Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Arlington Park Makes Changes for 2011 – Lower Takeout on the Menu

Today Arlington Park made some player-friendly changes to the betting menu for 2011. We had a conversation with Ken Kiehn, Arlington’s VP of Sales Marketing and Guest Services about them, and more.

Lower takeout and a new wager to hopefully attract casual on-track players are two of the things that Arlington is trying this year. 

The pick 5 and Super High Five have both been reduced to 15% takeout, with the hopes of attracting horseplayer dollars via the simulcast market. 

“We held several focus groups with customers and asked if they would like a couple of lower takeout bets, which they did, so we responded” said Ken Kiehn.

Arlington is the second Churchill Downs controlled track to offer bettors a lower takeout, as Calder recently has initiated a 12% pick 5. 

“There are a couple of ways to hopefully raise revenue, take a higher percentage of a slightly lower handle or try and increase handle and take a lower percentage. We feel that looking at all facets of our product to grow handle is paramount.”  Kiehn said.

Newer fans have not been left out this meet with the interesting new “Last Call Wager”. This wager will be offered on the second last race of the day, sold on-track by dedicated ticket sellers with wireless equipment. The bet is a win place show wager of $2, $4 and $6. The hope is the new player will cash at least a show bet and make a few dollars. However, to add to the experience, if the customer loses his/her "last call" bet, the ticket can be exchange for a free beer, soda or other refreshment. 

“This is something we thought we’d try. A lot of fans leave after the sixth or seventh so maybe it can attract them to stay longer and have a better time.”

For serious horseplayers, Arlington hopes that field size will be better this meet and they are cautiously optimistic.  As most Arlington players know, the presence of Frank Calabrese horses at low odds was something that tended to be a complaint on various chat boards last season. The leading owners charges were formidable, and low odds winners permeated the landcape last season. This season Mr. Calabrese does not have any Arlington stalls, but the horse population seems to be sound.

“Stall applications seem strong so we hope we can offer a more attractive product in terms of field size this meet. The early part of the meet we anticipate being better than in years past, but time will tell”

Lower takeout, a hopeful bump in field size, lower denominations for wagers and a newbie bet - add Arlington Park to the list of 2011 tracks that seem to be asking for your business.
For more on the betting menu and 2011 changes, please visit here.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Does Takeout Matter? You Judge

If you ask any price sensitive player they will tell you pricing is everything - between being black and red at the end of the year and enjoying the sport of horse racing more or less. Brad Free in the DRF today exposes that for every player, in black and white.

Today's Hollywood Park pick 5 at a proper takeout rate, instead of the egregious TOC/CHRB mandated 23.68% hiked rate, paid out at 526-1 odds, instead of 466-1. That's not spin, or wagering economics that you need a PhD to understand. That's real money, in your pocket, to make your horse racing experience better.

Full column from Brad Free here.

Calder Race Course's meet begins April 25th, with a new pick 5 at 12%. Read about that here.

Hollywood Park Tries to Shake Things Up

As horseplayers we have learned a strong lesson the past year - although tracks put on the show and take the bets - they do not have ultimate power.

Hollywood Park management, having little control over the takeout hike in the state, has tried to do something for the customer this meet, both on track and off.

Horseplayers are fairly steadfast in their position in California, and stayed away from Santa Anita's meet. A thread popped up on last evening and it shows this to some degree, with over 50% saying they will still not look at Hollywood because of the TOC/CHRB takeout hike, this position is solidified.

One poster we think put it nicely:

"I used to really enjoy SoCal racing. Being on the East Coast, it fell into a perfect time slot for me to concentrate on the last 4-6 races on an almost daily basis. Then, they showed a blatant lack of respect for the customer by the takeout increase. To make matters worse, I couldn't believe some of the words directed at us, the customer. All the "takeout doesn't matter, gamblers will bet on anything", "the boycott is nonsense and won't have any effect" rhetoric, etc. Honestly, I don't miss it one bit. I've found better things to do with my time."

With tracks like Tampa lowering a couple more exotic takes this season, Hastings with a massive across the board takeout drop (and free PP's on their website) and several other tracks like a Woodbine at least moving in the right direction on pricing, a lot of horseplayers have found outlets to spend their hard-earned betting dollars.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Santa Anita Walk for a Cure

A special thanks to HANA's California rep Roger for arranging the day. The four HANA walkers pictured are Chloe Zak, Toni Deaver, Dee Dee Bigelow, Rochelle Vallese.

To see more of the pictures please visit HANA's Facebook page here!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Golden Gate Mirrors Santa Anita & Handle Falls 19.4%, Both Florida Tracks Sport Handle Increases

As promised here are updated numbers (Santa Anita meet numbers with a loss of handle of $122.9 million published below previously). Click to enlarge.

Golden Gate, off 19.4%, and 15.9% per race. Tampa grows handle by 6.2% overall and 8.60% per race. Gulfstream rises 6.4% and 2.4% per race.

HANA President Jeff Platt commented earlier today on the numbers.

"Make no mistake. The takeout increase in California has become a complete and utter failure. With each passing day racing customers everywhere are becoming more and more aware that racing has a high takeout problem."

Calder hopes to keep the Florida good vibes going with a North American Low 12% take pick 5, for their meet which is starting April 25th.

Santa Anita Meet Numbers: Total Handle Down $122.9 Million, or 20.8%

The Santa Anita meet has concluded. Because there are no hard-numbers published, a HANA member who has been compiling betting numbers for various racetracks this year, has them for us. The source is Equibase.

Total handle this year versus last was down (rounded) $122.9 million, or 20.80%.

"Handle Per Race" was down 12.40%.*

Field size although close to even, suffered by 0.17 horses per race.

UPDATE: Golden Gate Numbers will be up within the hour.

Note: Jessica confirms the above total handle losses with her look at the CHRIMS data, and relayed that to her readers earlier today.

Note II - *"Handle Per Race" is an often used figure by some racetracks who cut racedates and suffer handle losses. It tends to be a kinder number than gross handle, and it looks better to stakeholders. If we look at last year's "elite meet" at Monmouth, a race date reduction does not necessarily shrink the pie, and total handle can improve. While racing 49 days at Monmouth instead of 82, handle was still up by about $180 million.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Santa Anita: "Get on Track to Beat Cancer"

Tomorrow's the day!

"Racing fans, here’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to do something good AND something memorable. City of Hope and Santa Anita Park invite you to get ON TRACK TO BEAT CANCER and support the Women’s Cancers, Women’s Cures program. Join jockeys, trainers and celebrities on track. And, when we say ON TRACK, we mean on track.

Here’s how it works. Following the last race on closing day, Sunday, April 17th, you, your family and your friends can take a quarter mile walk down the Santa Anita stretch and exit through the winner’s circle; the same stretch and winner’s circle that hosted Zenyatta, John Henry, Seabiscuit and every champion in between. Raise your banners, bring your cameras, shoot video, get autographs, run like a racehorse, shout out loud and proudly honor those who are battling cancer and those who have succumbed. We’ve all been touched by cancer. Make this a walk in memory of the ones you love and those who love thoroughbred racing."

HANA's California Representative Roger has assembled a few members to take the walk tomorrow. "We'll be wearing purple and HANA sashes", he informs us.

If you are nearby, won't you join them? For $10, it's for a very good cause, that in one way or another has touched us all.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Calder Goes North American Low 12% on New Pick 5

50¢ Pick Five with Lowest Takeout Rate in the Country Headlines New Wagering Menu at Calder in 2011

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (April 13, 2011) – In preparation for its 40th Anniversary Celebration Season, Calder Casino & Race Course officials have announced the wagering menu for the Calder and Tropical meets in 2011, highlighted by the nationally-popular Pick 5 wager with an industry-low takeout rate of 12%. Calder’s season opener is April 25.

“Calder’s new wagering format builds a crescendo heading into the last five races of the card with a hallmark Pick 5 rolling into Pick 4, Pick 3, and late double wagering,” said Calder Vice President and General Manager John Marshall . “Most exciting is the debut of Calder’s Pick 5, today’s betting sensation, priced 20% less than any other track in the country.

“Insights from the Horseplayers Association of America (HANA) were valuable in the decision to price Calder’s Pick 5 better than the rest,” Marshall continued. “The result is an exciting wagering opportunity at an industry best takeout of 12 percent. We appreciate working with HANA leadership on innovations bringing enthusiasm to our product and look forward to future dialog.”

Calder’s Pick 5 will be a 50¢ minimum wager. The pool will be apportioned with a Jackpot Carryover (or ‘Major Pool’) and a Minor Pool, meaning that if no one correctly selects the five official winners, 75% of the pool will carry over to the next race day and 25% of the pool will be distributed to those who selected the first place finisher in the second greatest number of Pick 5 races, thus creating the possibility of large carryovers.

On each live racing day, Calder will offer:

* Win, Place, Show, Exactas, Trifectas, and Superfectas on all races;
* Daily Doubles on the first two races and the last two races;
* Rolling Pick 3s starting with the first race;
* A Pick 4 on the last four races;
* A Pick 5 on the last five races each day – with an industry-low takeout of 12%.

All wagers are a $1 minimum, except:

* 10¢ minimum on Superfectas
* 50¢ minimum on Trifectas, Pick 4, and Pick 5

Calder continues offering valuable handicapping information via its web site and closed-circuit television simulcast show. Nationally-renowned handicapper Toby Callet ’s “Calder Key Plays” and “Pedigree Profiles” of 2 year olds, and Anthony Schweiker ’s “Anthony’s Picks” are all available for free on Schweiker and track announcer Bobby Neuman also host the popular “Calder Today” TV show that airs at 11:30 a.m. on live race days.

In March, Calder converted its tote system to United Tote (a Churchill Downs Company) and introduced the latest self-service terminal technology to the local marketplace. Bettors at Calder during the ‘simulcast season’ have enjoyed using these state-of-the-art machines. The F-Series terminal enhances the wagering experience for guests, including a Power Tool feature that brings up a matrix of all exacta combinations of runners that are available to bet on, with current-pool payouts for each. The Versa terminal has supported wagering at the Kentucky Derby for 16 years. Its dependability, speed, and ease of use make it a favorite with mutuel tellers and players alike.

Calder will have a new first race post time this year, starting each race day at 12:30 p.m. Calder hosts two consecutive meets: the 101-day Calder Meet from April 25 to Sept. 30; and the 45-day Tropical Meet from Oct. 1 to Dec. 2, 2011. The Calder Meet offers 34 stakes worth $3,550,000 and the Tropical Meet will feature 21 stakes totaling $2,675,000 for a combined stakes program worth $6,225,000.

A high level of quality stakes action at Calder has been validated again and again by world champion and Eclipse Award contenders and winners. Performances from horses like Big Drama, Awesome Feather, Tackleberry, and Dubai Majesty are recent examples of Calder success stories. We invite fans to join in another exciting year of Thoroughbred racing action at Calder!

Calder Casino & Race Course, located on South Florida’s Miami-Dade / Broward county line, offers gaming action with over 1,200 slot machines in the Calder Casino, Thoroughbred horse racing during two consecutive meets, year-round simulcasting, and live poker games in Studz Poker Club. Calder is a wholly owned property of Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ: CHDN). Information about Calder Casino & Race Course can be found on the Internet at and


Monday, April 4, 2011

Harness Pick 4 Program An Early Success

"Northfield Park—which dropped the takeout rate on its Pick 4s from 22.5 percent to 14 percent as of April 1—was first out of the box on Friday (April 1) and saw its Pick-4 pool jump from $4,554 the previous Friday to $14,999, well past the $10,000 guarantee. Saturday’s Pick-4 pool was $12,901 compared to $6,295 the previous Saturday.

Balmoral Park offered a $15,000 guarantee on Saturday night and a $25,000 guarantee on Sunday night (15 percent takeout), and track general manager Jim Hannon told Monday that he is already considering increasing the guarantees based on the first two nights. On Saturday, Balmoral went from a $15,694 Pick-4 pool on March 26 to $34,072, and then on Sunday the track’s Pick-4 pool was $43,577 compared to $23,070 the previous Sunday."

To read the full story, please visit here.

Further to this, Illinois based trainer Robin Schadt emailed we at HANA more figures from the weekend at Balmoral.

Balmoral Park also showed an increase in total handle over the weekend. On Saturday, March 26, an 11-race card produced $822,719 in handle, while on Saturday, April 2, a 12-race card produced $1,235,290 in handle. The handle on Sunday, March 27, was $936,781 on a 10-race card while on Sunday, April 3, handle on a 10-race card generated $1,235,293 in handle.

Saturday, March 27 $ 74,792 per race

Saturday, April 3 $ 102,940 per race

Sunday, March 27 $ 93,671 per race

Sunday, April 4 $ 123,529 per race

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Owens Responds to New California Trainer Group

"Racetrack managements are discussing new wagers with a lower takeout to help turn around the handle decline. Owens said the TOC has been accused of blocking such experiments.

“That is not true,” Owens said. “What we did do is ask for an analysis of it so people could sit down and think about it. They came forward with data. We got assurances that it would sell, and we said, 'Godspeed and good luck.' We’re partners with the racetracks. Anything that is responsible that will improve the business has to be examined.”

The obvious question is: Why would the TOC ask for an analysis of a takeout decrease or new bets to "sit down and think about it", but a takeout increase was passed with zero study and to raucous applause?

Is it any wonder why some horseplayers have no faith in California leadership and are responding by staying away from their product?

Read more at the Bloodhorse.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Head Scratcher at the Big A?

A HANA member wanted to share his opinion. What think?

Stewards Decision At Aqueduct Has Seasoned Bettors Scratching Their Head

On Friday in race two, the unofficial winner Awesome Merger came out in the stretch and herded eventual 5th place finisher Memory Motel, who in turn interfered with the second place finisher and 1-2 shot Zio Tony.

The Stewards put up the Inquiry sign, and the jockey of Zio Tony lodged foul against the the rider of the Awesome Merger (even though his horse was impeded by Memory Motel).

The decision the Stewards made after deciding there was enough interference to warrant a change in the official order of finish was very perplexing as they threw out the winner and placed him second, as opposed to fifth (behind Memory Motel).

Did the Stewards take into account that Memory Motel seemed to be quitting when interfered with and that fifth was the best he would have done, interference or not, while also determining that Zio Tony would have won if not interfered with?

This type of predicting the future seems to be quite a stretch for Stewards to partake in, and potentially could lead to many weird placings in the future if it took precedence. 

Is it possible that since the jockey's claim of foul came from the second place finisher, and not the fifth, that human error was made by the placing judge?  That seems more plausible.

Either way, many Horseplayers are calling this an unprecedented placing. (Pace Advantage thread on the topic).

Is it April 1st or What?

I have to admit, he got us. "Andtheyreoff" at Paceadvantage posted the following DRF link this morning.

"DRF : California to Lower Takeout"

The Jeff Mullins' quote " "If you don't take advantage of this deal while it lasts, you are an idiot", finally tipped us off :)