26 June 2011

Queen's Plate Prediction: Bowman's Causeway

My handicapping of big races of late has been pathetic but always keep in mind that even a broken watch is right twice a day, and I am due.

That being said, it is hard for me to state "bet the house" on Bowman's Causeway with confidence, however, it doesn't mean you can't bet the tool shed on him.

Unfortunately, jockey Eurico Rosa Da Silva isn't in the same rut as me, as he is going for his third Queen's Plate in a row, something that has never been done before.

He was second in the Plate Trial a few weeks back. He ran good, but Check Your Soul ran much better. The key word is "ran." Past tense. Horses who win generally have a lot going for them in the race they won (including being in peak form much of the time). Things change. You get better value wagering on the horse who didn't have everything go his own way the previous start, or a horse who just wasn't at a peak that race.

Here is a video of the Plate Trial. Yes, Check Your Soul won easily, however, Bowman's Causeway looks like a horse who needed the race and treated the race like a prep:

To round out the triactor, I like long shot Seawatch. Definitely worth throwing in.

There is an early post time for Woodbine's card today (12:25PM EST).

Handicapping tip. I've noticed through the years that when a jockey has a good shot in a big race, that jock might not be a good bet in the early races. I think it is a mixture of practicality (focusing on the huge purse), the possible fame that goes with it, the jockey's testing of track biases (using his mounts as guinea pigs), and possibly the idea of saving themselves for the big race and not putting themselves in a position to get injured (which might be on the back of their mind).

I would avoid Patrick Husbands mounts prior to the Plate today, unless you think he is on an immortal cinch. Eurico Rosa Da Silva may be another jockey to stay clear of. He would love to win this race a third year in a row. And possibly it might be a good idea to tread lightly on horses ridden by Luis Contreras who rides filly Inglorious.

The overall card at Woodbine today looks fairly predictable (for Woodbine which isn't saying a lot). Here are my selections (yep, I know I'll get comments afterwards on how bad a handicapper I am):

1st Race Playin'inmywhiskey
2nd Race Mollymook at a price
3rd Race Captain Raucous
4th Race Pit Alley/Aerial View
5th Race Silver Timber
6th Race Are You Kitten Me/R Unpainted Dancer
7th Race Windward Islands/Simmard
8th Race Bartletts
9th Race Opening Meet
10th Race Bowman's Causeway
11th Race Thunder Dancing
12th Race Gangster Rap

Fort Erie too, looks very predictable today. Don't forget, the Pick 4 takeout rate is only 14%.
Here you go:

1st Race: Sexy Made Simple (Best Bet of the day)
2nd Race: Vale of Avoca
3rd Race: Zlato
4th Race: Purple Satchel/Myah's Flight
5th Race: Decker West
6th Race: Limosano/Kennisis River
7th Race: Sharing The Love
8th Race: Voodoo Momma

22 June 2011

Fort Erie 14% Pick 4 Takeout Continues To Gather Steam

Crunching the numbers from the past week ending yesterday (Tuesday) shows that the recent drop in takeout on the Pick 4 from 26.2% to 14% has become very popular amongst Horseplayers.

There was improvement in handle on Sunday, as $8,900 was wagered in total for both Pick 4s. That is compared to $8,200 from a year ago. But this increase was nothing compared to Monday and Tuesday when $20,000 and over $19,000 was wagered respectively, compared with $10,100 and $11,800 last year.

Comparing the total for all 6 Pick 4s, handle was up over 59%. That is amazing considering there has been very little written about the increase.

There is obviously a group of Horseplayers paying attention to takeout these days.

Unfortunately for Fort Erie, there has been no sign of spillover to other pools, as total handle for all pools was down over 20% the past three days.

It looks like that many Horseplayers have become aware that the Pick 4 at Fort Erie is a great deal, while the rest of the exotics suck big time, as the takeout on these bets remain at a minimum of 26.2%.

Maybe it is too early in the season for the 4 PM post time, or maybe the 4 PM post time on Mondays and Tuesdays is a little too late and should be changed to 2:30 or 3:00.

A ninth race on Mondays and Tuesdays would probably pay for themselves.

And what is with short field allowance races that attract horses who should be running at Woodbine? Those relatively high purse races aren't being bet, and they aren't good for the local economy if the winner is stationed at Woodbine.

Anyway, lets hope Fort Erie comes to the realization that some of their takeouts are ridiculously high. Lets also hope that Woodbine is paying attention, because some of their takeouts are relatively on the average to low side (exactors and doubles), and a low takeout Pick 4 could create lots of spillover into other pools.

11 June 2011

Guess Who Has The Lowest Pick 4 Track Takeout

Monmouth? Close. Their Pick 4 takeout is 15%
Hollywood, Del Mar, and Santa Anita? Noooo. They raised the takeout on Pick 4's from 20.68% to 23.68% January 1st. Those dummies.
How about Woodbine? Uh that would be a no. 25%.
Keeneland or Churchill? Again close. 19%.
Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga. Not even close at 26%.
Portland Meadows? You get part marks. They are now tied for the lowest rate at 14%. They used to be alone on top. But now they have been joined by Fort Erie Race Track.

You read that right. Starting tomorrow, Fort Erie has lowered the track takeout on Pick 4's from 26.2% to 14%.

From a press release: “We are testing the waters in terms of takeout reduction,” said FELRC’s Chief Operating Officer Rick Cowan. “Management will assess the results on a regular basis.”

Lets hope this is a massive success. I want Fort Erie to survive, but their track takeouts are way too high. If this drop works, I expect to see doubles and exactors to come way down too (there is plenty of room for some large drops).

This appears different than the disingenuous bone being tossed to Horseplayers by Hollywood Park when they recently put a low takeout Pick 5 on the menu. That bet has been successful despite the Horseplayers Boycott on California racing, and proof that there are plenty of cognizant players out there looking for value. But do you think they are doing anything with the empirical evidence and doing away with that larcenous takeout increase that occurred in January? The answer is a big fat no.

I'm truly hopeful that if this works, Fort Erie will make more moves that are player friendly in the near future.

There is an early Pick 4 that begins in race 1, and another that begins in race 4. If there is a 10 race card, a third one begins in race 7.

That pesky Horseplayer/Owner over at Pull The Pocket thinks "It's Time For Woodbine To Lower The Pick 4 Takeout."

It certainly is. With all the dysfunction going on in other jurisdictions, Woodbine could be on the runway to great growth. Lowering the triactor takeout from 27% to 25% recently was just is a minor step in the right direction. They need something that cries out "follow and play Woodbine daily."


My recent predictions haven't been all that great. You gotta keep picking yourself up and dusting yourself off though or you might as well be dead.

I'm pretty firm on my prediction today. I even think I have a decent shot at the Superfecta. I'm going with Nehro to win it, long shot Prime Cut to come second, the chalk Animal Kingdom for third, and Mucho Macho Man to finish fourth.

Tomorrow, HANA (Horseplayers Association of North America) is having another Pool Party, this time at Tioga Downs. Tioga even put together this promo on Youtube:

A few ADWs are supporting HANA on this, including Horseplayersbet.com which is giving an additional 2% reward on all wagers made on Sunday's card.

Update: TrackMaster has made free past performances available for tomorrow's Tioga card.

5 June 2011

Handle Continues To Fall, Where Is The Bottom?

Handle was down another 7.8% in May compared to 2010. Racing dates were down, races were down, and so were purses. So much for less is more.

California racing is responsible for a good chunk of the drop, as the powers that be there continue to hold out against rescinding that idiotic takeout hike that occurred at the beginning of the year. Exotic wagers had an additional 2-3% takeout increase tacked on. Taking money faster from a dying customer base is hardly a way to grow a business.

Sure, the economy isn't helping, but horse racing's handle was dropping well before the recession hit, in fact, when the economy was growing, handle was on the downswing too. At this rate, 2011 handle will be close to 1995 levels. Absolutely disgusting since horse racing is probably the best gambling game out there (not taking takeout into consideration) for the thinking person, and taking into account that it has become a whole lot easier to wager on horses from anywhere over the last 16 years.

Even the heat on online poker sites that were ramped up again in May didn't help horse racing handle. But then again, the main reason poker players don't play horses is because of the ridiculous takeout rates which makes it impossible to beat the game in the long run (if you don't get rebates, and even with rebates, it is near impossible to beat the game, though there is a lot more hope).

In 1990, handle for the US and Canada combined was $10.2 billion. Inflation since then is up 75%. This means that if horse racing was keeping pace with inflation there should be $18 billion wagered. Population rates have increased around 20% since then, so the real number should be closer to $21 billion. It is only slightly higher than half that.

What happened? On the positive side, internet and phone wagering has made it easy to play many tracks a day. That definitely helps handle immensely. However, by taking gamblers away from the track, it takes away growth. Most Horseplayers alive today were weaned at the track by parents, friends, and/or other relatives. Those days are gone. Focusing on getting those days back will be a waste of energy as technology improvements and a day at the racetrack just don't jive anymore.

Another bad consequence to being able to wager on any race at any time is that the gambler just doesn't last anymore. Bankroll breaks become more frequent, and new hobbies take the place of horse racing.

Too many high takeout wagers have been added in recent years, taking money faster from Horseplayers. There are triactors and superfectas in every race these days, and with that are takeouts that are on the much higher end. Today's blended takeout rate is higher than 21% compared with a blend rate below 20% in the early 90's. One or two percent coupled with the ability to play many more tracks just kills the Horseplayer, who was a lot more likely to end the day with at least some money in the 90's giving them incentive to play the next day.

Of course, the biggest killer to handle has been alternative forms of gambling. Slots and lotteries have grown substantially since 1990 taking away lots of the dummy money that made it easier for Horseplayers who had half a clue to last a lot longer. The dummy players were also responsible for some growth, as they would bring out friends, and some would become regular Horseplayers over time. Now these potential newbies go play slots with their addicted friends or family members instead.

Low takeout games like sports betting and poker have also taken out a lot of Horseplayers, but more importantly, potential Horseplayers, who could have easily replaced the Horseplayers who have died since 1990. The main attraction to long term gamblers who are thinkers is that they get involved in a game that is possibly beatable in the long run. Both poker and sports betting is perceived as such. Horse racing, no chance. There is no reason to get involved in racing's learning curve for a newbie.

With internet poker on the outs (at least in the USA) and rebates becoming more readily available to the majority of Americans, one would figure that we should be at the bottom, but it just isn't happening.

The takeout increase in California has hurt the chance of finding a bottom just yet, as they do a significant amount of handle per year, and even though most Horseplayers aren't cognizant of takeout when wagering, they get back less and become disenchanted a lot quicker. They wind up devoting less time to the game.

Also, we are seeing signal fees on the increase. This is hurting the rebate player who makes up a lot of the handle.

It is a misconception that most rebate players win money. Most lose, they just last longer than if they didn't receive a rebate, though they have a greater incentive to become better and possibly win money in the long run. An increase in signal fees is like a takeout hike to rebate players. They end up with less to churn, and that is bad for handle. Value players have less plays as well going into a race. Again, handle suffers.

It appears that signal fees are now going in the opposite direction of optimal levels. That and a slightly higher collective blended takeout rate are probably responsible for the decrease in handle we've seen over the past year or so. Both work against having visible long term winners, the one thing racing desperately needs if it ever going to grow again.

Tracks closing or cutting days doesn't help at all. If you are a player, there are still tons of ways to erode your bankroll every day. Less racing means less growth because there are less people being exposed to live racing (not that this is a major source of growth these days, everything helps though).

Looks like the HANA Boycott of California racing is still on.
It is disheartening to see that California Fairs, which start up in a couple of weeks, have decided to increase takeout (2% on exactors and doubles, 3% on all other wagers). Despite all the empirical evidence against a takeout hike, it seems California is just a hopeless jurisdiction for Horseplayers.

Fort Erie handle is still terrible. Looks worse than last year. Reminds me of a deer in the headlights. Sure, they are working their butts off trying to get people to the track, but they have their head in the sand when it comes to what it takes to get gamblers to play the track. A 26% takeout on exactors and doubles turns off cognizant players (a lot more players are aware of takeout today than ever before) all across North America. It also creates less value for value players with lower probable payoffs. And when it comes to the live players Fort Erie attracts, taking their money faster just isn't the way to go. More people leave broke and if they are broke, they are a lot less likely to return.

Fort Erie needs to drop takeout rates at least on doubles and exactors, and they should also introduce a $1 Pick 5 that can be carried over.

The Plate Trial and The Oaks At Woodbine

Today we'll find out if I am right and Bears Chill is the best 3 year old right now in North America. The only 3 year old in his ball park this year is the injured Uncle Mo. Lets see what kind of rating he can get going around two turns. To complete the exactor I like long shot Sandy Gully. I'm hoping they don't kill each other, and it would be nice if it isn't a closer's track. Bowman's Causeway looks to be bred for the polytrack, but may need one off his last disastrous performance.

Can a recent $20,000 claim win the Oaks. Maybe. I like Spooky's Kitten today. She should be closer to the lead this time out, and may have needed the last one. Inglorious may bounce so she is worth betting against. Marketing Mix could improve enough to be right there today, and might find the distance to her liking.