30 September 2008

Trainer Jack Wilson Dies In Freak Mishap

Veteran Fort Erie trainer Jack Wilson was ahead of his time
"Wilson was the first person to run an equestrian therapy pool in the province."
I have to add that the guy was in amazing shape for 58, let alone 88.

"Jack was a big part of racing at Fort Erie for many years," Herb McGirr Sr. director of operations for Fort Erie, told Canadian Press. "He was well respected by everyone here at the track. This is a huge loss to our community."

Magna Entertainment shares plummet, while the rest of the market rebounds
Is the end near for the debt plagued racetrack company?

Michael Konik:I don’t think most people can win betting horses at a 20% takeout,” he said. “The vast majority of your customers cannot win long-term betting horse racing.

Yep, and that is racings biggest problem. No free advertising from winners, compounded with competition from low rake games like blackjack, on line poker, and sports betting, has led to zero growth for the horse racing industry.

I started a pretty good thread at Pace Advantage: Top Five Most Influential Handicapping Books

My List:
1. Winning at the Races
2. My $50,000 Year At the Races
3. Thoroughbred Cycles
4. Speed To Spare
5. Beyer On Speed

HANA (Horseplayers Association of North America) have a brand new logo. Go Broncos.

Tracks and horsemen seek an end to exclusive agreements A step in the right direction. Now get it done.

Explaining the ADW model dispute
There is an answer to this mess. Maybe I'll write about it soon.

The trend isn't horse racing's friend: Fasig Tipton Midlantic Sales in the dumper big time.

Woodbine Bias Report Speed still sucks, and there are quite a few cold trainers.

The Dartboard
Stay Cool looks pretty good cutting back to 6 furlongs in the first race, which is a stupid maiden allowance B, the type of race which is hurting the racing industry in Ontario.
Koonuga Hill has a fair chance to win the Victorian Queen in the 7th.

Calgary woman who defrauded a law firm and car dealership of $500,000 to feed her gambling habit gets four years in jail.

"The Kahnawake Gaming Commission today reported the initial findings of an audit being conducted on its licensee, Ultimate Bet, following a cheating scandal which spanned three-and-a-half years.
The audit...has turned up the name of the main individual responsible for the scheme that siphoned more than $6.1** million from player accounts......
By Nov. 3, 2008, Ultimate Bet must:

Begin refunding all players adversely affected by the cheating scheme. The company has refunded $6.1 million to date, but this summer received another round of refund requests.

Remove from the company all persons deemed by the commission as "unsuitable," including all levels of ownership, management and operation, and is required to continue to provide complete details of all day-to-day operations of the company.

Ultimate Bet has also been issued a $1.5 million fine."

Interested in betting and handicapping hockey?

27 September 2008

Fort Erie's Future Is In Doubt Again

Niagara This Week reports: "It could be the last season for the ponies in Fort Erie as the future of the local thoroughbred track is again in doubt."

"It's completely dependent on the province coming to an agreement with the owner," said Fort Erie Mayor Doug Martin.

I wonder what alternative Nordic has, outside of turning the track into one giant parking lot. Of course, they can sell the place. WEG would be a preferable buyer, even though WEG has no idea how to grow horse racing, at least they can save Fort Erie in the meantime, and worry about growing the game when their current racing execs eventually leave WEG's payroll. One thing at a time. Of course, an entrepreneurship that cares about growing horse racing would be much better than WEG, but to date Nordic has put an unrealistic price on Fort Erie, making a sale next to impossible.

Editorial on the subject is hoping for the government to go ahead with that $300 project, which as I've stated before is farcical and completely not feasible. The only thing that I see as being feasible is for the OLG to give the horsemen a larger cut on the slot winnings.

Canadians lost over $13 billion in the last year gambling. It looks like the 13 billion doesn't include online betting with offshore operators.
The number cited has increased by 5 times since 1992. Meanwhile, there is no way money bet on horse racing in Canada has come close to that type of increase. Thank WEG and high track takeouts for that.
Surprisingly, Albertans are the biggest losers, despite the much bigger population Ontario has.

22 September 2008

Time For HANA Is Now

Timing couldn't be better for HANA to start getting more aggressive. Kentucky is actually thinking of raising takeouts 'to pay for improved racetrack and betting security and more drug testing.' Hopefully, they will come to their senses and pick one of the alternative plans to raise money for these things. Yes, drug testing is important, but if nobody is betting, what is the point?

As for NYRA's recent track takeout increase on their own product. Ed Fontaine, in the New York Post sums it up very nicely:

What business in the U.S. treats its customers with more contempt than horse racing? Yesterday (September 17th), an across-the-board increase of 1% was added to already onerous takeout on all wagers on NYRA races, making takeout in NY State one of highest in the nation.

Actually, their takeouts are still lower than ones found at Woodbine and Fort Erie.

HANA now has a functional web site. Check it out. Their first press release:

Horseplayers Association of North America (HANA) Announces Incorporation, Appoints Officers


(September 22, 2008. Charlottesville, Virginia) The Horseplayers Association of North America (HANA) is pleased to announce that it has been incorporated as a Virginia non-stock corporation with the goal of obtaining 501(c) status as a non-profit organization with the Internal Revenue Service. HANA believes that this is an important first step in becoming a force to help grow the sport of horse racing.

HANA would also like to announce that they have elected their Officers.

Jeff Platt has been elected President. Jeff, a computer programmer by trade, has been a horseplayer since 1981. In addition, he is the owner, operator and creator of Jcapper, a popular thoroughbred handicapping software.

John Swetye has been named Vice President. John is a business professional, long time horseplayer and one of HANA's founders. The Treasurer is Theresia Muller, CPA, CFP, who is an investment professional, avid horseplayer, horse owner and thoroughbred racing forum owner. Finally, Dean Towers of Toronto will add inter national flavor to HANA as its Secretary. Dean is a marketing professional, a horseplayer; and like Theresia, a horse owner.

The Horseplayers Association of North America is a grassroots group of horseplayers, not affiliated with any organization, who are not pleased with the direction the game has taken. HANA believes that both tracks and horseman groups have become bogged down with industry infighting and have completely forgotten something: The importance of the customer. HANA hopes, through proactive change on several key issues (including but not limited to), open signal access, lower effective takeouts, affordable data and customer appreciation, the industry's handle losses can be reversed. HANA is currently made up of over 200 horseplayers (both harness and thoroughbred) from almost all States and Canadian provinces. It currently represents over ten million dollars of yearly racing handle.

Our web address is http://www.horseplayersassociation.com and interested horseplayers can sign up there for free. We are horseplayers, just like you and we are trying to make a difference. We need and appreciate your support.

Questions? Please contact us at horseplayersassociation@gmail.com

And don't forget about the HANA blog.

To become a HANA member (it is free, and there is no obligation whatsoever) click here and fill out the form (it will take less than 2 minutes)

How Ontario's Casino Rama got scammed. It was only the tip of the iceberg though.

Online Scam Report Helps Players Avoid Shady Online Casinos

They have a blog. The most recent blog entry is titled People Turning To Gambling To Relieve Economic Stress
Too bad the horse racing industry isn't going to catch many of the new bettors. Potential new players now Google before they jump into new endeavors. And newbies will come across two things which will make them go elsewhere.

The biggie of course is the ridiculous cost to play (because of high takeouts that do not compete with other forms of gambling). And of course, the amount of work it takes to gain enough knowledge to bet on horses confidently.

Why would a newbie choose horse racing over sports betting or poker when both of those offer a much bigger bang for the buck as well as the fact that you don't need to read 4 or 5 books in order to be adequate enough in order to compete against others?

More signs that the industry is still sinking: Keeneland's gross sales down almost 30%
Personally, when I look at how much the average horse makes a year, I am baffled when so many horses are sold at sales for more than $100,000. Regardless of how well they are bred, the cost to get any horse to the races is very high, and yearling sales have to be the easiest way for an owner to get into a hole he or she can never get out of if they pay ridiculous amounts for the dream.

CryptoLogic expects $3.6 million dollar quarterly loss mainly due to foreign exchange

Elissa Blowe makes a good case for donating to your local SPCA

Jockey Earlie Fires retires at 61. To put things in perspective, he got his jockey's license the year before Northern Dancer had his great 3 year old campaign.

Conflict of Interest?

Last Wednesday night at Woodbine, the first race was taken off the turf. There was no rain for a few days going into the race, and I thought the race was going to stay on the lawn for sure.

Prophetically was 6-1 in the program, and thanks to race being taken off the lawn, the race was reduced to four horses (from 7) and she became an even money favourite, and ran like one. The winner's share of the race was over $50,000.

Prophetically is owned by David Willmot's Kinghaven Farms. Most people know that Willmot is the chief vizuzu at Woodbine.

I didn't have the luxury of examining the turf course. Maybe it was dangerous and chopped up.....but maybe it wasn't.

The next day (even without rain), there couldn't be much hesitation but take the races off the grass, and they were. Finally, on Friday, races stayed on the turf (listed as good).

Sure, taking Wednesday's race off the turf could have been, and probably was, on the up and up.
But public perception is very important, especially in a sport that is dying a slow death (ironically, thanks to people who run the racetracks like Willmot).

Question for my readers
Do you think that Prophetically should have been forced to scratch last Wednesday when the track was taken off the turf?

17 September 2008

New Claiming Rule In California

California Changes Claiming Rule

"Claiming horses returning from layoffs of at least six months in California can be entered with a provision that will make them ineligible to be claimed in their comeback races, according to a rule change recently implemented by the California Horse Racing Board.

The rule change, which takes effect with entries on Saturday, is designed to give claiming-class horses a break from racing when necessary and not be plundered by rival owners and trainers when they return to competition. The claiming horses can be entered as ineligible to be claimed for the first race of their comebacks, but must return for a value equal to or greater than their preceding starts, according to a statement released by the racing board."
It looks like a good rule. Here in Ontario when many horses drop down near the end of the meet, it would probably give more incentive to drop a slip at that time.
But that isn't why the rule is there. It for horses that hurt themselves, not just being laid off for the winter.

Magna Entertainment is authorized $2 million so that they can go after voters in Maryland to vote yes on slots.

"The Maryland Racing Commission has approved a ban on anabolic steroids for racehorses, following the lead of other racing states including Kentucky, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Virginia."

Standardbred Canada launches enhanced entries and results search

This might be a first for 2008. A track actually has increased purses. Remington Park boosts purses. Oh wait, I forgot about Ellis Park.

New Whips To Be Tested At Keeneland

Woodbine Bias Report
Brian Lynch, Terry (hey what can I say?, my horses run well when they just come off a plane) Jordan, and Julia Carey are hot trainers right now.
The rail sucked near the end of the week, and going wire to wire is still quite a feat.

The Dart Board
Tonight at Woodbine, Prophetically might be up for a minor upset especially with the jockey switch to the very hot (on the grass) Slade Callaghan.

I really like Executive Sherri in the second. But what I like best about her is her dam's name (Ascot In The Gate).

Brigadier Rodney has a great shot in the third.

In the sixth, Fairlight looks the best in her second race off a layoff.

Say No Evil is taking a huge class drop and should easily handle all comers in the 7th.

13 September 2008

Time For Woodbine To Get Rid Of B Maiden and B Allowance Races


I've never liked these races to begin with. And from day one, I never understood why they were necessary, but now with the Ontario breeding industry in the crap house, correlations can be made regarding these races and the affect they have on racing here.

For those who don't know what B Races are, they are simply allowance or maiden races that offer around half the purse of a regular allowance race.
Because Woodbine's purse structure is so high, B races offer up higher purses (approximately $35,000 a race) than most B tracks do for their top allowance races.

The purpose of why these races were carded to begin with (besides maybe saving on purses handed out by Woodbine), was to give owners of high priced sales horses or well bred under performers an option to get out partially, and earn maiden special or allowance type on their records against lesser competition.

So what is the result? It gives some Canadian breeders more confidence to take their mare to a US stud, and bring the mare back here. It also allows for owners of high priced American breds to bring them here with an out after they show they can't (yet?) compete in A races.

Both of these types of horses do no good for the Ontario breeding industry, as classier better bred horses come here and pretty much dominate all non Ontario bred restricted races.

Yes, Ontario sired horses can do quite well sticking to Ontario bred maiden and allowance races if they are good enough to compete there, but the many who can't give their owners little out. Because of the lack of state bred claiming races, they are forced to compete against horses that are bred collectively much better.

It would be nice if Stronach brought over a few good studs to Ontario. But the chances decrease immensely because of the B program here.

Eventually, maybe the big buyers that Josie Carroll seems to attract, Mark Casse's owners, and Bear Stables will spend more recklessly in Ontario than in the USA. But our quality will not improve, and this spending will not occur, as long as we have B races, and as long as we don't offer up state bred claiming races.

The other thing these B races do is hurt the economics of the game in Ontario. All horses have a price. If a non Ontario sired horse can't compete in a regular allowance race or a regular maiden race, they should be in for a tag. And guess what, it doesn't matter what sales price the owner paid. If a horse is a dud, he or she won't get claimed for $40,000 or $50,000 unless the horse is an immaculately bred filly.

But if this filly can't compete in A races, she should be sent to the breeding shed instead of dilly dallying in B races, or she can go to Fort Erie (or another B or C track) and win a maiden allowance race (like Sarcasm did this year).
If the horse has some talent, let them run A races for as long as it takes for them to win. There is nothing wrong with that, especially from a bettor's standpoint.

From a betting standpoint, many of the B races we see have shorter fields, with one or two horses trying to take a distinctive edge. They are bad betting races. I'd rather see the two horses that are being protected in an A race, and the rest running for $40,000 claiming races.

Generally, it is healthier if horses run for what they are worth. More realistic sellers naturally creates more buyers (see Ebay). And it seems that in Ontario, the industry seems to have done whatever it can to detract new buyers and buying in general. Case in point is taking away the ability to run for full purses if someone claims an Ontario bred horse, and of course, B races.

I'd love to see Fort Erie replace all allowance races with $20,000 tags as well. There might be one or two horses that run there that might, and I say might, get claimed for that price. Fort Erie's own economy would be much better off if it didn't attract horses like Sarcasm.

Some Handy Links With Free Past Performances

Did you know that there are personal websites that trainers have that allow the public to view free charts on any race that these certain trainers have entries in?
It is part of a subscription package that trainers can buy, that allows them many options to help them manage their stables.

To view a list of the 28 trainers, go here. You'll notice that Catherine Day Phillips and Mark Casse are among those who are signed up with TLORE.net.

Not on the list are horses owned by Stronach Stables (Adena Springs), but they too have a web page where you can follow their entrants, and get free past performances for any race that they have a horse entered.

Melanie Pinto has been hot lately at Fort Erie, especially on long shots.

Bud Williams also reported: 'Track owner Nordic Gaming Corp. and the local Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association have discussed and are generally in agreement on the proposed dates for the 2009 season as the submission deadline nears, said Fort Erie's general manager, Herb McGirr.'

Pull The Pocket has a post up about multi-race handicapping and betting. When he mentions Woodbine's track takeouts he forgot about their most outrageous one: 28.3% on triactors.

Wagering on US races down 2.71% in August from year before. You'd figure that technology increasing to the point that almost everyone is capable of making a bet from anywhere, that betting on horse racing would be setting new records each and every day.

But racing's business model doesn't work anymore. And they are too stubborn or scared to change it.

On-line gambling in Canada is growing: It is impossible to stop, but it can be regulated.

Calder cancels 8 stake races and cuts purses; Calder upped their track takeouts recently and I know for a fact that many bettors are boycotting them.

Interesting: Was hockey invented in Niagara Falls? Swedish researchers believe it.

9 September 2008

Fort Erie's Owner In The News; And Not In A Good Way

El-Ad Properties Being Sued By Condo Buyer In Alleged Bait And Switch

El-Ad's lawyer of course is calling the lawsuit frivolous.

Who is El-Ad? Nordic Gaming, the owner of Fort Erie Race Track is a wholly owned subsidiary of the El-Ad Group.

Nordic Gaming is still attempting to pull one over with the ridiculous $300 million Fort Erie project. A project which could never be feasible in a million years. I've speculated that Nordic is just trying to enhance the potential price of the race track while this project is on the table.

Nordic is hoping for two things. One, that the government is stupid enough to go ahead with the project and lend them most of the money to do it. Or two, that someone is stupid enough to come along and overpay for the track on the basis that this project could very well be a reality.

Just last month, El-Ad postponed a $5 billion project to build a casino in Vegas.

They have also had the loan repayments postponed too. The investment bankers loaned $1.25 billion to buy the land where the new resort is supposed to be built.

'The decision comes as a slumping U.S. economy and much tighter credit markets have caused other developers to reassess the need for more hotel capacity in the gambling corridor.'

The government of Ontario needs to come in and put an end to the Nordic smoke and mirrors project by stating the obvious: This project makes no sense and is completely not feasible. This will force Nordic to price the track realistically, or turn the track into a giant parking lot. And no, I don't want to see that latter.

Ideally, Woodbine should buy back the track. There are many horses who just can't run on Polytrack. Also, Fort Erie is the only Ontario option for horses who can still run, but have been devalued because they either ran through their conditions, or injuries and/or age have slowed them down.

If not Woodbine, an ownership group that wants to build horse racing.

But Nordic hasn't given a rats ass about racing, and Fort Erie is barely staying alive right now under their ownership.

No dates for next year yet? 65 makes sense to me. That being said, I do hope they get dates and stay open for next year.

Harlen Abbey's latest column on Fort Erie. Read about Sandspit and Bad Boy Will.

Rescue horse Mister Man, makes it to the track.

There is a rumour that someone well connected to the horses in the Fort Erie area that were deemed to be malnourished was right back in the sales ring at the recent Woodbine CTHS sales as a buyer.

CTHS Sales Numbers Keep Declining

The CTHS reported 149 horses sold for $5,495,287 ($5,830,500 Canadian), an 8.5% decline from last year’s select session. Average declined 2.4% to $36,881 ($39,131 Canadian) and median declined 15.6% to $25,448 ($27,000 Canadian).

Buy-back rate was reported as 30.4%, compared with 27.1% a year ago.

Optimism that Ontario bred bonuses would boost sales turns out to be empty promise.

Ontario racing needs state bred claiming races badly. And they need to get rid of that rule where you claim an Ontario bred and then lose the right to the full purse offered. Again, this only creates less owners less partnerships. Owners that could very well show up at a future sale.

Keeneland sales also down significantly this year.

Rahy's Attorney Is Now Four For Four Going One Mile

I know I called the Woodbine Mile a two horse race. Of course, my third choice won.
Slade Callaghan is a terrific grass jockey. He ranks right up there with Chantal Sutherland, Patrick Husbands, and the very hot Jono Jones when it comes to riding on the E.P.Taylor Turf Course.

Buyback record broken at Keeneland Sales

$7.7 million wasn't enough for the owner of Azeri's first foal.

Deweycheatumnhowe (was he named after the harness racing industry?) finally lost, but 3 year old filly Mya Tri won her 21st race in a row and remains undefeated.

Racing Form's Formulator Web gets great review

I've yet to try it. I like to stick with the 50 cent forms (per card) I buy from Thoroughbred Sports Network. I'm more into recent form angles and speed figures, than I am when it comes to trainer/jockey angles. I also think Beyer numbers suck most of the time.


Trainer Paula Loescher and jockey Dale Hemsley have a great chance to double up today in the second and third races at the Fort today with Can't Be Pete and Briarhill respectively. Minstrel's Honour looks good in the fourth and Shady Park should be real tough in the 5th race.
It is a pretty good card today. The last three races should be interesting as well.

Mike Newell is only 2 wins behind Nick Gonzalez in the trainer's race. Newell has a shot to close the gap with Piece of the Pie in the first, but there is lots of speed in the race which may hinder her chances. Hemsley could have a big day today.

Tomorrow at Woodbine, IF the first race is off the turf, Green Is For Go with "Ernie James" Wilson looks like a solid pick. Catch Air may pull off a minor upset in the 6th race.

6 September 2008

The Score's Megapick Contest Is Winnable: Someone Dropped The Ball

Woodbine Entertainment is sponsoring a contest where players have to select the finishers in the exact order in 3 big races that are held at Woodbine. The prize is $100,000 for each race. The $700,000 bonus isn't going to happen (the same player must pick the exact order in all three races. They might as well give the bonus out to a player who can walk on the sun). But something unexpected happened. The first leg of the contest, the Woodbine Mile tomorrow, only attracted 8 horse, including one overwhelming first choice and an overwhelming second choice (Kip Deville and Ventura respectively).

The odds to randomly select the order of an 8 horse race is only 40,319 to one. But if the favourites run one two, the odds drop to 719 to one.

Contests aren't supposed to be this easy.

I noticed that the contest now specifies that legs two and three must have at least 9 starters for the $100,,000 to be rewarded (in a 9 horse race the odds of randomly selecting the exact order goes up to 362,879 to one; in a ten horse race it goes up to 3,628,799 to one).

If nobody gets the horses in the exact order, a prize of $10,000 will go to the player who comes closest.

The contest is free to enter. You must be a Canadian resident. Except Quebec residents can't enter the contest (I guess Quebec separated from Canada, but I must have missed it in the news).

To enter The Woodbine Megapicks Contest, go here.

Personally, I like Ventura to win and Kip Deville to place. Of course, there are another 720 combinations when it comes to selecting the rest of the order of the race. But still, I expect over 1500 entrants, so I'm thinking there is a very good chance the $100,000 will be won if the favourites do well.

2 September 2008

ORC Needs To Aggressively Go After Potential EPO/DPO Violators

Gambler drills ORC chairman about EPO testing, integrity, and disclosure to the public.
The answers Seiling gave, show that the ORC (Ontario Racing Commission) is passively enforcing EPO and DPO potential violations.

Pointed out in the article are the red flags that the ORC is supposed to use to find suspects:

1. dramatic improvement in a horse’s performance.
2. dramatic improvement in a horses performance after it has moved to a different trainer.
3. a tip or knowledge of the procession, sale or use of the drug E.P.O. or D.P.O. The knowledge of it being administered to a horse in the care of a licensed trainer or a complaint presented to the commission by another trainer or group of trainers or owners about the suspect use of the drug by any licensed trainer or owner.

After reading the article, it seems that the ORC is only relying on tips. I don't think they have a way devised to objectively police the first two red flags.

And I really think that Seiling's admission that EPO testing isn't being done as much as it should because of budget constraints doesn't help the industry and the way it is perceived one iota.

My personal belief is that any trainer hitting at over 20% should be monitored intensely, and his or her horses should get spot tested often. There are only so many ways to train a horse, and if you are looking for Mensa members, you won't find too many in the backstretch training horses.

Temporary employees rob Ellis Park

Greg Blanchard questions the procedure of Stewards talking to drivers (and jockeys) during Inquiries.
I don't see a problem with the practice. A steward may learn why the infraction took place, and may find another culprit instead of the one they are investigating.
However, I've always maintained that inquiries should be as objective as possible. The visual evidence should be the determining factor when a call is made. Should it be the only factor? Probably yes.

Churchill Downs slashing fall stake purses

Chad Beckon is out for a bit due a concussion he received in the last race on Saturday at Fort Erie.

His new bride, jockey Cory Clark, took off her mounts on Sunday because she had the duties of waking Chad up every hour. She resumed riding yesterday and got a win.

Beckon is expected to ride again this year. Not sure when.