27 September 2009

Why Not Increase Takeout To 40%?

It gets so tiresome on the internet, when horsemen and probably some racing execs use the same argument against lowering takeout over and over again. It happened again recently on a Pricci column "On Fixing A Broken Simulcast Model."

Here are their arguments followed by my rebuttal:

Most horseplayers don't know or care about track takeout
True. But horseplayers, like all gamblers realize when they come home with less money or more money. Lower the takeout, and bettors will come home with more money more often. This will be less discouraging than it is today with takeouts that average around 21% in the industry.
Lowering takeout allows bettors to last longer, and their desire to come back more often and play more often will increase.
If that increases, the likelihood that they expose friends, family, and/or coworkers to horse racing greatly increases.

Even horseplayers who know that takeout is lower on win bets will gravitate towards higher takeout exotics
Human nature. The horseplayer is out to make a score. That is why lottery tickets are bought. For many, if someone is going to gamble to begin with, low returns are not being sought by the masses. Horseplayers are gamblers, and dangling a triactor every race at them is too enticing, though in the end, it makes players go broke a lot quicker than a few decades ago.

All attempts at lower takeouts have not been successful
This is unfair. Those who tried to lower takeout were met with signal exclusion in many instances. Also, the extra money won by customers didn't go to buy new suits, it was in all probability churned back into the pools. However, they didn't necessarily go back to the tracks that had the lower takeouts. Simulcast and ADW bettors know that there are many many tracks on a menu to play once you cash a ticket.
Those who use this line of thought also conveniently do not take into account the ginormous growth we've seen at Betfair and online poker, where the house take is minuscule compared to the takeout at a racetrack. They also forget about the only growth aspect of North American horse racing where some ADWs essentially lower the takeout for customers by give decent player rewards.

Horse racing is a costly show to put on, high takeouts are a must
No one is denying that it costs a lot more to put on a horse race than it does to deal poker cards, and I don't begrudge any gambling venue from optimizing their bottom line returns, but horse racing has never tried to find an optimum price point.
The closest thing racing has ever come to having a real price determined by supply and demand is the signal fee each track charges to ADWs and other tracks. That is really what the product is worth to the real market, and that signal fee is usually 2% to 9% depending on the track.

For those who think that lowering takeout won't be good for the bottom line, let me use a reverse example:

Slots have a house take of around 10%. This number was arrived at by trial and error, most likely thanks to the years of experience Vegas has when it comes to different games of chance. This optimum price to gamble was determined by the market.

What this house take means is that a slots operator will see for example, $400 million bet over the course of the year. This yields a profit of $40 million in a year for the house. So what stops them and the government from increasing the house take to 20% (it isn't that they care about the gambler)? Surely, at least $200 million will be wagered in a year if that happens (and they will see at least $40 million in profit and probably more). Wrong! The slot operators KNOW this won't happen. What happens at anything over 10%?
Slot players, who are completely clueless about house take will not last as long. They may not know why, but many will stop wanting to go because they know they lose their money too fast. Most will definitely come back less, and when that happens, they are obviously less likely to bring friends and family along with them for a night out.

Every time horse racing increase takeout, their bottom line falls off. It isn't magic. It is gamblers natural sense of price sensitivity that lowers the handle.

For those "not too bright" horsemen and racing execs who "think" that increasing takeout means more money for them, it won't. Next time ask them why not double the takeout and see how they answer the question. The real answer can be seen above, but it fun sometimes playing with these yahoos.

But the same premise holds true with respect to the current takeouts at tracks in North America. If takeouts were 10% today on average, by increasing them to 20% or more would mean less money to the bottom line. This means there is more money if the industry would just get together and lower takeouts across the board.


Outstanding article by Bill Finley.
Some of the best visionaries and realists including HANA President Jeff Platt share their views on fixing racing going forward. It does include the comments of a few wannabe visionaries like Bob Evans as well.
It is an excellent read over at Thoroughbred Daily News. The downside is that you need to register for a free 2 week subscription, but the registration only takes 10 seconds.

The Score did a feature on Alex Brown. Here it is if you haven't seen it yet:

To learn more about Alex Brown's mission, go to Alex Brown Racing. I still disagree with one of his focuses, horses who made over $500,000 who are now running for $5,000 claiming. Once a horse blows conditions, especially a male horse, there is sometimes no difference in running times for $5,000 claimers and $16,000 claimers. If anything, the competition is easier the lower a horse runs for, thus the cheaper claiming tags are more humane. Also, these horses are hardly ever running for the outfits for whom the horse made the bulk of its earnings, so if anything, it is up to those outfits, and those outfits only to buy or claim and then retire that particular horse.

If the horse has real bad problems, it shouldn't be racing, regardless of how much it has made. The horse has no idea how much it earned.

H/T The Paulick Report

No shocker: Marsh Side DQ heading for appeal
I think the odds are around 75% in favour of an overturn.

More Industry Dysfunction. I don't know where to start so just read the article by Nick Kling.

Down The Stretch has a new online issue out. Good reading. They even got controversial this time around (they put an article in it regarding the Stein-Sutherland conflict). Good article by women's curling expert Perry Lefko on Eddie Robinson and Jennifer Burnie.

Northlands Park cuts race dates this year for both thoroughbred and harness racing. Gone are Oct. 16,17,18,21,23,24,25 from their original thoroughbred schedule. Harness racing will now not run on Nov. 16, Dec. 23,27, and 30.


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22 September 2009

Stewards Shouldn't Have Thrown Out Marsh Side

Stewards Flipped The Coin And Got It Wrong In Northern Dancer
Unfortunately, on this Youtube video you don't get to see the head on (you can if go to Cal Racing or HPI replays), but the disqualification of Marsh Side was a bad call. There was no apparent bumping between Marsh Side and Quijano, and both jockeys were hitting with right hand while moving to the inside in tandem. If anything, Quijano would have squeezed Champs Elysee regardless of whether Marsh Side was in the race or not. Again, if the Stewards have to look at a race for more than two minutes, they should let the results stand.

The eventual winner had the common sense to get away from the rail as his jockey anticipated the tight quarters. Champs Elysee did get shut off, but I have a problem blaming Marsh Side for it.
I am pretty sure that this call will be overturned, and the bettor who picked the best horse in the race, will wind up getting screwed.

Also, Andrasch Starke, who rode Quijano must have forgot about the new whipping rule in Ontario. There were actually quite a few violations in both the Northern Dancer and Woodbine Mile. I wonder if fines have been handed down.

Steven Crist kisses Woodbine's butt, disses horseplayers in the meantime by failing to mention Woodbine's high takeouts.

Crist likes that Canada doesn't run that many Grade 1 stakes. The fact is that we can't, even if we wanted to. They do their best now to schedule these events at times when there is not that much competition to compete against. Whenever Canada was forced to compete, they drew sub par fields.

Crist is not all bad. At least he wrote an article that slams horse racing for still allowing breakage in today's computer age. How much does breakage cost the horseplayer? Read this.

Assiniboia Handle increases 38%. Most likely due to increased exposure at ADWs that offer rebates. Many bettors are avoiding the bigger tracks that try to prohibit their signal from going to rebaters. The smaller tracks are winning this war.

Woodbine had a $5 million handle day on Sunday. But lets not forget Friday when they couldn't even crack $1.5 million. They wrote a race specially for Jambalaya's return. The purse was over $90,000 and it attracted $61,766 in betting. They sure know how to run a business, don't they.

Slots in Ohio just took two steps backwards.

NYRA At It Again
NYRA has yanked live signals from ADWs like HPI and NJBets. For the real dirt behind the move, read this thread on Pace Advantage.

Horse is somewhere between a girl and a boy
Caster Semenya, Tuscan Abbe, and Arizona Helen. I wonder if Rachel Alexandra has been checked lately:)

Is it me, or does it appear that the morning line oddsmaker at Fort Erie doesn't give many Daniel David and Nick Gonzalez close to enough credit? There seems to be a few horses that went off at pretty low odds that have been 12-1 or 20-1 in the program that are either ridden by David or trained by Gonzalez. And most of them looked like they should be one of the top three program selections.

"Slots and OLG In Their Own Little World" according to Fort Erie of the Fort Erie EDTC. Listen to him here, as he discusses the proposals he dropped off to the Ontario government.

Justin Stein Appealing Large Suspension and $2500 Fine For An Outburst That Would Have Helped "Jockeys" Ratings Soar
I first read about this on Jen's Thoroughblog in the comment section:
On September 7th' seventh race Justin Stein's mount, Sincerely A to Z, was clipped at the head of the stretch causing Stein to fall off. He was in a sandwich position, and to me it wasn't Chantal Sutherland's mount (Diplomatic Impact) that caused the clip. A long inquiry ensued as Chantal finished second or third, but the results stood.
After the race, allegedly Stein called Sutherland all sorts of very rude names.

The Stewards decided to suspend Stein 25 days and fine him $2500, which he is currently appealing.

After the suspension was announced, three days later on Saturday, in the 9th race, Sutherland was on the favorite on the grass (Soul of Nataka), and patiently waited for room. Meanwhile Stein was on a long shot (Caledon) who seemed to be waiting for Sutherland to try to get by. He came over on Sutherland's mount at the head of the stretch, and Sutherland's mount then came out causing some of the field to fan out. Sutherland's even money shot wound up romping, and there was no inquiry, which I found weird.

It is dangerous to be a jockey. Emotions run high, as does jealousy. Chantal Sutherland is the best thing that has happened to Woodbine in years, but she shouldn't be over protected either. I'm sure male jockeys call male jockeys some pretty ugly names at times, so I don't see why a female jockey should get special treatment here or that male jockeys should get an excessive punishment over something that happens during the heat of battle.

Replays are available at Cal Racing and HPI.


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18 September 2009

Why Were CTHS Yearling Prices Down So Much?

Lets have a look at the the numbers.

The CTHS Select Sales held just over a week ago produced this:
"A drop in average price of just over 29% was the biggest in at least 10 years - from $39,131 (all figures in Canadian funds) last year to $30,142.
The sales gross of $4,672,000, for 155 yearlings sold was down from $5,830,500 for 149 sold.
The median sunk from $27,000 to $22,000."

The CTHS Open Sales numbers on Saturday were abysmal: "A total of 148 yearlings sold for $851,800, a 35 percent lower gross than last year, when 153 horses sold for $1,309,200. The average, $5,755, was 32.7 percent less than last year's average of $8,557. Forty-nine yearlings were listed as not sold, compared to 70 in 2008."

Sure, the easiest thing to do is blame the economy, and yes, it is partly to blame, but when you see the purses that are offered at Woodbine which have held steady, the economy is not the main factor here. Betting is down around 11% in North America this year, and it is not just the economy either. And I also know Keeneland's Yearling sale is also getting clobbered currently, and again, it isn't just the economy. For example, in the US purses have declined, yet costs have remained the same, unlike what has happened here in Ontario.

I'm not sure who to blame, or who mostly to blame, for the Ontario sales numbers, in other words, who has final say in the rules here that has made Ontario an even worse place than ever before to breed horses. Is it the CTHS?, The HBPA?, or Woodbine Entertainment? My best guesstimate is that it is a combo of the three.

Simple economics 101 make it easy to understand that prices are down because there aren't enough buyers. But why are there not enough buyers for Canadian bred horses?

Outside of the economy there are two major reasons why sales numbers have dropped significantly: 1. The effect of high takeouts (believe it or not) and 2. Not enough incentives for owners to buy Canadian.


I know I've written at lengths regarding high takeout and the fact that by not allowing existing horseplayer's bankrolls to last, the result is that horseplayers become increasingly disillusioned to play, and they find other ways to gamble, whether it is offshore betting, sports betting, lotteries, internet poker, etc.

Because there are no visible winners who beat the takeout without substantial rebate, those marketing horse racing have basically no tools in which to attract new bettors. Gamblers want to know they have a chance to win. There are winners at Betfair, and while horse racing handle has stagnated, Betfair handle has skyrocketed. There are many blogs out there by Betfair players who consistently make money at it. This is the best advertisement for growth possible. And it is sorely lacking in horse racing, an industry that will not advertise the fact that there are winners, but these winners are being rebated significantly.

The choice the industry must make is lower takeouts significantly, or open the door to advertise the winners and the fact that these winners make their money because they are getting rebated.

So what does this have to do with the breeding game in Ontario? Simple, every owner in the game started somewhere, and most of today's owners got their start being introduced to the game by friends, family or coworkers.

Back in the 60's, 70's, and even the 80's, winning, breaking even, or losing a little wasn't as difficult a task as it is today. There were only 8 or 9 races to play a day and there were not nearly the amount of high takeout exotics available to play each day either. The collective takeout today at Woodbine is around 21-22%, back then it was around 16-17%. And of course, there was lots of mooch money in the pools as well back in the good ole days. Only around 1 in 3 in the crowd relied on past performances to make their decisions which meant the pools were full of dumb money. That dumb money has since left because of competition from slots and lottery mainly. It actually started in when the Blue Jays came to town, and went downhill from there.

The point of all this is that back then one could go to the track with $50 or $100 each day, be able to play the double and a few exactors and maybe a triactor, and still have a good chance to come home with money. This was true especially in the late 60's when there was only one double and two exactors offered each day. All a player had to do was cash a win bet or a win place bet in the last 4 races, and he or she was set to go to the track the next day.

The more a player goes to the track, or today, bets on horses, the more likely they are to get friends, family, and coworkers involved, or at least exposed to horse racing. The key is allowing the player to last longer. Many of the today's owners are the friends, family, and coworkers of horseplayers back in the 60's, 70's and 80's.

Many ownership partnerships have been formed by people who have hooked up because of their interest in horse racing. But the interest came about because there was a time that player's bankrolls to lasted longer. Ask any owner how they were introduced to horse racing.

In light of today's competition, horse racing has not tried to compete for the gambler's business. They assume they have a right to the bettor, but that assumption is just plain out wrong, and by sticking with the high takeout mentality, it has helped shrink the audience, and with it, the potential owners and buyers of yearlings that could have been.


The cost to get a freshly bought yearling to the races is significant even if one pays a few thousand for that yearling. Many horses don't start until they are 3 or even 4, and a few times even older. And there are those who don't make it as race horses as well. What about those who make their first start at Fort Erie for a $5,000 tag, who are shooting for a net prize of something like 4 grand?

Bottom line, no matter the breeding or the confirmation, buying a yearling is probably the riskiest way to be a horse owner. Existing horse owners know this. New owners generally get into the game through the claiming side.

How to lower the risk? Right now it is pretty much a feast or famine situation for yearling buyers. Yes, you can buy a potential Queen's Plate winner, but you can also buy lottery tickets as well. If you are lucky enough, you can find a horse that may win a few Ontario sired special races, and maybe an Ontario sired stake race. But again, the odds are that you are going to wind up buying a horse who struggles to break its maiden for $12,500 at Woodbine, or $10,000 at Fort Erie. And some horses who compete at these lower levels sometimes get better, and then go on to be competitive in Ontario sired events, so from an owners standpoint, why not wait to see if there is potential to win these event without going through the expense of buying them somewhat blind, breaking them, and training them just to make the races?

The biggest problem is once an Ontario sired horse has shown that they don't have the potential to win Ontario sired events, they are pretty much worthless, as they have to face Kentucky breds in claiming events. It is just fact that Kentucky attracts the best sires and the best dams, and many dams from Ontario travel to Kentucky to be bred and then are brought back here or they wind up staying there. They produce a superior product there, and I have no immediate answers that will change that fact.

If you buy an Ontario bred who doesn't compete at the restricted allowance level, you are forced to run against better quality horses, especially at the higher claiming levels. Once an Ontario bred ekes out its conditions at low levels (ie at Fort Erie), they are pretty much not worth racing, and because the probability is that they will be that type of horse, why buy them at the sales in the first place?

Woodbine's purse structure has made it very appealing to American outfits like that of Steve Asmussen's to race here profitably. Does making the Woodbine product American friendly help? I don't think the pluses of better quality outweighs the damage that giving the purse money away to these outfits does to the breeding game and Canadian owners of Ontario sired horses. From a bettors standpoint too, quality doesn't matter that much. Double the purses and betting only increases 6%.

Woodbine would be doing the game here a huge favor if they would shave off some of the higher end purses and put that money into Ontario sired or Ontario bred claiming races.

By giving owners of Ontario breds more outs, it increases the incentive to buy Ontario breds. This means that the cheapest Ontario breds will be worth more than they are today, and if the cheapest ones raise in price, the more expensive ones will also rise in value.

Also, the game is designed for the rich right now thanks to the disparity between what a an allowance horse runs for and what a lower end claimer runs for. A key element to raising demand for new owners is to keep the small owners in the game (much like the lower takeout scenario). Knowing that a horse has to win 3 races at Fort Erie in one year just to break even, hardly attracts new owners, and it hardly keeps old owners in the game.

In Fort Erie's case they need to run fewer races at higher purse levels, and they also need more subsidies from the CTHS in the way of extra bonus money so that they can put on Ontario sired claiming races at the $5,000 and $10,000 level.

In Woodbine's case, they need to run Ontario sired claiming events. They also need to increase the purse structure for lower level events, but make it so Kentucky breds run against Kentucky breds. Eventually, owners will only want to own Ontario breds.

Recently, Ontario brought in a new rule that actually works against the breeding industry (as I predicted when it was introduced). If someone claims an Ontario bred horse, they are no longer able to run for the full purse, in other words, they might as well be be bred in another jurisdiction.

I believe the motivation for this rule was to try to get owners away from claiming Ontario breds, and trying to force them to buy at sales. This just shows that the decision makers are not in touch with reality.

Many owners of race horses are out to make a buck, or not get hurt at least. They only start buying yearlings once they've had some moderate success (which includes breaking even or losing just a little) racing horses. By reducing the demand to claim Ontario breds, all that has happened is that it has caused a greater demand for foreign breds. This rule has devalued Ontario breds, and owners of these horses know this, because it also becomes very difficult for them to unload their runners.

And what about those ridiculous B maiden allowance and allowance races run at Woodbine? Who exactly is that for? Mainly, for those owners who have higher priced Kentucky breds or Ontario breds that have foreign sires. It is a way for these owners to protect their horses and earn some allowance type when dealing with mares.
It also takes away from the free market. If these horses can't win an allowance A, they should be forced run in maiden claimer. The more horses run for the levels of what they are really worth as runners, the more claiming will happen, and with that, more potential owners.

How do these B races help the Ontario breeding industry in any way, especially the ones who own Ontario stallions? Isn't it telling that Kinghaven Farms has very few (I remember seeing one this year) Ontario sired horses, yet they have quite a few Ontario breds?

Sure, sales vouchers, and Ontario bred bonuses help a bit, but they only help those who win a few races, and with the cost of training a horse, they don't help nearly enough.

HANA was formed one year yesterday. I'm proud to be on their board and the progress we have made in the past year, and I am looking forward to the future.

Take a minute, and join HANA here.


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9 September 2009

Fort Erie 2010: Totally Dependent On A Government Handout

I went to the 9:30 Press Conference at the Holiday Inn this morning. At first when I heard about the PC I thought they must have a deal, but little that was being leaked out about it made me less optimistic.

In a nutshell, this is Fort Erie's position today as I know them:

The track generates around $8 million in slots revenue which is divided 50-50 between track and horsemen.

The track also generates around $8 million from betting revenues, again mostly split between track and horsemen.

There are other revenue streams for the track that come from food and beverage, etc.

Current owner Nordic Gaming is claiming that they lose around $3-4 million a year after subtracting the income stream from their total revenue stream. Therefore, I deduce that Nordic is claiming the track costs $11-$12 million a year to operate.

Of course, actual costs are almost always near impossible to get a true handle of especially since I'm not privy to looking at the real books, and maybe the Fort Erie Consortia wasn't privy to the "real" books either.

One other important thing is that Jim Thibert, Consortia CEO, states that there is no extra money that is available to get from slot revenues directly from the Fort Erie operation.

Doing quick math, since the horsemen plus track share is $8 million in total, and it represent 20% of the total profits, it must cost around $32 million to run the slots 365 days a year. Sounds very high, though there are 300 employees and electricity does cost some money.

All the above adds up to the fact that Fort Erie will not race next year unless it gets a government subsidy.

Apparently, those involved in the negotiations are optimistic. But we are talking unprecedented action that is required by the government. Which doesn't make too many people optimistic when one really thinks about it.

So why was the Press Conference called? My guess is to inform the horsemen of the current situation, and to get press to pressure the government to act quickly to get a deal done.

What is the Consortia asking for?

In a nutshell, $15 million from the government, or in other words, $7 million more than the track gets now from slots. Thibert doesn't care where the money inevitably comes from, but realizes that realistically it would come from the OLG's slot revenues at other locations.

The extra $7 million according to my math would be divided up this way: $2 million to the horsemen, $2-3 million to offset losses, and $2-3 million to pay to lease the joint.

Thibert did bring up a great example of the revenue sharing that occurs in the NFL over TV profits, and tied it nicely into the unfairness that Woodbine has a population of 4.5 million in their home market, while Fort Erie has probably less than one tenth of that if you don't include Buffalo.

According to Thibert's numbers, the $15 million guarantee will mean not losing the $300 million that he estimates Fort Erie Race Track generates into the Niagara region economy.

$6 million of the $15 million will be guaranteed to purses (which is around a $2 million increase for horsemen from what they get from slots now), which means at least 60 days a year at $100,000 a day in purses, but this doesn't included the money that comes from other income streams like betting , which is another $3.5-$4 million, which will likely bring dates up to 80-90 with slightly better purses than are available today. But knowing horsemen, I can see them demanding half of the $15 million....because that is what horsemen do:)

There are apparently nine other potential revenue streams discovered by the Consortia, but projections and details were not given out.

Thibert did admit that the $35 million deal had no shot even if the government gave them $35 million, because they wouldn't be able to maintain the track's losses every year, so they pulled out of the deal with Nordic 10 days early. Like I said when it happened, it had no shot because of this, but what really transpired is that Nordic was able to extort $2.3 million to keep the track alive in 2009. That was simple to have figured out the minute the deal was announced, and the reality is that the season was saved.

Two potential buyers were announce at the PC. Older gentlemen both, are said to have offers in to buy the track. It was also stated that they will lease the track to the Consortia if they buy it, and Nordic agreed to lease it to the Consortia if no one buys it.

This explains why the Consortia is asking for $15 million and not $12 or $13 million from the government. The leasing price must have been predetermined at around $2-3 million a year. If this is true, that puts a value on Fort Erie of between $15 to $25 million. Great for Nordic, because getting $2-3 million for a failing business a year is better than losing $3 million a year.

If the leasing price was what it is supposed to be (one dollar), there wouldn't be two other suitors for the place.

Will the government figure out that they are essentially giving Nordic around a $3 million dollar profit a year in one way or another if they go ahead with this? Could this be a deal breaker? Hopefully Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan will be completely sympathetic to the cause and have some major pull over the now infamous OLG.

Apparently there was a meeting scheduled with former OLG chief Kelly McDougald that was supposed to happen September 6th, but for some reason, it was canceled:) Just kidding, the meeting took place in 2007.

I really hope the deal goes through. Though I'm not sure that the Consortia is qualified to run a track, or if they have the proper vision to do so, but they will be better than Nordic Gaming at it. Not nearly as good as if I called the shots, though. But that goes without saying:)

One other note, HBPA Sue Leslie attended the Press Conference via telephone. She said she was meeting with the ORC about racing dates, and did state that Nordic was applying for 78 dates......probably with quite a few ifs attached.

To read the proposal click here.

4 September 2009

Ontario's First Whip Violation A Doozy

In my last posting I was wondering who was going to be the first jockey to violate the new whipping laws in Ontario. I did mention Chantal Sutherland who has been fined before for excessive whipping on at least a couple of occasions. That being said, I it still came as a complete surprise when I read Jen's Blog yesterday and found out that Sutherland was the first culprit, but it wasn't over whipping, but for USING THE WRONG WHIP.

Maybe Sutherland has been too busy modeling on her spare time to realize that the old whips were banned. Maybe she just forgot. But in the second race, she used the old whip and today this morning there will be a hearing going on to decide whether the purse will get redistributed. As luck would have it, Sutherland and her mount crossed the wire in first position in an allowance race.

The Toronto Star interview from Jen's Thoroughblog with my commentary attached:

Under the new “urging rules”, each rider must carry the kinder ‘cushion crop’, featuring a much softer end of the whip (“popper”) or their horse will be disqualified.
Disqualified before the race is official or disqualified from purse monies? When did the track officials learn about this?

But because none of the three O.R.C. or the paddock judge or clerk of scales noticed Sutherland carrying the old whip, Sutherland’s mount, favoured Sans Sousi, was declared the winner of the $66,800 allowance race for betting purposes.
“We were made aware of it by a couple of other trainers after the race,” said steward Bill McMahon. “I am shocked that this happened, we are not happy about it.”

Not happy about it? Look at the bright side, now protocol will now be in place, that should have been in place in the first place. I realize what Sutherland did was not anticipated, but it will not happen again because the judges now will make sure it doesn't.

McMahon said there will be a hearing into the matter on (FRIDAY) to determine if Sans Sousi, owned by Thor Eaton’s Eaton Hall Farm, will be disqualified post-race and lose the $40,080 winner’s share.
Trainer Mike Doyle is having a train wreck of a year. He had a couple of wins on Wednesday night, but I can't see any justification to keep Sans Sousi's number up unless there is a loophole in the rule.

“I realized my mistake on the way to the gate,” said Sutherland. “The gate crew gave me another whip that they had there but it was not a cushion crop either.”
This is an ugly admission. I have a feeling it isn't going to pay to be this honest. Sutherland knowingly raced with a banned whip and at least one person on the gate crew knew of the problem as well. They could have easily called upstairs and delayed the race by a couple of minutes.

Sutherland, the second-leading rider at Woodbine, said she accepts full responsibility.
Well d'uh.

“It was totally my fault, I forgot,” said Sutherland. ‘I apologized to everyone. I hope they don’t disqualify the filly.”
I really don't think there is any chance the filly won't get DQ'ed. It is too late for the public, though Sans Souci would have won even if Sutherland used a fly swatter.

More bright side: Sans Souci gets to keep her non winners of three Ontario sired status and should be a cinch to get that condition before the year is out if she came out of the race OK.

As for Sutherland's punishment. I hope they aren't too hard on her. She is the best and maybe the only marketing plus Woodbine has right now. Taking away her 10% of the winner's share and a stern warning would be fine by me and probably the rest of the public, except for maybe jealous wives and girlfriends who probably want her banned from Ontario:)

I'll update the blog when/if I get the results from the hearing.

OK, here is the update: The owners of Sans Souci got the shaft. Their horse was DQed from the purse....buh bye $32,000 plus. Chantal also received a whopping $200 fine.

The National Post needs journalists who know more than next to nothing about horse racing: Jockey may lose $40,000 prize for using banned whip

The mistake is not just in the headline but continues in the story as well:
Officials with the Ontario Racing Commission are expected to decide today whether Chantal Sutherland, one of Canada's top jockeys, with more than 400 first-place victories to her name, should be disqualified and stripped of her $40,000 prize.

For the two of you who read my blog and don't know, the jockey gets 10% of the winner's share of the purse, so Sutherland stands to lose $4,000, and considering the fact she pays her agent 25% and is probably in a very high tax bracket, her net loss here might be around $1,500 to $2,000 tops.

Is Woodbine Entertainment Looking To Turf HPITV?
Just wondering after finding out that a poll question pops up after logging into one's HPI account asking if you subscribe to HPITV through cable or satellite.

First, Woodbine got rid of all their TV commenters on HPITV late last year, and now I bet they are looking to cut more expenses by getting rid of HPITV. Their rationale would be that bettors can now view any race they want on the internet so why have the expense of a TV station as well.

Again, I'm only speculating here, but if true this is just more confirmation that Woodbine is a terribly run business.

They pretty much have a monopoly on Canadian bettors who want to wager into parimutuel pools throughout North America. They have tremendous exposure through HPITV, the internet, and The Score and SunTV. Yet, they have turned their players completely off by having a corporate philosophy of taking as much money from the player as quickly as they possibly can.

Woodbine had a perfect opportunity and still does, to lower takeout substantially and actually compete with offshores and Betfair (where the big Canadian betting money has rightfully gone). Instead, they continue to have a collective takeout that is in the highest range in North America.

If Woodbine needs to cut expenses, how about just getting rid of the old school leaders within? They have killed horse racing in Ontario for the player, by making it impossible for a player to last let alone win.

Must read: An Interview With Cary Fotias

Lower the takeout, dramatically! The game will never grow without a lower takeout. And anyone who doesn’t understand that didn’t pass Economics 101. This industry has never been run in a free-market environment. The politicians and bureaucrats that are stifling this game have no idea where the laws of supply and demand meet to maximize profit for owners, trainers, the state and local government. They don’t have a clue. They just don’t get it, and the people who do get it don’t have the power to make it change.”

Fotias goes on about many issues plaguing the industry right now, and he offers solutions. He also mentions the Horseplayers Association of North America, where he is a board member (like yours truly).

To become a member of the Horseplayers Association simply fill out this form, it is free and we need YOU. The more members we have, the more clout we have. As Pull The Pocket points out, horseplayers do not have a seat at the table, and that is why racing is dying.

Was Fred Pope joking around? It is hard to tell at the Paulick Report. He sure had horsemen eating out of his lap before he took too much heat from horseplayers and others who really understand the game.

Lots of good discussion in amongst the 100 plus comments. Of course, I chimed in calling Pope's idea ludicrous (even the one he admits to), as he basically wants the US to have what Woodbine/HPI has, and we've seen what Woodbine has done with the power. In other words, follow Pope, and racing will die faster and harder than ever before.

Paulick isn't sure if he is the reason why Equibase, Brisnet, and Thoroughbred Sports Network are now offering FREE ARCHIVED HISTORICAL CHART RESULTS to all members. Brisnet and Thoroughbred Sports Networks allows members to go back as far as 1991, while Equibase goes back to 1999.

Daily Racing form still charges $2.95 for historical chart results by card. I wonder if they are going to keep that going. I mean you have to be brain dead to buy a chart from them. But then again, the racing industry relies on the brain dead:)

Theocrats In Ohio Trying To Prevent Ohio VLTs With Lawsuit Don't these dudes know about separation of church and state?

Forterieracing is now on Twitter. Elissa Blowe and Daryl Wells Jr. give fans the heads up as well as their well meaning WIN 4 picks daily.

More content available at Horseplayersbet.com. Kentucky Downs, Zia Park, Emerald Downs, Turfway Park, Los Alamitos, Retama, and the last week of Ruidoso have been added to betting menu.

Horseplayersbet offers one of the most competitive Player Rewards Programs available for horse racing product. At Horseplayersbet, even the smallest bettors have the potential to become the biggest.

Press conference regarding the Fort Erie Consortia Proposal for the Fort Erie Race Track.
Date: Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Time: 9:30 am – Press Conference
Location: Holiday Inn Fort Erie
I can't see this being grim news. I expect, considering the timing and the location of the press conference, that something very positive regarding the future of Fort Erie will be announced. Is Nordic finally gone? Has the place finally been sold? Has the Consortia extended the lease of the track? If so, who pays if the track loses money?

1 September 2009

Axe Falls On Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corp.

The OLG board resigned and CEO Kelly McDougald was fired with cause.
There has to be much more to these firings than expense filings for golf memberships, pen refills, or weight loss clinics by OLG execs. And no, it can't be because of giving out a Mercedes Benz during Ontario's auto crisis as a prize, as a lottery prize either. And I don't buy it being because of the mistakes made over ticket misprints or slot machine glitches.

Most likely, we will find out more. I expect there to be many non tendered contracts that have been awarded through McDougald's short reign as being a major part of the firing, but I am speculating. The practice of handing out non tendered contracts usually has something to do with nepotism or under the table payoffs or pay back for favours done or expected to be done in the near future. This is something the government is supposed to frown upon and take seriously as it wrecks public confidence, and perhaps that is what is going on here.

Moving forward, it is hard to say how this will impact the Racinos in Ontario. The old OLG regime was apparently tough to deal with, and the OLG may have been partly responsible for the lack of growth in the industry over the last few years.

They also seem to have forgot why casinos were placed at racetracks in the first place: to help subsidize the racing industry in Ontario. For example, it seemed like an impossibility for Fort Erie to get a bigger percentage of casino revenues in order to help its survival under McDougald's regime. I kept hearing that the OLG does not care about horse racing, that it is just a necessary evil.

Maybe the new board and leader will be more racetrack friendly. I know the OLG needs some positive press, and keeping jobs is a must, so they can't afford for Fort Erie racetrack to close. Creating jobs would also be something that would give them some positive news, and I expect the new regime to do their best to fast track the creation of the proposed new Racino in Belleville.

Now if only we can see the same type of house cleaning at Woodbine Entertainment, life for the Ontario gambler, and the industry as a whole, would improve immensely.

Is it just me, or does Kelly McDougald look like Sarah Palin without a makeover?

I think it was a great thing to see Palin gone (not a fan, sorry conservative readers), and it might just be a good thing that McDougald is gone now too.

Ontario Racing Commission Hands Out Large Fine For Violation Of Archaic Rule
The Ontario Racing Commission has released details pertaining to the penalties doled out earlier today to Kerry and Shirley House, the owners of this year’s Gold Cup & Saucer winner, All The Weapons.

As outlined earlier today, each of the owners were fined $17,343.50 for violating ORC rule 15:09a, which stipulates:

15.09. A claimed horse, regard less of ownership:

(a) shall race only at a track or tracks in the Province of Ontario for the next 60 days, except where such a horse had been nominated to participate in an added money event before it was claimed, or unless the track where the horse was claimed is closing for more than 30 days. If the track where the horse was claimed closes for more than 30 days, the horse is released from the requirements of 15.09 (a).

The horse gets claimed in Ontario, and the new owners, who were probably not aware of the rules to begin with, entered the horse in a Stake series in PEI.

The rule has been in place for years to help protect our racing population. This made more sense when Ontario didn't offer some of the best purses in North America, but now the rule needs to be thrown away.

It was wrong to begin with, because it interferes with free enterprise, but especially now with higher purses available, the rule makes no sense, and it only takes away options for new owners, which has could have a negative affect on the amount of horse owners and potential horse owners in the future.

Yes, the House's broke the rules (and willfully too it appears), and they deserve the fine, but this rule needs to be taken out of the books going forward.

Goodbye Whip, Hello Crop
The ORC is just stuck in the stone ages, they do have their progressive moments. Today is the first day that the soft cushion crop is mandatory for jockeys to use. Jennifer Morrison's article in the Star explains things a lot better than I can.

I wonder who will be the first jockey to get fined under the new urging rule.

Steven Crist: More Questions Than Answers In Lasix Debate
Excellent read. But whether Lasix is allowed or not, it really doesn't matter, as long as takeout is high. Racing's woes won't be fixed by cleaning up their tarnished image in regards to Lasix masking other drugs.

I'll also add that if racing wasn't so dysfunctional in North America, Lasix would have no place in the game except during workouts.

Don't shoot the messenger.

Finally, the other Canadian blogger who really gets it has written an excellent piece over at the HANA blog on the fact that carnivals are light years ahead of the racing industry when it comes to understanding the customer.