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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

New York Racing Report

Here is a Report on New York Happenings from HANA's New York State Rep.

Overview:
  • New York State Franchise Oversight Board (NYSFOB), which was created in 2008 to monitor New York Racing Association (NYRA) finances, released its 2011 Annual Report to Governor Cuomo and members of the Legislature. The report stated that NYRA "faces significant challenges moving forward" and "sees nothing immediate in NYRA's future to suggest a long-term strategy for financial health." The board said NYRA must devise a strategy "to end its reliance on VLT subsidies and immediately develop plans on how it will meet this goal." Some members of the oversight panel "expressed a desire for better understanding of the impact that higher purses have on racing and whether the current distribution of VLT money provides the most effective use of the funds for NYRA." The report also said, "It is vital for NYRA to re-establish the credibility of the sport through efforts to improve horse safety, owner/trainer integrity, and enforcement of the rules governing drug administrations." (full report: http://www.budget.ny...nnualReport.pdf)
  • NYRA announced that the field size of two-year-old maiden races at sprint distances during the upcoming Saratoga meet would be limited to eight starters and for two-turn juvenile maiden races to 10 starters. Previously, NYRA allowed as many as 14 starters in a juvenile maiden sprint.
  • NYRA has hired Rodnell Workman, a former NFL team executive, as its chief marketing officer and a vice president. Plans remain in place to move ahead with a $20 million capital spend, a portion of which budgeted for the development of a new marketing strategy.
  • About $4 million in VLT revenue was released to NYRA by the state, which cut off this source in May as a sign of disapproval with appointments made by NYRA.
  • According to a press release issued by New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association (NYTHA), there have been no reported positive tests for the drug dermorphin in New York. Dermorphin, a painkiller believed to be 30 to 40 times more powerful than morphine, has been in the headlines recently with several Quarter Horses and some Thoroughbreds having tested positive in Louisiana and Oklahoma.
  • According to data distributed by Genting, the operator of Resorts World, slot-machine revenue was $57.5 million in May, higher than any other casino in the United States.
  • A bill giving New York politicians control over NYRA passed unanimously out of the state Assembly Legislation. The 17-member Reorganization Board will have five members selected by NYRA's current board, eight appointed by Cuomo, and two from each legislative leader. Cuomo will nominate one of the members to serve as chair. There will also be two non-voting board members, with one appointed by New York Thoroughbred Breeders (NYTB) and one from NYTHA. The Reorganization Board is set to terminate in three years. (link to bill: http://open.nysenate...bill/S7744-2011)
  • Although the state is essentially taking over NYRA, it is not clear whether it is assuming any liability. Section 202-B states, "Nothing in this article shall be construed to accept a liability to or create a debt of the state within the meaning of any constitutional or statutory provision."
  • NYRA and NBC Sports have announced the schedule for this year's "Summer at Saratoga" series, with five live broadcasts from Saratoga, starting on August 11 and running through September 1.
  • Two New York senators said the anti-bleeding medication furosemide (Lasix) should not be banned on race day. The release came from Republican Sens. Jack Martins, who represents Mineola, and Roy McDonald, whose district includes Saratoga Springs. It includes a comment from Rick Violette, president of NYTHA, which opposes a ban on Lasix. "The welfare of the racehorse should be the first and most important concern for anyone involved in the Thoroughbred racing industry," McDonald said. "Making a change to race-day medications, specifically banning the use of Lasix to prevent exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhaging, could have dangerous results. It would be unconscionable to make any horse more vulnerable to a condition that could potentially place the horse and rider into a fatal situation." The New York State Racing and Wagering Board (NYSRWB) has taken comments from industry stakeholders on the use of race-day Lasix and has indicated it will formally address the issue.
  • The Belmont Stakes crowd came in at 85,811, almost 30% less than NYRA had expected before I'll Have Another was scratched, but still much higher than other years when the Triple Crown was not on the line (no doubt due to the timing of the scratch). In fact, the number was a record for a Belmont Stakes day in which the Triple Crown could not be won. Additionally, handle was strong: on-site handle was $13.8 million, the second-largest Belmont Stakes day in history.
  • TwinSpires.com credited wagering accounts of players impacted by NYRA's incorrect takeout rates. TwinSpires.com worked with United Tote to recalculate payoffs on over 280,000 wagers for over 22,000 impacted account holders.
  • IBEW Local 3, the union representing the maintenance crew and starters at Belmont Park, threatened to strike the day before the Belmont Stakes. Governor Cuomo urged workers at to settle the dispute ahead of the race. More than 150 employees have been locked in a labor dispute with the NYRA over wages and health care benefits since 2010. Fortunately, after a mediator was brought in, NYRA and the union settled the dispute ahead of the big race.
  • NYSRWB blindsided NYRA by the sudden demand that all of the horses running in the Belmont Stakes be stabled together in a separate "stakes barn," where they, their handlers, and veterinarians will be closely monitored for 24 hours a day up until the race.
  • Trainer Dale Romans criticized NYSRWB when they decided to establish a detention barn to house Belmont Stakes starters, saying the decision fails to put the welfare of horses first. "They are not cars that you can just go and move from one garage to the next," he said. "These are creatures of habit. They like being where they are. The biggest problem we have in our game is the disconnect between the regulators of the game and the reality of what goes on in the barn area."
1H 2012 vs.1H 2011 – NYRA Meet Statistics:
  • Race dates: 6.0% (123)
  • On-track handle: 17.9% ($140.3M)
  • Avg. daily on-track handle: 12.1% ($1.1M)
  • Total handle: 16.5% ($967.4M)
  • Avg. daily handle: 10.7% ($7.9M)
  • Total purses: 51.1% ($63.5M)
  • Avg. attendance: 8.3% (5.4k)
  • Avg. field size: 7.3% (7.78)
  • Avg. winner payout: 18.9% ($12.07)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Horseplayer News & Opinion From Across the Web

A lot of HANA members have blogs, and/or comments, and a few of them caught our eye today.

First, John Doyle (who has always been a huge help to HANA) talks about the Del Mar meet with Lenny Moon over at Equinometry.

" The weather doesn’t change much at Del Mar. A morning marine layer burns off and the track warms up during the day. Sometimes, when it’s really hot, the track will get dry and be difficult to read, like I stated above. If a cloud cover remains and temperatures are a bit cooler, it plays more conventional with normal biases. But, like anything else, do your own homework – handicap the races, note the results and watch how competing horses come back to run the next time. There is no substitute for your own visuals; it’s one of the few edges left in the game."

John talks about shippers, trainers and much more.

Moving over to Saratoga, Rich (who has also been helping out on HANA's Facebook and Twitter pages) has his own blog. He talks today about some angles at the Spa, and what to look for over the next several weeks.

" However, there is always a range of days at Saratoga when the speed bias not only disappears but the track starts to strongly favoring closers. This is one of the most important times of the meet for the serious player. Catch on to this reverse bias early enough and you could “make your entire meet” in a matter of days."

Scott over at his blog chats about how some tracks with Racino cash do not commit to the player as much as they should. 

Last up, a HANA board member penned an article in the Thoroughbred Daily News, regarding takeout and new methods to fund the sport in the UK, versus here in North America:

"Racing in North America, in my opinion, needs to protect what's best for purses in the long term, by looking at their margins, and setting rates not based on what they've always done, but where they want to go. If they do, perhaps purse levels will be sustainable and growing, instead of shrinking, while heavily relying on band-aids, like slots, or instant racing subsidies for survival."

This is on page 17 and the document is a PDF.

If you are a horseplayer and you have a blog or an article, please pass it along to Rich on our Facebook page, or say hi on our twitter account. We'd love to hear from you.

Friday, July 13, 2012

HANA Track Advisory Warnings

July is the time of year for great summer racing. Both Del Mar and Saratoga open this month, and meets at Arlington Park, Calder, and Woodbine are all currently underway.

However, we at HANA have a duty to our horseplayer members and are issuing advisory warnings about the following thoroughbred race tracks: Arlington Park, Del Mar, and the California Fair Circuit.

Pay attention. The information below has the ability to impact your bankroll.

Arlington Park
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.

In turn, this potentially (and negatively) impacts various proprietary ratings such as Beyers as well as the speed and pace figs published by all of the licensed horse racing data vendors. Also potentially (and negatively) impacted are custom numbers generated by handicapping software. It needs to be emphasized here that if you spot an errant speed or pace fig for a 2012 Arlington running line, both your data vendor and Equibase are probably not to blame. The truth is they are doing the best they can with the inaccurate published times disseminated to them.

Figure makers are at the mercy of the track where the races are run. Each track is responsible for accurately timing their own races and disseminating that information to Equibase who in turn disseminates it to licensed data resellers such as Brisnet, Daily Racing Form, Equibase, Handicappers Data Warehouse, and Track Master.

Until such time as the problem is corrected, we suggest taking the published internal fractions, final times, and speed and pace figs for Arlington Park 2012 running lines with a grain of salt.


Del Mar
Players are hereby advised that takeout at Del Mar for two horse bets (exacta and double) is out of line compared to the takeout for the same two horse bets at Saratoga. (See the chart below.)

Exacta
Takeout Track
18.50%....SAR (Saratoga)
22.68%....DMR (Del Mar)


California Fair Circuit
Players are hereby advised that takeout for two horse bets (exacta and double) at the California Racing Fairs circuit is out of line compared to takeout for the same two horse bets at other North American Tracks running this time of year. (See the chart below.)

Exacta
Takeout Track
19.00%....CTX (Charles Town)
19.00%....DEL (Delaware Park)
19.00%....ELP (Ellis Park)
19.00%....MNR (Mountaineer)
19.00%....MTH (Monmouth)
20.00%....FLX (Finger Lakes)
20.00%....PEN (Penn National)
20.00%....PID (Presque Isle)
20.00%....PRX (Parx Racing)
20.50%....LAD (Louisiana Downs)
20.50%....WOX (Woodbine)
21.00%....CRC (Calder)
24.02%....CARF (California Racing Fairs: Pleasanton, Sacramento, Santa Rosa, Ferndale, Stockton, and Fresno)

Caveat Emptor.



TVG Late Double Promotion at Hollywood Park
This past Friday night, July 6, 2012, TVG ran a zero percent takeout promotion for wagers made through their ADW on the late double at Hollywood Park. According to TVG, total handle for the late double that night came in at more than $230,000 – whereas the late double on Friday nights over the previous five weeks at Hollywood Park had been averaging under $100,000.

TVG will offer the zero percent takeout late double at Hollywood Park again this coming Friday night (July 13, 2012.) Contact TVG for further information.


Jeff Platt
President, HANA

Thursday, July 12, 2012

New York Racing Handles Peak. More On-Track Bookies Ejected

New York racing handles really took it on the chin over a three year period. Handle peaked at a ten per cent takeout, but fell precipitously when the takeout was raised to 15%. In addition, large bets (those totalling $50 or $100 or more) fell by millions, as larger bettors moved to the black market to ply their trade.

There were 403 on course bookies ejected the first year after the takeout hike, while only 233 were noticed the year before.

"The additional 5% tax is an inducement to not only make book, but bet with a book", Pinkerton told the Daily Racing Form

No, it's not this year. That story was written in 1949. The DRF archives have a wealth of information on yesterday, as well as today, and often times we see racing make the same mistakes they did over a half century ago.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Weekend Handicapping: Marketing Mix ready to take Dancing Smart today @Woodbine

Just when you think you've got this game figured out, along comes Mucho Macho Man with Mike Smith and smacks you back down to reality.  I'll admit I didn't give him much consideration in the Suburban yesterday at Belmont.  He took control of the race from the beginning and just dominated, congratulations to his connections. Today we head back up to Woodbine for a turf affair for fillies and mares, 3YO and upwards. It's the Grade 2, Dancing Smartly for a purse of $300,000 and there is a field of seven going the mile and an eighth.  We've been a bit off since a great start in June, so let's see if a race on the weeds brings us back.

Contenders:

#7 Marketing Mix ML 1/1

I'm not taking the easy way out going with the chalk selection, but when you look at this 4YO filly what can you say? She is coming off a nice win in the Nassau (G2) here on the turf, giving her five of seven on turf.  Her speed is consistent, seems to win where ever she goes, and two for two at Woodbine, with two solids results at this distance on turf.  Tom Proctor is solid in this situation and with Leparoux having this filly wired, she is going to be hard to beat, regardless of the odds.

#1 Indian Pond ML 4/1

This lightly raced 4YO has two turf wins to her credit, both at Woodbine.  Her last effort, and her 4YO debut was a strong one losing to Marketing Mix by two lengths in the Grade 2, Nassau.  She has won at this distance back in October over the synthetic here at Woodbine and has shown a burst of speed since turning four.  She will come off the pace with Inglorious and that will be interesting.  I look for her to have an even better effort in her second start.

#4 Kissable(IRE) ML 6/1

I have a tendency to play the first time UK/Euro starter on turf, and would have put her first if Marketing Mix hadn't been in the mix.  She has acquitted herself well in some big stakes races in Ireland, showed good speed on soft surfaces.  Most overseas turf runners respond well to our harder turf, so I can see filly being there at the end.  Roger Attfield is a crafty trainer, even though his record with these first time starters is  zero for eleven.

Dark Horse/Bombs Away:

 # 2 Inglorious ML 5/2

She will be making her third start on grass today and her second effort against Marketing Mix.  Two back she finished second coming five wide, and with the added distance see no reason she can't overhaul her. We know this filly can win big races and Carroll has been working her well.  The big angle is the change to Husbands, who wins 24% on grass.  If we can get 3/1 or better she would be the play.

Selection:

7 - 1 - 4

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Weekend Handicapping: Stay Thirsty in the Suburban @Belmont

Today we have one of the premiere races at Belmont, the Grade 2, Suburban Handicap. It's for 3 YO's and upward and usually attracts a solid field, and today is no different.  There are seven entered, five of them are strong contenders for the purse of $350,000.  They will be running over the dirt for a mile and an eighth, there is a good balance of speed and stalkers, so that will make this race come down at the wire.  So let's take a look ...

Contenders:

#1 Stay Thirsty ML 7/2

Going out on a limb with him since he has never won at Belmont on four attempts( three of them were on off tracks).  However, what I do like is that he usually gives a big performance after his first race off a layoff.  He has won at this distance before, been training steadily, and has the class to win this race.  We know Pletcher/Castellano are a strong team and his pressing style sets him perfectly for this pace.

#7 To Honor and Serve ML 9/5

Mott certainly has him ready for this race with his third in the Metropolitan at the end of May. His Beyer's are super strong, workouts have been excellent and no doubt likes Belmont, winning two of three. Also, he is three of five at this distance.  The only reason I've got him in the place spot is that there is enough speed here to push him and open the door for Stay Thirsty.  He has all the tools to win this race, the odds will be miserly, but counting on the pace to work against him.

#4 Hymn Book ML 6/1

He has flattened out in the last two since turning six.  However, this gelding enjoys this track and distance, including a win here at this distance.  He is also versatile, winning on turf, off tracks and various distances.  That is what makes him so dangerous, and he is one of the closer's in this group. If the pace falters, and Stay Thirsty can't hold up, he should fly by. McGaughey puts Garcia back on, and with a 29% stakes win record, Hymn Book is one not to ignore.

Dark Horse/Bombs Away:

#5 Trickmeister ML 6/1

If you toss out the poor effort in the Donn (G1), this five year old is six for six.  He has gone wire to wire at this distance and won his first outing at Belmont in May. Granted the company is not to this level, but Dutrow is dangerous with these type of horses.  His drills have been steady and he has shown he can fly, and with his bounce back in the last race, he is showing the maturity to take another shot at this level.  If he can get better than 6/1 he would be a sweet play.

Selections:

1 - 7 - 4

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Racing Begins to Become More Open

A couple of years ago Dave Carroll, a Canadian musician, had some baggage issues on United Airlines. It seems his guitar (he was on his way to a gig) was broken by baggage handlers. After trying continually with customer service to get some sort of resolution to no avail, he wrote a song about it and it became a national sensation on youtube, receiving millions of hits. In this day and age, companies or organizations can no longer hide, or be unwilling to be transparent.

The horse racing game has always been one that is guided by the mantra of 'it's my business and no one else's' when it comes to horses. The claiming game, where it is better to hide a problem than publicize it - almost to the point that you are looked at as "sharp" if you can put one over on someone - might be the best example.

Last year, Derby favorite Uncle Mo threw in a clunker in the Wood Memorial, and the social media world was abuzz. Did he have an ankle issue? What was wrong with him? The connections, to probably put it kindly, were vague. Full disclosure was not there, and the questions remained.

You’ve got fans waiting to bet into a $100 million dollar plus betting pool, and we give them “vague”. A lot of fans found it unacceptable.

Not long-after, and so far in 2012, we’ve seen a change in racing, however. People are becoming more open and honest in their dealings with the public. In a way, harness racing has shown the thoroughbreds the way it’s done. And we aren’t talking about nickel and dime claimers, it’s happening at the top end of the sport, with millions in horseflesh.

Last year, St. Elmo Hero was going for 26 straight and there were stories filtering about the streak in both the racing and non-racing press. He lost going for number 27, but driver Jody Jamieson reported a shoeing issue on twitter, right away. Why did he lose that race? We knew the story, and you didn’t even have to ask. The media picked up the story and ran with it.

Later on last year, supertar undefeated pacer See You At Peelers was garnering much attention both inside and outside the sport, too. When she threw in a very poor race at The Meadows, social media was asking all the right questions. “What was wrong with her to come home like a 15 claimer, even off those fractions?”

There was something wrong with her, and instead of saying “it’s my horse, none of your business”, trainer Jim Takter explained to the press what the vets found, what the treatment would be, and that she should be fine. The fact that she wasn’t fine made the story more open and believable. Fans got to ride the train of up’s and down’s with the connections, while he tried to work her through her heart issues. It humanized the horse and her connections.

If we go on twitter, or watch paddock interviews, we see more and more of it. It’s not your grandfather’s racing.

Most recently Havre De Grace, the Horse of the Year in 2011, was retired due to an ankle injury. When it was reported by the connections (and filtered out in a nano-second on Facebook and Twitter), not only were details given, they even uploaded the Rood and Riddle vet reports to their website, for all to see.

How’s that for a response?

This is not only good for us as an industry with governments and the general public, as we get bombarded by New York Times injury and euthanasia stories. It’s good for our customers.

I wonder if we can take it even further.

The grumbling we see in grandstands when a 3-5 shot races terrible, or a 1-5 shot is “prepped” is palpable. I think we all agree it should be eliminated. However, many times it is not the trainer’s fault; it’s often times the horse him or herself. If you are not in the right place at the right time – like following Jody Jamieson on twitter – you are in the dark to grumble to yourself.

Bill Nadar in Hong Kong, where transparency rules, said this to Ray Paulick at the Paulick Report:

“Customer experience is the one thing that nearly every industry must respect and horse racing is no exception. Reporting veterinary findings, whether on an odds-on favorite that has run poorly or any horse whether it be in a Class 5 or a Group 1, is good customer service. If a horse bleeds or suffers from a heart irregularity, we will announce it over our public-address system within an hour after the race. We strive to present the best racing and betting product in the world and, by doing so, we are meeting customer expectations. The fundamentals required to do this are quality racing, big betting pools that offer high liquidity, competitive racing with regard to runners per race (12.5) and integrity. Through greater transparency, we only take integrity to a higher level.”

What if we walk through that transparency door here in North America?

If a horse comes off a poor effort, how hard is it to have that horse on a list, and as a condition to entry the trainer has to submit a reason for the poor effort? We then document that right in the running-line, or in the program, just like Hong Kong does. It’s 2012 and we can store the Library of Congress on an e-reader. It isn’t rocket science is it?

Further, in harness racing, if a 2-5 shot is prepping in a race, we should know it. If the driver does take the horse to the back, it should be explained why, and documented. This alone may (at the very least) make the connections wary of doing it. There’s a bettors paycheck on the line in some cases, and if someone is disrespecting that and not taking it seriously, it should be public. If the connections do it too many times, they should be fined and told to qualify the horse so it is ready, and stop fooling around with the public’s money.

And of course, we report all of the above on websites, Facebook and on Twitter.

The past 12 to 24 months has changed the way we communicate in horse racing. So far many of our horsepeople have embraced it. With a little push we can do better, and if we do, we’ll have a better sport.


This article is reprinted with permission from Harness Racing Update.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Weekend Handicapping: Bed Of Roses at Belmont

We start July off with another sprint, this time up at Belmont for the Bed Of Roses (G3) for fillies and mares, 3YO and upwards.  The field of 10 will be going 7 Furlongs for a purse of $150,000.  The field is a solid group of sprinters and I've found three contenders and one dark horse/bombs away.  So let's see if we can start July like we did June ...

Contenders:

#7 C C's Pal ML 8/5

It's hard to ignore this mare after winning the G2, Vagrancy here at Belmont in June.  Her Beyer's have been consistent, she is 2 for 2 at Belmont and won once at this distance (at Belmont).  She shows good versatility in her style of racing and look for to get on top of this field. Richard Dutrow is having a great season, especially with 32% winners off last start and 30% in springs.  He keeps his sharpshooter, Junior Alvarado in the irons, making her even tougher.  Her only weakness is the distance, only winning once in 6 efforts, but current form and success here at Belmont gives her the edge.

#2 Island Bound ML 7/2

She is coming off a nice win in the G3 Winning Colors at Churchill, posting her best Beyer at 90.  What makes her attractive is winning 3 of 8 at this distance, and 3 of 6 this season overall.  Her workouts have been solid, Wilkes does nicely with second off a layoff and he keeps Goncalves on board.  Not sure how much pace there will be but her stalking style should play right into her hands.  She has won coming wide and has shown she can handle trouble.

#4 Derwin's Star ML 3/1

This 5YO mare posted a strong 93 Beyer in the My Juliet finishing third, a nose behind CC's Pal.  Has won 2 of 3 at this distance, and 4 of 8 on dirt. She has won some big races and has success at any track they send her to.  The angle today is she does well off layoffs, a bullet work and Dominguez takes over. Lastly, she has beaten CC's Pal in the past, and her pressing style could make it interesting.

Dark Horse/Bombs Away:

#6 Catinatree ML 10/1

Michael Hushion wheels her back after winning his first effort with her at Parx.  Granted it wasn't a tough field but you can't ignore Hushions success with these type of horses.  Today he pushes her out to 7 Furlongs for the first time, two solid workouts and puts Luzzi in the saddle.  She'll definitely force CC's Pal hand on the front end, and knowing the strong record of Hushion in these spots it wouldn't surprise me to see her take off and nail it.  If she gets 10/1 or better this is where my money would go.

Selections:

7 - 2 - 4