27 May 2012

Pena, O'Neill, Horse Medications, Apologists, and Slots

I don't know what pisses Horseplayers off more, the fact that some "super" trainers win at 25% plus because they are obviously either using undetectable drugs or illegal methods in order to gain an edge over their rivals, or the fact that they are able to get away with it year in and year out.

I know what pisses me off more than anything, it is the apologists who claim that these trainers are superior and know where to place their horses.

There are only so many ways to train a horse, and only so many ways to feed a horse. It is insulting to the intelligence of the Horseplayer to state that these trainers have found a magical way to feed and train a horse that triples their productivity over average trainers. Especially since many of these "super" trainers have operations all over North America.

It only makes sense that if a trainer is superior at winning without cheating, that they would be detailing their horses daily, knowing their horses inside and out. Yet we often see high percentage trainers winning at two or three different tracks a day. No way are they on site. And to think that their training program is superior or that the assistant trainers at these tracks have an edge over the trainers who have an operation and race at one track or circuit strikes me as complete fantasy.

For a few years, I've seen apologists make their case for "super" harness trainer Lou Pena, who was very average when training in California (though he did get a few positives there). His record since moving to the East has been nothing short of sensational, and his win off the claim percentages defies any sort of logic. Yet, he was able to go on and on and on because there was no evidence that he was cheating...so it must be superior hay, oats and water that was giving Lou the edge. Nobody with half a brain or more bought it, but the apologists were spewing it anyway.

It seems the apologists were wrong. According to a thorough investigation, using vet records, Pena was throwing in the kitchen sink, yet somehow getting by the test barn, which is cause for rage amongst Horseplayers and any Horseman who plays by the rules.

It goes to show that all these defenders who state that with today's technologies even the itsy bitsiest of overages can be detected, thus making horse racing the cleanest sport out there, are full of hooey up to their eyeballs.

You have to wonder what exactly is motivating a drug trainer apologist. I can think of three reasons. 1) They are a trainer who knows they can't compete without cheating. 2) They are an owner who does well with a drug trainer. 3) A Horseplayer who gets good tips from outfits that rely on using performance enhancing techniques.

California just suspended Triple Crown hopeful I'll Have Another's trainer Doug O'Neill, but the suspension will not start until after the Belmont. The ruling is a bit mind boggling, stating that they found that O'Neill didn't milkshake the horse but the horse in question had a TCO2 level of a horse that was milkshaked.

Here is a list of violations by Doug O'Neill since 2005 compiled by Ray Paulick:

2005: 2/5/2005, Bay Meadows, Jake Skate, Dantrolene; 3/10/2005, Santa Anita, Spirited, Dexamethasone; 5/27/2006, Hollywod Park, Wisdom Cat, TCO2; 1/17/2008, Santa Anita, Chicks Rule, TCO2; 12/27/2008, Santa Anita, Esperamos, Flunixin; 8/20/2009, Del Mar, Bench the Judge, Bute overage; 2/12/10, Gulfstream Park, Pinkarella, Testosterone; 4/3/2010, Hawthorne, Stephen's Got Hope, TCO2; 4/30/2010, Churchill Downs, Enriched, Omeprazole Sulfide; 8/25/2010, Del Mar, Argenta, TCO2; 2/5/2011, Santa Anita, Separate Forest, Etodolac; 9/17/2011, Fairplex Park, Naturaliste, Hydroxydantrolene.

Now these are violations that actually showed up in test results. Remember, harness trainer Pena has 1700 such violations in one jurisdiction, and none showed up in test results.

Horse racing has a problem. A big problem. It is a culture of chemists (trainers and vets) who are taking well educated shots when it comes to giving horses the right concoctions that get past the test lab. I'm positive Lasix helps with the overall masking of most of these concoctions.

On a positive note, a vet, Sid Gustafson came out with a must read piece in the New York Times Racing Blog (The Rail) called Alkalinization, Lasix and Milkshaking. In it, he call Lasix a performance enhancer, and hints that race day meds (and even meds given up to three days out) are not only usually done to enhance performance but are outright dangerous to the horse and the rider on race day.

This is surprising coming from a vet because usually you have to question a vet or trainer's financial interest when they discuss drugs, and same day medication, etc. Maybe the tide is turning.

Finally, slots. What does slots have to do with this post? Right now there is a grim outlook when it comes to the Ontario horse racing scene as the Ontario Liberal government has decided to put an end to the slots at racetracks program come the end of March next year. I've supported the horse industry tremendously on this blog and other places regarding what I believe is a terrible mistake by the government in ending a program that works, and is good for the Ontario economy, and even if it was destined to end, a year is not a fair time considering that the breeding and ownership of horses is a four or five year cycle.

But when I go to sites like Standardbred Canada and see apologists calling the suspension of Pena a witch hunt, my sympathy for the horsemen goes out the window, and it actually makes me OK with the ending of the slots program, anywhere. Word of advice to super trainer apologists: SHUT UP ALREADY, your attitude is akin to sealing a coffin.

18 May 2012

Horse Racing Sure Could Use Another, But It Probably Won't Happen

Horse racing has had nothing but bad press this year.  From the cancellation of Luck to the New York Time articles and a lot of other stuff in between.  The industry desperately needs a horse who has a shot to win the Triple Crown.  If I'll Have Another wins the Preakness, the interest in the Belmont and most importantly the TV viewers, will be four or five times higher than a Belmont with no Triple Crown hopeful.

The problem is that, no matter how much I want to see I'll Have Another win, it just doesn't look like it will be in the cards.

I'll Have Another had a relatively easy trip, and the wire came at a time when it was his turn to be in the lead.  Sure, he can improve off this race, but chasing Bodemeister this time around will probably lead to less desirable results, and it appears that strategically I'll Have Another has no choice but to think chaser.

Bodemeister on the other hand is a very good horse but I think he has Facebook IPO written all over him.  Horses leading against the same competition in a previous race that was longer are often a sucker's bet when cutting back.  Horses that ran like this in drill like fashion are very likely to bounce on top of that.  And historically, the Preakness does not favor the horse who will be leading at the head of the stretch.

It doesn't matter that Bodemeister is the only speed going into the race, I think he'll be lucky to hang on for third or fourth.

So who do I like?  How about who do I love?  CREATIVE CAUSE, that is who.  He has a horrible trip in the Derby and if any horse appears that it will improve off the Derby it is this one.   He beat Bodemeister three starts back, with a very good speed figure, and I think he will show his superiority again in the Preakness.  And the distance has CREATIVE CAUSE written all over it.  I think it is just a matter of how much he wins by.

If speed comes back, Went The Day Well could easily complete the exactor, with I'll Have Another and a tired Bodemeister fighting it out for third and fourth.

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14 May 2012

Ontario Minister Of Agriculture Tweets On The Racing Industry

Ted McMeekin is Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture. He is taking heat, and rightfully so, because he is completely going along with the OLG plan to modernize gaming in Ontario. Despite the fact that up to 60,000 horse racing related jobs, mostly in agriculture, will be affected, and many will be lost. It is questionable that the government will wind up with more revenue if the OLGs plans come to total fruition.

What is certain is that if everything happens that the OLG and the McGuinty Liberal government want to happen, there will be many jobs lost in OLG Racinos as new operator will come in and run a more efficient ship.

The new operators, foreign investors like MGM and Caesars will take much of the profit out of Ontario. Some new casino jobs will be created in places in urban centres like Toronto but it will be pale in comparison to the devastation that will be created in rural communities, as many in the horse racing community will be out of work, from grooms to track front side workers.

Those that do the hiring like trainers and farmers, will also see their incomes drastically drop, assuming they stay afloat. Trainers will definitely have to cut costs and run smaller operations, horse owners will start disappearing as it will become very difficult to make enough purse money to stay in the game (most owners lose money regardless of the purses, but lose a lot less when slot money contributes to the purse structure).

 Farmers will be selling less hay, oats and bedding, and there are countless other jobs that will be affected. And then there is money that those who derive most of their income working at the track spend within the local communities.

From restaurants to mom and pop shops to car dealerships, everyone will hurt. To his credit, which will probably lead to his future downfall, McMeekin has engaged many “Joe Blow’s” on Twitter. Here, in his own words, are his Tweets regarding the ending of the slots at racetracks program (I’ll add a little timeline and some of my own thoughts where applicable):

The Drummond Report came out on February 15th. Nowhere in it does it state to end the slots at tracks program, though there were definite leanings towards tweaking it. McMeekin is asked about his stance when it comes to cutbacks in the horse racing industry:

“the government will look at all recommendations of the Drummond report and make decisions on how to proceed.”

Even though the OLG announced on March 14th that they were ending the slots at tracks program March 31,2013 and that they were taking slots out of 3 tracks April 30th, there was quite a lot of time between another Tweet on the industry until he was asked if he would show up at the 2nd OHHA rally at Queen’s Park March 26th (his answer was pretty much a no, though I’m not quite sure he was there or not:

“thanks - already met with horsemen, trainers, vets, track owners, Ag leaders, OLG, MPP colleagues, the Finance Minister and others”

When asked to comment on the 60,000 jobs that will be affected on April 12th prior to the budget being voted for, he ignored the question:

“Moving forward will require sustainable new business models community by community. OLG will soon be talking with municipalities.”

On April 13th he was asked about the fact that the plan to end slots was abrupt and if he thought it was right not to phase it out over more time instead of turning the industry upside down. His answer shows he has no concept about the industry, the fact that horse racing is a 4 year cycle when it comes to breeding or buying a yearling. Also, how at that time could the industry know how to put a new model in place when they were in the dark about what the new deal would like:

“Want to predict the future? then create it! Clearly time to construct a new business model that works + moves industry forward.”

When confronted by the FACT that Liberal propaganda ads called the slots at tracks a Secret Deal between wealthy track owners and the PC government when it was first implemented. McMeekin shows complete lack of understand (ignorance) and gives an answer to a question not asked, however he contradicted the lies put out by his Party:

“Nothing secret about slots at racetrack past or present. OLG needs workable and constructive options for racing to move forward.”

On April 16th, after reading a story about how Hamilton would gladly host a full scale casino though they were worried about the impact regarding Flamboro Downs (everyone still in the dark, including McMeekin, that only those who have run a casino in the past will be eligible to run a casino (including racetrack casino) in the future:

“Want to lay groundwork for a new slots/horseracing business model? See Hamilton's motion to work with OLG and private sector”

Here is a series of Tweets. When asked about saving jobs and horses, McMeekin shows how in the dark he was on April 17th: Notice how he spells OHRIA wrong twice not once which would have been forgivable. To me, it shows he just doesn’t care:

“Key to ongoing horseracing industry is developing a new business model. OHIRA needs to work with OLG and host communities.”

”Slots at racetrack $ partnership will end March 31, 2013. Municipalities will work with OLG on any new business models.”

When asked about meeting with OHRIA:

“OHIRA and anyone else interested in developing a new horseracing/slot business model need to meet with OLG and municipality.”

“Industry has struggled and must be turned around. Sell as sport +entertainment. Work with municipality/OLG on new RFP model”

Totally out of touch with the fact that horse racing is a 4 year cycle:

“Call it whatever you want. Reality is that a new business plan needs to be develooped. Working with Hamilton to do exactly that.”

“You tell me. A viable busineess plan Involves telling your story, being innovative and finding a new model that works.”

“No one throwing away an industry. Like other businesses need a viable business plan. It's not up to gov to develop your plan.”

Someone mentions that horse racing generates over $1 billion in expenditures without slots:

“i like the way you're thinking. Time to get at it and not rely on government to ensure business viability.”

May work? May totally destroy the industry and its 60,000 jobs? Is this guy for real? How about the fact that the OLG new strategy is completely speculative and that much of that new revenue will fly out of the country to Vegas companies?:

“OLG saying new strategy fully rolled-out they will add $1 billion MORE than current revenue stream. Fewer viable tracks may work.”

“Old math vs new math. OLG projects their new approach will raise up to an additional $1 Billion. New business model coming.”

Here he is mocking another Twitter who asked that the government honour their old deal:

“Woulda, shoulda, coulda won't change anything. Slots/horse partnership as exists will terminate 03/13. Time for new busiiness plan”

April 19th. He seems to know a bit more. Congrats:

“simply put - OLG will develop in collaboration with municiipalities a series of venues - perhaps some tracks and other venues.”

Drummond never stated to end the program. Where is the review?, where is the job impact study?:

“Drummond called for a review and a new Business model. I spent some time talking with him about this and other things.”

When told the OLG keeps industry in the dark, and McMeekin is supposed to represent the horse racing industry. He accepts no responsibility:

“OLG is Ont Lottery and Gaming.Comes under perview of Ministry of Finance not Agriculture. Angry? Focus your comments to OLG.”

When asked about Hamilton and Flamboro April 20th:

“OHIRA is on it. They are seen as the "official voice" of the horseracing industry. That said I facilitated a Ham/OLG meeting.”

From May 1st and 2nd:

“SO largely privately operated now. Slots being redeveloped with willing-host municipalities and with new business models.”

“the decision to terminate the slots at racetrack program was taken by the OLG based on their land-based gaming strategy.”

Sounding like a pompous ass:

“Industry will survive with new business models. Can only predict future by creating it. Stop complaining/get to work”

When told he let rural Ontario down by voting for the budget, he accepted no responsibility:

“Decision made by the OLG not me. I believe horseracing will survive with new business model(s) and will work to that end.”

May 10th to present. He finally knows that there will only be rental agreements with the racetracks, so the deals will be between tracks and the new operators. He seems mixed up and clueless, oh and pompous and uncaring:

“so get on with developing new business models in concert with tracks/OLG and municipalities. Predict future by creating it.”

“Key is tracks/municipalities and horsemen working together to est. interest in new business model. Then discuss RFP with OLG.”

“I hear you. OHIRA/OLG the two key players on the horse side while municipalities/OLG will make RFP and venue decisions.”

Here he debates a PC MPP who supports the slots at track program. Again, he abstains himself of any responsibility but he does keep with the theme that he really doesn’t give a care what happens to the 60,000 people in the industry:

“Pointing fingers is easy and lazy. Use your skills to help OHIRA/OLG develop new effective business models”

“Try being honest rather than partisan. Decisions on horseracing were taken by OLG. OLG ?'s go to Minister of Finance”

My turn to confront him. I hate disingenuous behaviour. Again, he shows no knowledge that the industry is a 4 year cycle. It is kind of like telling a 64 year old that he won’t get his pension next year, but he “thinks” the industry can make a new plan by next year without much devastation:

 Cangamble: RU being blatantly dishonest or just plain ignorant. Drummond Report never stated to end slots program.

McMeekin: @Cangamble Talked openly about need for land-based gaming strategy and rationalization of slots at tracks. The study led to end of program.

Cangamble: @TedMcMeekin Horse crap sir. There was no study based on the Drummond Report the gov did. I don't know of 1 Drum. rec to be implemented.

 McMeekin: @Cangamble Gov. said all along Mr. Drummond would make recommend and the gov make decisions. Several Drummond recommends not implemented

McMeekin: @Cangamble OLG land-based study parallel to Mr. Drummonds work. The slots/track deal will end 3/31/13.Time to find alternative bus model."

Finally, he implies that the government (not the OLG) has been working on their plan to kill racing for two years. Consultations? With who?:

“Gov. is not one-dimentional. The study took two years. There was extensive consultation and then some tough decisions taken.”

I think any partial person can conclude that Ted McMeekin simply doesn't care what will happen to up to 60,000 people with jobs either directly related or partially related to the horse racing industry. It is hard not believe that McMeekin is nothing but Dalton McGuinty and Dwight Duncan's bitch who was given a political favour (yeah that happens) to get his new position. It may sound harsh, but I believe its true.

After all, if you check his resume, he has little experience with the agriculture industry, and obviously doesn't even understand the horse racing industry, or the repercussions of cutting the slots program with tracks within a year. Both he and Dwight Duncan don't even know the exact number of people who will be impacted by this "OLG decision." That isn't responsible government, not even close. He may appear to be like a pompous buffoon with his position and knowledge about the Ontario horse racing industry, but he still looks like a scholar compared to Finance Minister Dwight Duncan (my border collie does too, so I'm not saying much).

Both should do the right thing, and resign their positions yesterday. They make Ontario look like a farce. To call them embarrassments is to give them too much credit.

To check out McMeekin on Twitter (though he might close his account after I hit publish): @TedMcMeekin Dwight Duncan: @DwightDuncan And finally, if you like to laugh, here is parody Twitter site that mocks Dwight Duncan(It might actually reflect what Duncan is really thinking, not really saying): @HonestDwight I don't know about you, but I expect more from politicians than what I've seen from these elected officials.

8 May 2012

If OLG's Evil Plan Comes To Fruition There Will Be 6 Tracks Tops

It is amazing to me that the OLG's plan to destroy horse racing in Ontario hasn't been spelled out in full. Kind of gutless if you ask me, that details seem to trickle out every once in a while bit by bit.

 The campaign that Dalton McGuinty, Dwight Duncan, and the OLG have waged to date has been not only very deceitful but very confusing for everyone involved or keeping an eye on the developments. The slots for racing program is dead, but there was still a lot of ambiguity surrounding tracks still having slots in the future and profiting from it.

 Well, in the last week or so, some of the answers have been leaked out, and it amounts to horrible news for the racing industry. If the OLG gets their way, slots at racetracks will be run by casino operators who made a successful bid with the OLG on a track to track basis. The casino operator can't be anyone, it has to be a company that has operated casinos in the past, and a company most likely with a decent balance sheet. This means companies like Great Canadian Gaming, Caesars, and MGM (not sure if Larry Tanenbaum's Plaza Gaming and Entertainment have experience actually operating a casino) are the early front runners to takeover operating casinos from the OLG. I imagine, the OLG could still operate a casino or two if no acceptable bid comes in at certain tracks, but they would rather divest from it.  

In the end, these casino operators will wind up getting a subsidy with revenues of close to the amount that racetracks and Horsemen were getting. And much of that money will not be spent in Ontario.

Now, more news, which could have been guessed at, as come to surface. The tracks that still have slots in the future will only get revenue generated through rent to the operator.

How much rent? That can only be speculated upon, but it has to be enough to pay for the cannibalization that slots takes from parimutuel betting. There will be no onus to split the rent with the Horsemen, and no requirement to race in order to keep slots open.

 So here is how this will probably play out. Harness tracks that are for profit will shut down. None can be profitable right now on parimutuel wagering alone. In all likelihood, the tracks will either rent to the new operator or sell to the new operator, and then sell the land that isn't needed for the slots operation, including bulldozing the racetracks. Racetrack land isn't that easy to sell in most cases because of environmental damage to the site but that is a different story. Lands will be cleaned up, and tracks will be sold. Not for profit and non profit tracks may try to continue. Hanover, Clinton, Grand River, and Western Fair are owned by agricultural societies mandated to race.

The reality is that outside of Western Fair, handle is microscopic at the other venues, and even if they can stretch rent from the slots operators and the revenues from betting on horses, it is unlikely that any of these tracks will be able to race for more than 10-20 days a year each, and at much reduced purses. The only horse owners these tracks will attract are owner trainer driver types. Flamboro and Georgian Downs are both owned by Great Canadian Gaming. It is pretty much a given that GCG will operate and expand casinos in these locations, but it also pretty much a given that racing will cease at these locations as well. All other harness tracks, including Rideau Carleton will be toast. And unless a special deal is made, I doubt Ajax will have any incentive to run live races either.

As for Woodbine/Mohawk, they will survive as 60% of their operation is funded by wagering on horses, though Woodbine Entertainment may reevaluate whether to continue a racing operation in Mohawk. Woodbine also stands to gain a full cut of all wagering in home markets that cease to have racing in the future. As for their rental agreement, well that depends on whether Toronto is forced to have a referendum or not. If Woodbine is the only acceptable location for a casino, then they can ask for and get the moon from whichever casino operator takes over.

The same is true in other municipalities throughout Ontario. A mandatory referendum for expanded casinos will slightly help the horse racing industry in getting better rental deals, but not enough to save the 10 tracks that will be eliminated from racing....unless lawsuits come about or the Ontario government changes its direction (OHRIA seems to be the only hope available to sway the government), there will be carnage brought upon most of the 60,000 people who derive all or some of their income thanks to the horse racing industry.

As for Fort Erie, these new revelation have me wondering what the EDTC thinks they can possibly accomplish by asking to run the casino and paying the government $1 million a year. First, they don't qualify to run a casino, and secondly, the government isn't interested at all in a million dollars a year, from a competitor to their Niagara Casinos.

Again, an enormous case can be made that a B thoroughbred track in needed in Ontario to keep the industry from dying, but the government doesn't seem to care about keeping the industry from dying, in fact, they are the one pulling plug.

 Keeping everyone in the dark got the budget through. What I learned about politics through this: Andrea Horwath looks like a dupe. Minister of Agriculture Ted McMeekin proved himself to be a Liberal Party shill, and Propaganda Minister Dwight Duncan is either the biggest idiot on this planet or one of the biggest liars on this planet.

I'm not the only one who shares this opinion of Duncan. Yesterday, in Ontario Legislature, PC MPP Jeff Yurek deservedly ripped Duncan apart:

`I think one of the problems is that the Minister of Finance just isn’t understanding finance. For instance, up until yesterday, the government was very adamant about cutting the so-called subsidies to the horse racing industry. When you use the term “subsidy,” this sounds like a very reasonable thing to do. After all, a subsidy uses money collected through taxes and puts it forward to some program or business. If, in fact, the government is paying the horse industry a subsidy, cutting it would enhance the province’s fiscal position.

But I have just one question for the Minister of Finance: Does the government use tax revenue to subsidize the horse industry through the slots-at-raceways program? The answer is no. I would hope the government realizes this, because the agreement between the OLG and the horse industry is very clear. The horse industry does not receive a dime until someone inserts a coin into a slot machine located at their track. This is not a subsidy; it’s actually a revenue-sharing agreement. I’m sure the minister will tell me he has made some responsible concessions.

The reason I bring this up is because before the budget was released, the Minister of Finance made the slots-at-raceways program a very big and public issue. Given the amount of time he has dedicated to talking about it, one would be forgiven for thinking that this one measure in itself might balance the budget. He tried using an example of how the government was going to prioritize health care and education over less pertinent items. In all his tough talk, the minister failed to mention how he would make up the $1 billion in profit the government receives from the program. That’s right. One program, the slots-at-racetracks program, is not a subsidy, but it actually is providing $1 billion that is used to fund essential services like health care and education.

This is our Minister of Finance: someone who doesn’t know the difference between an inflow and an outflow, a subsidy from a revenue-sharing agreement. This is the man in charge of the province’s finances, a man who would cut a revenue source that provides $1 billion each year just because he doesn’t know the definition of the word “subsidy.” It’s either that or all the minister’s talk of horse racing was less about actual finance but instead a political game he was playing to stick it to rural Ontario.`

3 May 2012

Chantal Sutherland Nude? You Decide! Oh, And My Derby Picks

Just did a Google search on the internet and I found this alleged picture of Chantal Sutherland that was allegedly in Vanity Fair, allegedly taken by Bo Derek:
My Kentucky Derby Picks I like Hansen. Ramon Dominguez is arguably the best jockey in North America, and he got to choose between two contenders. He picked Hansen. Hansen had a real good speed figure two starts ago, came back 42 days later to run a great prep race, leading on polytrack most of the way in pretty quick fractions. With that race under his belt, I expect a peak performance. The gamble is can he rate? I think he can. Trinniberg figures to take no prisoners, and morning line favorite Bodemeister won't be too far off in second. I question whether this one can rate, so I am pitching him. Alpha, the horse Dominguez didn't choose looks like he'll be part of the exotics when the official sign goes up. Creative Cause can also roll in for a piece of the pie. He hasn't been worse than 3rd in 8 mostly difficult races. The Cangamble long shot is Optimizer. I expect a perfect trip and he is prime to reverse his form from that last start. His previous race makes him a contender.