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Sunday, October 29, 2017

Recap - Keeneland Fall 2017 Meet

Keeneland announced a takeout increase back in August.

Win Place Show was hiked to 17.50% (the maximum allowed by Kentucky state law.) --This is an increase of 9.375% vs. the previous takeout rate of 16.00%.

Exacta, Double, Trifecta, Superfecta, Pick3, and Pick4 were hiked to 22.00% (again the maximum allowed by Kentucky state law.) --This is an increase of 15.79% vs. the previous takeout rate of 19.00%.

We polled HANA membership. 63% said they wanted a boycott. 28% said no. And 9% said other.

Based on that we organized a boycott.

Handle update on the Playersboycott.org site:
http://www.playersboycott.org/handleupdate10282017.html

Keeneland's fall 2017 meet is now in the books.

Keeneland was down more than $11.3M or about -8.52% vs. their fall 2016 meet.

How much of that -8.52% is because we announced a boycott -- and how much is simply the market speaking is anyone's guess.

At first glance, -8.52% might not look like it's all that bad for them.

As a few of you with jobs in the industry have pointed out to me -- looking ONLY at last year's fall numbers: Keeneland is likely revenue neutral right now, or maybe even revenue positive. (But if so, not by much.)

But I think putting blinkers on and looking ONLY at last year's fall numbers would be a huge mistake.

Last year at this time:

Keeneland was the big dog on the block among the A tracks. They out-handled both Belmont and Santa Anita. They ranked #1 in market share vs. the other tracks they compete with for handle dollars.

Fast forward to now:

Keeneland has been replaced as the big dog on the block. Belmont now ranks #1 in market share among the tracks competing for handle dollars this fall.

This is significant.

Keeneland lost ground to its competitors.

At the same time that Keeneland was down -$11.32M and -8.52%, their primary competitors Belmont and Santa Anita, were UP a combined total of +$25.32M or an average of +11.77%

These are terrible results for Keeneland.

The question isn't whether or not Keeneland had a takeout increase and underperformed the market by a good -20%.

The question is whether or not anyone is listening.

--Jeff Platt, HANA President

Friday, October 27, 2017

Keeneland Boycott - Handle Update after the first 15 days

The first 15 days of the Keeneland Fall 2017 meet are now in the books: 

Keeneland announced a takeout increase back in August. 

Win Place Show was hiked to 17.50% (the maximum allowed by Kentucky state law.) --This is an increase of 9.375% vs. the previous takeout rate of 16.00%. 

Exacta, Double, Trifecta, Superfecta, Pick3, and Pick4 were hiked to 22.00% (again the maximum allowed by Kentucky state law.) --This is an increase of 15.79% vs. the previous takeout rate of 19.00%. 

We polled HANA membership. 63% said they wanted a boycott. 28% said no. And 9% said other. 

Based on that we organized a boycott. 

Fast forward 15 days into their fall 2017 meet - and Keeneland is down more than $10M or about -8.53% vs. the first 15 days of their fall 2016 meet.

Link to handle update on the Playersboycott.org site:

How much of that -8.53% is because we announced a boycott -- and how much is simply the market speaking is anyone's guess. 

At first glance, -8.53% might not look like it's all that bad for them. 

As a few of you with jobs in the industry have pointed out to me -- looking ONLY at last year's numbers to this point in the meet: Keeneland is likely revenue neutral right now, or maybe even revenue positive. (But if so, not by much.) 

But I think putting blinkers on and looking ONLY at last year's numbers to this point in the meet would be a huge mistake. 

Last year at this time: 

Keeneland was the big dog on the block among the A tracks. They out-handled both Belmont and Santa Anita. They ranked #1 in market share vs. the other tracks they compete with for handle dollars. 

Fast forward to now: 

Belmont has replaced Keeneland as the big dog on the block. Belmont now ranks #1 in market share among the tracks competing for handle dollars this fall. 

This is significant. 

Right now Keeneland is losing ground to its competitors. 

Keeneland is down -$10M or about -8.53% 

At the same time Keeneland's two primary competitors, Belmont and Santa Anita, are UP a combined total of $21.49M or an average of +11.7% 

These are terrible results for Keeneland. 

In absolute terms, Keeneland is down roughly -20% from where they would be if they hadn't had a takeout increase. 

Let me put that another way: 

If Ken Ramsey had appeared as a guest on Billy Koch's radio show to talk about the horses he was sending to Keeneland this fall -- if Bob Elliston had gone on Billy Koch's show to talk about Keeneland's mission in advance of their fall meet -- if Keeneland had pulled out all the stops like they did opening weekend and stuffed the entry box with an average of 100 horses each day -- if Vince Gabbert had appeared on TVG to tout Keeneland's "successful meet" -- if Keeneland had done everything the same -- except for the takeout increase: 

There is every reason to believe Keeneland would still be the big dog on the block with the #1 rank in market share -- and their handle to this point in the meet would be 20% higher than it is now. 

Let's keep to the task at hand and remember what we're boycotting for. 

We're boycotting because we're trying to send a clear message. 

We're boycotting because other tracks are waiting to see what happens and we want them to think twice before having takeout increases of their own. 

I'm asking each of you to take it upon yourselves to reach out to other horseplayers. 

Tell them about the boycott. 

Ask them to join us. 

Together we can convince Keeneland to reverse their decision. 

--Jeff Platt, HANA President

Monday, October 16, 2017

Horseplayer Advocacy

Advocating for horseplayers and betting customers is as old as the day is long. There are the very influential - Beyer, Crist, Maury Wolf - and there are the grassroots - people like you and me, on twitter, or on chatboards, who take time to post or write their thoughts. Everyone, from the loud voices the small, is their very own horseplayer advocate.

Here at the Horseplayers Association, we're no different, even though sometimes we may be looked at like we are.

HANA, as an organization, is 100% volunteer. How this works, and how people get involved is pretty simple. Let me share a case to illustrate.

One member noticed several issues with past posting (races being bet after the bell rung) over the years. He, like most squeaky wheels, tended to be ignored by the tracks he was trying to help. He got in contact, and since HANA did have some cache as an organization, he began to advocate under the HANA banner, as a member in charge of wagering integrity questions.

He donated his time on an important horseplayer cause, and shed light on various issues. Ray Paulick picked up the Hollywood Park incident, and he was able to share his findings with a larger audience. Although the problem is not 100% rectified, his voice - a grassroots one - was very important.

Other issues are addressed in a similar fashion.

One of the founding members was also a horse owner, and questions revolving around trainers and positives was something he was interested in. HANA members were as well - drugs and potentially "bad trainers" scored high on our polling of members, so it fit nicely. He worked with the RCI on their trainer positive database, as a horseplayer advocate.

Some, like Jeff, is a data person, so he, over the years has worked on behalf of players to try and get better horse racing data. Reporting first time geldings, having SMS updates from Equibase on scratches and changes, are two such things he took the lead on. Jeff hopes to one day have the gelding reporting issue solved in a way we can all be happy with.

Others wanted to address other issues that many horseplayers believe in - some of them simple things, like all tracks showing exacta and double probables in the same $1 or $2 increments, and reporting payouts in a uniform way. They took the lead on that (that we were told this was "incredibly difficult and not worth our time" is more of a reflection on the sport, in our view), as an advocate.

Others want the industry to card better races for us to bet, so he went to bat to try and get a large study completed on what makes bettors tick, through proper pricing, field size etc. The wheels were set in motion on this - with the generous help of the New York Racing Association - and there's a chance this study will be completed in the near future. 

Large issues that players complain about - let's take for example the Keeneland takeout hike - are looked at similarly, but a little different.

If the inbox is filled with an issue like this, the process involves a poll of members, gauging their support and interest, and offering a few solutions that they think are reasonable. For any action like the Keeneland boycott, the direction comes from the members alone.

HANA members are very cognizant of pricing, clearly, because our polling shows it is the member's number one issue.

At that point a few people who are behind the "boycott" and want to donate their time and money, swing into action as horseplayer advocates. (so far so good on the boycott and we thank those of you who are participating against takeout increases through advocacy).

HANA is simply a group of horseplayers willing to donate their time on an issue - any issue. No, it's not a switchboard for problems (unfortunately, and as much as we all wish it was), or an organization filled with staff that can drop everything and look into every issue.

That's why we invite you to join, and become a part of something.

If you have a horseplayer issue that bothers you (or you're interested in) that you think needs addressing, email us. If the issue is something horseplayers are also for,  the organization can open doors for you (yes, most in the industry take our calls), and you can "take the ball and run with it" as a volunteer.

We have bi-weekly meetings and can offer advice, and probably some like-minded help. Because, after all, we're all horseplayers like you who want to make the sport better.

That's what Jeff did, and Mike, and Bill and Theresia and others have done in the past. If it's something you want to do, too, we'd love to hear from you. ( info at hanaweb.org )

For those wanting to just join HANA, we appreciate it because there's strength in numbers. It's free, and you can do it right here.




Thursday, October 12, 2017

Kentucky Downs Handle Update

Keeneland was down approximately $1.2 Million (-20%) yesterday. 

But instead of Keeneland, let's take a look at Kentucky Downs:
http://www.playersboycott.org/handleupdate10122017.html 

For those of you who may not be aware, prior to their 2013 meet, Kentucky Downs approached HANA with the idea of lowering their exacta takeout from 19.00% to 18.25%. They asked if we would help promote the decrease in takeout by getting the word out to as many horseplayers as possible. 

We thought it was a great idea and were happy to help. 

So how did it work out?

Kentucky Downs Handle Recap

Kentucky Downs has seen record handle in each of the ensuing five years 2013-2014-2015-2016-2017 and has more than tripled their handle in that time. 

Keep in mind that this came about by taking the novel approach of asking a horseplayers association to help them promote a three quarter point drop in exacta takeout.

Yesterday a horseplayer asked me: "If there's one thing you could tell Keeneland they need to be doing different what would that be?"

I would tell Keeneland they need to be doing exactly what Kentucky Downs did back in 2013.

--Jeff Platt, HANA President

Monday, October 9, 2017

Keeneland Fall Meet 2016 vs. 2017, the first three days

Handle Update on the Playersboycott.org site:
http://www.playersboycott.org/handleupdate10082017.html


DOWN $4.97 Million (-14.61%)

The first three days of the Keeneland Fall 2017 meet are in the books:
Even though we're off to a decent enough start and Sunday saw them down 30%, I fully expect them to use "It had nothing to do with the boycott" and "the weather" and "field size was down" as excuses. 
So let's keep to the task at hand and remember what we're boycotting for. 
We're boycotting because we're trying to send a clear message.
We're boycotting because other tracks are waiting to see what happens and we want them to think twice before having takeout increases of their own.
Between now and Wednesday, I'm asking each of you to take it upon yourselves to reach out to other horseplayers.
Tell them about the boycott. 
Ask them to join us. 
Together we can convince Keeneland to reverse their decision.
--Jeff Platt, HANA President

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Joint Press Release from HANA and Playersboycott.org

Horseplayer Boycott of Keeneland

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (October 5, 2017)

HANA and Playersboycott.org have jointly announced that a horseplayer boycott of Keeneland is underway, citing an increase in takeout despite a revenue windfall from Historical Racing machines located at The Red Mile as reasons for the boycott.

"Keeneland decided to hit horseplayers with a takeout increase," HANA President and Playersboycott.org  spokesman Jeff Platt said. "Keeneland claims they are going to use money raised by the takeout increase to boost purses. But higher takeout in the name of bigger purses has been tried before and it has failed, big time."

Platt cited past takeout increases as examples: 

"For the first 6 months immediately following the takeout increase at Los Alamitos in 2010 on track handle was down 27%. 

Horseplayers boycotted Santa Anita and Golden Gate in the early months of 2011 as a result of takeout increases there. Instead of bigger purses the result was purse cuts and layoffs. In October, 2011 the local paper in Arcadia, CA where Santa Anita is located reported Santa Anita was cutting one third of its staff.


Churchill had a takeout increase for their spring 2014 meet. Handle fell by 25% outside of the Derby and 
Maggi Moss reported on her Twitter account that Churchill had quietly announced a 20% purse cut for their fall 2014 meet. 

None of this would have happened if higher takeout was the answer. Keeneland is doubling down on the same bad idea."


Platt also mentioned that he reached out to Keeneland management beforehand:

"I reached out to Bob Elliston of Keeneland and we had a 90 minute phone call. We discussed the actual outcomes that arose from the above takeout increases. But it became obvious that Keeneland believes players would support a takeout increase because money raised by the takeout increase would be going to bigger purses. I did my best to make it clear that takeout increases lead to the opposite of bigger purses. In the end we agreed to disagree."

Beginning Friday October 6, 2017: Takeout for WIN-PLACE-SHOW wagers at Keeneland will be 17.50%. (An increase of 9.375% vs. last meet's takeout rate of 16.00%.) Takeout for all EXOTIC wagers at Keeneland except the pick5 will be 22.00%. (An increase of 15.79% vs. last meet's takeout rate of 19.00%.) 

HANA and Playersboycott.org are asking horseplayers to consider the idea that horseplayers are consumers and that every handle dollar bet at Keeneland is a vote for higher takeout everywhere. 

HANA and Playersboycott.org are asking horseplayers to send a clear message by not betting one track, Keeneland, for one month, October 2017. That’s it.


Platt finished with the following message to horseplayers:  

"Join us. Together we can convince Keeneland to reverse their decision."

Thursday, September 14, 2017

OptixEQ Handicaps Kentucky Downs for September 14, 2017

Today's picks for closing day at our #1 rated racetrack Kentucky Downs by Emily Gullikson are now available. 

Kentucky Downs lucked out with the amount of rain they received from the remnants of Hurricane Irma, and so today's card is a definite go.  The final program of the five-day meet has ten races, including the Franklin-Simpson Stakes (race eight) and the Ramsey Farm S. (race nine).

KENTUCKY DOWNS 9-14-17

SELECTIONS:
R1: 1-5-6 (3-9 underneath)
R2: 10-9-7
R3: 1-4-2-11-10
R4: 11-10- (3-4-9)
R5: 5-3-8-10
R6: 4-3-7
R7: 5-10-4-3
R8: 1-3-6-5
R9: 4-5-7-6
R10: 2-6-9-11
More from OPTIXNOTES and OPTIXPLOT can be found at OptixEQ.com.
Twitter: @Mayhemily1 and @OptixEQ

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Check Out Vin Rogers's Book on Amazon

One of our regular Horseplayer Monthly contributors, Vin Rogers, has a book available for order on Amazon that was published this July.  Titled Horseracing From the Inside Out: Owning, Training, and Betting Thoroughbreds, it is available for purchase here.


In addition to his regular contributions to Horseplayer Monthly, Vin's work has also appeared in Horseplayer Magazine, Gallop, and other racing media outlets.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

OptixEQ Handicaps Kentucky Downs for September 10, 2017

Today's picks for our #1 rated racetrack Kentucky Downs by Emily Gullikson are now available.  After a record-setting handle day on Saturday, there are ten more races today, including a pair of stakes races - the Dueling Grounds Oaks and the Dueling Grounds Derby.  This is the penultimate day of the meet, with the final card slated for Thursday.

KENTUCKY DOWNS 9-10-17

SELECTIONS:

R1: 12-5-8-11
1-9-10 (all these horses have questions regarding surface, distance and favorable pace - at a short price vulnerable)
R2: 12-5-1-11
R3: 9-5-2-6
R4: 1-3-12
R5: 7-3-4-1 (8 try to beat on top)
R6: 7-3-6-5
R7: 2-7-6-4-10
R8: 4-2-9 (1 and 3 potential vulnerable on win end)
R9: 2-1-8-3
R10: 8-11-2-9

More from OPTIXNOTES and OPTIXPLOT can be found at OptixEQ.com.

Twitter: @Mayhemily1 and @OptixEQ

Saturday, September 9, 2017

OptixEQ Handicaps Kentucky Downs for September 9, 2017

Today's picks for our #1 rated racetrack Kentucky Downs by Emily Gullikson are now available.  Today's program at Kentucky Downs has ten races and features four stakes events to round out the card, including the $600,000 Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup Stakes, a Grade 3 event.

KENTUCKY DOWNS 9-09-17

SELECTIONS:
R1: 10-2-4-3 (include 3 in all underneath spots)
R2: 3-8-12-13
R3: 5-2-4-10
R4: 4-11-6-7
R5: 11-1-5-7
R6: 11-2 (underneath 4-5-10)
R7: 5-4-2-1
R8: 5-6-1-4
R9: 1-5-6-7
R10: 4-11-3-12-1

More from OPTIXNOTES and OPTIXPLOT can be found at OptixEQ.com.
Twitter: @Mayhemily1 and @OptixEQ

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Player Advisory

The Los Al meet that runs Sept 7th - Sept 24, 2017 is being run as a California Fair meet and not a California Thoroughbred meet.

That means:

Win-Place-Show takeout will be 16.77% instead of 15.43%.

Exacta takeout will be 24.02% instead of 22.68%.

Trifecta, Superfecta, Pick3, and Pick4 takeout will be 25.02% instead of 23.68%.

However, they have voluntarily lowered takeout at this meet on the Pick5 to 14.00% and Doubles to 20.00%.

We thought you should know because of the timing for this meet - immediately following Del Mar...

AND because (as of this morning 8:30 am pacific time) Los Al appears to be misleading the public on their website.

They are clearly describing the meet as the "Los Alamitos Fall Thoroughbred Meet." 

Screen capture - here:


The Los Al meet that starts today will have higher takeout than a thoroughbred meet.


--Jeff Platt, HANA President

OptixEQ Handicaps Kentucky Downs for September 7, 2017

Today's picks for our #1 rated racetrack Kentucky Downs by Emily Gullikson are now available.  The Thursday card has ten races and features the $150,000 Old Friends S. in race nine.

KENTUCKY DOWNS 9-07-17

SELECTIONS:
R1: 8-11-3
R2: 5-13-6
R3: 9-6-14-11
R4: 8-12-4-7-10
R5: 7-5-9
R6: 8-3-7-4
R7: 10-9-12
R8: 13-8-5-10 profile favoring horses inside forwardly placed (11 can be played against on top)
R9: 11-13-1
R10: 2-6-7-8

More from OPTIXNOTES and OPTIXPLOT can be found at OptixEQ.com.
Twitter: @Mayhemily1 and @OptixEQ

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

OptixEQ Handicaps Kentucky Downs for September 6, 2017

After a short delay to the start of the meet due to a rainout last Saturday, Kentucky Downs, HANA's #1 rated track, begins their five-day meet on Wednesday.  They will race again on Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, and finish up the meet next Thursday (September 14).

As she did last year, Emily Gullikson from OptixEQ will be providing us some handicapping insight on the blog for each of the race cards, and her preview of Wednesday's opening day card is as follows:

KENTUCKY DOWNS 9-06-17
Opening day is always a bit tougher playing Kentucky Downs. Handicapping this unique course, it helps to have an understanding of how the track will play. I was able to look back at the OptixPLOT results from last year to help sift through the noise of the big full fields. In the route races, horses need to have some type of positional speed. Mid-pack/closer types seemed to be at a disadvantage, and when they run back can be upgraded off efforts as necessary. In sprints, the course played fair in terms of pace handicapping and mid-pack types were not as compromised as they were in routes. I will definitely modify this as necessary and identify any track trends after opening day.

Note: OptixPlot RESULTS tab is very helpful for visual running lines to see where the winners were on the OptixPlot prior to the race, and then comparing that to the RESULTSGraf. This is a very tricky track to handicap with the course configuration and horses shipping from all over. These are great tools to help with the handicapping process.

SELECTIONS:
R1: 12-9-2-8-1
12 is legit; included other numbers if you want to spread or include underneath

R2: 6-9
Prefer some fresh faces in this spot. have seen enough of the 8 at Saratoga, she looks to need softer. 6 was entered with Leparoux named at Saratoga in a turf sprint and did not draw into the race. 4-10-11-12 capable to show more with the experience and surface change, just did not see enough on video to endorse for the win.

R3: 4-2-5-3

R4: 1-8-10-12

R5: 5-10-2-4
Thought this effort from QUEEN ANNE’S LACE was very good. She was a bit ignored off the 9-2 morning line, so if that was a prep and she has a move forward (will need) she is a definite play.

R6: 4-12 (legit) 1-3-8-10 (underneath)

R7: 15-16-9-3-5 (should the AE draw in they must be included, especially 15)

R8: 5-2-3-6

R9: 13-3-9-6-12

R10: 8-10-7-2-15

More from OPTIXNOTES and OPTIXPLOT can be found at OptixEQ.com.

Twitter: @Mayhemily1 and @OptixEQ

Thursday, August 17, 2017

An open letter to Horseplayers

Keeneland is raising takeout. Win, Place, and Show to 17.5% from 16% (an increase of 9.38%.)

All Exotics except the pick5 to 22% from 19% (an increase of 15.79%.)

HANA surveyed its membership about the Keeneland takeout increase.

When asked whether or not HANA should organize a boycott the results were:

  • 63% Yes
  • 28% No
  • 9% Other


When asked whether or not HANA should use the Playersboycott.org site, the results were:

  • 77% Yes
  • 17% No
  • 6% Other


As a horseplayer I've decided to join the boycott at the PlayersBoycott.org site because I believe higher takeout is harmful to the long term health of thoroughbred racing.

As a horseplayer I believe sitting on the sidelines is not an option for me because everybody in the industry is waiting to see how players react to this.

I believe that if a clear message isn't sent: Not just Keeneland -- but other tracks -- will have takeout increases too.

When we boycotted Churchill in 2014 because of their takeout increase: They were down a solid 25% outside of the Derby.

How much of that was the market speaking and how much came from us drawing attention to the takeout increase is hard to say. But we sent a pretty clear message.

I expect Keeneland Fall 2017 numbers to mirror Churchill 2014 numbers - and be down a similar 25% to 30%.

But that may not be a strong enough message.

I believe that by getting the message out to as many horseplayers as possible -- we can knock Keeneland numbers down significantly.

I am asking you to join us by not betting one track -- Keeneland -- for one month -- October 2017. That's it.

If enough players do that:

I believe that together we can convince Keeneland to reverse their decision.

--Jeff Platt, HANA President

Monday, August 14, 2017

What Horseplayers have been saying about the Keeneland Takeout Increase

I've been getting lots of comments and emails about the Keeneland takeout increase.

They tend to fall into two categories:

Category #1:
--No need to boycott. Just make everyone aware of the situation and let people decide on their own.
--I believe HANA should go on a campaign to inform the handicapper of these hikes using all of its marketing power. 
--Yes, this is a stab in the back to horseplayers. But there's no need to boycott. Just let the market do your talking for you.

Category #2:
--I am livid Keeneland did this. Definitely boycott. And keep boycotting until they reverse their decision.
--And boycott Churchill too while you're at it.
--Use the playersboycott.org website and spread the word for bettors nationwide to not bet a dime with Keeneland.
--Boycott. Maybe pressure from HANA and another meet of declining handle will force management to reverse this decision. 

My thoughts and comments:

The above selected comments were cut and pasted from emails that I received. They capture perfectly what a lot of horseplayers have been telling me.

If you're a bettor you shouldn't be surprised that I've been getting about two emails that belong in category #2 for every one email that belongs in category #1.

Based on that - and the numbers from the survey:

I'm beginning to suspect Keeneland may have vastly underestimated the amount of player badwill they've created over this.

--Jeff Platt, HANA President