Saturday, December 31, 2011

Weekend Handicapping: No candy for the Candyman today at GP

I hope all had a wonderful and fun filled holiday.  Today is it, the last day of racing for 2011, and we are going to spend it at Gulfstream Park.  It will be a nice sunny day for a competitive Grade 3 sprint, the Mr. Prospector for 3YO and upwards running for a purse of $100,000.  A field of seven has entered and there is plenty of front end speed to contend with.  After looking them over I can see several claiming victory today, I don’t see any clear cut favorites, it’s that wide open.  So here we go …

#4  Indiano ML 3/1

He has won three of his last four, all at Calder, including a Grade 2 event.  Strong consistent Beyer’s and has hit the board 11 of 12 times.  He likes to rate a smidge off the pace and with several here going to the front, the pace might set up perfectly for him.  He has raced against some good horses in the past; several have gone on to win.  He has all the ability to take this group.

#2  Zero Rate Policy ML 6/1

If there is one horse that can get the jump and run away it will be Zero Rate Policy.  Won nicely here three weeks ago in a $60K stakes race, and has won two of three lifetime here at GP (including his maiden).  Pompay is a dangerous trainer and with Paco Lopez staying in the irons makes him even tougher.  The only reason I don’t have him in the top spot is that his Beyer’s are a bit lower than the #4.

#5  Immortal Eyes ML 6/1

This is one tough knocking gelding and you can’t ignore him in this spot.  He has raced well wherever they have taken him.  Solid Beyer’s at all the tracks, last out was on a “good” surface so will discount it.  James Toner takes over and he has a decent record with first timers (his ROI is a staggering $5.37), and puts on Lezcano.  He is another one that can get to the front and run off with it, should be interesting.

Dark Horse:

#6  The Hunk ML 10/1

Many would say he should be the “Bombs Away” but I have feeling money will move to him.  He is moving up in class after winning four in a row (moved through his classifications nicely) and poised to take on his first graded effort.  You can’t ignore Ben Perkins connecting with Elvis Trujillo, 23% winning record together.  He likes to go to the front, and the only weakness is does he have the speed to stay with the top contenders?  His breeding say’s there is still some upside and today will give him that opportunity.

Bombs Away:

#1 Apriority ML 4/1

Those odds say are you crazy?  I have a feeling he will get ignored today at the tote.  This 4YO has become an enigma for us handicappers.  During the winter and summer he was having a nice season, winning two of five (the other three were place finishes), 100+ Beyer’s in each race, and had nice efforts in a G1 and G2.  Then it all fell apart, an uneven race at Saratoga, off to graze and two ugly results since.  He has faced much tougher and has the class edge, but I wonder about his confidence going forward.  I respect David Fawkes and he has put Saez back on top, which might be the answer.  If he is back on track watch out, otherwise we could be watching a horse that peaked too soon.

Note:   Some will ask why I don’t have the #3 Capt. Candyman Can in the mix.  He is an excellent 5YO and has proven himself at all levels he has competed in.  The issue I have is that he has not won at the 6f level, his wins have been at longer distances.  He is a closer and has shown he doesn’t get there in time in the shorter races.  If this was 7 panels or a mile, he would be the top dog, not saying he can’t win, but the speed burners in this mix will be long gone before he wakes up.


4 – 2 – 5

Happy New Year!! And make a safe one. 

Friday, December 30, 2011

Crist Adds His Name to the Chorus

As you know, slots have entered various jurisdictions with almost all of the proceeds going to purses (and some capital improvements, mostly for horsepeople). This has not helped handles, as witnessed by the massive betting losses since slots have been introduced in the mid-1990's.

Recently we highlighted several bettors and fans who have asked NYRA to use some of the slots money for customers, and customer cultivation.  This was even before the recent NYRA takeout snafu.

Steve Crist today in the DRF seems to add his name to that list:

"The new Aqueduct racino is providing NYRA with as much as $100 million a year for purses and capital improvements, and some slice of that should be redirected to the public in the form of lower takeout. NYRA can finally afford it, and the crumbling of the state’s OTB system removes a major impediment to enacting it.
A short-term remedy to an error should not be mistaken for long-term reform."

We agree with Mr. Crist. NYRA looking to approach a blended takeout lower than Kentucky (a state without slots) should be a long term goal.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Tale of Two Cities

"IT WAS the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way- in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."

The above quote is from the novel A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, published 1859.

I thought it might be nice to present you the horseplayer with a contrast of two cities (racing jurisdictions) this Holiday Season.

CAL Racing
Monday was opening day at Santa Anita. Despite perfect weather and Monday being a Federal Holiday, all sources handle was up just 7% vs. opening day the year before. By way of contrast, all sources handle for last year's 2010 opening day card was down 21% when compared to the opening day card for 2009 - largely because of bad publicity resulting from news of the takeout increase masterminded by the TOC and the CHRB.

Last year, CHRB commissioner David Israel was quoted in several articles by the racing press as saying: 

“We’re in the entertainment business. We are competing with the Dodgers and the Giants and the Angels and the Lakers and we’re putting on a show…” 

Quotes like the one above, coupled with player reaction to the takeout increase resulted in a Cal Racing public relations nightmare. Year over year all sources handle for California thoroughbred racing fell off sharply – to the tune of approximately a quarter billion dollars for calendar year 2011.

There was at least one positive to come out of this. Last spring, representatives from HANA met with leadership from Track Management and the TOC. Among the changes we suggested to them was a 14% takeout Players Pick5. They listened and the new wager was first implemented at Hollywood Park. Needless to say, the new reduced takeout wager has been very well received by players. Last week, on Hollywood Park’s closing day card, the 14% takeout Players Pick 5 pool reached a record $1.2 million dollars.

Just when you think you’ve seen it all, when you are absolutely certain every possible facet about the game that could possibly present itself has - a story breaks that makes you shake your head in utter disbelief.

NYRA overcharges bettors $8.6M, will lower takeouts to correct error:


Does any horseplayer on the planet really believe claims that NY takeout law is so impossibly complex that it took over a year to discover that the betting public was being charged more than takeout rates allowed by law?

How is the on track bettor (who was underpaid on winning exotic tickets) supposed to be made whole by the NYRA plan to right this wrong?

Is the NY Attorney General going to look into this?

On 12-21-2011, NYRA issued a statement about the issue on their website:

The headline from the above linked to statement reads:

NYRA Lowers Takeout on Exotics

Putting questions aside about whether or not intent to fleece the public existed - or whether this was a case of oversight - Whoever wrote the above headline is no dummy. It’s a safe bet the words “NYRA Lowers Takeout on Exotics” were crafted in hopes NYRA can avoid the kind of handle debacle CAL Racing experienced as a direct result of poor decision making by the TOC and CHRB.

On December 9, 2011, Richard Eng penned an article for the Las Vegas Review Journal calling for NYRA to lower takeout. Eng titled his piece Casino could position NYRA to lower takeout, grow business:

Eng’s article makes some valid points. Now that NYRA has actually lowered takeout (said tongue in cheek because I doubt this is the takeout reduction Eng was calling for) it will be interesting to see how things play out going forward.

A Tale of Two Cities: CAL Racing vs. NYRA
If you are planning to play either CAL Racing or NYRA this Holiday Season, here’s what your takeout landscape looks like:

               Takeout Rates 
Wager           CAL    NYRA
-------------  ------   -----
WPS            15.43    16.00
EXA            22.68    18.50
DBL            22.68    18.50
TRI            23.68    24.00
PICK3          23.68    24.00
PICK4          23.68    24.00
PICK5          14.00     N/A
PICK6          23.68   16.00 non carryover days
                                 24.00 carryover days

"IT WAS the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way- in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."
 --Charles Dickens, 1859

We at HANA would like to wish all horseplayers everywhere a Joyous and Happy Holiday Season and a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year.

Jeff Platt
President, HANA

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Weekend Handicapping: Surprises galore in the Ginger Brew today at GP

Before we dive into Weekend Handicapping, I would like to wish all the readers of the HANA blog site a Happy Holiday.  I hope it’s a fun filled weekend of family and good times.  One note, there is no racing tomorrow, so there will be no Weekend Handicapping. 

Now for Christmas Eve, there is only one stakes race on the calendar and it is at Gulfstream Park.  It’s a turf race going a mile and a sixteenth for 2YO fillies.  It’s the first running of the Ginger Brew and has a purse of $60,000, and 13 fillies are entered.  As of this writing, no scratches have been noted.  This is a wide open race; there are no clear cut favorites so price will be the name of the game

#7  Almusafa  ML 6/1

Won its debut over on turf going this distance, that in itself is quite accomplishment.  Her Beyer was nothing to write home about, but I expect coming right back she will improve. McLaughlin is strong in these events and has had a solid 2YO campaign.  There appears to be plenty of upside and will take a shot on her getting better.  Having Lezcano today only increases her chances.

#9  Sinister Brew ML 6/1

This filly has seven races under her belt and has won two.  Her last outing was her first turf affair and won a $100k stakes race over at Calder.  My only concern is if she has been over raced, there seems to be some form issues over the dirt and the last one was against state breds.  Can’t ignore her, and Trujillo is aboard, and he is always tough on the grass.

#8  Karlovy Vary ML 7/2

Probably should be the second choice but not sure if she will bounce back from that ugly race at the G2 level on dirt.  With 2YO’s I worry about confidence issues and it puzzles me when connections have what appears to be a solid turf horse and then stick them in a high class race on a different surface.  Now we have to wonder about her chances here.  In her first two turf races showed solid improvement in her Beyer’s (72-77) and Arnold is solid with 2YO’s.  You can’t knock the breeding, but just feeling lukewarm on her today.

Dark Horses:

#4  Welcome Dance ML 5/1

You could say the whole field is dark horses but I’ve picked two and the #4 looks ready to make her move.  She has won 2 of 3 over the turf, including her debut at this distance at the Spa.  While Matz doesn’t have the strongest stakes record, he is consistent all across the board and brings Bravo to ride her today.  Her Beyer’s are consistent and she bounced back nicely after the bad race in the Natalma at Woodbine.  I wouldn’t be surprised me to see her take it.

#10  Spirited Miss ML 10/1

First three efforts were over the turf at Woodbine and she showed herself to be a tough filly. Winning her debut in a sprint and then making a good effort in the Natalma with a  4th.   Then her last two outings were over the synthetic/dirt.  Again I scratch my head.  You can’t ignore her turf breeding; Mark Casse has an excellent record with 2YO’s and stakes races.  He brings Contreras back, were they have a 23% winning combination.  She is the dangerous one today.

“Bombs Away”

#13  Ready Signal ML 20/1

In her first turf start she won going a mile at Belmont.  Her workouts have been excellent and this is strictly a trainer angle.  Amy Tarrant doesn’t run a big string, but her success can’t be ignored.  This filly cost a lot of money, $190,000, and I’m thinking with her last outing a victory on turf they might have found the magic with her.  What is interesting is that on dirt she was a mid pack runner, but on turf a  wire to wire at a mile.  Her Beyer in that race was pedestrian but she might be finding her grass legs, watch out.


7 – 8 – 9     

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Portland Meadows With a Sneaky Takeout..... Reduction?

We caught a note today that Portland Meadows looks to be trying to emulate Tampa Bay Downs. The Florida track (with little fanfare up until two years ago) has been lowering takeout each year with some good results. Well, Portland Meadows has cut the takeout on two horse exotic wagers by 1% to 21% this year, and did it very quietly.

Usually tracks try and sneak an increase on customers, not the other way around! Put Portland Meadows on your watch list.

In other news, starting New Years Day Turfway Park has lowered their Pick 4 takeout to 14% (matching Portland Meadows who also offer a 14% pick 4 as of two seasons ago).

If you cash an ex or DD at Portland or a Pick 4 at Turfway over the holidays, there's a little extra in your stocking.

Note: We'll have more on the NYRA story in the coming week. We wanted to share some good news today instead. Have a happy holidays everyone!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

State: NYRA overcharged bettors by millions

For almost a year some of you've asked why NYRA continued to take 26% in some exotic bets after September 15, 2010.

Today we found out that they apparently weren't supposed to.

The state Racing & Wagering Board voted unanimously on Wednesday to admonish the New York Racing Association for overcharging bettors millions of dollars over the past 15 months.

The racing association was supposed to reduce the maximum sum it kept from such bets to 25 percent starting on Sept. 15, 2010, but continued to charge a 26 percent takeout, according to two state officials.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Weekend Handicapping: Big Beach day at Gulfstream, Finale.

Our streak eked by with Cherokee Queen winning yesterday at the Fair Grounds.  She ran an excellent race, and paid a nice ticket of $9.40.  She was my third selection, but it seems whenever I call a horse “dangerous” they end up winning. A She’s Adorable would have been my play, she closed well and drew close but lagging the field isn’t her style and will wait for another day.  So today we slip back over to Gulfstream and will try to makes sense of the Dania Beach $100,000 for 2YO going a mile on turf.  This is a strong field and several can win it.  Personally I find 2YO difficult, but the blessing today is there are no first time starters, just winners.  Not sure which is worse but here we go …


#7  Coalport ML 6/1

He won maiden on turf at first asking and then second in a G3 event at Keeneland.   The BC Juvenile was a huge field and appears to have been knocked around a bit, so will toss it.  Catalano puts Leparoux on board and these connections hit 44% of the time.  I will grant you Finale is the stronger looking horse, but have to look at the value play here.  Coalport has posted a nice 78 in a quality race which is competitive with this group.  I like his chances here to get back into his form.

#8  Finale ML 3/1

What is not to like about this 2YO. Pletcher trained, Johnny V in the irons, well bred and has won a G3 event.  Has raced at three different venues and won each time.  Last out in the BC Juvenile as the favorite he had a horrible trip.  My only issue will be price.  If the BC Juvenile didn’t hurt his confidence then he should be right at the front, it won’t be easy but he can certainly win it.

#9  Summer Front ML 4/1

This 2YO is making his third start, and is coming off a fine effort in the King Cugat ($60K).  The pedigree is outstanding, posted a solid 81 last out and his connections are outstanding (Clement/Dominguez).    His workouts have been solid and I see no reason why he can’t win it.  It’ll be interesting to see what price he gets at the start.

Dark Horses:

#2  Excaper ML 5/1

He looks like to be a solid miler over turf.  Showed well in the BC Juvenile finishing second and hitting a 81 Beyer.   He has dueled Finale a couple of times and has shown he can handle him.  The only issues are is that he hasn’t won on turf and Ian Black doesn’t have the best record with 2YO’s.  However, like all 2YO you just never know when they find their groove, and today could be his day.

#11 Starforce ML 10/1

This is the dangerous one in the bunch.  He won on the turf at Churchill at first asking going a mile and a sixteenth.  He showed a good 76 Beyer and now comes in off 60 day layoff.  Mihei shows good results across the board with his training of 2YO’s and puts the wily Castanon on today.  What makes him scary is wired that field going long, and now cutting back to a mile, you would think this would be easy for him.  He is going to get a price and he will be hard to pass up. 

“Bombs Away”

#3  Empire Builder ML 12/1  

I actually like this horse to win this race.  He has won two in a row on turf going a mile, is progressing forward in his Beyers (65 – 71).  His trainer, Duco, has respectable stats and just like his chances here.  Gallardo has ridden him well and knows where to place him with this group.  I’ve got a feeling about this 2YO and like the #11 hard to pass up.  The problem with this race is that there are too many interesting plays, might just go with the one with the longest odds.


7 – 8 – 9

Price Play:  3 and/or 11 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Weekend Handicapping: Will She's Adorable be Blushing today?

Two weeks into December and we have been on quite a roll here at Weekend Handicapping.  Last weekend saw our top pick hit the wire on Saturday and then Sunday, our “Bombs Away” selection gave us our fist longshot winner of the year.  For this weekend I thought we would venture over to the Fairgrounds and try 
our hand at a turf race going a mile and sixteenth.  It’s the 4th running of the Blushing K. D. Handicap, having a purse of $75,000 for fillies and mares 3YO and upwards.  There is a field of nine and some interesting gals in this one, so here we go …


#5  She’s Adorable ML 6/1

I might be getting a bit full of myself but I like this 5YO chances here.  I’m going to toss out here last two long races and look at her success at a mile and today’s distance.  If you look back she wins at a mile and won the Rooney Memorial at Delaware at 1 1/16, she also post strong Beyer’s at these distances.  She has won 2 of 3 turf races here at the Fair Grounds in her day, and Graham is back on, which is a good sign.  I think Michael Stidman has Weekend Party in here to be the rabbit for her and she has the ability to take this group.

#1  Ravi’s Song ML 5/2

Her last three turf races resulted in three place finishes.  She is a closer and that always gives me concern.  She has shown herself well in those three G3 races and her Beyer’s put her at the top. I do have an issue that they have going in the wrong direction (94-93-90), making me wonder of her form cycle.  There is no doubt if Carl Bowman has her ready and she can pick her way through this crowd she will make a run for it, just not sure she will.

#2  Cherokee Queen ML 7/2

This 6YO is one dangerous mare.  Won the G3, Sewanee River at GP back in February with an eye popping 97. Picked off another minor stakes race at Calder, then went quiet.  After three rough outings her owners moved her to Steve Margolis, who does well with first time starters when he takes over.  Bridgmohan takes over and that connection wins 23% of the time.  If she can bounce back under her new connections, she will nail this field.

Dark Horse:

Well there are plenty to choose from in this race but I settled on the # 6 Pleasantly Blessed ML 5/1.
The key’s for this 7YO is she is having a good season winning 3 of 6, trained by the crafty and always dangerous, Steve Asmussen. She has also won twice here on the turf, and with Napravnik on board makes her even more dangerous.  I think her chances are stronger if she races more mid pack than in the back with Ravi’s Song.  Not sure she has the speed to reel them in if she lays too far off the pace. 

“Bombs Away”

#8  Miss Shananiegans ML 15/1

Greg Boarman has this 6YO clicking this season winning 3 of 6!  Here speed figures don’t match the contenders but are moving in the right direction (68 -71- 73 -77).   The form cycle suggest that she might still maturing and can make that big leap in this one.  Boarman doesn’t run a big stable but his charges win and he keeps Butler in the irons.  Toss in a big weight drop and this mare could just be finding her ceiling.


5 – 1 – 2

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Press, Bettors, Customers Turn Up the Heat on NYRA

After well over a decade of empirical data regarding slots and handles (slot money up, while handles drop), people are speaking out. The racino at Aqueduct has been churning out some huge revenues, most of which will go into purses, just like it has in numerous jurisdictions around North America. Meanwhile, customers have never shared in the windfall and they continue to leave in droves.

Some industry watchers, bettors and fans have had enough, and they're letting everyone know they have.

Via a blog: "There's Never Been a Better Time for NYRA to Slash Takeouts"

"Today it was announced that the Aqueduct casino is the most successful in all of New York State.  There are no excuses left. New York must begin to show some vision and lower takeout, distribute their signal and use slot cash for the demand side of the equation; and not just for the supply side. If they do, we might actually be able to grow handle in 2012, instead of watching it circle the drain for another year."

Rich Eng in the Las Vegas Review Journal: 

"Hayward now has a chance to be a game-changer for horseplayers, too. In past years, we have seen one racetrack after another take revenue from slot machines and raise their purses. That's fine. But I have not seen any of these tracks lower their takeout, in essence growing their business with bettors and creating new ones."

Turf n' Sport's Michael Dempsey:

"NYRA Needs to Give Back: With the Aqueduct casino in full operation, purses in the Big Apple are going to increase by $100,000 on Jan. 1, and by the time we get to Saratoga, they may be offering close to $1 million per day in purses. Meanwhile horseplayers are still paying a 26% tax to bet into exotics? The New York Racing Association could start a good trend by lowering takeout and building handle. Officials of the NYRA are quick to point out the purse increase and the expected increase in field size, but not a bone to its customers. It’s sickening.  "

Nanoburgh Tech Blog:

"The (Real & Viable) Solution:

1. Stop taking slot revenues for the sole purpose of feeding purses


2. Keep the the slot money in the hands of those doing the gambling and let them wager it on the horses "

This has been building for some time. Places that have had slots have done the same thing with the money, with rarely a thought to help our betting game be more attractive enabling it to grow. If the above is any indication, it seems that some in our sport are growing tired of it.

$56 Newly Gelded Winner in California Prompts Potential Rule Changes

Recently at Hollywood Park, a horse who was only reported gelded 30 minutes before post time (giving no chance for horizontal handicappers to change their tickets, or use the information) won, paying $56.  According to the CHRB agenda (pdf) of today's meeting, this has been going on for some time. Currently the trainer is fined $1000 for not giving the race office the information on time, so the betting public has full disclosure.

Jeff Platt sent the following letter on behalf of HANA to the CHRB. We hope they take a look at protecting the customers even more than they propose.

Re: Agenda Item 3, CHRB Meeting 12/15/2011

I am writing to urge the Commissioners of the CHRB to vote in favor of improving the integrity of California racing.

The proposed rule change, whereby a horse gelded since its most recent start (but not reported as gelded by the horse’s connections) will be allowed to run for purse money on race day does not go far enough to preserve the integrity of the game.

Instead of allowing such horses to run for purse money on race day when the connections have failed to report such horses as gelded, I urge you to:

  1. Impose the current $1000 fine (per rule 1865.)

  1. Order such horses scratched on race day.

By ordering such horses scratched and not allowing the connections to earn purse money with such horses on race day, you will be sending a very clear message to tracks, horsemen, AND THE WAGERING PUBLIC that the integrity of the game is of the utmost importance.


Jeff Platt
President, HANA (The Horseplayers Association of North America)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Meet Charlie Davis: Sports Bettor to Horseplayer & Owner (in Only a Few Short Years)

Have you ever met anyone in their 20's who went from a sports bettor (who had never bet a horse race in their life), to a thoroughbred bettor, harness bettor, NHC qualifier and dual-breed horse owner, in only a few years?

We hadn't, until we met Charlie Davis.

"I'm a lucky guy. Three years ago I did not know much about horse racing at all. I'm glad I chose horse racing"

We're glad he chose horse racing too, as he's an invaluable resource to the HANA Board.

If you'd like to find out how this all happened, please click here (pdf).

HANA would like to thank Trot for allowing us to reprint the article here. Visit here to learn more about Trot.

For a previous interview with another HANA Board member, please see Mike Maloney, courtesy Horseplayer Magazine here.

Weekend Handicapping: The Hunch for today is Parent's Honor at Aqueduct

The Sugar Swirl turned out to be a nice 1 -2 with Pomeroy Pistol and Pica Slew paying a $53 exacta.   We have been a run now, with three in a row and today we head back north to Aqueduct.  Since sprints have been working for us, we will look at The Hunch Stakes for $60,000 for 3YO, going 6 furlongs on the inner track.  It’s a small field of 6 so no dark horse today, in fact, it looks like only 3 horses are really ready to win it.


#2  Parent’s Honor ML 5/2

He has won 2 in a row and is moving up in class.  I have a soft spot for this angle and usually play it if the horse looks ready, and he does.  Improving Beyer’s over the last three (79-88-91), last 2 wins came against older horses and Dutrow has been hot of late.  It appears the pace suits him and Dominguez takes over, always a plus.  Some minor points, he has won 4 of 8 as a 3YO and posted a 99 back in June.

#1 Crossbow ML 1/1

Hard not to like except he will be an underlay and no value.  He has won 2 races in 4 attempts, including breaking his maiden on the inner track here at Aqueduct.  Excellent Beyer’s, with the last being a 99.  The horse that beat him last out has gone on to win a $75K stakes race, and the breeding is dynamite.  It looks like McLaughlin has him primed to go and can wire a field easily.  The only thing and not sure if it’s contractual, but Dominquez moves to the #2 and doesn’t stay on what looks like a lock.

#3  Bug Juice ML 5/1

This would be my dark horse in a larger field.   He is a classic bouncer and we should get a nice run today if he stays to form.  He likes to rate just off the pace and with the front end speed today, he might be in a good spot to collect a winning ticket.  You have to respect his 2YO campaign, winning 3 of 5, including 2 sizeable stakes races at Finger Lakes.  Levine has a good record with 2ndoff wins at 28% and Cohen takes over in the irons.

Bombs Away:

#5  Sam Sparkle ML 8/1

He is another bouncer who can string a couple of good races together.  Last out was an 85 in an Allowance race for older horses so history says another good race today.  He has won on the inner track back in the day and Contessa is a trainer you can’t ignore.  He puts Luzzi on this time which is an improvement and the workouts have been crisp.  The only knock is 1 win in 13 attempts, but a cut back in distance could be the tonic today.

Note:  I left off the #1a Mysticism deliberately for if you take Crossbow you get him anyway.  He has all the ability to push Bug Juice off the board.  He will go to the front and set the pace, can win it too.


2 – 1 – 3  

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Weekend Handicapping: A Surgar Swirl for the Pistol today at GP

What a great way to start the month of December with back to back winners.  Ancient Rome hung on to win the Spectacular Bid Stakes at Gulfstream paying $4.80. Then Eagle Poise connects in the Valedictorian on closing day at Woodbine, for an $8.80 winning ticket.  Now let’s see if we can keep those winning ways going today.   We are going back to Gulfstream for the 32nd running of the Sugar Swirl (G3).  It is for fillies and mares, 3YO and up going 6 panels for a purse of $100,000.

A field of eight is scheduled, and this group is loaded with front end speed.  What makes this race scary is that we have several girls here who have at one time really gunned it and then cooled off, is this a wakeup call now that they are back in the sunshine state?  Can Pomeroy Pistol bounce back after the rough outing she had in the BC and find those solid 95’s?   So let’s take a look at our options …


#1  Pomeroy Pistol  ML 5/2

Without a doubt she is the clear choice.  Tossing out the BC Sprint, she has posted consistent speed, winning a G2 at Belmont and being in the hunt in all her races.  She has done well at GP, winning a G2 back in January.  She should tuck up close and pounce on this field unless one of these underachievers breaks loose, and that is possible.  Her class and consistency should prevail.

#2  Pica Slew ML 8/1

Lately my stretch picks have been finding the place window consistently and like this 4YO filly to wake up and find her old self.  She had a 3 wins in 4 attempts as a 3YO and then it all fell apart.  She had shown stellar speed (86-92-102), won the G3 Azelea at Calder.  My take on this horse, is her connections are confused, can’t settle on a trainer and messing up this lightly raced filly.  What I do like is the Brian Lynch does well with 1st timers under his stead.  Contreras is solid in the irons and this horse has the talent and has shown it.  She has all the ability to wire this field and if the past hasn’t spooked her, watch out, a real danger here to run away from them all.

#8  Third Chance  ML 3/1

She has won 4 in a row, popping some nice Beyer’s, granted some races were with state bred company, but you can ignore her ability to run off and hide.  DeVito and Santana clip off a 40% win connection, and Santana has this filly in a nice groove.  The 8 hole gives him a tactical advantage and could surprise them all.

Dark Horse:

#3  Roman Treasure ML 4/1

Some might have her in the top three and would not argue against that, but her inconsistency and coming up empty in her last makes me question her form here.  There has been a trainer change to Iwinski who does well with 1st timers winning 27% and puts Bravo on board.  She has shown the speed to handle this field and to go forward if asked.  I’m just not sure if she is all there right now, would like to see one first.

Bombs Away:

#4  Catch a Thief ML 8/1

This 4YO had a nice 3 YO season winning 4 of 7, nice middle 90 Beyers and seemed destined to build a nice career.  Started off this season with a win in an Optional Claiming $100k and then she has been in a rut of a day late/dollar short.   She has been off for 60 days and has won coming off the bench before, and returns to GP where she has won 2 of 3.  So consider her a “horses for courses” hunch.   This will be Paco Lopez third try and last outing he brought her closer to the action and her Beyer popped up.  She has the ability to run in the 90’s and think she might be rounding back into form.


1 – 2 – 8    

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Horse Racing's Churn Rate Gets Annihilated

For as long as we all can remember, horse racing's publicized churn rate (the number of times you as a player, collectively, roll over your bankroll, explained in detail here) was 7. If everyone at the track had $100,000 in their pockets, chances are handle would have been somewhere around $700,000.

Two major variables that go into the churn rate, as the article alludes are:
  • Takeout rate - the higher the takeout, the lower the churn
  • Cashable bets - WPS pools, with no exotics would have high churn because we'd have many winners rebetting, a card with pick 6's and nothing else would have almost zero churn, because we have one or two winners, who probably go home to celebrate after they win.
TVG, while submitting their application for exchange wagering in California, provided us with a shocking statistic: The estimated churn rate of 2011 TVG customers is not seven, but four. 

Today, at a churn rate of four, that handle in our example has plummeted to $400,000.

In macro-terms, with a $10B annual handle in the US, that means there is about $2.5 billion in players wallets to bet racing. If racing was at the historical churn factor of seven, annual handle would not be $10 billion, but $17.5 billion.

High takeout, fingers in the pie from everywhere wanting more of the $2.5B, and the proliferation of hard to hit bets with wall to wall racing have killed player bankrolls to the point where the average person can only roll their bankroll over four times, and that's a problem for everyone.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Weekend Handicapping: The Eagle is poised to win at Woodbine today

That was certainly a nice way to open the Gulfstream meet with a winner.  Ancient Rome came through and paid a neat $4.40, take that all day.  Today we head back up to Canada for the G3 Valedictory at Woodbine.  It’s for 3YO and upwards going a marathon mile and three quarters over the synthetic track.  A field of 6 will be racing for a purse of $150,000 and it is shaping up to be an interesting feature.  We have three recent winners, including a BC Marathon winner and couple of horses trying to find their way back to the winners circle.  I have four contenders and one Bombs Away today, so let’s take a look …


#2  Eagle Poise ML 5/2

This son of Empire Maker is having a nice 5YO campaign after a dismal zero for five 2010 season.  Won his last outing here at Woodbine, a nice progression of Beyer’s (80-87-89), and has won four of seven lifetime at Woodbine.  Graham Motion is a solid trainer in these situations and Husbands is staying with him.  He looks primed to capture his first Graded race today.

#5  Harrads Creek ML 6/1

Some might say this should be the dark horse or Bombs Away selection, but I like this 5YO here and he might end up winning this one.  He has won two of four this season and like the #2 has improving Beyer’s in each race (81-85-91).  Breeding says he can go the distance, and I’m not concerned he is going from turf to synthetic.  Bill Mott has him in good shape and brings Chantal back to ride him.  He will be on the front or near to take charge of this race.  If the price holds, this is one to play for value.

#3  Afleet Again ML  8/5

Truthfully, the only reason I’ve got him in this spot is out of respect for him winning the BC Marathon.  He has only won one of nine as a 4YO and his 3YO season was not all that great.  Other than that 95 at Churchill his Beyer’s have average, just don’t see him repeating that great effort in the Breeders Cup.  I might be wrong, but the #2 and #5 look better.

#4 Eye of the Leopard ML 2/1

I’d label this entry as my dark horse for today.  Good steady Beyer’s, can handle the distance and has won four of ten at Woodbine.  Forstad is getting him into form and this could be the break out race, he has shown a liking to the synthetic and has the sharpshooter in Contreras in the saddle. He likes to stay close and if the front runners get bogged down he could shoot through.

Bomb’s Away:

#1 Alpha Bettor ML 15/1

This 3YO is an angle play. His Beyer’s earlier in the season at Woodbine says he can run with this group.  He has won three of ten at Woodbine with two seconds, and Pizarro has been aboard for all his victories.    This is second outing after winning off the bench and Danny Vella does well on second off layoffs.  He will rate further back and if the group at the front falters he could scoot by and win it. No doubt he will need a strong effort but history says he can do it.


2 – 5 – 3

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Weekend Handicapping: Spectacular Day at Gulfstream Opener today

For years we have lived by if it’s January it must be Gulfstream, but this year our winter fun starts early.  Gulfstream Park has decided to forgo some April dates to run the entire month of December.  I’ll take it as the first hints of winter are now blowing in here in Chicago. I consider it an early Christmas present.  To kick of the Gulfstream meet, we will look at the 32nd running of The Spectacular Bid Stakes for 2YO’s going 6 furlongs for a purse of $100,000.  We’ve got a nice field of 8, and let’s get this meet and month off to a good start, meaning cashing some tickets.  Here we go …


#7  Ancient Rome ML 4/1

Most know Dutrow is good with 2YO on their second attempt and this colt was no exception.  Popping out a 80 Beyer and romping the field at Delaware Park.  He comes back in perfect time to take on his first stakes race, where again Dutrow’s record is outstanding.  I like the key race angle too, the runner up, won his MSW at Delaware last out by 1 ½.  Rocco took him wire to wire last time and I see nothing here that would prevent that again.  The big question is can we get him for 4/1?

#5  Luke of York ML 5/2

Tough to ignore back to back wins in his first two efforts.  Yes, they were over synthetics, but he has posted consistent Beyer’s (79-80), stepped out of his MSW win and goes to Keeneland and takes the Keeneland 75th Anniversary ($125,000).   DeVito hits 39% with 2YO and keeps Maragh in the irons.  The only challenge I see for him is he likes to come off the pace, and while there is no blow away speed here he could get lost in the shuffle.

#3  Vexor ML 3/1

This colt could be the real surprise and the dangerous one.  He has had two 80’s in his Beyers, has won a G2 race (Nashua at Belmont) and win raced forwardly goes wire to wire.  His works have been sharp, he gets Castellano back in the saddle and could be ready to find his rhythm.  Minor point is that he appears to run better in smaller fields, this one is a middling group so might find himself in good sorts this time.

Dark Horse:

#6  For Oby ML 6/1

He has won 2 of 5 over at Calder, winning his last outing in a $125,000 Juvenile event posting a Beyer of 77.  Each time the race him to the front he wins or hits the board.  Even though he has only 5 races under his belt, 4 have been in stakes company.   I think they may have over raced him in the summer, 3 stake races in less than 60 days, toss in a sloppy track and he could have been tired.  After a nice hiatus, he comes back to win at first asking, he could be fresh and ready to go today.

Bombs Away:

#4  Blings Express ML 10/1

He has not shown the speed to keep up with the front 3, but has he found his ceiling yet?  He has been on the board 5 of 6 with 2 wins. There are two angles here for me; the runner up in his last race, Martini Madness,  won a N1x with a 80 Beyer at Calder. Secondly, Paco Lopez in riding him and that can’t be ignored.   He has raced well wherever he has been raced, always around at the end and if the front runners falter he should be there to take it.  


7 - 5 - 3 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Tampa Model

There is a fair discussion going on over at the Paulick Report regarding Tampa Bay Downs. Peter Berube was interviewed and shares some of his thoughts regarding this meet, and Tampa's business model.

As you most know, Tampa opens their next meet with a 3% cut to WPS takeout (from 17.5% to 17%) and a new 15% pick 5, replacing the high rake, little played pick 6. Both, HANA feels, are good moves.

We have heard rumors that they have increased their signal fee this year by a fair amount. It is something in the past we warned might prohibit their growth. We'll do more digging on that.

When you analyze the good things Tampa is doing - field size, on track display (Trakus), good customer service and lower takeout (we explored Tampa Bay Downs in a feature article here), it will be very interesting to see what wins the race for the 2012 meet: The rise in handle from those good things, or the loss in handle caused by the signal fee hike.