don't care about other breakdowns or slaughter. In fact, it's the exact opposite. Everyone cares about them, and when it's highlighted it brings out tremendous emotion. The sport, the horses they love, their life's work, it's all being challenged.

Barbaro changed the way tracks are cared for - we see more safety and less speed now - and allowed for the Accreditation system to begin. Claiming rules like the very good one (which likely has to be tweaked) are passing without too much criticism in California, which would've never happened earlier this century. This allows for people to stop passing off an unsound animal to an unsuspecting new owner, like we're dealing with a car on Craigslist, not a horse. Last year at Aqueduct the rent a horse phenomenon was stopped in its tracks when unsound horses were showing up in the box with as much frequency as a 13 year old at a Justin Bieber concert. Earlier this decade a portion of the industry's take of handle in Ontario was given to the Thoroughbred and Standardbred adoption societies. That's something that never would've happened previous to stories like this.

If this sport runs with it and even does some small things - like creating a system where the industry and tracks play watchdog and inform previous owners or other interested parties their horse is running off a 12 month layoffs with a garbage work, or shames an owner enough to not drop a nice horse into a 5 claimer to 'get rid of him' like an old shoe, but find him a home instead - it's a positive.

We'll see if the industry, its advertisers, breeders and ecosystem sweeps this off the front page and goes business as usual, or something changes. If I had to bet, I think it's going to be the latter.

Monday, July 22, 2013

"They're Not Pets"

So I have this dog.

We're not sure what his life was like before; only after we got him from the pound. The vet X-rayed the old boy and said his wounds are from long ago, probably from getting hit by a car and never taken to the vet to properly heal. He was happy for quite awhile after we got him healed up. He was on several meds and they were working well, and we made sure he didn't do too much. Lately, though, like will happen to all of us, he is slowing down quite a bit. A month or so ago he had a bad seizure which I was sure was a heart attack; figuring that was the end for him. Nope. A trip to the vet and some more meds, and there he is bouncing back. Touch wood, no more seizures.

He keeps me up at night and because you have to watch him to ensure he's doing well, I can't leave the house as much as I want to. His vet bills are through the roof and his meds are about as expensive as a human would have in the same situation.  It's not easy.

Conversely, each day he makes me smile at least three times. I mean, he's laugh out loud funny. He sits with me when I work, when I'm feeling down, or happy, when I hit a superfecta, or get nosed out in one. He's given me tremendous joy that money can not buy. He's my pet and a part of my family. I'd do just about anything for the old fella and I treasure each moment we have left.

So I have this horse.

I bought him at a sale and no one wanted him. He made me smile countless times. He won a huge stake where I was surrounded by friends and family after a wonderful road trip I will remember fondly forever. My kids fed him carrots on barn visits and fell in love with him. He was a really good horse who asked for nothing in return but a bed of straw and a couple of square meals a day. Each day he'd wake up and ask "what are we going to work on today?" He felt like a part of the family and the memories we had together were fond and never to be forgotten.

One day, as it happens, my horse got slow; the racing  and training finally caught up to him. He had a sore hock, a couple of curbs, his tendon was a little shaky and ready to let go. The $500,000 or so he made me at the racing wars was all gone; I spent it on more horses, a boat for the cottage, maybe some trips and stuffed some away for the kids' college fund. I could easily get a few more bucks out of him, because I thought I could get him claimed if I dropped him in for 5; but was that the right thing to do? People tell me it is, and they make fun of me if I am not hard nosed in this business, so they must be right. Plus, who couldn't use another five large once in awhile? I popped him in the box and sure enough he was claimed. I took the $5,000 and bought - what I don't really remember - but something.

I found out a few weeks ago my old horse broke down on the track and had to be put to sleep. He was racing somewhere, at some track I never heard of, for people I have never heard of either. That's too bad, but that's the way it is. You know what they say: 'They're not pets.'

The first part of the above story is true. The second part is made up, but it is true for many horses.

It's funny because the first part of the story is common sense. If this blog had more than a couple of hundred hits here and there, I am sure the comments box would be flooded with similar: "I got an old girl from the pound and she lit up my life", "I rehabilitated mine and I would not give her up for the World" or "I found that old dog on the side of the road and despite some bumps in the road and spending money I don't have, the best move I ever made was letting him in my life".

The second part of the story should be the opposite of common sense.  But in a lot of cases it isn't.

"They're not pets". Those three words seem to give everyone an out. If you think they're pets you are weak, or stupid. They're commodities. With commodities you get rid of them when they are no longer one. What happens to them, happens to them. We wash our hands of it, just like the people before us, or after us. It is what it is.

I don't think it should happen that way, and neither do a lot of you. The solution is not easy, or readily apparent, and probably never will be.

The only thing I know for sure is it's better to be a dog than a horse. A dog is a pet and that's a big difference to a lot of people, even though in many cases there's not very much of a difference at all.

Related:  "The Unlucky Ones" and "Monzante, Former Eddie Read Winner, Breaks Down in $4,000 Claiming Race"

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Happy Weekend Of Betting, Golf, Racing and Fair Starts

Good morning racing fans.

Big Night, Big Card

There's plenty of action in racing this weekend. In harness, some of the best mares in the world battle in the Roses Are Red at Mohawk. As well, there's a really good matchup in the Maple Leaf Trot in race seven, where Market Share heads back to Canada. Included in the events are the Canadian Breeders Championships. The entries are here and I'm sure there's a free program up, but I can't find it.

Betting is Frustratingly Weird

Since Sunday I am mired in a betting slump. Slumps are weird things. If they last too long you are probably doing something wrong, but so far I don't see that. I am betting some horses I would bet when I am rolling; they're just racing really, really bad. When you are in one, you do some strange things too, like bet a horse you would not bet if you scanned things a little more closely (I  looked at a couple of bets afterwards and said "what the hell was I thinking?") It snowballs.

Funnily enough, it has even hit my golf picks, in a strange way. I bet five dudes in the British Open, thinking I had some good sneaky plays. Other than Thomas Bjorn, a pick I stole off @insidethenumbers, all of my bets sucked. Then, a really weird one: For the Sanderson Tournament I want to put a few bucks on Mike Weir, because he woke up last week and at 230-1 + I figure that's worth a few dollars. I'm watching the event yesterday and Weir is on fire, at 4 under so I am happy.  He then goes bogey, bogey double and misses the cut. Par for the course for my bets, I figure.

But then I check my tickets. I did not bet Mike Weir. I made a mistake and bet Chris Riley. Riley is like one shot off the lead.

My best bet of the entire week, out of hundreds, was a ticket I made a mistake on. And really, Chris Riley? He's about the last guy I woulda picked.

Slumps are strange things.


Is Captaintreacherous "great"? We throw that word around a lot lately, and in Harness Racing Update, the concept of "greatness" was looked at with regards to the Captain. (pdf page 4)

Fair Start

There was a lot of talk on the interweb last evening about a race at Del Mar where the winner knocked out two horses at the start and was left up. Interference at the start is a wild thing in thoroughbred racing. I think if you knock the field in the infield pond they'd leave you up. I did not watch this instance at Del Mar, but it sounded pretty awful.

I remember once betting a horse - at I think Penn National. He took a couple of steps out of the gate then took a left turn. He sandwiched the horse I bet, where he pretty much went to his knees. The horse that sandwiched me went on to win, beating my horse who made a miraculous recovery to come second by a short head. I thought "maybe I have a shot here to cash this bet when they look at this". Nope, there wasn't even an inquiry. 


On-track handle was down yesterday at Saratoga. I'm not sure if it was the heat or what, but it is what it is. The track seemed to be playing very quick in the heat. At times the last few years it has played to late. We'll see when more route races are carded, but it appears to be like true dirt - go fast and stagger home slower than the rest.

With Del Mar and Toga racing, these are racing's salad days each year. They'll likely be a big part of the total handle of the year and whether it's up or down.

Cheers and have a nice weekend everyone.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Harness Racing Must Be Represented in Ontario's Transition

The current state of affairs in Ontario horse racing is nebulous. The OMFRA panel has been working, consulting with the industry on their draft plan. The plan is clearly a draft and could look very different when things are shaken out in October.

Woodbine - the elephant in the room - will likely control racing, whether the Transitional Plan says so or not. One part of the plan calls for betting revenue to be filtered into a central organization, to be distributed to tracks who have the best handle, or are putting on the best Ontario product. 

Dave Briggs interviewed WEG CEO Nick Eaves and he took issue with this part of the plan:
  •  Eaves was clear his company has "no interest in … moving into a new model which has us transferring our hard-earned economics somewhere else." 
If that part of the plan is scrapped, it will be good for Woodbine and probably pretty good for thoroughbred racing. Woodbine, I believe, will ensure Woodbine is in good (better than it looked 14 months ago) shape.

However, what does it do to grassroots harness racing?

It appears to me, that the OMAFRA panel is harness racing's best friend. The harness industry, unlike the thoroughbreds, is spread to every nook and cranny of the Province. Hay, cars, fuel, horses, tack shop goods and everything else are purchased by harness racers from Goderich to Cornwall, Fort Erie to Parry Sound.  Infrastructure is laid at more than a dozen harness tracks, not counting fair tracks that don the landscape. The government, and the panel, has a responsibility - a mandate it seems - to ensure some money flows there.

Harness racing's responsibility is to work with them to ensure its voice and concerns are heard. To accomplish this, I believe it must put forth some sort of long term vision for harness racing in the Province, beyond Woodbine. 

Perhaps "outside WEG" harness racing will be made up of a fair circuit. The RDSP worked on some sort of circuit like this in its plan. Ohio and other states and provinces do this sort of thing as a matter of course.

Perhaps harness racing - right now - needs to ensure that small tracks have a chance at turning their slots parlors into instant racing parlors, and teletheatres. They could reap the rewards of that 365 days a year and if several of them do it, they could pool funds and put on OSS or grassroots racing throughout the summer, with purses that are not too high that it attracts downtown horses, but are high enough to support a breeding industry.

Perhaps, with the OLG, a racing lottery is created. Much of the betting on this new jackpot bet would go through WEG. A percentage of which should go back to an HRO however, to be used for grassroots racing. Does anyone have a guarantee this would happen? It should.

Perhaps WEG can be used in such a grassroots plan. A recent comment on a chat board:
  • As we`re all in it together, so to speak, tracks, horseman etc. Why not conduct harness racing for OSS, Grassrooters, late closers and "B" track horses, particularly low end claimers at Mohawk? They could race in the three afternoons on Mohawks regular dark days. Surely the expenses would be cut significantly from attempting to run a dozen or so tracks down to a few...they could leave Georgian, Grand River, London and maybe even Rideau, but slash the rest. Windsor used to handle almost 500K on Sundays for that horrific product. As we are approaching an era where purses more or less will be derived from handle, I can`t imagine Mohawk not pushing close to a million on those cards. Mohawk at worst is in the top two or three facilities on the planet and as I understand it, Woodbine/Mohawk come very close to breaking even on live cards.
Admission could be charged, like was presented in the RDSP, and marketing in a box for such things, through an RDSP organization, could also be implemented for grassroots cards. This may create an outlet, with nice handle for grassroots harness racing, that could use Woodbine's brand and network to be ROI positive and build a totally new harness racing brand.

Sometimes I wonder who is looking out for harness racing. The horsemen organizations seem to want as many dates at as many tracks as possible, with no revenue based considerations. Woodbine wants what's good for Woodbine (and I don't blame them for a second for watching their back). What I see from harness racing are posts or letters wanting slots back, or going back to the way it was, with everyone nodding in agreement. That's not a policy for long term growth in the current slotless racing climate, it's a wish.

It'd be nice to see someone - maybe Standardbred Canada who has already done much of this work already with the RDSP - put forth a forward looking plan to the panel. Someone has to look out for harness racing; not because "it wants a slice" or that we're really, really mad you took slots away,  but because it needs leadership to say "look, here's a solid plan that makes economic and political sense".

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Cub Reporter Gets Exclusive "Left at the Gate" Interview

For those who don't know, long time independent and unaffiliated blogger (and someone I've grown to know and like via email over the years) "Left at the Gate" is a part of a new handicapping product "Timeform US". The product incorporates speed and pace figs from, and through number crunching and other proprietary thingys, spits out some pace projections, trainer numbers, a final fig and a lot more.

This morning in my inbox I found an exclusive interview conducted by the whistle-blowing-Ed Snowden of the horse racing blogosphere  (who only goes by the moniker "Cub Reporter") with "Left at the Gate". Cub Reporter gets some of the top interviews in racing, and because he is affiliated with no one but the horse racing underground, he tends to ask some good questions. He's (or she's, I have never met him or her) a real digger.

I print it for you here:

Cub Reporter: Hi Left. My journalism prof told me to always start an interview with a softball question, so here's mine: How does it feel to sell out to the "man"?

LATG: A lot of people have asked me the same question. I'm still who I am. I will never change. Timeform US ® is a vocation I enjoy, is a great product and it will help newbies. I started fundraising for the Rochester chapter of the GOP, and sold my Prius for a new Jeep Grand Cherokee, but I was planning to do those things long ago.

Cub Reporter: On your blog you mentioned that you might not be as critical as usual, especially with TVG. Hypothetical: If you saw Todd Shrupp Schrupp at the Piggly Wiggly and he cut in line ahead of an old lady with a walker, would you still report it?

LATG: I would. Todd is a great guy and from what I've seen amazing handicapper - in fact I am not sure he has ever missed a pick 4 ticket he has ever given out since he started using TimeformUS ®. He is a good family man and very lovable, too. He also works for the best network (and it's not even close) in the history of horse racing. However, after speaking with him, and making sure the old lady did not deserve what she had coming to her, analyzing all the facts and whatnot, I would report that Todd, probably accidently and with no malice, cut in line ahead of her.

Cub Reporter:  It seems the old time blogosphere of the last many years have begun taking on new jobs, inside the sport in some way. You're working in it, Keith McCalmont is now handling Woodbine's social media, Pull the Pocket has been rumored to have been offered a job as Frank Stronach's personal masseuse. Do you feel the tide is changing?

LATG: I don't feel it is. Keith was good, but Pull the Pocket never even got any traffic so it's not exactly a great loss. There are others to pick up the slack. That blogger Ray Paulick seems to be writing some good stories. Sid Fernando is still talking about horses having sex. Equispace is talking horse racing sometimes, when he is not talking about Scott Norwood's kick going wide right. That Colin's Ghost fellow is writing about horses who raced 4,000 years ago or something. And of course I'm here, still plugging away on my blog.

Cub Reporter:  You are competing with some heavy hitters. Is there any tension between you and say Ed DeRosa of Brisnet?

LATG:  There is none. Ed is a weenie sometimes on twitter, but I'd feel that way if he was working for Bris or Fatburger. As for the DRF, I really don't have an opinion. When I wrote I did not mind betting polytrack, I think they blocked my ISP. I have no idea what they've been up to.

Cub Reporter:  Hypothetical: Joe Drape walks up to you and says "Left, I want to run a free banner ad in the New York Times for TimeformUS" What would you do?

LATG: Oh man Cub, why do you have to throw me a Joe Drape question? This is mean.

Cub Reporter: I had to. I'm hard hitting.

Cub Reporter: Well, thanks Left. Any last words?

LATG:  No, none. Thank you Cub Reporter. I enjoyed it.


I thank Cub Reporter for thinking of me and allowing me to publish his stunning work.

In all seriousness (like Alan fund raising for the GOP? that's like me extolling the virtues of 45% trifecta takeout), I encourage players to give the TimeformUS product a look. In today's universe with hundreds of races per day, it is virtually impossible to handicap them all by hand. If you are a player who enjoys more than your own home track, have a little trouble with pace scenario's or the speed index or lack of it in race, or would simply like to try a new way of looking at things to expand your handicapping knowledge, it's there for you.

I am impressed with the product and feel it has merit. And I'd say that if I knew Alan or not.

The website is here.

Have a great day everyone.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

"Everyday" Player Behaviour, "Soundbites" and Racing Notes

Two major meets - Saratoga and Del Mar - open this week.

For the former, Dan over at Thorotrends has a wonderful post on it. If you are planning to visit and you aren't a regular, it's a must read.

Although it is fodder to get flamed, I honestly don't look forward to either meet (when compared to fans, that is). It's not because I don't like watching good horses, the setting, or anything else. In Saratoga's case, for years the meet was not offered on my ADW (I have been playing racing on the 'net since the 1990's), so I never really made it an important part of my summer. As a player I need to be able to bet something, to, well, bet something. As far as Del Mar goes, I have not looked at it much either, mainly because of the rake hike several years ago. Before that point I did play it somewhat. I find both meets too long.

I think it's more than that, though. As an everyday player you simply need downtime. I find the dog days of summer to be that downtime. In the winter months I begin in earnest, with the onset of cold weather, and play very religiously. Since as far back as I have kept records, most of my hay was made from January to May. I seem to get back into the swing of things for the Turfway meet in September, onto Keeneland's, and then take another break and wait for Gulfstream.

I like watching Saratoga and Del Mar, but I don't have the energy to play it like I need to, to succeed. It's probably as simple as that.

Now that y'all think I am cray cray, I'll move on.

At the start of any big meet or a Triple Crown race, you tend to find an article about something wrong with the sport. This isn't uncommon and happens before the Super Bowl (head injuries), or Daytona 500 (falling NASCAR attendance) and other events. Yesterday, James Odato wrote an article about falling metrics in horse racing with the start of the 'Toga meet.  Give it a read if you like.

In articles such as this I always find something that sticks out. In the article, Odato quoted two people, Eugene Christansen who was extolling the benefits of racing changing by innovating and offering a better gambling product, and Rich Violette with an opposing view.

Violette, when speaking about Christiansen's prose that he has been forwarding about horse racing gambling for years, said:
This is interesting, and tells us a lot about horse racing.

Eugene Christiansen, from his website, has the following partial resume:

".....  he has conducted studies of the economics, taxation, financial structure, and regulation of casino gaming, pari-mutuel wagering, and lotteries.... Representative work includes studies of the efficiency of a U.S. state lottery; estimates of the demand for casino gaming, lotteries, and pari-mutuel wagering in U.S. and foreign markets; the feasibility and revenue potential of off-track betting; the financial structure of the Atlantic City casino industry; the impact of gambling on U.S. Indian reservation lands on State-authorized gambling industries; analyses of gambling taxation; procedures to increase wagering and improve the efficiency of pari-mutuel betting operations; the changing nature of communications media and the implications of the changes for horse racing; the interrelationships among evolving consumer expectations, casino gaming, and other forms of entertainment....."

Conversely, Mr. Violette is part of a horsemen group and is a horse trainer. 

In the horse racing solar system, Mr. Violette's words carry the weight of a hundred suns. Mr. Christainsen's, about a three by three rock in the Asteroid Belt.  

With a defacto Triple Crown for three year old pacers concluded, harness shifts to the trotters, with the Hambletonian on tap in a few weeks. This card is the most successful card in harness racing, and it is not really close. Over the years, through exporting and some good cards, handle has not fallen like so many other big event days. Mark it on your calendar.

The Captain has won the first few months of the harness racing season with some good performances, going undefeated. After a break we'll see if he can continue that dominance, or if others can step up. The three year old's are not a lot different in harness racing or thoroughbred racing. The early leaders can some time lose their mettle and others take over. 

There's a nice late turf bias at Belmont. Little good that does me now that the meet has ended. I don't see any major bias at the venues I have been playing lately. 

Good luck to everyone playing today. Have a great Tuesday!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Meadowlands Pace-O-Rama & Look-See At Handles

Last evening the Meadowlands hosted two huge events, the Meadowlands Pace and the Haughton Memorial. If harness racing called stakes grade I's, these would be two super-duper grade I's.

In hindsight or even on paper, the Haughton was the race of the night and it didn't really disappoint. It was deep, interesting and filled with a lot of unpredictability. Pet Rock, who has been stellar this season, was let go at 9-1 from the outside, and David Miller on a speed track, took full advantage. He swept to the lead and never looked back.

What was most interesting in this race was pure harness racing, and pure harness race handicapping. It's one of the reasons why in my pre-race analysis I noted that we have to handicap ourselves more than the horses in the race itself for these deep, interesting races. Generally, you (and the drivers) can find themselves in a bad spot or a good spot based solely on what the other drivers do. It is rarely like this in thoroughbred racing.

Near the half, Cory Callahan driving the leader was likely going to push the button and keep David Miller and Pet Rock hung. This, in turn, would supply both Sweet Lou and Warrawee Needy with fantastic covered trips. After the race, if Jody got the job done for example, headlines about Jody "fishing out second over" would've likely been seen. But that did not happen. Cory let Pet Rock go and the race completely changed in complexion.

In the end it was a super race and four year olds came 1,2,3,4, proving once again that the breed or seasoning of horses have changed over the years, and/or last year's crop was marvelous.

In the big one we had another example of the race being dictated by others. The Captain brushed to the lead and the race was over. I surmised in my pre-race analysis the field was not deep. I don't know if that was correct or not, but the field did not act deep. The only other true leaver, who could've thrown a major wrench into the Captain's front end lollygag was Uncle Peter from the nine post. Pierce left and was hung, but when he saw Tim take the lead he grabbed leather. He was not going to go after a stablemate, even if the first quarter was going in a glacial 27.1.

I think Odds on Equuleus bounced a bit. He was not keen, and driver John Campbell had some real trouble getting him to keep the hole closed in a slow pace. As for the others, George Brennan was waiting on cover, which in a 54.1 probably wasn't stout either. With a last three quarters in 1:21, closers (unless they are a thoroughbred) have zero, zip, no shot.

Time will tell if this crop is a poor one, with one standout horse, or if others step up. Remember, Sunfire Blue Chip and Vegas Vacation were not in last night's race. And the aforementioned Odds on Equuleus has not had a chance to get his feet underneath him this season. I feel there is little doubt he will be a force when he does.

As for Pace night I was disappointed. A few weeks ago I wrote this:

Meadowlands Pace Night Litmus Test

The Meadowlands Pace card has always been a big one. Handles north of $5 million was seen with some regularity in past years. Of late, however, the handle has not been great while the Meadowlands brand was tarnished with shorter fields and smaller payouts.

This year will likely be different because the handles at the Big M have been much better. How good might depend on what horses are drawn not for the Pace, but for the undercard. 

The purse pool is probably being stretched, but if purses were offered of a higher than average number, some Yonkers stock could be enticed to enter and better races could be written, one would hope.  In the old days, high conditioned races with ten good horses, or super-competitive claimers made the card a must-bet. I wonder if they can return to that array this year. 

They did not return to that this year. Probably through little fault of their own. 

Instead they ran Sires Stakes Finals, with heavy chalk. The first pick 4 with a $16 winner paid $42. The first five races were pretty much unbettable. Next year I think more work, much more work, needs to be done on the undercard. In this day and age - even still with some old time thinking in the sport and turf press that horses and drivers and the size of the purse make handle -  you need to work as much on an undercard as you have to in your stakes fields. 

They did over $4M last night, which is good. However, when you look at the fact they've done $3M in a card with no purse over $10,000 or so on a not so regular Saturday with Mark Harder and Jimmy Takter as the driving stars, it's not as much as it could've been, in my opinion.

The next big event for the M is Hambo day. It's always a great day with large fields and plenty of handle. Let's hope we don't see a parade of heavy chalk and a big breadth odds board in too many races come Hambo Day.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Meadowlands Pace, Speed Shows & Gary West Metaphors

Tonight the biggest nighttime card at the Meadowlands occurs: Meadowlands Pace night. There's a good set of races assembled, and two races in the late pick 4 are especially interesting - The Haughton and the Meadowlands Pace.

Past performances are available here.

In both races I think as a handicapper we have to do what we always have to in contentious races - handicap not the horses, but ourselves. The Haughton is a deep seeded affair with no clear standout. Warrawee Needy, who just tied a world record last week, is fast, but so are so many others.  I think the crowd may overbet Warrawee Needy, Sweet Lou and Golden Receiver. I will let those horses beat me.

Four horses that should provide some sort of odds board value are Pet Rock, Bolt the Duer, Razzle Dazzle and Foiled Again. Pet Rock was beaten by a first over Sweet Lou in crawling fractions which happens all the time with horses of this caliber, so don't hold that against him. Bolt the Duer did nothing wrong last week in the least, and had little chance to win. Razzle Dazzle, on his best day can trip out against these from a nice post and be there somewhere, and Foiled Again is a complete fade from a lot of punters due to his Meadowlands record, even though he has been right there in many of his Big M starts. Of those, I think Bolt the Duer might provide odds better or near his win probability. He's for me.

In the Meadowlands Pace, the field is not quite as deep as usual, but we can use the same gambling principles. One thing about the Pace: On paper what might look one way, the trip often works another. A second quarter with someone hung, a horse on the lead who wants to be there, and a second over brush a la Somebeachsomewhere can result in a 52 half. In that case, it's game on.

You might think the Captain has a 50/50 shot to win this race, but you are not going to get 6-5, so that immediately makes all the other horses playable.Mega bombs Resistance Futile and Uncle Peter can win with a pace meltdown. The one and the two are obvious contenders, and even a Beach Memories who has had allergy issues but has been on medications, can surprise, perhaps with some sort of trip.

I might not do much in the Pace in terms of betting, other than probably taking some bomb superfectas, but that does not mean I am disinterested. I think there's a chance something really interesting happens tonight, unlike last year.

Zoooommmmm. Why have harness horses seemingly gotten faster? That question was attempted to be answered in Harness Racing Update today (pdf page two). 

As horse owners and participants we all know this is no longer your grandfathers harness racing. Drivers buy equipment worth $10,000 or more. I don't know about you, but I am paying for medications for ulcers and joints and a million other things that did not exist years ago to help my horse feel better, heal better and race better. We're buying horse's that take minutes, not months to break. Give the article a read and tell me what you think.

Gary West compared change in racing to "Dracula" today in one of the best pieces about the state of the sport I have read in a long, long time.

" the mention of lowering takeouts, as if he had been waiting eagerly and expectantly in the wings for his cue, Dracula rushes onto the stage hoping to suck all the blood out of the idea. What is Dracula, aka the Prince of Darkness, aka dissension, doing in this tale of hopefulness? Well, he has become one of the stars.
Next to the fans -- and nobody really cares about them anyway -- the horsemen, meaning the breeders, owners and trainers, are the largest stakeholders in the sport. And horsemen won't accept any change or innovation that could possibly, even if temporarily, lead to a decline in purses, which lower takeouts could do. So takeouts remain high, sales low."

Hard hitting, maybe hard to read for some, but excellent work. 

Enjoy your racing day everyone.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Hambo Horses, Meadowlands Pace & Taylor Swift

An old harness racing saying is 'time only counts in jail'. I always found that a pretty ridonkulous statement, because time does many things. Other than the obvious - whomever has the fastest time wins the race - time tells you how a horse stacks up; if he has the chops to compete at a high level.

Never is this more needed than with a two year old trotter.

When Muscle Hill uncorked a 53 and change in the Breeders Crown at two, you knew that it was highly probable that an assault on 1:50 as a three year old was going to happen. He was a good two year old, yes, but he was a good two year old who was really fast.

Wheeling n Dealing is a whole other case. He was nine for nine last year at two and won a lot of awards, but he never really stepped it up in the time department. He got a lot of cheap halfs, and seemed to lay over his competition, because he was so professional and seasoned.

At three, a trotter has to answer the bell, because others simply catch up, and there are more of them. After Wheeling n Dealin's first start (and his last qualifier where he only came home in 29.1), there are a lot of questions marks with this colt. Is he even capable of going fast?

It's a long year and horse's can season (Deweycheatumnhowe rarely showed any step at two, despite his record, and went pretty fast at three). As well, maybe Wheeling n Dealin just had a bad couple of weeks and will be much better in his next start. But right now, to this observer, he is looking more and more like a Hambo longshot.

There is copious stake action at the Meadowlands, this weekend, with the $600k+ Meadowlands Pace as the highlight. If you are going to play a stakes card in harness racing, this is one of them you'll want to play.

The Meadowlands Pace is an interesting race, I think more from a tactical "chess" perspective than the race itself. The Captain will be - deservedly - a short priced favorite, especially since two talented horses (Vegas Vacation and Sunfire Blue Chip) are not in the race. However, the wild card - Odds On Equuleus - is one that can throw a wrench in the plans. From the rail JC has little choice but to leave the gate (you cannot get trapped getting away fifth, because in races like this you may never get out), and with Brennan and the Captain wanting to be near the lead something might happen.

Odds on Equuleus is an interesting bet this weekend. In harness racing, horses off a big tune up mile after sickness and lameness can do one of two things - progress, or bounce.  If Equuleus does the former, and gets a decent trip behind him, or on the lead with him first over, I suspect he can give him a run.

I've always believed with this crop one or two other horses than the Captain will take charge for a spell. We'll see if horses like Sunshine Beach or Odds on Equuleus are two of them who will over the next little bit.

Hong Kong outhandled North America last year. One of the most powerful people in Hong Kong racing is a "Vice President of Wagering", not a horsemen rep or a political appointee.

This weekend in Harness Racing Update: Why are horses going so fast? To sign up for the free three time a week newspaper delivered to your inbox, it's here.

Saturday's Pace night coincides with a Taylor Swift concert on the grounds. This represents a tremendous opportunity for harness racing to attack a 14-17 year old girl demographic, in my humble opinion. Here are some out of the box ideas to at least dupe them into getting in the door:
  • Nick Salvi in a superman suit, standing at the grandstand gate saying "Taylor's back stage is here" and leading unsuspecting visitors into the front paddock for a Sam McKee handicapping seminar. 
  • "Meet Taylor Swift's Dad" with Jeff Gural waiting on the apron to talk harness racing, Governor Christie and New Jersey slots.
  • "A Conversation with Taylor's Wardrobe Designer" in Pegasus with Heather Vitale.
  • My Life, My Love of Taylor, A Book Signing" - Jason Settlemoir in a backwards hat, speaking of the time he dated Taylor, and relaying that half the songs she writes she was pissed at him for not being home, but being at the track.
  • Inside Scoop of the Taylor JLO cat fight, with marketing man @itsthejho
Enjoy your Friday everyone, and Happy Meadowlands Pace weekend!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Upside Down

Yesterday at an industry meeting near Toronto, this speech was given:

"The one point that I want to discuss is your future and what it depends on. It is more than about the money, it is about the customer. Your future depends on how many people are coming to the track and how many people are coming to the track and betting. The government is going to support you based on how many customers you have and how much money they wager, so that's your future. Everyone, collectively, has to think about how you attract bettors and customers to the track and regain interest in the industry."

"I said this yesterday: two years ago if we had one of these (industry consultation sessions) I don't think we would have heard 'customer' or 'horseplayer' mentioned. It would have just been about how much money there was and how we were going to divide it up.

"The future depends on the customer --- the same as McDonald's, it depends on how many hamburgers they sell. This business depends on how many dollars are coming through that (wagering) window --- that's what you're all about."

Pop Quiz: Who said it?

a) Jeff Platt - President of the Horseplayers Association of North America
b) That rabble rousing horseplayer @insidethepylons on twitter
c) One of the people who are going to be running horse racing in the Province of Ontario

It is shocking, but it's c.

Think about that line of questioning when it comes to the headlines in Ohio, or last year in New York, which have received slots and gaming money. Most of the time the talk is about fights for splits, how much a stakes race is going to go for, how much purse money are put into overnights, breeding and everything else. When a slot deal is passed you'd wonder if a customer even exists. 

Ontario has received over $4B in slot money since the original deal was passed in the late 1990's. About $345 million poured into the coffers of racing a year. Last year, of course, it was discontinued.

Ontario has a long, long way to go. It might never recover. But one thing is for sure, if you are a customer, you are higher on the fiefdom totem pole than you ever have been in horse racing, anywhere in the world. Horse racing has been completely turned upside down.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Incentives Aren't There To Grow the Sport

Bill Finley wrote a piece at about a mini-championship set of races each month, at various racetracks. These sets of races would not be competing with others, as we see so often now, and Bill thinks they would help to drive eyeballs. In addition, it would help the sport because, "You cannot, week after week, put out a product that your customers keep telling you they despise, and expect to do anything but fail."

I agree, and you agree.

Leaving aside for a moment the dearth of leadership to get something (that's seemingly makes sense and is so simple) done, I think it won't get done because the incentive to get it done is not there. It's pure capitalism, really, in a sport that sometimes we think works in pre-1950 Albania.

A pro sports team wants to make the playoffs and there is a strong incentive to do so.  The players make more money yes, but so does the team. Two home games in the least adds 40,000 fans at $80 or $100 a pop. Making the playoffs also helps the team sell advertising and sponsorships, drives corporate box sales and helps sell season tickets for next year. It can also, if they so choose, help them in getting a ticket increase done. Ensuring they are putting on a good playoff series can yield millions upon millions in revenue.

In horse racing, what increase in revenues can be realized by having a bigger day at your track?

Sponsorship money is not there for the most part, some tracks don't even charge admission, there are no or few box seats or other items that drive massive revenue. Generally it's just the bet. Your "day" at Thisteldown, or Mountaineer might hope for a handle bump. Instead of running ten races of contentious claiming events for $180,000 in purses, you race ten events with $1.5 million in purses. Doing so, your regular handle goes from $4 million to $7 million. The increase in handle of $3 million comes mostly off-track, where your small track gets 3%.

By spending tons on marketing. By creating this massive day. By hiring more folks for the day and spending $1.3 million or so more out of the purse pool, your track might've increased your revenues by $100,000 or so. Oh boy.

Is it any wonder these ideas never get off the ground?

The problem is that by not getting them off the ground, it hurts the sport.  'Not hurting the sport' is not enough of an incentive, however. We can't seem to see that having these big days can put out a better product, build a new brand, and increase handle and revenues over time. Hosting a day today, can pay off tomorrow.

I think there is a path forward, and it is the same old same old - a national office with an industry behind it. Having a national office can add incentives to create these days. A national office can offer the racetrack national industry and event marketing in a box. The marketing would be branded, at little or no cost to the host track. A national office, over time, can sell branding to each event, so sponsorship money can flow. A national office can ensure the events are running at a proper time to increase viewership and handle. A national office can, in time, possibly ensure the events are televised. A national office can help ensure a massive pick 4 or pick 6 pool is promoted on these days.

If all those things occur and are given a decade to take hold, racetracks might be dieing to host an event like Bill talks about.

Yes, some of this has been tried with the NTRA. But because it's been explored does not mean it cannot be explored again. America's Best Racing is proving its worth so far. It's worked better than the old NTRA and Go Baby Go campaigns.

 Horse racing will never grow by asking horsemen and racetracks to be altruistic. Charities grow like that, not businesses. Business needs incentives - money - and until racing finds a way to make putting on an exciting raceday, with deep fields and big crowds, worth it, we'll be stuck in mediocrity and stagnation.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Woodbine Comes Full Circle

A number of years ago horseplayers were not overly enthused with Woodbine. Higher than average takeouts, very little movement on cutting edge issues - like seeded pools, open signal expansion, guarantees, social media expansion and many others - made some of us scratch our heads. It always seemed to me that it was a company looking to protect what they have, rather than one who pushes for new money, who strives to reach more people, and increase betting pools.

Five years after I presented on a panel (representing the customer) with some industry types, including some friends at Woodbine (I was not overly complimentary), I think it's time to give some credit, where it's due.

Woodbine has come full circle.

Last weekend the Queen's Plate card drew $1M more in handle than last year and set an all time record. Handle at the harness venues, only four years ago that would garner less than $1M on a slow night, has improved dramatically. It hasn't been by accident.

Woodbine has opened their signal. I had a friend ask me about betting Woodbine and Mohawk several months ago. He said "Woodbine is on my ADW now and I can get good rebates". Yep, he really said that.Woodbine has gone from a signal that might take a microscope to find, to one that you can bet almost everywhere.

I had another friend who rarely bets win say "Do you know they have the lowest win takeout in North America, they appear to care about the horseplayer, at least in that pool". Yep, he said that.

"Woodbine seems to really be pushing the events well" one might say. Social media has been used fairly well with Gangle and Keith McCalmont. Bloggers like Gene Kershner and others wrote stories for for the Plate. Even Sid Fernando did a piece that got tweeted out. Do you believe stodgy old Woodbine actually puts tweets up on their harness feed now? Ken Middleton probably had something to do with that. They do. They're doing all these things.

Lower rakes, an open signal, guaranteed pools and pushing them, social media expansion. All things players wondered about years ago, now in full force.

There are still some old Woodbine tendencies, like trying to throw their weight around to protect a betting monopoly, which as a customer I find intrusive and maddening. There are head-scratchers like a 20 cent trifecta, which is beyond bizarre for a serious every day player, especially with short fields and high tri takeout. But it is what it is; an old Jockey Club company can't change it's spots in one brief period.

However, on the whole, as a customer, no longer do you wonder if Woodbine is open for business or not. There's a blaring neon sign each and every race day that screams "yes we're open, please come bet". This is new and fresh, and the customers are responding.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Racing Horses, Just to Race Horses

A buddy of mine named Norm Files (@normf66 on twitter) is a huge racing fan. Harness, quarterhorse, thoroughbred, it doesn't really matter. I'd run into Norm at the track sometime and he'd fill me in about his vacation, which 99 times out of 100 was via the car, somewhere that had some track with horses racing.

The last time I spoke to him he hit the fair circuit in Indiana, if I remember correctly. I'm a fan, but I don't much want to go to a fair track somewhere, some of which do not even allow wagering. But for Norm? He loves it.

Maybe I am getting older or more seasoned, but I kind of understand what Normie is about now.

This weekend in HRU was a little story about racing horses in a place where no one gets rich, no one gets headlines or stud deals, or makes stakes payments that can total the GDP of a small country. It's in the Maritimes in eastern Canada.

For the full story, it's on page 5 (pdf). 

Interestingly enough, not only are races like the ones discussed in the piece occurring each week, there's also the unexpected. Last Friday evening, at a training center on Cape Breton Island, a bunch of folks got together for some schooling races. There were some sponsors, maybe a prize or two, some good food, and of course, a beverage or three.

What you have are people showing up to a race, not to bet, not to gain fame or riches, not to yell at a track exec or driver or trainer ; just people showing up for racing. It's pretty cool.

The following photos should give you a glimpse into the action. If you like racing and horses - if you are a Norm - you'd love this place.
Off they go

Lotsa people out on a beautiful evening

The starting gate looks like two ladders, I think

Last race of the day is under saddle
Refreshments, of course

Programs and sponsors. Yep.

I hope everyone enjoyed their weekend.

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