Saturday, October 16, 2021

Gambling Content in Racing? An Ode to the Horseplayer Monthly

I've been thinking about wagering, handicapping and gambling content this week. The topic has been front and center with Nico's great twitter thread about gambling versus picks, and Woodbridge's thoughts on the sports betting content space.  With so much corporate-type content, sometimes it's hard to find pure gambling content, in horse racing especially.

This brought me back to The Horseplayer Monthly magazine, HANA's free monthly virtual newsletter. I am biased naturally, because I worked on it, but looking back, eghad it had a great deal of top content. 

It spoke about takeout, getting the best of it, and it didn't shy away from analyzing races and angles. It also incorporated data through database handicapping (mostly via Jcapper) to explode some longer-held handicapping myths. 

It's so old now, I remember my piece about Bill Belichick as a handcapper going for it on 4th downs. He was skewered at that time, now everyone is playing the numbers on 4th downs. 

The crop of writers - doing it for free - was pretty cool. It was grassroots, and the knowledge these people shared was incredible, in my view. 

Gambling legend Barry Meadow, wrote, or allowed us to use his columns. One of his columns was given the Ron Rippey Award, something I think Ed DeRosa started. 

Sharps like Paul Matties and Mike Maloney and Ross Gallo shared their time, time and time again. These were professionals giving away their ideas and tips, without asking for anything. 

The content from good handicappers who love the game was always on display. Emily from Optix, Candice Hare (before she was famous), Nicole from Jeopardy fame, Dana Byerly, Mike Adams, Lenny Moon, Jessica Chapel, Mike Dorr, Track Phatom Dave, regular contributor Melissa Nolan, Dinkin, on and on. Typing that, boy we had a ton of content from women cappers and bettors. That in itself made it different from the way this old game operates. 

CJ used to analyze races using the brand new Timeform US figures! That was always fun. They're still great figs; we won't hold it against them they merged up with the Big Dog DRF. ITP, before he was internet star with the Little Andy feud ITP, would share things, too.

Speaking of the DRF. Tundra-shed-boy, me, got to interview Andy Freaking Beyer. Me! I bought his book at age 15 or so, and here I am chatting with him; the man on the Mount Rushmore of Handicapping. That was a highlight I remember well. 

The other interviews, way too many to mention, were so fun. You know who ever said no, including busy people like Larry Collmus and Maggie Wolfendale and so on? Nobody. 

We added a harness section (HANA had about 350 harness members) and people like Garnet Barnsdale provided (again for free) some great stuff. 

The Track Ratings issue was usually the biggest, most read issue of the year. It would get about 4,000 downloads. The ratings were spearheaded by Charlie Davis's spreadsheet work. 

We cheered when Kentucky Downs - low takeout KD, thanks to CJ and his dad who understood us bettors - took the lead in the rankings over Keeneland who raised the juice. It's nice to see they've turned into a massive success since. 

It was such an important issue because it focused on the bet - field size and takeout, and what bettors wanted and used to bet - and it was read by insiders. It was our big way to try and get the message through.

That issue would create the most feedback, and I don't know how many times I heard the food at track 'X' was bad and it should not be in the top ten. Fun times. 

Candice Curtis, who is exactly who you think she is from her twitter persona, created some amazing covers. I love Candice; a complete gem. 

Chip Reinhart would do the hard work - putting everything together. We were not professionals, didn't have any software, nothing fancy, but Chip got the job done. 

Folks like Ray Paulick would help distribute it. Ray's retweets and him letting us post up some content was great. Crunk's handle stats were always welcome, and were informative and drove readership. 

Sadly it's no more. But I don't even know how popular it would be today; in our game. Doesn't it not feel the same as it did? Maybe I am just being nostalgic, but with big team play, the odds board being driven by computers and late betting - everything really - it doesn't feel like it's a community as much. Maybe I am wrong with that and I'm just getting old. 

If I forgot to mention anyone in this homage to the magazine and those involved it's certainly not intended. 

Here's the archive of the Monthly if anyone wants to have a look again. Many of the articles stand the test of time. 

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