Sunday, April 26, 2015

New Horse Racing Survey - Please Share Your Opinion

HANA was contacted to distribute the following Thoroughbred racing survey for horseplayer feedback. Would you please consider filling it out to have your voice heard?

Here is the link - 

Thanks very much,

Your HANA Team

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Rainbow Six Mandatory Expected Pools, Advantage Chart

Michael Antoniades - Chicago Racing Analyst

 In 1941 when the legendary actor Humphrey Bogart described the quest for The Maltese Falcon as “the stuff that dreams are made of “, this was the moment he was talking about. This afternoon at Gulfstream Park will culminate the quest for the Rainbow Six with a mandatory payout that will likely tilt the odds in the players favor, resulting in one of the largest Pick 6 pool in American racing history.

The carryover going into Saturday is $1,453,762. The 20 cent wager will start on Race six with a scheduled post time of 3:30 eastern. Based on past performance, a seven digit payoff is possible. The record payoff on the Rainbow Six was last year, when Dan Borislow took down the entire pool which returned a record $6,678.939 for twenty cents.  In 2012 one single winner in New Jersey took home $3,591,245.

Considering the investment opportunity presented by Sunday’s Rainbow 6 will be one of the greatest ever, I will estimate a Saturday pool of $7,000,000 which includes the carryover. The chart below demonstrates this rare scenario that will pay the winners more than the amount wagered if the final pool is less than $8,700,000. Gulfstream Park has delivered an unforgettable afternoon and possibly the chance of a lifetime. The players thank you.

Note - Other bets today worth looking into from a players advantage is the Prairie Meadows Pick 4 carryover, the Turf Paradise pick 5 carryover; as well as the 12% Pimlico Pick 5. On the "Higher Takeout Alert" scale, the Woodbine Pick 5 is 25% takeout, and Churchill Downs' pick 5 is 22%. Churchill Downs is still under a boycott from horseplayers

Good luck everyone.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Seven Questions with John Doyle

This piece with former National Handicapping Championship winner John Doyle originally appeared in the April edition of Horseplayer Monthly.  To read the rest of the issue, FOR FREE, please click here. 

Q:  What is your favorite track to play, and why?  

A:  Gulfstream Park has decent takeout rates, big fields, attractive prices and the best winter turf racing. Gulfstream is all simulcast for me. Santa Anita is my favorite on site experience. They have put some money in the facility and it shows. They do seem to be more player centric since Tom Lute has taken over.  In the past year I had some great customer experiences there while participating in handicapping contests.  Del Mar is a great venue and location and Keeneland’s racing experience is right up there.

Q:  Familiarity with a training colony or riding colony (along with the horses) drives betting at some staple racetracks, and it's hard for other tracks to gain market share. What would a newer, smaller signal track have to do to entice you to patronize their betting pools?  

A:  My big beef with tracks is their lack of transparency, information and customer communication. It's like pulling teeth to get any information. The silence sometimes is deafening. So, a new or existing track addressing some of the items listed below would get my attention.

•    Make stewards and jockey communications public during inquiries
•    Display greater transparency on track conditions (not just it's fast) , horse injuries, medications, shoe information, tote irregularities, trainer/jockey suspensions
•    Report more information with public workouts (times, note, workout partners and trainer comments)
•    Explain tote delays
•    Update us on jockey and horse injuries that have occurred
•    Broadcast in high definition video
•    Provide good paddock watching professional who can supply information and changes in horses   condition race to race (i.e Hong Kong)
•    Base all payouts on 1.00 standard. (current payouts are all over place $2, $1, .50c .10c)
•    Keep number of live pick-4 , pick-5 , pick-6 tickets displayed at all times
•    Keep odds and probable payouts posted while broadcasting replays
•    Improve photo finish technology, it's outdated and erroneous

Q:  Can you name a track that you may have discovered within the last few years who you feel is doing most of the right things to entice you to become a customer?  

A:  Again I like Gulfstream and Santa Anita. You can say what you want about Stronach, but he is committed to the sport and he puts his money up. And Gulfstream must be horseman-friendly because the field sizes are tremendous. However both Santa Anita and Gulfstream are culprits of some of the items I discussed in point two.

Q:  If you could only play the races (not as a spectator, but as a bettor searching for interesting races and betting value) one day a year (e.g. Breeders' Cup Saturday, Derby day etc), which day would you choose? 

A:  I would have to say Breeders' Cup. It's two days. It's generally in a more climate friendly venue. Plus for me the Kentucky Derby is usually the biggest crapshoot from a betting perspective.

Q:  The State of the Industry for Customers is ________ Pick one: Poor and needs a ton of work, Ok, but it needs some work, Fine, could be better, with a couple of small tweaks, Great, I am totally satisfied.  

A:  It varies from circuit to circuit, but my average grade would be OK, but it needs work. A lot of work.

Q:  What is the number one thing a racetrack could do to entice you to bet more?  

A:  Take less and show their appreciation more.

Q:  For a little fun question: Who will win the Kentucky Derby?  

A:  Derby picking is not my forte. California Chrome was my first derby winner since Street Sense. The race is impossible to handicap. However, I think American Pharoah is something special and could even be the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Make Your Voice Heard on Pari-Mutuel Tax Withholding

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association-led fight to change withholding and reporting when it comes to pari-mutuel winnings is moving forward, and the NTRA is seeking horseplayer help with this issue.

According to a press release issued on Tuesday, "The NTRA encourages horseplayers, fans and industry stakeholders who will be positively impacted if the proposed changes are adopted to submit their own comments to Treasury and the IRS using a simple form now available online at

“The two-step process can be completed in Secretariat time – under two minutes,” said NTRA Senior Vice President Keith Chamblin, referring to the 1973 Triple Crown winner’s Kentucky Derby record of 1:59 2/5. 

The form creates a customized message from the sender’s own e-mail address populated with suggested language crafted by the NTRA and submits it directly to the Treasury."

Thank you in advance.

Your HANA Team

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Woodbine High Take Pick 5 Comment, on Behalf of the Smaller Player

We have left this comment on a Canadian website that is focused on Woodbine. We have been trying to spread the word that all tracks should highlight takeout rates for all new bets, good and bad, as a matter of course. Large players (rebated) are affected less when a high takeout bet is brought in (their rebate goes up), but the smaller player, we feel, needs to know exactly what they are paying as a customer.

The emails and comments we have received so far are not from large players (we have received some), as much as the smaller player who feels marginalized. Maybe your voice will not be listened to, but as a customer advocacy group, we will ensure people at least see it.

Woodbine has been made aware of your feelings.

Hi Jen,

We at HANA have not done anything, yet, other than let horseplayers know that the takeout for the pick 5 at Woodbine is well above average, and let Woodbine know they must as a business, let customers know what that new takeout rate is.

The pick 5 is a bet that smaller to mid-sized players have come to support, because tracks North America-wide have provided them with lower takeout and bigger payoffs. The current industry average stands at approximately 15%, and the last few pick 5's created were:

Northlands Park, 10%
Pimlico (Stronach), 12%
NYRA - Belmont, Aqueduct, Saratoga 15%
Santa Anita, Del Mar, etc, 14%

As you can see, customers are conditioned to play them, and they will likely blindly play them at Woodbine *thinking* they are getting a good deal. They are not. Their payoffs will be up to 16% to 17% lower.

Woodbine can do whatever they wish; however, not telling horseplayers in programs and on the track feed they are getting lower payoffs for bets they expect to be good is where we must step in on their behalf.

It's a shame Woodbine did not come in with a lower takeout pick 5 like other tracks. They have been doing some good things in the US market, and this, in our view (and looking at chatboards and our email inbox) has set them back in the States.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, April 9, 2015

For Immediate Release: Kentucky Downs Tops the 7th Annual Horseplayers Association of North America Racetrack Rankings

(Charlottesville, VA, April 9, 2015) Kentucky Downs, the Franklin, Kentucky racetrack that races a short, all-turf meet, has topped the 2015 HANA Racetrack Rankings. Kentucky Downs unseated Keeneland, who led the rankings for the first six years.

The HANA Racetrack Ratings are based on an algorithm using factors indicative of horseplayer betting value, gleaned from both empirical and academic study. Key factors including takeout rate, field size, wager variety, pool size, and signal distribution are analyzed track by track and weighted to produce a final composite score. The rankings are supervised by HANA board member Charlie Davis, a professional horseplayer, and Industry Analyst Mike Dorr, a graduate of Vanderbilt University's Owen Graduate School of Management.

"With low takeout and a field size over ten horses per race, Kentucky Downs has definitely given horseplayers something to get excited about," said HANA President Jeff Platt. “Despite the short meet, the ratings algorithm does not discriminate when it comes to value; Kentucky Downs has it and horseplayers have been responding.”

“It is gratifying to be recognized for our efforts,” said Kentucky Downs President Corey Johnsen.“Providing the horseplayer value drives virtually every decision we make at Kentucky Downs. As our formula continues to be successful and handle increases - which produces more purse money - then it is a win-win-win for the fans, horsemen and track.”

For a list of all tracks rated one through sixty two, full ratings coverage including statistics, analysis, track executive and horseplayer interviews, please visit, “Horseplayer Monthly”, our free e-magazine at this link.

For a web copy of this release, please visit here:


 The Horseplayers Association of North America is a 3,000 strong grassroots group of horseplayers who are not affiliated with any industry organization. HANA hopes, through proactive change on several key issues (including but not limited to), open signal access, lower effective takeouts, affordable data and customer appreciation, the industry’s handle losses can be reversed. Joining HANA is free.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Bettor Alert: Woodbine Comes After Horseplayer Money with a High Takeout Pick 5

One of the best bets for Horseplayers the past few years has been the lower takeout pick 5. Beginning with Monmouth (15%), and later on at California racetracks (14% Players Pick 5) and NYRA (15%), this bet has been a staple.

Just this year, Pimlico, trying to get people interested in their product, created a 12% takeout pick 5, and Northlands Park in Canada, one at 10%.

Woodbine in Rexdale Ontario, did pretty much the inexplicable. They created a 25% takeout pick 5;  well above the average price, and over double, Pimlico's.

We had heard earlier in the week this was occurring, but finally got information today. Yes, we have seen your emails upset about this wager.

Woodbine, and Ontario, lost slot machine revenue in 2012. The government mandate for continued funding for the track was to "grow wagering" and show customers more appreciation and more value. I highly suspect they will be none too pleased with a bet that achieves the opposite.

We wanted you to be aware of this new bet, and how deleterious to value it is. There are clearly other racetracks who care about you and your wagering dollars, so shop accordingly.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Equibase Adds Voided Claim Information

Equibase Company has announced that effective immediately it will include in its data feeds, result charts, and Equibase past performance products information on claims that were subsequently voided. The voided claim information is also being made available to tracks for inclusion in race programs nationwide.

"As specific voided claim rules have become more prevalent at racetracks in North America, it made sense to broaden the dissemination of the information as a service to the betting public," said Hank Zeitlin, president and chief operating officer of Equibase.

Claimed horses, which are denoted with a 'c' at the end of the race information within Equibase past performances, now include a 'v' to indicate when the claim was subsequently voided. The result charts on are denoted with "claim voided" text and also include the recorded reason for the voided claim.

Equibase also announced that effective immediately result charts available on now include the full race conditions for all races.

Now in its 25th year of operation, Equibase Company is a partnership between subsidiaries of The Jockey Club and the Thoroughbred Racing Associations of North America and serves as the Thoroughbred industry's official database. Through its website, mobile platform and mobile applications, Equibase offers a comprehensive array of free statistical information as well as premium handicapping products and reports in support of the North American Thoroughbred racing industry.

Friday, March 27, 2015

A Comment from an Industry Analyst

We received a comment on yesterday's blog piece from Michael - a long time Thoroughbred and harness horseplayer and an industry employee - who has been changing the way the sport (in this case, harness racing) is being wagered. Michael has been the impetus behind some lower takeout wagers, which have seen some tremendous growth.

The industry has come a long way regarding takeout and the best operators have responded by listening to horseplayers. Five years ago if you wanted to play into a big pool with a low takeout there was the Meadowlands Pick Four offered at 15 per cent. That was it. Take a look at the low takeout wagering landscape today.

     Last Saturday night, The USTA Strategic Wagering platform offered these three Pick Four pools, all on one mile ovals with a reduced takeout. The Meadowlands pool was $80,451 , Balmoral Park followed with a pool of $34,659 and Cal Expo closed out the night with a pool of $41,792.  Earlier in the week two half mile tracks sported very solid Pick Four pools as well. On Wednesday March 18, the Northfield Park pool swelled to $19,535 five days after the Maywood Park Pick Four pool totaled a season high $19,161. Combine that with the success Greg is having with his low takeout wagers at Western Fair and you see that horseplayers are supporting these wagers passionately.

     Low takeout jackpot wagers have made headlines too. Last Saturday one player won over $65,000 for a dime at Cal Expo and two weeks ago one lucky player won $200,000 at The Meadowlands on a twenty cent bet. Pompano had a twenty cent jackpot bet pay $146,288 in February. This all pales in comparison to what could happen at Woodbine onSaturday, April 4.

     In the event that a single winner does not hit the Jackpot High Five in the next three racing days, Woodbine will offer a mandatory payout the night before Easter Sunday. With a 15 per cent takeout and a twenty cent minimum, I estimate a pool of $3,000,000. More importantly, it is a certainty that the bet will pay out significantly more than the money that is wagered on that night because of the combination of  low takeout and a carryover, creating the rarest of wagering opportunities.

     Using the $3,000,000 estimated pool as an example, an $800,000 carryover combined with $2,200,000 in new money would create a net pool of $2,670,000. This example would show a surplus of $470,000, making the player advantage over 21%. The low takeout is the sole reason this opportunity exists for the players and WEG should be applauded for their efforts and their vision in this endeavor.

     In conclusion, always remember that the horseplayer support of these low takeout bets the last five years made it possible for what you see today. And for your unwavering support of this industry, we thank you.

Michael Antoniades

Thursday, March 26, 2015

How a Small Ontario Harness Track Outhandles Gulfstream

On Tuesday, at Western Fair Raceway in London, Ontario, the Super High Five pool - the regular pool, no carryover - handled close to $18,000.

In South Florida, at Gulfstream Park - the same day - the Super High Five pool handled just over $10,000.

No, we won't compare other pools, and we realize that Gulfstream is one of the most popular racetracks to wager in North America. But, this is fairly stunning. Not long ago Western Fair could barely handle $150,000 per day. One day this year they handled over $700,000, and their Super High Five pool has reached a pool size where things are snowballing.

Greg Blanchard, Western's GM, with a comment yesterday:

"Speaking as a smaller track operator at Western Fair, the Super Hi-5 has become a 'go to' wager for us, especially when there's a carryover. We've seen pools with upwards of $40,000 of new money wagered after carryovers, there's no way we'd generate that type of single pool size typically. This is a substantial single pool for a track of our stature. These type of wagers have helped us a lot and offer something that horseplayers are looking for."

This did not happen overnight.

First they created the bet with a 15% rake, to highlight it to the masses. Then, each day, they continued it and promoted it the best they could. When they do get a carryover (note carryovers are lower takeout), the masses started to pay attention more and more.

Second, it's a harder to hit bet, on a half mile track which is formful. It allowed for better payoffs.

Third, its 20 cent minimum was liked by average or mid-sized players.

We often hear small tracks have no hope to grow handle. In some cases that may be true, but Western Fair proves that when you offer a bet with some value, over time, players will come knocking. Congratulations to Greg and his team.

Note: Yesterday evening we learned that the takeout rates on the Dubai World Cup card are 27% for exotics and (we just learned) 20% WPS.  It has been that way the entire meet. As far as North America goes, Mike Dorr and Charlie Davis have been feverishly compiling data from racetracks, and the 2015 Track Ratings will be released in the Horseplayer Monthly magazine (monthly issues are free here), within a couple of weeks.

- Thanks to Michael A from Balmoral for pointing out the Gulfstream/Western Fair handle numbers to us.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Maryland Betting Menu Changes Are Coming

Tim Ritvo, from an article today in Thoroughbred Commentary:
  •  “[Lowing the takeout] requires racing commission approval,” Ritvo commented. “The horsemen are involved, too, so everyone has to go as an unified force. Basically, we all will take a small revenue hit, but we’re hoping we increase handle and churn so we can grow our business. We’re pretty sure the horseplayer will be satisfied with this move in the right direction.”
  •  Creating a cohesive racing circuit will not take place overnight but in the meantime horseplayers will have something to look forward to when the Pimlico meet opens April 2. It was recently announced that Pimlico will offer a pick five with an industry low 12-percent takeout*.
  •  “We’re hopeful that horsemen’s groups around the country understand that the days of five or six-horse fields aren’t attractive to the public and that bigger fields creates a larger handle and a bigger pool of money,

If this succeeds (and we have not seen the proposed betting menu for Laurel yet, which we all agree needs serious work), this is clearly a step in the right direction for the betting public. Since the betting public pays, for the most part, purses, it's hopeful for the industry and horsemen, as well.

 * - Northlands Park has a 10% pick 5 takeout. It opens again in May.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Policies Like This Are a Reason People Leave

Today a horseplayer from California blasted this out to his email list.

"I use Xpressbet (Magna's online wagering platform) and easily achieved Diamond status. What I didn’t do is read the fine print where residents of California are NOT eligible for Diamond bonus points.  At least 90% of the money I wager is on southern California Racing I am a California resident who supports California Racing but for some crazy reason get treated worse than someone in just about all other states who take bets on California Racing.  Does that seem fair? How can anyone justify this practice?"

"Diamond status" is a points level at Xpressbet, just like Twinspires or other ADW's have. Points are given out based on play, and perks like free Fedex withdrawals and free deposits are offered.

Because Andy lives in California, he does not get these perks (it's an old "law" to protect a fiefdom).

In the post "Stupid is a brand killer" a business author listed several ways to turn off customers.

"Charge different prices at different outlets and shrug your shoulders when you get found out."
"Put the important information in your terms and conditions, in little tiny type."

If Andy played Draftkings or Fanduel in the growing world of fantasy sports he would have no such issue. California players do not have a different prize structure for starting a good football team. If Andy went to a slot machine he would not have to show ID to be eligible for a free dinner if he played a lot of hours at the machine and earned points. Earning points for weapons on the Kate Upton fueled "Game of War" is not different by state.

Horse racing blames other games, the modern world, the economy, and hundreds of other things for why horseplayers have left horse racing. The above is a prime example why people move offshore, or leave horse racing altogether. It shows a disrespect to customers, and customers can only take so much before moving on.

This policy - and policies like it - are old, archaic, anti-customer and bad for the long-term health of horse racing. California should abolish it as soon as possible.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Angst Analyzes Payout Trends (With Some Horseplayer Help)

Today Frank Angst posted a link to his Bloodhorse piece about the declining level of exacta and trifecta payouts.

It's an interesting article with comments from HANA President and long time horseplayer (and data modeler) Jeff Platt. This trend has been going on for some time, and sharp money, along with higher and higher takeouts are playing a huge part.

We at HANA have looked at this experience in the past. Part of the HANA Ratings team, Mike Dorr, penned an article not long ago in the Horseplayer Monthly magazine (pdf) regarding it.

Of note, this month's Horseplayer Monthly was released just yesterday, (download your free copy here)

We thank Frank for talking about this issue, and consulting with horseplayers, some of whom study and work hard on these issues to make horse racing a better game for everyone.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

It's All We as Customers Ask of Racetracks: Make An Effort

Many years ago now, after commissioning a survey of horseplayers and discussing and scouring the economic research, we saw and heard horseplayers wanted bigger fields, lower takeout, and better betting races. Not long after, the very first Racetrack Ratings were developed. The criteria of what makes a good racetrack? Exactly what you and the literature told us.

We worked on the racetrack ratings in the first place for a number of reasons. Horseplayers, we felt, needed a resource for takeout rates, field size, handle size etc - the information on the web, in programs and racing forms were woefully outdated, and wrong - to make better betting decisions. We also thought that tracks might take notice of them, and see if they could improve their product, jump up in the rankings, and in the process, give us a better product to bet. After all, if we bet more money on a better product, doesn't everyone win? Especially long term?

Over the years we have heard from some executives that were paying attention to their rankings and where they fit in the betting landscape. Often times we have heard them say "we are going to try and improve." People like John Marshall at Calder and Corey Johnson at Kentucky Downs were two such fine folks. I think we might have to add Tim Ritvo to the list.

Today at The Racing Biz, Mr. Ritvo expressed his thoughts on rejuvinating Maryland's racetracks, particularly Laurel.

“Eventually, real soon, you will see a reduction in takeout in Maryland, which isn’t hard to do because, basically, we’re about 45th on the [takeout]  list and I want to get in the top 15,” he says.  “So I’ll look at those numbers and see what we need to do to get there.  If I’m in the mix of the top 15, then I’m asking [bettors] to look at my product again.”

It's all we ask as customers. Make an effort. How can your track card better betting races. Can your track lower takeout, increasing payouts, where bettors are encouraged to come back, bet more and enjoy themselves more than they used to? Can your track offer their signal to ADW's so we don't need three accounts to give you our money?

Mr. Ritvo seems to be asking those questions. He seems to want us to look at the Maryland racing product again. He's asking for our business. If he succeeds and gives us a chance, we should all give Maryland racing a look once again.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Fix the Splits in the Simulcast Model? Here's an Easy Solution

You've heard about it and so have we. Track A sells their signal to track B for 9%, when takeout is 21%. Everyone seems to lament that the bet taker gets 12% and the track that puts on the races gets 9%. It should be the other way around, says the racetracks.

This is why some of you can't bet Gulfstream at your simo center this winter. It's a big fight.

Magna has some big plans to fix this. From the Bloodhorse "Stronach Group Targets Fundamental Issues"

"Rogers noted the early simulcast model—still largely in place in the industry—that rewards the receiver of a racing signal more revenue than the sending track is problematic and should be reworked. "The days of the buyer importing the signal cheap and keeping most of the revenue (from wagering) are probably coming to an end," Rogers said. "The Stronach Group will do everything possible to deliver a maximum return on the product."

Magna seems sincere about this, and their only goal is to change the "days of the buyer importing the signal cheap and keeping most of the revenue". 

If so, we've got the answer. 

Gulfstream, which sells their signal for 9%, can keep doing that (so they make the same money), but they should lower their takeout to 14%. That way, they get 9% and the bet taker gets 5%, which is "most of the revenue".

Problem solved!

If you are laughing, I don't blame you. Tracks do not want to lower takeout. They want a bigger slice of a high takeout.

That's why you'll hear an echo chamber on twitter or social media from the customers about Mr. Rogers and Magna trying to "fix fundamental issues" in the sport.  It's not fixing them, it's shuffling around the deck chairs.

If the Stronach Group really is sincere about real change, we're here to help any way we can.

Note: Is 14% workable? Probably. Did you know Australian racing passed a law that at maximum 16% could be taken out of any pool? All tracks had to abide by it. In 2014, Australia set a wagering record, and the health of the horse racing business there is considered much better than in North America.