Thursday, February 27, 2014


"“Horseplayers” has moments that exemplify how much the typical handicapper loves the equine athletes, and this is an important element to convey to the audience. One of the most misunderstood notions about us is that the horse is nothing more than a means to an end, a number on a Racing Form. After all, we’re just degenerates, right? I’ve been around some hardened gamblers and seen them cry when a horse breaks down – it means something to most horseplayers.

In one of the episodes, Peter Rotondo Sr. is practically moved to tears recalling having seen Secretariat live at Belmont Park in 1973. This is a big part of why we love the game, and this shouldn’t be forgotten. We all have a goose bump moment like that; my first was Inside Information winning the Distaff in 1995. Every so often I watch Rachel Alexandra’s Kentucky Oaks and can feel the hairs stand up on my neck."

Read more at the Paulick Report

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Bizarre: The Gulfstream Park DQ Winner Hits for $180k. But Had No Chance at a Pool Shot.

The Gulfstream DQ story is one that keeps on giving. Trot Insider tracked down the man who benefited from the disqualification last weekend of the $2 million dollar Rainbow Six at Gulfstream. He hit for $183,000. 

One man or woman's nightmare, was another man's gain.

However, notice the payout of $183,000. The Rainbow Six consolation only paid $36,659.22 for a 20-cent bet.

This man took a $72 ticket for a dollar. And hit the bet five times. If he took it for twenty cents  and he was the only winner - he wins the whole pool.

As Daryl Kaplan put it on twitter.....
Not only one bettor missed out on a jackpot score of a lifetime. The bettor with this $1 ticket never even had a chance.

Note: The Horseplayer Monthly was released today. If you have not read it, it's free, and it's 32 pages of handicapping insight, opinion, and stats.  You can get it right here. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

March 2014 Edition of the Free Horseplayer Monthly Is Released

We're proud to release the New Horseplayer Monthly e-magazine. It's well over 30 pages of handicapping articles, stats and opinion. Click here to download it (pdf) for free.

HANA Handicapping Contest Runner-Up To Play for $20,000 donation to Standardbred Horse Rescue

Note: A sincere thank you from all of us to the Meadowlands for making this happen. Thank you for taking on the challenge, Rusty - The HANA Board

East Rutherford, NJ --- When the world’s top horseplayers convene at Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment in East Rutherford, N.J., on April 19 to compete in the World Harness Handicapping Championship, an estimated prize pool of more than $50,000 will be up for grabs.
But one prominent player won’t be playing for himself; he’ll be playing for the health and care of retired racehorses.

Rusty Nash, recently the runner-up in the Horseplayers Association of North America harness handicapping tournament, was given a seat in the WHHC by the Meadowlands ($800 value) in exchange for agreeing to donate any winnings in the event to a Standardbred rescue organization. The first place prize in the WHHC is $20,000.

"Rusty Nash has been a valued player in previous Meadowlands contests and we are happy that he received the $800 charity buy-in to the WHHC final," said Rachel Ryan, WHHC contest director. "The Meadowlands and HANA have enjoyed a strong partnership and have worked together to promote racing and wagering at the Meadowlands as well as supporting horse retirement and rescue charities. This event is the premier betting contest for harness players in North America and we hope this sparks further interest in the World Harness Handicapping Championship."

"The HANA Harness Handicapping Contest has raised -- through its sponsors -- over $7,000 for retired racehorses the past two years," said HANA Harness director Allan Schott. "The Meadowlands stepping up to the plate to give one of its top handicappers the chance to earn even more for the horses is truly appreciated. We wish Rusty, as well as all the participants in the World Harness Handicapping Championship, good luck."

The WHHC is a one-day tournament, with a welcome reception the evening prior.

Players may earn a seat in the WHHC through a qualifying event at a partner wagering outlet or through direct $800 buy-in. The WHHC contest format requires players to bet 10 races -- their choice of seven Meadowlands races, plus three designated mandatory races from partner tracks. Players keep all pari-mutuel winnings. Prize payouts are to the Top 10, with an estimated prize pool of $50,000.

Registration deadline is 10 p.m. on Thursday (April 17). For the contest entry form and complete rules visit

Monday, February 24, 2014

Four Things We Learned From the Gulfstream Pick 6 DQ

In the Gulfstream bad-beat million plus dollar DQ on Saturday, I think we learned a few things.

Here's a short list.

1. For a three million dollar stakes race, for example, for fans in Dubai, the people affected in the outcome for $1.8 million or so, plus black type, are the owners, jockey trainer and others close to the horse. The result of the inquiry would be palpably felt by other insiders too, because the supply side is their business. This Gulfstream inquiry was not about that - it was about a customer with close to $1.8 million on the line. The major racing media seemed to treat it as just another inquiry, whereas on social media, where bettors reside, it was a big deal.

Andy Beyer touched on this today:
  •  Horseplayers are sensitive about disqualifications because all of us have been the victims of bad ones and costly ones. Stewards are maddeningly inconsistent. 
The firestorm was not only about this DQ, it was about everything a horseplayer goes through, being a customer. It's about the years and years of not having their voices heard.

The business learned yesterday that customers need to be listened to and their money respected better than it has been. I hope racetracks heard the message sent.

2. In the social media world, a response from a racetrack in a situation like this, should be swift. As Beyer wrote "The Gulfstream stewards would not answer questions about the Collinito DQ and issued only a two-sentence statement that left various questions unanswered"

In this day and age, this is unacceptable.

3. Conspiracy theories arose during the proceedings, as probably expected. Rumors like: "Tim Ritvo was on the phone", "Gulfstream wanted a carryover", "the fix was in" etc. 

What we as horseplayers must also realize, is that those in charge of the business are generally good people. Although we feel (and are in many cases) underappreciated, Tim Ritvo and others are not bogeymen and women.

John Pricci interviewed Tim Ritvo today about these issues. It's a great read.

Of special note, several HANA members have spoken to Mr. Ritvo in the past about issues regarding the turf scratch rules, timing of the Gulfstream races and other horseplayer-centric questions. Mr. Ritvo was straight up, detailed, and was accommodating to us, as customers. The thought he would do something blatantly untoward in this situation was a non-starter.

4. We learned racing needs a new system. There has to be a better way. At industry meetings we see panel and panel about insider problems and issues, but rarely one about customer service.

Does racing need cameras in the stewards room live? Does racing need a clock set up for DQ's whereby if 120 seconds passes and they cant make a decision, there is no change (they can work it out for the owners later). Does racing need four judges, like Nick Kling said on twitter, one representing horseplayers, and only a 3-1 vote changes the outcome? Do we need "stewards school" where national standards on inquiries are set, and to get the job you have to pass a test with these industry set best practices?

Let's hope the industry learns something about this episode, because the way things are working, are not working much at all.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

DQ - Gulfstream Rainbow Six

Twitter is blowing up. So is Facebook. Everybody is talking about the bettor who singled the #12 horse in the final leg of the Rainbow 6 at Gulfstream this afternoon, only to be disqualified out of a payoff of nearly two million dollars.

The following thread at Paceadvantege says it all:
Worst beat of ALL TIME (Rainbow 6 at Gulfstream) 12 wins the finale at GP, one winning ticket, gets DQed on a VERY shaky call at best. I'm sorry, but that is just wrong and screams of conflict of interest.

Then, later this afternoon, a player I know sent me the following email:
"I logged into Twinspires and tried to watch the head on replay. Guess what? The race with the DQ is the only one on the day at Gulfstream without a head on replay. Somehow, the head on replay for that race is magically blacked out!"

Here are my thoughts on this:

I may not agree with the call itself. And whether or not you agree with the call you have to feel truly awful for the bettor whose horse was DQ'd.

Good call... bad call... a call where the majority of the bettors want the stewards tarred and feathered... a call where the majority agree with the call, etc....

All of that pales by comparison to what's being done here.

This game is sorely lacking in transparency.

You see, lack of transparency is seen by many as a lack of integrity.

If you want to bring some integrity to decisions handed down by the stewards:


Don't hide the video and hope the controversy fades away. In my opinion that's FAR WORSE than the call itself.

Jeff Platt
President, HANA

Friday, February 21, 2014

Dinkin's Tourney Tips

This article by Jerod Dinkin originally appeared in February's Horseplayer Monthly magazine.  To read that issue, or any of the previous issues, chalk filled with handicapping articles and stats, please click here. It is 100% free.  

Over the years, with the popularity of handicapping tournaments increasing, there have been a number of “how-to” type articles dealing with proper strategy. Even with the best strategic guidance, there is no magic bullet to guarantee success, and akin to the regular day-to-day pari-mutuel endeavor, no easy solution to the puzzle.  Besting a field of relatively equally matched, veteran contest players requires a lot of skill, luck, and preparation. However, there are simple steps you can take to put yourself in a better position to succeed by “controlling what you can control.”

I played basketball under a legendary coach that preached that the difference between winning and losing often came down to three points, all of which are in your control: (1) Conditioning (2) Preparation (3) Effort. Our team succeeded largely by being in better shape than our opponents, preparing to take away what they do best, and putting forth maximum effort. Sometimes, you can do all of the above and still lose, but you only want that to occur when the other team is simply superior despite execution of those core principles.  While contest play is vastly different than athletic competition, certain tenets hold true. In general, you can “control what you can control” in the contest world by sticking to the following: 

1.  Completely understand and master the rules of each contest you enter prior to plunking down your hard earned cash for the entry fee 

This seems like advice akin to telling the new owner of a computer that the first step is to plug it in, but you would be shocked at the number of contest entrants that make inexplicable decisions where the only logical conclusion is that the player didn’t grasp the rules (or was drunk or perhaps a combination of the two). The modern day tournament scene has a variety of formats with differing rules. Whether online or in person, read through the Official Rules from start to finish. Contact tournament officials with any questions to assure your assumption of the rules is in fact correct. Often times, the Official Rules contain vague language that requires clarification. 

2.       Keep your emotions under wraps 

Again, seemingly straight forward advice, but how many times have you gone on emotional tilt? How many times have you missed that 15-1 horse that wins the first contest race and gone straight in the tank? Each time you fly off the handle or get down on yourself, it’s an advantage to the other contestants. Every single person out there has had a tough photo go the other way, been between two potential plays and selected the “other” horse, and had one or more other players pass them in the final contest race with a complete stab they only selected due to their place far back in the standings. The more time you stew in your own pool of self-pity the worse off you’ll be. Additionally, no one wants to hear your bad beat story. We’ve all been there, done that (it’s also the single worst part about sitting at a poker table; the under/over on how quickly you hear a bad beat story is three and a half minutes). Don’t be that guy/gal. Be a man/woman, take accountability, and recognize that no one put a gun to your head and made you select that horse (well, it might happen at Thistledown). 

Make your selection, let the cards fall where they may, and turn the page, win or lose. The next race is coming up and those with a clear head have an advantage.  

3.       Don’t forgo any potential advantages to the field 

Tournaments are hard enough to win without spotting the field certain advantages. For instance, if you partake in an online contest where you have the ability to make picks one minute prior to post for each contest race, be present to do so. If you don’t have the time to participate and be there for each and every race, don’t enter the contest. If time constrained, either find a format that requires all plays to be made prior to the first contest race or pass altogether.

4.       Value / Fixed Loss 

This doesn’t pertain to contest advice per se, rather the concept of a fixed loss is included as an item under your control because handicapping contests provide a unique cost structure that is good for those that often struggle with sticking to their bankroll in ordinary pari-mutuel wagering situations. You know going into each contest the exact amount you will spend for the day and often contests will run from the start of east coast tracks until the end of the west coast races. Even the most disciplined long-term profit seeking handicapper struggles with playing too many races in their typical pari-mutuel day at the races / day in front of the computer. Contest play helps those that struggle with “over betting” enjoy a day of entertainment at a known cost.

Another point on the subject is that value, when taken in context of the tournament world, is less black and white versus that of the typical pari-mutuel endeavor. Each individual will assess the experience at the NHC, HPWS, BCBC, and other live contests in a different way that is beyond pure dollars and cents and therefore have a different tolerance for the fees and potential takeout concerns involved with qualifying for them. The camaraderie, experience, and challenge of the NHC, for instance, will equate to differing levels of comfort on how much to spend qualifying, depending on the player. Quantifying personal satisfaction is uniquely individual and completely subjective. Luckily, in this age of high takeout on much of the pari-mutuel front, there are contest opportunities out there with zero takeout. Yes, you read that correctly – no takeout (this article will include a warning for lawmakers and horsemen from the state of Pennsylvania in order to avoid heart attacks. Ideal takeout for that group of usury experts is 30%).

With that said, please keep the following in mind:  When taking part in a live contest with no takeout, do not use your online ADW to make non-contest wagers while at the venue. Not only is it bad form, but the host venue relies on your handle to make sense of putting on the event in the first place. In an era where the horseplayer is rarely treated like a human being, these are select contests where we are actually catered to quite nicely. In addition to zero takeout, these rare events also tend to provide a free lunch and past performance materials.

In order to ensure these contests continue, please show your support by putting your non-contest dollars through their windows.

Final Thought 

In summation, while much of the above advice seems simplistic and obvious, sometimes the key to success is getting back to basics and not beating yourself. Come prepared, organized, well versed in the rules, and keep a clear head. You’d be amazed how those simple points can put you over the top in the contest world where infinitesimal margins determine the difference between success and failure.

Good Luck and Good Racing

Thursday, February 6, 2014

An Interesting Breakdown of NHC Payouts

Handicapper and tournament player Lenny Moon broke down the prize structure for the NHC today in an article. 
  •  The total money available was $3,039,710 and $1,862,000 was paid out, which means $1,177,710 was taken out for an effective takeout rate of 38.74%.
Horseplayers have been mentioning this on social media and chat boards for some time.

Please visit Lenny's site if you'd like to comment, and we will keep you updated on any developments with this through our various social media and email outlets.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Good For Them, Bad For the Bet?

The DRF has a story out today that trainer Todd Pletcher has 41 Triple Crown nominations. This is obviously an astounding number.

Reading social media the other day someone said what keeps Hong Kong horse racing competitive, fresh and a top gambling product, is that the top stables are only allowed thirty horses. That's it. Scanning the internet I do not see a reference to 30, but to 60.

If social media correct, Mr. Pletcher has more horses eligible of primarily one sex and only one age than anyone is allowed in Hong Kong, of all sexes and ages.

That's capitalism and that's that. However, if one person has so many horses, doesn't it make the gambling less bettable and interesting? Every MSW race at a half dozen racetrack's with a 3-5 TAP expensive steed is not very palatable.

In similar fashion I read this blog piece about harness racing.The post relates to the fact that the best drivers who are well-bet - some who are named on three or four horses a race - get to choose who they want to drive after the post draw.
  • The successful driver loves the current system as it no doubt leads to a thick bottom line come the end of the year and the trainers of said horses like having any advantage over other trainers.
  • But do gamblers like it?  The casual gambler who plays drivers may like it but is it really to the advantage of the gambler for drivers to be able to choose their mounts after post positions are drawn?  What would happen if drivers had to choose their drives before post positions were selected?
On a half mile track this would make the odds board much more attractive for customers.

Trainers having their barn capped at 30 horses, or drivers having to choose their mount before a post draw will never happen. But I don't think there is one horseplayer or casual fan alive who would not love to handicap those races, instead of the ones customers are currently given.