September's Handle, The Big Keeneland, And Pure Speed

Good morning everyone.

I saw the September handle figures released yesterday, and down double digits is not a good metric. There was one fewer Sunday in September this year.

As we've talked about before: Giving us worse gambles at higher prices is not a recipe for growth. It's not about days or number of races (yes, there is a correlation), because when fewer races are carded on a card, the races should be better gambles, bringing in similar handle. This is not happening.

In 2014, racing has put forth three major changes:

1) Signal Fee Hikes and ADW taxes
2) A Churchill Downs takeout hike
3) Changing a surface at a track which achieved record handle after record handle on the old surface

Maybe the people who fear change are right. With change like that we can't stand anymore of it.

Yesterday, Keeneland showed its new colors with an assortment of Primed Pricy Pletcher Speedballs ® (PPPS, or for the digitally inclined hashtag PPPS) and other such sameness. It's looking more and more like the new Keeneland will be Gulfstream North. And yes, that is a bad thing. People love tradition - "I want to see good dirt horse show what they can do on dirt" - and that's fine, but there are 74 racetracks to see that (flip over to Santa Anita if you want). Old Keeneland, a very unique Kentucky Downs and meets like that attack malaise by being different; by attracting entries who don't want to play Pletcher-ball, by providing deep competitive fields which are tough to handicap. This sport, as a gambling game, cannot survive with sameness. It cannot survive with gate to wire 7-5 shots. It cannot survive by "making handicapping easier". It needs more meets which create a better gamble, not fewer of them.

In twenty years time this sport will have wished it had Nick Nicholson running it, because he was one of the few in this business who believed in Einstein's definition of insanity. 

At the Red Mile yesterday (see HRU today for ideas on changing that meet to drive handle), Always B Miki won his Tattersalls "division" in a semi-rout over He's Watching who looked to have his issues (the same one he had at Yonkers in start one?). Miki went a 53.3 middle half, 27 flat of it into the wind, so he was a little soft at the end (for thoroughbred players, energy distribution is important in harness racing, too), but he showed his chops. And he showed his greenness (he's hard to stop when he wants to go, and gets on a line).

JK Endofanera won the other split and seems to be sharp once again. Newsflash: Lateral driver changes - which in any simo center or in the turf press seem to be tantamount to a three drop class drop - make little difference. Despite being googoo about Tyler Smith to Sears on Let's Drink on It, Brian did not carry the horse home on his back to victory.  This happens like 99% of the time when good drivers with fast bikes sub for other good drivers with fast bikes.

Today is a good spectating day at the Red Mile with Sebastian K and Father Patrick in. The weather should likely be better.

Enjoy your day folks!


Anonymous said...

If you actually believe that Tyler Smith to Brian Sears is a "lateral driver change" and that yesterday's result somehow "proves" that claim, you can feel free to wager at MY window at any time! Yes, there are times that the public MAY overestimate the VALUE of certain switches on certain horses, but anybody that sees this particular switch as "lateral" truly has no shot to ever show a profit in this game. And I hope a lot of other people hold the same (erroneous) views that you do, as it makes my job exponentially easier!

Pull the Pocket said...

Do you have long term data on such? I do.

Show your work and we can discuss it like adults.



Anonymous said...

Sir - you can't have "data" when what you label as "lateral" is totally subjective. You can't calculate a comparative ROI on "lateral driver changes" when every player may have a different view on which drivers are "lateral". But that brings me back to the original point, and I'll reiterate that anybody who views a driver switch from Smith to Sears as "lateral", has no chance to win in this game. Again, I'm not saying that a player should automatically bet a driver switch like this as there are endless other factors that go into making wagering decisions; but to unilaterally view this switch as "lateral" is highly flawed, to say the least. To make the larger assertion that "all good drivers with fast bikes are equal" is even more flawed, and almost leaves open no grounds for discussion! No insults are intended, and as I said previously, it's precisely because the public makes so many "errors" that some people can actually still make a profit is this incredibly difficult game.

Pull the Pocket said...

The edge in driver changes is mainly ROI degradation from people overbetting driver changes which are lateral, or near lateral. The stats bear this out, in any large sample.

As Ray posted on Paceadvantage long ago, with something like 30,000 driver changes, the edge solely lies with moves from a terrible driver (trainer/5% part time peorson without top equipment) to aan every day catch driver. That move is still slightly underbet.



Anonymous said...

With all due respect, I've yet to EVER meet a harness player that quoted such statistics that EVER made a profit in the real world. Basing a driver's "real" ability on his official stats is ludicrous, as that would imply that Jonathan Roberts (winning at 25%) is somehow a much better driver than Eric Goodell (winning at about 10%), when any reasonably sane person knows that Goodell is a far superior pilot. A computer can only spit out results based on the data you input; if you submit inefficient data, the results will obviously be inaccurate, and that's why players spending all their time searching for these "nuggets" would be better served actually WATCHING the races, to see things that no computer can calculate.

Pull the Pocket said...


There are plenty of players who bet with validation.

You probably misunderstand me. Driver changes yes, are nuanced, and exploiting that nuance is important to achieve profitability.

In this case you have an excellent driver with top equipment who sat in last week and got the boot. You then get Sears, who is a good driver with top equipment. It is clear to any handicapper that Sears would show LDOI racetrack this week, probably first over. If Tyler was left on, he to would be showing LDOI racetrack, probably first over. Since Sears does not yell at a horse differently you would like
T see the same result, but the odds with Sears would be much lower than with Smith.

This is why such moves, over time, show lower ROI and it's why not many profitable players were playing the driver move yesterday


ron said...

Keeneland handle bounced back nicely yesterday. Let's hope it continues.

Pull the Pocket said...

Decent day for sure Ron. Let's hope it continues. If field size is there, they should have a decent meet, unlike so many other tracks nowadays



Carryovers Provide Big Reach and an Immediate Return

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