28 February 2010

Giggling Time: Bewitched Horse Racing Episodes

I wanted to do a blog post on horse racing movies, so I did a video search for the old movie 1936, Three Men On A Horse. One of my racetrack buddies and regulars at Woodbine and Greenwood back in the 70's, 80's and 90's, Sid (he has been deceased for around 10 years now), used to say it was the most realistic and funny movies about horse racing ever made. The search results included a Bewitched episode from 1971. I had to watch it, because I didn't remember that Bewitched did a racetrack episode. I do remember reading that Elizabeth Montgomery was a lifelong horseplayer. I knew there had to be a reason I had a childhood crush on her.

Anyway, enjoy Three Men And A Witch On A Horse (it is pretty funny stuff):

Is it just me, or was it really awkward seeing Darrin on the rocking horse and even more awkward hearing the rocking horse say "Ah that's nice," when Darrin started rocking him? I wonder if that would get past the censors today.

Some interesting observations from the next part. Darrin worked at a NYC advertising firm, so at the time it was completely feasible that he had a phone betting account with the NY OTB (according to my research, phone betting began in NY in 1970):

If you've ever wondered what goes on in a racehorses head, part three is for you. Now before you watch, some trivia. The race on TV at the OTB definitely starts out at Aqueduct, but it finishes at another track. Not only that, but footage of a famous horse was used for most of the race, right up to the end. Answer to who the horse was and the track involved can be viewed at the bottom of this post:

Alright, if you watched, that had to bring a smile to your face. I like the fact that the payoffs on what was quoted as actual winnings was right on. And Elizabeth Montgomery seemed very at ease in the presence of a horse.

Back in those days, the win pools were all the rage, and there were very few exotics (the idea of betting a daily double though was a way to expect bigger returns). Today, only about one third of what is bet goes into the WPS pools. If you take inflation into account, these pools have shrunk considerably over the last 40 years while the majority of money bet goes into high takeout exotic pools.

Back then, the idea of bringing a few dollars to the track and getting lucky so that you could make a quarter of a year's salary or even half a year's salary, wasn't out of the question. A down payment on a house could be achieved with a bankroll of a couple of hundred dollars and a couple of good bets on medium sized long shots. Nowadays, that just isn't the case. Even a 10 G score on a super won't do that for you.

Because there was only a few exotics, WPS was the focus of most horseplayers. And it was much easier to walk out of the track with enough to come back the next day or as soon as possible. But there were known winners back then, so even though to most, racing was a losing proposition, there was still the element that the game was beatable back then, and again, if you were lucky enough, you could get your down payment on a house, get out of debt, or even get enough to start your own business, which brings me to my other find, another Bewitched episode, this one from 1966, where a mare becomes human for a day and a half. Funny stuff. A little less realistic though. This episode is aptly named The Horse's Mouth. Lots of funny racetrack puns and jokes:

Part Two. I doubt there was a time when the public could openly go to the backstretch stables in search of information:

Lots of different tracks were used in the racing scenes. Your guess is as good as mine. Great to see the big crowds, that were a daily occurrence at just about every track in the 60's. Now for part three:

Now for the answer of the trivia question. The race in question began at Aqueduct but finished off at Santa Anita. The video mostly contained a famous race by Silky Sullivan. It was a 6 and a half furlong race in 1958.

I'll save my movie post for another day.

26 February 2010

Harmonized Sales Tax A Concern For Ontario's Racing Industry

On July 1st this year, the new Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) will come into affect in Ontario. This could and probably will curb owner's behavior as they are the ones who will have their cash flow most affected by the new tax.

So far, the government has not made horse racing an exception in any way (at least to my knowledge).

The HST will replace the Goods and Service Tax (GST) and the sales tax. In Ontario, the GST is currently 5% (it was as high as 7% a few years ago) and the sales tax is 8%, so the HST is going to be 13%.

Outside of paying for tack and feed, the racing industry pretty has pretty much stays clear of sales taxes (though there are probably a few exceptions), however there is GST dollars flowing all over the place. One good thing is that most involved in the industry have a GST number, and at the end of the year, they can deduct what they spent on GST against what they received on GST. If one spends more than they received, they actually get a check cut and sent out to them by the government.

Some possible good news for horse owners in Canada.
A recent Canadian court decision could lay new groundwork allowing part-time horse owners to deduct all losses incurred against annual income tax.

A part time owner is someone who owns race horses and is trying to make money at it.
The new decision states that if someone spends "meaningful" time and horse racing is a "meaningful" part of their overall business, then one can deduct their entire losses against all business income even if it is higher than the $8,750 limit the government has set on horse ownership losses annually.

Many believe the $8,750 is too low and hasn't been adjusted for inflation in years, while most believe that there shouldn't be a limit. There is no such limit in the USA for instance.

The government has appealed the decision by the Federal Court of Appeal. So it is best to contact an accountant or lawyer as to how to deal with the current decision that is in the books.

It is important to understand that when GST is paid out, it takes money out of the cash flow and many times racing operation budgets are tight as they are.

Here is how it works for the various parties:

They receive GST based on what they get for mounts taken from the owner's account. If they received $70 for a mount that didn't hit the board, they'd receive an additional $3.50 for GST. A mount that wins and gets them $2000 for their 10% of the purse means that the owner also has to pay out an additional $100 in GST.
Jockeys pay out GST to their agents and on items like tack, maybe travel, etc.

It is important to note at this time that a recent court decision ruled that prize money received by jockeys, trainers and harness drivers is not GST exempt.

They receive GST from the owner on their training bill. Generally the monthly training bill includes their 10% fees on races where their horses finish first, second, or third as well as blacksmith charges, shipping (though the owner is billed directly in many cases for this), and of course their day rate, and other miscellaneous items in many cases.
The trainer pays GST for feed, tack, shipping (if the owner isn't billed directly), and other items.

The Owners
They receive GST when a horse is sold or claimed by someone who has a GST number.
The owners, however, get their cash flow clobbered monthly because of GST (even at 5%), as they pay it on training fees, shipping, blacksmith, the 10% they pay to trainers, the jockey fees, lasix fees, vet fees, boarding in the winter, and when they claim or buy a horse.

Today, if an owner claims a horse for $20,000, they have to come up with another $1,000 for GST. But come July 1st, they will now have to part with (at least temporarily), $2600 in HST.

When you take into account that owners pay out anywhere between $20,000-$30,000 a year for a horse that is training for around 8 months or so, that extra outlay of $1600 to $4000 per year (when taking into account the cost of buying or claiming a horse), it might be very easy to decide not to even bother owning a horse, or cutting back on how many horses one owns.

Yes, generally the owner can get most if not all of it back come the early part of the year, but current cash flow is a big part of owning horses, and the majority of owners are small (many are trainers as well who sometimes struggle to get by at smaller venues like Fort Erie to begin with). Even owners with deep pockets hate to operate in too much red when it comes to their cash flow.

Negative cash flow will likely lead to a lot less claims. Claims are good for the game, and are good for growth.

Horse racing in Ontario has a hard enough time attracting new owners. The implementation of the HST will deter potential owners even further, and some existing owners will cut back and maybe even disappear from the game.

Another thing that may occur is an enhanced underground economy where cash deals will become very appealing.

A question looms as to whether horsemen will be able to offset positive HST against negative HST money as before, since the HST now includes the sales tax component.

Jockey Simon Husbands sues the Ontario Racing Commission for $3 Million
He says that the decision to ban him a year for a questionable looking ride has ruined his career. The decision was overturned subsequently, but Husbands says too much damage was done by the time the suspension was rescinded.

I wrote my views on the decision to overturn the suspension here.

The race in question (keep your eye on the 3 horse, Bug's Boy):

Bug's Boy went on to have a very profitable 2009. He won a couple, ran second a couple more times, mostly for jockey Chantal Sutherland (who did whip the horse), and amassed over $75,000 in earnings for the year.

Byron King has produced a list of top synthetic sires
He purposely left off sires standing in California or Ontario because of inflated results. Surely, he could have devised a system to rate them in an apples to apples way. For example, using Beyer, Brisnet or Trackmaster speed figs.
Anyway, he ranks Candy Ride number one, Giant's Causeway is ranked second.

Big overhaul proposed in New Jersey: Cut racing dates in half, triple the purses
Hey, I have an idea, why not just race at one track every day and one track at night in all of North America. Great purses, great handle, low track expenses. Problem is that you don't need much of a breeding industry for that, not very many suppliers of feed either. Not too many jockeys, agents, owners, trainers, and of course very few grooms, hot walkers, track employees, etc, etc, etc.

It seems racing is trying to do everything BUT lower the price the public pays (THE TAKEOUT).

I believe that the current amount of horses, horsemen, track employees, races, racetracks, etc. is totally sustainable, if the industry wakes up and drops the takeout or embraces player reward/rebates/takeout adjustments. One legitimate visible horse race betting gambler who makes a living betting horses will almost certainly attract hundreds of potential new gamblers (and most will certainly lose money, but at least the chance is there to become a full time player, and that is what racing desperately needs in order to grow....much like the way it worked when poker took off.

Apparently, according to one the comments I received at Cangamble, harness racing legend Ron Waples was quoted on THE SCORE Monday night as saying that horse racing needs to cut takeout to compete with other forms of gambling.

20 February 2010

Map Of USA and Canadian Harness Racetracks

I had a few requests to make a map of standarbred tracks in the USA and Canada, since putting together the Thoroughbred Racetrack Map. So I decided to get behind the computer and focus. Again, please be patient, it loads a bit slow. In the meantime, check the left sidebar:

View Harness Racetracks in a larger map
Zoom in to view overlapped tracks. Left click and hold to move the map in any direction.

You'll notice the pinkish red icons on the map and green icons. Click the green icons and you will see confirmed takeout rates, while the other rates are non confirmed or simply missing (you'd be amazed at how difficult it is to find takeout rates on many standardbred tracks, especially accurate rates). If anyone knows of any mistakes, please leave corrections in the comment section.




EXCELLENT PLAYER REWARDS added to your account weekly
User friendly betting interface, makes wagering simple
Phone betting available too
Great customer service
100% Parimutuel
No membership or betting fees
No additional fees on debit or credit card deposits of over $100

Give Horseplayersbet.com a try. SIGN UP TODAY

Player Rewards could be the difference to you as to whether you win in the long run playing horses or lose. The better the rewards, the more of a chance you have to beat the game. Sure, you still need skill and luck as well to succeed, but at HORSEPLAYERSBET.COM at least you have a fighting chance. And one thing is for sure, your money will last longer because of the PLAYER REWARDS you will receive.

18 February 2010

Takeout Map Of Thoroughbred Racetracks InThe US & Canada

Be patient, it loads a little slow, but it is worth it:

View Thoroughbred Racetracks in a larger map
To zoom in on a specific track: click the + sign in the top left, then left click (hold) and drag the map, moving the map to the track you want to look at. If the horse icons still overlap, you need to press the + sign some more or the track represented by the horse in the background will not highlight.

How To Try To Get Some Good Relief From Takeouts From Around Two Thirds Of The Tracks On The Map? See Below:


Player Rewards could be the difference to you as to whether you win in the long run playing horses or lose. The better the rewards, the more of a chance you have to beat the game. Sure, you still need skill and luck as well to succeed, but at HORSEPLAYERSBET.COM at least you have a fighting chance. And one thing is for sure, your money will last longer because of the EXCELLENT PLAYER REWARDS you receive.


EXCELLENT PLAYER REWARDS added to your account weekly
User friendly betting interface, makes wagering simple
Phone betting available too
Great customer service
100% Parimutuel
No membership or betting fees
No additional fees on debit or credit card deposits of over $100

Give Horseplayersbet.com a try. Sign up today


15 February 2010

John McCririck (Mutton Chops): "Horseplayers Have No Chance To Beat The Takeout In America"

On Saturday around 12:30 PM EST, HPITV aired the Gulfstream Park pre game interview by Alyssa Ali of John McCririck. It started off simple enough, discussing the 6th place finish of a fan favorite English horse (I believe it was Nicconi) and how that isn't good for racing, because racing needs heroes to keep running well (or something like that).

As you can tell by now, I was just able to take mental notes of the conversation. Trying to find the actual video online has been futile so far. After watching it, I knew for a fact that Gulfstream wouldn't have the nerve to put it on their Youtube channel.

Ok, now for the good part. Alyssa and McCririck started discussing the state of the game in America today.

The following points were made by Sir Chops:

*Horse racing is dying because horsemen and racing execs don't make decisions based on what customers (the bettors) want.

*Lack of freedom for bettors has stifled growth. Horse racing needs to allow betting exchanges and even bookmakers to become allowed in America. (Editor's note: I'm not convinced bookmakers are needed.)

*It doesn't matter who you are, you aren't going to beat an average takeout of 20-25%.

*If not for (he pointed to the new Gulfstream Casino) casinos, horse racing would be dead in America today.

As McCririck started telling the viewers the blatant truth about horse racing in (North) America today, I could see Ms. Ali become very uncomfortable. She had a "deer in the headlights" look on her face.

The reality that high takeout hurts growth or that horsemen are hindering growth (and actually helping with horse racing's death) are two facts that the industry does not want to be mentioned in a public medium.

Exchange betting can help grow horse racing in North America because thanks to low takeouts, players have a chance to win. Of course, most players lose, however, visible winners create a buzz and something for all to strive for. This worked in growing poker. Again, most poker players lose, but the few that are visible winners gives the perception that if you are good enough, you could make a living at it.

Betting into a 20% takeout only creates the idea that horseplayers are degenerate gamblers who will gamble on anything and never have a dime to show for it. No wonder that is how horseplayers are treated in North America by many racing execs.

There wouldn't be that much money added to the tracks or horsemen's bottom line from exchange betting revenues directly (Betfair spends a lot on marketing, salaries, and technology, and made only around $50 million USD in net profit last year). $50 million from all types of wagers, not just horse racing, isn't much even if all of it were added to the $1.2 billion that is handed out in purses in North America today. And one could argue that exchange betting may cannibalize some of the parimutuel pool.

However, where exchange betting can be beneficial, is by bringing in new customers who will begin to follow and play horse races.

The fact exchange betting doesn't deal with exotics is a plus, because players who like big priced horses or are torn between two or three horses may rather play exotics into the mutuel pools.

It is very difficult to compare British racing to North American racing because purses are generated from levy's that are placed on bookmakers, exchanges, and parimutuel betting on UK races plus sponsorship usually by companies that take bets on UK races.

Some more facts from Jockey Club stats:
Purses are 1/4 betting handle in Canada (thanks to slots).
Purses are about 12% total handle in the US.
Purses are about 1% the total handle in the UK.
Per capita though, UK residents bet around 6 times as much on horses as US residents do.

No matter how you slice it though, horse racing is in a tailspin in North America, and bets being overpriced are the main reason why.

Isn't This What I've Been Talking About?

In an article in Gaming Today, the point being made is that casino customer's satisfaction is at a new low, and it all has to do with the casino operators shifting from what used to work to what looks like the typical horse racing exec's attitude and it coincides with a higher rate of player dissatisfaction (survey says 88% of players are dissatisfied at local casinos):

In his presentation at last month’s Casino Marketing Conference, Meczka (Michael Meczka, president of Los Angeles-based MM/R/C Inc. and a 30-year member of the American Marketing Association) said that today’s casino marketers are constantly asking each other, "How can we extract more revenue from our customers?" rather than the questions they should be asking: "How can we provide service?" or "How can we give our customers what they expect?"

Meczka said the casinos’ "short sighted" solutions to the burning desire of getting deeper into the customer’s pocket include the following:

• Reduce playing time by speeding up the games (electronic and table)

• Increase the number of coins required to play

• Remove the popular 3 and 5 coin max games

• Eliminate the slot machine’s "arm" and replace with a button (increased speed, less playing time)

• Shorten the video reel spin cycle to reduce playing time

• Increase the hold percentage by 1 percent, which decreases the playing time by 17.5 percent

• Use table games with high holds and multiple side bets, as well as the lowest pay tables in order to force players to lose quicker and more often.

Meczka said the "short sighted" result the casinos are seeking is to "get the money fast … and get the player out of here."

The "success" of these policies, however, will eventually doom the casinos, Meczka said. "Ultimately, customers will have less satisfaction with the casino experience," he said, adding that customers will eventually reduce their frequency of visits, cut back on the amount spent and, eventually, stop coming to the casino altogether.

When customers cut back, some will leave altogether, some will find other things to gamble on, and most importantly when it comes to growth, when a customer is not going, they are not going to bring others to the casino...or racetrack. Conversely, the longer they last, the more likely they are to come back quicker, and the more likely they are to expose friends, family, or coworkers to the game as well.

For more, read The Big Squeeze, over at HANA's blog.

Bold Executive Named Leading Ontario Sire by CTHS
Trajectory ranked 2nd and Mobil was named leading new sire.

This just didn't get enough press in Canada. The exercise rider who died a few weeks ago in a very unfortunate training accident at Tampa Bay was a former jockey who rode in Ontario. From the the DRF Letters to the Editor:

Exercise rider a pro right to the end

This letter is in regard to the Feb. 4 article "Exercise rider dies at Tampa." I just would like you all to know that Robert Shields, better known as Ted or Teddy, was a very talented rider. Ted had ridden and worked with horses all his life. It was truly his passion and something he thoroughly enjoyed. He had a racing career as a jockey for many years, having a trainer in Canada named Carl Chapman hold his apprentice contract. His first win was at Bowie racetrack in Maryland in the late 1960s. He had the pleasure of working for many outstanding trainers, including Woody Stephens and Mack Miller. He had ridden races and exercised horses up and down the East Coast, from Woodbine and Fort Erie in Canada, to Saratoga, Belmont, Aqueduct, and Finger Lakes in New York, to Calder, Gulfstream, and Tampa in Florida, as well as many racetracks and training centers in between.

Any trainer or groom I had ever spoken to about Ted had always said what a "good hand on a horse" he was, and that he "had a good clock in his head," which is why he was always sought out to breeze horses in the morning.

I have been assured that he had galloped the horse who ultimately would be his last several times before Monday's accident, so he was familiar with this particular horse. Although Ted was 60, he was still a very capable rider. This accident could have happened to any rider at any time or anywhere. At least he was doing what he loved, and he did not suffer.

He is survived by his ex-wife Linda (me), our 15-year old daughter, Claire, and his younger brother, William.

Linda Shields - Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Another Tracknet Track Underperforming In A Bad Market: Golden Gates Trims Purses By 7 1/2% and Drops 3 Stake Races Is it because of the Big Squeeze?

10 February 2010

If California Wants Bigger Purses

There is a strong rumour that California is strongly considering increasing takeout at their major tracks (even in light of the fact that Los Alamitos is suffering since increasing their takeout rates). The horsemen are in panic mode right now. Let me try to settle them down with some legitimate suggestions:

Increasing takeout is not the answer. Every study out there concludes that the optimum takeout (the takeout where tracks and horsemen make the most most money bottom line) is maximum 14%, according to studies done. Most suggest 10-12% the optimum is 10-12%. The farther a track is away from the optimum rate, the more it is costing both the horsemen and the tracks.

Why is a lower rate more profitable? It is a matter of horseplayers lasting. The same concept is true of slots. Slot operators have found that they make more money (the public loses more money collectively) at 8% instead of at a 16% takeout, for example. If a slot player has a hundred bucks to blow, and say they only last 2 hours on average, they go home more discouraged than if they last 4 hours. The longer they last, the more likely they are to believe the game is beatable too. What happens is that when they are discouraged, they are less likely to come back so quickly. On the other hand, the more they come back, the more likely they are to focus more of their expendable entertainment money on slots, and the more likely they are to expose friends, family and even coworkers to their hobby. This is true of horse racing too.

California already has some of the best takeouts in horse racing. But they are not promoting this fact very well. Promote it. In fact, drop takeout on WPS to 15% and tell everyone. Drop takeout on exotics by a half a point to a point too, and promote it.

Secondly, California could benefit from an ADW owned by the horsemen to capture a bigger percentage of the bets made by Californians. But they need to do it right. Offer rebates. Attract back the Californians that are betting offshore. Get the money back into your pools. Promote the ADW. Get people at the track to sign up. Again, rebating will attract these players too. White Label solutions are available. They don't even have to invest in the technology. The state laws may need to change though, regarding rebates.

Third, sell your signals to whoever wants them. Horseplayers with accounts at ADWs that don't have California content, don't play California. Online horseplayers generally play where their money is.

Fourth, more tracks to bet on at tracks. California limits their on track customers to something like 32 races a day from all over the country to choose from. Give horseplayers their choice back. If takeouts are lower, players will bet more, and show up more often, and churn more.

High signal fees also hurt California. There is a trend out there now to increase these. What is happening is that price sensitive rebate players are shifting to tracks that charge lower fees. This is a reality. Dropping these fees would most likely increase the bottom line as well.

Follow the advice above, and betting and purses in California will go up substantially.

Another thing that California and other tracks can do to increase handle is to stipulate in their simulcast agreements with Woodbine (HPI) that Woodbine pays actual track odds on all exotics to prevent them from jacking up the takeout on exotics that have a takeout of less than 25%. Pull the Pocket stresses the point here. An example from a few nights ago: The 15% pick 4 paid this at the Meadowlands:

$1 Pick 4 (Pool $101,888) (1-1-6-10) $4,605.90
At Woodbine for the same bet:
$1 Pick 4 (1-1-6-10) $4,064.05
The money bet through HPI or at Woodbine is commingled. It goes into the pools.
There is no good reason for this. Stating the takeout is too low doesn't cut it. Don't take the signal if you don't want to compete fairly. And the excuse makes no sense, because Woodbine pays off track odds on many WPS pools that have takeouts of 16% or less. Quit ripping the customers.

What ends up happening, and California or The Meadowlands, if you are reading this, is that many Canadian players avoid playing these type of races at Woodbine, and have very few options to play them anywhere else. And I know this for a fact, that not only do they stop playing the triactors, they stop handicapping the races altogether.

Nick Eaves Has It Upside Down

Nick Eaves is doing a wonderful job of alienating industry members and he isn't even the head cheese yet.

First, he was nonchalant when it came to knowing the Fort Erie situation when it looked like there might not be racing this year at the Fort and he seemed to not care and be OK with its closing, yet he seemed concerned about Quebec harness racing.

Now he is pissing off many Ontario harness horsemen with his "Too Much Product, Not Enough Demand" stance. This is a dangerous way to think, but it is typical of what happens when tracks receive monies from other forms of gambling other than racing. Horse racing becomes a necessary evil.

The reason there isn't enough demand needs to be dealt with, not the too much product. Livelihoods are at stake here. You don't cut jobs before you try cutting prices first. And by prices, I mean the takeout. Woodbine's culture and failure to compete, contagious in all of racing I might add, has caused the lack of demand by failing to compete, or even try to compete with other forms of gambling.

Economics 101: When demand drops, the price of the product (takeout) should drop.

Cutting dates before cutting takeout is a band aid solution, and it will not help create any more demand. Cutting takeout will create more demand.

Barry Irwin Calls For A 12% Takeout Across The Industry As Well As Other Suggestions

I disagree with Irwin that contraction is needed. It might be needed, but lets reduce takeout or embrace rebates first. I also disagree that selling horse racing as a sport over a place to make money will do much. Horse racing is not NASCAR, and never will be.
Horse racing must focus on the winners, the owners and partnerships that make money, especially the smaller outfits, and it should focus on winning horseplayers as well, which at a 20% collective takeout rate is an impossibility right now.

Popular Horse Thorn Bird Is Dead or Is He?
The thing is that he supposedly died months ago, and his now bankrupt owner, Ahmed Zayat, collected lots of insurance money on him.

Bizarre is the fact that trainer Mike Mitchell said "It's a small chance" that Thorn Bird could have been entered in the Breeder's Cup, apparently after the horse was put down, or maybe he wasn't.

Horse Racing In Alberta In Terrible Shape
The economics of owning a horse in Alberta just don't make sense. With 1000 thoroughbreds in training and 500 standardbreds in training, there just isn't enough money to go around. Less than $11 million is given out in purses there, and the horses aren't good enough to ship in order to race all year round.

The article says it costs $20,000 a horse to train. That is possibly on the high side depending on how many horses are trained by the owners there. But lets say it is $15,000. After paying the jockey, only $10 million is distributed in Alberta, and the total cost to own horses in Alberta is between $22-30 million.

Unless you have a real good horse, it makes no sense economically to own a horse in Alberta. The odds are stacked way too much against you.

Alberta is another victim of a jurisdiction that failed to compete for customers with other forms of gambling. High takeouts created less and less players over the years.

Sad News: Woodbine Icon Michael Burns Sr. Passed Away At 84
He started taking pictures at Old Woodbine (Greenwood) in the mid 1940's. A picture from last year won the Sovereign Award a couple of weeks ago. He is also in the Canadian Horse Racing Hall Of Fame as a builder.

4 February 2010

Horse Racing Handle Is Swirling Down The Toilet

Handle, Purses Down Double Digits
"According to the Thoroughbred Racing Economic Indicators provided by Equibase, wagering on United States races in January 2010 was $917,083,595, down 12.03% from $1,042,532,063 a year ago.

U.S. purses, up 3.46% to $70,667,466 in January 2009, were down 10.04% in January 2010 to $63,574,094.

Part of the decline in handle and purses can be attributed to a 7.98% decrease in race days—individual programs at each track—from 376 last January to 346 in January 2010. But clearly the national economy, declines in many gaming sectors, and overall malaise in Thoroughbred racing are factors."

The horse racing industry has done everything it can to avoid the inevitable fact that they are not a competitive form of gambling. Collectively, when takeout is brought up horsemen and racetrack execs remind me of little children who plug their ears and stomp their feet while humming "mummummummummumummummummu" out loud.

Yet, as we've seen with Los Alamitos recent action to raise takeout, the industry is still under the delusion that they will make more money if they raise the cost to the consumer to bet. Economics 101 is the complete opposite. When you want to increase sales (handle), you are supposed to have a sale (lower the takeout).

Now Kentucky is talking a bet tax as well to be imposed on their internet bettors.

Rumblings are that the horsemen in California are now looking to raise takeout at some or all of the major California racetracks.

Many racetracks, led by Tracknet, are trying to push up host track fees (according to DRF's Matt Hegarty), which inevitably causes rebated horse players to get squeezed. They wind up betting less, and it becomes more and more rare to find winning horseplayer, which are crucial to the game right now if it intends to grow.

When will the insanity stop?

The horse racing industry desperately needs lower prices for the players. The Horseplayer needs last longer. The longer they play horses, the less they will play other games of chance (the more money they will collectively lose playing the ponies), and the more likely they are to draw in friends to their hobby as well. This means growth.

Create visible winners, and younger people will automatically become interested in the aspects of handicapping. This too means growth.

Everything else is futile. When will the racing industry wake up? When museums put in a horse racing exhibit next to the dinosaur section?

Michael Gill got barred from racing at Penn. Some (or many) Gill horses are now getting offers on them. The irony is of course, that jockeys will now ride the same horses they deemed "unsafe."
For a real ugly take on the Gill situation check this out:

HT Equidaily
Gill still runs horses at Philadelphia.


Player Rewards could be the difference to you as to whether you win in the long run playing horses or lose. The better the rewards, the more of a chance you have to beat the game. Sure, you still need skill and luck as well to succeed, but at HORSEPLAYERSBET.COM at least you have a fighting chance. And one thing is for sure, your money will last longer the better the rewards you receive.


Excellent player rewards added to your account weekly
User friendly betting interface, makes wagering simple
Phone betting available too
Great customer service
100% Parimutuel
No membership or betting fees
No additional fees on debit or credit card deposits of over $100

Give Horseplayersbet.com a try. Sign up today


1 February 2010

Michael Gill Defends Himself; Also Says He Is Quitting

Much maligned winning owner Michael Gill was on The Roger Stein Show yesterday defending himself and his operation against allegations that he is running a high percentage of unsafe horses at Penn National, which came to light when most jockeys at Penn have refused to ride in races that have Gill entrants in them.

He states it boils down to a "corporate takeover," a conspiracy in which the horsemen and jockeys that don't ride for him have colluded to try and prevent Gill from making another $3 million out of the purse accounts at Penn.

The interview with Gill starts at the 6 minute mark and goes on for a half hour. Click here to listen to it. Roger Stein who interviewed Gill, is definitely in Gill's court, so yes, it was a biased interview. But Gill comes across very well just the same.

Here is what is new with Gill and Wednesday's entries at Penn.

Seeing "no rider" on so many horses brings back lots of childhood memories. Except I remember "no boy" instead. "No boy" got a heck of a lot of mounts back in the 60's and early 70's. Must have had a good agent.

UPDATE: Ray Paulick has written a scathing article on Gill's operation.

Michael Gill isn't the only horsemen getting more than his share of bad press. Andrew Beyer wrote a pretty damning article on "Super Trainer" Kirk Ziadie:

"One statistic in particular suggests that Ziadie, 41, is either a cheater or an amazing horseman. Over the past five years, when Ziadie has claimed horses from other trainers, those acquisitions have won 47 percent of the time in their first start for the new barn. It is a mind-boggling number. Ziadie improves almost every horse he gets his hands on, and he improves upon the work of almost every other trainer."

Congrats to Canadian Brian Troop (an accountant from Barrie Ontario), who won $500,000 in the 11th Annual National Handicapping Challenge held in Las Vegas last week. He is wearing Canada's national colour as well; plaid:

Note to Brian: Don't blow it back with HPI, you can get a much better bang for your buck elsewhere.

Alex Walthrop, NTRA CEO, was at the NHC and EUREKA, I think he gets it:

"Their message (the horseplayers) to tracks: Price matters. According to one very knowledgeable race and sports book operator I spoke with in Vegas, they are seeing a steady migration of players from horse racing to sports betting and other gaming. Why? Lower takeout on casino games and sports betting are a big part of the reason."

But what will he do with the information now? Does he have any power to make change?

Read more:He Is Correct! at the HANA blog.

If you are not like me and you care about the Sovereign Awards, check out Jen's Blog "Champs" and Triple Dead Heat (complete with lots of awards pics).

They Are Watching Me

On January 13th I wrote a post called "Time For Horse Racing Industry To Put Up Video Archives." In it I wrote "Woodbine just began doing this a few months ago. It would be nice if Woodbine could take the time and add old stake races to their channel." Well Golly Gee Batman, it looks like Woodbine has started adding old Stake Races to their WEGREPLAY channel.

Good news also in that Party Manners got his channel reinstated by Youtube. Lots of old great stake races can be found there from all over North America.

Fort Erie Consortium Paving The Way For Changes
They can't just go with the flow. Horse racing is dying, and doing things the old way isn't going to keep Fort Erie going in the near future.

Racing Humour: ESPN’s Hank Goldberg Accepts Award at National Optometric Conference


Two Of Three Horses Owned By Bulledproof Enterprises Stripped of Eligibility to Win O'Brien Awards

Licensees Suspended as Suspicious Deaths Of Race Horses Investigated

ORC Barrs Horse From Entering Race At Woodbine Because He Bounced Off A Big Win

I like this comment:)

"This, to me, is a ridiculous precedent. Horses do bounce. It is part of racing, and part of handicapping. There are many reasons for a horse running a great race and many reasons for a horse running a clunker. It is a fact of racing. Is Woodbine now going to refuse entries of every horse that bounces now? I see major problems with them defining an unacceptable bounce too. The more I type about it, the more insane I feel this ruling is."

A thread about this on Pace Advantage.

HORSEPLAYERSBET.COM "Where Horseplayers have a fighting chance to win." Check the video demo out: