Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Pools up Almost 100%

Our first salvo at the pools is now complete.

We now have DRF results numbers (still preliminary). As a commenter suggested, a race 6 and race 7 comparison would be worthwhile. It was the same day and had the same field size.

Mutuel Pool: +76%
Exacta Pool: +147%
Quinella Pool: +62%
Trifecta Pool: +92%
Superfecta Pool: +60%
Overall Pool Bump: Plus 96%

We had about a 77% jump in handle from race 6 last week. From race 4 today we had about a 450% pool jump. It appears HANA members and other bettors showed up a little early to bet race 5 as it had larger than average pool numbers. Further, Will Rogers overall handle for 11 races was just below $250,000. The HANA/Mayo race alone represented about 20% of the entire cards handle.

Last week the average per race handle at Will Rogers was $20,740. Race 6 handle yesterday was just short of $50,000.

I know many of you emailed and said you could not play WRD, so we will evaluate things for Day 2; it might be another WRD race, or might not. Regardless, expect more free PP's and tools from our friends in cyberspace (thank you all once again).

We'll update the official results later on when we get them.

Thanks again to everyone who played and joined in! And watch for more from here on the blog. Our sincere thanks! When horseplayers band together, good things can happen.

If you have not joined us yet, please do. It is free and we can keep you updated from time to time on what's next for horseplayers.

Jumping into the Pool

Dana (a relatively new bettor) lends her support, with a picture and an exacta box! Thanks Dana. Will Rogers' race 6 goes at around 5:30PM ET today.

Thank you to Equidaily, Standardbred Canada (two front page stories from our standardbred friends!). In addition, Scott Carson at gave us support, as well as Jerry Brown at Thorograph. Everyone else who is lending their support for today's race, a big thanks from us.

Update: Hajck's back. Doug Hillstrom who wrote our Why I Left Racing Series has been on hiatus as a horseplayer. In the inbox today? This:

...for a single race.

We will take a shot with one of my favorite longshot angles, The step up in class off a drop and an out of money finish.

4 BLUFFY JR. with a ML of 30-1

I hope this helps the cause.

Thanks Doug.

Picture courtesy here.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Bill Finley Interviews Mayo; Urges Readers to Support Buycott

Bill Finley of ESPN let bettors know where he stands on the subject of race 6 at Will Rogers Downs tomorrow.

It is the betting dollar that drives the entire racing industry, which should make the horseplayer the most powerful segment in the industry. Instead, it is its weakest. The player is neglected, underappreciated and has no voice. That's why takeout rates are outrageously high, the advance-deposit wagering systems are a mess and a lot of tracks care more about slot machines than they do horseracing. Face it, we've been pushed around and don't fight back. Mike Mayo wants that to stop.

Now it's up to the hundreds of thousands of people who bet on horses every day in this country. Tired of being shortchanged? Then bet on Tuesday's sixth at Will Rogers Downs.

Read the full interview with Mike at the link. HANA thanks Bill for his support.

WRD Race 6 - Free PP's and Much More!!!

The betting community is coming together for tomorrows Race 6 at Will Rogers Downs. Here is what's out there for bettors, all for free from like-minded horseplayers wanting to see our game grow:

Free Platinum Plus PP's courtesy Craig at Trackmaster. These programs are nice and filled with info.

Free Trackmaster FAST sheets. (explanation here)

CJ from has offered his sought after figures for the race. I don't think CJ takes new customers, so you don't see these figures everyday. Go to for an explanation of how to read them. Thank you CJ!

HTR has offered some analysis for WRD as well. In addition a free WRD file is offered. If you wanted to try HTR for the race it is there to try free. Thanks Rick and Ken!

Our resident handicapping writer here, Jay, has offered his picks on Paceadvantage here.

On behalf of HANA we thank everyone who has offered these tools, and everyone for participating in Mike and Ross's idea.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Will Rogers: Race 6 is the One!

Thanks for all the suggestions for the race number Mike Mayo's idea. It has been settled that we will participate on Race number 6 on Tuesday March 31st, 2009. Post time is approximately 5:30ET (might go off a bit before that, as we note this happens at times at WRD).

Look here on the blog for several handicapping tools over the next few days, including free PP's for the race.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Fotias On Will Rogers' Betting Race

Cary Fotias sent this to his customers this past week:

Hi Everybody --

HANA (Horseplayer’s Association of North America) is a grass roots player’s organization that desires broad changes in the game we love. As a member of the HANA Advisory Board, I encourage all of you to join if you haven’t already. Membership is free and the more members we have, the louder our collective voice will be. There is a link to the HANA homepage on the Equiform homepage.

As an independent entity, HANA is beholden to no one except its members. Players are the economic engine that drives the game, but our concerns are rarely addressed and almost never acted upon. This must change for racing to have any hope of prospering in the future.

Mike Mayo and Ross Gallo of HANA have come up with a clever way to show track management how bettors acting in unison can significantly impact handle. By supporting tracks that heed our call for change, we strengthen them while weakening those that don’t listen to us.

This initiative will take time and a much larger player base if we are to have an effect at big-handle tracks. But if industry leaders and short-sighted politicians can’t see the benefit in listening to their best customers, we must deliver an economic jolt that rocks their pocketbooks. Only then, will we see ACTION.

It’s easy to throw in the towel and just watch the game slowly wither away. To be honest, I’ve felt like that myself sometimes. I was a member of the NTRA Players Panel. We made over 60 recommendations at the 2004 Handicapping Expo, and nothing of major import has been remedied. In 2007, I worked with Ron Geary of Ellis Park to institute a 4% takeout on the Pick-4. Handle on the wager increased significantly (one Saturday, it was the third highest handle P-4 in the country behind DMR and SAR) but not nearly as much as it should have.

Of this, I am sure - Nothing substantive will change unless players themselves take dramatic and radical action. As long as we perpetuate the industry myth that we don’t really care, that myth becomes a reality. If we had mustered the support to put $200,000 a day into the Ellis Pick-4 (I bet $400-600 a day myself), we would have delivered a very strong message regarding takeout rates.

One thing that bothered me during the Ellis experiment was people saying they didn’t like the quality of races in some of the 4% P-4s. Some said they would rather play Saratoga with a 25% take. Come on guys and gals! Have you ever heard of taking one for the home team? At 4%, how bad could it hurt? Isn’t demonstrating to the industry the long-term benefits of lower take-out rates more important than the field quality of a particular Pick-4?

Click on the link below to see Mayo and Gallo’s idea and how you can participate.

Who cares about the quality of the field at Will Rogers Downs, or anywhere else for that matter? Get in the pools and mix it up for the cause.

I repeat – Nothing will change without concerted action. Until you realize we are at war and become a revolutionary, you will perpetuate the myth. Please go to the HANA homepage at and sign up NOW.

Declaration of Horseplayer Independence

When in the course of racing events, it becomes necessary for horseplayers to dissolve the financial bands which have connected them to insensitive racetrack owners and short-sighted state legislatures, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the rightful station to which they are entitled, they should declare the causes which impel them to action.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all horseplayers are endowed with certain unalienable rights, that among these are market-driven takeout rates, sterner drug policies, the integrity of the wagering pools and the embracing of new technologies that could make it easy to bet on any race, anywhere, at anytime.

Cary Fotias

HANA Advisory Board

Kassa on the Florida Derby

Kentucky Derby futures favorite Dunkirk, faces off with Fountain of Youth hero Quality Road, in the Grade 1 $750,000 Florida Derby. Run at 1 1/8th miles, The Florida Derby is Gulfstream Park's 10th and feature race Saturday, on one of the meet's premiere racing cards.

Untested in stakes class, the undefeated Dunkirk is likely in a "must-win" situation to secure enough graded earnings to enter the Kentucky Derby. Garret Gomez rides the long- striding $3.7 million purchase.

Quality Road stretches out to 1 1/8th after a blazing fast mile in the Fountain of Youth. Should he harness his speed going longer, he will be a Triple Crown candidate.
From a handicapping perspective, I really like the "Big 2" here. Quality Road figures to go out and cruise along the rail. Dunkirk can challenge on the 2nd turn and beat him in the stretch. I am looking for value in the 3rd slot. Theregoesjojo is a nice horse, but may flatten out with the distance. I'll use longshots Toby The Coal Man, and Sincero for 3rd in tris and supers. I'll also play an exacta with Dunkirk And Quality Road over Toby The Coal Man, and use Dunkirk and Quality Road with Artic Cry in the Daily Double.

Race 7. #9 Vitruvius
Race 8. #4 Rogue Victory
Race 9. #1 This Ones For Phil
Race 10.#4 Dunkirk
Race 11.#9 Artic Cry
Race 12.#5 Street Talk'n Man

Friday, March 27, 2009

Exclusive: Nick Mordin's Dubai Analysis

Across-the-pond native, author Nick Mordin from HANA's advisory board, has allowed us to print his Dubai Analysis for this Saturday here at HANAblog (thanks Nick!). Also, Craig let us know that Trackmaster is offering free PP's for the races.

We'll have HANA member Jay Kassa's Florida Derby thoughts tomorrow.


Since I wrote about the Dubai World Cup meeting earlier in the week more information has become available. We now know the draw and the weather forecast. Let’s look at the draw first and how it may affect the races. I’ve gone through my database and produced the winning draw positions from all the races with 12 runners or more at Nad Al Sheba that I’ve got. I produce them below with a few hints about their likely impact


I should note that the track management at Dubai is basically British. And we Brits don’t have a brilliant record at managing dirt and artificial surfaces. Huge biases tend to show up, and very often the rail is dead as a dodo. The jocks all dread being drawn one on the dirt at Nad Al Sheba (around the turn anyway), though for some reason the stats indicate the inside does really well at nine furlongs.


1-7 19/167 11.4%
8-10 5/71 7.0%
11+ 0/93 0.0%

The Dubai Golden Shaheen is run on the straight six furlong dirt course. And it’s kind of obvious you want to be drawn as low as possible. The results suggest that if you have post eleven or higher you might as well stay at home.

This year the two horses that have drawn the graveyard spots of 11 and 12 are the Japanese challenger Bamboo Ere and the hot favourite Indian Blessing. Clearly we need to have a big re-think about Indian Blessing’s chances here and look a bit harder at the fancied candidates in post 7 or lower (notably Big City Man and Black Seventeen).


1,2,3 5/85 5.9%
4-12 22/151 8.8%
13+ 2/75 2.7%

Until he drew post 13 Gayego had looked really good here. But he’s a great big lumbering oaf of a horse that’s surely going to have trouble maneuvering away from his horrible outside spot. Lucky Find hates being drawn wide, so his 12 post looks a killer.

1-3 6/42 14.3%
4-11 5/111 4.5%
12+ 4/46 8.7%

I’m wondering whether these stats are due to a small sample size. But still, they do seem to suggest we need to take a closer look at Regal Ransom now he’s drawn 1 and his most fancied rivals have posts 4 or higher.

1-2 2/50 4.0%
4-10 9/124 & nbsp; 7.3%
11+ 7/74 9.5%

N.B. Eleven of the thirteen runnings of the World Cup have gone to a horse drawn between six and eleven. Horses with such draws have won 11 from 78. Draw five or lower has produced two wins from 65 tries. No horse has scored from post 12 or wider.

With longshots drawn 1 and 2, the fancied runners all have reasonable posts. But if the stats for the big race itself are a guide then Asiatic Boy’s number four draw is not helpful. Ditto for My Indy’s 14 slot.


1-5 7/70 10.0%
6-10 5/69 7.2%
11+ 2/53 3.8%

Trainer Richard Hannon was tearing his hair out after the favourite, Paco Boy, drew post thirteen. Charlie Farnsbarns, Jay Peg and Presvis are hung out even wider. And Jay Peg seems likely to be most affected because he always goes for the lead and will surely lose stacks of ground going wide into the first turn.

Of the ones that seem to have a real shot only Vodka gets in with draw 5 or lower. Though Bankable, drawn 1 is pretty smart and probably deserves another look.

1-4 12/101 11.9%
6-10 6/124 4.8%
11+ 6/104 5.8%

Here the horses are running a long enough trip to sort themselves out and win from pretty much any position. But there is clearly still a bias to the inside four slots. These are occupied by Front House, Eastern Anthem, Russian Sage and Spanish Moon. They’re all useful and must be worth a closer look.

There’s an 80% chance of rain today and a 70% chance tomorrow, with a quarter inch being what’s predicted each day according to the weather channel. So I’d say it’s unlikely we’re going to get the normal firm turf at Nad Al Sheba. Most likely it will be good, but there’s a 20% or so chance it will go yielding or softer.

The chance of the dirt track going sloppy or muddy is probably only about 15%. IT all depends when the rain falls.

I’ll be covering off any obvious going preferences when I go through each contender’s form. Right now the only thing that leaps off the page is that if the dirt does ride sloppy then the chance of Black Seventeen in the Golden Shaheen skyrockets. Casino Drive would move up in the World Cup as he won on a muddy track two runs back. But the chance of Asiatic Boy would plummet according to his trainer who says he might as well stay at home if it turns muddy.


Since this race was renamed and had its value increased=2 0massively only one of the nine winners previously failed to score on dirt. This was the 2003 victor Firebreak who had finished a short head second in the UAE 2000 Guineas on his previous outing on dirt.

Cat Junior has never run on dirt. You could argue that he shows the lack of acceleration and preference for firm ground that many dirt horses do when running on turf, and that he has a dirt sire. But there are strong influences for turf on his dams’ side and his physique and stride pattern bear no resemblance to those of a typical dirt runner. Clearly he’s smart. But I can’t support a dirt debutante in a race this good.

I tipped Don Renato when he ran third in the Godolphin Mile here last year at astronomical odds and he does look to have some short of shot again.

Don Renato started his racing career back in January 2006 in Chile where he won a five furlong maiden race by no less than fourteen and three quarter lengths on his racecourse debut. He clocked a seriously good time that day. I rated it the second fastest on an eighteen race card. The fastest was a Graded stake for three year olds which was just a fifth of a second per mile faster. The effort earned him a ballpark pattern class speed rating from me which is pretty nifty for a debutante.

Don Renato ran even faster when he went on to win two of Chile's biggest three year old races, both Group=2 01's over a mile. In the first of them he disputed the lead through blazingly fast early fractions before drawing away to win while slowing down less than his pursuers in the last two furlongs (sectional times were 20.82, 43.38, 1m 08.53, 1m 35.41).

Don Renato was exported to Saudi Arabia and was off for about a year. He faded badly to get beat 23 lengths when tried over a mile and a half in the King's Cup. But there's no way he could stay that far judged on his physique. He won two of his four Saudi starts at shorter and lost by a little over half a length to Dubai World Cup second Premium Tap in one of his defeats.

After this Don Renato ran a close third in the Godolphin Mile despite not getting a clear run. Then he was off for ten months when he ran third in the first round of the Maktoum Challenge, staying on well after a slow start. He ran slightly faster in the next leg of the Maktoum Challenge and improved slightly again when running on to be fifth of fifteen in a decent Group 3 here last time over the course and distance.

The arguement for Don Renato is that he had a training setback, has gradually been getting fitter and improving and will peak in this race once more, just like he did last year. It's not impossible.

Won a hot Conditions sprint on his Dubai debut by three and a half lengths.

That was his first effort on actual dirt. B ut he'd won both his outings on Santa Anita's Pro-Ride surface when it was producing plenty of kickback and riding more like dirt.

So far his only loss in six outings at less that nine furlongs on dirt or AW surfaces was his third place finish in the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile where he set a suicidally fast pace.

The concern is that Two Step Salsa carries his head rather high which makes him hard to control. He invariably chases after the lead and has tired to defeat the two times he‘s met fields this big. This originally led me to worry that he would he be made to go off too fast in this big field.

However the draw has been very kind to Two Step Salsa. He is drawn four and the only other front runner in the race, Dijeer, is in the killer post 15. Plus the only other three runners which have shown early speed - Art Of War, Informed and Gayego - are drawn 10,11 and 13.

Nobody is better at stealing a race from the front than Two Step Salsa’s jockey Frankie Dettori. It’s a trick he loves to try. The draw has given him a great chance of using it again to win another big race here.

Horses with a serious turn of foot like Kalahari Gold rarely make a successful transition to dirt because it’s more efficient to make up ground more slowly on the surface. In addition Kalahari Gold got into traffic problems the only time he ran around a turn on his lat est outing.

The only Saudi racing website I could find produces all the results, including the horse’s names, in Arabic. So I’m afraid I just don’t know enough about this horse to properly evaluate his chances. However Saudi runners trained by Doug Watson like this one have been competitive at the Dubai Carnival this year. And Al Morhij has run progressively faster in his last three Dubai starts, all over this distance. Last time out he clocked a time that is almost certainly the fastest of many mile races run at Janadriah (the top Saudi track) this year, maybe even a track record. He moved strongly and impressed work watchers the other day. He’s got to be a bit interesting at astronomical odds from a favourable post.

Failed to stay 10f last time and met traffic problems when finishing strongly to be second to Dijeer over a mile before that. This big, tall, muscular, powerful horse was moving really strongly at the finish against Dijeer. Sectional times and visual impressions suggest he'd have got up and won in another hundred yards. If he had it would have been his third win in three starts on dirt at trips short of ten furlongs. Looks a big player here.

My speed ratings indicate that Art Of War is a Group 1 horse on dirt. But he’s only a medium sized horse and takes a lot of driving. So he finds it hard to fight for position against bigger horses and it’s difficult to steer him out of trouble. This surely explains his apparent preference for small fields. If he'd got up in a couple of photo finishes loss and a half length second when he was bumped at the start had gone the other way he would have won the last seven times he's run in fields of ten or less. He's lost all fourteen times he's faced more starters. The field looks too big and the distance too short. And now he’s gone and drawn a wide post to boot.

It took four runs for Informed to break his maiden, and he didn’t win again till he was dropped in class to a low grade claimer on his eighth outing. He’s since won an Optional Claimer and run second in a Grade 2. But the times were slow and he’s yet to race on actual dirt.

Seems to be a rail runner that’s not big enough to fight his way to his favoured spot from a wide draw. Won his maiden from a wide draw (but took a bump when doing so). Since then he’s run unplaced all four times he’s had a double figure draw and won five of the eight times he’s run around a turn from a lower draw. He was slow away when second in one of his three losses from a low draw, runner up in a Group 1 in another and third in a very fast race in the other. He got caught out wide when drawn 13 here last time20and has been assigned a horrible slot in post 12 this time.

Won the big local prep for the six furlong Golden Shaheen but didn’t look a natural over the distance. He's a great big strapping sort that has shown smart form in America over the longer trips he’s clearly built for. He didn’t seem to stay 9.5f and 10f in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness but impressed many when winning his only other start on dirt in the Arkansas Derby over 9f. This distance looks ideal for a horse I rate Group 1 on the clock.
However I am troubled by his horribly wide post. You could argue that the reason he ran clunkers in the Preakness and the Derby wasn’t the distance but the very wide post positions he had in those races. He won from post 10 when taking a maiden but has not had a draw wider than seven barring the two Classics. His physique makes him hard to manouver. So chances are he’s going to get hung out wide around the first turn. If he’s dropped right back to reach the rail and comes with a late run I think he’ll do better. But his wide post is a real turn off now.

Given his pedigree it’s no surprise Dijeer won a good Conditions race the first time he tried dirt on his latest outing. The concern is that he seems to be a ‘need to lead’ front runner that’s best dominating smaller fields. He’s rea ched the first two all eleven times he’s run in fields of ten or less. But he’s never won in six tries in bigger fields, finishing far back in four of them. Runner up Tiz Now Tiz Then was gaining rapidly on him in the last half furlong last time and will, I suspect, reverse the form in this much bigger field.

Besides, the draw could not have been harsher on Dijeer. He is drawn widest of all in the fifteen box. He’ll never get to the lead from there.

Godolphin love to win this race because it’s named after them and gives them the chance to start the meeting with a flyer as it’s the first race. They’re bidding to win it for the seventh time and indulging in overkill by fielding the two fastest dirt runners in Gayego and Two Step Salsa.

Until we had the draw I figured that Gayego had the best chance. But TWO STEP SALSA has really lucked out by being drawn well inside all the other speed. He looks set to enjoy an uncontested lead and be tough to peg back once Dettori kicks for home. However I think TIZ NOW TIZ THEN has some sort of shot too. He‘s a very good looking horse that’s progressive and clearly very smart on dirt over this distance. I think he’s worth betting besides the favourite and also in a reverse straight forecast or exacta. It’s tempting to toss in Don Renato and Al Morhij as a couple of wild longshots and perm a bunch of forecasts and trifectas, but I’ll resist the temptation.


Win on


Plus a reverse Computer Straight Forecast on the above horses.


Regal Ransom is a muscular, good-bodied, pacey sort that has the build of a seven furlong specialist to my eye. He made all the running at a searching pace to win a hot maiden on his racecourse debut and ran his stablemate Desert Part to half a length on his Dubai debut. But he tired to finish unplaced when tried over eight and a half furlongs, and Desert Party was getting away from him in the last furlong when he ran a more distant second to that one when the pair were stepped up to a mile last time. The nine furlongs looks a bit too far to me.

Now that he’s got such a good draw I want to find a reason to say Regal Ransom will stay. But his pedigree backs up what his physique and form say. He’s had two siblings. One was Speedy Dollar who won over six and seven furlongs but ran sixth or worse and below his best in three tries at a mile. The other was Runaway Ransom who ran okay over six furlongs on his debut but finished only eleventh on his only other start over 8.5f.

It’s tough to find anything out about Saudi horses. But Lelah Dorak is the second big gest money earner in Saudi this year, ran only seven hundredths of a second off the time the older Godolphin Mile contender Al Morhij managed when that one ran the fastest mile at Janadriah this year. He’s a muscular, mature, good looking sort that looks in great shape from the recent photos I’ve seen. He won a Saudi Group 1 last time and hasn’t been hammered by Desert Party like so many other horses in this race. He’s got to be interesting at huge odds.

The chart comments for Desert Party’s sole loss read ‘stumbled then was bumped on both sides and pinched back leaving the gate’. But it looked to me that the main cause of his defeat was trying to make up the lost ground into a searching early pace over a trip well short of his best. He looked threatening entering the straight but then tired late.

Desert Party has won all his other four starts, and the longer he’s run the better he’s looked. Last time out when finally stepped up to a mile he was really motoring in the final furlong, burying his old rival Regal Ransom by nearly five lengths. He’s built and bred to improve again over longer distances like this and looks almost unstoppable here. The trouble is he’s 2-5, so he’s also almost unbackable.

Got beat 4.25 lengths into third by Desert Party over seven furlongs and 6.25 lengths into the same spot20over a mile. He’s a front runner whose sole win came over seven furlongs on Poly. He just doesn’t look fast enough, and he doesn’t look likely to improve for the step up to 9f either.

This good-bodied, long striding colt clearly has masses of stamina. But over the distances he’s run so far his rivals have been going too quick for him to avoid traffic problems. He’s actually got himself into some sort of trouble on all five of his starts.

Jose Adan’s most eye-catching performance came in the G3 Arlington-Washington Futurity. The early pace was ferocious that day, enabling him to come from an impossible looking position approaching the home turn to finish like a train and get up close home (he got disqualified for bumping the second but won on merit).

Last time out Jose Adan was made to look one paced in a six runner affair over this course where the early pace wasn’t great. He didn’t have the pace to take a gap on the rail and had to be swung out wide painfully slowly before getting rolling far too late.

If the early pace is really strong it could well pull Jose Adan into the picture late. But whatever happens to him here he looks a fine prospect for the Belmont Stakes over a mile and a half later on.

Five losses, four of them below Group class, suggest Soy Libriano is not that good. He had the run of the20race when beating Jose Adan in a small field last time. But my impression was that in a more strongly run contest Jose Adan would have got up. Looks a bit below the class of the Godolphin trio.

If anyone ever had any doubt that the best horse doesn't always win they need only watch the video of the Meydan Classic at Nad Al Sheba. Naval Officer was clearly far better than any of his rivals but managed to lose thanks to experiencing a ludicrous amount of traffic problems and being asked to gain ground into an accelerating pace off a modest early gallop.

Naval Officer earned a big write up from me when winning the Prix de Conde in France last year and struck me as the best Prix du Jockey Club prospect to have run all season. He should have won all four of his juvenile starts but lost narrowly once by running green.

Before his run in Dubai Naval Officer had looked rather a tricky ride due to his habit of sticking his head up in the air. The standard solution for this is to fit a sheepskin noseband. This forces a horse to put their head down to see the ground in front of them, thus giving the jockey more control.

The equipment was duly tried by new trainer Jerry Barton in Dubai and it worked. Naval Officer still raced with his head a little high but he settled at the back, with his head in a much more normal position, looking very tractable.

Naval Officer was a long way b ack approaching the homestraight, but this should have been no problem as he showed in France that he can pick off the leaders with an electrifying burst of speed. Indeed he quickly surged through down on the rail as they entered the straight, only to find his passage blocked by a wall of horses. His rider allowed him to drop back again slightly and took the gamble of waiting for a gap to appear. Sadly it never did.

Eventually, far too late to have any real impact on the race, Naval Officer was yanked out violently around the line of horses in front of him to the centre of the course. Once there he lengthened, showing that beautiful flowing stride and blistering burst of speed he'd displayed in France. He was cutting down the leaders with every stride and would have got up with another fifty yards to travel but had to be content with third.

Naval Officer was full of run at the finish and will clearly stay a whole lot further than the seven and a half furlongs of that contest. I have no doubt that he is a future Group 1 middle distance star. His stride pattern strongly suggests that he'll prefer fast ground. And his physique looks that of a ten furlong runner to me.

So much for the plus side. The huge negative is that this race is run on dirt.

I know that you could argue Naval Officer has the pedigree to adapt to dirt and that therefore he's a serious contender for this contest. ; But in my experience horses with a turn of foot as good as his are always better on grass.

A few days ago Naval Officer’s trainer confirmed my worries by saying the horse didn’t seem to like the dirt when he worked him on it here at Nad Al Sheba for the first time. He took the opportunity to talk his chance down, something that I’m going to emulate here.

I think this is a brilliant horse and do hope that he’s not sent back to Saudi Arabia where he’ll have nothing but dirt to race on. He belongs back in France on turf.

There are a whole bunch of slow horses in this race and some more that are trying dirt for the first time. The Godolphin horse DESERT PARTY looks set to dominate the race. And it’s hard to see him getting beat unless they go a crazy early pace which might just pull Jose Adan into it. However LELAH DORAK does look a very interesting runner that might well run second at huge odds or possibly even win. So he’s got to be bet to win and also under the odds on favourite in a forecast or exacta.


Win on


Plus A Computer Straight Forecast

To beat


Broke his maiden in claiming company and beaten all three times he’s run in stakes company. Won a fair l ocal race last time but looks outclassed here.

Big City Man looked set to win the big prep for the Dubai Golden Shaheen when getting the better of the Godolphin runner Diabolical with a furlong and a half to run. But once he'd kicked clear I got the impression he was idling and suffered from the fact that his challenger Gayego was racing about eight horses widths away. I feel if they'd raced alongside each other the competition would have encouraged Big City Man to come out on top.

Big City Man was used to running around a turn in America, so always had horses or a rail alongside him over there. He also had company all the way when winning so impressively at Nad Al Sheba on his previous outing. On his most recent start, for the first time in his career, he was asked to run without company and didn't seem to like it. His jockey seemed to sense this and gave him a sharp crack of the whip inside the last furlong. But this simply caused Big City Man to flash his tail rather than run harder.

Big City Man should have company for longer here, and I reckon that he'll improve as a result. He’s a pacey really well made sort that looks a top class sprinter to me.

Has shown some smart form. But got beat by Big City Man fair and square last time. And it’s hard to get away from the fact he’s lost the nine most valuable races he's contested and won five of the six least valuable.

An interesting runner that’s won all four times he’s run on dirt in Hong Kong. He’s got plenty of early pace, being a close-coupled, muscular speedball. But his best time was almost a second off that achieved by the course record holder who was set to run here. And the ballpark speed ratings I can make for his HK races suggest he’s no better than G3 class.

Ran almost as fast as Indian Blessing when taking the G1 Vosburgh last year. His win there and his other big success in the G2 Carry Back Stakes came on muddy tracks. He’s failed to win or show form that good in seven other outings in pattern company. Initially that made me sceptical about his chances. But the forecast rain might just turn this track muddy which would improve his chances massively. In addition the only horse to ever run faster than him here is Indian Blessing whose chances have just been massively compromised by a killer draw.

Decent American sprinter. But he’s lost all seven stakes races he’s contested and looks a fair bit behind the top US runners.

Horses that can produce terrific acceleration on turf rarely translate their form to dirt. Marchand D’Or certainly didn’t when trying dirt for the only time in his life in this race back in 2007. The run earne d him a Racing Post rating eleven or more pounds lower than he’s earned in all twenty turf races he’s contested since his racecourse debut. It’s puzzling to seem him tackle the surface again and utterly amazing that he’s ante-post favourite.

A useful performer on dirt in Japan where he‘s won eight of eighteen starts. But he’s built for longer trips, ran second in the Japan Dirt Derby and scored his biggest win over seven furlongs.

This brilliant filly’s only loss in seven sprint starts came in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint over seven furlongs where she chased a furious early pace before tiring into second. She’s better over this distance of six furlongs and is the quickest runner judged by US speed ratings. Until the draw was published she looked like a deserving favourite. But she’s been drawn 12 and it’s hard to get away from that dreadful stat which shows that all 94 horses drawn 11 or higher over six furlongs on dirt at Nad Al Sheba have lost.

Eight of the nine runnings of this race have gone to a horse that reached the first four in a US G1 or G2 sprint on dirt in the previous year. Only Black Seventeen and Indian Blessing have done that, and they’re the fastest two runners in the race. Until the draw came out and the weather forecast turned wet Indian Blessing looked the obvious choice between this pair. But now I have to go with BLACK SEVENTEEN who looks massively overpriced at 14-1 with the bookies. I also like the chances of BIG CITY MAN and recommend betting both.


BLACK SEVENTEEN - take the 14-1 offered by Ladbrokes and Victor Chandler.


I've banged on before about how I believe Bankable may well be a Group 1 horse. And I did so again recently after he won a red hot handicap at Nad Al Sheba over the same course and distance he'll be tackling in the Dubai Duty Free.

Having his first run for Mike De Kock, Bankable was not happy with the very slow early pace and threw his head around. But this didn't stop him producing the most phenomenal burst of speed over the last three furlongs to come and win the race. He fairly flew home, clocking just 32.94 seconds for the final three furlongs. The only faster finisher I've ever heard of was Macoumba who clocked 21.7 seconds for the last two furlongs of a slow run Prix Imprudence back in 1995. That race was two and a half furlongs shorter and Macoumba only sustained her finishing burst for two furlongs rather than three. So Bankable's sprint to the line must rank right up there.

When I adjust my rating for pace, it points to Group 2 effort from Bankable. However he hit a proper Group 1 when giving Raven's Pass a race last year and t hat puts this big, good looking horse in with a real shot here.

Gladiatorus clocked a sensationally fast time when making all the running to beat his rivals nearly six lengths in the Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort over a mile at Nad Al Sheba. I rated it the fastest performance we’ve seen from any horse on the planet all year on my ratings. On his only other start since his lengthy enforced break he'd broken the course record over half a furlong shorter.

Gladiatorus has only lost three of his eleven starts. One of his defeats was a half length loss in Italy’s top two year old race where, as usual, he set the pace, got four lengths clear early in the straight and ended up losing by just half a length to Scintillo (who now looks to be a seriously smart horse following his recent win in the Winter Derby)

The big question now is whether Gladiatorus can last the extra furlong of the Dubai Duty Free. If he can then he is a big player here.

My own feeling is that Gladiatorus is a big, muscular pacey sort that won't get an inch further than a mile. The way he backed up from running 11.8 for the penultimate furlong to 12.8 for the final furlong suggests last time I'm right. Even his trainer has expressed pretty strong doubts about him staying.

There's also the concern that Gladiatorus could 'bounce' off such a fast effort. Still, it was a huge run and marks Gladiatorus out as an world class perf ormer. I’m going to side against him but see him as likely to win something really big later this term.

Desperately unlucky in the big local prep for this where she was totally boxed in on the rail with nowhere to go in the closing stages and passed the posts cruising while her rivals were being hard ridden.

Vodka has proven herself to be one of the best racemares on the planet in recent years. She was Japan's horse of the year last season and earned a special achievement award the year before that. She has won two Group 1's at a mile and broke the course record when taking the Group 1 Tenno Sho over ten furlongs. So the nine furlongs looks perfect for her. Went close in this last year when her connections say she was nowhere near as fit as she is now. Looks the one to beat.

US Turf horses are rarely good enough to beat the best European turf runners when they take them on outside of America. Okay Fourstars Allstar won the Irish 2000 Guineas, but that was against three year olds. Var also won the Prix Abbaye, but that was over five furlongs, and US horses have a big edge over the Europeans in sprints. This is an all-aged nine furlong affair and the most valuable turf race in the world. Even if Hyperbaric were somehow good enough you have to take account of the fact he leads or runs close to the lead every time and looks set to be taken on by an amazingly f ast front runner in Gladiatorus here.

Smart old Australian warrior. Won five Group 1’s including the last three races over 1m plus he’s contested. The big concern is that his two worst starts in a 52 race career came the only two times he’s run abroad. Ran a clunker in this last year. Could be he prefers tighter courses as he’s lost all four times he’s run at Randwick, the only Australian course this big he’s tried.

Got to within three lengths of the inner when eighth in this last year. But it was a slowly run contest. It’s hard to forget the way he stopped and got caught towards the end of the French 2000 Guineas over a mile. His old trainer, Jim Bolger, said that was as far as he could go after he ran unplaced in the Ballysax Stakes over ten furlongs. His new trainer, Saeed Bin Suroor has twice tired him over nine and ten furlongs but again he’s failed to reach the first three.

2007 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner has won 11 from 15 at a mile or less and finally won beyond a mile at the tenth attempt last time. That was in a small field, around a seven furlong oval on firm ground when he was allowed to sprint for home and get first run after a modest early pace. Can’t see him staying here.

Has shown a terrific turn of foot to place in three big international races20and win the key local prep for this last time. Should go close once more but lines of form and the clock suggest that two or three of these are just a shade better.

Most international Group 1’s feature a slow early pace and a sprint finish, and that suits Archipenko fine as he’s shown that he can run the last half mile in under 46 seconds. He’s run a whole string of big races in international contests including in this race last year when finishing strongly to lose by just half a length after getting boxed in. He won his prep race in good style and looks sure to go close.

Bled a few runs back. And, like most horses that develop this problem, she now seems best on faster going (as more testing ground brings on a bleeding episode). She's won five of the last six times she's run on good or faster going and lost the last five she's had on dead or soft.

Her win in the G1 Chipping Norton last time looked good. She won with something in reserve and her jockey rode her with a good deal of confidence.

I like the fact she's a big mare that has no problems fighting for position in a big field. This is clearly an improving mare that's in great form.

So far so good, but now there are a couple of negatives.

Her trainer says that the forecast rain is a plus. But that’s not the way I see it at all. In addition her w ide draw just has to dent her chances.

This filly improved massively in the latter half of last season and would have won two of Europe’s most valuable fillies’ races but for getting into trouble around Dusseldorf’s tight turns when losing the German Oaks in a photo.

However there is an obvious concern that she may take time to come to hand just like last year. The fact that her trainer has just come out and said she’ll improve for the run hardly inspires confidence in her chances. Nor does the fact that he’s switched her from the 12f Sheema Classic to the nine furlongs of this race - surely because he‘s worried she‘ll tire badly over the longer trip.

Got a bit squeezed for room when third in the eleven runner Prix du Moulin according to trainer Richard Hannon. And he had a troubled passage in the nineteen runner French Guineas. He's only a medium sized colt and seems to come off worst in the traffic problems which big fields generate. In addition he’s run below form both times he’s run beyond seven furlongs. So the ante-post support for him to win a 16 runner race over nine furlongs is puzzling. Now that he’s been drawn so wide I’m even more confident he’ll get hammered

Clocked a good G2 time to beat Bankable over this distance on his last run, clearing away=2 0nicely to score by a length and a half. He’s had a few training problems but now seems back to the form that enabled him to run a pretty close second to the very smart Authorized in the Racing Post Trophy. His last two runs were over this odd distance and if it turned soft that would definitely up this proven mudlark’s chances. But his relatively low speed ratings, the absence of Group 1 wins and a very wide draw put me off.

Bids to become only the second horse to win back to back runnings of a race on this card. Is rounding into form just as he was when taking this last year and obviously has a serious chance. The concern is that the other jockeys now know he can steal a race from the front and will stick closer and press him harder this time. In addition he faces a fearsome rival for the lead in the blazingly fast Gladiatorus. Plus he’s drawn fifteen. He did win from post fourteen last year but was able to get a good position thanks to the slow early pace, something which looks a lot less likely this time. Still he is a high class performer and you can’t dismiss him totally.

A few seasons back Luca Cumani had the best thoroughbred on the planet in Falbrav. Now it looks quite possible that he has another horse that can take some of the world's most valuable races in Presvis\.

Presvis put up an extraordinary performance to win a red hot h andicap at Nad Al Sheba last time out. Settled last in a big field, he came through with remarkable speed in the last couple of furlongs to run down the leader and win by over three lengths. In doing so he clocked a slightly faster time for the last seven furlongs than international star Archipenko had in the previous race which was quarter of a mile shorter.

As I've mentioned before Presvis has a machine-like, flowing stride that's tailor made for the fast ground most of the world's big races are run on. With any sort of luck in running he would have won all six times he's run beyond a mile. I have no doubt that he is a serious Group 1 performer.

One concern I have about his last run is that it was so fast Presvis may not recover from it in time to be at his best for the Dubai Sheema Classic. But, seeing that he produced his best run last year on his fifth start in an eleven week period, I'm not that worried.

Another worry is that Cumani has said Presvis will stay a mile and a half. He took a long time choosing whether to go for this race or the 12f Sheema Classic. And it’s hard not to think the face the has Purple Moon in the other contest didn’t influence his decision.

Being draw 16 is hardly a plus for Presvis either. Nor is the real possibility of a slow surface which he probably wouldn’t handle.

However you can argue that the pace will be so=2 0strong here it will make the race ride like a ten furlong race and enable Presvis to swoop from out of the clouds to win like he did last time.

I was going to suggest a bet on Tuesday Joy before she got drawn so wide and the rains arrived. Now I’m dubious about her chances. I’m slightly tempted by Bankable and Presvis now. But everything seems to have fallen in place for the brilliant Japanese mare VODKA who is surely going to be tough to beat.




Lacks the Group 1 form shown by every past winner of this race. Did beat the multiple Group 1 winner Quijano last time. But she was fitter than her rival and receiving chunks of weight. I rated it no better than a G2 class run. She’s too lightly raced for me to say she’s not good enough. However the fact that she’s failed to reach the first four in a Group 1, unlike any previous winner of this race, does put me off.

Became only second horse to ever win two handicaps in a row at the Dubai Carnival a quarter or mile plus different in distance last time. This was the brilliant Indian Champion Mystical. Showed terrific acceleration and class to win both. But the fact that he’s lost all five times he’s run in pattern company and won his other four starts is20a turn off.

Has won G1’s at 8f and 10f and ran big to split Balius and Jay Peg when second in the key local prep for this. But my read of his form and race times suggests he’s a step behind the top three or four here. In addition the fact that the only time he failed to finish first or second came the only time he ran beyond ten furlongs hardly inspires confidence.

Looked like a potential Group 1 horse when coming from an impossible position to win a Listed race at Ascot early last year. He came within a short head of winning his last three starts too. But it’s hard to get away from the fact he’s lost the last three Group races he’s contested but won three of the last four times he’s run in lower class contests beyond 10f. Fractured his hip a couple of years ago and you don’t often see horses win Group 1’s after such an injury.

The reason Youmzain has only won one of his last eleven starts is that he needs a strong pace to make his late run effective. He has been outpaced in sprint finishes several times and is probably best in smaller fields due to his lack of push button acceleration.

Youmzain has won two Group 1 races. But they weren’t international Group 1’s like this. He has finished second in two Arcs and a King George. He also ran third and fifth in the last two runnings of this race. So far he’s lost seven big international Group 1 races. And it’s hard for me to escape the strong visual impression of how the first two sprinted away from him in the closing stages of the King George last year. I can see why he’s favourite on lines of form, but I just think he lacks the turn of foot needed to win a really big turf race like this.

Showed he can be effective at 12f when second to Doctor Dino in Hong Kong. But he’s clearly best over a mile and three quarters plus and has scored just once in thirteen tries since his maiden win at this trip or less. That win came in a mere Listed event. Still, it takes a smart horse to run second in the Melbourne Cup. And Purple Moon did run a good fourth when unfit and not pressed too hard in the big local prep for this. Not totally impossible though if it turned his chances would be impaired according to his trainer and form.

Very tall (over 17 hands), long striding horse with little acceleration. His last two wins have, not surprisingly, been around North America’s biggest turf course, Woodbine which is 12f around. He won over 14f there and more recently took the G1 Canadian International over this trip. However he’s run unplaced on his other eight most recent starts and, significantly, failed to show his best in two starts at Belmont which has a similar circumference to th is course. Hard to see him prevailing around these relatively tight turns in the likely sprint finish.

Versatile horse that won ten in a row before showing smart form in top races in half a dozen countries. But he’s always looked rather slow to manouver so it may well be significant that he’s encountered traffic problems on several occasions while losing the last seven times he’s run in fields of ten or more but won three of the last five races he’s contested in smaller fields. His two G1 wins came in single figure fields. Softer ground would up his chances significantly as it spreads the horses out and makes it easier to manouver. Plus he’s won a Group 1 on heavy.

I reckon the only reason Red Rocks was able to win the 2006 Breeders' Cup Turf over a mile and a half was that it was run on lightning fast ground around a track that's just seven furlongs in circumference. He’s lost the other nine times he’s run this far, run poorly on his last two outings and his connections never planned on running him here till he was invited a couple of weeks ago.

It's easy to see Doctor Dino as rather boring because he's always banging away in these big races, winning or placing. But let's not forget he won or placed in eight of the world's biggest middle-distances races. He's a remarkably consistent and versatile horse that has shown his best on track s less than 12f in circumference. His form figures in these circumstances read 1131, with his sole loss being a good third place finish in this race last year. He’s proven on soft ground too and very versatile.

Has run seriously fast several times and won in G1 company. But he’s built and bred for no more than 10f and has always looked best around that trip. So it’s most surprising to see him try 12f for the first time here rather than go for the Dubai Duty Free.

If the rain buckets down I can see Quijano running better than I originally thought. But I can’t get away from DOCTOR DINO. He looks the overwhelmingly logical choice and is surprisingly well priced around 6-1.


Failed to handle dirt over an inadequate 10f here last time. He’s smart on synthetic surfaces at a mile and a half. But I see ho reason to believe he’ll adapt to this surface and distance at the second attempt.

Has failed to reach the first three all five times he’s tackled Grade 1 company before. It’s also hard to escape the conclusion that he’s best in smaller fields. He’s won six of the ten times he’s run in fields of seven or less but failed to reach the first three in ten starts in fields of eight or more.

Has improved massively since switched to dir t, scoring four times out of five. But he’s a narrow, unattractive sort whose form and speed ratings suggest he’s no better than Group 3 class. Plus there is the big question of distance. Two of his wins have been over seven furlongs, the other three came over a mile. He doesn’t look built for this far.

Won the big local prep for this last time. He came through smoothly to take the lead and didn't have to battle long with the runner up before surging clear in the closing stages. He's been remarkably consistent on dirt all through his career and has a real shot of improving on his second place finish to the brilliant Curlin in this event last year. Muddy ground would be a concern according to his trainer who says he might as well stay at home if the forecast rain turned the going sloppy.

Happy Boy is not very big. But he seems to have no problem in big fields. He bolted up by nine lengths from the high class Gloria De Campeao on his sole start at the Dubai Carnival last year. But, like a lot of horses this year, he seems to have needed a run or two to get fit this time around. He gave Asiatic Boy a real race last time until not being able to contain his rival inside the last furlong. I can't see why he should turn that form around. But he is clearly very smart on dirt and must have some sort of shot.

Won fiv e of the six times he ran below Group 1 class in his native Brazil, finished third in his two Group 1 tries and ran second to top class rivals in his first three Dubai starts last year. He seemed to need his first couple of runs this year but bounced back to form with what was probably his best lifetime effort last time. He's a decent horse though probably just shy of Group 1 class. But it's a measure of how weak the field for this race is that he looks to have a real shot of placing.

Has won a G1 and two G2’s on synthetic surfaces but his only success in four tries on dirt came in a minor contest. His eight length third in this race last year stands as his best ever run on dirt. But even a replication of that effort would probably not be quite good enough to take this.

Casino Drive would surely have won the Belmont Stakes if he hadn’t been scratched after stepping on a stone just before the race. The hot favourite, Big Brown, ran a clunker, leaving a bunch of desperately slow rivals to fight out the race. Casino Drive would have started odds on to beat them with Big Brown out of the race, having hosed up on his debut in Japan before taking the big local prep, the Peter Pan.

Casino Drive’s physique and that long raking stride of his scream out that he‘s a middle distance horse. As does his pedigree. He’s a half brother=2 0to two Belmont Stakes winners. Yet last month he only went under by a neck in a field of 16 for the Grade 1 February Stakes ran on dirt at Tokyo racecourse over a mile where they clocked 1.34.60. That's way faster than any other race on the card and the fastest time recorded in the 24 year history of the race (I suspect a track record too). I can’t see how you could rate it anything other than a top Group 1 performance on the clock.

Now that he steps up to a more suitable distance Casino Drive looks to have a major chance of taking this. It would be great if the going turned muddy as he won on such a surface a couple of runs back and it might well inconvenience his main rivals. But whatever the going he does look the one they all have to beat.

The trainer of Albertus Maximus has said that he's best over a mile or a mile and 110 yards. So it’s no big surprise that he tired to get beat nearly a dozen lengths into eighth place the only time he tried a mile and a quarter (his widest margin loss ever). His big claim to fame is that win in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile on Pro Ride.

Yes he won the Donn Handicap over nine furlongs last month. But it was a weak renewal. Approaching the straight Albertus Maximus looked set to cruise by the pacemaker that had been under pressure for two furlongs despite enjoying an uncontested lead. However he starte d to run out of gas soon after and staggered through the last furlong in 13.6 seconds, allowing the pacemaker to nearly get back up again. The runner up’s only success in a dozen Graded stakes came in a weak Grade 3.

In the US, Beyer ratings are the accepted benchmark. And Albertus Maximus has yet to earn a Beyer rating bigger than 103 (equivalent to a Racing Post rating of just 99) in sixteen tries. I just can’t understand why he’s favourite over a trip he doesn’t seem to stay, on his second best surface and against opposition he seems inferior to.

Pacey sort that has the build of a miler but managed to hold on from Happy Boy and Asiatic Boy when stepped up to nine furlongs for the second leg of the Maktoum Challenge last time. He was tiring visibly approaching the line and it looks doubtful that he’ll get the extra furlong here. If he does he’d have a shot, though his very wide draw is a concern.

This race features a motley crew of horses running over the wrong distance or surface and a whole stack of obviously slow entrants. So it’s hard not to conclude that it’s the worst ever renewal of the Dubai World Cup. However there is always at least one seriously good horse in a race this valuable and I reckon that it’s CASINO DRIVE, the Japanese runner. I see him winning this by a decent margin. It’s ju st a pity his odds have plummeted. He was 9-1 when I picked him earlier in the week and is generally 4-1 now.
He’ s still worth betting. But the real value looks to be betting the two longshots Happy Boy and Gloria De Campeao to chase him home. They both have a serious chance of doing so on my speed ratings and would trigger a huge payout if they filled the runner up spot behind the Japanese horse.



Plus two Computer Straight Forecasts

To beat


To beat

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Mayo: It's Will Rogers Downs

Mike Mayo has announced on the HTR Board that the first race to be tackled by horseplayers is at Will Rogers Downs next Tuesday, March 31st (for background please visit here). The race is to be announced, after the entries are available. Will Rogers Downs is offered on all major US based ADW's.

From Mike:

Wanted to let everyone know that our first race date for the group bet will be Tuesday, March 31 at Will Rogers Downs. The selected race will be announced late Saturday or early Sunday as soon as the entries are drawn. I will post it here and it will be posted on the HANA website.

We have selected this track because they currently only handle about 30K per race and we could have an immediate impact with them. After about two or three weeks we will evaluate our progress and move to a different track. They do have 10-12 horse fields in their thoroughbred races. We will select a full field non-maiden race for the first one.

Most all of the ADWs take WRD, especially on a Tuesday. I wanted to herhaps clear up a misconception about the way the race is to be bet. This is NOT a donation. Each person is to handicap and bet the race just as you would any other race in your normal routine betting. A wagering amount has been discussed and it was decided that a range of somewhere between $25-$75 would be optimal. However no one should feel obligated to bet outside of their comfort zone. A wager of any type and amount will be appreciated.

I appreciate everyone's comments and interest in this little project. Hopefully, given a little time, it will grow into something that can help us all as horseplayers.


Mike Mayo

In addition, HTR and Ken Massa are behind the project. They have posted some statistics on WRD for the bettors. Right now it looks like free past performances for the race will be offered; in addition more handicapping tools for the race in question will be announced.

Watch for further updates this weekend, if you would like to participate in this fun and worthwhile project spearheaded by grassroots horseplayers, looking for change.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Data Lock Up

On HANA's Mission Statement there is a mention of "better data distribution". Horseplayers pay through the nose for data, past performances, and even results files. Equibase was created for this back in 1990. In 1990 there was no Internet; no way to cut costs, and no way to offer this more cheaply. After all, being the sole source of legal gambling, if people wanted to play racing you must pay. Now with choice, and a better delivery of PP's and data, we think there has to be a better way. Especially, as we all know, putting up a PP on a PDF costs a fraction of what it costs to set it, print it, deliver it by truck and plane, and sell it at a track. But the price is not dissimilar to the old newsstand price of old.

It is not 1990 any more.

Ray Paulick explores this in a piece today. It is nice to see it is no longer just the odd fan and blogger speaking about this, it is influential people like Ray. And not only Ray; people inside the business are starting to think this as well.

“It is symptomatic of our industry being a step behind,” said one racing executive who has grown wary of Equibase’s profit-driven motive and thinks the company has strayed from its original mission. “It’s short-term thinking. If our objective in racing is for the horseplayers to win, we should do everything we can to help him, and increase the churn. That’s where the revenue for our business should come from, not from the statistics the horseplayer needs.”

We at HANA agree of course. As we have said earlier on this subject, 'free' is something we hear about on the Internet quite often. This is not a business model for many things like music, or books, or whatever. There is no monetization of these things - the book or song is the revenue. However, in racing, charging people for this data which can be used to not only bet, but promote the game is something we should have a look at. After all, if we have a PP in front of us and bet $10, at a 22% blended take we have already paid for the past performance, and will turn to race two. There is a correlated link between that and ROI. The free PP is a conduit for the revenue.

We are glad to see people are speaking about it finally. Now, will racing make a move?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Mark Cramer on Sartin

Mark has written a tribute to Howard Sartin and has allowed it to be published here at HANA. Our thanks to Mark.


You’ve all heard by now that Howard Sartin has died. He passed away in the company of his family, at home, on January 31. He must have been in his 80s. Not much has been written since his death about a man who changed so much for so many.

Back in the early 1980s when I was the racing editor of Gambling Times, an article arrived at my desk from a person with a strange name: Howard Sartin. Once I got through the first paragraph, I knew I was dealing with an iconoclast. He said he was a doctor of psychology, though some of his enemies dispute that claim. He wrote that “absence makes the heart grow fonder” so if you want to cure a problem gambler, you have a better chance to teach him to win than to get him to stop. Sartin had ctually practiced his “win therapy” with problem horseplayers, and was relatively successful if you compare his therapy roi to that of the typical shrink. (We have some shrink readers. You tell me if I’m right or not.)

You see what I mean. I was hooked. Next he wrote about calculating pace handicapping on the basis of feet per second and then dividing races into segments. Once you compared the segments (or fractional times in feet per second) you could visualize if the horse was an early runner (E), a pressure (P) or (S) a sustained pace horse (what we would call a closer). You could call this a gimmick if you like, but in fact, the visual aspect of his printouts helped a player to dig into a race.

Howard explained that there’s no such thing as a closer. A horse that looks like he’s closing in the stretch is really just slowing down less than the others.

Howard developed computer programs to craft these ideas into a methodology. He paid tribute to the nearly anonymous handicapping here, Huey Mahl, who wrote the tiny classic The Race is Pace (Gamblers Book Club, Las Vegas). It was Huey who first spoke of how horses expend energy. I met him once in Las Vegas and he looked like one of the crowd, dressing no better than Albert Einstein.

So, thirsting for something original for the challenged pages of Gambling Times, I felt rewarded by Sartin’s article and published it. According to Sartin, the publishing of this article helped to jump-start his Sartin Methodology Group, but knowing the charming Howard, I suspect he was merely flattering me, knowing that I had become one of his adversaries. So this is why I relate Howard to the Music Man, because he seemed to me like a classy hustler, a PT Barnum, and I like that type of person. What would the world be without such characters?

A group of players coalesced around Howard Sartin and when you talked to any of them, you heard they were winners. All of them! They were told to do 20 race samples and then report on their results. They mainly played claiming races on the basis of the pace factor, observing the track profile of each race track in order to know
whether it favored E horses, P horses or S horses.

I went to one of his events and felt humiliated. There was a thick atmosphere of inflated ego in the room: everyone was hitting high percentages of winners, and amongst them, I felt as if I couldn’t pick my own nose. It was a regular hotel conference room but I felt as if I were in a huge tent and this was a revivalist meeting.

I dared to mention the trainer factor, and Howard smiled paternalistically, reminding me in front of his followers that “the trainer can’t talk to the horse”. I would go regularly to the SoCal tracks and whenever I bumped into a Sartin follower, he would remind me: “the trainer can’t talk to the horse”. Of course I know that a
trainer cannot talk to a horse, in spite of what Robert Redford might suggest.

Among the Sartin followers there were some very talented people. One of them was Tom Brohamer. Tom’s brother once played for the Chicago Cubs. Tom never repeated to me that “the trainer can’t talk to the horse”. I had the opportunity to actually watch Tom play and concluded that he was an authentic winner: the real thing. Then he wrote Modern Pace Handicapping, and the book is still good today.

My writing went in a different direction. I wrote my first novel, now long out of print, in which my main character had to confront the Certinites, a sect or cult of handicappers led by Prof Certin.

After the book had reached the publisher and was being printed, I had second thoughts. Had I been unfair to Doc Sartin? I honestly believed that his methodology was good, but not surely good enough to make ALL of his followers winners. I felt that there was fudging going on, with his followers consciously or unconsciously feeling that they needed to please The Doc.

Sartin read my novel and then, in his publication called The Follow-Up, edited with flare by Dick Schmidt, wrote a glowing review. It took me by surprise because I had been leaning towards thinking that Howard was a control freak, like Fidel Castro, a paternalist who wanted the best for his people but who couldn’t deal with anyone else
as big as him and who felt that his system was the only good one. As some of Fidel’s best people were dropping out or being purged, thus it was with a number of Sartin’s followers. The parting was not friendly. There was bitterness in the air and one of Sartin’s people, a magician, played an ugly prank on him.

Sartin’s empire seemed to be crumbling. I have more tolerance for control freaks. Sartin was one of those rare human beings who was truly unique, and as an iconoclast, it was understandable that he would be the center of controversy. Then Barry Meadow, never a Sartin follower, wrote an article that essentially called Howard a fraud.

My take is that Sartin had a good product and so whatever bizarre marketing techniques he would use could not be raised as evidence against his pace handicapping product.

My dear friend Dick Mitchell was another who parted with Howard, but Dick’s fine All In One program was surely influenced by Howard’s stuff. (All science and art is derived from something, and "influence" can be a positive force.)

Later, I visited Tom Ainslie (Dick Carter) in Ossining. Dick Carter, for me, was one of the greatest all-time human beings, and we owe it to him and his books that horse race handicapping has legitimacy today. I discovered that Dick Carter was using an updated Sartin program and finding it an excellent tool. Carter told me that his handicapping had become reinvigorated with Sartin’s methodology.

So now that Howard has died, how do we look back on his life? Was he the paranoid that some of his former followers allege? I don’t care. For me, he was a truly creative human being who produced something unique. Howard could play jazz on the piano, and you could see in his inventive way of living, that the jazz was there in everything.

Charlie Mingus had trouble dealing with people, as did Miles Davis.
They’re still great.

A number of the players who parted with Howard Sartin did so only after they had learned to win at the track. I suppose that if I had been a follower, I too may have parted. But from a safer distance, I could appreciate Doc Sartin.

On days when I am having an enjoyable chat with friends or family, I think back and long for something perhaps more challenging, and maybe “troubling” in a good way: another polemical discussion with Howard Sartin.

Mark Cramer

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Guest Post - Fans Matter

We enjoy hearing from the community and we have been getting more and more feedback. Horseplayers have opinions (shock!) and we want to hear them. If you'd like to participate please send us a piece and we'd be more than happy to have a look at it. This piece speaks to the many categories of racing fan and bettor that needs to be serviced to make sure our game operates at an optimum level. And it illustrates nicely that it is a tough task under the current system we operate under as bettors, both big and small.

All the Fans Matter
By Indulto

Before I address Mr. Roark’s timely commentary, “The Fan Matters,” I’d like to make note of the following passage in the subsequent HANA blog entry, "Voting with Your Dollars Earns You Respect:"

“… So far as I can tell there is just no way around it – without some solidarity things are not going to change. So long as tracks are seeing their pools flush (even though we would argue they could be much larger) they aren’t going to be inclined to make the changes they need to make. And that won’t happen without rebate players standing up and voting with their dollars as if they were paying full takeout prices. At least until rebates are available on a much broader basis than they are now – there needs to be some solidarity on this front.”

Attempting to represent the sometimes conflicting interests of horseplayers of all bankroll sizes and participatory motivation/frequency is no easy task. While HANA has always advocated rebates and/or lower takeout for all, there has been no support for the concept that effectively lower takeout should also be equal for all -- just as lower direct takeout would be.

A generation has passed since racing was popular, and some believe interest has died because the competition has evolved into one between bankrolls rather than handicappers. So I was pleased to discover in Mr. Roark’s discussion the spark of an opportunity for HANA to indeed bring EQUAL benefit to all its members whether whale or minnow, investment or entertainment-oriented bettor, regular or casual player, etc.

I found the following remarks in Mr. Roark’s contribution to be of particular interest:

“…Without the player who grinds it out daily or weekly, our industry would be in a more serious position than it already is. “

“… It was our belief that there should be an ADW which was not-for-profit that paid all of the net profits back into the industry in the form of host track and horsemen’s fees and fair rebates to the players who were willing to risk large amounts of money.”

“… If tracks and horsemen will not agree to a not-for-profit ADW,then the players need to form their own.

Imagine an ADW where the players knew that the horsemen and tracks were getting more than anywhere else and the return to the player based on his wager was more also. ….”

While I agree with the first sentence, it isn’t clear to me that all such players would benefit to the same extent from a player-owned ADW where return RATE is based on wager VOLUME; a strategy which I believe is implied in the second sentence above.

Increasing rebate rate with increased wager volume is a device employed by third-party bet-takers as an incentive for their patrons to bet more and thereby increase the bet-taker’s profits. Several player-owned ADWs already exist for the benefit of their limited high-volume player-owners, but a truly cooperative, widely-participating-player-owned, not-for-profit ADW should exist for the express purpose of imposing the LOWEST POSSIBLE effective takeout rate on ALL THEIR PATRONS.

Mr. Roark also wrote, “The main argument I have heard against forming a not-for-profit ADW is that track operators such as Churchill and Magna will refuse to let that ADW have signals because it will be competing with their ADW’s. My response to them has been that there is a Federal law which would prohibit Magna or Churchill from refusing to send a signal to such an ADW. In 1936, the federal government passed the Robinson-Patton Act. This is antitrust legislation that prohibits price discrimination by a seller where the affect is to injure the competition. If we build an ADW that is willing to pay the same or more to a host track and horsemen’s group than they are getting from anyone else, and our site has been vetted as being legitimate, then litigation would ensue if a horsemen or track refused to give signals to this site.”

That may be correct, but it is my understanding that -- at least until a month or so ago -- an apparently legal and TRPB-vetted, for-profit ADW acceptable to both Keeneland and the Breeders’ Cup, was denied regular access to California’s thoroughbred venues and to TrackNet’s venues outside of California by the industry powers that be. Why couldn’t/wouldn’t that ADW have invoked Robinson-Patton? Is the cost of litigation too prohibitive to be practical?

Suppose HANA were to create an ADW such as Mr. Roark describes, but with common and equal benefits to all players who wish to buy stock in such a venture? Further suppose such a project could harness the talents and charisma of a uniquely qualified horseplayer, well-respected for his extensive knowledge of ADW operations? In a single stroke, HANA could accomplish its stated mission as well as achieve many of its secondary objectives.

A HANA-operated, member-owned, not-for-profit ADW could finally establish its owner-participants as industry stakeholders; creating a powerful, unified voice for horseplayers while growing handle through lower takeout and increased participation. That voice could now be funded adequately, with corporate officials elected – and their compensation approved -- by stockholders. It's worth noting that the various horsemen groups established to negotiate signal pricing appear to provide equal benefits to all their members who still have to be able to compete successfully to actually realize them.

Reducing the cost of wagering only for selected individuals through discounts proportional to their wagering volume gives them each an unfair advantage over their unrebated competition because the effective return on the former's wagered dollar is increased. In some cases that creates opportunities for profit not possible without rebates. In others, rebated players are able to effectively play additional exotic wager combinations at no additional cost? How can this disparity be defended?

This practice has enabled an elite minority of professional bettors to collectively exploit the vast majority of players who bet primarily for entertainment. The playing field is definitely NOT level, and I believe that increasing awareness of this inequity is the main reason new players aren’t replacing those who left the game. One has to wonder what would make these "investors" willingly abandon their advantage?

Hopefully this obstacle to horseplayer solidarity could evaporate with solid support for a true ADW co-op with a reasonable buy-in figure. In some ways this approach exemplifies an “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” solution, but it’s more reasonable to expect the industry to embrace stockholders as potential stakeholders than accept adversarial demands regardless of how effectively presented. Another consideration is how a one-player/owner, one-vote system could be implemented and preserved with the original premise protected over time and expansion. Hopefully other interested parties can expand on this opinion in comments or blog pieces to which all HANA members have direct access.

Indulto is the nom de plume of a California horseplayer and contributor to several racing-related websites.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Interview with Jeff Platt via Case the Race

Jeff was recently interviewed about HANA and it is now published.

"While Platt’s frustration is clear when he talks about current state of the horse racing industry, the gruffness is tempered by an almost paternal concern, as if he were just trying to shake some sense into a loved one. "


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Around the Horn

What is going on in Maryland?

The Maryland Racing Commission will send a cease-and-desist letter this week to three account wagering companies warning them to halt business operations in Maryland by March 31 unless they enter into a contract agreement with a licensed Maryland racetrack as required by state regulations.

The commission said Tuesday it will send the letters to Magna Entertainment Corp.’s XpressBet, Churchill Downs Inc.’s, and Inc. at the urging of Alan Foreman, legal counsel for the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association.

Boxing is the sweet science. Horseplaying is the science of puzzles. Reading Powercaps piece has horseplayers nodding in agreement.

Horseplayers are people who seek out puzzles to unravel, these are people who are excited by unraveling complexity, and do not want to be emotionally manipulated by simplicity.

"If you open up an account with any ADW and you have just bought a ticket to the greatest game going and your favorite team is your account balance." Bravo.

Some nice articles in Horseplayer Magazine this month. A couple of HANA members share some thoughts on something we pull our hair out on very often as players - the losing streak.

Last up, Craig talks cycles at the Trackmaster blog. And for harness players, some contest talk.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Kassa - Derby Update

Kentucky Derby or Bust!

by Jay Kassa

Tons of racing action the past two weeks! Happy to say we have had Friesan Fire #1. In fact, the Top-3 Contenders remain rock solid. The goal here is to bring the HANA reader an informative Derby list, and comments or questions are welcome.

The List

I evaluate the Derby Contenders by watching the video, examining the race data, and looking at the pedigree. Ideally the horse looks great, came home fast, and he has a pedigree to suggest that 10 furlongs is well within his range. The list looks for horses who are possible win contenders for Kentucky Derby 135. The updated Derby Contenders graphic is packed with info. Ranking, gate-to-wire times, closing times, and a new category, - Stamina Index. These are something that has helped me eliminate non-contenders, and nail the last two Kentucky Derby exactas. Bill Lathrop, creator of Modern Conduit Mare Profiles shares his Stamina Index rating for the HANA derby Contenders.

Thank you for sharing your S.I. with the HANA Derby Contenders List, How do we read a Stamina Index? The lower the S.I., the greater potential for stamina in the pedigree.

What is a Conduit Mare? Focusing on the more recent representatives of the female families and tracing over 20,000 races, I established racing aptitudes that might be traceable through these mares.

How can your service help Breeders and Owners? It offers a method designed to assist the breeder in stallion selection and deriving surface and aptitudinal ranges for projected matings.

Friesan Fire maintained his #1 ranking with a strong effort in the Louisiana Derby. Stalking west-coast invader Papa Clem over a sloppy track, he moved to even-terms approaching the turn, and proved much the best in the stretch coming home in 30 seconds for the final 3/8ths.

Dunkirk the #2 ranked contender, will race next in the Florida Derby. He likely needs to win to qualify for graded earnings. Dunkirk had a big work March 14th, going 5 furlongs and being asked at the end, finishing in less than 24 for his final timed quarter.

#3 Desert Party
will race next in the nine furlong UAE Derby in Dubai, on World Cup day. The improving son of Street Cry will be reevaluated after that contest.

Quality Road
moves up to #4 with Old Fashioned and Pioneerof The Nile failing to impress. Quality Road's Fountain of Youth was a strong effort. He ran on after a hard pace and dusted a decent closing-miler in Theregoesjojo. Quality Road's stamina a question.

Old Fashioned drops to #5 with his disappointing loss in The Rebel Stakes. After going too fast while dueling with a good sprinter (Silver City), he had nothing left late, plodding home in over 33 seconds for the final 3/8ths. Appears subject to the pace scenario.

I Want Revenge makes the list for the first time at #6. Dueling outside a moderate pace, while well within himself, he flew home in less than 30 seconds crushing his Gotham rivals. The only question is whether 10 furlongs is in his scope, and we'll find out more in The Wood Memorial.

Toss Outs(for now): The Pamplemousse -popular horse would shock getting 10f dirt, Pioneerof the Nile -a huge effort in the S.A.Derby could renew hope, Imperial Council -stride conformation a question. Must run big in Wood, Theregoesjojo-miler, Musket Man-pedigree says "NO!", Beethoven-no.,West Side Bernie-no, Chocolate Candy-must run BIG in SA Derby.

Close eye on: Take The Points, Square Eddie, Nicanor, Close Alliance, Affirmatif

Monday, March 16, 2009

Update: Mayo and Gallo Idea

Well it seems Mike's idea (read and comment here) has grown some legs. We have received a good many contacts asking if it is going to happen, and for more details. We have also seen people sign up, just in support of the idea. The response rate has been more than solid.

We would like to let everyone know that we will be meeting with Mike and Ross this week at our weekly HANA meeting, and from there we should have further details.

Thanks again to everyone for commenting and letting us know how you feel. And please, continue to do so if you wish.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

"Voting With Your Dollars Earns You Respect"

As we are growing we are seeing more and more member feedback, regarding myriad issues. One such email recently was offered by a Northern California HANA member, who has been helping out from day one, and one of the groups biggest supporters. He reflects on the HANA ratings, the Mike Mayo and Ross Gallo idea (read it here), and horseplayers in general.

Talking Amongst Ourselves

With a new proposal for collective horseplayer action having been put on the table just recently, before HANA and its members proceed I thought it might be a good time to reflect on something first.

I would have to say that in my mind the HANA track ratings were a full success. They generated a lot of publicity for the group, they were carried by major media outlets, and they generated much debate amongst horseplayers as the Top 20 rated tracks were revealed.

Something very important though was lost amongst the debate of “this track should have been rated above that track”, and “why wasn’t this track rated higher?”, and “are you kidding me that that track was rated that high!”, and the chants of “TOGA! TOGA!” – and that was the letter grade given to each track. While it is human nature for us to want to pay a lot of attention to who is at the head of the class, to see who is #1, and to debate relative rankings, there is a group that did not get a lot of attention – the tracks who received failing grades.

On the Version 2.0 ratings which are soon to be released, there are 29 tracks that received a D or below. Taken as a group they are ghastly – they have some of the worst racing in the nation, at some of the worst facilities, and at almost universally the highest prices. To add insult to injury, many of them receive generous slots subsidies.

Now HANA giving these failing tracks failing grades is not going to be a big media story carried on some of the well known Thoroughbred news sites, and they probably aren’t going to receive the same kind of horseplayer scrutiny that the Top 20 list did. This is a shame, because they should receive the most attention of all.

Let’s take Philadelphia as an example. They have one of the most onerous takeouts in the country at 26-30% on all exotics. There are lotteries available that pay out at higher rates. And yet, depressingly, they pull in over $110,000 per race in exotic bets. As the customers to the industry we must come to grips with the fact that we vote with our dollars. And there is no question that every dollar bet into a 30% rake undercuts the message we are trying to send to the tracks.

If we want the respect of the industry, if we want them to treat us as anything other than degenerates (which, let’s be honest with ourselves, is by and large how we are perceived) – then we must be conscious of how and with whom we wager. We must remember that every dollar we bet sends a message. Every time a track takes in a wager they see that as an “Atta boy. See -- we’re doing a good job. Another happy customer”.

So before you make your next bet at one of these tracks, think long and hard if that is precisely the message you wish to send them – because that is how they take it.

One other thing that must be brought up when takeout is the subject is rebates. Some HANA members I am certain are receiving healthy rebates at even the worst rated takeout tracks – likely enough in many cases to make them quite playable. So far as I can tell there is just no way around it – without some solidarity things are not going to change. So long as tracks are seeing their pools flush (even though we would argue they could be much larger) they aren’t going to be inclined to make the changes they need to make. And that won’t happen without rebate players standing up and voting with their dollars as if they were paying full takeout prices. At least until rebates are available on a much broader basis than they are now – there needs to be some solidarity on this front.

I am not necessarily calling or suggesting that HANA should call for an across the board boycott of these tracks, although I have to say I wouldn’t be unhappy if they did so. What I’m saying is that it shouldn’t be necessary for HANA to call for it.

This is not about being negative, or trying to hurt any tracks. I will not play Philly Park, or Assanoibia, or Laurel, or Fort Erie, or quite a few others – because 26% takeouts are not ok. They are bad for you and they are bad for me. They are also bad for the tracks, and bad for the horsemen. They are bad for everyone. By betting I would be telling them that it is ok. The decision not to play is not about a token protest, or something to be done for a limited duration, or about an action that draws in press coverage.

If we want change, we must systematically and consciously move our wagers to those venues that offer us more of the things we want. We must vote with our dollars, they are and always will be the most potent form of clout we have in this industry.

If you choose to wager at tracks that charge outrageous prices for a below average product – don’t be surprised if they don’t give you a lot of respect. You prove to them, with every wager you make – that they don’t have to.