7 May 2019

My Two Cents On The Kentucky Derby DQ

The Kentucky Derby is a throw the ref whistle away race. With 19 or 20 young horses going a mile and a quarter, you have to expect infractions. Throw in a wet track, and it is next to impossible not to have cutting off, herding, checking, etc. Watch any Derby replay ever run and find me a race where no infractions occurred. Heck, watch the 18 horse during the first furlong and the havoc he causes.

The Stewards know this is a throw the whistle away race going in. This is why they didn't put up an inquiry, in fact, objections in the Derby are rare. To my knowledge, the Stewards have not initiated any of them.

Had a jockey claim of foul not been made on Saturday, I contend that 99% of horse racing's fans and bettors would be completely content with Maximum Security, the best horse in the race by far, winning the race, even if an analyst or two pointed out that there was a possible infraction. The analysts would be able to say that an inquiry wasn't called because "it is the Kentucky Derby, historically an aggressively ridden race, this year on a sloppy racetrack." And you know what? That would have been fine and true.

Had that happened, the biggest debate among gamblers would be the magical re-breaking of Maximum Security at the head of the stretch. Many might be speculating on the drug results. Not too many people care about that right now. Just an aside, the newbies would be seeing the re-breaking as the signs of a super horse. It would actually be good for horse racing in the short term.

But there was a claim of foul. The jockeys who claimed foul put the Stewards between a rock and a hard place. An obvious infraction in high definition. Believe me, I can't begrudge their decision even though I disagree with it. Now, instead of 99% of people happy with the best horse winning the race, only around 50% are happy what's his name was placed first.

There is a lot of subjectivity going around. Did War of Will herd a horse or two making his way to the outside? Did he initiate contact with Maximum Security causing the shift in the first place? Or did Maximum security shy away from reflections on the track or was he spooked by the crowd? The last two possibilities were obviously not good enough excuses to keep in first place ONCE THE FOUL WAS CALLED.

Again, this decision wasn't cut and dry, that is why it took so long to reach a verdict.

I'm from the school that if a unanimous decision can't be made within three minutes, let the results stand. I know there are quite a few who are in the take as much time as you want to get it right camp, I just disagree. I also disagree with interviewing the jockeys. Do basketball or football refs interview the players when doing play reviews?

So what happens next? I think a pretty rough precedence has been set. More claims of foul are going to be made and more horses are going to be thrown out, even in big races. And the Kentucky Derby could become a big casualty because of the all the infractions that happen in the most exciting two minutes in sports.

The smart thing to do will be to reduce the field size to 14 starting next year. I don't think it will hurt betting by doing that. It might hurt premium seating a bit because 6 less connections will show up on Derby day, but that is a small price to pay to avoid ruining the Derby going forward.

8 January 2019

What Is Cheating In Horse Racing?

When I see accusations that a trainer with a high win percentage cheats I have to ask "What Is Cheating?" There is lots of buzz lately, both pro and con, due to a recent Sun article. The article doesn't really define what cheating is or where the line is drawn. It is hard to cheat when you can't define what cheating is. Cheating of course includes overages and jockeys using buzzers, but what else does cheating include?

Let me bore you with my thoughts.

I recently conducted an unscientific poll on Twitter. The results were the opposite of what I expected:

This illustrates how subjective cheating in horse racing is.

My definition of a super trainer is someone who wins a very high percentage of races. I'll go one step further. I've watched thousands of races in my lifetime and the one thing I've noticed about recent super trainers is the way their horses tend to have a second wind during the stretch run, as if they were buzzed or as if an oxygen tank was turned on mid stretch causing the horse to rebreak.

I've written about super trainers as far back as 9 years ago. It is a fact that some (many?) trainers push the envelope and try new things, things that aren't tested for. We know that, because some have been "caught" doing that. But where is the line when it comes to cheating?

Trainers can use non banned supplements to build a horse up. Is that cheating?

Trainers can use drugs that aren't being tested for to do the same. Is that cheating?

Trainers can use hyperbaric oxygen chambers to build up a horse. Is that cheating?

Trainers can use shock waves or acupuncture to lessen pain. Is that cheating?

What about using plant derivatives to kill pain or increase red blood cell counts? Is that cheating?

I hope you see where I'm coming from. Here is where I'm getting at:

I'm not sure about just going the hay and oats way, but in order to curb "cheating" there has to be a definitive list of approved drugs and treatments. Anything not on the list would count as cheating.
Will that stop cheating? It depends on the on the consequences when one gets caught. Right now, there isn't much of a deterrence out there. How can there be under today's guidelines and rules?

30 June 2018

Horse Racing Fixes That Won't Happen, Queen's Plate Picks

I've been doing this blog for quite some time. I've identified horse racing's biggest problems and offered numerous solutions but very few take. It is very frustrating, but what the heck, I have a few minutes of spare time, so lets play the broken record again.


People have many choices when it comes to gambling, from casinos to lottery tickets to fantasy sports. Let's pretend you didn't have a clue about horse racing and decided to investigate it. With a little sleuthing you found out that for every $100 bet, the track only pays out $79. If you were a sane rational human being, would you need to investigate any further? Even compared to fantasy sports where the takeout is around 11%-12% (it used to be 9-11%), horse racing's takeout is far too high to create any sort of buzz.

Can someone become a professional horseplayer anymore and work their way from their mom's basement to Rosedale mansion? Of course not. Horse racing doesn't even try to give you that impression anymore, they've given up on it because it would be an outright lie. Poker and fantasy sports had their success stories, and those very few success stories brought thousands of new players in. News of success stories in gambling have fizzled out as the house advantage as been forced up in the past few years due to extraordinary costs (legal, state licensing, taxes, etc.) gambling companies have had to endure. This hinders growth considerably.

There is no way any horse racing wager should have a takeout of more than 15%, 12% tops for win place and show. But this will never happen because horse racing execs only think short term, as do horsemen groups which have influence on takeout rates in many jurisdictions. Even players who have no clue what the takeout rate is, look into their empty wallet and realize how quickly it was emptied and how little action they had for their buck compared to most other forms of gambling.

With sports betting (average takeout 5%) on the immediate horizon, horse racing is in a heap of trouble.


I watched the entire Congressional Hearings on the Horseracing Integrity Act. I'm still not comfortable with horse racing being one word, but besides that, the hearing was pretty much about Lasix.
Elimination of race day Lasix is a no-brainer. Unfortunately, the proper simple case was not made.

Fact is that horses have one third the lifetime starts that they used to before Lasix became widespread legal. There are other factors besides Lasix which have caused the decline in starts, such as trainers who charge more pick and choose races to keep their averages up, good horses retiring way too early, and a weakening of the breed (which can be linked to Lasix and other drugs).

Yes, other methods to prevent bleeding were used in the old days, but they were mostly only used on known bleeders. But lets say that the 5% of horse who really need race day Lasix are taken out of racing altogether. You end up with 90-95% averaging double or triple the amount of lifetime starts they have today. Think of the field sizes and bigger field sizes means more betting.

Lasix and other drugs drains horses. Back in the 60's and early 70's horse could easily race once a week. Not anymore.

And contrary to what some drug dependent trainers and their owners might say, Lasix has been used historically to mask other drugs. Of course, this would be drugs that are tested for. No need to mask drugs not tested for.

Problem is that most of the biggest barns do not want to change the status quo. They are on top, and any changes to what is legal and what isn't will most likely mean they won't be on top anymore.
And of course vets don't want to lose their cash cow. Just administering Lasix on race day is a multi million dollar business in North America on its own, and if you add in the other part of the kitchen sink super trainers like to throw into a horse's system prior to a race, including drugs that may be masked, vets make out very good. It won't be so good, if race day drugs are banned.


Pretty obvious that if a trainer hits at 25% or greater running against field sizes that average 7 or more, they are using stuff that isn't being tested for. There are only so many ways to train a horse, and it only seems logical that a trainer with 4 horses who is putting in the work, should at least be on the same playing field as a trainer who has 100+ horses and rarely shows up at the track where the horse races.

Horse racing "cheaters" seem to be a step above the testers, even though they are a step behind cheating bicyclists and body builders. As long as Lasix is allowed, testing horses after a race is futile. The ones who are knowingly pushing the limits on legal drugs or banned drugs, pretty much know they won't get a positive. Save money, only test the winners. What is really needed is a list of drugs that trainers can use and they have to stick to those drugs ONLY. If caught using anything else, fines and suspensions need to hurt them. There needs to be a deterrent. I also think there should be more money devoted to ANONYMOUS narcs.

Something needs to be done, as owners are getting more and more discouraged when they lose to that guy/gal. We all know who that guy is. Every track has a few that guys. And the thing is that owners are good to grow the game. They bring new people to the track: Potential owners and bettors. I actually think this is one issue that racetracks support.

Ban race day Lasix and stop testing horses that don't win after a race, and maybe use those funds for retired horses and injured jockey. Sounds good to me.


They've had ample chance and time to reduce takeout and try to lure thoroughbred players. Handle generally sucks for most tracks and the overwhelming majority of purse money for these tracks comes from slots. But for some unknown reason, they won't adopt my maximum 15% takeout rule.

What else can be done? Free past performances will help a lot. If every harness track had free past performances with decent speed figures (yeah I know speed figures aren't as good in Standardbred racing, but we are talking crossover gamblers now).

Another thing they can do at 1/2 or 5/8th tracks is to have separate draws for post positions. I've proposed this before as well. Crickets. How this works is horses who finished first at the same class or greater last two races, along with horses who finished 2nd last race same condition or greater and droppers who finished 4th or better last start all draw for the worst post positions while all the other horses draw for the best positions (


I used to be good at picking the winner in the Queen's Plate. Lately, not so good. I think the last winner I picked was Edenwold back in 2006. This year I'm banking on the Due Theory

I've got the race down to "only" 6 contenders. Here they are in program order:

7. Dixie Moon - beat a tough filly last time out. That race may cause a bounce, and something tells me the distance may prevent a top race by her.
9. Say The Word - looks like one who will like the distance. Speed figs put him right in the mix, and his odds should be more than decent. Trainer Motion knows what he is doing. We might just see a peak performance today.
10. Telekinesis - Lumbered to victory in the Trial. His running style might be compromised with post 10, and the distance might be too far. I don't see value but figs are good enough.
11. Wonder Gadot- Her Kentucky Oaks speed fig destroys this field, but it destroyed the field in the Oaks as well, and she lost. She has had three tough races in a row where she has been the bridesmaid. Do you want to take your chances on a win shy filly in 35 degrees Celsius heat? If she is less than 9-2, probably not.
15. Aheadbyacentury - He was racing for third in the Trial and got it. Galloped out well. The distance shouldn't be an issue, and he has arguably the best Woodbine jockey aboard. With a good trip he could be right there at a really nice price.
16. Rose's Vision - Second best in the Trial. The post position should hurt his chances today due to his running style, but his speed figures give him a chance if he has a peak race in him.

I'm going to go for value and make Aheadbyacentury my pick.

13 April 2018

Horse Racing Bet Ideas To Compete With Sports Betting

It looks like horse racing very soon will have to face the inevitable, and compete with sports betting. Horse racing already had to deal with slots. Luckily, in most jurisdictions, the horse racing industry was deemed important enough to get a piece of slots revenues.
It might be a tougher sell in many jurisdictions when it comes to sports betting though.

Lots of questions are still unanswered, like who is going to be the risk taker since betting on sports in its purest and most popular form is not parimutuel? Will tracks and ADWs
be the major hub for sports betting or will Daily Fantasy Sports sites be the biggest player? What cut, if any, will the horse racing industry receive?

The sports leagues are the ones putting on the show, and they are asking for 0.5% of the total handle. Vegas publishes their win numbers every month on all forms of betting. For sports betting, it is usually around 5% of the total handle and it includes single game bets and parlays (which have a larger" juice" rate than the estimated 4.5% for individual games). That means the leagues will most likely be getting around 10% of gross profits. When you add in the states cut and the operator/risk taker cut, there probably won't be much left for horse racing even if they do get a cut.

So let's look at a few bets that horse racing can put out there to directly compete with sports betting. The advantage horse racing has is that a race is over in 2 minutes, while a game is over in 2-3 hours. Even if a parlay is experimented with, it can be over in less than an hour.

The Odds Even Bet
This is not a new idea. It has been tried, unsuccessfully, in the past. A parimutuel wager with a low takeout where one has the option to take all the even numbered horses or all the odd numbered horses in a race. Making this kind of bet anything but
a parimutuel wager would be suicide for a racetrack, but this kind of bet, if promoted nationally, could become successful, and it could be a major stepping stone to exchange wagering. This bet can also be a parlay bet using multiple races with a higher takeout to put it on an equal footing with sports betting.

The Jockey Team Bet
This is a variation of the jockey head to head bet which again has been tried before. Again, this needs to be parimutuel. This idea has quite a few variations that can be used. For example, a computer can figure out which jockeys have the most mounts in North America for race cards that begin between 12 and 2 EDT. Using a formula that incorporates morning line odds, two close to equal teams of 3 jockeys can then compete head to head for total wins.

The Winning Payout Bet
This is a variation of the Odds Even Bet. This has to be another low takeout parimutuel bet. For example, lets assume it is 10 horse field, horseplayers can bet over or under a win payout of $12.55. Of course, tracks can use their historical mean payout price for races of X number of horses as the target price so that there is a good chance that there will be equal action which means a $1.90+ payoff for both sides of the bet, which is equal to sports betting. This too can be a parlay bet as well, using multiple races.

The above piece was recently published in HANA's Horseplayer Monthly. Check out April's Edition, there is a lot of good info and it is free.

26 March 2018


With sports betting most likely becoming a reality in the USA in the very near future, I thought it might be a good time to re-publish an article I wrote for HANA two years ago comparing horse racing's competition. For what it is worth, horse racing takeouts range from bet type to bet type and track to track (12% - 31%), though it is estimated to collectively be between 21-22%, not taking rebates or other incentives into account:

Sports Betting: When it comes to traditionally betting a single game against the spread, in theory, the house edge is 4.76% without taking pushes into account. Other factors come into play though. Bookmakers do not usually make the spread with a 50/50 outcome in mind, but rather make the number one in which they think will attract 50% of the money each way. This could create an underlay on the dog when a good and popular team is favored, for example.

Two team parlays generally pay 2.6-1 which translates into a 10% house edge. However, because one might be able to find two real underlays, and because there are certain tendencies when betting the spread and over under in a single game (for example, when there is a home favorite in football and lets say the over under number is 42, there are two outcomes which dominate, the home team under, and the away team and the over, which is due to the strategies employed by teams in the second half depending on the lead). Bottom line is that the collective edge is certainly less than 10%,

Three team parlays generally pay 6-1, but there are 8 outcomes which means the edge is 12.5% if random selections are made.

Vegas publishes their win rate. Collectively on sports betting it is just a little more than 5% of total handle (it varies very slightly year to year).

Lotteries: State lotteries generally payout approximately 50% of the total money taken in. Comparing horse racing to lotteries in often done and always silly. When someone buys a lottery ticket they are usually buying a dream, it is an entertainment expense in a way as one fantasizes about retiring to their own Island.

Scratch lottery tickets, have an expected payout range in line with horse race exotic wagers.

Blackjack: If one plays by the rules without counting, the house edge is only .5%. Though, it sounds like the best bang for a gambler's buck, a bankroll can disappear pretty quickly when playing 75 hands per hour. Still, the game is still perceived as beatable mostly thanks to stories of counters being barred by casinos.

Craps: Odds on resolved bets range from 0% to 11%, and the collective edge the house has is around 1-1.5%. This is a game that is somewhat complicated and mathematically impossible to win at long term for even the best players, not the best of combinations.

Slots: The house edge on slot machines ranges from 2% to 15% (collectively around 8%). The exact amount a machine wins long term can be programmed by the operator. Unless one hits a huge progressive jackpot and then quits slots, this game is impossible to win at long term.

Some operators have admitted to "loosen" machines at peak hours. The theory behind this is when the casino is full, the sound of winning will help hook players for more repeat business. When it comes to horse racing, an argument can be made that is the reverse of this, higher takeout on bigger days because many just play on big days, while dropping takeout the rest of the year to keep the regulars in action longer while keeping them from focusing on other forms of gambling. This approach hasn't been tried yet.

Roulette: Thanks to O and OO the house edge is 5.26%, as long as the wheel doesn't have any flaws. This game is far less intimidating and a little less social than craps and it requires the same zero skill level as slots. If you play roulette for 14 days straight, you will lose over 5% of your total wagers.

Poker: The rake for poker is 2-5%. Skill is involved when it comes to knowing probabilities, and if playing live, reading other players. A player with superior skill has a chance to win long term due to relatively low rake.

Daily Fantasy Sports: DFS was growing exponentially in popularity prior to state regulations. DFS likes to call their house edge a commission, and whatever you want to call it, it is around 9-12%. It is definitely a game of skill as well as it is gambling. Estimates are that the top 2% of the total players make money and also are responsible for a very high percentage of what is played in total. This means that at this time, for those with superior skill, the game can be beaten long term.

DFS is extremely similar to horse racing when it comes to degree of difficulty and homework needed to make good selection, though horse racing handicapping has a higher learning curve. DFS seems to be attracting players, especially millennials, because it is perceived as beatable by at least a few.

30 October 2017

The New NBA Timeout Rule and Horse Racing

If the customer doesn't like something, businesses usually do something about it, if they can. The NBA is a perfect example of looking to satisfy customers, though sometimes they are slow to react, but nowhere nearly as slow as horse racing.

I remember the ABA. Besides being known for their psychedelic fake basketball and the great Dr. J, they were way ahead of the curve as they introduced the 3 point basket in 1967 when their league formed (It was actually introduced by the very short live ABL in 1961). The rule made a lot of sense, giving a team the ability to make a long dramatic shot to win or tie a close game, and even as a teenager, I thought that when the ABA merged with the NBA, the three point shot would be part of the merger. It took another 4 years for the NBA to bring that extra bit of excitement to their league, but the point is that they did it.

Lately we've seen quite a few tweaks from speeding up the game to taking away plays that exploited the rules (like the Hack-A-Shaq tweak that came into effect a year ago). They still have to figure out how to handle the three point foul lean in, but that is tough nut to crack, but they'll get to it, because customers don't like it.

The last two minutes of the game were starting to get infuriating. Way too many timeouts were being called. I believe it got progressively worse the past few years. In a close game, there was pretty much a timeout every time the ball changed hands. It almost became a gimme that a timeout would be called after a made basket. From a customer's perspective there was no flow, it took up to a half hour to watch 2 minutes, and that meant way too many commercials as well.

It was not surprising that the NBA made the change this summer. Reducing the amount of timeouts that can be called in a game and limiting the amount of timeouts that can be called in the last two minutes and overtime.

This brings us to horse racing. The obvious parallel here is the notorious post time drag. This is a fairly new phenomenon, first it was only really noticed at one track, and somehow bean counter track executives from all over North America saw this as a money maker, and it really isn't. Horse racing, with falling handle (especially when taking inflation and a larger population into account) should be doing whatever they can do to not piss off their customers (By customers, I mean horseplayers, not horsemen, but that is another story).

There can't possibly be one bettor on this planet who enjoys post drag. And it really is unnecessary. NYRA, who seems to do things right relative to the industry as a whole, does not participate in post drag, and lately they've been bucking the trend when it comes to handle. Remember track execs, higher handle generally means there are more eyes on your racetrack.

If horseplayers know there is no post drag, they will bet earlier. And more importantly, they won't have another reason to be upset. From high takeout to super trainers and synthetic drugs and a few things in between, horse racing doesn't need to give their customers another reason to stop playing.

The problem is that horse racing does not have a commissioner to lay down the law and enforce things. They really need one. See WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN IF HORSE RACING HAD A COMMISSIONER

One final thing, thank you Michael Jordan for getting the NBA to go with longer baggy shorts in 1984.

4 August 2017


Let's look into into future, maybe 3 years from now or maybe 203 years from now. Racetrack owners will finally get together and decide that since successful sports such as baseball, football and basketball all have
Commissioners, horse racing should have a Commissioner too. Commissioners have one major goal and that is to grow the game's customer base while being mindful of the health of the athlete. They use uniform rules that are subject to change (if it is found that certain rules may cause too many customers to stray from their game, or if athletes are sustaining too many injuries). Commissioners have an ace in the hole, they can objectively impose significant fines and suspensions for cheating or bad behavior.

Here is some of what a Racing Commissioner in a centralized office can accomplish:

Uniform fines and suspensions. If a L.A. Laker player gets caught doing drugs in L.A., he isn't only suspended in L.A. He can't play anywhere for however long the suspension is. If a Knick is caught doing exactly the same thing, he gets the exact same fine and/or suspension. This same standard will now apply in horse racing.

Uniform medications. This is a no-brainer. As the new Horse Racing Integrity Act suggests, make a list of what can go into a horse's system and when, and make everything else illegal. This list should also include procedures such as "doing the stifles," and even go as far as regulating hyperbaric chamber use. All procedures should be reported to the track and that info should be reported to the commissioner's office and posted on their website so horseplayers and horsemen alike can view it. The NFL has no problem making public when a player stubs his to even though it is illegal to bet on football nudge nudge wink wink.

The Commissioner's Office will be in charge of monitoring out of competition testing as well. It should also be in charge of hiring the testers and placing them in the right areas.

Uniform minimum wagering bet types. This will happen by osmosis if there is a Commissioner. Payouts also will be uniform (tris will either show a payoff based on $1 or 50 cent bet at every track, for example).

Uniform whipping rules. Whether it is decided that hitting a horse more than three times in succession is a no no, or if whips are eventually banned, every racetrack participant will operate under the same set of rules.

Of course, track owners will be invited to Hawaii, where betting on horses will be legal by then, to participate in an annual Owner's Meeting where new proposed rules can be suggested and decided upon.... by the Commissioner's Rules Committee. That committee will be made up of mainly horseplayers.

Speaking of Hawaii, a Commissioner's office might be able to focus resources to lobby to legalize horse race wagering in states that do not allow horse racing gambling at all and/or over the internet.

The office can be a place to go to with new innovations. A Commissioner whose interest is to grow the customer base would most likely push through exchange wagering and even a national lottery.

A centralized Inquiry Center. There will be two sets of eyes on each live race to look for fouls when not called by jockeys. If there is an inquiry, the same three judges get to make a decision whether the potential interference just happened at Delaware Park or Saratoga or both. It should be noted that the horseplayers will inevitably decide if they want the standard to be "if a horse wouldn't have beat the horse who interfered with it anyway, there is no DQ" or "there will be a DQ for any interference." This is where the ability to poll the customer comes into play. Also, in basketball, there is no need to hear from a player who may or may not have tipped a ball out of bounds. The same line of thinking should work with objective stewards not having to hear from jockeys. The replays should be enough to tell the whole story. If three stewards can't come to a full agreement, the results should stand, and there should be no need for an appeal. The stewards will also use objective standards when it comes to fair starts.

The reason there won't be too many overlapping inquiries is because the Commissioner's Office will have final say on scheduling races. Tracks will submit the amount of race dates, their preferred post times and actual dates, and the commissioner's office will do its best to accommodate those race dates and also space all races as much as is humanely possible so races at multiple tracks don't go off at the same time nearly as much as they do right now. They might even be able to help negotiate optimal times with racetracks which will help racetracks be as profitable as possible.

And yes, there will heavy fines for post drag violations. Bettors hate it, and that is what matters to the Commish.

There are other things the Commissioner can look after, like capping takeout and push to eliminate breakage, but just about everything above can't be achieved without some form of a centralized body.

I wrote the above article in the July edition of Horseplayers of North America's free e-magazine Horseplayer Monthly July 2017 Edition.

2 July 2017

2017 Queen's Plate Predictions

Queen's Plate Day is upon us once more and as a Canadian who blogs about horse racing, albeit very sparingly these days, I feel an obligation to at least give my picks for the race.

Because I avoid filly repeat winners at all costs, the fact that the morning line favorite is exactly that means that there might just be some value in this race. Lightly raced Holy Helena is coming off a top figure in the Oaks and a same day time that was one full second better than the Plate Trial. It is almost certain that she will bounce, the question is how much. I'm envisioning midway through the far turn, generally when jockey Luis Contreras asks his horses to go, a bit of life followed by an empty sign at the 1/8th pole.

So who do I like? It is very hard to really like anyone coming from the Plate Trial, but if were to pick the one with the best chance, it would be King and His Court. He looks like he can improve off that last race and because he had success as a two year old at Woodbine going a mile and an eighth, I expect him to handle the extra eighth of a mile.

I'm pitching Guy Caballero who seemed to fall into a win. It is possible he can improve, but he just doesn't seem good enough. State of Honor is another horse who will probably take action because of who he faced in the past, but he looks like a 7 furlong to a mile horse. If he has any pressure on the lead, look for him to falter by the top of the stretch. Without pressure he still should be passed by at least 3 comers.

The top figure horse (if you eliminate the filly) is Channel Maker. I see the one post as a benefit in the Plate. I don't like horses off over a month going this kind of distance, but these days 35 days is acceptable. The obvious question is can he get the distance? He seems to be a mile and sixteenth horse, so he'll need a good trip to win the race, any trouble, and it will be an uphill climb.

Malibu Secret is a real mystery. Something tells me his entire training campaign this year has had one goal in mind and that is the Plate. His numbers put him in the hunt here.

It can't go without saying that Eurico Rosa Da Silva took Tiz A Slam in this race. Right now, he looks like a better grasser. His numbers make him a contender, but his post might be too hard to overcome. Finish 3rd or 4th is a good possibility for him.

Aurora Way was very impressive beating up on maidens in his only race, but his speed fig coupled with his post today doesn't do it for me.

Chad Brown's filly Inflexibility (named after racing's stance against recognizing that horse racing is about gambling not so much sport) may improve off her last, and I can see her even beating Holy Helena. Even so, at best she might get fourth.

Spirit of Caledon is another who might just improve enough and get a good enough trip to graze the superfecta.

As for the other horses not mentioned, I just don't like them enough to mention them, and if they run in on me, I'll turn the page, I have no issues turning the page regardless if the race has a million dollar purse or a $10,000 purse.

My official picks:

Fort Erie's Pregame Show is full of Queen's Plate Picks by horsemen in the backstretch:

9 June 2017

Is It Time For The Omni?

The Omni wager, also known as the Swinger has spread into North America, not yet on any US or Canadian's track betting menus, but it is available to North American Horseplayers on South Africa and Hong Kong cards. If you play it you no longer have to say things like "Ist and 3rd again, the story of my life," because if you finish 1st and 3rd, you cash.

After takeout is removed from the Omni pool, the balance is divided by three. One third goes to those who wagered on the 1st and 2nd finishers, another third goes to those who wagered on the 1st and 3rd finishers, and the final third goes to those who wagered on the horses who finished 2nd and 3rd. In other words, it is about 3 times more likely that one would cash this wager as opposed to playing an exacta box or quinella. Of course, the payout is around one third of what an exacta box would pay as well.

It is a wager that could fly with new players. If you look at the success of Daily Fantasy Sports, churn is a key factor. Many players are content when they double their money for the night as they have action money for the next couple of days without having to go to the well, while also keeping an eye on the big prize. As an entry level wager, the Omni offers enough of a reward to put a smile on the face of a newbie, while also introducing them to the idea of using multiple horses which leads to understanding handicapping more which could lead to more horizontal and vertical wagers where bigger payoffs occur.

The Omni was set to debut at Aqueduct in 2014 with a 15% takeout, but for some reason, the December 2013 news releases never came to fruition. It could be argued that NYRA understands churn and growing business more than most, if not all organizations out there today. The fact they don't offer jackpot bets is evidence of that, and if anyone is going to begin offering the Omni at a North American track, it will probably be them.

The big problem regarding the Omni is that pools are already diluted as players have too many options each race. Pool size is important to value players, so it might take a while for the Omni to catch on, however, if racing is to grow, the focus should be on high churn low takeout wagers as opposed to the current jackpot fad, that is lazily becoming available at more and more tracks hope to fluke into a Gulfstream Park Rainbow 6 situation rather than think out of the box for ways to grow handle. Jackpot wagers create little to no churn and create no new long term players, the Omni could do the opposite.

How about repealing and replacing jackpot bets, Hi 5s and high takeout superfectas in races with less than 7 betting interests with a low takeout Omni?

19 April 2017

Jackpot Wagers Are A Hindrance To Growth

Many racetracks have introduced Jackpot bets over the last few years. Beulah Park had the Fortune Pick 6, which was a carbon copy of Puerto Rico's very popular poolpote wager, was going for a few years without much fanfare. Things changed on Derby Day 2010. The Fortune Pick 6 had a carryover of
over $400,000 and there was a mandatory payout that day. The industry took notice as a small racetrack was getting unusual attention, even taking some attention away from the Derby itself. $700,000 in new money was wagered on the Pick 6 that day.

Some observers saw this as a good thing. Even Andy Beyer wrote an optimistic article on Jackpot bets, and he was probably the first person to bring up the idea of developing Hi 5 Jackpot wagers.

Although Jackpot Bets may be good for an individual racetrack because the majority of money being wagered originates off-track and larger jackpots attract some players to play a track they may not have without the jackpot, these wagers collectively kill churn. Also, there is no evidence to show that Jackpot wagers create new customers and it is common sense that customers are using "extra money" on these bets. Horseplayers do not have "extra money."

With horse racing handle on a downward spiral, especially when taking into account inflation and population growth, from an industry standpoint it makes no sense take away potential churn. For racing to grow, horseplayers need to be engaged. The biggest way by far that they are engaged is by having money to play the next race or the next day. Keeping horseplayers in the game keeps them focused on horse racing 24/7, this means there is a chance that family members and friends may get exposed to the existing player's passion.

Not only do Jackpot wagers take significant churn dollars away, when someone hit it (with the exception of mandatory days), the lucky winner is unlikely to churn back the winnings any time soon, also the winner is taxed if the Jackpot is high enough, and this represents lots of money that is forever taken from the potential churn pot.

It is tough to expect a track like Gulfstream to take its Jackpot bet off the menu as arguably part of its current success could very well be attributed to the Rainbow 6, but this goes hand in hand with today's racetrack culture which is all about competing for a shrinking piece of the pie, not growing the customer base. Problem is that tracks are contributing to the shrinking the pie even more by offering Jackpot wagers.

Racetracks see Jackpot wagers as a marketing tool, and there certainly is a lot of interest on mandatory payout days at tracks like Woodbine and Gulfstream Park especially, but the build up to those days isn't worth it for the industry. Surely there must be alternatives tracks can use.

A fifty cent Pick 7 would generate frequent decent carryovers if they become popular, for example. A nationwide lottery similar to Sweden's V75 would be fantastic as it would bring in "extra money" from new potential players, though it would take a lot of cooperation by jurisdictions and racetracks to get it to go. Canada has national lotteries, however, in the US the closest thing to a national lottery is Lucky For Life which now available in 23 states. Another positive about such a lottery is that it potentially can be used by the horse racing industry to get into states that currently do not allow wagering on horse racing. Just a thought.

This article can also be found in HANA's Horseplayer Monthly, Keeneland Edition.

21 February 2017

Let's Make Horse Racing Great Again!

President Donald Trump took some time off Twitter to sign 8 executive order specifically having to do with horse racing.

"Horse racing is a great American pastime. Many jobs depend on the game. But tragically, the game has been dying for years. It is so bad, that total handle went down even under Obama when just about everything including how much Americans gamble went up.

I alone can fix horse racing and create many many more jobs in the process. Handle will triple in just two years thanks to these executive orders. Let's make horse racing great again!"

"I know more about track takeout than the whales do. The lower the takeout, the more money that goes back into the gambler's pocket. And the gambler isn't going to spend that extra money on a course at Trump U., because Trump U. doesn't exist anymore thanks to the dishonest media, no, they are going to bet it back on the horses, and because they'll be able to bet more often, they will tell their family and friends how much fun they are having and how easy it is to bet on the races. Soon everyone in America, except the deceased, the illegal aliens and the minority of voters who voted against me, will be betting on the 7 horse in the Kentucky Derby. I saw something on Fox News that the 7 is a lock this year.

As for the international 16% cap, I already have Russia and all their racetracks on board."

"I listen closely to the people, and one of my biggest supporters, I forget the guy's name, told me about this breakage situation. It is so wrong. Gamblers should get back everything they have coming, and once again, the more they have in their pockets, the more they will bet, and the longer they will bet. I ran an extremely successful casino empire, I know all about churn, believe me."

"Horse racing needs stars like the Kardashians. If the Kardashians retired to pop out babies, nobody would watch them. And this order should strengthen the breed too. The reason I'm the President at 70 today is because of great genes, everyone in my family has great genes, you don't see me retiring early, only people with bad genes retire early."

"I know this race day Lasix ban is going to anger the Bernie Sanders supporting Left but it must be done. No Bernie, if a horse bleeds without Lasix, it shouldn't be given the opportunity to be on an equal playing field with a horse that doesn't bleed. Really bad bleeders need to stop racing, and it is only a few horses that really bleed that much and because Lasix drains a horse, without Lasix horses will be able to come back and race more often, field size will actually increase, and I heard that bettors like bigger field size."

"Drugs are killing the game. Super trainers don't even train their horses anymore, they just inject the same drugs illegal immigrants use before they swim across the Gulf of Mexico and land on the shores of Florida and Louisiana. These guys have super endurance, you must have seen them swim on TV like I have. This is bad and must be stopped. It will be stopped."

"We will lower taxes on Americans, and abolishing taxes on racetrack winnings is a great way to start. Once again, the more money that is in the pockets of the gambler, the better off the industry will be in the long run. And I hate Jackpot bets, they are churn killers. My 50% tax will stop players from playing and then tracks will stop offering this silly wager and don't believe tracks who say that Jackpot bets create new players, that is Fake News!"

"With every state now allowing horse racing betting, handle will go up bigly on that alone. And we'll see more states start building racetracks. If Florida had a racetrack I'd be spending my weekends at the track rather than on the golf course, and now they might build one, maybe even two.

I also propose that the residing state of the gambler receives 1% of whatever is wagered by residents online, or 1% of what is wagered at tracks or OTBs. Lets face it, someone from South Carolina could be betting at a track in Pennsylvania but other than the holes in his jeans, how can you tell he is from South Carolina? On the internet it is different, you can tell. But some states are out of control on what they charge, Minnesota recently started charging and arm and a leg on their residents wagers, and now no betting company wants to take Minnesota residents except for illegal offshore bookmakers that help fund ISIS. This stops today."

"I'm an expert on Sweden. If it wasn't for the V75 the only thing they'd have going for them are their meatballs. Most of the blonde women, and I do love women, have left or want to leave because of the daily terrorist attacks. I'd like to sign an executive order that allows a few hundred thousand blonde women from Sweden to come into America as refugees but I was told I could never get it passed."