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for takeout rates, field size, handle size etc - the information on the web, in programs and racing forms were woefully outdated, and wrong - to make better betting decisions.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.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

2015's First Horseplayer Monthly Ready to Go

This month's Horseplayer Monthly emagazine, is close to hitting the virtual bookshelves.

The issue is jammed with handicapping articles, and we're pretty proud of them.

We've got Craig from Timeform looking at Turf, and it's sure to help you. We've got Jarod Dinkin's views on the NHC, and another excellent article from Ross Gallo on Tourney play.

We've got a look at Daily Fantasy Sports and their place beside horse racing, education of bettors, Barry Meadow talking some redboarding, and Lenny Moon looking at what pools to bet, depending on your bankrolls.

We've got an excellent harness section, led by Garnet Barnsdale. Fun 2015 Prop bets, that you probably won't see at Wynn anytime soon, and our usual back page stats. This month those take a look at recency angles, in light of the changes at NYRA.

We hope you give it a read and pass it along to your friends. As always, thanks to all the writers, and thanks to you for reading it, and for all your support.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Bettors' Paradise Tonight at Cal Expo

Bettors across North America will put the spotlight on California harness racing on Sunday with a diverse menu of wagering opportunities. There will be mandatory payouts, big pools, low takeouts and one big carryover. 
Cal Expo offers four wagers with a low 16% takeout. Those bets are the 20 cent Pick Four, 50 cent Pick Five, 10 cent High Five and the marquee wager of the night, the 10 cent Pick Six. The Sunday Pick Six has a carryover of $22,655 and most importantly a mandatory payout. The ten cent wager begins on race three with a post time of 8:20 Eastern and 5:20 Pacific .The tickets with the most winners share the entire pool and with the increased interest, the 10 cent Pick Six pool is guaranteed at $50,000 tonight. 

The Sunday Pick Four starts on race seven. The guaranteed pool is $20,000 and the minimum wager is twenty cents. The Saturday Pick Four pool reached $40,318 and the twenty cent payout was $2,820.20. Free program pages for the Pick Six and Pick Four are now available courtesy of the USTA and Track Master at Twenty cent trifecta and ten cent superfecta wagering are offered every night.

(Cal Expo release)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Churchill Downs 2014 Handle Is Decimated

As reported by Greg Hall, Churchill Downs fall handle, like that in the September and spring meets, was down by double digits.

"Betting on Churchill Downs' fall meet that ended Sunday fell 15.68 percent per day, according to statistics released Tuesday by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.The declines mean all three of this year's meets saw double-digit drops in wagering"

Earlier this year, mainly in the turf press, field size was blamed for most of Churchill's handle woes. This most recent 15.68% average handle drop was accompanied by a relatively minor 2.8% drop in field size to 8.56 (about 0.2 horses per race). 

You told us in a survey in April, when Churchill raised the takeout, that you were upset and planning not to play their track any longer. It appears a lot of you followed through. With national handles down about 2%, there is no other way to describe Churchill's 2014 handle other than pure decimation.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"Superconsumers". In Terms of Bettors, That's You

h/t to Melissa Nolan, Make Your Best Customers Even Better:

" The most important thing we’ve learned in our work with companies that have decided to focus on superconsumers is that the new strategy can become a rallying cry for an organization—particularly one that has been marketing an old, slow-growing product perceived as unexciting. Like many of the best strategies, it is simple to explain, it appeals to logic, and it is easy to back up with data. “To be honest, I was a nonbeliever at first,” says Cannon Koo, the director of analytics at Kraft Foods. “I thought, How are these consumers any different from heavy users? But as we did more and more research, we began uncovering more and more insights that were quite different from what we were used to seeing from heavy users.” Today the Velveeta team uses the superconsumer strategy to plan its media buying, trade promotions, and new-product lines. The brand’s general manager says that in his nine years at the company, he’s never seen a more tightly integrated brand plan."
 You the superuser (click to enlarge). Almost six in ten of you in our survey play every day or several days a week

Monday, November 10, 2014

Dissecting the Breeders' Cup Saturday Pick 6 Standards

Horseplayer Maury Wolff and our friends at TimeformUS had a look at the change in the Breeders' Cup Pick 6 payout policy, which resulted in the first carryover into the next (non-Breeders' Cup) card, instead of paying out the pool on five out of six.

Wolff writes-

"After the penultimate race of 2014 Breeders’ Cup Saturday, will-pays flashed across screens and it became clear there was about to be a first in BC history: There would be a Pick 6 carryover into Sunday’s (non-Breeders’ Cup) card. Instead of completely distributing the Pick 6 pool on BC Saturday to those who had 5 of the 6 winners, $1.3 million of the pool was carried over to the Sunday card. The impact on those who managed to hit 5 of 6 despite Saturday’s results? Instead of winning around $375,000, five winning tickets got only about $114,000 each.

Why wasn’t the pool distributed on Saturday?

Last year, the BC quietly changed its longstanding policy regarding distribution of the Pick 6. I read about it in some fine print in a DRF story. Since there were many perfect tickets last year, it didn’t get any attention. This year, the same policy was in effect, and again I saw only one mention of it. Most of the regular horseplayers I have talked with were unaware of the change. It seems unlikely that many fans who play only on racing’s big days knew about it."

To read the rest of Maury's piece, please click here.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Santa Anita Post Position Analysis

This article by Craig Milkowski from TimeformUS appears in the Breeders' Cup edition of Horseplayer Monthly.  To read the rest of the issue, FOR FREE, please click here.

Post position is an important, but often misunderstood, piece of the handicapping puzzle.  The following analysis is based on the last four years of racing at Santa Anita.  Sadly, there isn’t enough data for races at nine furlongs or greater to draw any meaningful conclusions, but that still leaves nine of the 13 races worthy of analysis.  The Santa Anita dirt surface was changed prior to the fall meet, but since post position trends are impacted much more by track layout than the surface itself, the older data is relevant. 

The analysis below is based not on win percentage at “general” distances like sprint or route, but on specific distances using Impact Values and Return on Investment (ROI).  The former incorporates differing field sizes into the equation, while the latter adds quality of the horses drawn in each post.   Post position stats should not be final decision makers, but they should be used as a means of upgrading and downgrading horses viewed as contenders.

Dirt, Six Furlongs (Sprint)
This distance favors horses drawn in the middle of the gate.  The inside four post positions all perform below average.  Posts five through 10 are well above average as a group with some minor fluctuations between those posts.  Posts 11 and wider are well below average.

Dirt, Seven Furlongs (Filly and Mare Sprint)
The inside posts (one through five) perform well below expectations as a group.  All others as a group are excellent draws, the farther out the better.

Dirt, Eight Furlongs (Dirt Mile)
Surprisingly, there are no real trends here.  The inside wins more than expected, but also tends to be bet to do so, thus ROI statistics even things out.  There is very little data outside of post 10, however.  Tread lightly with horses drawn in posts 11-14.

Dirt, Eight and a Half Furlongs (Juvenile, Juvenile Fillies)
The rail has been a poor draw at this distance, but posts two through six are strong, seven through nine are average, and outside of that is poor with light data.

Turf, About Six and a Half Furlongs (Turf Sprint)
Posts one through five all perform below average.  Posts six through 12 are very strong, probably the biggest post edge at Santa Anita overall.  Posts 13 and 14 have not had enough runners for any real conclusions, but the trend would indicate those stalls won’t be at a disadvantage, at the least. 

Turf, One Mile (Mile, Juvenile Turf, Juvenile Fillies Turf)
The inside six post positions hold a strong edge at this distance.  The rest are poor, though again, little data exists for the outside two post positions, 13 and 14.  It is hard to imagine they would not follow the trend and be poor.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Breeders' Cup Q & A

This Q & A segment with Mike Adams (@GateToWire) is one of several with some sharp handicappers in the Breeders' Cup edition of Horseplayer Monthly.  To read the rest of the issue, FOR FREE, please click here. 

1.  What horse are you most excited to bet in the Breeders' Cup & why? Telescope – Turf – His best efforts have come at a mile and a half. He has been off since the end of August with this race as the main goal. He has been just a step behind the best in Europe this year (Australia, The Grey Gatsby, Taghrooda, etc.) and having the best jockey in the world, Ryan Moore won’t hurt either. 

2.  What horse are you most excited to bet against in the Breeders' Cup & why?  Hootenanny in the Juvenile Turf.  I am not sure Hootenanny will be the favorite at post time but if he is feel free to bet against him. This will be his first effort past six furlongs and I have serious questions if he can compete with these at a mile. His breeding (Quality Road out of a Hennessy mare) is typically maxed out at a mile. His sister Love This Kitty (trained by Michael Matz) has one win in seven starts and has never even raced past six furlongs. Hootenanny’s dam, More Hennessy only raced once and all of her siblings (seven of them) were all sprinters with next to zero success past six furlongs. 

3.  Are you concerned about track bias again this year or do you think they learned their lesson from 2013? I am always concerned about track bias on big days because it keeps happening at track after track.  Hopefully the complaints from Friday last year will ensure a fair track. 

4.  My favorite go-to bet for Breeders’ Cup day(s) is: I’m a grinder so I feel that the BC value is in the Exacta pool. Full fields will give you value across the board making the exactas the right mix of value and ease to hit. I will dip into the pick three and pick four pools on BC day but sometimes stringing together three-four winners can be difficult. 

5.  What bet would you advise a newbie to focus on for the Breeders’ Cup? Win and Exacta. Pick out a horse you like. Make a nice win bet and then play that same horse first and second in exacta wheels with four or five other contenders. Low cost, fun and a chance to win some nice money. 

6.  The Euros have been dominant this year on North American grass. Will this continue on the Santa Anita green? Yes, I think the Euros will take all of the grass races except the Turf Sprint. The two-year-olds look good and the older horses should eat up the top US grass horses. 

7.  Who is your favorite longshot? Cigar Street in the Classic and Silentio in the Turf Sprint.

8.  Will big public money on Shared Belief and California Chrome make them unbettable in the win pools? Yes, I think both Shared Belief and California Chrome figure to be big underlays. This should make Cigar Street and Tonalist both nice overlays who have big shots to win.

From This Edition of Horseplayer Monthly...

This article by Dave Valento appears in the Breeders' Cup edition of Horseplayer Monthly.  To read the issue in its entirety, FOR FREE, please click here.

In 1992, A. P. Indy (Neil Drysdale) capped off a superb three-year old season by winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic.  He defeated a full field of 13 rivals as the 2-1 favorite and did it from off the pace in a hand ride.  The path that A. P. Indy took during his three-year old season is very similar to that of Tonalist (Christophe Clement), one of the main contenders in this year’s Classic.

Both colts have a royal pedigree. A. P. Indy is out of the champion broodmare, Weekend Surprise.  Weekend Surprise is also the dam of Derby runner-up and Preakness winner, Summer Squall.  Tonalist is out of the dam, Settling Mist.  Settling Mist’s sibling, Easter Bunnette, is the dam of 2011 Horse of the Year, Havre De Grace.

Both A. P. Indy and Tonalist missed first two legs of the Triple Crown due to health issues.  A. P. Indy was the morning line favorite for the 1992 Kentucky Derby but was scratched on race day due to a foot bruise.  Tonalist had a lung infection and was sidelined prior to the Wood Memorial.

A. P. Indy returned from a 50 day layoff to beat six rivals in the G2 Peter Pan Stakes by 5 lengths.  Tonalist returned from a 49 day layoff and beat six rivals in the same Peter Pan Stakes by 4 lengths.

Ironically, both defeated exactly 10 rivals in the Belmont and did it in virtually the same manner.  Both sat just off the lead, traveling in the top three or four in the early going, moved wide on the turn, dug in gamely and won in tight finishes beating major longshots on the wire.

After the Belmont, A. P. Indy and Tonalist each lost twice prior to the Classic. A. P. Indy was defeated in the G2 Molson Million as the 3-5 favorite and the Jockey Gold Cup as the 5-2 second choice.  Tonalist lost the G2 Jim Dandy as the 4-5 favorite and the G1 Travers as 5-2 second choice. 

Christophe Clement removed the blinkers on Tonalist for the Jockey Gold Cup and the colt sat farther back than he had ever been.  Despite being hindered when Wicked Strong lost his rider, he closed very strongly to win with style. Runner-up Zivo was also hindered by the loose horse but had a better trip and was in perfect striking position before being swallowed up by Tonalist.  The pace of the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic appears to flatter that type of late running style.

If Tonalist wins the Breeders’ Cup Classic, he wins Horse of the Year honors….just like A. P. Indy.

David Valento is a handicapper for the Del Mar and Santa Anita websites, as well as his own website. He handicaps under the name of “Track Phantom”  ---

Monday, October 27, 2014

Equibase Announces Free $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Handicapping Tournaments

Equibase Company today announced separate handicapping tournaments on Friday and Saturday of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships with $10,000 in total cash prizes. The tournaments are presented by TrackMaster, a provider of handicapping products including FlashNet, the Pocket and Tablet Handicapper, and iPPs, which are interactive past performances that are iPad specific. The tournaments are free to enter at and open to anyone 18 and older.

“With so many people playing the Breeders’ Cup, these tournaments are a wonderful way for them to see how their picks stack up against others, and potentially go home with extra cash and bragging rights,” said David Siegel, president of TrackMaster.

To compete, players select one horse in each race and receive mythical $2 win and $2 place bets for each horse. Sign-ups and entries close approximately 15 minutes before the first race of the tournament each day. There are eight races Friday starting with the Las Vegas Marathon Stakes and nine Saturday starting with the Juvenile Fillies and ending with the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

“We know from past experience that the Breeders’ Cup World Championships attracts the interest of avid racing fans as well as newcomers to the sport,” said Bob Elliston, executive vice president and COO of Breeders’ Cup. “These contests will encourage all fans to closely follow the horses as they prepare for and then compete in these outstanding races.”

For more information and to sign up for the tournaments, visit

Prize structure for Friday’s tournament ($4,000 in cash prizes):
$2,000 for 1st
$750 to 2nd
$350 for 3rd
$250 for 4th
$150 for 5th
$100 for 6th through 10th plus a free TrackMaster product subscription
Prize structure for Saturday’s tournament ($6,000 in cash prizes):
$3,500 for 1st
$1,000 for 2nd
$500 for 3rd
$250 for 4th & 5th
$100 for 6th through 10th plus a free TrackMaster product subscription

TrackMaster, a wholly owned subsidiary of Equibase Company LLC, provides a full range of handicapping products for the three major racing breeds — Thoroughbred, American Quarter Horse and Standardbred. Equibase Company LLC 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. Additional information about the companies is available at and

(press release)

HANA's Breeders' Cup edition of the Horseplayer Monthly e-magazine will also be out later this week, so stay tuned for that.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Pick 5 Carryover on Closing Day at Northlands Park

If you're looking for a track to play on Saturday, a mandatory payout and a $10,000 plus carryover in Northlands Park's 10% takeout pick five is worth a look.

A free race program is available here.  Good luck with this or any other wagers you choose to play this weekend!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Meadow Wins Inaugural Rippey Award for Handicapping Media

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 9, 2014) - Longtime handicapper and author Barry Meadow has secured the first-ever Ron Rippey Award for Handicapping Media for his piece, “Statistics and Garbage”, that appeared in the Horseplayers Association of North America newsletter. will present Meadow with the Rippey Award and a $1,000 cash prize at the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters dinner on Wednesday, Oct. 29, at The Derby in Arcadia, Calif.

“My goal in the article was to help handicappers think about the statistics they consider every day and encourage them to ask the right questions,” said Meadow, who is best known for his Money Secrets at the Racetrack and as a horseplayer advocate. “I’m delighted that articles aimed at players now have their own separate category for recognition. Sure, the game needs owners and breeders and trainers and all the rest, but it’s great that pieces designed to help handicappers will be honored as well.”

Two entries received honorable mentions from judges Steve Byk, Jessica Chapel, and Paul Rolfes: Byron King for “Which Trainers Produce with Horses 4-to-1 or Less” that appeared in Daily Racing Form, and Nick Tammaro for “Pace is Key in Jockey Club Gold Cup Showdown” that appeared on

“An interesting group of entries with many taking different approaches but almost all providing valuable insights to their intended audiences,” Rolfes said of the Rippey Award submissions. “[Meadow’s] ‘Statistics and Garbage’ gets the top nod for providing some keen insights into what Mark Twain might call ‘lies, damned lies, and statistics.’”

The inaugural Ron Rippey Award for Handicapping Media was open to any article, blog post, or video pertaining to handicapping published—in print or online—in the past year.

“Handicapping horse races is both an art and a science, and the ability to produce compelling content about the topic is a specialty that deserves recognition,” said Director of Marketing Ed DeRosa. “We not only want to acknowledge the good work done in this regard but also encourage people to continue to produce this type of content, and who better to honor than successful handicapper and newspaper columnist Ron Rippey.”

Rippey won the 2006 National Handicapping Championship, was a 10-time qualifier for the prestigious annual event, and a beloved regular on the contest circuit. He also wrote about racing and made picks for the Newark Star-Ledger and contributed Spotlight Selections to for major race days. Rippey died August 26. 

For more information on attending the NTWAB dinner, visit

(press release)

Note - You can read every edition of Horseplayer Monthly for free!  You can signup here to receive a notification e-mail every time a new edition comes out or go to our landing page here to access our current edition and the archive of previous editions.

Thursday, October 2, 2014 to Provide First-Time Gelding Notification

Horseplayers will now know when a racehorse is running for the first time after having been reported as a gelding, it was announced today by Equibase Company President and COO Hank Zeitlin. The first-time gelding information is being made available to all tracks for inclusion in track programs nationwide. The data is also being provided within entries, scratches and changes and within Equibase past performances on, effective immediately.

“Equibase continually communicates with racing fans, and when several avid members of the Horseplayers Association of North America (HANA) recently expressed interest in getting access to first-time gelding information, we were only too happy to provide it,” said Zeitlin.

The first-time gelding information within entries will include a superscript 1 next to the sex of the horse and a list of the first-time geldings will be included as a footnote (see attached sample). The scratches and changes page on and the RSS feed that is available to consumers and all data customers will also include first-time gelding information.

“Handicappers look upon first-time gelding information as an important factor, and it will be great to know this before a race,” said HANA President Jeff Platt. “There are times when these situations create huge betting opportunities that were previously unknown. I think it’s great that horseplayers everywhere will be able to leverage this added information into our handicapping and our wagering decisions.”

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Arlington Meet Results, Boycott Updates

The DRF is reporting handle was down 19% at Arlington this meet, citing several factors.

"The handle decline set in early, with betting during May and early June off almost 25 percent compared with the previous season. Arlington was forced to cut purses then and cut them a second time when handle failed to sufficiently rebound. The track attributed the decline to short fields and new simulcast competition from the popular Gulfstream signal, but a horseplayers’ group also urged an Arlington boycott as part of a larger protest against the takeout policies of Churchill Downs Inc., Arlington’s parent company."

Via this question on the April HANA Survey, your support was swift:

and it had a broad purpose in mind:

Your impact is not known - there are many factors that go into handle - but for those of you who have participated in the action, there's an update.

Currently we are following the Churchill Downs-Kentucky Downs racedate issue, being heard by the Kentucky Commission. As you know, Kentucky Downs has lowered takeout, worked the race office hard to get big fields, and has been described by you as "a players racetrack".  Their handle has tripled since 2011, and things are moving in the right direction. We may need your help in the near future regarding this situation. We do have boots on the ground, watching this very closely, and we will continue to update you as the situation warrants.

As always, thanks for your support.