Wednesday, April 10, 2013

2013 HANA Track Ratings Sortable Spreadsheet Is Now Live

How does your favorite track stack up in terms of field size? Takeout? What bets do they offer compared to other tracks?

It's all live now, sortable by almost every metric.

To check it out, please click here.

And remember, satellite tournaments and the low takeout $10,000 HANA Game at Derby Wars is this Saturday, with races from Keeneland, Oaklawn and Aqueduct, including the Blue Grass. We hope to see you there!

Monday, April 8, 2013

$10,000 HANA Game and the Love of Handicapping Contests

"All too often, the negative aspects of the sport are highlighted, so this is a refreshing opportunity to really savor a great weekend of racing. "

As a handicapper, one of the more compelling aspects of the Sport of Kings is the sheer number of moving parts. Not only does the player need to correctly identify those runners destined to put forth a great effort, but one must also survey the massive number of wagering options and attempt to maximize correct opinions. Keeping accurate statistics of my own play led me to primarily tackle horizontal wagering, as those bets yield the kind of success I was looking for versus other options. I’ve also found that Pick 3’s and Pick 4’s are essentially very enjoyable “mini-tournaments”. 

With that said, the proliferation of handicapping tournaments in recent years is a benefit to the player, especially those that are already multi-race enthusiasts in their typical day to day betting. What makes handicapping compelling is the opportunity to invest a relatively small amount of money to win a relatively large amount. Tournaments accomplish this with a fixed entry fee, which is music to the ears of those wanting to manage money in a meaningful way. You can get several hours worth of entertainment and action with a known cost. Through any given race card, I often struggle with playing too many races and managing money in a poor fashion, so this is paramount.

Derby Wars is a unique site offering a plethora of games, with differing stakes, to suit the likes of most players. Building off the theme of laying out a little to get a lot, I enjoy entering low cost Derby Wars satellites for a chance to win seats in more expensive tournaments with a nice top prize. The interface is easy to use, the takeout rates are favorable, and the variety of games makes it a fun environment.

HANA is excited to partner with Derby Wars to sponsor a$10,000 tournament on April 13th, the last major weekend of Derby Prep races featuring the Arkansas Derby and Blue Grass Stakes.  All too often, the negative aspects of the sport are highlighted, so this is a refreshing opportunity to really savor a great weekend of racing. The entry fee is $47 with a top prize of $2,500 and players down to 20th place will cash. Satellites are available on a regular basis, so please check out  and  join us for what promises to be a wonderful event amongst like-minded handicapping enthusiasts. 

Note: As you can see, there are already ways to get entry into the big game this weekend. We hope to see everyone there! 


Saturday, April 6, 2013

HANA NEWS - April, 2013

The April, 2013 HANA Newsletter is now up on our website.

Here's a link:

Not only are Santa Anita's year over year handle numbers for the 14% takeout pick five up $5.35 million and 46.9 percent respectively - but, apparently, the low takeout bet is sparking handle growth in the pools of the other wagers on the wagering menu for the races in the pick five sequence.

With 1 fewer race day this year vs. last year - and looking strictly at the races in the Pick5 sequence - or races 1-5 only:

Dollar Change in Total Handle Q1 2013 vs. Q1 2012:.......... UP $16.45 million
Percentage Change in Total Handle Q1 2013 vs. Q1 2012:.. UP 10.14 percent

However, looking only at the races outside the Pick5 sequence:

Dollar Change in Total Handle Q1 2013 vs. Q1 2012:.......... UP $2.13 million
Percentage Change in Total Handle Q1 2013 vs. Q1 2012:.. UP 0.94 percent

Read more at the HANA Blog...

What YOU can do to reinstate ADW (Account Deposit Wagering) in your state.

Make a difference! -click here-

(March 29 2013) - The Horseplayers Association of North America's (HANA) harness racing division in association with the Hambletonian Society, Chicago Harness (Balmoral and Maywood Parks), The Meadowlands, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs is pleased to announce "The 2013 Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge".

The format of this year's competition is a change from past Pen vs. Chip competitions as it doesn't matter which type of handicapping method a handicapper uses as long as it is their own. In addition, instead of handicapping complete race cards, the contest focuses only on Grand Circuit races. Using the Grand Circuit schedule, excluding most elimination races, handicappers will be given $30 to wager as they will on race finals or in the case of races being contested in divisions, on one or more of the divisions. Each gambler must invest the full $30 or they will be penalized. The handicapper with the highest net profit after the last Grand Circuit race of the year will be the champion. The contest begins and concludes at Northfield Park; beginning on April 26 with the Courageous Lady and concluding on December 14 with the Cleveland Classic and includes 74 contest dates and 230 individual races. Rules and the Schedule of Races may be found at the contest website.

For more info contact Allan Schott at:

Read more at the Contest Website...

(March 26 2013) - The Horseplayers Association of North America is pleased to announce that once again this year, the membership is invited to participate in an online handicapping tournament on Saturday April 13th. This unique event will feature high quality races (including the Blue Grass Stakes and Arkansas Derby!) from tracks with advantageous takeout rates.

The handicapping contest is in partnership with, the preeminent online tournament site committed to providing players ample contest opportunities at industry leading takeout rates. Through the Derby Wars chat environment, members will be able to interact in real time with one another as well as HANA leadership. Please feel free to ask questions about our charter and find out more about our commitment to improving the game while enjoying the challenge of competing for a $10,000 prize pool.

Read more at the HANA Blog...

Contest site sign up link -click here-

Live racing returns at Hastings Race Course. Opening Day is Saturday April 13, 2013. First post is at 1:50 pm pacific.

Quote from Raj Mutti, Regional General Manager for BC Racing:
"Hastings will offer low takeout of 15% on their WIN/PLACE/SHOW, Daily Double, Pick 3,4,5 wagering pools once again this year.

"Also this year after upgrades to our tote we will be able to offer our US players fractional wagering on Superfecta and Pick 4 Pools at $.20 and Pick 5 Pool at $.60.

In the US players can play us thru TVG, Twinspires, Xpressbet and various tracks and offtrack locations through the country.

Over the last couple of years as part of our reduced takeout strategy we have seen significant handle gains, 5% in 2011 and 12% in 2012, and in 2013 we hope to continue that trend with further market penetration."

You make the call.


It's been nearly two months since veterinarian Orlando Paraliticci was banned from the Tampa Bay Downs premises by track management because of an incident that took place at the barn of trainer Jane Cibelli. Paraliticci, known as Dr. O on the backside of the Oldsmar, Fla., racetrack, allegedly was observed injecting a horse's knee on the morning it was scheduled to race - a practice that is strictly prohibited.

Read more at The Paulick Report...

Racing Commissioners International (RCI) today gave final approval to the RCI Controlled Therapeutic Medication Schedule, setting the stage for uniform implementation of racing medication rules in the United States and beyond.

The RCI schedule is intended to be a guide for testing laboratories in determining the level at which the presence of a substance would violate the rules and become a violation. It also creates restrictions on administering medications within times certain prior to a race, creating a clear line that horsemen and veterinarians should not cross.

Read more at The Paulick Report...

Horses competing in Saturday's Santa Anita Derby have been put under surveillance for the 72 hours before the race for the first time after an owner with a horse in the race offered to pay for the enhanced security to ensure the race was run fairly and provide transparency to the betting public.

Read more at the New York Times...

HANA Newsletter Editor's Note:
As much as increased security for Graded Stakes Races seems like such a no brainer, multiple sources in California have told me final approval for this was no slam dunk. Apparently, the idea was met with significant resistance by the higher ups at both the TOC and CHRB. In my opinion, Santa Anita President George Haines deserves a tip of the hat from horseplayers everywhere for standing firm and getting this done.

Jeff Platt
President, HANA

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Keeneland Again Tops Horseplayers Association of North America Racetrack Ratings


(April 4, 2013, Charlottesville, VA): The Horseplayers Association of North America has released their annual Racetrack Ratings.  In 2013, for the fifth consecutive year, no track could displace Keeneland as the number one rated racetrack in North America.

“The rating algorithm indicates betting value, and at Keeneland this is exemplified perfectly,” said HANA President Jeff Platt. “With no takeout rate on any bet higher than 19%, a large field size of 9.45 horses per race, and a race office cognizant of carding interesting, bettable races for customers, Keeneland came out on top once again.”

“It’s an honor for Keeneland to be recognized by HANA for the fifth consecutive year as the nation’s No. 1 track for horseplayers,” said Keeneland President Bill Thomason.  “We are fortunate to have large, quality fields, and strive to offer a wide variety of wagering options and a reasonable takeout rate.  We remain committed to showcasing horse racing in a way that appeals to all horseplayers and appreciate HANA’s recognition of those efforts.”

Keeneland was followed by Churchill Downs, up from last year’s 4th place rating, Gulfstream Park, which held steady at 3rd, and Tampa Bay Downs, which moved down from 2nd to 4th.

Of the medium-sized tracks, or those with shorter meets, Kentucky Downs vaulted from 29th to 5th on the heels of their very successful 2012 boutique meet, where they reduced takeout precipitously and increased their pool size by 64.8%. Sam Houston had another strong year, and was again highly ranked.

Perennial horseplayer and fan favorite Saratoga continued their strong showing in the rankings with a slight increase in field size from 2012.

The HANA Racetrack 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, key factors including takeout rate, field size, wager variety, pool size and signal distribution are weighted. A composite score is then tabulated, and the 67 racetracks are ranked.

The sortable rankings sheet, with takeout data, pool size and track information, as well as the new sortable payouts sheet, will be uploaded on the HANA website next week.

2013 HANA Racetrack Ratings

Churchill Downs
Tampa Bay Downs
Kentucky Downs
Sam Houston
Ellis Park
Santa Anita
Del Mar
Delta Downs
Atlantic City
Lone Star
Louisiana Downs
Colonial Downs
Prairie Meadows
Will Rogers Downs
Fonner Park
Remington QH/Mixed
Presque Isle
Golden Gate
Penn National
Fairmont Park
Finger Lakes
Turf Paradise
Portland Meadows
SunRay Park
Fair Meadows Tulsa
Zia Park
Ca. Racing Fairs
Emerald Downs
River Downs
Los Alamitos
Fort Erie

Click image below to enlarge to see composite scores

The Horseplayers Association of North America is a grassroots group of horseplayers, not affiliated with any organization. HANA believes that both tracks and horseman groups have lost sight of 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, uniform and fair medication rules, wagering integrity, affordable data and customer appreciation, the industry’s handle losses can be reversed. HANA is currently made up of over 2,500 horseplayers (both harness and thoroughbred) from almost all states and Canadian provinces. We currently represent over $100,000,000 of yearly racing handle.

Our web address is 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.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

California Racing Update

The 14% takeout pick five came about as a result of the Players Boycott, which in turn was a reaction to SB 1072 and its ensuing takeout hike. (Real credit for the Pick5 belongs to Roger Way, R.I.P.) I know this because I was in the room when the decision was finally made to implement the pick five. Brian Boudreau, Vice Chairman of the TOC, told me “We are going to give one of your ideas a try. We are meeting with track management in about an hour and we are going to tell them we are in favor of implementing a 14% takeout pick five as a new bet.” He and I stood up, looked each other in the eye, and shook hands.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Last summer, I wrote about the 14% takeout pick five and a new handle trend at Del Mar. Here’s a cut and paste from that write up:

“Q. What single wager type is up the most?

A. That’s easy. It’s the 14% Takeout Pick 5 and it’s up 51.8% this year vs. last year.

Q. Is it possible that instead of cannibalizing handle, customer awareness about the 14% Takeout Pick 5 bet is generating overflow handle into the other pools and races for the races involving the pick 5 sequence?

A. Overall handle for races 1-5, the races in the 14% Takeout Pick 5 sequence is up an encouraging 10.2% this year vs. last year.

Overall handle on the races outside of the 14% Takeout Pick 5 sequence is up just 1.6%  (compared to a 10.2% overall handle increase for the races inside of the 14% Takeout Pick 5 sequence.)”

Link here:

The 14% takeout pick five is now in its second year. I’m happy to report that the growth trend first seen last summer at Del Mar is continuing this year at Santa Anita.

For the calendar quarter just ended March 31, 2013 - the year over year handle numbers at Santa Anita tell the story.

Not only are Santa Anita's year over year handle numbers for the 14% takeout pick five up $5.35 million and 46.9 percent respectively - but, apparently, the low takeout bet is sparking handle growth in the pools of the other wagers on the wagering menu for the races in the pick five sequence.

With 1 fewer race day this year vs. last year – and looking strictly at the races in the Pick5 sequence - or races 1-5 only:

Dollar Change in Total Handle Q1 2013 vs. Q1 2012: …….. UP $16.45 million
Percentage Change in Total Handle Q1 2013 vs. Q1 2012:.. UP 10.14 percent

However, looking only at the races outside the Pick5 sequence:

Dollar Change in Total Handle Q1 2013 vs. Q1 2012: …….. UP $2.13 million
Percentage Change in Total Handle Q1 2013 vs. Q1 2012:.. UP 0.94 percent

This trend is remarkable because it runs counter to a big picture handle trend spanning the past 75 years or so. Historically, the later races on the card have always garnered more attention from bettors and out-handled the early races on the card because: 1.) Field size is bigger. 2.) The quality of stock is better. 3.) Attendance is higher – both on track and online. (Hey, some of us are procrastinators.)

The handle numbers for the races in the 14% takeout pick five sequence buck that big picture trend.

Here’s what I think is happening:

When I was in college I worked as a Liquor Department Manager for Walgreens. For those of you who may not be aware, Walgreens is a successful retailer. The first Walgreens store was opened in 1901. According to Wikipedia: Walgreens had 8,061 drugstores as of December 31, 2012.  Link:

At the time that I worked there, the newspaper ad for all 26 Walgreens stores in our district came out every other Wednesday. Considerable planning was involved. As a department manager it was up to me to review the upcoming ads, order large enough quantities of the items scheduled to be on sale, and see to it that the merchandise did in fact arrive and was on hand in store in advance of each sale. The objective was to order enough of each item to see us through the sale without running out of stock – but not so much that we would be stuck with large quantities of inventory after the sale was over.

Walgreens had another objective: Customer goodwill. Not only was each store to have ample ad merchandise on hand – but ad merchandise was to be displayed in a manner so that the customer could easily find it.

Each department in the store had one primary sale item designated as that department’s feature item in the ad. As department manager, it was my job to make sure that my department’s feature item was prominently displayed on an end stand. Further, the end stand for the feature item was positioned so as to be immediately visible to the customer the moment he or she approached my department.

Come back with me to 1977. It’s a Wednesday in late March and our new ad just came out today.

The first thing you see when you walk into my department is a giant end stand where about 300 cases of Budweiser twelve packs are stacked like a pyramid. In front of the end stand is a sign. Taped to the sign is the actual headline clipped from the newspaper ad. It reads: $2.79 Budweiser Twelve Pack 12 oz. cans. If you look closely, at the bottom of the sign is smaller lettering that reads: Regular price $3.69. (No limit.)

Every day for the next two weeks I watch as literally every beer drinker within a 10 mile radius of the store walks into my department and does exactly the same thing. They walk in, hundreds of them, maybe thousands, one after another… They see the end stand, stop, read the sign, grab a shopping cart, and load it up with Budweiser twelve packs. Then, literally every one of them wanders the department and fills up the cart with other items that aren’t on sale… margarita mix, bottles of wine, a bag of ice, pretzels, chips, salsa, beef jerky, a jar of peanuts, a bottle of whiskey or vodka or gin or brandy for the more dedicated drinkers among them. Literally nobody – and I do mean no one – comes up to the register with a shopping cart that only has Budweiser twelve packs in it. As long as I have enough Budweiser twelve packs on hand so that we don’t run out of stock – every customer leaves the store happy. And when the next new ad comes out and something else goes on sale – most if not all of those same customers will come back – and leave the store happy all over again.

The company is happy because the customer is happy. Three words come to mind: Pure marketing genius.

Sadly, I see very little in the way of pure marketing genius going on behind the scenes these days when it comes to the decision making for California Racing.

However, the 14% takeout pick five does appear to have California Racing cashing in on the same psychological theme Walgreens has been cashing in on since 1901.

The numbers suggest that bettors are looking at races one through five and walking into the store because of the sale item. Some are even arriving at the register with more than just the sale item in their carts.

Jeff Platt
President, HANA