28 June 2007

How To Save Horse Racing

I want to first say that I love handicapping horse racing. I also think that the potential for the amount of regulars who potentially would follow the game and gamble, is far from being achieved, and that it has no chance of being achieved either, as long as the race track owners collectively are stuck in a 20th century mindset.

Horse racing allows a person to bet against the public, unlike almost every other form of gambling (which relies on a mechanical house edge), outside of poker. The only thing standing in the way of a savvy handicapper from making money in a sport he loves is the dreaded track takeout. The way things are today, where the game is full of pros, and the sucker money has all but vanished into slot machines or lottery tickets, the only people who have a chance of winning in the long run, cannot bet directly with a racetrack, but with a rebate shop instead, as track takeouts are outrageously and unjustifiably high.

John Q. Gambler only has X amount of dollars he can gamble with each month or year, etc. Since the race track, which makes it impossible for a gambler to actually win money in the long run, and even difficult to make money short term (since there are so many races a day a bettor can play, and a bettor does want the action usually), there are many other ways he can find that gives him as little or even better chances of winning, or at least gives him more bang for his buck (blackjack has a house take of less than 2%, and online poker rakes are much lower than track takeouts).
Lets not forget that handicapping horse races usually requires a lot of skill, and a lot more free time. It takes no time to get a quick pick on a lottery, and you don't have to study ahead of time to play blackjack or poker.
Word of mouth is important. If someone actually makes money, or even comes up with a down payment for a house by gambling, it will attract a lot more gamblers. A person who even wins short term, or doesn't lose that much, is more likely to bring friends to the track and get new people involved, than any horse player today. A person has to be pretty much be the devil to introduce a friend to horse racing the way it is today.

Slot machine revenue is a band aid for the game right now, and instead of counting the profits, race track owners should be using this time to attract new racing fans.
The industry should learn from tracks like Fort Erie, where the owners basically counted the money during a few great years, but did nothing to attract new horse players. Now, as slot revenues continue to decline (due to many external reasons), the race track is swirling down the toilet bowl.


If racing is to survive 10 years from now, ownership needs to change their mindset.
All track takeouts have to be reduced to 10% or less. This will give sophisticated handicappers a chance at winning. It will give John Q. Gambler a bigger bang for his buck, and over time, he will lose more of his gambling money at the race track and not elsewhere. Also, because there is a chance that gamblers can win money in the long run, more people will be attracted to it. The game has a lot to offer, and there are a lot of people who could become players, if conditions were right.

One track won't be able to get the ball rolling on this. It will take either Churchill or Magna to get things happening quickly. For example, Magna has to advertise that their takeout is 10% and they are willing to take clients from every jurisdiction they can legally. They can't worry about the coercion that exists now, where a track won't take a signal because you aren't playing ball. Magna will get enough clients from all over to more than compensate. Large gamblers will only be playing Magna tracks, and the other tracks will feel it bigtime.

Eventually, all smart track owners will reduce their takeouts to 10% as well. This will allow for a Canada/USA central betting hub to form. All member who comply with the 10% takeout will have customer areas, that are calculated by distance from one track to another. For example, Woodbines customer area would be people living within half the actual distance between Woodbine and the nearest 10% race track in all directions. If a multi-track owner wants to do a profit splitting deal for their own tracks, that is their business.

A race track must feature the nearest two racing cards that are active each day on their TV screens and on-line, to keep competition fair. Other than that, a track can choose other feature tracks based on what they think their clients want.

Signal fees must be the same. Whether it is 2%, which still opens to the door to rebate shops, or 5% which should vastly improve the quality of racing (tracks will be forced to try to attract other tracks to feature them) and make it less viable for rebate shops to exist.

This will also lead to consistent betting rules from one track to another, and probably consistent drug rules eventually.

More importantly, this will lead to more gamblers and larger pools.


Horse players, stop being suckers. There are alternatives right now that give you a chance of making money, or at least prolonging your gambling resources. Race tracks know full well about the alternatives, and have been know to strike private deals with big bettors to keep their action. They also realize that many savvy players have set up accounts elsewhere, and that they might as well get at least the signal fee they charge.


Based in the UK, Betfair allows exchange betting, where the bettor actually bets against individuals. And you only pay a "takeout" when you win, and that amount is only between 2-5% depending on how much action you give. It takes about a day to get the hang of it, but it is tremendously fun, and you can pretty much bet a horse race every 5 or 6 minutes if you are so inclined. No exotics though. Win and place or show is what you are limited with. The savvy player can usually get higher odds than the track offers, and even for example, book a horse at 5-1 with 6 minutes to post and then bet the same horse at 9-1 with 1 minute to post, thus giving the player a chance to win money with no risk. Problems with liquidity are common, as some races are run too close together, and players on focused on one race over the other. The favorite usually is very liquid though, but if you like a horse at 9-1, you might have to take 7-1 in some cases to ensure you have a bet on the horse.

They also offer in-play races occasionally where bettors can bet during the race. They do this with NFL football as well. Oh yes, you can bet on just about anything there. The house is never at risk, because a bet is only made when another player matches your bet on the other side. Note: I don't think they accept US customers, but they do take Canadians.


These guys are a new rebate shop out of North Dakota. Their list of tracks on board with them is growing, but I don't think they'll get Magna or Churchill tracks. However, their rebates are great. For exactors, triactors, and other exotic bets an average bettor can expect a next day rebate of 6-13% depending on the track, and 6% on win bets (on average). Yes, they actually put money in your account the very next day before racing commences.
They recently signed on Woodbine, but Woodbine has a stipulation with them to not allow Canadians to wager on their Woodbine or Mohawk races. But there are plenty of Canadian and American tracks to choose from. Woodbine wants to have a monopoly on Canadians. Woodbine already does have a monopoly: on arrogance, short sightedness, and stupidity.
Getting back to PTC (Premier Turf Club), it is very easy to open an account, and their online betting interface is very simple to use. HPI has a good interface too, but PTC also tracks profit and losses for specific types of bets over the short term or long term. It allows horse players to learn from their mistakes.
I get the impression that PTC wants its clients to win. The more they win, the more they bet, and the more PTC makes, because they make the difference between their signal fee cost and the rebates they give their clients.
Their is no withholding tax for Canadian clients and you get track odds with no limits. They can't do business with residents of some states.

Here is their contact page.

Pinnacle Sports

I know a few people who have an account with these guys, based in Curacao. They offer a 7% rebate on all bets and take action from just about anywhere. They do have profit limits. I don't like this. I want to be able to get paid fully if I hit a home run. But if you are win/place/show and exactor player, an account with them is better than an account with HPI. There are risks because they are offshore, though they seem minimal. They also book bets which is also a minimal risk to them.
Pinnacle also has casino games and a sports book.

Compare the above three options to HPI for example, where in order to realize a maximum of approximately 3% rebate in a week, you have to bet over $18,750 on their own products (2% on simulcast tracks). If you ONLY bet $3750-$7499 a week, you get ONE PERCENT in rebates. All HPI and other race tracks offer is a quick way to see the money, if you are lucky enough to see the money. Personally, I don't mind waiting a few days.

The thing is, I'm confident that if Woodbine gave back 10%, their bottom line would improve dramatically. But race track owners aren't willing to take any chances, they expect their patrons to be the only gamblers.

Smart players know that race tracks are rip offs, and are either staying away or gambling elsewhere.

If more people took their action elsewhere, my 10% solution will become a reality quickly.

See also: Bill Finley preaches to the choir: Reduce Track Takeouts


Thoughts On The Track Takeout

26 June 2007

Headlines For June 26th

Good for Emma. She is the one of the few bright spots at Woodbine. Am I the only person who sees the name Mike Fox and thinks of the old high school name prank Mike Hunt?

Racing's Nasty Secret. "In Canada, where most auctioned-off Delaware horses go, a gunshot is delivered to a horse's head, either killing it instantly or rendering it insensitive to pain. The horse then is hoisted up by its hind legs for a throat cutting that makes sure that the horse is dead."

This crap needs to stop. It should be illegal for a thoroughbred race horse to be sold for meat. I don't know what the answer is for the excess amount of unwanted horses this will produce, but slaughtering needs to be outlawed. I believe it is illegal in many states.

Jockey Molina gets 30 day suspension for kicking horse

Canada joins with other nations to seek compensation lawsuit from the USA for pulling internet gambling
Another article on the subject

Passport plan for Buffalo-Fort Erie border likely to be scrapped, Chertoff implies.

Slots at Gulfstream not doing nearly what was anticipated It'll pick up in the winter.

Bill Robinson fined for March incident where an employee was discovered with a powder substance and syringes. Robinson was out of the country at the time this occurred.

23 June 2007

Marchfield To Win The Queen's Plate

Queen's Plate prediction: I did pick the longshot winner of the Plate last year. Unfortunately, I'm not 100% with my selections. This year I like Marchfield. I liked him in the trial, but he took a failed run at Jigg's Cauz in that race in the stretch but flattened out, Jigg's Cauz stole it. I think Marchfield is a better horse and more suited for the mile and a quarter. I even think Cobrador (20-1) has a good shot at finishing second or third in the Plate.

Regarding David Clark; I reported on the tragedy on this blog as soon as I read it in the Daily Racing Form last year. I was kind of stunned, but not overly surprised that it didn't appear in the local newspapers (at least the association the Clark was in fact a regular jockey who rode at Woodbine). I think it could be successfully argued that Woodbine did not want this news out, and that there is a sort of coercion amongst the reporters who cover the sport daily not to upset the applecart. A shunned reporter at Woodbine might as well look for a new job. In other words, dirty little secrets at the racetrack have a good chance of remaining secret. News is news though. Curlin's owners were recently indicted, and it was reported nationally in the USA and Canada. The owners just pleaded not guilty. Yes, Clark and the owners of Curlin are innocent until proven guilty, but the facts on the ground should be reported.
If they were reported in a timely manner, Woodbine wouldn't be up for scrutinization right now. Jockey Rui Pimentel who was recently charged with luring a 13 year old girl over the internet got way more media coverage than David Clark did. And yes, the media associated Pimentel with his livelihood. Pimentel too, is innocent until proven guilty, but one has to wonder which is a more newsworthy or more horrific, allegedly luring a 13 year old girl, or allegedly killing a 34 year old teacher while driving over the limit.

I empathize with David Clark. If the allegations are true, he is not the only person to drive over the limit in Canada. The laws are weak when it comes to preventing drivers from getting in their cars after going to bars or restaurants. You can drink a bottle of wine in a restaurant, as many do (at least when sharing), pay the bill, and drive your car home. No questions asked.
Besides the guilt and shame of killing an innocent woman, the media secret must have weighed on him, wondering when the story would finally break. This could be a partial monkey off his back. Only he knows.
But I empathize more with the family, friends, and students of Suzanne Mizuno. If the allegations are true, she should not be dead today, and her family, friends, and students, shouldn't be asking themselves why.

I hope WEG learned a lesson from this. But WEG is a pretty thick organization. They insist on simulcasting Belmont on the Score instead of Fort Erie. They just don't get the big picture.

There is still a small question as to whether Clark will ride on Sunday because of a spill he took on Thursday. He booked off mounts yesterday, but the media is reporting he will ride today. I heard a few people say that he probably took the fall on purpose (a WEG conspiracy? which made no sense), but that wasn't the case. The horse he was on took a very bad step (possibly clipped heals), and he had a pretty bad fall. The horse ran off afterwards and appeared alright.

Magna Entertainment's recently appointed CEO Michael Neuman steps down. Dispute with Frank Stronach was the likely cause. Neuman stated he wasn't going to put any money in to fix Santa Anitas' and Golden Gates' tracks or backstretches, but Stronach chimed in and said he was going to commit $24 million for those projects.

Border passport rule gets delayed again. There is a chance that driver's licenses and birth certificates will be good enough to get across the border by land. Homeland Security Chief, Michael Chertoff to visit Buffalo on Monday.

Senecas buy more land near proposed Buffalo casino

Roger Brown appeal date set in regard to his positive test for Torsemide

ORC rules all tracks must accept entries by Aubrey Friedman

Claim pays off quickly for Daryl Ezra

Calracing is a great site for replays (No Fort Erie though). Woodbine races, for example are available around 20 minutes after the race is run. You can't search by track for Woodbine races, you have to search by horse's name instead. It is free to sign up.

This happens a lot, but this is the first time I've seen a disqualification over it:
Thistledown stewards DQ a winning horse because she was riderless (she froze)
during part of the post parade. Owners of a losing horse protested after the race, and the stewards made the decision in the morning. This is ridiculous. The stewards should not have allowed the horse to run if they wanted to enforce the rules, but to take away the purse after the race was run and the bettors cashed their tickets in this case, is a terrible call. This is bad for the sport.

20 June 2007

Curlin Owners Indicted For Wire Fraud

I like doing the odd comic. Click it to enlarge it:

Curlin owners indicted for wire fraud. May face up to 20 years in prison.

Belmont jockey reportedly paralyzed from waist down

Ontario Aboriginals say no to 2.5 billion dollars in free money, they want more. I'll say it now, I'm no fan of aboriginals getting special status when it comes to gambling.

Woodbine mutuel clerk strikes it big in lottery: "Woodbine mutuel clerk Graham Gelineau spent much more than he usually does on last Saturday's (June 9th) Lotto 6/49 draw, and his $20 gamble paid off handsomely when he won the $37 million first prize."

Woodbine Bias Report: Early speed is in the toilet recently. Mark Casse is on fire, and quietly, John Ross is very hot too.

Stronach pledges to spend $24 million on synthetic surfaces for Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields as well as backstretch upgrades.

Presque Isle Downs generated $3 million in revenue for its first week, The Meadows did $5 million.

Jockey Victor Molina ejected from the grounds for kicking horse in the stomach

ORC to survey breeders and owners I have the answers to their woes, but I'm not talking.

11 June 2007

I didn't know Chad Johnson had a grass pedigree

Chad Johnson beats a race horse on River Downs turf:

I wonder how if he had to go to the test barn after the race:)

Global betting of big races with huge commingled pools starts today in France
'Punters in Brazil, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Monaco and South Africa may join French punters to wager a minimum unit, comparable to the US dollar, on a trifecta on the French classic through official outlets linked with the initiative.' Canada and the US are expected to join in soon.

Now, how about making a universal 10% track takeout? Horse racing will have a chance to be large.

Thoroughbred Expresso saved from going to a Canadian slaughterhouse
Slaughtering ex race horses is the lowest thing anyone in the industry can do. And I believe it still goes on in Canada. Program in the US is set up to allow prison inmates to take care of ex race horses who could have been up for slaughter.

Sealy Hill jogs in the Oaks. Good time too. I'd love to see her in the Plate especially after what filly, Rags To Riches, did in the Belmont to the boys. Plus, I'd like to see a certain jockey not win the Plate.

Pretty neat that the victory came on the same day that the Ruffian movie was aired. Good movie. They kept it simple, as most horse racing movies are. I did notice a mistake. In the first race of Ruffian's life, the tote board had prices lit up on it. I'm sure there were other gaffs and inaccuracies.

Fort Erie was not on The Score again yesterday as WEG continues to be short sighted in their promotion of the sport to Canadians. Once I found out Belmont was on again, I flipped the channel for the rest of the afternoon, despite the great insights provided by broadcasters like Elissa Blowe.

Negreanu blasts Canada and it's Socialistic view on gambling "KGB" in Canada arrest 63 in poker sting in Winnipeg

Revenues for Niagara Falls casinos dropped over 4% for first quarter

9 June 2007

Woodbine Shows Short Sightedness By Dissing Fort Erie On The Score

Thoroughbred Niagara

I just joined the Thoroughbred Niagara message board forum yesterday and I made my first post there. Thoroughbred Niagara's goal is to help promote the industry in the Niagara region by bringing horsemen and horse industry people in the area together, and I am sure that fans in the area are more than welcome to put in their two cents as well.

The region's race track, Fort Erie, needs all the help it can get, especially with Jack Kevorkian out of jail. Hopefully, he won't show up there for quite some time.

Fort Erie race track turned 110 this year. There will be a celebration on Sunday featuring a free concert by Abbamania after the races end. Here is an article which reflects back on some of that history.

It would be nice to see Fort Erie on The Score on Sunday alongside races from Woodbine, but WEG and David Willmot are known for their short sightedness when it comes to promoting the sport, so expect to see Belmont again. Jockeys, trainers and horses frequently go back and forth across the QEW. Fort Erie is full of horses that were bred by the same outfits that are responsible for filling many races at Woodbine. And gamblers who follow Woodbine generally know the Fort Erie horse population a lot more than they know the Belmont horse population.
I'm sure the majority of The Score viewers don't give a crap about Belmont races, but some might care if they saw races from Fort Erie.

For further proof of Fort Erie being on Woodbine's fans radar screens:
'Cold War, who is owned by his trainer, Vern Fernandes, and his wife, Pat, won 3 of his 4 races at Woodbine in 2006 and will be honored as the Toronto Thoroughbred Racing Club's claimer of the year at that group's annual awards day here June 17.'

Brisnet Horseplayer World Series Qualifier Today

All you have to do is be a member of Brisnet, or become a member of Brisnet to enter.
Today's challenge is split with races from Belmont and Churchill Downs. I hope I win. I've come close before.

Belmont Analysis

It is a tough race. I'm looking for surprises.
Here is the rundown:

Imawildandcrazyguy: hasn't raced since the Derby. I'm not crazy about a horse going a mile and a half off over a month layoff. Especially closer types who are not the best horses without layoffs.

Tiago, another horse who hasn't started since the Derby. Maybe fourth if lucky.

Curlin, I'm not crazy about his breeding for this distance. The horse to beat. Key for third.

CP West, fourth start of the year, he made a nice middle move in the Preakness and flattened out a bit (I like this angle). My pick. Definitely the horse to go with though who knows about his handling of the distance.

Slews Tizzy, is on the improve though he has never gone past 1 1/16th which makes him a huge question mark here.
He is in form, and worth playing at a price.

Hard Spun, will play catch me if you can. He should get a more relaxed pace, but his form makes me wonder if he can go past 1 and a quarter without totally falling apart.

Rags to Riches, a filly taking on the boys in a mile and a half race. She hasn't been out for over a month too. I say pass.

7 June 2007

Headlines For June 7th

How about C.P. West onto Slew's Tizzy for the Belmont? Yeah, I must be nuts.

Woodbine bias report. Off the pace horses doing much better.

Investigators looking into horse transactions by NY Legislator

No Sunday gambling in PEI....yet

Windsor casino construction delayed by strike

BC casino evacuated thanks to bomb scare

Magna Entertainment Sells San Luis Rey Downs to real estate development subsidiary

FBI believes internet gambling is illegal in the US

Ok, Vern Fernandes apparently made some insensitive comments on The Score last night after his wonder horse, Cold War, miraculously won on the EP Taylor Turf Course.
Fernandes known for his sarcasm, made a boo boo because he wasn't in front of his usual friends, but a national audience, many of whom most likely took the comment in a very bad way. He made a mistake, and I'm sure he feels bad about it. From what I understand, his comments couldn't be more opposite to how he feels about individual horses and especially his wonder horse.

Two of the eight races last night were won by Fort Erie based horses and trainers. The atmosphere in Fort Erie may be more relaxing for many high strung horses, since there isn't an airplane landing and taking off every 2 minutes.

Woodbine trainers charge around $70 a day, while Fort Erie trainers generally are $45-$50 a day. Of course, factoring shipping twice a month or three times every two months, owners wind up paying an additional $10 a day on average when shipping to Woodbine to race for the real money. Plenty of empty stalls at Fort Erie right now, I hear, and I don't expect it to change, as uneconomical horses continue to be sold as pets, riding horses, or shipped to Ohio as a last resort.

3 June 2007

Headlines for June 3rd

Jiggs Cause romps in jinxed Plate Trial

Woodbine disses Fort Erie by coupling up with Belmont races on the Score TV channel instead. So much for Canadian content. Woodbine is driven by greed, not the idea of promoting the sport to Canadians; they make more money on every two dollars bet on Belmont races over Fort Erie races. Meanwhile, many horses and jockeys go back and forth from Woodbine to Fort Erie and visa versa. Not too many go back and forth from Belmont to Woodbine. People across Canada, breeders, patrons, etc., would rather watch Fort Erie over Belmont, I'm sure.

More on the smoke and mirrors project that will never happen in Fort Erie

Fort Erie continues to give their biggest purses to Stronach. His National Hero set a track record in the 7th today as Fort Erie opened up their turf course for business.
Fort Erie shouldn't run races higher than $15,000 claiming. If a horse is believed to be worth more, let em run at Woodbine. They should cut the fourth day each week offered in July and August, as well as allowance races, and then increase the existing purses by 15-20% to make racing economical for owners. The problem is that horsemen aint that bright.

Casino scam artist's claims to be investigated

Some bargain priced harness horses are doing well at Western Fair