25 December 2008

Drugs In Horse Racing 101

It just amazes that some trainers are able to hit at 20%+ levels. Most races average 8-9 horses, so the average trainer should be hitting at around 11-12%. Yes, some are better than others. Some are hands on and they know what they are looking at, while others maintain a production line type of operation. But there are only so many ways to train a horse.

Nowadays, whenever I see a 20%+ trainer, or a major improvement in speed figures (especially at a previously run distance) by a less than "above average" trainer, I always assume drugs that aren't being tested for have helped the horse out more than the trainer has.

I don't think that is an unreasonable position to take either, since many of the suspensions and busts we see have to do with the supply side first.

Take the recent suspension of horsemen Daniel and Scott McFadden. The two got "ratted" out for buying Aranesp® (brand name for darbepoetin-alfa which is known as DPO) before their horses were tested for the substance (investigators found traces of EPO as well).

In 2006 this happened:

Notice to Industry DiFlorio pleads guilty

Sandy DiFlorio, of Toronto – charged last year after authorities seized large quantities of various controlled drugs and adulterated, unlabeled substances – plead guilty last week in Provincial Criminal Court to the unlawful fabrication, packaging and distribution of drugs without a license, and the unlawful sale of a Schedule F drug (erythropoietin - commonly known as EPO) contrary to the Food and Drugs Act.

In April of 2006, the Ontario Racing Commission (ORC) Investigations Unit, working with other police and regulatory services, participated in the execution of search warrants at two Toronto area locations. Products used for performance enhancement of racehorses were seized, including the blood builder Aranesp®, strong analgesics, bronchiole dilators and sildenafil citrate.

Who are the horses who wound up using the drugs supplied? Where are the trainer and/or vet suspensions that resulted from this investigation? You don't just catch a drug dealer and assume that he just got into business yesterday and was unlucky enough to get caught right away. Most recently Ken Hornick got nailed as well. Again, the same questions can be asked.

It is a fair assumption that DiFlorio and Hornick had active client bases and that there are many horses who ran faster times and screwed over the public and fellow horsemen probably a countless amount of times.

Oh yeah, and because DiFlorio was not licensed with the ORC, he had to turn over his drugs and was fined a whopping $600, and then was a free man.
I just don't understand why those who use and supply illegal drugs to race horses aren't nailed with larger charges: HOW ABOUT CONSPIRACY TO DEFRAUD THE PUBLIC!

Yes, tests for DPO, EPO, etc. are expensive. But obviously the fines and suspensions are not a large enough deterrence. I think criminal charges and hard time need to lobbied for.

From my internet perusings I've decided to list off many of the known drugs that have been plaguing the game of horse racing in recent years (I'm not even sure if there are tests for some of these or if they are ever performed). These drugs are administered to bring about artificially enhanced performances:

Many states have no laws regarding anabolic steroid use on horses, but there has been an aggressive change in attitude lately with New York and Kentucky leading the way to their banning.
Why ban anabolic steroids? Because they artificially build up a horse's strength and because they have been known to have adverse long term affects, at least on humans.

Using bicarbonates (milkshaking) on horse cleans up the lactic acids that are produced naturally in horses. Less lactic acids help the horses chances to run faster and longer.
As an aside, I was talking to a harness trainer who told me that he complained about the turnaround a horse had to another trainer. He said that the trainer of that improved horse must be milkshaking, to which the other trainer replied "he bought my old bicarb machine, do you need one?"
Many jurisdictions try to test for excess bicarbonates in the blood stream. Obviously there must be ways around it.

Propantheline bromide relaxes muscles and increases blood flow.

Benzoylecgonine is a bi-product of cocaine and results in a horse being less fatigued during a race.

Darbepoetin-alfa which is a major ingredient in the prescription drug Aranesp® is becoming as notorious in Ontario as EPO (see below). The drug increases blood flow and reduces anemia. Long term side effects are thought to be similar to that of EPO as well.

Erythropoietin is probably the most talked about illegal drug that is thought to be used in many jurisdictions including Ontario. EPO has a bad rap associated with it besides being an illegal enhancer, it allegedly can cause horrible long term side effects like an immune mediated anaemia and even death.
What EPO does in a nutshell is increase the red blood supply which increases oxygen capacity within the horse's circulation.
For more about the devastation EPO does to the horse read this.

Etorphine (aka elephant juice) has analgesic tendencies that are 1000 times more powerful than morphine. This drug is used to immobilize elephants. For some reason analgesics even in small doses act as stimulants in animals like horses and cats. FYI from Wikipedia: "Veterinary-strength etorphine is fatal to humans; one drop on the skin can cause death within a few minutes."

This drug is common in dentistry on humans for local anesthesia. In horse racing it used nefariously as a pain killer that also can constrict blood vessels which reduces bleeding.

AKA Viagra, yes, Viagra. Viagra opens blood vessels which enriches muscles which is thought to enhance racing performance. Instead of making jokes here, check out the PACE ADVANTAGE FORUM thread that I started recently, if you want some examples of those caught using Viagra on horses and of course, some laughs.

In an article over 3 years ago, Andy Beyer mentioned the strong rumour that trainers were using cone snail venom in synthetic form as a pain killer on horses.
Cobra venom has been in the news lately during the Biancone fiasco. It is used to deaden nerves and has been around at least since 1978 when Alydar allegedly was treated with it.

A reader just alerted me that a high percentage trainer, Justin Evans, in Turf Paradise got nailed because a horse of his got injected with Vodka (to kill pain).
Back in 2005 a vet admitted to injecting vodka 75 times at $15 a pop. The vet called this a "pre-race adjustment" on the bill. They have to be using something cheap at Turf Paradise. The purses there are abysmal.

I'm sure I've missed a few drugs that are being tested (by trainers) today. But I just wanted to give my readers a dose of what bettors and the racing game is up against.
Not only do bettors have to try to overcome an average track takeout of 21%, but we also have to factor in whether a horse is doped up today or was doped up in the past when they came up with extraordinary results.
Potenetial claiming outfits have to worry about whether a horse is on its last legs because of EPO or DPO use. This is a major deterrent when claiming a horse.

As stated earlier, drug violations should not only be met with gigantic fines and suspension but also actual criminal charges as well.

RMTC (Racing Medication & Testing Consortium) has a site set up that picks up industry headlines having to do with drugs and horse racing. Check it out.

They also have a resource available to horsemen that allows them to check out drug withdrawal times for every jurisdiction in North America. Here is the link.

Of course, all withdrawal times should be uniform in North America. Should is a very tough word to act on in horse racing though. There should also be uniformity for which drugs can be used as well. Maybe one day.

Two more things. All race tracks and jurisdictions should follow Tampa Bay Downs example of making public on their sites the Stewards' Daily Reports and Stewards' Rulings.

Woodbine has their own site, and the HPI site as well, and there is also the Ontario Racing Commission site. Good luck finding anything to do with jockey or trainer suspensions. It is just one big secret.

Finally, I just want to repeat one of Bill Finley's biggest complaints. A must read: Lasix also one of the drugs that has no place in the game
Bottom line according to Finley; "it appears that Lasix doesn't solve bleeding or keep horses in training longer. Then what does it do? According to the World Anti-Doping Agency, it masks other drugs."

21 December 2008

Solutions For Saving Fort Erie Racing

I went to the Save Fort Erie Racetrack Rally today just a little over an hour after it started. Unfortunately, I missed the meat of it. I was told MPP Kim Craitor and Mayor Doug Martin made speeches. Nothing new though. Only that they are working on solutions to save racing at Fort Erie.

I think everybody involved in thoroughbred racing in Ontario knows, from the trained monkey execs at Woodbine right down to the owners, trainers, and breeders, how devastating Fort Erie's closing would be on the industry.

If you want to call Woodbine an A track, Ontario needs a B track. If, like most Americans, you want to call Woodbine a B track, Ontario needs a C track.

Owners, trainers, and breeders need an out in Ontario for horses who just can't cut it at Woodbine, whether the reason is that the horse does not like polytrack, or that the horse isn't fast enough, has lost a few steps, is out of form, or is on the sore side and has problems competing against classier competition, Fort Erie is needed to fill the void.

Otherwise, the only out an owner has is to go to the trouble of either selling the horse for probably peanuts (which will drive down the dismal thoroughbred market even more), or finding an outfit at a US dirt track, and go to the expense of shipping and racing there. Of course, many owners like to see their horses run live, and many do show up at Fort Erie even though they have to trek 100 miles to get there. Most of these owners won't trek 300 plus miles though, and they will lose more interest in the sport.



They've basically conceded that they have no business running a race track. How can they lose money, when tracks like Beulah and River Downs can run more than Fort Erie, have comparable handle, and have $4 million less going into their pockets from slots than what Fort Erie is receiving (Ohio doesn't have slots)?

Unfortunately, Nordic has always wanted more for the joint than what it is worth. What is a company that loses $3 million a year worth anyway? The asset they have is the land, and if the track closes the land is also worth next to nothing.

Either Woodbine (who I hear is not interested in buying The Fort) or another party, would give the track an opportunity to be around for a long long time.


This is the ideal solution for the owner (Nordic), and the horsemen. Fort Erie could use a boost in purses. Compared to Woodbine, they run for peanuts. $3 million extra in purses would make the backstretch economy run much smoother, it would attract bigger fields, and it could attract more betting.

The $3 million for Nordic is exactly what they are trying to extort get from the government right now in order to keep racing going.

The problem with this idea is that other tracks will bitch, including Woodbine most likely.

Fort Erie can make the case that they are the only other thoroughbred track in Ontario, and they also happen to be a border town. Their existence, as pointed out above is important in keeping the thoroughbred horse industry in Canada at a status quo. Not to mention how devastating Fort Erie's closure would be to the town of Fort Erie.


The most popular term these days seems to be "bail out." Now that the Canadian government has announced that the Auto Industry is getting a $4 billion aid package, a $3 million aid package for Fort Erie shouldn't seem out of the question.

Here is how my plan would work:

The OLG loans Nordic $3 million a year for five years. This keeps Fort Erie's cash flow even. After, the five years, Nordic has to start paying off the loan $1 million a year.

Nordic must put on at least 70 racing days a year.

Nordic has 5 years to turn the track into a profitable business.

In the meantime, they can sell the track, but the new owner has to take over the liability to the OLG.

After 5 years, if the $1 million pay back gets defaulted at any time, the track becomes OLG property.

In essence, that would mean Nordic would get $15 million as a sales price from the OLG if they decide to walk in 5 years.

Would Nordic agree to this? It is better than just having the property sit there. And they would have an even cash flow, so they wouldn't have to go into their pockets. Of course, if they have an option to keep the slots open and rake in their 10% without running a race, they will choose that until the cows come home.

Would the OLG agree to this? Again, it is to their best interest, if they have to close the casino without racing. That is the big issue, and it is still unclear as to whether they can stay open or not.

Could Nordic turn the place profitable in 5 years? I know I could make them profitable in one year. Maybe they need to hire me:)

19 December 2008

Rebate Shop Goes Bankrupt; Saga Of Fort Erie Continues

Hinsdale Greyhound Racing Association Bankruptcy Could Cost Account Bettors Close To Half A Million

Andy Beyer has over $20,000 in jeopardy at the New Hampshire rebate shop.
Nothing is safe in this economy. Interesting though, that one of racing's biggest icons publicly announces that he bets with rebates.

Hinsdale was shady to begin with:
Through December 13, Hinsdale has handled $22,250,089 in simulcast Thoroughbred wagers. That figure is down 34.8% from $34,136,602 during the same period last year.

Several of Hinsdale’s biggest bettors—including Bird—list Nevada addresses. Nevada residents are not permitted to wager through out-of-state ADW providers.


Paul Moran: The Fort Will Be Missed

Right now I'd have to say that the chances that Fort Erie opens in 2009 is still 75%.
It appears that Ajax will not be able to race thoroughbreds the way the track is right now.
A "B" track in Ontario (or a "C" track if you consider Woodbine to be a "B" track) is a must.


Horsemen at Fort Erie Race Track will hold a rally Sunday at 9 a.m., in an effort to try to save the track and the 190 jobs that were lost this week.

Close to two-thirds of the track's 300 employees have been issued layoff notices by owner Nordic Gaming, which says the track might not open for a new racing season this spring.

Permanent Solution Being Sought For Fort Erie

Getting a bigger cut from the OLG on the basis that Fort Erie is the only other race track and is a border town, is still being mentioned. So is the possibility of bringing legalized sports betting to Fort Erie to possibly draw Americans to the track.

There is still a question as to where the $2 million is that the government gave to the EDTC who allocated it to Nordic Gaming for the feasibility report having to do with the $300 million smoke and mirrors race track expansion project.
How much of it was spent? Where was it spent? And most importantly, what happened to the remaining money?

The Ontario HBPA is doing their best to prevent slots from opening at Fort Erie in 2009 without a commitment from Nordic that the racing season will go on.
Slots were put into Ontario race tracks to compliment and help the race track industry first and foremost. The opinion is NO RACING, NO SLOTS.
It is uncharted territory for a track with slots to close. What does that say about Nordic?

From the HBPA site:

Please find below Minister Smitherman & Minister Bryant’s address and email addresses.

We encourage you to write or email these two ministries with your personal impact statements on the closure of Fort Erie Racetrack.

Minister Michael Bryant
Minister of Economic Development
Hearst Block
4th Floor, 900 Bay Street
Toronto, Ontario M7A 2E1

Minister George Smitherman
Minister of Energy and Infrastructure
Hearst Block
4th Floors, 900 Bay Street
Toronto, Ontario M7A 2E1

Email: info@edt.gov.on.ca

The Province of Ontario has not said no yet. So, we all must continue to do all we can to SAVE FORT ERIE!


Sue Leslie
President, HBPA of Ontario

Ohio tracks resolve dispute
They've reached an agreement over account wagering distribution.

Charles Ruma, the president of Beulah Park who also negotiated for River Downs, agreed that both tracks will run the same number of days as this year - 122 for Beulah and 102 for River. The Ohio Racing Commission is scheduled to meet on Friday to finalize the dates.

How does Beulah Park and River Downs race so much without slots when Fort Erie is on suicide watch with slots and quite a few racing dates?

TVG sale expected in early 2009
A lot of speculation on who the buyer will be.

New York Steroid Ban To Begin January 1st

Maryland Racing Commission is concerned about Magna's ability to support and build slots at Laurel

Fred Pope Wants To Change The Interstate Horseracing Act
Good point. Those who sell lottery tickets only get a very small commission for selling tickets. The bulk of the monies goes to the ones who put on the lottery. When you bet at an ADW, it is the other way around. The ADW gets the bulk of the money while the track being bet on gets very little.
Of course, if Pope's ideas are implemented, Youbet might as well manufacture US cars.
And this doesn't bode well for the few rebate shops in the USA either, and if that is the case, it doesn't bode well for the industry either because more bettors will leave and handles will drop in a big way, although the race tracks and horsemen will make a lot more short term at the expense of ADWs.

Kentucky Bear Retires Due To Injury
Just what the North American breeding industry needs. A horse who raced only 5 times with 2 wins becoming a stud after his 3 year old campaign.
Sure, he was a fast horse with a ton of promise, but what is he bringing to the table? The likelihood that his babies will be fast two year olds who don't race past 3 due to injury. We have enough sires who have been screwing the thoroughbred gene pool for years, we don't need more.

15 December 2008

Report: No Fort Erie Racing In 2009; 190 Employees Laid Off

NOTE: Most recent updates and thoughts can be found on the bottom of this post.

There was a meeting today between employees of Fort Erie and management today.

The first report has come from Rich Newburg:

190 Employees Out of a Job

FORT ERIE, CANADA - Fort Erie Race Track has announced there will be no thoroughbred racing in 2009.

190 employees, both union and non-union, will be laid off. A meeting is being held this afternoon at the track to notify employees.

The track has been losing money for the last several years, due in part to the installation of slot machines in all race tracks in Ontario, along with the competition from casinos in Niagara Falls, Ontario and Niagara Falls, NY.

Senior Correspondent Rich Newberg will have the latest on News 4 at 5 and 6.


The Niagara Falls Review isn't sure yet. UPDATE: Now the Review is up to speed.
'What is known is Mayor Doug Martin is making preparations to hold a press conference Tuesday morning at Town Hall to make a statement on what everyone is assuming is bad news for the track, those who work there and for the community.

“Obviously this is a meeting between the owner and the employees," Martin told The Niagara Falls Review a short time ago. "It’s confidential between them. Once we understand what the full dynamics of the situation is we’ll be having a press conference at in the morning."
More To Come
Biz Journal Reports:
“It’s in serious doubt,” said Daryl Wells, track spokesman. “We’re losing money and Nordic is unable to keep sustaining those losses.”

'The track is also home to a 1,200 slot machine operation run by the Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corp. The slots, which have an average daily attendance of 2,623, will remain open for “the foreseeable” future, an OLGC spokesman said.'

This is a first for the OLGC. They have never had a track with slots go under before. The slots were supposed to compliment the racing industry. As stated here before, if the horsemen get over $4million from slots each year, the track owner also gets $4million from slots. That means the total profit from slots is over $40million per year right now. This means the government (OLGC) makes over $32million net. They do incur all the expenses from the slots operation though, but how much can that be a year? I see them doing everything they can to keep the Fort Erie slots open, but I also see that they don't care much about the track being open, or they could have relinquished a few million in profits to keep live racing going.
I still can't see that even with the $4million from slots that the track actually loses $7million a year. It just doesn't make sense.
I just heard (a rumour?) that Fort Erie management signed over a check to the HBPA for over $2 million which is the horsemen share of the slots money to date not paid out in purses yet.

What should happen to that money? Give it to the horsemen who won purses the last two or three years at Fort Erie who earned 1-2-3 placings prorated on a percentage basis?

Give it to whoever runs the B races? Will it be Ajax Downs or Woodbine who winds up giving owners the out that Fort Erie provided if the track officially closes?

A "B" track is a necessary in Ontario for thoroughbreds (there are tons of B tracks for standardbred here). There are horses who don't poly and others who just can't compete for low claiming at Woodbine. Breeders and owners know that their horse is a possible Fort Erie horse from the get go. But take away the B track out, and there will be less owners getting into the game, especially when faced with having to go to the trouble and expense of having to go to the states with a cheap horse if they don't cut it at Woodbine.

There is also the rule that states if you claim a horse in Ontario you have to wait 90 days or for a meet to end to be able to run in another jurisdiction.

Owners who made not so great claims at Woodbine could at least run for cheaper within 30 days at Fort Erie. Now, without a B track or a plan to have cheap races in Ontario, owners will be stuck.

Nothing is official yet. Until a contingency plan is announced that states Woodbine will run extra races or that Ajax will take on 50-60 thoroughbred dates. The government could still give in to Nordic's demands and bail them out. Woodbine or another party could buy or lease the race track. There are still options, but I wonder if anyone who can make something happen cares enough.

If Ajax Downs gets the dates, I would like to see a thorough investigation of the government officials that gave Ajax the idea to put in a 5 furlong track when he did.
It just smells funny, because I was told by a source before the summer that Ajax already knew they were getting the thoroughbred dates.
Actual press release from Jen's blog:

Nordic Gaming Corporation, the owner and operator of Fort Erie Race Track, held a meeting today with its employees who work on the horse racing side of their business.

The purpose of the meeting was to inform those employees that it appears that the Fort Erie Race Track will not be able to continue live racing in 2009. While Nordic will pursue every effort to try and find a way to continue racing in 2009, there are regulatory requirements that the Company must comply with, thus these employees were advised that their employment was being terminated effective March 31, 2009. This notice immediately impacts approximately 190 employees.

This decision has been a difficult one for the company; one which Nordic has delayed for several years. As most people are aware, the company has spent the last two years focusing on efforts to “Save the Track”. Over that time every effort has been expended to find a solution to keep the track operating. Nordic has, and continues to work, with all of the stakeholders, including the various Unions and their members. However, the company is unable to continue to absorb the substantial operating losses year after year, and hence the reason for the decision to begin preparing for closure.

The company will be working with its employees and their union representatives to keep them informed of all significant information in the coming weeks and months. In that regard Nordic will comply with it’s obligations under their collective agreements as well as with the Employment Standards Act.

Nordic has also notified The H.B.P.A. OF ONTARIO and The Ontario Racing Commission of this pending action by virtue of their application for race dates to the Ontario Racing Commission, as well as in meetings and conversations with both organizations. Both these bodies have already taken action with respect to this issue, and they both have communicated those actions through public communications.

Another rumour has the slots closing on December 31st. Can't see that happening though, but who knows?

SIEU wants McGuinty to renegotiate slots deal with Fort Erie so that the owner can get bailed out

From the Review:
Niagara Falls MPP Kim Craitor said a meeting has been scheduled for this afternoon in Toronto involving senior-level track officials and representatives of Ontario’s Economic Development and Trade Minister Michael Bryant.

Craitor, who has rearranged his own schedule to attend those talks, said it’s possible the meeting could resolve the situation.

He wouldn’t say what Nordic Gaming is asking for or what the province is willing to do to help.

“We have some things on the table,” said Craitor. “You can’t directly fund the race track. I mean, it’s a private business. That’s just the reality, but we want to keep it open, we want to figure out a solution to this.”

Craitor continued: “This (meeting) is about how to keep the track operating and what commitments will we (the government) be able to get from them so that we’re not going to go back at this next year.”


This could be an affective ploy by Nordic Gaming. Getting a $3 million per year commitment from the government increases the potential sales price (which right now might be in the negatives) by up to $20 million. Nordic definitely wants out.

My source, who told me that Ajax was getting the B racing (I was told in the early summer or late spring), said that the powers that be don't like Nordic and want them out of there.

I have a feeling Nordic has two sets of books. One set shows a tremendous loss (the one the government now knows about). The other shows the track is possibly profitable. That one is for potential buyers. I could be wrong, but with all the business Ponzi schemes being discovered, I just don't trust any company that is a subsidiary of a subsidiary of a subsidiary.

It just doesn't make sense that harness tracks that have more race dates and probably have equal purse money to hand out from their portion of slots can show a profit where Fort Erie shows a loss. It makes no sense at all. I can understand that thoroughbred tracks pay more insurance than harness tracks, and Fort Erie has to also pay for a backstretch, when many harness tracks do not, but how much more does that cut into their costs....surely not $3 million a year.

Mayor says that this isn't a ploy to pressure the government
Timing of the layoffs coincide with Ontario labour laws according to Martin.
Talks continue There will be no long term solution as long as Nordic still owns the joint.
In today's Toronto Star: MPP Sees Some Hope In Talks About The Track

Today's rumour: The government wants to look at Nordic's books, but Nordic is refusing. If true, this is not shocking, because how can they possibly be losing money when tracks like Beulah and River Downs get by without slots.

Again, if the rumour is true, how possibly can the government even consider bailing out Nordic, if Nordic won't play ball?

14 December 2008

Plummeting Breeding Industry May Be Good For The Game

Wealthy Horse Owners Feeling The Recession

Something good might come out of this recession regarding the breeding business. Sales numbers are getting crushed in the racing industry right now. This is causing stud fees to be reduced. If the trend continues, it might just be to owner's economic benefit to race a good horse after he turns three or four, as purses for big races have not felt the wrath of the recession yet.

Woodbine Realizes Slight Decline In Handle
Considering that Woodbine didn't have any ADW issues, Woodbine was expected to outperform the industry. Their product was available just about everywhere except Premier Turf Club. What that means is that ADW's that had conflicts offered less choice, and Woodbine was one of the tracks that benefited from having less competition.

But I don't think their bottom line was down just 1.55%. Woodbine made more "secret deals" with their best clients and gave them higher rebates. Sure, that is the right thing to do in today's market place (they are doing something to keep their biggest customers), but it winds up padding the published numbers significantly as well.

Great Article by Paul Moran summing up the Arizona Symposium from last week:
The Blind Lead The Blind, Deaf, and Dumb
"Repeat after me: There are no fans. There are only horseplayers."

My take on the must read article:
I think that there are a few people who still consider themselves as fans. But when it comes to keeping horse racing viable financially, there are no fans, only horseplayers.

There is still potential to attract more players, but it would take a complete overhaul of the takeout system.

Winners need to be created with a lower takeout, and winners could become the drawing card that racing badly needs right now.

From The Belly Of The Whale: Can Rebates Grow The Game?
"Unfortunately, if racing doesn’t adapt soon, with today’s generation of Internet/iPod/video game kids, it may only be a matter of time before wagering on flesh and blood horses becomes irrelevant. All that will be left standing will be ADW companies offering a five percent takeout to fans wagering on computer-generated virtual horses. That would be a shame."

My take on the whole article:
There are a couple of ADW’s that offer rebates right now to everyone, but many of the bigger tracks refuse to allow these ADWs from taking their content.

I think poker has a takeout of less than 5% and in sports betting the takeout is around 5% as well. If the horse racing game was invented tomorrow, takeouts would be 10% tops.

The thing I agree with most is that there needs to be winners to attract others to play the game in the future. You can’t market horse racing on the premise that you have next to no chance of showing a long term profit even if you put in hours and hours of work handicapping.

Not sure if this is verified yet, but it did appear in the New York Post:

A gambler who hit the jackpot on a horse-racing bet - nailing a $1.6 million Pick Six prize - also won some unwelcome attention from a Genovese capo, who was arrested yesterday for hatching a robbery plot.

Reputed mob leader Anthony Antico, 73, devised the scheme to steal cash from the unidentified bettor in June and July 2008, two years after their intended victim won the cash by correctly guessing the outcome of six horse races, authorities said.

Although the robbery plan never happened, Antico's alleged associate, Joseph Barrafato Jr., 50, was caught on tape recruiting robbers and telling them the target had "hit a Pick Six for a million point six," according to court papers.

Delaware May Be Very Close To Getting Sports Betting
Sports betting should be allowed every fricken place in the West, and it should be regulated by the government, making it legit, and allowing the governments to get some of the tax money made by the "bookies."

It is amazing that in the year 2008, tens of millions of dollars are bet in the US and Canada each week through bookies and offshore internet gambling sites. Why the bull? Just legalize it already. Who are the governments appeasing?

BloodHorse has a great resource which allows people to view sire leaders for a number of categories, and by region as well. And it is free.

I may rant on track takeout like a pit bull biting an intruders arm, but Bill Finley is just as passionately relentless on another issue: Drugs in horse racing. Read: Time For Racing To Take Integrity Problems Seriously

Nick Kling Has An Article About Horse Racing And Internet Sites His favourite place for news is Equidaily. I have to agree. But why no mention of The Paulick Report?

Today's most popular word appears to be "Bailout." The Business Of Racing asks Why Isn't Racing In Line For A Bailout?

How about a bailout package for the horseplayer too while we are at it?

Oh yeah, the Sovereign Award Were Given Out On Friday Night ZZZZzzzz

Horse of the Year

Fatal Bullet (177), Rahy's Attorney (76), Ginger Brew (58)

2-Year-Old Filly

Van Lear Rose (141), Laragh (88), Cawaja Beach (70)

2-Year-Old Colt

Mine That Bird (187), Southern Exchange (83), Utterly Cool (74)

3-Year-Old Filly

Ginger Brew (227), Sugar Bay (120), Authenicat (40)

3-Year-Old Male

Not Bourbon (172), Fatal Bullet (155), Marlang (42)

Older Female, Main Track

Bear Now (220), Akronism (68), Against the Sky (54)

Older Male, Main Track

Marchfield (144), Ice Bear (78), Spaghetti Mouse (50)

Female Turf Horse

Callwood Dancer (171), Sealy Hill (159), Sugar Bay (88)

Male Turf Horse

Rahy's Attorney (212), Seaside Retreat (112), Marlang (50)


Fatal Bullet (238), Disfunction (37), Akronism (33)


Patrick Husbands (137), James McAleney (121), Eurico Rosa Da Silva (55)

Apprentice Jockey

Janine Stianson (113), Catherine O'Brien (97), Melanie Pinto (56)


Mark Casse (148), Roger Attfield (130), Terry Jordan (47)


Bear Stables (120), Stronach Stables (96), Tucci Stables (58)


Adena Springs (208), Eugene Melnyk (101), Gardiner Farms (55)


Kathie's Colleen (71), May Time (43), Forty Gram (40)


Matt Waples


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10 December 2008

Simon Husbands Suspension and Racing Is About Gambling You Doughhead Racing Execs

On Simon Husbands Suspension

Simon Husbands got a year suspension. Way too harsh when compared the suspensions trainers get, and obviously get away with.

And one question I have is that since trainer John Leblanc went on record stating that Husbands rode to instructions, how come he gets off when in fact, he was the one who gave Husbands the instructions that got him a year ban?

I wonder if there was more to it. The race was run very very slow in comparison to other times that day. I wonder if some insiders cashed some tickets and I wonder if HPI notified the ORC about it.

Well at least Equibase seems to be doing OK in light of a global recession.

Cobra Venom has been around since at least 1978, when it was used on Alydar Does the ORC and other jurisdictions even test for this stuff? If not, why even have drug rules at all?
Meanwhile Biancone's former vet is probably going to return to practice. What a dysfunctional game!

Prevent suspended trainers from training by cell phone? Good luck. What about email? You can't stop it. The best way to handle suspended trainers is to hand them enough of a suspension to make them consider another livelihood. H/T Equidaily

I'd like to have seen these surveys. It states that racing's biggest fans have lost confidence. What are the number one complaints by hard-core bettors who have been leaving?
"..."overmedication" of horses and the perception that the bet-processing system was being manipulated"

Yes, overmedication is a huge problem, and so is the idea that people are screwing with the tote systems, but overmedication has always been a problem, and the game was fine even though it was marred with betting scandals, breakdowns, and drugs ever since there has been parimutuel betting on the sport.

I'll bet these professional marketers who did these surveys didn't even get into the idea that other forms of gambling allows players to last longer. Yes, the general public is losing money faster and faster at horses than ever before because of relatively higher takeouts compared to the 70's, a lot less mooches (who left to play slots and lotteries), and professional players (whales) who also cut into the takeout.

Losing money fast is the number one reason people are leaving. Racing isn't even trying to pretend that they are a business of gambling, as they keep pretending they are a business of entertainment.

Lots of great posts are up at HANA's Blog

Not For The Squeamish
Thanks to Jen, for finding this blog that is keeping score of racing fatalities.

John Pricci has written an excellent piece called Thoroughbred Racing: Study This:

"But you lost them long ago (the younger generation) when you failed to fix the “juice” issue, you priced your product too high because you didn’t understand what business you were in, or you just flat-out gave them bad service."

Racing still "thinks" it is in the entertainment business and they are "growing" accordingly.


(From their site)
Please note:

Important Racing Announcement : Due to the various changes in the North American racing industry, Pinnacle Sports finds itself in a position where we are unable to offer horse racing to our satisfaction. This, added to the declining interest of our clients in racing in general, has prompted us to discontinue wagering on daily North American horse racing as of Mon. 15th Dec. 2008.
As posted here earlier this year, Pinnacle is bookmaker and they don't like consistent winners. The rumour is that thanks to the rebates they offered, Pinnacle was beginning to lose money on the thoroughbred betting side of their business.

5 December 2008

HANA Gear, Snake Venom, Fort Erie, And More

HANA Gear Is Now Available Just In Time For Last Minute Shopping At Christmas
Buy a gift for a friend or yourself and support HANA at the same time. HANA is a non profit group and a good membership drive costs moolah. The more member HANA has, the more pull HANA will have.

Patrick Biancone Vet's Case Is Comedic
I just don't get why a vet would need cobra venom in the first place. It isn't like he lives in India and treats humans. But blaming it on the wife? Too funny.


Stephen Ayers, the representative for Fort Erie's owner Nordic Gaming remains optimistic that the track will be open next year. But I still don't get why the EDTC and Mayor Martin are still harping about the $300 million project that Nordic has already postponed indefinitely.
There is no way Nordic is going to spend that kind of money on a project that makes no economic sense and has no profit potential (especially during a recession), and lets be real, they've already postponed a much bigger project indefinitely (a major hotel in Las Vegas).
Indefinitely in the business world usually means forever. Why can't the EDTC get that through their thick heads.
Maybe it is a ploy to try to shame the government because of their inaction while the deal was still on the table, in order to pressure the government to bailout Nordic and perhaps give them a bigger cut of the gains from the casino.
EDTC Jim Thibert was quoted as saying "We don't understand why a no-brainer doesn't register at Queen's Park."
Yeah, the project was a no-brainer alright. It was thought up by someone without a brain. Fort Erie wouldn't be able to attract enough tourism and condominium residents to even justify a project that costs 1/10th or even 1/20th of the proposed $300 million.
Nordic now realizes it, I'm sure Queen's Park realized it in a few weeks, but Martin and Thibert need to throw out their rose colour glasses.

Nordic did get some good news. They appealed a tax assessment of the Fort Erie property in 2003 and finally won. The result is that the town is out $463,000 now. And the Fort Erie property owner will get a hike of 1.6% in property taxes going forward to make up for the budget deficit.

Seneca Gaming Puts 210 Employees Out Of Work
I wonder if they have given up on the downtown Buffalo casino because of legal issues. If it ever opened the way it was planned, it would be another nail in Fort Erie's coffin, if you could find room for another nail that is.

Betting Down 10% In November versus November 2007
Betting has been in a recession for over 5 years now. And when the old time gamblers disappear, they aren't being replaced. Racing execs are stuck on stupid.

On line betting is still a gray area in the USA Horse racing is still exempt from the medieval attitude by the American government. Meanwhile, they are missing out on a load of revenue by not legalizing and oversea it. Just out and out stupidity.

Todd Pletcher gets a Breeder's Cup Positive
Procaine isn't just another name for penicillin. Drugs in horse racing is just out of control. Any trainer hitting at 18% or greater (over 80 or so starts plus) is using something either not tested for or it is undetectable. There are only so many ways to train a horse.

John Pricci writes up on an anonymous vet who spilled some beans.
He is quoted on as to why there is so much reliance on vet work today:
"The commercialization of the breeding industry.

Liberal medication policies of state regulators, allowing unsoundness into the gene pool.

The dominance of charismatic trainers, forcing other trainers to try to compete with [their] methods.

The widespread use of anti-inflammatory medications [Bute, Flunixin].

[Overuse of injecting] cortisone into joints [hocks, stifles, knees, ankles].

The sacrifice of thoroughbred horseflesh for the sake of speed.

Because of increased demand for veterinary treatment, large “group vet practices” now dominate the backstretch… kids straight out of school with no racing or even farm animal backgrounds, enticed by big paychecks and ‘glamour.’"

This recession will wind up putting a few trainers out of work. Maybe one or two of them will narc on the industry via a book or a lengthy interview. Drugs are poisoning the game right now. I'd be more upset, but the game is going in the crapper as it is right now, until takeouts are reduced drastically.

The Mystery of the Photo Finish At Hollywood
Pull The Pocket gives the details and has published the original photo from yesterday's (December 4th) 7th race.
No reason for this to be a place photo since there wasn't a horse close to the second horse except for the winner.
What I think happened is that they asked for the photo results but wound up getting a place photo instead of a win photo, and somehow the system gave the 6 horse (the winner of the place photo) the win because of a technical foul up.
Hollywood has changed the photo at their site, making it more difficult to tell who won (notice that there is no mirror image). But Bigmack over at Pace Advantage has put up a comparison of both photos (the first one shown at Hollywood and the new one):

Oh yeah, Woodbine's jockey race is still tight with two days to go. I'm just glad the season at Woodbine is coming to an end. Looking forward to handicapping Tampa Bay Downs.

1 December 2008

60 Minutes Investigates Poker Scam

60 Minutes Did An Investigation Of On Line Poker. Here it is in two parts:

Transcript for the video can be found here.

I still have to laugh that the Kahnawake Reservation isn't in Canada. Kind of like the Vatican isn't in Italy.

Internet poker is an $18 billion per year business. Interesting is how it took off after some dude made $2.3 million on TV. Horse racing doesn't have that going for it. You have to spend too much time to be good, and to be good means that you will probably still lose money in the long run thanks to the enormous track takeout in racing.

The jurisdictional issues are the only arguments racing can put up as to why a gambler should bet horses online instead of sports or poker offshore. If a player gets ripped off, there is nothing he or she can do to ensure that they will get their money back because you can't get the law involved. However, in the case on 60 minutes, the players who were cheated did get back the 20 million they lost.

Bottom line, online poker should be legal and regulated in Canada and the USA. The idiotic governments are missing out in huge potential tax revenues. Players are losing money offshore, when they can easily lose onshore.

And the unconstitutional ban on poker in the USA hasn't helped the racing industry at all, as bettors are still able to bet offshore if they want, and even if some aren't, they are still staying away from the overpriced form of gambling horse racing is offering right now.

As for cheating. Drugs in horse racing put the odd poker cheating story to shame. And you still have to wonder about fixed races as well. Just look how slow the second and third at Woodbine went yesterday. They were both at least 2 seconds slower than they should have been in light of the times for the rest of the card.

Jen Morrison raises some questions regarding the third race and the jockeys standings in her post today. I don't know, maybe Simon Husbands thought he was being filmed by PETA.
UPDATE, here is the race on YOUTUBE:

Too bad we don't have exchange betting in Canada right now. There would be a lot of action on the top jockey at Woodbine as Jim McAleney and Patrick Husbands are tied with five days to go.

Harness Racing Is On Life Support In Alberta

Horse Owner McNulty Fugitive Case Is Getting Stranger As Investigations Begin

7/8th Dashes To Begin At Woodbine Harness Tonight. The 7/8th distance is a good idea because it may cause the horses who use the best drugs to get in more trouble than in a mile race. This should even out the playing field a bit, but not enough to stop the disparity between the outfits that spend thousands in vet bills a month (and win most of the races) versus the outfits that don't.

I've mentioned before that there are a few stables that pay for a service that allows the public to see the past performances of races in which they participate.
Thoroughbred Blogger's Alliance has put together a search system which allows one to check out free past performances for these outfits by track. CHECK IT OUT.

Also available at the TBA homepage are Stake Past Performances. Go to the lower right hand corner of the page.