Sunday, December 21, 2014

Bettors' Paradise Tonight at Cal Expo

Bettors across North America will put the spotlight on California harness racing on Sunday with a diverse menu of wagering opportunities. There will be mandatory payouts, big pools, low takeouts and one big carryover. 
Cal Expo offers four wagers with a low 16% takeout. Those bets are the 20 cent Pick Four, 50 cent Pick Five, 10 cent High Five and the marquee wager of the night, the 10 cent Pick Six. The Sunday Pick Six has a carryover of $22,655 and most importantly a mandatory payout. The ten cent wager begins on race three with a post time of 8:20 Eastern and 5:20 Pacific .The tickets with the most winners share the entire pool and with the increased interest, the 10 cent Pick Six pool is guaranteed at $50,000 tonight. 

The Sunday Pick Four starts on race seven. The guaranteed pool is $20,000 and the minimum wager is twenty cents. The Saturday Pick Four pool reached $40,318 and the twenty cent payout was $2,820.20. Free program pages for the Pick Six and Pick Four are now available courtesy of the USTA and Track Master at Twenty cent trifecta and ten cent superfecta wagering are offered every night.

(Cal Expo release)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Churchill Downs 2014 Handle Is Decimated

As reported by Greg Hall, Churchill Downs fall handle, like that in the September and spring meets, was down by double digits.

"Betting on Churchill Downs' fall meet that ended Sunday fell 15.68 percent per day, according to statistics released Tuesday by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.The declines mean all three of this year's meets saw double-digit drops in wagering"

Earlier this year, mainly in the turf press, field size was blamed for most of Churchill's handle woes. This most recent 15.68% average handle drop was accompanied by a relatively minor 2.8% drop in field size to 8.56 (about 0.2 horses per race). 

You told us in a survey in April, when Churchill raised the takeout, that you were upset and planning not to play their track any longer. It appears a lot of you followed through. With national handles down about 2%, there is no other way to describe Churchill's 2014 handle other than pure decimation.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"Superconsumers". In Terms of Bettors, That's You

h/t to Melissa Nolan, Make Your Best Customers Even Better:

" The most important thing we’ve learned in our work with companies that have decided to focus on superconsumers is that the new strategy can become a rallying cry for an organization—particularly one that has been marketing an old, slow-growing product perceived as unexciting. Like many of the best strategies, it is simple to explain, it appeals to logic, and it is easy to back up with data. “To be honest, I was a nonbeliever at first,” says Cannon Koo, the director of analytics at Kraft Foods. “I thought, How are these consumers any different from heavy users? But as we did more and more research, we began uncovering more and more insights that were quite different from what we were used to seeing from heavy users.” Today the Velveeta team uses the superconsumer strategy to plan its media buying, trade promotions, and new-product lines. The brand’s general manager says that in his nine years at the company, he’s never seen a more tightly integrated brand plan."
 You the superuser (click to enlarge). Almost six in ten of you in our survey play every day or several days a week

Monday, November 10, 2014

Dissecting the Breeders' Cup Saturday Pick 6 Standards

Horseplayer Maury Wolff and our friends at TimeformUS had a look at the change in the Breeders' Cup Pick 6 payout policy, which resulted in the first carryover into the next (non-Breeders' Cup) card, instead of paying out the pool on five out of six.

Wolff writes-

"After the penultimate race of 2014 Breeders’ Cup Saturday, will-pays flashed across screens and it became clear there was about to be a first in BC history: There would be a Pick 6 carryover into Sunday’s (non-Breeders’ Cup) card. Instead of completely distributing the Pick 6 pool on BC Saturday to those who had 5 of the 6 winners, $1.3 million of the pool was carried over to the Sunday card. The impact on those who managed to hit 5 of 6 despite Saturday’s results? Instead of winning around $375,000, five winning tickets got only about $114,000 each.

Why wasn’t the pool distributed on Saturday?

Last year, the BC quietly changed its longstanding policy regarding distribution of the Pick 6. I read about it in some fine print in a DRF story. Since there were many perfect tickets last year, it didn’t get any attention. This year, the same policy was in effect, and again I saw only one mention of it. Most of the regular horseplayers I have talked with were unaware of the change. It seems unlikely that many fans who play only on racing’s big days knew about it."

To read the rest of Maury's piece, please click here.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Santa Anita Post Position Analysis

This article by Craig Milkowski from TimeformUS appears in the Breeders' Cup edition of Horseplayer Monthly.  To read the rest of the issue, FOR FREE, please click here.

Post position is an important, but often misunderstood, piece of the handicapping puzzle.  The following analysis is based on the last four years of racing at Santa Anita.  Sadly, there isn’t enough data for races at nine furlongs or greater to draw any meaningful conclusions, but that still leaves nine of the 13 races worthy of analysis.  The Santa Anita dirt surface was changed prior to the fall meet, but since post position trends are impacted much more by track layout than the surface itself, the older data is relevant. 

The analysis below is based not on win percentage at “general” distances like sprint or route, but on specific distances using Impact Values and Return on Investment (ROI).  The former incorporates differing field sizes into the equation, while the latter adds quality of the horses drawn in each post.   Post position stats should not be final decision makers, but they should be used as a means of upgrading and downgrading horses viewed as contenders.

Dirt, Six Furlongs (Sprint)
This distance favors horses drawn in the middle of the gate.  The inside four post positions all perform below average.  Posts five through 10 are well above average as a group with some minor fluctuations between those posts.  Posts 11 and wider are well below average.

Dirt, Seven Furlongs (Filly and Mare Sprint)
The inside posts (one through five) perform well below expectations as a group.  All others as a group are excellent draws, the farther out the better.

Dirt, Eight Furlongs (Dirt Mile)
Surprisingly, there are no real trends here.  The inside wins more than expected, but also tends to be bet to do so, thus ROI statistics even things out.  There is very little data outside of post 10, however.  Tread lightly with horses drawn in posts 11-14.

Dirt, Eight and a Half Furlongs (Juvenile, Juvenile Fillies)
The rail has been a poor draw at this distance, but posts two through six are strong, seven through nine are average, and outside of that is poor with light data.

Turf, About Six and a Half Furlongs (Turf Sprint)
Posts one through five all perform below average.  Posts six through 12 are very strong, probably the biggest post edge at Santa Anita overall.  Posts 13 and 14 have not had enough runners for any real conclusions, but the trend would indicate those stalls won’t be at a disadvantage, at the least. 

Turf, One Mile (Mile, Juvenile Turf, Juvenile Fillies Turf)
The inside six post positions hold a strong edge at this distance.  The rest are poor, though again, little data exists for the outside two post positions, 13 and 14.  It is hard to imagine they would not follow the trend and be poor.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Breeders' Cup Q & A

This Q & A segment with Mike Adams (@GateToWire) is one of several with some sharp handicappers in the Breeders' Cup edition of Horseplayer Monthly.  To read the rest of the issue, FOR FREE, please click here. 

1.  What horse are you most excited to bet in the Breeders' Cup & why? Telescope – Turf – His best efforts have come at a mile and a half. He has been off since the end of August with this race as the main goal. He has been just a step behind the best in Europe this year (Australia, The Grey Gatsby, Taghrooda, etc.) and having the best jockey in the world, Ryan Moore won’t hurt either. 

2.  What horse are you most excited to bet against in the Breeders' Cup & why?  Hootenanny in the Juvenile Turf.  I am not sure Hootenanny will be the favorite at post time but if he is feel free to bet against him. This will be his first effort past six furlongs and I have serious questions if he can compete with these at a mile. His breeding (Quality Road out of a Hennessy mare) is typically maxed out at a mile. His sister Love This Kitty (trained by Michael Matz) has one win in seven starts and has never even raced past six furlongs. Hootenanny’s dam, More Hennessy only raced once and all of her siblings (seven of them) were all sprinters with next to zero success past six furlongs. 

3.  Are you concerned about track bias again this year or do you think they learned their lesson from 2013? I am always concerned about track bias on big days because it keeps happening at track after track.  Hopefully the complaints from Friday last year will ensure a fair track. 

4.  My favorite go-to bet for Breeders’ Cup day(s) is: I’m a grinder so I feel that the BC value is in the Exacta pool. Full fields will give you value across the board making the exactas the right mix of value and ease to hit. I will dip into the pick three and pick four pools on BC day but sometimes stringing together three-four winners can be difficult. 

5.  What bet would you advise a newbie to focus on for the Breeders’ Cup? Win and Exacta. Pick out a horse you like. Make a nice win bet and then play that same horse first and second in exacta wheels with four or five other contenders. Low cost, fun and a chance to win some nice money. 

6.  The Euros have been dominant this year on North American grass. Will this continue on the Santa Anita green? Yes, I think the Euros will take all of the grass races except the Turf Sprint. The two-year-olds look good and the older horses should eat up the top US grass horses. 

7.  Who is your favorite longshot? Cigar Street in the Classic and Silentio in the Turf Sprint.

8.  Will big public money on Shared Belief and California Chrome make them unbettable in the win pools? Yes, I think both Shared Belief and California Chrome figure to be big underlays. This should make Cigar Street and Tonalist both nice overlays who have big shots to win.

From This Edition of Horseplayer Monthly...

This article by Dave Valento appears in the Breeders' Cup edition of Horseplayer Monthly.  To read the issue in its entirety, FOR FREE, please click here.

In 1992, A. P. Indy (Neil Drysdale) capped off a superb three-year old season by winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic.  He defeated a full field of 13 rivals as the 2-1 favorite and did it from off the pace in a hand ride.  The path that A. P. Indy took during his three-year old season is very similar to that of Tonalist (Christophe Clement), one of the main contenders in this year’s Classic.

Both colts have a royal pedigree. A. P. Indy is out of the champion broodmare, Weekend Surprise.  Weekend Surprise is also the dam of Derby runner-up and Preakness winner, Summer Squall.  Tonalist is out of the dam, Settling Mist.  Settling Mist’s sibling, Easter Bunnette, is the dam of 2011 Horse of the Year, Havre De Grace.

Both A. P. Indy and Tonalist missed first two legs of the Triple Crown due to health issues.  A. P. Indy was the morning line favorite for the 1992 Kentucky Derby but was scratched on race day due to a foot bruise.  Tonalist had a lung infection and was sidelined prior to the Wood Memorial.

A. P. Indy returned from a 50 day layoff to beat six rivals in the G2 Peter Pan Stakes by 5 lengths.  Tonalist returned from a 49 day layoff and beat six rivals in the same Peter Pan Stakes by 4 lengths.

Ironically, both defeated exactly 10 rivals in the Belmont and did it in virtually the same manner.  Both sat just off the lead, traveling in the top three or four in the early going, moved wide on the turn, dug in gamely and won in tight finishes beating major longshots on the wire.

After the Belmont, A. P. Indy and Tonalist each lost twice prior to the Classic. A. P. Indy was defeated in the G2 Molson Million as the 3-5 favorite and the Jockey Gold Cup as the 5-2 second choice.  Tonalist lost the G2 Jim Dandy as the 4-5 favorite and the G1 Travers as 5-2 second choice. 

Christophe Clement removed the blinkers on Tonalist for the Jockey Gold Cup and the colt sat farther back than he had ever been.  Despite being hindered when Wicked Strong lost his rider, he closed very strongly to win with style. Runner-up Zivo was also hindered by the loose horse but had a better trip and was in perfect striking position before being swallowed up by Tonalist.  The pace of the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic appears to flatter that type of late running style.

If Tonalist wins the Breeders’ Cup Classic, he wins Horse of the Year honors….just like A. P. Indy.

David Valento is a handicapper for the Del Mar and Santa Anita websites, as well as his own website. He handicaps under the name of “Track Phantom”  ---

Monday, October 27, 2014

Equibase Announces Free $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Handicapping Tournaments

Equibase Company today announced separate handicapping tournaments on Friday and Saturday of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships with $10,000 in total cash prizes. The tournaments are presented by TrackMaster, a provider of handicapping products including FlashNet, the Pocket and Tablet Handicapper, and iPPs, which are interactive past performances that are iPad specific. The tournaments are free to enter at and open to anyone 18 and older.

“With so many people playing the Breeders’ Cup, these tournaments are a wonderful way for them to see how their picks stack up against others, and potentially go home with extra cash and bragging rights,” said David Siegel, president of TrackMaster.

To compete, players select one horse in each race and receive mythical $2 win and $2 place bets for each horse. Sign-ups and entries close approximately 15 minutes before the first race of the tournament each day. There are eight races Friday starting with the Las Vegas Marathon Stakes and nine Saturday starting with the Juvenile Fillies and ending with the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

“We know from past experience that the Breeders’ Cup World Championships attracts the interest of avid racing fans as well as newcomers to the sport,” said Bob Elliston, executive vice president and COO of Breeders’ Cup. “These contests will encourage all fans to closely follow the horses as they prepare for and then compete in these outstanding races.”

For more information and to sign up for the tournaments, visit

Prize structure for Friday’s tournament ($4,000 in cash prizes):
$2,000 for 1st
$750 to 2nd
$350 for 3rd
$250 for 4th
$150 for 5th
$100 for 6th through 10th plus a free TrackMaster product subscription
Prize structure for Saturday’s tournament ($6,000 in cash prizes):
$3,500 for 1st
$1,000 for 2nd
$500 for 3rd
$250 for 4th & 5th
$100 for 6th through 10th plus a free TrackMaster product subscription

TrackMaster, a wholly owned subsidiary of Equibase Company LLC, provides a full range of handicapping products for the three major racing breeds — Thoroughbred, American Quarter Horse and Standardbred. Equibase Company LLC is a partnership between subsidiaries of The Jockey Club and the Thoroughbred Racing Associations of North America and serves as the Thoroughbred industry’s official database. Additional information about the companies is available at and

(press release)

HANA's Breeders' Cup edition of the Horseplayer Monthly e-magazine will also be out later this week, so stay tuned for that.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Pick 5 Carryover on Closing Day at Northlands Park

If you're looking for a track to play on Saturday, a mandatory payout and a $10,000 plus carryover in Northlands Park's 10% takeout pick five is worth a look.

A free race program is available here.  Good luck with this or any other wagers you choose to play this weekend!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Meadow Wins Inaugural Rippey Award for Handicapping Media

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 9, 2014) - Longtime handicapper and author Barry Meadow has secured the first-ever Ron Rippey Award for Handicapping Media for his piece, “Statistics and Garbage”, that appeared in the Horseplayers Association of North America newsletter. will present Meadow with the Rippey Award and a $1,000 cash prize at the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters dinner on Wednesday, Oct. 29, at The Derby in Arcadia, Calif.

“My goal in the article was to help handicappers think about the statistics they consider every day and encourage them to ask the right questions,” said Meadow, who is best known for his Money Secrets at the Racetrack and as a horseplayer advocate. “I’m delighted that articles aimed at players now have their own separate category for recognition. Sure, the game needs owners and breeders and trainers and all the rest, but it’s great that pieces designed to help handicappers will be honored as well.”

Two entries received honorable mentions from judges Steve Byk, Jessica Chapel, and Paul Rolfes: Byron King for “Which Trainers Produce with Horses 4-to-1 or Less” that appeared in Daily Racing Form, and Nick Tammaro for “Pace is Key in Jockey Club Gold Cup Showdown” that appeared on

“An interesting group of entries with many taking different approaches but almost all providing valuable insights to their intended audiences,” Rolfes said of the Rippey Award submissions. “[Meadow’s] ‘Statistics and Garbage’ gets the top nod for providing some keen insights into what Mark Twain might call ‘lies, damned lies, and statistics.’”

The inaugural Ron Rippey Award for Handicapping Media was open to any article, blog post, or video pertaining to handicapping published—in print or online—in the past year.

“Handicapping horse races is both an art and a science, and the ability to produce compelling content about the topic is a specialty that deserves recognition,” said Director of Marketing Ed DeRosa. “We not only want to acknowledge the good work done in this regard but also encourage people to continue to produce this type of content, and who better to honor than successful handicapper and newspaper columnist Ron Rippey.”

Rippey won the 2006 National Handicapping Championship, was a 10-time qualifier for the prestigious annual event, and a beloved regular on the contest circuit. He also wrote about racing and made picks for the Newark Star-Ledger and contributed Spotlight Selections to for major race days. Rippey died August 26. 

For more information on attending the NTWAB dinner, visit

(press release)

Note - You can read every edition of Horseplayer Monthly for free!  You can signup here to receive a notification e-mail every time a new edition comes out or go to our landing page here to access our current edition and the archive of previous editions.

Thursday, October 2, 2014 to Provide First-Time Gelding Notification

Horseplayers will now know when a racehorse is running for the first time after having been reported as a gelding, it was announced today by Equibase Company President and COO Hank Zeitlin. The first-time gelding information is being made available to all tracks for inclusion in track programs nationwide. The data is also being provided within entries, scratches and changes and within Equibase past performances on, effective immediately.

“Equibase continually communicates with racing fans, and when several avid members of the Horseplayers Association of North America (HANA) recently expressed interest in getting access to first-time gelding information, we were only too happy to provide it,” said Zeitlin.

The first-time gelding information within entries will include a superscript 1 next to the sex of the horse and a list of the first-time geldings will be included as a footnote (see attached sample). The scratches and changes page on and the RSS feed that is available to consumers and all data customers will also include first-time gelding information.

“Handicappers look upon first-time gelding information as an important factor, and it will be great to know this before a race,” said HANA President Jeff Platt. “There are times when these situations create huge betting opportunities that were previously unknown. I think it’s great that horseplayers everywhere will be able to leverage this added information into our handicapping and our wagering decisions.”

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Arlington Meet Results, Boycott Updates

The DRF is reporting handle was down 19% at Arlington this meet, citing several factors.

"The handle decline set in early, with betting during May and early June off almost 25 percent compared with the previous season. Arlington was forced to cut purses then and cut them a second time when handle failed to sufficiently rebound. The track attributed the decline to short fields and new simulcast competition from the popular Gulfstream signal, but a horseplayers’ group also urged an Arlington boycott as part of a larger protest against the takeout policies of Churchill Downs Inc., Arlington’s parent company."

Via this question on the April HANA Survey, your support was swift:

and it had a broad purpose in mind:

Your impact is not known - there are many factors that go into handle - but for those of you who have participated in the action, there's an update.

Currently we are following the Churchill Downs-Kentucky Downs racedate issue, being heard by the Kentucky Commission. As you know, Kentucky Downs has lowered takeout, worked the race office hard to get big fields, and has been described by you as "a players racetrack".  Their handle has tripled since 2011, and things are moving in the right direction. We may need your help in the near future regarding this situation. We do have boots on the ground, watching this very closely, and we will continue to update you as the situation warrants.

As always, thanks for your support.

Churchill-Kentucky Downs Date Fight

A preliminary tweet today from the DRF is extremely troubling.
Kentucky Downs, which recently concluded its meet to record handles, and almost universal horseplayer and horsemen praise, runs in September.  If Churchill plays hardball for September dates, the only logical conclusion is that Kentucky Downs will have none.

As reported on the Paulick Report, September handle at Churchill was down, but the meet provides strategic corporate and shareholder value to the gaming company. September dates were also vital to CDI being able to raise prices by decreasing your payouts as a horseplayer.

"...... Churchill Downs, which is coming off a 12-day September meeting that saw reported declines in handle and purses and dwindling field size of fewer than eight horses per race.
......... The additional dates also helped the bottom line of Churchill Downs and its parent company, CDI, by reducing the Louisville track’s year-long average daily on-track handle below a $1.2 million threshold that lowered tax rates from 3.5 percent to 1.5 percent. It also gave Churchill Downs host status on some big simulcast days that were financially beneficial to the company.Under Kentucky law, that sub-$1.2-million average daily on-track handle also permitted Churchill Downs to increase takeout.... "

HANA continues to support a member betting boycott of all CDI tracks and corporate properties. We will keep you posted on any developments.

Further reporting. If this clarification is valid, it looks like Kentucky Downs would be forced to run an abbreviated meet before September 9th

Friday, September 19, 2014

RIP Mike Mayo

All of us at HANA were saddened to learn of the passing of Mike Mayo following a brief illness.  Mike was the longtime chairman of the National Handicapping Championship Players' Committee, and worked tirelessly to represent all of our thoughts and concerns.  In addition to those duties, Mike was an extremely accomplished horseplayer, qualifying for the National Handicapping Championship ten times.

Our deepest condolences go out to all of Mike's family and friends.  Per the NTRA release linked in Mr. Waldrop's tweet above funeral arrangements for Mike were still pending, however, Mike did make it clear that he was not a big fan of flowers. He asked that horseplayers and friends consider a contribution to Old Friends retirement farm, to go toward the care of the beautiful animals that brought him so much pleasure. Contributions can be made directly to Old Friends, 1841 Paynes Depot Road, Georgetown, KY 40324 or online via PayPal at

Player Alert: Parx

This weekend's Pennsylvania Derby is slated for Parx (formerly Philadelphia Park).

For discerning horseplayers who may be watching and wagering on the event, payout rates for some Parx bets are among the poorest in racing.

The overall takeout score for Parx is 56th out of 64 tracks surveyed in this season's HANA Racetrack Rankings.

Trifecta and Super takeout are the highest in North America.

What about the good news? Well, daily double and exacta payouts are not particularly penal , and win juice is a middle of the road 17%. If you are playing and are looking to get paid more when you cash, those are the pools that are worth looking into.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Skinny on Kentucky Downs

Via the DRF, Kentucky Downs handle from Saturday set a handle record, out-handling both Churchill and Los Al.

What's the skinny on this place?

Kentucky Downs has the lowest blended takeout and biggest fields in North America. (for a full list of statistics on 67 racetracks in the US and Canada, it's here). When they use instant racing money for purses, they've done it with you in mind. You know some of the four or five horse field stakes races we see so often? Not at Kentucky Downs.

Kentucky Downs President, in Horseplayer Monthly magazine (available for free here) said, "Horseplayers and horsemen were very complimentary of our last two live meetings. They remarked that they could not wait until next year. I believe that more of that group will point their bankrolls and horses to our 2014 season, which begins Sept. 6."

They have.

Handle in 2011 - with the higher takeout rates of 17.5% win and 22% exotics (the rates Churchill Downs raised theirs to in April) - was $915,000 per racecard. In 2012, after the takeout decrease at Kentucky Downs, the handle was $1,520,000 per racecard. In 2013, that grew to $2,500,000  per race card. This year looks to better last year's record breaking meet.

There are still two days left to play the Downs. Good luck if you're wagering and watching.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Big Day For Kentucky Downs

Via Twitter from @DRFMcGee

Four years ago, Kentucky Downs' handle for their entire meet was not over $4 million dollars. In 2012, Kentucky Downs engineered the largest takeout decrease in North American racing history. They've climbed to #2 in the HANA Racetrack rankings.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The State of Summer Meets

This article by Jerod Dinkin appears in the September edition of Horseplayer Monthly. To read the remainder of that issue for free, please click here.

Mankind/womankind cannot live so cynically as to believe that physical interaction is no longer important in the post-modern era. In our sphere of influence, Twitter, Facebook, online contest sites, and ADWs are the reality of the times and what will sustain the sport moving forward. 

Cyberspace is replacing physical space, but one cannot and will not subsist without the other. Namely, the sport won’t grow in cyberspace without positive experiences cultivated on track, at a horse farm, at a yearling sale, or some other physical venue, and at least for the time being (until Instant Racing takes over the world) the races are still run over a track, outside, on good ol’ fashion dirt and grass that God created (homage to Nick Zito).

As the summer winds down and the boutique meets come to an end, I’m reminded of how nothing in racing can replicate the on-track experience of a quality summer meet; the sights, sounds, and atmosphere of Del Mar with a laid back deco style and a fashionably late post time to match; Saratoga, with a nostalgic carnival motif, tree lined paddock, and a facility that rivals Fenway Park or Wrigley Field in terms of historic charm in the world of sport; and Arlington Park, a quality facility with top notch customer service providing a memorable experience. These summer locales provide a great family atmosphere and vibe that will help catalyze such memories and should cultivate new support to the game over time.

With all of the competition available at this juncture vying for the precious entertainment dollar in an uncertain economy, the significance of the summer racetrack destination cannot be overstated. We need to make sure the sport remains a part of the entertainment conscious of a typical non-racing fan so when it comes time to decide where to go this weekend or next, “the track” is considered along with the theme park or a day at the zoo. 

There is no doubt that the sustainability of the sport moving forward is largely based on appropriate pricing of the product as a gambling pursuit; a business that will involve a majority of its dollars wagered online. This is the reality of a 21st Century world where horse racing holds no special advantage in the pantheon of gambling activities as it did in much of 20th Century. Quite on the contrary; we’re too expensive and overly fragmented into small groups where the norm involves a precarious power struggle. 

John Q. Onceameetsaratogaguy (“J.Q.O.”) decides he loves going to the Spa so much that he will become a regular bettor through an ADW to continue his interest in the game. Here are said barriers to entry that J.Q.O. must now go through:

1.    Reside in a state where it is legal (sorry Alaska, Georgia, Hawaii, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Utah): 24,000,000 people aged 18 and older reside in these seven states.

2.    Successfully research available ADWs: After looking at all of the possibilities (which involved calling friends and extensive “googling”), he decides the best service with the most features is “”, but it isn’t available in his state. After more careful analysis, he realizes there is only one option, “” which is inferior to most other ADWs. As a consumer in the year 2014, he wonders why there isn’t more choice. It strikes him as a bit monopolistic or at the least “anti-capitalistic”.

3.    Takeout: Now that he is funded and ready to bet, he becomes inquisitive about how horse racing stacks up to blackjack and sports betting, his current preferred forms of gambling.  J.Q.O. looks up the track takeout ( He thinks to himself, good Lord, that can’t be right, it must be a mistake – those numbskulls at HANA have at all wrong. How can a business subsist charging customers those rates? Subsequently, J.Q.O. finds out that some major circuits are actually increasing takeout and one even overcharged bettors above and beyond the current legal rate.

4.    Perception: J.Q.O. recognizes some of the big name trainers from his experiences at the marquee tracks and from watching the Kentucky Derby on TV, but never knew much about them beyond the two minute human interest pieces used to kill two hours of coverage (you know, instead of showing really good Grade I races that occur prior to the marquee events). He is despondent in finding out many of them have a list of medication infractions that make Ben Johnson look clean.

5.    Rewards: J.Q.O. isn’t a huge bettor, but does get some nice perks out of his casino betting. He looks into the rebate rules of his ADW and finds he can get about $5 back a month and perhaps some free PPs once and awhile.

6.    Consistency: J.Q.O. places a wager and watches a race where he is holding a correctly structured ticket that will yield a $250 profit from a $5 bet. This is one of the many reasons why he is excited about horse racing – few other pursuits afford you the ability to invest a relatively small amount of money to win a relatively large amount (and unlike the lottery, have a realistic expectation to win)! However, the inquiry sign is flashed and his temporary excitement has evaporated as his horse has been taken down. This is perplexing to J.Q.O. as the same level of interference did not yield a disqualification in the exact same situation yesterday at the very same track. He looks into the rules used by the Stewards to formulate their decisions because with all this money at stake for the bettors and the connections, surely there are uniform rules for what happens within the field of play (you know, like in every other sport on the planet). He finds nothing but a tax write-off. Speaking of taxes….

7.    Central Governing Body: J.Q.O. wonders why the Commissioner hasn’t addressed a number of these items. Surely the head of this sport would be taking prudent measures to ensure the integrity of the game isn’t compromised. Goddell wouldn’t put up with this.

Some of the barriers to entry are legal and/or political in nature and out of the control of the industry. However, to the customer it’s irrelevant; the bottom line is they cannot access the product.  Imagine if Apple could only sell I-Pads in 43 states? This is precisely what the industry must deal with; not an easy task.

With respect to takeout, I often hear the counter argument that most patrons of a summer meet like Saratoga (and many OTB customers as well) have no idea what takeout is or how it impacts their wallet. This is entirely true. The yearly or even bi-weekly or weekly customer at Del Mar or Saratoga is unlikely to care. Regardless of the takeout, within reason, these folks will make Del Mar or the Spa a semi regular destination. However, this mindset is so inherently flawed and self-fulfilling that it boggles the mind. We need the customers who have good experiences at the track (like J.Q.O) to become regular customers in the ADW world, the future of betting. Given the laundry list of difficulties (only some of which are listed above), this is increasing unlikely and why the sport is in decline. Further, even if the typical OTB patron isn’t consciously aware of takeout, he or she will be keenly reminded of it when they are broke.

However well intended, any marketing strategy that isn’t centered on competitive pricing for the bettor is a losing long term proposition. This is pressing issue number 1 and 1A and is relatively simple to correct. This is of paramount importance and unlike many of the impenetrable factors that hamper growth - this is controllable (with any sort of leadership and pragmatic thinking). The concerts, food truck festivals, ostrich races, Weiner Dog Derbies, and the like are irrelevant if any new customer gained through these endeavors fails to become a regular betting customer; a goal which is unbearably difficult with an uncompetitive, usurious rake, in addition to some huge barriers to entry.