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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Game On! Santa Anita and Hollywood Ask TOC To Lower Takeout

Published today in the North County Times:

Santa Anita and Hollywood Park have asked the Thoroughbred Owners of California to lower the takeout on daily doubles, exactas and quinellas on an experimental basis at their upcoming fall meets, according to a letter obtained by the North County Times late Saturday night.


The Pacific Racing Association (Santa Anita) and Hollywood Park Fall Racing Association want daily doubles to be lowered from a 22.68 percent takeout to 15.43 ---- the same as a win, place or show bets, which are the nation's lowest ---- and they want exactas and quinellas lowered from 22.68 to 21.68.


The two racing associations are also asking for 50-50 split on the new 50-cent pick five wager. The TOC now receives a higher percentage of the profits from the bet than the tracks do.


The letter comes on the heels of Del Mar Thoroughbred Club CEO Joe Harper announcing on opening day that he was in talks to try to lower some of the wagers that were raised this year.


"Raising the takeout was not a smart idea," Harper said Saturday morning on Roger Stein's radio show. "Raising the takeout may not have seemed like a big deal, but it is a big deal.


For the full story please click here.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Horseplayers Vote Overwhelmingly For Race Day Medication Ban

Recently, Jim Gagliano of the Jockey Club called HANA, asking for support of the RCI's initiative on race day medication. We agreed we would ask you, the horseplayers of HANA, what you thought via a member survey. The results are as follows:


We also added a box that followed the above question, which asked for member comments. For those of you who take surveys surely know, usually only a small percentage of the time a comment question is filled out because people only have so much time in a day, and we all get so many emails.  However, to our surprise your comment section was overflowing. Almost 40% of you entered a comment! There is simply not enough space to paste them all here, but here is the general flavor of the comments, unedited (each comment is in their own paragraph). Your betting/handle profiles follow the comments:



If Europe can race without any medication at all, then America can do without on race day. It may also help lessen the perception that trainers are cheating or gaining an unfair advantage.

It is in the best interests of the horse breed because only the fittest horses will be bred for future generations. Horses that cannot win without medication will not be bred.

It may not be best in the short term as there will have to be adjustments. But long term, I believe it will be very beneficial to the sport as a whole.

I do not feel that Lasix - properly regulated and administered - is a detriment to racing nor a performance enhancer. It is WAY overused, but a documented bleeder should be able to race with a certain level of lasix in their system. Reform is the key, not banning.

Banning drugs does not stop drug use. Testing and enforcement does, and neither is being done. If lasix is banned trainers will use other anti-bleeder medicine, and the public won't know about it-- those betting on information will.

I am actually for a zero-tolerance policy but this meds free raceday policy is a step in the right direction.

We are at a crisis point of short fields and dwindling purses. Foal crops are down, and now this -Why would we do anything to further impede an owner from running his horses and trying to make the game financially viable?

 Furosemide is just the tip of the iceberg. The problem is the trainers on the cutting edge that know what tests and does not.

If they were to eliminate all raceday meds. there wouldn't be enough horses to fill a card.

Insane. Short fields already. Owners leaving the game daily because they can no longer make ends meet. Have you lost your minds????

the industry needs to breed impurities OUT of the breed instead of covering them up with drugs just to get a horse to race day. Traniers, owners, grooms, hotwalkers, exercise riders, vets, night foremen, etc, need to be held accountable for violations and the penalty needs to be of the utmost severity so that it discourages any person from attempting to cheat the game and the fans (bettors).

The forces against race day med bans have a vested interest in keeping the status quo regardless of whether there is or is not a medical reason for their use. Its time to try another potentially less debilitating and probably fairer and more easily regulated methodology.

Lasix gone will only create more people coming up with nefarious ways to stem bleeding. Let's go after Cobra Venom & the blood-doping stuff from France that costs $5,000. Let Horses Breathe!

there should be a ZERO TOLERANCE POLICY The Jockey Club position should mirror the European position of NO MEDS PERIOD

Other nations have found it possible to race without any race-day meds, including furosemide (aka Lasix). The United States should be able to manage. And, with horses racing on fewer (eventually no) permitted race-day medications, hopefully it will be easier for horseplayers to handicap

They use Lasix in Europe, a lot of it. Just not on race day. It is a lame excuse that lasix is ruining our breed. The study in South Africa proved that lasix helps to stop horses from bleeding. Why do we want to let horses bleed when there is an inexpensive cure for it. They have a lot of other drugs in Europe that we cannot use. If you think we have short racing fields now, wait until a lot of horses can't run back on schedule because they are being treated with antiobiotics to clean up theie lungs from bleeding. When there is a lot of horses that can't race back we will see what the race tracks think of that. They're fields are short enough as it is. If all the morons that want to do away with lasix on race day get their wish they will really shorten up the race entries. Most of the people who are on this bandwagon haven't even put a bandage on a horse, much less trained one.

trainers will use worse drugs in place of lasix. moreover, no position should be formulated on medication until there is sufficient proof that such medication is and has actually determined race results to a significant extent. or, are drugs being used just to get horses into the starting gate? there's a big difference and any drug policy should be tailored to the answers to those issues. there has been a lot of free flowing accusations about drugs and the integrity of racing with very little hard evidence. if the drug problem is so bad why do owners still own and trainers still train and professional horse players still bet? or is jeff mullins right - you have to be nuts to play the horses? let's get an empirical basis for these decisions or the lasix ban will be another version of the synthetic surface debacle.

In my opinion, from a breeding perspective, race day medication has resulted in a weakening of the breed. In addition, the transparency of the sport is weakened with the use of medication. A move to no medication should increase the safety of on track participants and should make clearer the information used by the wagering public.


It is common knowledge to regular players of the game of picking horses in races that many horses in a race are using some form of an illegal substance to improve performance and in some cases to decrease their performance, making the game unwinnable by only the few that are in the know about the enhancing drugs used and on which animals. This is unfair, illegal and no one should be allowed to get away with it now or never. I agree that all medication on race day should be disallowed so that the races can be viewed as being fair to the racing public.

The current system is not working for anybody. There is no reason why we shouldn't normalize our medication policy to the rest of the world.

As a player, it does not really matter to me. Owners are going to be really hurt - if they have a bleeder who needs Lasix to run, this rule essentially destroys their investment in the horse. Fewer horses will get to the races, and we already have a problem with not enough horses (too small fields) in the US right now. Despite this, I am also for the well-being of the horse. Perhaps horses can race more often off Lasix - I have heard its dehydration used to explain the problems with racing frequency.
I favor eliminating race day meds on all graded stakes and a gradual phase out on all racing.

I'm a trainer since 1996 and involved with racehorses for over 35 years. When you give a horse Salix, water, and sometimes hay is withheld after the injection, which is given 4 hours before the race. Before Salix was legal, water and sometimes hay was withheld 24 hours out. Salix just speeds up the time, chemically through its diruetic properties. The problems come from the side effects - I've seen it dull a horse considerably, which is an advantage if you have a highly strung, nervous animal. Also, you then have to give elecrolyte replacements, and such to prevent Thumps, and other imbalances in the body, The electrolyte replacement is in the form of a paste, or an IV injection the day before, more commonly known as a "Jug". So, you chemically dehydrate (lighten up) the horse and then chemically rebalance the salts. It's not an exact science, although some trainers really seem to have perfected all the chemicals. It also all costs money. We certainly can return to the pre-medication days,it will be painful and take some time.

Totally agree horses should be free of medication on race day. This will result in stronger horses & better racing.

Lasix OK. Nothing else.

I also care about the safety of the human and equine athletes. And, as a handicapper and horse player, I want an equal playing field. Every horse in each race should have the same, or no, medication. And if that is not possible, the medication, or its withdrawal, must be in the DRF or it is not allowed on race day. In fact, there should be no changes on race day from what is shown in the DRF regarding medication and equipment,(i.e. bends, blinkers, caulks, bar shoes, etc.).

Too many horses are medicated simply to make them "raceable". If there is a shortage of horses then race dates need to be reduced. Other countries race without medication why should the US be any different?

 Eliminate drugs. It serves to restore integrity. I want to bet on races where the horse's ability, coupled with the trainer's and jockey's, determines the outcome of the race. I don't want to bet on which trainer has the latest designer drug.

Drug eliminations should happen, but need to be done over a period of time that makes sense

Athletes, equine or human, benefit from a myriad of remedial therapies after exhaustive efforts, creating a grey area between 'performance restoring' and 'performance enhancing'. I'm not knowledgeable enough to state clearly where the line in the grey should be drawn.

Lasix is a benefit to horse health. The press, bloggers and the establishment have convinced themselves that it is a performance enhancing drug. Get ready for four horse fields; there will be a bunch of them.

favor zero tolerance. give me the whole loaf of bread not just some crumbs.

Use of race day meds adds to the cost of horse ownership, allows drugs to be masked and makes North America the outlier in the world of horse racing. It should stop.

integrity! Might make the Handicapper on the outside believe he may have a chance!

The correlation between use of race day medication, particularly lasix, and the decrease in annual starts per horse is undeniable. Banning race day meds will also clean up the sport by exposing the so called "super trainers" that improve horses beyond belief on a regular basis and win at unbelieveable rates. It will also reduce the number of catastrophic injuries by not allowing sore horses to pass pre-race inspections. Lastly horses that bleed excessively will not be able to race and therefore will not be sent off to the breeding shed which should in time help increase the durability of the breed.

Note: HANA member betting handle, as shown in our member survey, cuts across all types of horseplayer - from the casual to the professional.


If you'd like to be a member of HANA, it's free. Click the link in the top right hand corner of the blog. Thank you!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

HANA meets with TOC, Stronach Group officials

Reported Friday 7/22/2011 by Art Wilson for the Pasadena Star News:

Jeff Platt, president of the Horseplayers Association of North America, and two other HANA officials met with Thoroughbred Owners of California president Lou Raffetto and executives from The Stronach Group on Thursday morning.

Platt, Barry Meadow and Roger Way of HANA and longtime horseplayer Andy Asaro represented the horseplayers at a meeting that was held to discuss ways the TOC, Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields can alleviate some of the concerns that have caused many around the nation to boycott California racing after takeout on two-horse exotics was raised 2 percent to 22.68 percent and three-or-more horse exotics were raised 3 percent to 23.68 at the beginning of the year.

"We had what I felt was a very promising meeting this morning," Platt said.

Read the full story here:
http://www.insidesocal.com/horseracing/2011/07/hana-meets-with-stronach-group.html


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Monday, July 11, 2011

THE IMPORTANCE OF A COMPETITIVE MARKETPLACE FOR ADWs

The 2011 HANA Track Ratings have been out a little less than a week.

The amount of effort that went into producing this year’s version of our track ratings was considerable. Before going any further I would like to say a big THANK YOU to Bill Weaver for his tireless efforts in making the HANA Track Ratings what they are:

A one stop resource on the web where players can go to get information on takeout, wagering menu, field size, and pool size for every thoroughbred track in North America.

We’ve received quite a bit of feedback - most of it positive – and yes, some of it negative.

Reading comments about our track ratings from around the web, I came across one comment in particular (posted by “Rewards” at The Paulick Report) that makes a very important point.

I thought enough of the point expressed by Rewards that I emailed Ray Paulick and asked for (and received) his permission to quote Paulick Report site content as part of this article for the HANA Blog.

Here is specific text from the comment as posted by Rewards on The Paulick Report:

CD as # 2. If distribution is so important how does CD rank # 2? Despite the Department of Justice's effort to break up the old company that sold signal on behalf of CD (I believe it was call Track Net or something like that) they still are carrying on for CD. CD controls the signals for several CDI and NON CDI tracks including Oaklawn (another top 10 HANA track) and CD refuses to wide distribution of those signals because they do not want it to affect Twinspires. Sound business? Maybe, maybe not. Good for the game? No way! Good for the players? NOT EVEN CLOSE!!!

If HANA is representing players then despite the takeout and other factors, if a track or company is withholding signals they should be severely penalized and put at the bottom of the list along with all the track they represent - Flat Simple as that!

Leaders of HANA need to wake up to that or step down and put someone in there that recognizes the important of product distribution for not only the good of the player but the survival of the game!


Rewards, I agree with you.

One of the things HANA has advocated right from day one is tracks and horsemen not withholding track signals from licensed ADWs.

We at HANA believe that best industry practice involves ALL track signals being made available to ALL licensed ADWs who want them. This helps foster the type of competitive marketplace so vital to the health of every industry you can name - including horse racing.

We at HANA want to see racing achieve a true competitive marketplace because only a competitive marketplace creates the conditions that drive businesses to compete and innovate to earn market share. We see a true competitive marketplace as racing’s best (perhaps only) chance to survive and (dare I say) flourish.

Within the ADW market space, a true competitive marketplace would produce innovations such as:

1. Free past performances.

2. High quality streaming video.

3. Handicapping Contests.

4. Lower effective takeout (Rebates.)

5. Wagering Interfaces that offer: improvements in reliability and stability, an intuitive look and feel, facilitation rather than hindering ticket construction, conditional wagering, wager submission via text file upload, and wager submission via smart phone app.

6. Robust online reporting of account wagering history.

7. Choices among competitors.

The last item on the above list is a crucial indicator of a true competitive marketplace. In a healthy marketplace, the customer spends his or her money with those businesses doing the best job of satisfying customer needs and wants.

Sadly, for many of racing's customers - the last item on the above list is the one item most noticeably missing from the ADW market space.

At best, the customer spending his or her handle dollars in today’s ADW market space quickly discovers that his or her choices are limited.

At worst, to many customers spending their hard earned handle dollars in today’s ADW market space, the landscape looks more like a monopoly than it does a competitive marketplace.

A monopoly is the opposite of a competitive marketplace. With a monopoly things like competition and innovation for customer business simply do not happen.

We at HANA see horse racing as an industry that is constantly pushing for quasi monopoly practices almost everywhere.

Consider, for example, source market fees.

In California, the TOC (Thoroughbred Owners of California) lobbied the California Legislature to write source market fee into state law. The impetus for doing so was in the name of bolstering purses. But the TOC sponsored ADW Retention Cap Law is not without negative consequences. This law drives up the wholesale cost of a bet to the point to where ADWs can't afford (margin-wise) to rebate anything back to the customer. Because of this, instead of bolstering purses, the real effect of this law has been to enrich non pari-mutuel sportsbooks over the years by driving hundreds of millions in handle dollars offshore (the only place California’s price sensitive bettors can get rebates.) 

Further, the source market fee is so high that ADWs have little or no financial incentive whatsoever to compete for, innovate, and market to non rebated California residents. As a result, things like competition and innovation do not happen - at least not for ADW customers unfortunate enough to be living in California - and racing suffers as a result.

Horsemen in other states (Virginia, Washington, New Jersey, and Arizona) have pushed through similar laws.

Sometimes enacting state law in the attempt to keep a monopoly going really backfires.

Take the case where a measure backed by tracks and horsemen that became state law in Arizona in 2007 actually made betting a horse race online or by telephone a felony.

Instead of driving Arizona horseplayers to the track, the new law caused players in numbers to abandon racing altogether. (Ask me how I know.)

Two years ago I attended a series of meetings in Phoenix that saw Yavapai Downs, The AZ HBPA, and the AZ Dept of Racing trying to get the law changed once they realized how AZ bettors were reacting to it.

Management from Yavapai was willing to move in a different direction and wrote a proposal that would have enabled them to operate an ADW jointly with their horsemen. This new measure to bring ADW wagering to AZ was jointly backed by Yavapai Downs, their horsemen, and the AZ Dept. of Racing. Sadly, the Governor’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office quashed the idea. 

Fast forward less than two years and Yavapai Downs is no longer open for business.

Connect the dots.

Like I said earlier, a competitive marketplace is vital to the health of EVERY industry - horse racing is no exception.

I agree with points made by "Rewards" in his comment about our track ratings.

If HANA truly wants to represent horseplayers, then we at HANA absolutely MUST do a better job of raising awareness about the role track signal distribution plays in creating a healthy and competitive marketplace.

One way to do that would be to make sure signal distribution score plays a more significant role in determining how a track ranks when we publish our 2012 HANA Track Ratings next year.

Another way to do that would be to point out the worst offenders.

From our 2011 HANA Track Ratings, the following tracks, listed in alphabetical order, each scored an "E" in the area of Signal Distribution - the lowest possible score on our scale: Arlington, Calder, Fairgrounds, Golden Gate, Gulfstream, Hoosier, Laurel, Lone Star, Oaklawn, Pimlico, Portland Meadows, Remington, and Santa Anita.

Q. What do all of these tracks have in common?

A. All of these tracks formerly contracted with Tracknet to distribute their track signals.

Did the Justice Department play a role when CDI/Twinspires announced the disbanding of TrackNet last year right before their YouBet acquisition was finalized (as the poster named "Rewards" alleges?)

One thing seems clear. The disbanding of TrackNet has not resulted in these track signals becoming widely available to all licensed ADWs who want to offer them to racing's customers.

I interviewed sources close to the ADW market space in an effort to find out why. 

What I was told confirms the comment posted by "Rewards" on The Paulick Report that I quoted above. 

ADWs willing to pay the going rate for these track signals are finding it extremely difficult to contract for them. 

Further, sources that I spoke with allege that this withholding of track signals is a conscious decision on the part of those representing the tracks themselves.

Sadly, that state of affairs signals the exact opposite of the type of competitive marketplace that we at HANA believe is vital to racing's long term financial health.


Jeff Platt
President, HANA

Thursday, July 7, 2011

2011 HANA Track Ratings Released Here

2011 HANA Track Ratings Released: Keeneland Tops List for Third Year Running, Monmouth “Elite Meet” and Retama Move Higher, California Tracks Fall

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(Charlottesville, VA, July 7th 2011): The Horseplayers Association of North America has released their annual Track Ratings.  In 2011, Keeneland, which is currently celebrating its 75th anniversary, was the number one rated track in North America. 

“With takeout rates of no higher than 19% on any bet, a field size of over 9 horses per race, and an average pool size of over $700,000 per race, Keeneland came out on top once again.” said HANA President Jeff Platt.

“We are so honored for Keeneland to earn a third consecutive ranking as HANA’s top racetrack in North America,” Keeneland President & CEO Nick Nicholson said. “Our great team at Keeneland strives every day to go the extra mile in delivering quality service to our fans, and I believe that is what sets us apart. I sincerely thank all the wonderful Keeneland employees for their efforts in achieving this milestone.”

The HANA Track Ratings are based on an algorithm designed by HANA Board member Bill Weaver, a retired engineer. Using studies and empirical data which are directly correlated to horseplayer value and handle growth, namely takeout rate, field size, wager variety, pool size and signal distribution, a composite score is tabulated, and tracks are ranked. The rankings are posted on HANA’s web page, which allow horseplayers and potential customers to sort data on the various categories, as a resource.

This past year there have been several changes in the way racetracks have catered to their customer base, as some have lowered takeout and/or concentrated on providing a bettable product  via an increase in field size. These were reflected in the algorithm, and its resulting rankings. The wildly popular “elite meet” at Monmouth last season vaulted the oval from 34th, to 6th. Retama, who has been struggling without alternative gaming, has also tried its best to cater to customers. Their low 12% takeout on doubles and pick 3’s as well as their huge field size of 10.62 horses per race (tops in North America) moved them from 10th to 4th.

Third ranked Tampa and fifth ranked Gulfstream also scored well and have the most potential to move up and challenge Keeneland’s number one ranking in the future. Their high three and four horse vertical wager takeouts are weighing them down somewhat in the rankings.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, the historically highly-ranked California tracks took a tumble. With some of the highest two horse exotic takeout rates in North America,  Del Mar (8th in 2010, 26th in 2011), Santa Anita (13th in 2010, 37th in 2011), Hollywood Park (15th in 2010, 30th in 2011) and Golden Gate Fields (32nd in 2010, 48th in 2011) all lost ground. 

The complete list of 2011 racetracks and all available sortable metrics can be found at: http://www.horseplayersassociation.org/hanatrackratingsbyoverallscore2011.html

To look at our methodology and algorithm for the ratings system, please access the player resource section of our website here :  http://www.horseplayersassociation.org

To contact us at HANA, please email us at info @ hanaweb.org.

For a web copy of this release, please visit here:
http://blog.horseplayersassociation.org/2011/07/2011-hana-track-ratings-released-here.html
The Horseplayers Association of North America is a grassroots group of horseplayers, not affiliated with any organization, who are not pleased with the direction the game has taken. HANA believes that both tracks and horseman groups have become bogged down with industry infighting and have completely forgotten something: The importance of the customer. HANA hopes, through proactive change on several key issues (including but not limited to), open signal access, lower effective takeouts, wagering integrity, affordable data and customer appreciation, the industry’s handle losses can be reversed. HANA is currently made up of over 2000 horseplayers (both harness and thoroughbred) from almost all US states and Canadian provinces. It currently represents over $75,000,000 of yearly racing handle.

Our web address is http://www.horseplayersassociation.org and interested horseplayers can sign up there for free. We are horseplayers, just like you and we are trying to make a difference. We need, appreciate, and ask humbly for your support.