Friday, September 19, 2014

RIP Mike Mayo

All of us at HANA were saddened to learn of the passing of Mike Mayo following a brief illness.  Mike was the longtime chairman of the National Handicapping Championship Players' Committee, and worked tirelessly to represent all of our thoughts and concerns.  In addition to those duties, Mike was an extremely accomplished horseplayer, qualifying for the National Handicapping Championship ten times.

Our deepest condolences go out to all of Mike's family and friends.  Per the NTRA release linked in Mr. Waldrop's tweet above funeral arrangements for Mike were still pending, however, Mike did make it clear that he was not a big fan of flowers. He asked that horseplayers and friends consider a contribution to Old Friends retirement farm, to go toward the care of the beautiful animals that brought him so much pleasure. Contributions can be made directly to Old Friends, 1841 Paynes Depot Road, Georgetown, KY 40324 or online via PayPal at

Player Alert: Parx

This weekend's Pennsylvania Derby is slated for Parx (formerly Philadelphia Park).

For discerning horseplayers who may be watching and wagering on the event, payout rates for some Parx bets are among the poorest in racing.

The overall takeout score for Parx is 56th out of 64 tracks surveyed in this season's HANA Racetrack Rankings.

Trifecta and Super takeout are the highest in North America.

What about the good news? Well, daily double and exacta payouts are not particularly penal , and win juice is a middle of the road 17%. If you are playing and are looking to get paid more when you cash, those are the pools that are worth looking into.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Skinny on Kentucky Downs

Via the DRF, Kentucky Downs handle from Saturday set a handle record, out-handling both Churchill and Los Al.

What's the skinny on this place?

Kentucky Downs has the lowest blended takeout and biggest fields in North America. (for a full list of statistics on 67 racetracks in the US and Canada, it's here). When they use instant racing money for purses, they've done it with you in mind. You know some of the four or five horse field stakes races we see so often? Not at Kentucky Downs.

Kentucky Downs President, in Horseplayer Monthly magazine (available for free here) said, "Horseplayers and horsemen were very complimentary of our last two live meetings. They remarked that they could not wait until next year. I believe that more of that group will point their bankrolls and horses to our 2014 season, which begins Sept. 6."

They have.

Handle in 2011 - with the higher takeout rates of 17.5% win and 22% exotics (the rates Churchill Downs raised theirs to in April) - was $915,000 per racecard. In 2012, after the takeout decrease at Kentucky Downs, the handle was $1,520,000 per racecard. In 2013, that grew to $2,500,000  per race card. This year looks to better last year's record breaking meet.

There are still two days left to play the Downs. Good luck if you're wagering and watching.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Big Day For Kentucky Downs

Via Twitter from @DRFMcGee

Four years ago, Kentucky Downs' handle for their entire meet was not over $4 million dollars. In 2012, Kentucky Downs engineered the largest takeout decrease in North American racing history. They've climbed to #2 in the HANA Racetrack rankings.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The State of Summer Meets

This article by Jerod Dinkin appears in the September edition of Horseplayer Monthly. To read the remainder of that issue for free, please click here.

Mankind/womankind cannot live so cynically as to believe that physical interaction is no longer important in the post-modern era. In our sphere of influence, Twitter, Facebook, online contest sites, and ADWs are the reality of the times and what will sustain the sport moving forward. 

Cyberspace is replacing physical space, but one cannot and will not subsist without the other. Namely, the sport won’t grow in cyberspace without positive experiences cultivated on track, at a horse farm, at a yearling sale, or some other physical venue, and at least for the time being (until Instant Racing takes over the world) the races are still run over a track, outside, on good ol’ fashion dirt and grass that God created (homage to Nick Zito).

As the summer winds down and the boutique meets come to an end, I’m reminded of how nothing in racing can replicate the on-track experience of a quality summer meet; the sights, sounds, and atmosphere of Del Mar with a laid back deco style and a fashionably late post time to match; Saratoga, with a nostalgic carnival motif, tree lined paddock, and a facility that rivals Fenway Park or Wrigley Field in terms of historic charm in the world of sport; and Arlington Park, a quality facility with top notch customer service providing a memorable experience. These summer locales provide a great family atmosphere and vibe that will help catalyze such memories and should cultivate new support to the game over time.

With all of the competition available at this juncture vying for the precious entertainment dollar in an uncertain economy, the significance of the summer racetrack destination cannot be overstated. We need to make sure the sport remains a part of the entertainment conscious of a typical non-racing fan so when it comes time to decide where to go this weekend or next, “the track” is considered along with the theme park or a day at the zoo. 

There is no doubt that the sustainability of the sport moving forward is largely based on appropriate pricing of the product as a gambling pursuit; a business that will involve a majority of its dollars wagered online. This is the reality of a 21st Century world where horse racing holds no special advantage in the pantheon of gambling activities as it did in much of 20th Century. Quite on the contrary; we’re too expensive and overly fragmented into small groups where the norm involves a precarious power struggle. 

John Q. Onceameetsaratogaguy (“J.Q.O.”) decides he loves going to the Spa so much that he will become a regular bettor through an ADW to continue his interest in the game. Here are said barriers to entry that J.Q.O. must now go through:

1.    Reside in a state where it is legal (sorry Alaska, Georgia, Hawaii, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Utah): 24,000,000 people aged 18 and older reside in these seven states.

2.    Successfully research available ADWs: After looking at all of the possibilities (which involved calling friends and extensive “googling”), he decides the best service with the most features is “”, but it isn’t available in his state. After more careful analysis, he realizes there is only one option, “” which is inferior to most other ADWs. As a consumer in the year 2014, he wonders why there isn’t more choice. It strikes him as a bit monopolistic or at the least “anti-capitalistic”.

3.    Takeout: Now that he is funded and ready to bet, he becomes inquisitive about how horse racing stacks up to blackjack and sports betting, his current preferred forms of gambling.  J.Q.O. looks up the track takeout ( He thinks to himself, good Lord, that can’t be right, it must be a mistake – those numbskulls at HANA have at all wrong. How can a business subsist charging customers those rates? Subsequently, J.Q.O. finds out that some major circuits are actually increasing takeout and one even overcharged bettors above and beyond the current legal rate.

4.    Perception: J.Q.O. recognizes some of the big name trainers from his experiences at the marquee tracks and from watching the Kentucky Derby on TV, but never knew much about them beyond the two minute human interest pieces used to kill two hours of coverage (you know, instead of showing really good Grade I races that occur prior to the marquee events). He is despondent in finding out many of them have a list of medication infractions that make Ben Johnson look clean.

5.    Rewards: J.Q.O. isn’t a huge bettor, but does get some nice perks out of his casino betting. He looks into the rebate rules of his ADW and finds he can get about $5 back a month and perhaps some free PPs once and awhile.

6.    Consistency: J.Q.O. places a wager and watches a race where he is holding a correctly structured ticket that will yield a $250 profit from a $5 bet. This is one of the many reasons why he is excited about horse racing – few other pursuits afford you the ability to invest a relatively small amount of money to win a relatively large amount (and unlike the lottery, have a realistic expectation to win)! However, the inquiry sign is flashed and his temporary excitement has evaporated as his horse has been taken down. This is perplexing to J.Q.O. as the same level of interference did not yield a disqualification in the exact same situation yesterday at the very same track. He looks into the rules used by the Stewards to formulate their decisions because with all this money at stake for the bettors and the connections, surely there are uniform rules for what happens within the field of play (you know, like in every other sport on the planet). He finds nothing but a tax write-off. Speaking of taxes….

7.    Central Governing Body: J.Q.O. wonders why the Commissioner hasn’t addressed a number of these items. Surely the head of this sport would be taking prudent measures to ensure the integrity of the game isn’t compromised. Goddell wouldn’t put up with this.

Some of the barriers to entry are legal and/or political in nature and out of the control of the industry. However, to the customer it’s irrelevant; the bottom line is they cannot access the product.  Imagine if Apple could only sell I-Pads in 43 states? This is precisely what the industry must deal with; not an easy task.

With respect to takeout, I often hear the counter argument that most patrons of a summer meet like Saratoga (and many OTB customers as well) have no idea what takeout is or how it impacts their wallet. This is entirely true. The yearly or even bi-weekly or weekly customer at Del Mar or Saratoga is unlikely to care. Regardless of the takeout, within reason, these folks will make Del Mar or the Spa a semi regular destination. However, this mindset is so inherently flawed and self-fulfilling that it boggles the mind. We need the customers who have good experiences at the track (like J.Q.O) to become regular customers in the ADW world, the future of betting. Given the laundry list of difficulties (only some of which are listed above), this is increasing unlikely and why the sport is in decline. Further, even if the typical OTB patron isn’t consciously aware of takeout, he or she will be keenly reminded of it when they are broke.

However well intended, any marketing strategy that isn’t centered on competitive pricing for the bettor is a losing long term proposition. This is pressing issue number 1 and 1A and is relatively simple to correct. This is of paramount importance and unlike many of the impenetrable factors that hamper growth - this is controllable (with any sort of leadership and pragmatic thinking). The concerts, food truck festivals, ostrich races, Weiner Dog Derbies, and the like are irrelevant if any new customer gained through these endeavors fails to become a regular betting customer; a goal which is unbearably difficult with an uncompetitive, usurious rake, in addition to some huge barriers to entry.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Downloaded Your FREE Copy of September's Horseplayer Monthly Yet?

The September edition of Horseplayer Monthly, HANA's free e-magazine with stats, articles, and insight you won't find anywhere else, is available for download at

In this issue:

We get you ready for Kentucky Downs with an interview with track president Corey Johnsen, and horseplayer extraordinaire Mike Maloney offers some tips and thoughts.  Building on the turf theme, we also have a column on Pace Figures and Turf Racing from TimeformUS's Craig Milkowski, a glance at what to do with off-the-turf races, and a number of turf stats throughout the issue.
Also in this issue:  
Melissa Nolan offers a guide on horsemanship for handicappers and looks back at the career of Tom Durkin, Mike Dorr analyzes payoffs, Jerod Dinkin takes a look at the state of summer meets, Rich Nilsen tells you how to identify a sucker horse, we give you the 411 on In-Race Betting, and Garnet Barnsdale invites a guest to the harness page!

Thanks for reading!

Friday, September 5, 2014

A Big Weekend For Horseplayers & Sneak Peek at the Horseplayer Monthly

Tomorrow morning our September issue will be released. As below:

Kentucky Downs - the lowest takeout track in North America, with large deep fields, and the highest handle growth track in racing - opens tomorrow afternoon.

We encourage all players - as we have since 2011 - to give this track a good long look.

The Horseplayer Monthly has Kentucky Downs handicapping thoughts from people like Mike Maloney, and the issue itself has a turf handicapping theme.

Also, a player alert that a track going the other way in terms of horseplayer and customer friendliness - Churchill Downs - opens tomorrow. HANA, and its members, are in a full boycott of all Churchill Downs properties, ADW's and data providers.  This is continuing for the fall meets.

For more information about Churchill Downs, their increase in takeout, the massive handle losses that occurred in the spring meet with your boycott, their executive compensation and horsemen complaints, please visit here.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Upcoming Contests and Carryovers

We wanted to provide you with a heads-up on a few upcoming items.

First, Mohawk Racetrack has a mandatory payout in their Super High Five wager in their final race this Saturday night .  The carryover is $647,331.  For more information, please click here.  A free program (PDF) for the entire card is also available here.

Second, our friends at Derby Wars have a $100,000 tournament coming up on Labor Day (September 1).  To learn more about Derby Wars and how you can participate, please visit their website at

And finally, Kentucky Downs will be hosting a $15,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifying handicapping tournament on Wednesday, September 10.  For further information, please click here.

Best of luck with all your wagers and enjoy the holiday weekend!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Double Gate (Part II)

Yesterday we exposed the flawed logic used by track management, horsemen, and state regulators to justify takeout increases at Los Al, Santa Anita, Golden Gate, Hollywood, Del Mar, and Churchill Downs.

In case you missed it, the logic goes something like this:

"We make more money with higher takeout because last year's handle numbers multiplied by this year's higher takeout rates is bigger than last year's handle numbers multiplied by last year's lower takeout rates."

But in the real world it never works out that way.

Why not?

The logic is flawed because it fails to account for the fall off in handle caused by higher takeout rates.

In California, this same flawed logic has been used by track management, horsemen, and the CHRB to lobby the Legislature and Governor’s Office for changes in state law. (SB1072 is one example of this.)

Yesterday we also pointed out that takeout increases based on this flawed logic have not helped racing as their proponents had suggested – but have had the opposite effect.

Instead of bigger field sizes, more betting handle, and more purse money being paid out as promised: The real result has been the worsening of an already falling handle trend, fewer dates, fewer races, less purse money paid out, cutbacks in hours worked, and lost jobs for workers.

We also pointed out that California’s handle woes in 2011 were not caused by the economy. During the same fiscal time period that California racing handle was falling off a cliff because of SB1072 – the California Lottery was generating record dollars going to Education because of AB142 and its higher prize payout (lower takeout) provision.

For those of you who might not know, racing is facing a crisis in the form of a downward handle trend. According to The Jockey Club website North American handle peaked in 2003 and has fallen sharply since. 

We at HANA can’t emphasize strongly enough how critically important it is that decisions about changes in takeout rates not be based on logic that is flawed. 

To that end, we prepared a spreadsheet that can be downloaded: here.

The spreadsheet contains a look at Santa Anita Double Pools. There are six tabs going across the bottom.  The left-most tab is labeled DD SUMMARY

The above image shows the first section of the DD Summary tab. Here we are presenting a year over year comparison of handle numbers for double pools in isolation for the first Santa Anita meet that was run this year vs. the Santa Anita meet that was run at this same time last year. As indicated on row 4, this year's meet began on Dec 26, 2013 and ran through Apr 20, 2014.

For this meet, Tom Ludt of Santa Anita fought for, and obtained permission to implement 18% Takeout Doubles on an experimental basis from higher ups at The Stronach Group, the TOC Board, and the CHRB. For that Ludt is to be applauded.

However, Santa Anita was not allowed to offer Rolling Doubles at 18% takeout. I am unclear as to the exact reasons why but instead of rolling doubles they were allowed to offer three doubles only each race day.

Thus, the wide differential in doubles offered: 545 last year vs. just 207 this year.

This accounts for the wide differential in double handle: $20.55 Million last year vs. $13.98 Million this year.

Despite being handcuffed, Ludt's reduced takeout double experiment did show some promise. Average double handle per race rose 79.16 percent.


Before diving into the numbers on the second section of the DD Summary Tab, for benefit of those interested in examining the numbers closely, I should disclose that last year's Hollywood Park meet began on Thurs Apr 25, 2013. However, there was no live racing at Santa Anita on the same calendar Thursday this year. Also, Hollywood Park conducted live racing last year on Thurs May 16, 2013 and Thurs May 30, 2013. There was no live racing at Santa Anita on either of the same calendar Thursdays this year.

In an attempt to achieve as close to a like date (apples to apples) comparison as possible, handle numbers for Thurs Apr 25 2013, Thurs May 16 2013, and Thurs May 30 2013 are purposely not included in the analysis presented in our spreadsheet.

Also, before diving into the numbers, it is important that I point out we are comparing handle numbers from Santa Anita against handle numbers from Hollywood Park and that Santa Anita traditionally out-handles Hollywood Park. For that reason, it is important that we establish a benchmark.

The above image is a screenshot taken of the lower right hand corner of the Side by Side tab on our spreadsheet. It shows that Santa Anita out-handled the Hollywood meet we are comparing to by about 17%. (17% is our benchmark.)

With that out of the way, let's dive into the numbers on the second section of the DD Summary Tab:

The above image shows the second section of the DD Summary tab. Here we are presenting a year over year comparison of handle numbers for double pools in isolation for the second Santa Anita meet that was run this year vs. the Hollywood Park meet that was run at this same time last year. As indicated on row 10, this year's (second) Santa Anita meet began on Apr 25, 2014 and concluded on Jun 29, 2014. As indicated on row 9, Hollywood Park ran at this same time last year.

Unlike the first Santa Anita meet that was run this year, Ludt was able to win permission to offer rolling doubles at 18% takeout for this Santa Anita meet - albeit on an experimental basis.

The result?

Double handle rose about 24 percent.

Keep in mind that this was after a lot of players had become disenfranchised because top decision makers had refused to allow Rolling Doubles to be offered at 18% takeout the previous meet.

Also keep in mind that at 24 percent, the growth rate in Double handle was more than 1.4 times the growth rate in overall handle for the meet. (1.41 = 24 / 17 our benchmark number.)

Clearly the 18% Takeout Double Experiment was showing some promise.

Clearly the decision to not allow Rolling Doubles for the first Santa Anita meet was a mistake.

Clearly the net cost to purses because of the 18% takeout rate was nowhere close to $500k as claimed on page 83 of the July, 2014 CHRB Meeting Transcript and quoted in our write up from yesterday.

Frankly, if Santa Anita were my racetrack - and my management team had shown me that they had raised double handle by 24% (or more than 1.4 X my growth rate for handle in general) once they began offering Rolling Doubles at a reduced takeout rate:

My decision would have been to continue the Experiment!

Jeff Platt
President, HANA

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Flawed Logic behind higher takeout

At the July 18, 2014 CHRB Meeting, Tom Ludt, speaking as a representative of track management for Santa Anita, told the Commissioners of the CHRB that 18% takeout on doubles had resulted in a net loss to purses of almost half a million dollars.

Link to the July 18, 2014 CHRB Meeting Transcript:

Quote from page 83 of the transcript:

"MR. LUDT: We do listen, and I do think that's very important. And my challenge and in -- not just me, but the tracks and a TOC, in setting these things, we just -- not -- like we said, it was an experiment. The handle went up, but if you look at the net to the purses, it actually went down almost 500,000 to the net purses on daily-doubles, singling that out."

I think horseplayers everywhere deserve to understand how Ludt, as a representative of track management for Santa Anita, came up with that $500,000 number as the net loss to purses he claims resulted from 18% takeout on doubles.

HANA has obtained a spreadsheet from the CHRB which you can download here.

Believe it or not, the spreadsheet contains the following columns:

1. A column listing handle on doubles.

2. A column listing handle on doubles multiplied by 22.68%.

3. A column listing handle on doubles multiplied by 18.00%.

Incredibly, the $500,000 number given out by Ludt as the supposed net loss to purses because of 18% takeout on doubles was arrived at by subtracting handle on doubles multiplied by 18.00% from handle on doubles multiplied by 22.68%.

Incredibly, the CHRB swallowed the $500,000 number given out by Ludt hook, line, and sinker - because they approved Del Mar's application to go to 20% double takeout for their current meet.

This was the same flawed logic used by Los Al to justify their takeout increase back in 2010.

This was the same flawed logic used by the CHRB, TOC, and Track Management at Santa Anita-Golden Gate to justify SB1072 and the takeout increase that went into effect at Santa Anita, Golden Gate, Hollywood Park, and Del Mar on January 1, 2011.

This is the same flawed logic used by Churchill Downs this past April to justify their takeout increase.

The logic?

We make more money with higher takeout because our latest handle numbers multiplied by new higher takeout rates is bigger than our latest handle numbers multiplied by older lower takeout rates.

But in the real world it never works out that way.

Why not?

The logic is flawed because it fails to account for the fall off in handle caused by higher takeout rates.

Betting handle and takeout rates share an elastic relationship.

The fact is handle is created by bettors who are price sensitive. This is something that has been studied at length and is very well documented in the economic studies paid for by the thoroughbred racing industry.

We found a link to one such study on the website of the National HBPA: here.

We put a link to a second such study on the HANA website: here.

Sadly, this fact has been continually ignored by decision makers within the thoroughbred racing industry.

Fact: Los Al's on track handle was down 27% during the first six months immediately following their takeout increase in 2010.

Fact: Handle at Santa Anita, Golden Gate, Del Mar, and Hollywood Park fell almost $250 million (a quarter of a billion dollars) during the first year of their takeout increase.

Fact: Santa Anita cut one third of its staff as a direct result of the flawed logic used to justify SB1072.

Fact: On page 4 of the 2011 CHRB Annual Report then CHRB Chairman Keith Brackpool cited "the economy" as the reason for California's handle woes.

But SB1072 wasn't the only gambling bill to be passed by the California Legislature in 2010. AB142 authorized the CA Lottery to leverage higher prize payout percentage (lower takeout) to drive an increase in total dollars going to education.

Q. If the economy was so bad, how then did the CA Lottery achieve a completely different result through AB142 and lower takeout than CA Racing did with SB1072 and higher takeout?

Fact: Handle at Churchill Downs was down $49 million vs. the prior year's spring meet in the wake of their takeout increase this past April. Further, Maggi Moss reported on Twitter that Churchill will have a 20% purse cut for their upcoming September meet.

Fact: Handle at the current Del Mar meet is down approximately $30 million vs. the prior year - IN PART - because of player reaction to seeing Santa Anita Track Management use this same flawed logic to blame 18% double takeout as causing a net loss to purses of $500k.

My questions to the CHRB:

Have you not learned anything from all from this?

Can you not see how your continued belief in the flawed logic behind SB1072 is causing you to harm the very industry you are sworn to protect?

Jeff Platt

President, HANA

Monday, August 11, 2014

Beyer: Horseplayers Are Making a Difference on Takeout

Noted horse racing columnist Andy Beyer has penned some thoughts regarding the low takeout pick-5 in southern California and the HANA-supported boycott of Santa Anita a few years back. 

Writing for the Washington Post and the Daily Racing Form, Beyer said, "The pick five's success since it was introduced in the state in 2012 is due to two player-friendly features: a 50-cent wagering unit and a 14 percent takeout rate. It is arguably the most attractive bet in horse racing, and it has been adopted in other jurisdictions, notably New York. But the evolution of the pick five in California holds significance for the entire racing industry because it is closely tied to a crucial issue: takeout." 

The article also contains quotes from HANA's Jeff Platt.  To read the article in full, please click here.

Joining HANA is completely free!  To sign up, please click here.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Handicapping Information Galore

The archive page of HANA's Horseplayer Monthly contains all of our issues dating back to our initial edition in September of 2013, but we will cross-post the entire archive in this post so you have it handy on the blog as well.  There are many handicapping articles, articles, and statistics for you to peruse. 

June Issue Features:
Barry Meadow talks Morning Lines, Lenny Moon finds a track he can crush, CJ of TimeFormUS looks at track bias. Pletcher's Derby record, what gives? Four ways to have more fun on big days. Mike Dorrwants WPS minimums hiked. 

FeaturesBelmont EpilogueDinkin is going to miss Keeneland poly, Garnet's harness column focuses on the Hawk, Belmont meet stats and much more. 

April Issue Features:
Track Ratings:
Methodology, Top five at a glance, Big movers, Interviews: Kentucky Downs Johnsen & Sam Houston’s Stahlbaum, Tracks Listed, 1 through 64, Statistics.

Keeneland Previews: Rich Nilsen, 7 Reasons to Play Keeneland, TimeformUS Trainer Numbers, Melissa Nolan’s Freshman Sire Outlook for the Horseplayer. 
Woodbine Preview, Stats, Bruno channels Abbott & Costello, Barry Meadow talks takeout, taxes & fees. Lenny Moon says it’s all about the Player. Garnet Barnsdale looks at false chalk in harness racing. JJ Hysell’s Derby Top 5, CJ from TimeFormUS explains run ups. Big figure gaps, sucker bets?

March Issue Features:
Barry Meadow kicks it off looking at odds lines, followed by an excellent article by Bruno de Julio, and our Cover Story, “A Review of Esquire’s Horseplayers” by Jerod Dinkin. Twinspires’ Jeremy Clemons answers eight questions and Larry Collmus gives one dandy interview.  Mark Patterson of Mountaineer shares tips and tricks, Doug McPherson lends his thoughts on Quarter Horse bias. In the harness section, Garnet Barnsdale looks at a “Trident” of handicapping.

JJ Hysell gives us her kick butt Derby Top Five, the WirePlayers boys and girls share their top ten.Mark Midland tells us why he thinks bigger tournaments are working at Derby Wars. We get some “FTS” and “STS” insight with Art Parker.

The Back Page shares some trainer stats from database handicapper Jeff Platt, that to our knowledge, are not published anywhere.

February Issue Features: 
Horseplayer Jerod Dinkin, a seven-time Horse Player World Series and three-time National Handicapping Championship qualifier, offers several tips tournament play, both before you enter and when you are in competition.
What is "lawyer handicapping" and why should you avoid it?  Barry Meadow explains.  Clocker, horseplayer, and jack-of-all trades Bruno De Julio explains why he likes to see horses "multi-task" and what that means. 

December Issue Feature:  
A trainer is 15% off the claim, wins 32% sprint to route, is pretty good with a certain jockey. How are we supposed to use these numbers? Barry Meadow explains how to, and not to, use published statistics when we handicap.

Breeders' Cup Issue Feature: 
Patrick McGoey won the Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge and over $500,000 two years in a row. We spoke with him as he goes for three.

October Issue Feature:
An interview with professional horseplayer Mike Maloney.  Learn how a pro goes about his betting day, and see if it can help you become a better horseplayer.

September Issue Feature: 
Are horses getting slower or faster? What's up with run up times? How are the TimeformUS figures constructed? Learn the answers in our Q and A with TimeformUS's Craig Milkowski. 

Click here to read that and much more!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Why Big Day Revenue Gains Work & What It Says About Horse Racing

In April, CDI raised takeout at their flagship track, Churchill Downs. It was suspected at the time by many industry analysts that this was a way to grab more money from two big days - The Derby and the Oaks - to make the bottom line look better to shareholders.

Those analysts were probably correct. In the recently concluded World Cup, if ticket prices were doubled if Brazil made the final, revenue would be increased. Derby and Oaks day would see a gain over a regular day at the track, too.  It's common sense, really.

Why would it work for those days?

When casual fans go to the racetrack, they expect to lose. On big days like the Derby or Oaks, it's a once a year occurrence. Those days, Joe from Queens, or Susan from Lexington say "I am bringing $500 to the track to take a shot at the Derby". They don't bring only $400 because the rake was raised. They aren't bet sizing or looking at longer term ROI. They are just bringing what they planned, fully expecting to lose it all.

While those folks are good for Churchill (or other tracks on big days with lots of casuals), what they are saying about horse racing drives a stake into its heart as a gambling game.

Joe and Susan are saying this is a game (handicapping) that can not be beaten. They don't care if the takeout is 18% or 22% because they don't plan to come back. They don't plan to buy a DRF book to learn the art of handicapping, read the Horseplayer Monthly for tips (August's issue is out today, by the way), or go out of their way to come on a Tuesday for the regular races. They drink mint juleps, lose all their money and go home.

Churchill, and other tracks who wish to, can happily raise takeouts on big days and probably escape unfazed. However, when they choose to do the same thing in the other 364 days, they are hurting the game of handicapping in untold ways. They are saying to Joe and Susan and everyone else, "you're right. This is a sucker game. But thanks for your cash. We'll see you next year."

I was vacationing this week with an old friend who used to play the races as a youngster. He's a fund manager now, busy with 12 hour work days and two kids, so he doesn't have a lot of time for horse racing. He asked me if horse racing was still hard to make money at. I told him yes, and relayed that takeout was even being raised, not lowered, to make it even more difficult. He said "the math isn't there to begin with, and they tilt the wheel even more against you?"

No business can grow like that; especially a gambling business. The horse racing industry needs to understand that to have a thriving gambling game, at least some winners must be sent home to come back tomorrow. They must have a chance to win, or at least perceive they have that chance; to tell others about the opportunity of the game. Until that happens, racing will be relegated to trumpeting increased "EBITDA" one day a year with blaring headlines, while in the fine print everyone knows how bad the other 364 are.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

20 Percent (Reduced) Takeout Doubles at Del Mar

This week kicks off some great summer racing. Opening day for Del Mar is today Thursday July 17, 2014. Opening day for Saratoga is tomorrow Friday July 18, 2014.

Link to a Press Release on the Del Mar website: Here.

The press release contains the following quote:
"In a new arrangement for this meeting, Del Mar will drop its takeout rate on its "rolling" Daily Doubles to 20% after previously offering them at 22.68%."
While it may be true that at 20% the takeout for doubles at Del Mar in 2014 will be lower than the 22.68% takeout Del Mar had for doubles last year:  It is also true that the 20% takeout for doubles at Del Mar this year is HIGHER than the 18% takeout rolling doubles offered at the recently concluded meets at Santa Anita (April 26, 2014 through June 29, 2014) and Los Alamitos Race Course (July 3, 2014 through July 13, 2014.)

There is an untold story here. I think it is important that you the player understand how 20% takeout doubles (instead of 18%) came to be at Del Mar.

Sources are telling me it was the TOC (Thoroughbred Owners of California) who, at a meeting on Friday July 11, 2014, voted to discontinue 18% rolling doubles at California tracks.

I ran handle numbers for comparable dates between Hollywood Park 2013 and Santa Anita 2014: Here.

As you can see, handle for Santa Anita 2014 vs. Hollywood Park 2013 was up 16.81%.

I also ran comparable date handle numbers for Double pools in isolation:

As you can see, handle for 18% doubles at Santa Anita 2014 vs. 22.68% doubles at Hollywood Park 2013 was up 24.05%.

To put this in context:  The growth rate for 18% takeout doubles at Santa Anita was more than 1.43 times the growth rate for handle in general.

We at HANA think the wagering public deserves answers to the following questions:
If 18% takeout doubles were up 24.05 percent vs. 22.68% doubles from the previous year, why vote to discontinue the program?

Wasn’t the program doing what it was designed to do: Make the California wagering menu more attractive to players so that California tracks can grow handle?

--Jeff Platt
--President, HANA

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Money Earmarked For Drug Research Sent to Lost Churchill Downs Purses

Gregory Hall in the Louisville Courier Journal wrote today that $125,000 of the $1 million from The Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund was allocated to Churchill Downs for purses in 2014.

"The $1 million was taken from a separate racing commission fund that pays for equine drug research," he wrote.

This, according to the article, was needed to be added to purses, because Churchill Downs had a purse shortfall for its spring meet after a massive handle reduction.

In April, Churchill Downs raised the takeout, and said that the increased revenue from the takeout hike would increase purses by $8 million.

This is what takeout hikes tend to do. Not only does the hike not raise purses by an amount like 8 million dollars, it ends up having a track, or horsemen group divert funds from equine drug research when purses fall.

Takeout hikes are never the answer to racing's revenue problem, and never will be the answer to racing's revenue problems. They only make things worse.