16 April 2009

Why Horse Racing Bloggers Need To Keep Being Critical

Ray Paulick has an interesting piece called Thoroughbred Media: Maybe We Can We Blame The Messenger. His main contention, at least how I read it, is that the media has too many alliances with advertisers and the race tracks themselves to effectively criticize the business, a business that is in terrible straights regarding public opinion of it. And up until recently, when independent bloggers have now come along, it was this silencing that may have contributed largely to the state the industry is in today.

Now bloggers, former paid journalists like Paulick, and Paul Moran, and groups like HANA have started to be able to voice criticism and it is being heard. The industry is finding they can't sweep their way of doing business and their dirty little secrets under the rug anymore. And guess what? The game is slowly starting to try to correct the wrongs that are currently plaguing the sport. Slowly being the key word, but I think it is starting to move in the right direction now. We can't depend on the Thoroughbred Media to clean up the sport, though I think that we have opened the door for them to be more critical, because they now have to compete with bloggers, and since we report these issues, tracks and advertisers may have a problem keeping things out as time goes on. A publication needs readers before they can get advertisers.

Personally, I think that instances such as Mullins flagrantly violating laws need to be printed as much as possible. That is the only way change will come about. Not if violations are hidden (much like what happens in Ontario still. Try finding trainer or jockey suspensions on the internet regarding Ontario horse races. Not even available at the ORC site).

Equidaily doesn't like the tone of most of the blogging community regarding the Mullins Air Power incident.
I disagree with Seth. I think, we as bloggers should be full of speculating and pointing out the worst. Again, for the sake of future change.

Bug's Boy Was Out On Sunday
The horse ran fourth with Chantal Sutherland aboard. I thought the horse was too close to the pace, and wound up chasing in the stretch. Chantal did hit the horse with the whip with around a furlong to go, but that was because the horse wasn't gaining ground on the eventual winner. By that time, Bug's Boy was tired from the exhausting early fractions, and he lost a couple of positions to the wire. Did the whip help him? Probably not. Did it hurt him? Probably not. But at least it gave the betting public the impression that Chantal was trying her best to win the race. This is something Simon Husbands didn't do during his now infamous ride on November 30th.
I'm not sure if Husbands got out of his year's suspension or not, or if a decision has been made yet regarding his appeal. I'm sure Woodbine has done their best to try to silence the feedback of this case and has probably issued their usual warning to local writers. To be fair, if my livelihood depended on writing about Woodbine, I would probably lick Woodbine's butts too. But that is why independent bloggers like me are needed, in order to help improve the wrongs of the game by shedding light on them. And because my audience isn't as vast on a daily basis as those who write for newspapers and other publications, I repeat myself on purpose, so over time, enough people can see what matters.
I wrote here a couple of times that on November 30th, the time of race Bug's Boy was in was extremely slow for that day. According to TSN ratings (Thoroughbred Sports Network) Bug's Boys rating were as follows: Sept 19th-67 Oct 3rd-70 Nov 8th-60 Nov 22nd-62 Nov 30th-61. My numbers, which are arguably the best in the business (note: they are on a different scale than TSN) are as follows: Sep 19th-69 Oct 3rd-68 Nov 8th-63 Nov 22nd-62 Nov 30th-61
In all but the November 30th race, the horse was whipped. Chantal was on him for his highest numbers in the early fall.
Here are the conclusions I am making according to the numbers and my watching of most of Bug's Boys previous races. The horse tends to make one move, whip or no whip. He got a perfect trip on November 30th, but the race was run at least 2 seconds slower than it should have for that day (making me suspect a boat race). The winner could have gone faster but didn't need to be he wasn't pressed at all during the race. Bug's Boy ran a slow was, but it was good enough for second. The fact it was one of his slowest races if not his slowest, the trainer can't say that the horse runs best when not hit by the whip.
Incidentally, on Sunday, I gave Bug's Boy a 70, a nine length improvement over his November 30th effort.

Woodbine Expansion Plan to go slower than originally anticipated. They are going to carry it out in stages starting with a golf course first. Now what does a golf course have to do with a gambling empire? Damned if I know. How will it get people to bet more or attract more gamblers? No clue. It is hard to bet when you golf. But golfing has historical roots that goes hand in hand with the Willmot Old Boy's mentality, that is for sure. It is a nice toy for David and his elite monkey staff. They do look like the golfing type. No visible minorities. But then again, Toronto hardly has any visible minorities (sarcasm off).

HANA on Trot Radio: Give it a listen.

HANA is having their first Day At The Races. It is being held at Keeneland on April 18th. Many of the members, including the founding members will be meeting face to face for the first time. Read more about it here. It doesn't look like there will be a Cangamble siting in Kentucky though.

Our weekly race pool party is gaining steam and notoriety. The financial impact of what HANA members are capable of doing is still a little on the lite side in my opinion. We did manage to create a new high for an exactor pool at Mountaineer this year, but I think the numbers HANA brings to the table will increase much more in the near future.

Woodbine thoroughbred fans and bettors should check out Triple Dead Heat. He has some good stuff there. But don't look for too much criticism of Woodbine, if any. I'm not taking a shot at him, but because of his alliance with Down The Stretch Newspaper, he has to walk softly because Down The Stretch Newspaper relies on industry advertising. And you just won't see the kind of criticism you see on my blog for example by someone who relies on advertising to keep afloat. Sure, you'll see criticism of horse slaughter, but that is like shooting fish in a barrel. You won't see an interview with Nick Eaves where the interviewer asks him how he justifies ramping up the track takeout on betting propositions like the Tampa Bay Pick 3 or Keeneland triactors.
I still like Down The Stretch, it is full of interesting stories especially having to do with the local Ontario horse racing scene, but if you want to see hardcore criticism you have to check out many of the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance blogs. A few of the blogs there are written by professional thoroughbred journalists, but most are not.
Down The Stretch to their credit, at least reports the news. They were one of the only journals to even report on the Simon Husbands hearing. It did get a paragraph at the Daily Racing Form too.

Speaking of the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance, Colin's Ghost has an excellent post on the history of horse doping. Did you know that cocaine was commonly used in the early 1900's? Or that the first test for drugs didn't happen until 1934?

Also, Pull the Pocket has a great post up regarding the current deal Woodbine has with the horsemen, and like me, he thinks it needs to be rewritten so that horsemen receive a percentage of the total takeout, not a fixed percent of what is bet. It is all about growing the game. And the current deal definitely hinders growth.

Ray Paulick has what could be called an expose on alcohol use in Arizona on thoroughbreds. Don't think it doesn't happen everywhere. Incidentally, trainers Keith Bennett and Justin Evans continue getting suspended, and continue to come back and maintain 30% win percentages. This is why I say that any trainer hitting above 18% is probably using something illegal or not tested for.

I found this interesting in the Paulick article:
Another trainer, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the Paulick Report alcohol is also being used in connection with so-called milkshakes, which contain baking soda and electrolytes and are designed to reduce the lactic acid buildup that causes fatigue. The concoction is mixed together as a paste, the trainer said, and can be administered through a dose syringe, though it is more effective when given through a tube into the horse’s stomach.

“You’re getting them carbohydrates at the top of the lane where some horses are running out of gas,” the trainer said.

The word concoction is the key word here. It just brings me back to Jeff Mullins. I saw an anonymous comment on one of the blogs that stated that Air Power masks a drug nicknamed "Billie Holiday." I have no idea what that drug is, but it is named after the great singer/junkie Billie Holiday who had a lifelong problem with heroin, until she died of an overdose. Bloggers bring out such anonymous comments. Sure, we can just brush them aside as insane rantings, but when it comes to horse racing, I tend to take them pretty seriously. The comment section can be sort of an anonymous hot line, or a confession booth.

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Anonymous said...

Do you get paid to write this stuff? If you do, someone is paying you way too much. If you don't, there's probably a reason. I find it insipid, self-congratulatory, indulgent and otherwise pointless.

Cangamble said...

No, I don't get paid to write this stuff. I've turned down many advertising deals because I don't want my opinions compromised.
No need for you to read my pointless stuff. I'll get by without you. I have plenty of readers who enjoy my posts. And I do think I'm helping change the industry for the better.

bullring said...

I wonder if Anon actually bets on horse races. Perhaps he works for a racetrack.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Cangamble for that wonderful and clearly defensive response.
Learn to take criticism.
You may be helping to change the industry for the better, albeit it like throwing a pebble in the water and expecting it to create a wave, but at least you're expressing yourself and allowing others to share in your thoughts.
Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing. Interesting how writers employed by mainstream media are required to put their name on their stories and are accountable -- consider all the heat Joe Drape of the New York Times has taken for his criticisms of the industry. Not all bloggers are held to that same accountability. Some, such as Ray Paulick and Paul Moran, attach their names and pictures to their thoughts, so everyone knows who they are, while others hide behind anonymous or fictitious names, such as Cangamble. Bloggers who provide thoughts under assumed names can write whatever they want and are free from legal action even if they are clearly in violation of the truth and cross over into area of malicious intent, slander and defamation. That is not allowed in mainstream media.

Cangamble said...

Defensive response? I'm clearly just answering assmonkey rhetoric the way it should have been answered.
Most people know who I am. If I slandered or defamed anyone so that they have a case against me, they can easily find me. I keep my name off this blog for another reason altogether, nothing to do with the industry.
I hope you aren't contending that I've made any violations you are saying I'm capable of doing while maintaining some anonymity. BTW, have you noticed that your comments are under "anonymous."
Most writers in the thoroughbred blogger's alliance also put out their names as well btw.

Anonymous said...

Okay, my name is A. Nonymous, and yes, I have and continue to bet on races, and, no, I don't work for a racetrack.

railbirdbrad said...

Anon 5'02 it is so good to see you have an opinion,here's mine....I believe there are plenty of mentally ill people living normal live's,maybe 5-10% of the public,it's good to see we found the one that comment's on this blog!Cheer's!

bullring said...

I really do not give a flying fuck what bloggers look like or what their names are. Thanks, Ace.

Anonymous said...

You all have no idea what the heck is up. This kind of shit has ruined the lives of many honest people who used to be involved in horse racing. There is absolutely nothing wrong with milk shaking cuz guess what? You have all had Gatorade before... oh but uh oh. Thats not good. That reduces muscle fatigue. How dare we try and get the best performance out of a horse. You all can take your bull shit, dumb ass comments and shove them up your asses because it is YOU that is hurting the reputation of horseracing.