16 August 2008

Aqueduct: How To Fit In With The Crowd

I went to Aqueduct only once. It was way back around 1982 or 1983 during the Winter meet. If I recall, I went to the track twice during my visit. The first day, me and Bill (a race track buddy of mine also from Toronto), walked from the hotel to the track. Don't ask me the name of the hotel or anything like that. It will never come back to me.

I remember walking through a neighbourhood though, somewhat paranoid from all the bad stuff I heard about New York. The houses were small and they lots almost smaller if I recall correctly. They reminded of the houses shown at the end of every All In The Family episode. It took around 20 minutes, but we made it safely to the track.

I also remember that I made money that weekend. I don't think it was from winning at the track. Bill was bugging me to go to Atlantic City by shuttle with him to play blackjack. I had absolutely no interest, but I gave him a vote of confidence by buying into his action. I don't remember if I bought into 50% of what he made or lost, or 25%, but what I do know is he handed me something like $300 when he got back in the morning.

The last day we took the subway. I found that scarier than walking. I think I broke around even, but I made another score (sort of). Some rounder approached me to sell his leather jacket for $25. It was kind of a cool looking motorcycle jacket (most likely worth $200), which meant it was the opposite of something I would normally buy. Also I knew, or at least thought that it must be "hot." I bought it, and got 4 or 5 good years out of it. When I became white collar, I decided to give it away to a musician friend of mine. It never was my style, but I felt good wearing it.

Enough about me. I read a post this morning on Pace Advantage by "Stevie Belmont" that has to be one of the funniest pieces ever written about horse racing or horseplayers. Here it is:

Wait till January and check out da Big A...

Go down to the Port Authority in New York. On your way you can pick up a 5 dollar umbrella from some dude named Ching-Ming-Wong.
After that go buy a cup of coffee and a NY Post, or a Form (should have the form scoped out already) for your trip in on the A Train. Just don’t stare at anyone. You can either look tough or rock back and forth mumbling The Teletubbies are not gay. Don’t want to read about it on the local News.

Once you get to Aqueduct to you can take that walk from the subway, or squeeze on the bus with same people trying to snag the early Mike Luzzi/Jose Espinoza double for the past 10 years. There is some powerful insight on those buses. Just think of it as a poor mans Siro’s Seminar.

Once you get in…Let the good times roll. If you need company…You have some choices. The Jamaicans will be more than glad to help out a Homie of a different ilk. They will give you some solid pedigree info. No turf during the cold months though, but they do dirt as well. You can also get smoked up with them to. So regardless if you are winning or losing, you won’t give a rats ass if you get nipped at the wire and lose a $300 early double. However, you might think the walls of the building are moving or watching the race seems like it 15 min long. Other than that..should be A OK.

If that’s not for you, don’t worry. Options abound at the great Big A. You can hang out in the “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons room. You will see some great old timers in there. Some even saw Man O’ War race. The stories are great. The good ole days. Ain’t like it used to be and so on. The smell could be a bit much. Some are going 2 days with out a Depends change. I ask who cares? These guys are great. Last time I was there I was doing the track announcing for them. I was yelling at the top of my lungs in this one dude’s ear. Dudes wanted Shoe Info. Who knew? Man that got me tired. Also made some coffee runs. Dude tipped me a nickel. I refused it.

Still have not found the perfect group? You can make yourself at home wandering the grandstand level. Where some of the strangest, vile and some what sharpest people ever roam freely for hours upon hours staring and yelling at TV Monitors. Some can even recite Shakespeare, or go into an in depth discussion on evolution, yet they can’t even tie their shoelaces, let alone tell you when the Breeder’s Cup is. You can mingle with the ticket picker uppers, they are an interesting breed. They scan the floor, hoping, praying to find a winner. It’s a maniacal quest that never ends. One warning, this is not a social group, so I would back off these guys.

Still no luck? It doesn’t end there. Let’s see some horses! This is what going to the track is all about, right? Hang outside with your umbrella that was made by a 4 year old in a sweat shop in Pang-Hi China who is making 3 dollars a week and working 70 hours. Scan the paddock for that sharp looking colt or filly. Detecting sweat will be a bit difficult considering the rain. Here you can chat it up with some so called physical cappers. Hear the latest gossip. See if the trainer is sporting a tie. Or just wait to see which horse takes a dump last and run to the windows.

Watching the race outside has it advantages to. They run right by you, so you can see it. The flip side is when a can or bottle gets thrown in disgust by a dude named Tyrone who blew is last $5 on a 75/1 Candlin/Espinoza 7,500 claimer. Heads up is a commonly yelled phrase.

If you are of the solitary kind, Don’t fret. It’s a paradise for those who roam alone. Examples swearing jockeys names use of the word Pig a lot and loud, why did he wait so long? Things like that. You will fit right in. Constant talking to oneself is key. You will look like a tracky. Keep as many forms and papers visible under the arms and back pocket. Have a look of utter disgust and agitation at all time, as if you are one more loss away from going ballistic. Make sure your hair is a little messed up to. No one would even consider bothering you for anything. This assures a care free day at the races

Hope this helps. Good luck and cash some winners.

Make sure after you leave, all this is left at the track. You could get locked up in real society with this behavior.

The Aqueduct crowd sounds something very similar to the old Greenwood crowds of the 70's and 80's, especially on the ground floor. The Woodbine crowd was a bit more sophisticated, since Woodbine back then was very difficult to access by public transportation, and it is a lot farther away from the mental health centers found on Queen St. in Toronto.

Turns out that "Stevie," like me, is a member of the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance. Check out his site Thoroughbred Zone.

NYRA Might Just Understand The Negatives Of Proposed Takeout Hike

NYRA and NYC OTB are now against the proposed takeout increase that is about to come into affect in NY in September.
Is the industry starting to come to their senses? They are starting to get that this move will make it more difficult for NY to compete with the rest of the country. What this means, is that an increase in takeout will most probably lead to an overall decrease in revenues.

If you increase takeout on your product, less gamblers from outside the state will play. And from within the state, you will just be collecting your customer's money faster, but in the end, they will lose around exactly the same as they would have no matter what the takeout is, because customers collectively only have so much to lose in a year, and in fact, as takeouts are increased, other forms of gambling become more appealing, so there is a great chance, that players will lose more on NY racing collectively and lose on lotteries or casinos, or sports betting instead.

Look no further than Woodbine when it comes to turning off the international crowd by having ridiculously high takeouts. Price sensitive gamblers avoid betting Woodbine like the plague.

New Improved Track Takeout Chart

Speaking of track takeout, HANA (the Horseplayers Association Of North America) has revised the takeout chart, correcting a few errors (the averages are still off a bit, I'll have to email Chicken Head to correct them).

Some Steroids Don't Turn Horses Into The Hulk

At the Woodbine Blog, Renee Kierans asks if steroids are misunderstood?
I had to comment there:
"Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think steroid use wasn't happening in the 60's when horses averaged 9 starts a year in North America. Now horses average just over 6 races a year.
So maybe there might be something else going on when it comes to recovering from a race.
Maybe a bit of recovering from Lasix and other drugs and add to that the fact that horses are bred today for speed and not so much endurance as they were in the 50's and 60's.
Probably, the horses today are bred to need Lasix and steroids. It isn't right, but it is pretty much fact."

Slots Come To Hastings Yesterday was the grand opening.

Lots of horses look alike, but....

Tioga issues statement regarding wrong horse running in Open
"...this was an unfortunate mistake where a misidentification of a horse took place, and there was no intent to deceive the public by anyone. There was also an internal review of the betting patterns which shows no irregularities that we can speak to, but we await the final outcome and decision from the New York State Racing and Wagering Board."

You have to wonder how many times this has happened across North America where the wrong horse ran and nobody found out. I don't think the answer is none.

ORC Clamping Down On Whipping Violations

ORC reinforces whipping suspension for driver Trevor Henry
"The penalties arose after Henry's drive, Lord Luck, was found to have cuts on his sheath after the race and Grand Rivers on July 11, and finish photos showed the whip was illegally lodged between the horse's hind legs."

The Fort Erie Smoke and Mirrors Project

Apparently Fort Erie race track took out a full page ad in Thoroughbred Style Magazine. I'll be honest. I never heard of the magazine before. According to the ad rates quoted on the site, the ad could have cost as much as $11,000. I doubt Fort Erie paid that amount, but who knows? They have a couple of million to blow on their campaign to try to suck the government into their farcical $300 million project. Note to Fort Erie and the government: housing starts in the Niagara region are dropping. The Douglas Memorial (Fort Erie's hospital) is closing their emergency ward most likely (seniors will now be less attracted to live in Fort Erie thanks to that). The Holiday Inn (Fort Erie's number one hotel) is mostly barren, and yet it is only a 5 minute drive from the Racino. In other words, this project has absolutely no viability.

Fort Erie needs to put a stop to this facade NOW. Let Nordic Gaming assess what they have, and no doubt, the price will become realistic without the "what ifs that never will happen" are attached. Maybe then, an operator will come along that will attempt to grow horse racing in Fort Erie, and the track will be saved.

Today at Woodbine, the second exactor looks as easy as 1-2, actually 1A-2.
It is Serenading's turn today. I think she'll beat Bear Now in the Belle Mahone (4th race). Tomorrow, Bold Corky might upset in the Victoriana (8th race). Theatrical View is going to be very tough in the 9th if the race remains on the lawn. She is a strong gate to wire threat with Richard Dos Ramos aboard. Josie Carroll is starting to get some wins, and filly last raced against Classy Landlady who came back for an upset win in an allowance race in yesterday's finale.
At Fort Erie tomorrow, Egbert Dolly is the horse to beat in the 5th and Shot Gun Ella has a big chance in the Rainbow Connection Stakes (8th race).


Anonymous said...

What happened to Jono Jones?

Guy used to be on of the best turf riders at Woodbine, he's 0-41 I think.

Check out his ride aboard D Flutie in the 6th. Didn't even try.

Anonymous said...

I don't think D. Flutie had it today, but Jones has sucked big time lately, so has Montpellier.

Anonymous said...

Great blog!

And quite astute comments re: the Fort Erie hotel project.

Question becomes, "why is the gov't so afraid to come out and challenge the viability of that project. Is it politically incorrect? Politically sensitive? or what? Clearly, any financial/marketing analysis shows the project should be rejected.

Anonymous said...

The project was jump started by local politicians who are incapable of thinking their way out of a paper bag.
I think the right hand of government doesn't know what the left hand is doing, and this project hasn't reached any level of real scrutiny yet.
The local politicians won't scrutinize it, because it makes it look like they are saving local jobs, though they've now proven that they are too inept to go anywhere else in their political career now, by letting this project get out of the starting blocks in the first place.
And the provincial government pretty much blindly gave 2 million to Nordic to throw out the window, while Nordic uses the whole story in an attempt to try to sell the place for way more than it is worth, just on the possibility that the project will get the go ahead.
Hopefully, we will see an end to the charade soon.

Anonymous said...

Great story about New York.but if you really want to bore us to death keep talking about the take out rate's.

Anonymous said...

Anon, change is going to happen, or the industry will die. I don't want that to happen, so I will continue to fight.
You may find it boring, but I find it completely worthwhile.

Anonymous said...

Can Ramble.............This game is dying a slow death,no one can save it,there is no new blood heading to the window's when the baby boomer's die off, so will this sport.One prediction i do have, is in 20 years,there will be super track's only ,Example; one track in New York, one in California one in Canada,all small tracks will close.Perhaps with Laurel and Fort Erie being the earliest.

Anonymous said...

You have to love the creativity of someone who posts under the name "anonymous"

It doesn't surprise me that you have an outlook of "nothing can save the game"

The reality is that betting has increased dramatically over the years, betting that is, on games with much lower rakes.

My prediction is that horse racing will change their tactics. We will see exchange betting in North America (at rates comparable with Betfair), and we will see either massive takeout reductions or massive rebates which will start attracting new young gamblers.

Sure, if racing sticks to its current ways, you are right, the game will die. But real businessmen will start entering the picture soon enough, and this will enable the game to start growing again.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, cangamble, I posted this in an older July post. Meant to post it here.... Someone out there is listening I think..


Hastings Park is lowering their takeout for show wagering to 12%. It will be the lowest in North America...

Also.."Hastings is also exploring similar initiatives that will benefit horse wagering enthusiasts. "


Anonymous said...

Exclusive to C G 'jockey Marty Mercieca is hanging up his tack after the 8th race Tuesday at Fort Erie. I would love to see him go out a winner!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info on Hastings. It is a tiny step, but in the right direction.

Mercieca's mount in the 6th is very very live. Maybe some of the jocks can help too, like they did when John Bell won on his last mount at Greenwood quite a few moons ago.

Anonymous said...

Would Frank Stronach be considered a "real businessman"?

Anonymous said...

RG, Stronach is a real businessman, but he is in the wrong business for him.