Monday, February 28, 2011

Hastings Racecourse Slashes Takeout, Raises Purses for 2011

Hastings Racecourse Announces Increased Purses and Reduced Take-Outs for 2011 Thoroughbred Race Season

Fan-Friendly “Afternooner” Start Times to Also Be Introduced

Vancouver, B.C. (March 1, 2011) – The 2011 thoroughbred racing season at Hastings Racecourse & Slots launches on Saturday, April 16 with exciting changes in store for the 71-day meet.

Overnight purses are increasing by 19% and stakes horses will compete for 23% more with the retooled 41-race stakes schedule. An unprecedented 15 per cent takeout for followers of Hastings racing; resulting in increased payoffs for Win, Place and Show wagering.  Added to the lower WPS takeouts are the Pick 4 Wager and the newly added Pick 5 Wager which will be a jackpot-type bet.  Both will feature a low 15% takeout.

A new start time of 1:20 p.m. will apply on Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays, with the exception of major stakes days on Monday, August 1 (BC Cup Day) and Sunday, September 11 (BC Derby Day). Start times for both will be 12:20 p.m.

Recognized as the most important and richest race of the year, the 66th running of the $200,000 BC Derby on September 11 is the crown jewel of every Hastings Racecourse season. Added to the Derby Card is the BC Oaks, and four additional stakes, for over $500,000 in purses. The $50,000 Redekop BC Cup Classic is the feature attraction of eventful BC Cup Day August 1, when seven stakes races totaling $350,000 in purses make up the spectacular holiday card.  

Fan-friendly “Afternooner” starts of 3:20 p.m. will be introduced at Hastings this year to accommodate BC Lions home games at Empire Field and the annual Fair at the PNE.  The 10 dates affected are July 8, 22 and August 5 for Lions’ Friday night games plus Saturday afternoon, September 10.  Twilight 3:20 p.m. starts at Hastings during the PNE Fair will be August 24, 25, 26, 31 and September 1 and 2.

The 71-day live racing schedule that ends on Sunday, October 2   and the 2011 stakes schedule are available on the Hastings Racecourse website at

Hastings Racecourse & Slots is located in Vancouver, BC and features live and simulcast wagering, vibrant gaming floor, numerous dining options, private and public event facility rental opportunities, spectacular views of the North Shore Mountains, and outstanding guest service.


For further information contact: 
                                                       Howard Blank 604.512.6066
              Raj Mutti 604.216.5245                        
                                                    Sonja Mandic 604 889.7114

Saturday, February 26, 2011

USHWA Dan Patch Awards Live-Streamed

Tomorrow evening in Fort Lauderdale the Dan Patch Awards for harness racing are being live-streamed. During the first section of the dinner, the USHWA are giving out the "human" awards, of which HANA has been honored (see release here).

Accepting the President's Award for our almost 2000 member group will be a long time HANA member and Florida resident Abe Diamond. Abe is a member of the harness racing working group as well.

Abe had to give a little bit of information on himself for the presenters and he offered this synopsis:

"My first visit to a harness track was in 1956 or7 when my father took me to see Adios Harry race at Roosevelt Raceway. (Diamond Hal defeated him) I became hooked on the sport when I attended the Messenger Stakes on Memorial Day weekend in 1958 and saw O"Brien and Jimmy Arthur defeat a stellar field of 3 year olds including Thorpe Hanover and eventual Jug winner Shadow Wave. Later that year I witnessed Hugh Bell and Raider Frost ( who was coupled with Shadow Wave ) nail Clint Hodgins and Bye Bye Byrd at the wire in the Cane Pace which was races at 1 1/16th miles. Shadow Wave and Joe O'Brien were up the track at odds on after leading most of the way. Raider Frost would have been 100-1 if he were uncoupled."

We suspect Abe is a good choice; he'll fit right in!

To watch the ceremony please visit the USTA site tomorrow at 7:30.

If you'd like to participate in the silent auction at this years awards, which benefits a number of organizations you can here. Patriots tickets, racing memorabilia and much more are being auctioned.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Craig Walker

Walker at Trackmaster lets some thoughts be heard on Cali-racing. He believes that something positive has to be done to increase participation:

"Bettors need to see a serious statement that California racing wants them to spend their money on California races."

More at link.

Thorotrends Survey

Dan Needham at Thorotrends has built a new racing survey. If you are a resident of the US or Canada please give it a shot. The more information the industry has about us, the customer, the better off we'll be.

To take the survey please click here.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

HANA Members, California Racing Meet

Yesterday at Hollywood Park a good many stakeholders, including HANA members met. The Bloodhorse reported on the meetings here.

Attendees were asked to list the issues they felt were the most important. Topping the list was the horse shortage in California, followed by the takeout rates. California increased the takeout on exotic wagers beginning in 2011 to bolster purses. Horseplayers have protested vociferously, many in the form of boycotting the current meetings at Golden Gate Fields and Santa Anita.

The Hollywood meeting was closed to the media, and attendees were asked not to discuss specifics because everything is still in the idea stage. The group in the future plans to divide into four sections to concentrate on the areas deemed most important—marketing, takeout, distribution, and product.

Thanks to all HANA members who completed the Hollywood Park survey we sent out last week. Your voice is being heard.

Lee Amaitis Attacks Status-Quo

Via the DRF:

“There simply isn’t any other proven way of growing purses without generating more wagering,” he said.

“Changing post time from 1 to 2 doesn’t cut it; half-price programs won’t solve the problem. Be open to new ideas; whether its technology or new bets, just listen. Don’t recycle old ideas; create new ones.”

Amaitis predicted, “In five years, our simulcast centers and racebooks will have many more open chairs. The super high five will be the super sensational seven. And we will continue to write the obituary for the game we all love.”

More at link.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Arlington Horsemen and Management Respond

In a bit of good news, Arlington Park's stakeholders give something that makes the revenue drivers - bettors - smile. They have worked together to tie purses to field size. According to studies, field size is the second most sensitive factor (takeout is first) with regards to handle.

Press Release

In a continued effort to provide the wagering public the best racing product possible, Arlington Park and the Illinois Thoroughbred Horseman’s Association (ITHA) have reached an agreement to bank purse monies based upon the number of betting interests in all overnight races for the upcoming 2011 meet beginning with the Opening Day program on Friday, May 6.

The purses listed in the condition book for overnight races will be based upon a field of seven or more betting interests at the time the horses reach the paddock for a race. Any overnight race field that enters the paddock with six or fewer betting interests represented will run for 85% of the listed purse with the remaining 15% being banked in the purse account to prevent over-payments for those races.
“In talking to our bettors, they say that field size is their single biggest driver of wagering. As such it makes sense to base the purse of the race on the amount of wagering it generates,” said Arlington Park General Manager Tony Petrillo. “The reduced wagering on short fields results in a significant loss in handle and purse money generated for the horsemen. This banking program will allow us to maintain a sustainable purse structure at the most competitive time of the year.”

“The ITHA and Arlington management have committed to bank 15% of the purse, exclusive to fields of six or fewer betting interests, to insure overall purse levels remain stable throughout the 2011 race meet,”said ITHA President Mike Campbell.

“Several prominent horsemen were involved in this decision,” he continued. “It was a difficult decision but Arlington management and horsemen together are finding ways to better the Illinois horse racing industry and maintain the highest possible level of Thoroughbred competition even during these difficult economic times.”

Using a maiden special weight race as an example, the purse listed in the condition book would be $28,000. Should a field of six or fewer betting interests reach the paddock for the race, the purse for the race would be adjusted to $23,800.

Additionally, at the request of the horsemen, the purse values listed in the condition book will reflect the base purse with any bonuses listed as additions rather than being included in the purse. Again using an open maiden special weight race as an example, the purse listed will be $28,000, plus $10,080 in Illinois Owners Awards, rather than $38,080 including $10,080 in Illinois Owners Awards. With Illinois horses competing in open competition and running under Illinois owners' conditions, this posting will provide a clearer understanding of the amounts that each race participant has earned.

Spring Training for the 2011 season begins with the opening of the stable area for horsemen to set up their barns on Thursday, April 7 with the first horses set to arrive on the grounds on Saturday, April 9 at which time the training track will open. Spring Training on the main course will begin on April 17.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Ed Martin: Review Dutrow License

Press release from RCI: Racing Commissioners International.

RCI President Ed Martin today formally requested the New York State Racing and Wagering Board commence a review of the racing license now held by thoroughbred trainer Richard Dutrow.

In a letter to the Board (attached), Martin noted that Mr. Dutrow has violated the rules of racing in nine different states, at fifteen racetracks, and has been cited sixty-four times.

“In reviewing Mr. Dutrow’s career in racing you will find a variety of violations that need to be assessed in determining whether there is pattern of disregard for the rules sufficient to take action on his racing license,” Martin wrote.

“In addition to numerous violations of the drug rules pertaining to phenylbutazone, clenbuterol, and mepivacaine, there are violations concerning failure to adhere to licensing requirements, entering ineligible horses, conduct detrimental to racing involving false or misleading statements, as well as a variety of violations concerning failure to file proper documentation consistent with the rules,” he said.

Martin noted that a review of the underlying racing license is appropriate given what appears to be a pattern of disregard of the rules, spanning many years.

“How many so called honest mistakes can one have before you question whether there has been a total disregard for adherence to the rules. I ask the New York Board to make that determination and examine Mr. Dutrow’s career in racing to see if sufficient evidence exists to say enough is enough,” said Martin.

Via SC

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

SA, GG and Tampa Handle Numbers

A HANA member has compiled some betting numbers (from Equibase) on a few tracks and we share them here (through Feb 13th).

Golden Gate: Purses up huge, exotic wagering particularly down:

Tampa Bay Downs: Showing some promise this season with horseplayers. Beyer got into the act talking about them just last week.

Santa Anita thus far. Purses up, handle down.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Dave Schwartz - "A Call to Arms in California"

Dave Schwartz is a charter member of HANA and has been a successful vendor of handicapping software and training materials for the horseplayer since 1991. His website and blog is at He submitted this opinion piece to us this weekend, and we print it in its entirety below.

There is a battle waging in California right now between the tracks, the horsemen groups, the regulator and the horseplayer.

Oh, you won’t see it billed as having anything to do with the horseplayer, but make no mistake; it is all about the player. And by “horseplayer” I mean YOU!

The ultimate result of this battle in California will affect players everywhere, not just Santa Anita, Golden Gate and other California ovals.

For those of you who have not been following closely, California racing is in trouble. Track management and horsemen said they needed more revenue in order to increase purses, the end result being to improve the “entertainment value” of the product. That product definitely needs improvement because short, uncompetitive fields just cannot be called a “quality” product.

So, when the track decided that they needed more money for purses where did they turn?

They turned to the horse player, of course. As they always do. They raised the takeout!

A little history lesson is in order 

Before the days of simulcasting, life was simpler. Back then the local track was the only option. Players had only the one track and eight or nine races to consider each day. Tracks were making money hand over fist because they had a captive audience.

Those of you who are old enough to remember the days before simulcasting can recall how different it was back then. Remember how you looked forward to a trip to Las Vegas? It meant for a week or so you could play any track you wanted. It was total immersion; heaven for a horseplayer.

Then simulcasting came along and every race track was like a Las Vegas race book: just about every track was available.

Then the world changed again and you could bet from home via the internet. Now we’re talking! We were really in heaven! No more parking or admission costs and you always had a reserved seat at home. Wherever your computer is situated at home was way nicer than the turf club. A great hot dog and beer was now at grocery store prices instead of $8 or more.

Internet wagering was both good and bad news for the track. The good news was that the track’s effective market was now national or even international. The even better news was that without leaving home or office, one could make a few bets during the lunch hour or just after dinner without disrupting the activities of the day.
The bad news was that the track no longer had a captive audience; the player was free, no longer trapped in his local circuit. This is when the world began to change for the race tracks.

Back to the Battle

Let us concentrate for a moment on the “bad news for the tracks” part for a moment.

When the player was no longer held captive by the local track, the tracks should have begun courting the player. They didn’t. I believe that the player was considered a “constant” in the financial equations employed by the tracks.

I believe it was assumed that the players’ money would always be there, no matter what choices were made by track management, horsemen, etc. It was seen as a permanent and perpetually renewable resource to be drawn from no matter what changes were made to the game.

So, if the track needed more money – no problem! I can imagine a track executive saying, “We’ll just raise the take a little. After all, we’re the only game in town.”

What they seem to have missed is that they are no longer the only game in town. Heck, with internet betting going as strong as it is they’re not even the only track in town.

Read the above paragraph again. Understand that they got to thinking this way because it used to be true, but has not been true for almost 2 decades.

Back to California

California's history has always been to protect its race tracks before it protects the patrons of racing. While California was quick to allow its signal to be broadcast out of state, residents of California were not permitted to bet on out-of-state tracks except at the track. In other words, if you lived in another state you could bet any track from home, but if you lived in California you could only bet California.

Even now, California residents are typically excluded from receiving rebates through ADW's.

My point in this that California racing has always bent over backwards to protect the interests of the tracks and horsemen at the direct expense of the horse player.

California horsemen have again and again referred to their product as an "entertainment product." We have heard that horse players are simply supposed to accept the fact that racing is entertainment, just like going to the movies, and paying for entertainment is just how it's done.

I suggest that the drop in handle at Santa Anita and Golden Gate is a result of catering to "entertainment" players. When you go to a movie you bring $20-$40, not multi-hundreds or thousands. The entertainment players will, by their very nature, be small players.

Welcome to Bunker Hill 

It is not that Santa Anita (or the state of California, for that matter) is really very different than any other track. But for a few recently converted, customer-friendly tracks, the underlying attitude of stakeholders (TOC, CHRB, Tracks) is really not much different from the prevailing attitude at tracks all across the country. Need to build a new grandstand? Raise the take. The horsemen are complaining that they aren't making enough money? No problem. Just take a little more from the bettor; he won't miss it. Need to raise purses? Well, the horseplayer just has to understand that it is his responsibility to pay for the needs of racing.

In my opinion, Santa Anita is the "Bunker Hill" of horse racing. That is, it is the first battle to be waged in the “War of the Take.” Ironically, the battle is truly being waged between stakeholders and simple business reality. You cannot overcharge, abuse and ignore the customer indefinitely without paying a price. The price paid is usually bankruptcy.

I am sure that the rest of the nation’s track managers are watching The Battle of Santa Anita closely. What happens at Santa Anita in the coming months should be an eye opening wake-up call for the rest of the country.

I truly do not wish ill to racing in California nor to Santa Anita. I am a big fan! I spent many wonderful days at Santa Anita, enjoying the Clydesdales, Trevor Denman, and of course top-quality racing. I hope to do so again, but doubt that I will find more than memories and a few new condominiums there in a few years.

Can California Racing Be Saved?

Carl Shapiro and Hal Varian, in their book, Information Rules: A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy, speak of businesses spiraling upwards quickly when in growth mode and spiraling downwards just as quickly when in decline. They build the case for the spiraling process going ever faster once it begins.

To me this conjures an image of a whirlpool. Someone caught in the whirlpool can extricate themselves relatively easily as long as they begin their escape before moving too close to the center.

An immediate change of direction for Santa Anita management is the only way for them to escape their ultimate fate. Things simply will not get better on the path they have chosen! The longer they wait the greater the risk that whatever changes they make our too little, too late.

One problem that management will need to address is who actually runs the show: track management or the horsemen? All over the country tracks are in dire straits financially. At the center of many of these problems are the horsemen, who have demanded that they get paid first, even if the track hemorrhages huge amounts of money in doing so. It is much like a labor union choosing to see a company bankrupt before making any concessions.

These are hard times for everyone – the track owners, the horsemen and the players. The ship is fast taking on water and the lifeboats are a bit rickety. If anyone gets into the lifeboat with a me-first attitude, nobody will stay afloat for very long.

There is a silver lining in all this for the horseplayer: If California racing holds fast to the same policies and fails, a clear message will be sent to the rest of the industry: change or perish.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Wilson: Clock is Ticking for California Racing

High-ranking officials from Santa Anita and Del Mar met separately with HANA a few weeks ago, and by all accounts the get-togethers went well. But again, the TOC refused to send one of their decision makers, instead choosing to have Aaron Vercruysse, hired recently to advise the horsemen on betting matters, attend the meeting and report back to them.

The California Thoroughbred Trainers are willing to sit down with HANA. Again, why won't the CHRB and TOC do the exact same thing?

Rescinding the increase in takeout would not in itself right horse racing's sinking ship, but it would be a start. It likely won't happen, though, until Santa Anita is forced to cut its overnight purses, an announcement that could be coming soon if the handle doesn't improve.

Read full article here.

Related: Fan Councils Zoom.

Fan Councils Zoom

Some other sports are using built-in research to do a couple of things. To try and grow, and to get better in terms of customer relationship management. Dan Needham of Thorotrends looks at one such sport this morning: NASCAR.

This fan council is 12,000 strong, and there is a waiting list to join. It is a fan council with a twist:

While the creation of proprietary panels is nothing new, it appears that NASCAR has taken the idea to new heights and treats it more like an advisory board while skillfully blending social media with traditional research. Using this research tool, just one of many in its research toolbox, NASCAR is able to conduct more customer research at a fraction of the cost of ad hoc projects. Fan feedback on a variety of topics is measured and acted on -- important changes to the sport have been implemented to guide the future direction of NASCAR.

We have tried to do this in a small way here at HANA. Our survey's are a part of that. The problem is that we are not NASCAR, we're horse racing, and horse racing patrons, gamblers and fans are simply not energized like NASCAR or football fans. Other than the obvious - our gross numbers are much lower - there is what appears to be another reason: Decades of being ignored. From a Sports Illustrated article way back in 1963:

Racegoers may well be the most put-upon and the least represented of groups. Last winter a good race writer, discussing a proposal for the conduct of racing and an increased take, said that "for once all parties concerned" were in favor. He listed the parties, and nowhere was there a mention of the most numerous—and financially most indispensable—party: those whose dollars keep the totalizer flickering. The Jockey Club and tracks, stockholders, management, state commissions and their association, officials, horse owners and trainers, riders, jockeys' agents, veterinarians, farriers, mutuel clerks, stable help, concessionaires, cooks, waiters, janitors, charwomen—all these sometimes speak and sometimes act in their own interest. But not the vast, miscellaneous, disorganized racegoers—33,073,712 last year—on whose patronage the well-being of the others depends.

It seems we are at the bottom of the totem pole and have been for some time. But what we are finding of late is the opposite: Some tracks want to hear from you. We are contacted often about that. It just takes getting involved.

We are currently close to 2000 strong. What we have always envisioned is getting your voice heard and that can and has happened. We can offer a survey on a new bet that a track may be offering. We can offer feedback with a core group and subset of a group like we are doing with the Harness Racing working group (our first survey for harness racing is due out soon, so please sign up if interested). If we get enough subsets of people we can poll and survey those of you who spend most of your time on-track, or bet from home. We can get feedback from those of you who are new, or have been around for awhile or bet $2 across three times a week, or $200 across eight times a day. All these things can finally have the fan and bettor represented in at least some way, in terms of the differences between us all.

Whether it is here at HANA, or with the NTRA Players Group, or Thorofan, give it a shot. Although it seems impossible because it has not been the case for probably a century: Your voice can be heard. It should not be just for NASCAR fans, racefans are important too.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Horse Racing Press Gets Moving

There have been several news articles of late that have tried to forward honest discussion on some of the problems in thoroughbred racing.

First, Jack Shinar wrote of the boycott and California racings issues here. Although racing leadership did not comment on Jeff Platt's quotes, the issue was brought to the fore. David Israel of the CHRB did comment, and that was a good thing. Mr. Israel of course has been the scourge of horseplayers for some of his comments regarding the entertainment of horse racing. We at HANA have little quarrel with him for that - if your heart did not skip a beat in the Breeders Cup Classic, or watching Goldikova's athleticism the last sixteenth an hour or so earlier, you should check your pulse. We at HANA simply believe that his ideas are long-term not shorter term. In the short term we should be trying to grow handles, not put policies in place that arithmetically make them sure to shrink.

Regardless, it was a fair article about pricing and horseplayers who think we are moving in the wrong direction to compete and win in modern betting's society.

Second Eric Mitchell wrote similarly a couple of days ago in the same publication:

With all these other issues challenging California racing, raising the takeout this year seemed like an unnecessarily risky move. Raising takeout is actually risky anywhere considering horse racing’s place in the overall world of gambling and entertainment.

As we have said countless times before: California's problems are not simple. They are systemic and structural, and we need big solutions to fix them. This is why HANA and others have put forth the idea (in addition to a change in takeout) of a gambling board to look at wagering scientifically, and a committee to really have a hard look at field size and ownership costs. The point horseplayers are making (and which Mr. Mitchell appears to agree) on this one item, however, is straightforward: Raising takeout moves us farther away from a solution to those problems, it does not help us fix them.

Last up, Jessica Chapel is doing a whale of a job covering the signal dispute in New England. Years ago a lot of this was simply shrugged off, but now there are people out there - virtually everywhere - watching. We'd mention and cover the dispute and its effect on players more here in depth, but when we have people like that to link to it certainly makes our job much easier.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Election Time

It is hard to believe, but this September will mark the 3 year anniversary of the Incorporation of the Horseplayers Association of North America. What a long strange trip it’s been! What started as a handful of like-minded horseplayers in an internet chat room is now a nearly 2,000 member strong organization.

In those first formative weeks at HANA, none of us knew what to expect this organization to become, or if it would become anything at all. We all hoped for it to be a success -- both as an organization in terms of growth, and so far as meeting our mission statement of improving the game through horseplayer input. But none of us knew how or if this would happen.

As a small group of horseplayers, chomping at the bit to get something, anything, done -- it was decided collectively at the time to simply elect the board from that original group and to give them 3 year terms, if they’d be good enough to stand for it. If you had placed wagers on us ever making it that far, the smart money would have been against it.

So it is a very happy thing for all of us to announce that it’s been decided that concurrent with our 3 year anniversary, and the expiration of those original 3 year terms -- HANA will be holding elections for its Board of Director positions. Pursuant to this, as 2011 began to roll around we began surveying other similar non-profit groups, investigating how they administer their elections, and we're happy to report that things are nearly finalized. We anticipate updating both our original corporate charter, and the full membership with all the details by the end of April.

That we have come so far in so short a time is a testament to everyone involved. The countless horseplayers who have contributed their time and effort to this fledgling organization are to be commended, HANA truly is the result of all your efforts.

Boot-strapping an entity out of nothingness is not an easy feat, and it has been a difficult road at times. There are so many who have played important roles, and who have helped shape HANA, and who with your words, and actions, and encouragement, kept HANA going. To all of our friends, a sincere thank you. We anticipate a great 2011 and beyond.


The HANA Board

Monday, February 7, 2011

Harness Working Group Says "Go Tioga"

We recently began recruiting for HANA's harness racing working group. In this blog post, the director of the new group let's Tioga Downs know that harness players are very pleased. With the announcement that their super-low takeout plan of last year has been approved for 2011 along with a new massive stakes season planned, it could be a great year for the little track.

Tioga Downs, the Harness Track That Keeps Getting Better

What can you say about Jeff Gural and Company at Tioga Downs. After a successful experiment with reducing the takeout rate to being the best overall deal in harness racing last year; they have announced that once again, Tioga will maintain the same takeout rates as last year (Win/Place/Show – 15%; Exacta/Doubles – 17%; other gimmicks – 21%); the lowest allowed in the State of New York. The continuation of the reduced takeout rate is possible thanks to the cooperation of the Southern Tier Harness Horsemen’s Association which seems to ‘get it’; you need to give the gambler a lower takeout rate in order to encourage them to wager on your track and increase the churn on their races.

Quite a different attitude from the Harness Horsemen’s Association of Central New York, the horsemen’s group at Vernon Downs, which refuses to give an inch in their takeout rate. However, being this horsemen’s group doesn’t ‘get it’, their refusal is not surprising. This is why Tioga’s handle increased last year and Vernon’s handle decreased. What’s puzzling is many of the horsemen that race at Vernon also race at Tioga, so one can only think that the HHACNY leadership is not listening to their members and/or have a hidden agenda.

But it gets even better, this year, Tioga along with their sister track Vernon Downs will be offering perhaps the best stakes program in the country with the exception of the Meadowlands (hopefully), Chester Downs and Yonkers (where many horses avoid going to). How’s that for small tracks in Central New York?
In addition to the NYSS and NY Late Closing series, Tioga and Vernon Downs picks up many of the Historic Series Grand Circuit races ($600,000E) which previously were raced at the Meadowlands; some of which have been used in the past by some of the sport’s best three year olds to kick off their seasonal campaigns. The three year old Historic Series events will be raced at Tioga on the last Saturday in June and on the first Saturday in July. Also, this year, the Kindergarten Classic is changing with The Red Mile hosting two legs of the series instead of the Meadowlands. Being contested once again is the Ms Versatility which will have legs at Tioga and Vernon before the final is held at the Delaware County Fairgrounds during Jug Week.

But the stakes season starts with the John Simpson Memorials for three year olds which are warm ups for the $1 million Empire Breeders Classics for New York Bred horses. June 12 brings the Aged Open pacers to Tioga Downs with the $200,000 Bettor’s Delight and $200,000 Artiscape for the mares. Some of the nation’s most promising freshmen will be making their debuts in the ($600,000E) Tompkins-Geers stakes during Grand Circuit week in mid-July.

In recognition of Tioga Down’s efforts, the World Driving Championship will be making a stop at Tioga on August 1 and on August 28, Tioga’s annual Driving Championship is being contested on the same card with the Zweig Memorial Trots for colts and fillies.

Early September brings the top trotters to Vernon Downs for the $200,000 Credit Winner plus the two year old stakes races which used to be part of Historic week at the Meadowlands and the stakes season at Vernon finishes with the John Simpson Memorials for the two year olds.

Despite what some of the naysayers in New York State are saying, Jeff Gural, Jason Settlemoir, Nick Salvi, and others in the racing department at the two tracks are committed to offering the best racing product possible in New York; offering stakes races that tracks with greater handles are unwilling or unable to offer. Plus with fewer racing days at the Meadowlands this summer, we may be seeing more Meadowlands horses making the trek north to race at Tioga.

According to Jason Settlemoir, “We appreciate the way horseplayers stepped up to the plate to support the Tioga takeout rate cut last year and we hope they continue to support us in 2011. Ultimately, the goal is to give horseplayers the same takeout rates as slot players. In addition, with our newly enhanced stakes schedule, we hope horseplayers will find another reason to play Tioga’s races as we attempt to make the Southern Tier of New York a destination for the sport’s best horses to race”. We agree and encourage harness racing horseplayers to take a good look at Tioga Downs this coming summer and continue to support Tioga Downs racing. Tioga Downs opens on Saturday, May 7 (Kentucky Derby Day).

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Bombs Away Monday's at Sam Houston. Selections and More!

Bombs Away Bob decided he wanted to play Sam Houston Monday's for their low takeout pick 3, and he thought he might bring some friends along. And so he did!

HANA President Jeff Platt has uploaded some reports for Sam Houston, including trainer reports, rider reports and a track profile. In addition he has some selections linked.

It looks like the dirt course is playing a little bit to late and the turf course (small sample) a little bit early.

For a complete look please visit the HANA Site here. And good luck tomorrow at Sam Houston.

To follow Bombs Away Bob on Twitter for tomorrow's races, you can here.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

They Fight, Customers Lose

It seems to happen about every six months. Tracks want X, horsemen want Y, and the customer gets the shaft. Massachusetts is the latest jurisdiction to punish the horseplayer and fan, with the horseman group(s) pulling Florida and Ohio signals from the MA customers, even ADW customers.

"So, the situation is ugly, and complicated, and seems likely to become more so before anything is settled."

Read more here

NHC Champ John Doyle Interview. Player Power.

John Doyle was interviewed yesterday on Steve Byk's show. It was a very nice interview from a guy who quit his job, plays the races profitably and then wins the huge prize at the NHC. He not only goes into his background, but also (like many of you) has some opinions on what can make the game better.

One quote on Equidaily summed it up:

"I think there are things that players can do [to improve the sport] that they don't do. I just see it every day with takeout... I want to reward tracks that are aggressively trying to lower their takeouts and do the right thing." 

This is something that more and more players are looking to do, and it is very important. Rewarding and offering solutions to tracks for their business is what a lot of us out there do, and we agree more of us need to do it.

John also went to talk about the Arizona law that outlaws Internet wagering in his state, and how it is a huge inconvenience to the modern player. We have been at that issue for some time, but we are no closer than we were back a year ago. The only way things can happen is if players get involved. We thank John for doing that via the media. Great work.

To listen to John's full interview, you can here. It's about half way through the first link.

Speaking of players getting involved, one did this past week with a good idea. It takes more than ideas to get something going however; it takes a willingness to spend some time on it. "Bombs Away Bob Grant" - who many of you probably know on twitter for his exotic tickets galore - said "why don't we get a little pool party going for Monday's at Sam Houston for their 12% pick 3".

The HANA pool parties for those who don't remember, were a pretty nice success. We bet seven or eight tracks over several months, targeting good takeout bets, or rewarding tracks (like John Doyle speaks of above) for their good work. In some targeted pools, the action doubled them. The Pool Parties were extremely labor intensive and took several weeks of planning. So, with little time before Monday we can not do an official party for Sam Houston the way we did the old ones.

But we can still bet!

Monday at Sam Houston, at 1PM, we will start "Bombs Away Monday Pick 3's at Sam Houston". Bob I see is already tweeting it:

On the blog Monday we will offer out analysis, and we plan on doing it each Monday. For this week Jeff Platt has agreed to analyze the pick 3's. As most of you know Jeff is the programmer behind his software package and he knows his stuff, sometimes finding some very nice overlays. He is also a very long time player.

If any of you know anyone who would like to be a guest capper for Monday's racing at Sam Houston, please let us know!

John Doyle and Bombs Away Bob agree that we have to reward tracks that offer lower takeout, or are doing things that you would like to see done. As well, they are both getting involved.

For those who want to follow that lead, please join us Monday for the Bombs Away Pick 3's. Chances are we'll be playing on our twitter account here. Bob can be followed here. Spread the word and see you then!

Note: For a look at what a 12% pick 3 can do for your bottom line, read our analysis here.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Quote of the Day

“There aren’t sufficient numbers of racing customers in the world anymore because they died”

Penn National's Peter Carlino 

Carlino also finds empirically what Richard Thalheimer found out theoretically in 1998 at the University of Louisville:

"He said that when the company lobbies for slots at tracks, it will move to new arguments—including the ability of racetrack slots to promote agri-business—because he believes increased purses do not improve the quality of racing or increase pari-mutuel handle."

h/t to Thorotrends

Strange Payout at Delta Downs?

We often see on chat boards, forums or via email, some suspicious-looking payouts. Most times these payouts can be explained by small pools or statistical noise. However, we received an email from a player yesterday about the last race at Delta Downs:

"I have bet thousands of races in my life and I have never, ever seen such a discrepancy in the prices for the odds that came in."

Checking into it, we agree this looks a little odd. A 12-1 shot won, a 27-1 shot was second, a 12-1 shot was third and a 5-2 shot was fourth. The 3-5 shot ran out, and it was a huge ten horse field.

The exacta was $446 for a deuce, which is perfectly in-line.

If we had to ask ourselves: "If we hit the tri for 50 cents and the super for a dime, and there was $29k in the tri pool and $32k in the super pool under these circumstances (big field etc), what would we expect to walk home with?" I would think we would all think we made a score.

But we would have taken $365.40 for the tri and the super came back at $311.82. After takeout it appears there were about 76 dime super tickets sold on that ridiculously tough combo.

Did anyone play this race last night and do you have any thoughts?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Yes Folks, Small Tracks Can Grow

Pompano Park, just north of Fort Lauderdale FL is growing. With a management team laser-focused on handles and treating customers right, the future seems good for the track. In December they had their highest handle evening in over two years and have again upped purses. We spoke to their director of racing and got some answers to why he thinks the little track is building a following.

"We have heard for many previous years 'this will be our last season'", says Director of Racing John Yinger.

"Now with our purse increase, higher handles, and a proposed new long term deal with horsemen, we are looking to the future"

So goes the storyline at Pompano Park.

This change in outlook did not happen by accident. It was a multi-pronged attack to grow handle and grow customer satisfaction.

"Our simulcast manager has a casino background and he is also a horseplayer. He has been pushing for churn and better value for horseplayers. We reduced our takeout and expanded our signal reach, so the market is looking at the product." he said.

In late 2009 the first step was to attack pricing, where up until that time, Pompano embarked on perhaps the largest one-time takeout cut in horse racing history. WPS dropped from 20.5% to 19%, Pick 4 takeout went from from 25% to 15%, all other bets dropped from 28 to 23, except supers which dropped from 29.5% to 25%.

"Instead of being one of the highest takeout tracks out there, we moved to at or below harness racings average. The pick 4, for example, is picking up steam. No one played it at all - we averaged $800 a night historically. Now we average over $4000. We hope to average over $5000 next season." said Yinger.

The push has not stopped there.

"We have tried to make the racing more fun for on-track patrons. We have a trackside show and we offer five or six starting car rides a night. We have tried to get the younger audience to the track. While they are here and betting they get more churn too. Our on-track handle has doubled a lot of nights." he said.

John also told us that over the summer they worked hard to brighten up the track, and the staff - even on the casino side - has been racing driven.

"We painted and upgraded several things, on track. Our staff works very hard on both sides to promote racing" he added.

With most of the handle - like all tracks - coming from off-track, they have tried their best to maximize the interest by offering free video on the website and free past performance files. Because of a dispute on giving out free data that has been suspended at the present time, but he hopes something can be worked out to get the free programs back on the website.

Whereas a lot of tracks score their progress by pure profit and loss, the management team at Pompano is focused on handle and growing the number for the long-term.

"I keep a white-board in my office with last years handle numbers listed. Then I add this years and compare year over year numbers. I do not have the overall numbers handy but I can tell you that last night a year ago we did $232,000 in handle. Last night we did $370,000."

Lower takeout, a better simulcasting product, a nicer on track experience - and two purse hikes in three months. It seems that it's a win-win at Pompano so far this season. It's one small track that has grown.

If you'd like to pay this track a visit you can find out more about them at Pompano Park's website. 

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