17 July 2010

Jockeys At Fort Erie Band Together To Make The Wrong Decision

Emotion sometimes leads to stupidity, and stupidity reigned supreme in the jock's room at Fort Erie on Tuesday. For those who don't know, leading jockey Krista Carignan was abruptly taken off her mounts because it was confirmed after a lunch time meeting with the Stewards that she committed her fourth whipping violation of the year on Sunday.

The new whipping and urging rules in Ontario state that the driver or jockey is immediately indefinitely suspended after the fourth violation. Thems the rules, like it or not.

But the jockeys, who have been complaining about the new rules all year long, decided that it was time to take a stand. They banded together and refused to ride any of Carignan's mounts.

First off, the act of getting licensed for jockey, groom, trainer, etc. implies that you will abide by the rules of racing. In other words, the jocks had no grounds to react like they did, though I do not believe they broke any rules by colluding the way they did.

But who did they hurt with this decision? Just about everyone except the ones they have the beef with (The Ontario Racing Commission). Trainers get horses ready for specific races. Carignan being the leading jockey most likely had mounts that would have made relatively substantial money that afternoon. The trainers of Carignan's mounts were all denied an opportunity to make their profits.

The owners got screwed. Probably the odd one showed up to watch their horse in person (scratches were not announced until around the 2nd race as Carignan's first mount was in the 3rd race). Of course, they had to pay for Lasix, but they also pay the day pay that keeps the backstretch going. Now they all have to wait at least another week for perhaps a not so good spot to run in.

Horse racing's growth depends a lot on satisfied owners. They bring friends and family to the track, some owners are potential big owners down the road, and of course friends and family are potential new owners and new horseplayers.

When a track is offering purses on the lower end of the scale like Fort Erie, these unnecessary speed bumps can only do damage.

And the last thing that Fort Erie needs is any speed bumps as they struggle for survival. Handle seems to be down this year (as it is for North America collectively). And Tuesday is Fort Erie's biggest handle day.

Handle for Fort Erie is dependent on two main things: competition and field size. The last thing Fort Erie needed was 6 or 7 unnecessary scratches that resulted in already short fields to be much shorter.

I do agree with the jockeys on their points. Yes, it seems that whipping violations are open for too much subjectivity and also cause jocks to worry about too many things when they are trying to win a race (Carignan's fourth violation was simply holding the whip too high...talk about walking on egg shells), and the fines being equal at both Woodbine and Fort Erie are relatively greater at Fort Erie because of the much larger purses at Woodbine.

I also believe that whipping violations should be subject to immediate inquiry before a race is made official. If a jockey is "cheating" to win, the horse should be DQ'ed. Lets face it, if a jockey was found using a buzzer during the race on the tapes, the horse would be thrown out.

The Stewards turned the indefinite suspension to three days and a years probation, so maybe the jockeys move of not accepting mounts intimidated them and perhaps they will revisit the way the rules are written.

I've made this point before, but as a bettor, I hate these rules because if my horse needs to be whipped to win, I want it whipped without the jockey doing a count in his or her head. Ontario has already moved to a more human whip. And of course, if I thought the horse was suffering due to whips, I would be totally against them (the welfare of the animal is extremely important but I think these rules go too far as a way to appease the PETA types). I guess what I'm trying to say is if whips are bad for the horse, then ban them outright, if not, amount of hits shouldn't even be looked at.

The only good thing that came out of this is Fort Erie got some press. Maybe a few gamblers found out that they still race horses in Fort Erie.

Woodbine Has Momentum

I'm definitely noticing an increase in handle at Woodbine. Lots of it has to do with being featured on TVG. The big fields are helping. Maybe even Race Night on the Score is helping as well. They are probably getting a boost because they are now back on RGS's betting schedule. RGS is an offshore rebate shop that caters to bettors who wager in the millions each year.

Woodbine underperformed plenty under David Willmot's leadership. Things have improved under Nick Eaves, and they have a chance to really blossom now.

If Woodbine would only lower their takeout while they have momentum and newbies joining up, they could catapult themselves as one of the major tracks, when it comes to handle, in North America. Their takeouts for triactors are still 27%, which is embarrassingly too high, as it shows they aren't interested in keeping customers long term.

Hermaphrodite horse at Hollywood Park? He/she/it (Mo Steam) can't run in straight filly races. I guess if I was a hermaphrodite in a public sauna, I'd want Mo Steam too.

Balmoral's 15% Takeout On Pick 4 Successful So Far
According to Pull The Pocket, handle is up 40-50% on that bet.

I hope the management at Woodbine, and especially Fort Erie are taking notes.

Fort Erie still has takeouts of 26.2% for exactors and doubles. If they fail, this will stand out as a major reason. You need to send a customer home with some money, or they won't come back too fast, if at all.

Too Bad Horse Racing Can't Harness This And Get Horseplayer Out Of It
British Columbia launched their now legal online gambling site on Thursday. It lasted only a few hours before it was flooded by too many site hits forcing it to shut down.

Players last playing online poker and blackjack far longer than they do playing horse racing. And even though the games are unbeatable in the long term, they attract gamblers. The learning curve also is a huge factor and keeps players from giving horse racing a fair chance. But still, horse racing with a 21% takeout is unbeatable, so if you have to gamble, why not have fun and last as long as possible?

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