Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Latest "fix" for New York racing

Unless you're living under a rock these days no doubt you've been following the story about NYRA's "takeover" by Governor Cuomo. Say what you will about NYRA (and the reasons behind Cuomo's actions)  but I happen to think, day in day out, for the past 30 years or so that I've been betting on horses - NYRA has offered the most consistently bet-able racing product in North America.

Yesterday, the latest chapter of this story was made public. Apparently, Cuomo “plans to seek public bids for a new operator to replace NYRA, a not-for-profit corporation, from for-profit companies with deep experience in the racing and/or entertainment industries.” Apparently, candidates among the "for profit" entities being considered are Churchill Downs, Magna, Formula One, and Madison Square Garden.

Earlier today, in a thread at CJ Milkowski posted a link to an editorial penned by Tom Noonan titled Latest "fix" for New York Racing.

Here's a link:

"Why not let Churchill Downs compete with Santa Anita, with Formula One, with Madison Square Garden for the best operation of the tracks?
Well, I can think of several reasons.  First, and foremost, is that thoroughbred racing in New York has been among the best  -  I would argue the best  -  in this country for many years.  It is an industry with thousands of jobs throughout the state, and one entire region that is heavily dependent on racing for its economic vitality.  If there are going to be major changes in the running of that industry, there should at first be an open and full discussion, not changes announced by executive fiat through a trusted reporter.  Let us not forget that the state government’s taking control of racing was accomplished by a heavy-handed campaign of threats and intimidation and rushed through the State Legislature in a matter of days..." 
--end quote

As always, your commentary and opinions are welcomed.

Jeff Platt
President, HANA

Monday, September 17, 2012

Something Good Racing Fans Can Do, In About Two Seconds

There's a neat battle going on, one which racing fans can help with. With the power we have on social media (horse racing has been so popular there), we should be able to get it done.

The battle involves a horse retirement farm who is in the running for a huge grant via a Facebook contest. It's the only horse related charity in the running, and they're against some big groups, with big numbers.

But like so many horses who are saved by this farm, they're hanging in there. Through tireless work, and the help of horse lovers and fans, there is a real chance that they can pull this off. But they need more help.

What can you do to put them over the top? It's simple and it will only take about two seconds.

If you are a member of Facebook, go here and vote. 

And please let your friends know that they need your help. Maybe they'll vote too.

If you want to help turn more of our equine athletes from this:

To only a few short months later, this:

All it may take is two seconds of your time, and it won't cost you a penny. Voting closes in a couple of days, so please go to the link above as soon as you can.

Thanks for reading, and thanks in advance for your vote, for our friend, Southern California Thoroughbred Rescue.

Voting is now closed.

An update from Caroline at SCTR:
"Thank you!

GREAT NEWS - thanks to everyone here that voted and supported us - we pulled it out of the bag at the last minute, lol. Rose from 102nd to 92nd in the ranking last night in 6 hours, and won $20,000 for the horses

So happy. HUGE thanks again for everyone's support."

We at HANA wish to extend a sincere THANK YOU to everyone who took the time to vote.

Jeff Platt
President, HANA


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Night School Town Hall Recap

I was one of the panelists on the Night School Town Hall online chat session Tues Sept 11, 2012.

Before giving my recap I want to express the following:

The other panelists: ESPN's Jeremy Plonk, Jill Byrne, paddock analyst for Churchill Downs, Alex Waldrop, president and CEO of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Trey Buck, executive director of racing for the American Quarter Horse Association, Jason Wilson, vice president of business development for The Jockey Club, Tom Chuckas, president of the Maryland Jockey Club, Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer of the Stronach Group/president and general manager of Gulfstream Park, Jim Miller, assistant general manager of Hawthorne Race Course, Mandy Minger, vice president/marketing of Daily Racing Form, Amy Zimmerman, Eclipse Award-winning executive producer for HRTV, Jennie Rees, Eclipse Award-winning turf writer for the Louisville Courier-Journal, John DeSantis, senior vice president/editor for Xpressbet, Jeremy Clemons, vice president/marketing for Twinspires, Satish Sanan, Breeders' Cup-winning owner/breeder of Padua Stables –

ALL of the other panelists – EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM is a GREAT ambassador of this game.

I’ve met many of them in person. There is one universal theme among them that I find refreshing. To a person you will not meet ANYONE more upbeat and positive about racing. You will not meet anyone anywhere who LOVES horse racing more than the people on last night’s panel.

Don’t get me wrong. I was happy to have been thought highly enough of to have been invited onto the panel - and I certainly enjoyed participating.


If you are a horseplayer and you followed last night’s Town Hall chat session (or if you read the transcript) you have to be struck by the following:

For ninety minutes the panel managed to duck what the vast majority of HANA’s horseplayer members see as racing’s core issues.

Why is this important?

According to numbers on the Jockey Club website, in 2003, all sources handle for thoroughbred racing conducted in North America was $15.9 billion. Last year, for calendar year 2011, all sources handle for thoroughbred racing conducted in North America came in at $11.4 billion. That’s a loss of 28.3% in just nine years. (The loss is even worse if you adjust it for inflation.)

That, by itself, should be enough to send a red flag up the pole.

But nothing of the sort happened on last night’s Town Hall panel. In fact, by the end of the night many of the panelists were patting each other on the back for all the things that racing does right – and without ever once addressing in any meaningful way the three obvious elephants sitting in the room.

I want to talk about the obvious elephants sitting in the room.

In 2009, we did the first HANA Survey. In that survey, 75 percent of you identified high takeout as the primary reason you bet less than you otherwise would. In that survey, more than 70 percent of you identified an outdated tote system and odds that change after the bell as the number two reason you bet less than you otherwise would. In that survey, more than two thirds of you identified racing’s drug problem as the number three reason you bet less than you otherwise would.

Not only that, but in survey after survey, HANA’s horseplayer members have consistently confirmed those original findings.

From a market research standpoint, I have very little trouble identifying the obvious elephants sitting in the room as follows:

  1. High Takeout.

  1. Obsolete Tote System/Odds that change after the bell (translates to lack of integrity.)

  1. Drugs (translates to lack of integrity.)

Don’t get me wrong. I think Night School is a wonderful idea. However, racing cheerleaders can only take you so far.

Until or unless racing decides to take on the obvious elephants sitting in the room – expect racing to continue to decline in popularity among the public at large and expect racing’s key metric: handle - to continue its long term decline as well.

EDIT: One thing I didn't get to see live as a panelist during the chat session were results of the polls. However, while scrolling through the "replay" of the chat I came across the following:

Poll Results - What is Racing's Biggest Problem to Fix?

Poll Results - Which Idea Do You Like Best Tonight?

I rest my case.

Jeff Platt
President, HANA

PS - For those of you interested in a "replay" of last night's chat, here's the link:


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Twinspires Database Hacked

Like many of you, I received the “Twinspires database has been hacked” letter too.

This initially had me scratching my head because I have never once used to place a bet. It turns out that I had given my ssn# to Brisnet several years ago as a requirement for playing in a few online contests there (before Twinspires acquired Brisnet.)

Q. What does the letter from Twinspires (and hackers breaking into the Twinspires database) really mean?

I think it safe to assume that someone unscrupulous has obtained my name, address, email, phone, ssn#, date of birth, and Brisnet/Twinspires account logon info.

I find it highly unlikely that whoever hacked into the Twinspires database will decide to use my Brisnet/Twinspires account logon info to log into the Brisnet site and download several hundred dollars worth of data files and/or handicapping reports. 

That's not what hacking the Twinspires database is about.

I find it far more likely that whoever hacked into the Twinspires database will sell my personal info to someone (or multiple someones) who are likely to do far worse.

I fully expect that at some point in the future someone is going to pretend to be me and attempt to open up credit card accounts or obtain unsecured personal loans in my name. This will be done without my permission and without me even being aware of it until after the fact.

I further expect that this person (or persons unknown) are going to attempt to use these accounts opened up in my name (and without my permission) to obtain cash advances, purchase items that can be converted into cash, or possibly purchase expensive vacations. They will do this while pretending to be me - while running up substantial balances in my name - without ever once making a single payment to the bank or lender... leaving my credit report a shambles in the process.

THIS, my fellow horseplayers - is what hacking the Twinspires database is about.

Q. What should I do from here?

I did some poking around on the web and found what appears to be very good .pdf document on the US Gov FTC site.

What to do if your identity is stolen:

Jeff Platt
President, HANA


Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor Day Weekend 2012

Every year when Labor Day weekend arrives I always get a little bit sad. Labor Day marks the end of summer. This year, we’ve had some great summer racing. It is my sincerest hope that each and every one of you was afforded the chance to enjoy your share.

Travers Stakes Dead Heat
The 2012 Travers Stakes at Saratoga saw a dead heat between 33-1 longshot Golden Ticket and 2-1 favorite Alpha.

Link to Youtube video: here:

The dead heat between a 33-1 longshot and the favorite in one of New York’s most storied and prestigious stakes races brings attention to what we at HANA see as a bad (antiquated) New York State Wagering Board rule.

Consider. The payoffs for the late pick four and the pick three ending with the Travers Stakes were as follows:

Pick Four:
$2.00 Base Wager, Winning Numbers: 2-8-1-3/6, Paid: $990.00

Pick Three:
$2.00 Base Wager, Winning Numbers: 8-1-3, Paid: $1907.00
$2.00 Base Wager, Winning Numbers: 8-1-6, Paid: $141.50

How can this be?

By rule, the late pick four pool is split evenly among winning ticket holders in the event of a dead heat. In plain English: Players who had the foresight to include #3 Golden Ticket at 33-1 on their pick 4 tickets received an identical payoff to that received by players who included the post time favorite on their tickets!

Next, we bring your attention to the pick three. By rule, the pick three is handled (correctly) in the event of a dead heat. When there is a dead heat in a pick three race, the money in the pick three pool is divided among winning ticket holders in proportion to the money wagered on each horse.

We at HANA see the rule as relates to handling of dead heats in the pick four as a bad rule that needs to be changed. Conversely, we see the rule as relates to handling of dead heats in the pick three as the correct way to do things.

Both the pick three and pick four are pari-mutuel wagers. By its very definition, pari-mutuel wagering involves dividing up pari-mutuel pools in proportion to the money bet on each betting interest. We at HANA can see no justification for failure to do that when a dead heat occurs in a pick four race.

Accordingly, we have contacted the New York State Wagering Board and have asked what the procedure is for getting a rules change enacted. (We’ll keep you updated if and when any progress in this area is made.)

Jeff Platt
President, HANA

2012 Arlington Million
Little Mike and Ramon Dominguez lulled ‘em to sleep and took the 30th Arlington Million impressively in wire to wire fashion.

Link to Youtube video here:

I didn’t have any money riding on Little Mike. But apparently Mike Ditka did. < grin >

But watching the race, I thought it was 1.) Visually appealing. There’s something to be said when a field of 11 quality runners competes in a stakes race at the classic mile and one quarter distance on the turf. 2.) I thought Ramon Dominguez did a masterful job of controlling the pace while lulling the rest of the field to sleep. 3.) I thought John Dooley (as always) gave the 30th running of the Arlington Million a masterful call.

In my opinion, the 2012 Arlington Million was one of the more memorable races I saw this past summer.

That said, did you happen to notice anything unusual about the race video and John Dooley’s call? You might, if like me, you happen to have been following the racing closely this summer at Arlington Park.


What’s the big deal? (You might ask.)

Back in July, we at HANA ran our first ever track advisory warnings where we shone a spotlight pointing out abhorrent race track behavior to horseplayers. One of the tracks we featured (and not in a good way) was Arlington Park. The abhorrent race track behavior? Races with missing internal fractions, missing final times, and plenty of them!

Here’s a link to our advisory warning about Arlington Park:

Here’s a quote from that write up:

“Players are hereby advised that published times for (far too many) races run at Arlington Park during the 2012 meet are missing, incomplete, or just completely inaccurate. This includes times for fractional (internal) points of call as well as final times for races run on both the turf course and Arlington’s Polytrack surface. Arlington Park management is aware of the problem, has been working on it (since opening day) – but as of this writing, the problem continues and has not been corrected. This (potentially) impacts any and all running lines in the past performance records of horses that have raced at Arlington Park to date during the 2012 meet.”

I’d love to be able to post an update telling you that our advisory warning from July about mistimed races at Arlington Park was for naught - that track management at Arlington Park stepped up and addressed the problem.

Sadly, that’s not the case.

In late June, Arlington Park track management met with a group of horseplayers and one of the topics discussed was the unacceptable number of mistimed races during their 2012 meet. During that meeting, Arlington Park advised horseplayers that yes, there had been problems timing races at Arlington Park but that (new) procedures had been implemented and that those new procedures would make Arlington’s timing issues a thing of the past. Clearly, that hasn’t happened.

In mid July, a group of volunteer horseplayers from HANA compiled a list of races run at Arlington Park during the 2012 meet that had missing and/or bad internal fractions and/or final times. We then involved upper management at Equibase in getting the list of races with bad times to Arlington track management.

I was kind of hoping that Arlington would step up and respond by giving those races a second look, hand time them from video (not sure what else they could do?) - and get the info back to Equibase so that corrected charts could be cut. That way, horses returning to the races after having raced at a mistimed race at Arlington would not have time based info (speed and pace figs, race fractions and race final time) omitted from their Arlington Park 2012 running lines.

In our opinion, players betting the Arlington product deserve at least that much.

To the best of our knowledge, Arlington Park track management took the list of bad races that was handed to them and did absolutely nothing with it.

To do nothing with that list? To give players (and Equibase) the cold shoulder?

That's weak.

Just how bad is it? How many mistimed races are we talking about?

In July, a horseplayer named Ron (whose work with racing data I have come to greatly respect) helped us compile the list of bad races. Below is a direct quote from one of his emails to me:
“Just for a point of comparison, I ran Betfair Hollywood Park, Belmont, Thistledown and Arapahoe. I ran the exact same query as I did for AP, looking for missing times and obviously bad times.

BHP has had 403 races this meet - 0 races were missing a fractional time and all looked to be in normal ranges. 100% score.

Bel has had 487 races this meet - 0 races were missing a fractional time and all looked to be in normal ranges. 100% score.

Tdn has had 319 races this meet - 1 race was missing fractions and all looked to be in normal ranges. 99.6% score

Arp has had 120 races this meet - 1 race was missing fractions and all looked to be in normal ranges. 99.2% score

AP has had 388 races this meet - 27 were missing at least 1 fraction and 7 were missing all fractions, presumably deleted after somebody cleaned up the bad times. 93.0% score

Arlington has a long way to go to meet Arapahoe's timing standards, at least in terms of completeness.

You can forward or quote this to whomever you want.


Jeff Platt
President, HANA