26 August 2009

Track Takeout: The Highest And The Lowest

Awareness of track takeout has risen tremendously over the last year or so, since HANA (Horseplayers Association of North America) started up, and prior to that, blogs like this one (Cangamble) and Pull The Pocket have contributed greatly to making the public understand why they have stopped betting on horses, or why they are thinking of stopping, or have reduced their wagering considerably over the past 20 years or more.

Many people will say they don't care about takeout, but bottom line takeout affects how much one bet and how long one lasts on a collective basis. Bottom line, the higher the takeout, the less likely a bettor's bankroll will last.

The ramifications of high takeouts are pretty simple. The horseplayer will spend less time betting and watching races. They are less likely to get families and friends involved in horse racing. Therefore, when they quit or die, they have not brought in any new blood to the game.

We are experiencing this phenomenon big time right now throughout the industry. Those in their forties (like me) or older are pretty much the last generation of players who were introduced to the game because most horseplayers lasted longer back in the 60's and 70 and early 80's, prior to the dummy money being lost to lotteries and slots, and prior to simulcast wagering, where players could bet more than 8 or 9 races a day (which eroded bank rolls very quickly as takeouts remained the same), and prior to when exotic bets like triactors and superfectors were available in the majority of races (at a takeout of 25% or more in most cases, these appealing high return wagers upped the mean takeout horseplayers paid out on average from around 18% back in the late 70's to 21% today).

I saw a relevant quote on Twitter this morning. I believe it dates back to the 30's or 40's: "You don’t gamble to win. You gamble so you can gamble the next day." - Bert Ambrose (Band Leader). The racetracks understood that back in the 30's and 40's, but don't understand it, or care today.

Ok, time to get off the soap box and provide the Best and Worst Takeouts for North American tracks (approximately 70 tracks):


Win, Place, Show
Hollywood, Los Alamitos 15.4%
Santa Anita, Del Mar, Golden Gate Fields 15.43%
Northlands Park 15.8%
Note: Hastings has a 12% takeout on show bets, but has a 17% takeout on win & place.

Exactors and Doubles
Aqueduct, Belmont, Saratoga 18.5%
Note: Retama has a 12% takeout on doubles, but has a 21% takeout on exactors. Tampa Bay Downs has an 18% takeout on doubles but a 21.5% takeout on exactors.

Churchill Downs, Keeneland 19%

Meadowlands 15%
Churchill Downs, Keeneland 19%

Pick 3's
Retama, Sam Houston 12%
Churchill Downs, Keeneland 19%

Pick 4's
Meadowland, Monmouth 15%
Churchill Downs, Keeneland 19%

Pick 6's
Gulfstream 15%
Hawthorne 16%


Win, Place, Show
Turf Paradise, Yavapai 20%

Doubles and Exactors
Fort Erie 26.2%
Assiniboia, Suffolk Downs 26%
Arapahoe 25%
Northlands Park, Stampede Park 24.8%

Penn National 31%
Philadelphia 30%
Assiniboia 29%
Fort Erie 28.2%
Calder, Woodbine 27%
(Note: Woodbine ups the takeout to 27% for any track on their HPI or simulcast menu, which means that a triactor that when a triactor pays $810 at Keeneland or Churchill, Woodbine will pay their customers only $730 for the same bet.

Penn, Philadelphia 30%
Assiniboia, Presque Isle Downs 29%
Calder 27%
Hastings, Woodbine 26.3%

Pick 3's
Assiniboia 29%
Calder 27%
Woodbine 26.3%
Fort Erie 26.2%

Pick 4's
Assiniboia 29%
Penn National 28%
Calder 27%
Fort Erie 26.2%

Pick 6's
Woodbine 26.3%
Philadelphia 26%
Pimlico 25.75%
Laurel 25.75%

The troubling thing about the tracks that have the highest takeouts, is that most of them have slots. This illustrates the short sightedness and idiotic greed displayed by many racing execs and horsemen who do have a say in takeouts as well in many jurisdictions.

As many sharp bettors know, there are ways to combat high track takeouts and still play the ponies. Exchange betting as offered by Betfair has attracted many Canadians, and ADWs like Horseplayersbet.com, which offer decent player rewards, are available to many American horseplayers.

For a nearly complete, nearly up to date chart of sortable tracks takeouts, click here.

19 August 2009

New Whipping Rules In Ontario May Alter Handicapping A Little

New Whipping Rules Coming To Ontario September 1st

"Whips will have to be be cushioned, be no more than 30 inches in length, and have a padded noise-making "popper."......................... Use of a non-approved whip will lead to the disqualification of the horse..................a horse cannot be hit with the whip more than three times in a row without being given time to respond, and the whip is not to be used when a horse is not visibly responding or is not in contention for a meaningful position."
This appears to have major implications when handicapping horses who were not in contention. Speed figure players may need to add a few lengths to horses well beaten, or discard the race entirely because the riders will now wrap up on them early. Some jockeys do this already, but it might be more of a factor now.

Frank Stronach Could Be In Deep Doo Doo

The Magna creditors are claiming: "MI Developments prevented Magna Entertainment from selling assets that might have allowed it to successfully restructure." And the intent was apparently sinister on Stronach's behalf. He purposely put Magna into the bankruptcy position in order to benefit himself by doing many "sham" transactions.

If these allegations are proven, I can see possible jail time being pursued as well. The Madoff scandal has put market regulators on high alert, and they don't mind taking the odd big guy down.

Jockey Norberto Arroyo charged with possession with the intent to sell cocaine
Arroya is currently 2 for 56 at Saratoga. The purses are good, and his mounts have earned over $166k; no reason for him to have a second job.

Baymount Enters Into Letter Of Intent On The New Quinte Track

The new proposed partner is a subsidiary of the Kilmer Group which has a significant ownership stake in the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors.

Nick Gonzalez is hotter than a Playboy centerfold on the planet Mercury. Six consecutive winners at Fort Erie including a natural hat trick yesterday as he won the 4th, 5th and 6th. I picked all three as first choices, so I will leave speculation that Gonzalez is using some special concoction to jealous horsemen and maybe the ORC.

Ray Paulick Vents Against Equibase
One of HANA's issues is free information for bettors. I'm don't want to solely blame Equibase though. This is an industry problem and it illustrates just how dysfunctional and anti-player the industry is and always has been. Equibase should be subsidized by the racetracks in a way that the information becomes free. Everything from lifetime charts to daily past performances to breeding records. Free info will only attract more players and owners, etc., and this might just result in growth.

Paulick makes a great point comparing the free information available for every other sport out there. You can get just about any player stat for free by doing just a quick web search or go to sites like NBA.com or NFL.com, etc.

Just a quick note. Equibase does give out some good free info. I go there every day when I do my daily charting of the tracks that I do track variants for.

Bill Finley Says That Lagging Odds Are Unacceptable

He is preaching to the choir.

"As long as the odds continue to change during races, people have a right to be suspicious....close when the first horse is loaded into the gate. It usually takes upward of a minute to load an entire field, normally enough time for every bet made everywhere to funnel its way into the system.....Horseplayers aren't stupid. They will quickly figure out that they have to get their bets in in time and will adjust accordingly."

13 August 2009

Fort Erie Still Not Sold

For the past 8 years, since moving to Fort Erie, I've heard numerous rumours about the sale of Fort Erie. I'm sure offers have been made, in fact, I know offers have been made. But no offers have been accepted to date.

Nordic Gaming has historically overvalued the racetrack. The asking price has dropped, but like an unsavvy investor, who bought a stock that dropped well below what it is was once worth, Nordic is unwilling to unload at today's prices (they seem to be chasing 2 year old prices), even though they don't want the stock in their portfolio anymore. Nordic continues to want more Fort Erie than what the market is willing to pay for it, so Nordic continues to hang on to it. Pretty simple stuff.

According to a newly issued press release by the Ontario HBPA, there are a couple of interested parties kicking the can and the Fort Erie Racing Consortia is also looking into leasing the track long term.

I don't know how they can afford to lease the joint, IF in fact, the track really does lose money.

I wonder if Great Canadian Gaming is one of the potential suitors. They are a well run company, but I can't see them overpaying for the Fort.

So basically, it might as well be February all over again, as there is nothing definitive regarding racing at Fort Erie......the only thing for sure is Ajax Downs will have a 5 eighth track ready to go next year.

Canadian Man In Deep Doo Doo Over Internet Gambling
A Canadian man was indicted this week in the United States on fraud and money laundering charges after he allegedly processed more than US$350-million in online gambling payments, highlighting the cat-and-mouse battle that pits law enforcement agencies against the intangible world of Internet gambling.

Douglas Rennick, 34, who lives in Canada, faces a maximum of 55 years in jail and must turn over US$565,908,288 in monies reaped through the alleged financial conspiracy that saw millions of dollars funneled from a Cyprus bank to two accounts in California.

He is alleged to have tried to disguise the transactions to distribute gambling winnings to U. S. residents.

Why was Chantal Sutherland taken off her mounts on the weekend, and didn't ride yesterday? Lets just say, it was just a hiccup.

Breeders Cup Gets Tough On Drugs....sort of

In addition to the crackdown on steroids and Class 1 and Class 2 drugs, this year's Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita (Nov. 6-7) will include out of competition testing for EPO (blood doping) 10 days before the Breeders' Cup and TCO2 (milk shaking) testing in the detention barn before all 14 Breeders' Cup races. A failed EPO test would render the horse ineligible for the race and the trainer open to suspensions. Failed tests for TCO2 will mean purse redistributions and suspensions. The latter two testing policies were introduced at the 2007 Breeders' Cup at Monmouth Park.

This is pretty much an admission that there is an EPO/DPO and milkshake problem still plaguing the industry in a big way.

The test for EPO should be specifically 10 days from the race, but it should be done anytime, and without warning to all entrants, or potential entrants from 30 days to after the race. Savvy trainers (amateur pharmacists) can easily work around pre-determined test dates.

I don't agree with the author's attitude towards penalizing the owner. The trainer yes, the owner, no, unless there is proof that the owner had knowledge of the use of the illegal substances.

The NTRA Comments On The Menendez Bill
Some key points in the bill:

# S. 1597 (Section 203) amends the tax code to eliminate the automatic 25% federal withholding on pari-mutuel winnings of $5,000 or more (incorporating tax legislation also known as the Pari-mutuel Conformity and Equality Act, or PACE Act).

# S. 1597 (Section 206) raises the reportable amount for pari-mutuel winnings from $600 at odds of 300-1 to $1,200 at odds of 300-1, in line with the reportable dollar amount for slot machine winnings.
Considering that almost every horseplayer who doesn't get substantial rebates loses money in the long run, withholding and tax reporting is ridiculous, and an out and out tax grab. Plus it takes potential churnable money out of the pools.

This is something that Canada understands, and it is good to see it as an issue in the USA finally.

One thing that I don't understand fully is how poker is considered a skill game, but sports betting seems to be left out of that definition in regards to this bill.

Youbet handle up, profits down

Don't forget to check out Horseplayersbet.com. Where today's small bettor has a real chance to be tomorrow's big bettor.

7 August 2009

Betfair Sizzles While Parimutuel Handle Fizzles

Handle Down Another 13% In July
Short Post At Pull The Pocket Says It All.

HANA represented at Yavapai this weekend

HANA prez Jeff Platt will be there. Arizona is one of the most problematic states out there when it comes to being bettor-friendly. It is illegal for anyone to make a bet over the internet in Arizona. No phone betting either. In fact, if you are a resident from another state, it is against the law to place a bet on the internet while on Arizona soil (though I don't think anyone has been charged or prosecuted violating that law yet).

The laws are ridiculous and only benefit the off track parlours and Indian casinos (because they are faced with less competition). Smells of political payoffs. Why not have a state run or racetrack run ADW and keep a law that states that Arizona residents can only bet on the internet through that ADW? At least it gives the Arizona residents the opportunity to play from home.

Arizona also allows ticket cancellations after the race goes. At Yavapai it is 4 seconds, and at Turf Paradise it is 8 seconds.

This opens the door to possible fraudulent behavior like we saw at Woodbine and Greenwood over 20 years ago when a betting syndicate would make large bets and cancel tickets when their horse had a bad start (there were tellers involved in the scam as well).

The Bizarro World Of Woodbine

I know I've been outspoken over Woodbine's policy to ramp up takeouts on triactors to 27%. It is completely unfair, and borderline illegal, if not illegal if challenged.

What that means is that if you hit a triactor at a WEG outlet or through HPI that pays $810 for a deuce at Churchill Downs (which has a 19% takeout on triactors), you will be paid off $730 in Canada.

Well, it seems that HPI/WEG/Woodbine ramps down the takeout on venues that have a higher than 27% takeout like Penn and Philadelphia Park.

I was amazed when I saw that triactors actually paid a little more in Canada than they did at the track where the race was held.

I'm wondering if Woodbine did this voluntarily, or if the CPMA or another government agency pressured them to do this.

It isn't like Woodbine is going to advertise this because they rip customers off way more than the customer gets an advantage under this new rule, and they would be crazy to bring this to light. So I'm advertising this for them:)

Jen's Thoroughblog on the death of Charles (Norcliffe) Baker

Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance has a new web page and has added a few more blogs.

What's The Deal With Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?
.....The New York State Racing and Wagering Board has decided to deny horses entry into races if they have received hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatment within one week of post time.....Purified oxygen does not exist naturally in a horse....these treatments could give a horse an unfair advantage in a race while jeopardizing the horse’s health.....

After watching horses who race for certain trainers at Woodbine, who have abnormally high win percentages, I wouldn't be startled that these horses are running with an unnatural supply of oxygen.

One trainer in particular seems to win a heck of a lot of races on the front end at Woodbine, which is quite a feat in itself. And most of these runners seem to run identical. They bust out of the gate, look like they will get beat halfway around the far turn as the field catches up, but then, almost like what happens when Popeye eats spinach, they rebreak as if they haven't run an inch in the race.

Sure, there are some horses who can do that, with a relaxed lead, and their are certain horses that are just that much better than the rest and know how to win. But when you see quite a few horses in the same barn run like that, it certainly looks very suspicious.

But is it breaking the rules in Ontario to have oxygen therapy or use a drug that enhances the oxygen flow during a race? I don't know.

Things That Make You Wonder If Woodbine Doesn't Need To Replace Their Head Honcho

Fort Erie's handle on Tuesday's 9 race card: $1,200,800
Woodbine's 8 race handle on Thursday: $1,205,973

Fort Erie is on death's door, but Woodbine, thanks to slots and only slots (location, location, location), can afford to pay their racing execs mega salaries and bonuses for doing absolutely nothing beneficial to attract new customers.

2 August 2009

Belmont Handle Down Over 13% And I Know Why

NYRA President and CEO Charles Hayward can blame the weather all he wants. He can also blame the economy too. Sure, these factors could have contributed to the fact that betting on Belmont live was down over 17%, and that handle from from all other sources was down over 13%, but I think it goes deeper than that.

I think that over the last year especially, existing horseplayers are starting to wise up. Organizations like HANA (Horseplayers Association of North America) have helped educate the player immensely. Hopefully, my blog has as well. The betting public is becoming more aware each and every day of two words that make racing execs cringe: takeout and rebate.

The reality has become totally apparent now; the only way a horseplayer has a fighting chance to even think about turning a profit long term, is by getting a substantial (5-10%) rebate. And most serious players have now adopted a rebate only philosophy, where over 90% of their bets are on races they get a rebate on.

NYRA and every track out there should be selling their signal everywhere. Again, it is just more evidence that horse racing is probably the most dysfunctional business in the Western Hemisphere.

Personally, I bet on two races at Belmont this year. The Belmont and another race that was part of a handicapping challenge that I handicapped and felt compelled to bet on because I was having a good day that day.

NYRA doesn't seem to let their signal go out to many rebate shops, especially the ones that give rebates to the small to medium player. Foolish move. Very foolish.

I haven't even handicapped a race at The Spa this year, and I don't plan to. But I do handicap and wager on around 5-7 tracks a day. I'm not alone.

To put things in perspective though, Belmont still did over $9 million a day in handle which is around 4 times what Woodbine averages a day. Mind you, the public is very aware of Woodbine's high takeout rates by now, and a lot of players just can't stand the Polytrack.

Woodbine Stewards Goofed

I think the Woodbine stewards have done a very good job this year, but on Friday, they blew it.

Taking down Carrtowns Katie in the 8th race was a terrible call. Yes, she was lugging and jockey Chantal Sutherland knew it as she was whipping the horse with her left hand, but she was clear and had momentum when she was passing Spend Now And Save at around the sixteenth pole in the stretch.

Carrtowns Katie was definitely the best horse in the race, and the fact that it was a relatively long inquiry means that the stews were having a hard time deciding what to do. I think I can speak for most horseplayers when I state that if the stewards are dealing with a tough decision, the results should stand.

I realize riding horses is one of the most dangerous jobs on this planet, but it sure looked like a phantom check to me. Not sure if it was the horse who shied away, or if it was Emma-Jayne Wilson, but I've seen a lot worse happen without an inquiry.

Were the stewards compelled to appease the betting public by putting up a 6-5 shot? Public perception may say that had a lot or at least a little to do with it.

If the owners of Carrstowns Katie appeals, I think they win. But those who bet on the best horse still lose.

If Chantal gets days for the ride, it would be an injustice.

$40,000 Raised For Chad Beckon
Good job by Robbie King and Gus Schickedanz to make it happen.

The Breeder's Stakes goes today at Woodbine. It brings back memories from my early teens, as two of my all time favorite horses, Momigi and Tiny Tinker, won this race back to back. Both of these runners would pretty much come from last and fly in the stretch.
Tiny Tinker, especially, sporting the bright orange colours of Beasley, was a thrill to watch. He was known to trail the field by many lengths before taking off and passing horses one by one.

How about Mensch to upset today? This is one of Fieldstone's three runners in the race, and to me, at a mile and a half, I can see it coming down to stretch closers.
Still a maiden, Mensch ran a good one going a mile and three eighths last time, losing to entry mate Guipago, who I think had a better trip and took advantage of the slower pace, which probably compromised Mensch.

Eye of the Leopard is definitely the horse to beat here. Last time he ran completely against the bias, and Mark Frostad would probably have worked the horse over Fort Erie if he could turn back the hands of time. According to my form, Eye of the Leopard has not worked on the turf, and has never raced on the turf. Despite his breeding, this makes him very vulnerable today.

In the co feature today, I'm giving Elated Moon one more chance. She obviously didn't hurt herself last time out, when she embarrassed me for publicly picking an even money shot who got basted. But something else went wrong, and I'll bet Steven Asmussen's team is bright enough to have corrected it. I'm going to predict she wins the Nandi Stakes easily today.

Forget GO BABY GO and BET IT TO GET IT. This should be used in a campaign to get people to go to the track:

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