31 October 2008

What Will Become Of Fort Erie?

A $300-million redevelopment billed as the saviour to all that ails the Fort Erie Race Track has been shelved.
It was shelved before it made news in the first place. The plan made no sense when the economy wasn't gloom and doom, and finally thanks to bad economy, Nordic has come clean.
Nordic ownership is not stupid. They also must realize that recessions only last a year and half usually, so by the time they built the project, the economy would be starting up again. Shelving it now means shelving it forever.
Seriously, why would a company worrying about losses of a couple million a year (supposedly), spend $300 million. What kind of rate of return could they possibly expect by building a hotel and condos in a small town that can barely support two grocery stores?
I'm thinking this plan was a whim that was initiated by the Fort Erie's Economic Development and Tourism Corp(EDTC) shooting the crap with Nordic's management, and Nordic just went along with it, because it could help get a bigger sales price for Fort Erie Race Track, or maybe the government would be stupid enough to finance most of the project.
I'm starting to believe the EDTC and the Fort Erie mayor are either very gullible, very stupid, very corrupt, or a combination of the the three. Mayor Doug Martin has to be included in the mix too. He is coming across as an inept optimist as recently seen by the Save Our Hospital Campaign, which turned out to be another waste of time. I now doubt the auto track will ever break ground in Fort Erie either. The EDTC and Martin are too inept for something so big. The conditions are probably too overwhelming to ever be reality, and the Dubai group probably knows it too.
The reason I even bring up the EDTC is that they helped perpetuate this fantasy project, that was NEVER going to happen. The track could have been sold by now.

So What Happened To The Two Million Dollars The EDTC Squeezed Out Of The Government For The Feasibility Project?
I'd like to know the answer to that one. Apparently it was given to Nordic Gaming. Given to Nordic? How much did they spend? Do they get to keep the balance because they didn't officially call off the project completely, they only postponed it.
Did they spend the $2 million? Is there any accountability?

"We will apply ... we're looking for help from various stakeholders in the track," said Stephen Ayers, without elaborating on exactly what Nordic wants.
"We're looking at some sort of support. We've not worded it yet, it's an ongoing dialogue. It could be related stakeholders, (Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association), the town, the province."

It is only another 5 months before horsemen either come back to Fort Erie or don't. And Nordic isn't even sure what their exact goals are and how they will achieve those goals. Nordic has to go. How can they be trusted? It appears they have already fleeced the government out of $2 million for a feasibility study on a project that was insane to begin with.

That being said, I think a case could be made for the horsemen to get a bigger chunk of the OLG casino profits, because Fort Erie is a border track that supports many jobs, and it is one of only two thoroughbred tracks in Ontario, and it is needed as a place for owners to run horses who just can't compete at Woodbine. Without a B track, owners will not have an out anymore if their horse can't make it at Woodbine or if they don't like the Polytrack. Well, the only out is to take them to the US to run, and not only is that expensive, it gives the owner less incentive to even buy a horse with all the risks involved, owners need an outlet for slower horses in Ontario...and many owners get in the game to watch their horse run live, whether it at Woodbine or Fort Erie. Owners are important, because they are what keeps the backstretch in business.

I don't see a corporation making a case for a bigger cut to keep the corporation in business however. If the corporation can't make a profit, or at least break even, force it to change hands. Nordic never gave a rats ass about horse racing to begin with. They are real estate speculators first and foremost. They are opportunists. They took advantage of The Ontario Jockey Club's foolishness (I wonder if it was Willmot's decision) to get rid of Fort Erie for next to nothing just before slots were legalized. But Nordic was foolish too relying on slots to keep the place profitable. They didn't do a thing to grow the horse race betting side, and viewed the race track as a necessary evil (much like WEG views Woodbine horse racing with respect to betting growth).

Can Nordic Keep The Slots Open Without Having To Run Races At Fort Erie?
Don't expect a Niagara journalist to ask this type of question. Unfortunately, I haven't got an answer to this yet. Is there a loop hole that allows the slots to be open? If not, it might explain why Nordic applied conditionally for race dates. They still get to keep the profitable side of their business running until a final decision is made.
Lets say the answer is that they can keep the casino going. The government will still make a fortune from it, and Nordic will be somewhat profitable. This doesn't bode well for horse racing in 2009 and beyond. I wonder what the cut would be? Would Nordic get to keep 20% of the profits instead of 10%, or would the government get the extra 10% since the horsemen will no longer getting it.
Lets say the answer is that they can't keep the casino going. The track is industrial land. It is not feasible to put up a bunch of homes next the Peace Bridge truck fumes. And it is pretty hard to find a company or companies that are mid size or large that will be attracted enough to move to Fort Erie. So Nordic will have a lot of land that is next to worthless, unless they want to relocate the proposed auto track there, that is. Still, bare land in Fort Erie is still cheap to come by relatively, so Nordic won't get much either way if they sold it.
The only thing that makes sense is for another buyer to come along. One that will try to make the horse racing side work. The OLG will support a new buyer because if they can't operate the casino there, they will be out quite a lot of dough. I don't think they would give Nordic that much support considering Nordic's track record of near extortion (saying they won't run unless they get a handout).

It makes sense for Woodbine to buy the track. Isn't Woodbine a non profit organization anyway? They can afford to absorb a small loss in order to keep the B Track in business. What about turning a profit? Surely, WEG can turn a small loss into a profit....LOL...well, not with their current monkey management, and they know it.

Like almost every other track in North America:
FORT ERIE, Ontario - Total handle from all sources on the live Fort Erie meet this year, with its 80 live racing days used in a direct comparison with the corresponding number in the 84-date 2007 season, dropped 9 percent from just under approximately $71.5 million to slightly over $65 million.

Overall, the average daily handle was off $80,869 per day, a corresponding 9 percent drop.

The average daily ontrack handle declined from $81,148 to $67,757, down 16.5 percent.
Cutting out Saturdays was probably responsible for almost half of this drop. But Saturdays are a very bad overall handle day.

Offtrack handle on Fort Erie races averaged $745,547, down 8.3 percent from last year's $813,026.

Purse distribution was up from last year, as an increase from $8.7 million to $9.4 million gave horsemen an additional $680,740 in 2008, a 7.8 percent increase.
That is surprising. The extra money didn't come from betting, it must have come from slots, or money that was accumulated from the year before.

Other statistics of interest included an identical number of average runners per race in both seasons, 7.8 horses per race. The number of races run dropped from 745 to 725 in 2008 and total number of runners dropped from 5,799 to 5,642, down 2.7 percent.
Runners were probably down more than they should have because the decision to race came early last year which was late for many horsemen.

Reality Check
Horse racing is trending down in North America at an alarming rate. New horseplayers and new owners (most are introduced to the game because they bet first) are not being created because the game in not competitive with other forms of gambling today (The cost to players ie takeout, is beyond excessive, so nobody wins, and since nobody wins, no buzz is created causing other people to give it a go).
Tracks are closing. The economy is the final nail in the coffin possibly for Fort Erie Race Track.
Fort Erie needs to be sold, or I'm afraid, it will vanish, unless the OLG caves in and gives the owner an unprecedented bigger share of the casino profits.

28 October 2008

Thoughts On The Breeder's Cup

I first have to say, I don't get excited over great horses. To me, the game is about picking winners first. When I was a child, winning streaks and track records mattered to me, but now it is all about winning at the races and spotting good claims to tell a few of my acquaintances about.

I can't comprehend someone paying $600 a ticket to see the world's top thoroughbreds live and up close, unless they had money to burn. In fact, I can't comprehend paying $10 for "the right" to see great horses live.

I'm a speed handicapper, and my top angles when it comes to picking winners and exotics get thrown out the door on Breeder's Cup day. I might as well take my racing form (actually my $1.00 print off from Thoroughbred Sports Network), and go to a pet store and line bird cages with it. I could then bet on the horses that attract the most bird waste. I know one thing, I wouldn't do any worse than I've done in the past. I vaguely remember winning one Breeder's Cup day, but I didn't win much.

The problem with the Breeder's Cup is that you have horses going brand new distances, and racing on brand new surfaces. At least it is more explainable when a horse goes from turf to synthetic, then when horses like Arazi went from turf to dirt way back when. Also, horses coming from all sorts of tracks, and horses with varying degrees of time off going into the Cup races. When a horse is off more than 30 days, speed figures become less and less a factor. It is just chaos handicapping. Betting using chaos handicapping only makes sense if you are betting into a 2% track takeout. Like that is ever going to happen.

Contrary to what many bettors like to think, synthetic tracks are here to stay. Any new tracks going forward and any new major track surfacing will have to do with a conversion to synthetic material. I really don't mind it on cheaper races. But when dealing with high allowance and stake races, chaos handicapping becomes a fact.

I like Bill Finley, he is a huge advocate of lowering track takeouts. But he has a book out right now called Betting Synthetic Surfaces, where he sort of concludes that it is a misconception that turf horses do better than dirt horses on artificial surfaces collectively. To be fair, I'm only on the first chapter right now (so I don't know if he has empirical evidence to back up his claim), but c'mon Bill, did you see what happened at Santa Anita over the weekend?

Curlin is a great horse, but the fact that he lost on a synthetic surface has to lessen his stud value a bit. I admire the owner allowing the horse to run as much as he has, especially in the days of early retirements for good horses, but he took a risk, and lets face it, if Curlin is a great stud prospect, what is Raven's Pass? A question has to be put in the mind of potential breeders: Will Curlin's offspring be able to successfully handle artificial surfaces, and is it worth the stud fee gamble?

Stud fees are dropping, partly due to the economy, but mostly due to the slow death of horse racing. Owners with deep pockets are dying, and they aren't being replaced, much like die-hard fans and bettors.

And what about steroids? The European horses demolished the North American horses in a steroid free environment. As more and more jurisdictions created more stringent steroid laws, how long will it take for "our" horses to catch up to the "across the ponders?"

Did lack of steroids come into play with respect to Curlin's loss? I remember Jess Jackson saying that Curlin was going off the hard stuff earlier this year, but what EXACTLY did that mean? Was he completely drug free this year, or just partially drug free, and did he have to even wean himself off other drugs to run in the Breeders?

Breeder's Cup Handle was up 5.5%, but lets face it, there were more million dollar Breeder's Cup races to bet this year, and last year, it was held in the muck.

Going forward, having a horse from overseas coming to North America one or two times in its life to win big events here, isn't going to help our breeding game, and isn't going to do much for racing's fan base. No following is created.

Racing better get its act together and substantially drop takeout, or allow for major rebating at every ADW, in order to grow their dwindling fan base. European domination of the Breeders is just another nail in North American horse racing's coffin.

Perry Lefko reports that Fort Erie is hoping for help from the government or other interested parties in order to stay alive next year:
The owner of Fort Erie Racetrack will submit a conditional application for race dates next year, albeit with an option to withdraw before the meet begins unless the government provides financial support.

And because of the volatile economic climate, the owner's proposed $300 million commercial/residential project beside the track has been indefinitely postponed.

Nordic Gaming Corporation spokesman Stephen Ayers said yesterday his company will submit an application to the Ontario Racing Commission for 78 race dates in 2009...."Our application will be on the condition we receive financial help from other stakeholders and interested parties in the track, failing which we reserve the right to cancel live racing at Fort Erie prior to the next race season,"


Well at least the $300 million project has been (temporarily?) swept under the rug. Now that it is out of the game plan, Fort Erie's owner needs to be realistic. Pleading for a larger percentage of slot revenues is on the table (and to me it was the only thing that makes sense at the moment). I guess they can ask for a bigger cut for HPI on betting made in the Niagara region and bets made on Fort Erie through the HPI hub by non Niagara residents (but good luck to that, WEG and HPI are too greedy to give an inch).

The other alternative is for Woodbine to at least partially takeover the racing operations of Fort Erie. I don't know how realistic that would be. But it is a definite that Ontario needs a B racetrack and an alternative dirt track, or the badly beaten breeding and owning part of the business will receive a final knock out punch.

Of course, Woodbine could buy back Fort Erie, or better yet, another group could buy the track, but Nordic has a history of grossly overpricing the track.

Even the Fort Erie Economic Development and Tourism Corp is painting a doom and gloom picture when it comes to racing at the Fort next year.
Talk about miscommunication, in the Niagara Falls Review article, the town didn't get the memo that Ayers has suspended the $300 million project indefinitely. Or does Lefko got it wrong. I doubt it, because El-Ad (Nordic is a subsidiary of El-Ad) has suspended a $5 billion project in Las Vegas earlier this year, thanks to bad economic conditions.

UPDATE: Thoroughbred Times has a longer version of Lefko's article.
The president of the Ontario Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association said the situation is not good, but the group is looking for possible solutions.

It’s a dire situation, that’s for sure,” Sue Leslie said.

23 October 2008

Breeder's Cup 2008 Handicapping Edition

First off, this is the way it should be: All ADW's will be accepting bets on the Breeder's Cup, and this includes rebating shops like Premier Turf Club.

Now it is time to reveal my predictions for the Breeder's Cup races. Note: I'm making picks without knowing which races cross entered horses will wind up in.

Handicapping these events is one thing, expecting positive results is another. So many horses, so many trips. And guessing who is peaking and who is not, is hard enough. But I'm going to take a stab anyway.

Filly and Mare Sprint
1.Zaftig-Lays over the field if ready
2.Ventura-Needs a perfect trip like in the Madison.
3.Tiz Elemental-Real longshot. Consistent, and might be peaking.

Juvenile Fillies Turf
1.Beyond Our Reach-Domestic horses look weak in this one. Best from across the pond.
2.Evita Argentina-Madonna was just in Toronto, so why not?
3.Laragh-The best known quantity from the North Americans.

Juvenile Fillies
1.Persistently-This is really really tough race. This one is improving every time.
2.Evita Argentina-I don't know if I'd run the horse here or the turf; tough decision.
3.Be Smart-Last race was better than it looks.

Filly and Mare Turf

1.Mauralakana-Likes the distance; second race off a layoff; I like this one.
2.Communique-Just behind my selection in last. Should make the best from post one.
3.Halfway To Heaven-Getting five pound as a three year old; The best invader?

Ladies Classic
1.Carriage Trail-I don't think she drifted as badly as it says she did;The best!
2.Hysterical Lady-Just lost last year in this race; Really consistent type.
3.Santa Teresita-Distance an issue; This one knows California.

1.Casino Drive-If the owners choose to run him here, he will be more than tough.
2.Fairbanks-First time at the distance; Might go all the way.
3.Delightful Kiss-He recently won at Turfway going the same distance.

Turf Sprint
1.Tropic Storm-I like the cutback to his favourite distance (well, on the dirt)
2.One Union-Looks like he is ready to run his best.
3.Diabolical-Probably the best invader.

Dirt Mile
1.First Defense-Cross entered in the Sprint too; Looks best in either race.
2.Lewis Michael-Loves synthetic tracks.
3.Well Around-Should come flying for a good piece.

1.Raven's Pass-Distance specialist who has been one two in Grade One Europe races.
2.War Monger-This could be a peak race.
3.Bold Chieftain-Likes the distance; good post; class an issue.

1.Believe In Hope-Tough race, lots of horses close on figs; Go with the post.
2.Coronet Of A Baron-First time over a mile but he looks like he can handle it.
3.Munnings-Needs a good trip as do many others here.

Juvenile Turf
1.Grand Adventure-Ran absolutely huge in last.
2.Bittel Road-Hasn't lost yet, and all three victories have been on the green.
3.Coronet Of A Baron-Another cross entered horse; I expect the trainer to know best.

1.First Defense-He can't win both the Mile and the Sprint on the same day.
2.Fatal Bullet-This one can fly.
3.Cost Of Freedom-Five for five going 6 furlongs.

1.Soldier Of Fortune-If the invaders are doing OK, this one will be tough.
2.Grand Couturier-The now horse at this distance.
3.Out Of Control-Might have easy fractions on the lead.

1.Curlin-As long as he is in near peak form, the race is for second.
2.Mast Track-Knows the track; Could be a pace factor.
3.Casino Drive-If he goes here, he might grab a piece.

Good luck!

To see some of the top races for free, go check out the NTRA site and search for horses are races.

Finally, it appears that there an openly gay horse is starting to cause some commotion:)

Too bad the Onion doesn't even know that Breeder's Cup Day is on Saturday. At least horse racing is on the radar screen, even if it is only a little blip.

19 October 2008

Sandy Hawley Does Canada Proud

Sandy Hawley won the Living Legends Race yesterday:

I picked the winner, and no offense to Hawley, but any of those jocks would have won on Tribal Chief yesterday, in fact, almost any jockey in the Woodbine or even Fort Erie colony would have won on that horse as well.
One bit of trivia, if Hawley doesn't ride again, he will remain undefeated on all weather race tracks.
I handicapped the race because of the Brisnet Handicapping Contest I entered. Picked the exactor one two, but didn't bet because I don't get rebated on California horse racing. I would have blown back the profits in a later California race anyway.

NASCAR says no to Fort Erie I'm not sure if the proposed track is being built with NASCAR races in mind since they are starting out with only 65,000 seats, but one thing did come to me, at the risk of throwing political correctness out the window: NASCAR is the center of the "redneck" sport's universe. I wonder if an Arab owned race track will ever become part of their circuit regardless of the location.

Racing Execs and Horsemen Get What They Deserve
California Defers ADW Rule Change Look for California handle to keep going down down down.

NYRA is cutting purses for the Aqueduct meeting by 10%. This comes right after an increase in track takeout on New York races was put into place.
When is racing going to understand that the bottom line drops with higher takeouts and goes up with lower takeouts?

Louisiana Posts modest increases in handle for 2008 meet. Handle is down almost everywhere, but La. Downs is bucking the trend. Could it have something to do with the fact that they make their signal available just about everywhere? Maybe being on Premier Turf Club's menu has something to do with it too.

Krista Carignan wants to come back to the Ontario circuit next year. I wonder if the circuit will be Woodbine and Fort Erie or Woodbine and Ajax Downs.

Halsey Minor looking to buyout Magna Entertainment?

Premier Turf Club's Joe Riddell tells it like it is.
The industry won't compromise with customer needs and wants. It would rather chase away the customer than give in.
"...not only does it not have the right business model, it doesn't have the right management team in place. As a whole you have to understand where our customers are, where they've gone, what they're demanding and recognize that we need to bring them back into the game and certainly back into the revenue stream. ..."

One commenter offers a counter solution to Riddell's central exchange idea:
....Each track needs to be able to accept internet wagers direct. This would give each track an on-track bet. Then the tracks "commission" the ADW's for acquiring the customer and servicing the account....


Horseplayers Association Of North America (HANA) has a good post: Vet Records-For The Bettor
Hong Kong does it right. North America keeps the bettor in the dark.

Way to go Woodbine. Four days of Pick 6 build up and the carryover is up to a whopping 4 G's. The audacity of a $2 minimum instead of a $1 one shows how out of touch Woodbine is with their customers.

As predicted, so far at least, Emma Jayne Wilson and Eurico Rosa Da Silva have picked up the winners that Chantal Sutherland left on the table.
These two jocks seem to love the colder weather.

16 October 2008

Fort Erie To Get Speedway; What About The Ponies?

Fort Erie To Get Speedway

It looks like Fort Erie is getting a major motor-sport speedway. There are still a few bureaucratic hoops to go through, but apparently financing has been secured.

Foreign investment of approximately $200 million will come from an investment consortium is led by Kuwaiti Islamic investment bank Bayt Al Mal Investments.

623 acres of land between Bowen Rd. and Gilmore Rd. has been purchased, and that is where the 65,000 seat complex is supposed to be built.

The complex may include a theme park, hotel and automotive research facilities, according to Fort Erie Mayor Doug Martin.

More Questions Than Answers

All this is fine and dandy. But what about horse racing? What about that ridiculous venture Nordic Gaming is trying to promote regarding a $300 million dollar complex being built on the Fort Erie race track grounds? To my knowledge, Nordic is looking for the government to finance this. The auto track looks like it is completely relying on foreign investment (much more appealing). With the auto track, a smaller version of a new complex being built at the race track is now semi-realistic, but I still don't see that there would be demand for anything but maybe another hotel to accommodate auto race fans on the odd days that there is a big race.

The auto track won't open until at least 2010, but Fort Erie race track is ready to close next year, or maybe it isn't, who knows? With no announcements regarding next year, I'm starting to think that Ajax Downs will be where Ontario's B horses will run. I sure hope not.

If the auto track is built, it will be great for the Fort Erie economy (estimated $34 million in taxes alone), and probably very good for the slots business (it would be good for the horse racing business too (if new ownership for Fort Erie Race Track came along). But at this point, does Nordic really care. Remember, they are mainly a real estate venture firm, and real estate prices are heading in the crapper in the US where they have serious investments, and it is on a down slide in Canada, where El-Ad, Nordic's parent company, has many holdings. They have already postponed the building of a multi-billion dollar complex in Vegas due to the real estate market. Fort Erie Race Track is probably a very tiny concern for the company today.

How about border security? Will the government approve a major investment from an Islamic investment bank, so close to the US border? Will the US put pressure on the Canadian government to prevent this?

With the proposed auto racing track and the Save The Hospital campaign, Fort Erie's race track's future isn't even a priority with local politicians anymore, or so it seems.

Fort Erie Jockey and Trainer Race

Fort Erie's jockey race is tightening. With 7 racing days left, Rui Pimentel has closed ground on Chad Beckon to be only 4 wins behind. Mike Newell is the leading trainer right now with a 4 win lead on both Nick Gonzalez and Lyle Morden. Newell has had 79 more starters than Gonzalez, and a whopping 126 more starts than Lyle Morden. Morden is doing phenomenal, winning one out of every three races he saddles a horse at The Fort.

I've always been a proponent of testing the crap out of barns winning at rates of 20% or greater. I'm not saying high percentage trainers are using illegal substances, but public perception these days isn't good, and what I know about trainers is that there is only so much a trainer can do with a horse without using magic. Sure, luck could come into play for a short period, but I'd feel better and so would the racing community, if more intense testing was done on mega winning trainers.

New York Is The Latest State To Ban Steroids
'Officials were unveiling details about the new effort Oct. 14, but the rules will set new threshold levels for four steroids that are now permitted – and allow only one of those to be permitted in horse racing. The rules affect: stanozolol (Winstrol), one nanogram per milliliter of urine; boldenone (Equipose), for male horses other than geldings; 15 ng/ml; nandrolone (Durabolin), one ng/ml; and testosterone, 20 ng/ml in geldings and 55 ng/ml in fillies and mares.'

I'm not sure what is banned in Ontario and what is allowed, but I don't recall any announcement from the Ontario Racing Commission lately regarding this type of banning lately. The latest mention I've seen was back in early September, and it looks like Ontario is kicking the tires regarding steroid use.

Does it have to do with a conflict of interest? WEG execs having a vested interest in owning horses that might be making money using steroids? Makes me wonder.

This Is Really Cool and It Shows That Horse Racing Is In Trouble
Dean from Pull The Pocket did a guest post at Harness Racing Blog.
He used Google Trends to compare searches made for terms like "horse racing," "poker," "harness racing," etc.
He found out that "Poker, in terms of searches is 1520% more popular than horse racing." Even "Betfair" outnumbers "horse racing" in searches done over the internet.

Speaking of Pull The Pocket, he has a MUST READ post up called You Can't Win. I'll probably chime in a do my own version on my next blog post.

Just over $4000 bet on the initial pick 6 pool at Woodbine yesterday. The $2 minimum sucks big time, as stated before, Woodbine isn't Santa Anita, and the Woodbine betting crowd is not the California crowd. There is a minuscule $2,276 carryover going into today (those who had 5 winners received around $120 each yesterday). I predict it will grow slightly more than the discarded pick 7 grew, but not by much.

12 October 2008

Betting Down 10% For Third Quarter; It Will Only Get Worse

Handle dropped 10% in the third quarter, and it isn't going to get prettier. It isn't the economy either. When the economy was flying, racing was barely staying stagnant.

People have left the game, and they are not coming back. A 20% takeout is impossible to overcome in the long run. The only players with a chance are those getting rebates.

Competition has taken many players out. Slots took the dummies out, but at least slots has a takeout of less than 10%, giving the dummies a bigger bang for their buck than in horse racing. Poker and sports betting readily available on the internet has also taken out lots of money from the pools. Not only do these forms of gambling offer a bigger bang for the buck, the fact the house rakes are so low, winners can be created, and winners create more players, because there is nothing more rewarding for an everyday gambler than having an opportunity to be a long term winner.

Toronto's Daniel Negreanu has become a poster boy for winning poker players. Rising up from being a pool hustler as a kid to a high roller poker player. Why is this possible? You can become a winner if you are good enough at poker thanks to the relatively low rake poker offers gamblers.

I know people who make money consistently at online poker, and I don't know anyone who makes money playing horses, except for those who get substantial rebates.

Pull The Pocket Chimes In On Racing's Downfall

Not only are gamblers walking away, owners are walking away too as seen by the huge drop in sales prices this year and the increase in sales buybacks. Most owners start off as gamblers, even as $2 bettors. New people just are not coming around anymore, and it all boils down to the fact that betting on horse racing is one of the largest "negative expectations" forms of gambling available to the public.

John Pricci Gets It: A Stimulus Package For Lagging Thoroughbred Handle
"It’s called a tax reduction; lowering parimutuel takeout. Whenever and wherever lower takeout has been enacted, over time it’s resulted in increased handle--read revenue to all here. For the groups mentioned above, it’s a win, win, win, win. Less is more; a little smaller slice of a much larger pie."

Brains, vision and guts, based on positive past performances. What could be easier?

What is needed is for the industry to realize they are in crisis mode, and for all the major tracks to reduce takeouts substantially across the board.

HANA (Horseplayers Association Of North America) now has around 300 members, including some high profile bettors. The more members HANA has, the more bargaining power HANA will wind up with. If you haven't joined already and you are bothered by high takeouts and other issues, please click here. There are no fees involved.

Check out HANA's blog, and of course, the HANA website.

HANA's Mission Statement:

H.A.N.A. is committed to giving horseplayers a voice. By banding together we can bring about change and compel the horseracing industry do something it has never done: actually listen to its customers. By making them aware of customer needs and wants we can motivate track management and horseman's groups to reverse course and start doing the things needed to bring the game of horseracing back to the prominence and greatness it so richly deserves.

Pull The Pocket reports that HPI has added Bris stats (free for members) for thoroughbred races which will help aid their bettors in making decisions. Also added, Compubet stats for the harness side of things.

One of HANA's goals is for racetracks and ADWs to give out as much free information as possible to their customers. This is definitely a step in the right direction, but it really is meaningless for most players, who end up betting until they are broke. And with WEG's outrageous track takeouts and the "criminal" markups of takeouts which are lower than their own, this new information might just allow the average player to last one extra race a week, in the scheme of things. It won't create any long term winners which creates a buzz which creates new players.

Woodbine Doing Away With $1 Pick 7, Replacing It With $2 Pick 6
'Woodbine's Thoroughbred betting menu will include a $1 pick-seven wager for the final time on Sunday and will introduce a $2 pick six beginning Wednesday. If there are no 6-of-6 winners, 30 percent of the net pool will go to the best of six, and 70 percent carried over to the next card. The pick six will be on the day's final six races. The takeout is 25 percent.'

A $2 minimum is a big mistake. Woodbine is not California, where the Pick 6 has become like the 6/49 Lottery is here. The pools will continue to stay low for some time because most players won't fund a small pool when they have a very little chance of cashing. In California, the Pick 6 gets substantial play even when there is no carryover. It won't happen here. It might have a shot if the minimum was lowered to a buck.

Today, there is a mandatory payout of the Pick 7. The carryover going into today is over $33,000. I think it took over a month to get it up "this high."

Fort Erie has a new 10 pound bug boy named Mike Mehak. He has a few really live mounts today. Three Thirteen looks good in the 5th. Larry's Dream, also from the Cappuccitti barn is live in the 7th. And even Sneaky Dee has a shot in the 8th, though the distance may be a little too much for her.

Tampa Bay horseman/gambler found murdered
'Lawrence P. Higgins, 61, was found dead in his house....the death was a homicide, with "trauma to the upper torso," according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office....He also was a racehorse aficionado who told Bloodhorse.com that he bet more than $1 million a year on the sport at Tampa Bay Downs...."Last year he had 10 horses," Peter Berube (Tampa Bay GM) said. "I think he had scaled back some recently."

UPDATE: Higgins was a speaker at the recently completed Simulcast Conference in Florida. His views were printed in a Bloodhorse article:

Larry Higgins, executive vice president of the Tampa Bay Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and a VIP customer at Tampa Bay Downs, said there are four major areas that need improvement: information for bettors, integrity, accommodations for players, and a larger pool of bettors. Higgins, who owns Thoroughbreds, spoke from the perspective of a bettor; he said he wagers about $1 million a year at Tampa Bay Downs.


9 October 2008

Still No Word On Whether Fort Erie Will Race In 2009

Will There Be Thoroughbred Horse Racing In Fort Erie Next Year? It is not looking good. Meanwhile, Fort Erie's owner just won a court case. He can use his Plaza name in Vegas (even though he has suspended the building of it for now).

With real estate dropping severely in the US, I wonder how much Nordic's Owner is down these days in net worth, and how leveraged he was to begin with.

Fort Erie might be the absolute least of his concerns these days.

Fort Erie Officials In Dubai Looking For Race Track Investors....For a NASCAR Race Track
'Fort Erie Mayor Doug Martin, Jim Thibert, general manager of the Fort Erie Economic Development and Tourism Corp., and Sandra Pupatello, the Ontario Minister of Economic Development and Trade are in the United Arab Emirates as central figures in the Ontario International Investment team that is taking part in Dubai’s Cityscape Expo...the trio are reportedly meeting with investors in the proposed $150 million (Canadian) speedway that would see a one-mile oval track and grandstand constructed on the west side of the Queen Elizabeth Way highway between Bowen and Gilmore roads — less than two miles from the Peace Bridge.'

ORC gets put in place by Divisional Court ORC Crossed The Line
"The Ontario Racing Commission exceeded its jurisdiction by attempting to discipline a lawyer that had harsh words for commission chairman Rod Seiling during an ORC hearing, the Ontario Divisional Court has found."

Miniature horse race (harness racing) at Georgian Downs on Saturday you can't say they aren't being innovative.

How Patrick Patten (Handride Blog) Would Fix Racing
First thing is first. He needs to win the Lotto and buy TVG for $100 million or so.

OBS Mixed Sale Down Almost 40% I hate to say it, but racing is not only losing bettors, it is also losing owners. Not good. Not good at all.

Betfair To Allow In-Play Betting On All Aussie Races This allows the bettor to bet during the race. They do it for many UK races and select North American races already. Betfair also allows you to bet on select sports games from beginning to end as well.
It is pretty neat. I've tried it before. Amazing how the odds fluctuate during an NFL or NBA game.
To open up a Betfair account and become eligible for a $25 sign up bonus, click here.

Whale Mike Maloney Shows Panel That There Are Problems With Tote Integrity

Sandy Hawley took out his "exercise boy" license yesterday. He is getting in shape for the Living Legends race at Santa Anita on October 18th. Hawley will be in a race against fellow retired jockeys Julie Krone, Chris McCarron, Gary Stevens, Jacinto Vasquez, and Jerry Bailey.

With Catherine O'Brien out for the year, Woodbine is all out of apprentices. The fall is usually a great time for bugs, as the season gets late, weight matters more and more on tired out horses. Melanie Pinto is riding great at Fort Erie, so she is expected to get some really good mounts from now until the end of the season at Woodbine. She has a monopoly right now on talented bugs in Ontario.

Who will fill in the void for Chantal Sutherland? Maybe Emma Jayne Wilson? She has just become another jockey this year, but she might be a good cold weather jock, and she may start getting better mounts now. Eurico Rosa Da Silva is having his best year ever, and he was extremely hot in the fall months last year.

4 October 2008

Canadian International Day At Woodbine; The Card Is Impossible

Pattison Canadian International goes today at Woodbine. Lots of money being handed out to successful horsemen all day, but the betting card is next to impossible to figure out, because of the distances and the class of the races.
In the International I'm going with Mourilyan. Lots of experience at the distance, second race after a pretty good layoff. I like Quijano to run well too. As for the favourite, Doctor Dino, I just can't stand who the horse is named after.
Doctor Dino is the nickname of delusional creationist, Kent Hovind. Hovind believes (or at least says he believes) that the world is less than 10,000 years old, and wilfully lies about science while giving misleading credentials about himself. He is currently in jail right now, for tax evasion.
Sure, it is irrational to not like a horse because of his name, but who says horse players are rational?

In case you are still interested in Kent (Dr. Dino) Hovind, watch this:

Jail Urged For Jockey David Clark By Prosecution
On Tuesday, Clark finally had his sentencing hearing months after pleading guilty to impaired driving causing bodily harm and impaired driving causing the death of 34 year old school teach Suzanne Mizuno.
If he gets a sentence of over 2 years, he could face deportation after serving the time because Clark never became a Canadian citizen, and still holds British citizenship.
The sentencing date isn't available in any of the few articles I've read on the internet.
Rob Ramage received a 4 year jail sentence when his drunk driving lead to the death of fellow ex-NHL hockey player Keith Magnuson.
WEG and the ORC have received heat for allowing Clark to ride, especially after admitting guilt in April.

A Toronto Gaming Tax?
The mindless who play slots won't notice the difference, but increasing taxes on the horse race side, including the possibility of charging admission, will absolutely kill Woodbine's already pathetic handle.

Mike Newell has a 2 win lead in the trainers race at Fort Erie. Meanwhile, hot jockey Rui Pimentel is closing in on Chad Beckon. He is still 9 wins behind with 9 racing days to go, so it will be pretty tough to catch Beckon.
Saving Fort Erie's race track has taken a backseat to saving its hospital. Still no word regarding whether racing will happen next year. Lots of pessimism though.

Picov Downs on the other hand, is expanding. Their new 5 furlong track will obviously allow for longer races, and if Fort Erie doesn't race next year, it could be home to the thoroughbred B meet, at least in theory.

No dates yet for Beulah or River Downs either.

A pair of Ohio sulky veterinarians suspended in Kentucky after a truck inspection.

In other news, four horses tested positive for EPO during Grand Circuit Week at The Red Mile.

Latest Magna International resignation raises more eyebrows regarding Magna Entertainment's possible future

Magna stock is down to $1.80 a share, which is equivalent to 18 cents a share because earlier this year the company did a 1 for 10 consolidation.

Woodbine Update By Bill Tallon

9 year old Le Cinquieme Essai has been retired. He has lost a step or two. Only 33 starts in 8 campaigns? Talk about a patiently handled horse.

Woodbine will be without its best or second best (if you include McAleney) jockey after Sunday, as Chantal Sutherland is moving her tack to California.
'Sutherland also has contracted to appear in a reality television show entitled "Jockeys."'

Woodbine has applied for an "identical to this years" schedule for next year.