Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Violette's Comments Don't Sit Well With Horseplayers

Yesterday in an interview at Thoroughbred Racing Commentary, New York horseman Rick Violette said that customers should help pay for new drug testing. Out of 100% of revenue, the tracks receive about 11%, purses receive about 11%, and the customer gets paid out 78%. The proposal - if we can call it that - means that if the tracks and horsemen give 1% each for drug testing, horseplayers should too. That means takeout would be increased by another point.

This, as one might anticipate, went over like a ton of bricks.

Among others.

Mr. Violette might find this anger unwarranted. However, since he speaks about football and concussions in the interview, what would he think would happen if someone in power in the NFL said "fans get a better product if our players have fewer concussions, so we're going to raise ticket prices $10 at every stadium to help pay for concussion testing."

Fans would be justifiably upset. The NFL is an $8 billion dollar league. They should find some money to pay for their athletes and the good of the game of football themselves from that $8 billion.

Horse racing, through slots, revenues from betting, grants, admission, ADW taxes, fees for horses and licensing, and a number of other avenues, raises about $2 billion in revenue. Like the NFL, they already have revenue to pay for this themselves. They should use it for drug testing. There's clearly plenty of money for it.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Field Size Narrrative Doesn't Capture Your Behavior

When handle is down this racing year - especially at CDI owned racetracks like Arlington and Churchill Downs - industry insiders like to chalk it up to 'field size losses'. Perhaps this is a way to buttress your boycott of such properties, we don't really know. But we do know it does not have the merit some would want it to.

A point of fact. Here is the Arlington Park numbers from this year when field size was a standard deviation above where it was last year:

Yes, despite what you may read in the press, you are reading the number correctly.

2013 field size sample: 7.54 horses per race, 2014 field size sample: 8.27 horses per race, for an increase of 0.73 horses per race.

Handle is still down over 9%.

Churchill Downs, outside special event days, has lost 0.62 horses per race this meet - that's less than the number Arlington has gained in the above sample. Handle is down 26.90% overall, or over 20% per race.

For field size to be "the" issue, the above numbers would not be possible.

Or, in common sense terms, if field size was "the" issue, you'd have to believe this:

"I am betting Churchill Downs more because they raised takeout and I make less money when I win"

rather than.....

"I am betting Churchill Downs less because they raised takeout and I make less money when I win"

One of those statements makes logical sense and one of them doesn't. It's pretty clear what's been happening, and we expect, over time, others will catch on to it, too.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Northlands Park Pick 5 Carryover Tonight

If you're looking for a track to play tonight, Northlands Park has a $6,607 carryover in their Pick 5, which carries an industry-low takeout of just 10%.
We had some information about Northlands Park's commitment to improving their wagering product on page eight of the April edition of the Horseplayer Monthly, and we are planning on having a more extensive interview with Executive Director and General Manager Chris Roberts in the next issue.

Free past performances are available here (PDF).

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Some People Prepare for the Stephen Foster Different Than Others

We were tweeted this cartoon from a horse racing fan:

You can follow Deb Martin here. And you can see more of her work, as well as purchase some if you wish, right here. 

Thanks Deb, we laughed.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Bettors Low on the Pole: Courts Even Think We Don't Matter

Today via the DRF:

"A U.S. District Court judge has ordered that an indictment against a Pennsylvania trainer be dismissed...... The indictment stated that the trainers had allegedly given illegal substances to horses or intended to give illegal substances to horses as part of what the indictment claimed was a scheme to fix horse races. In his ruling, Caldwell said the indictment against Webb did not contain any evidence that the trainer had actually bet on any of horses that had been given illegal substances or urged anyone else to bet on any of the horses."

We don't know the logistics of the case and we certainly will not comment on whether this gentleman is guilty or innocent of anything, but why do judges rulings think we don't matter?

We may have bet some of these races. Money may have been taken from us.

If a Fortune 500 CEO cooks the books would the judge say because he does not own stock in the company and did not profit from it we'll let him or her cook the books?

What about other horse owners? What about other trainers - a trainer who wins races illegally (allegedly), gets press, win percentage headlines, is noticed and gets new clients (possibly some of yours).

When a race is "fixed" there are victims. The trainer who is supposedly doing the fixing does not need to bet on his horse to make financial gain, or hurt others.

That's our opinion. What's yours?

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Churchill Handle Losses Continue, Down 55% Sunday.

While Belmont had a good handle weekend, and other tracks took advantage of horse racing being in the mainstream with the California Chrome Triple Crown try, Churchill Downs had no such luck. Friday through Sunday, handle at the Louisville, Ky oval fell over $5 million. On Sunday, handle was down a whopping 55%.

So far, for the meet, handle is down $37,922,365.

In the mainstream press, field size has been given as a reason for the decline, and surely some of the decline is field size related, however, since mid month field size has improved from down over 10% to down only 8.8% - only 0.67 horse per race. During this time, meet losses of approximately 25% - one of every four dollars - has continued. Average handle per day has dropped 27.71%. has updated the numbers here. They've recommended that horseplayers who wish can continue to withhold wagering at Churchill as well as all CDI owned properties, ADW's and data providers. In a poll early in the meet, HANA members, in a published survey, overwhelmingly supported the initiative, in whole or in part. Jeff Platt, HANA President, recently told the Bloodhorse that Churchill Downs has not reached out to speak with boycotting horseplayers, but the door is always open should the corporation choose.

HANA will update members here on the blog as the meet inches closer to its conclusion.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Nilsen: California Chrome Will Win the Triple Crown

This article by Rich Nilsen appears in the June edition of Horseplayer Monthly. To read the remainder of that issue for free, please click here.

Twelve horses have been in position in Elmont, New York over the past 35 years, and every one of them has failed.  It has not been without drama and heartbreak, as Smarty Jones and Real Quiet appeared to be 'home free' in deep stretch over 'Big Sandy,' only to get nailed at the wire.  

Over the past several years there has been a lot of talk within the industry that the Triple Crown should be changed.  Some want the races spread out with longer gaps between each event.  Others want the distances of the races shortened, claiming that the modern Thoroughbred cannot handle the arduous task of negotiating an aggregate of 31 1/2 furlongs in five weeks at three different tracks.  Fortunately, those arguments will be shelved after the outcome of the Belmont Stakes on June 7.
The third leg is known as 'The Test of Champions' for a reason.  It's hard.  They are not giving away history, nor should they.  California Chrome has to earn it.

The Decade of the 1970s was a special time in racing history because three of the all-time greats, Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Affirmed, were able to pull off this monumental feat.  It was extra sweet when Secretariat accomplished the task, not just because of the devastating fashion with which he won the Triple Crown, but also because it had been 25 years since Citation's sweep.
This year I believe we are going to see our first Triple Crown winner in over three decades.  One of the reasons for this is that many of the right circumstances have fallen into place for a talented colt that has forgotten how to lose.

In 1916 there were 2,128 Thoroughbred foals born and registered in the United States with The Jockey Club.  One of those foals would turn out to be a horse named Sir Barton, who in 1919 would sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes and become horse racing's inaugural Triple Crown winner.  Fast forward to 1975 when no less 28,271 foals were born and among them was a striking chestnut for Harbor View Farm.  Named Affirmed by Louis Wolfson, he would gain fame by defeating his arch rival Alydar in the three consecutive races and becoming horse racing's last Triple Crown champion.

An epidemic, known as the Mare Reproductive Lose Syndrome, hit the breeding industry in the early 2000s.  Coupled with a poor and uncertain economy a few years later, the result was a sharp drop in the number of matings.  The big slide began in 2009 when the crop dropped 8.5 percent, below 30,000 foals for the first time since 1976.  It got worse the next year, as only 25,891 were produced in 2010, a 12.5-percent drop. In 2011, the year California Chrome was foaled, only 23,150 foals were born.  This was the smallest Thoroughbred crop since 1969.

This plays into Chrome's favor as fewer foals means less quality competition.  It can be argued that some of the best from this crop, such as Honor Code, Top Billing, New Year's Day, and Shared Belief, didn't make it to the starting gate on the first Saturday in May.  Every year top horses fail to make it to the Derby, but a smaller crop has resulted in fewer fast horses remaining as viable threats for the winner's circle.

Winner                 Foaled  Where                  Color                     Crop Size
Sir Barton            1916       Kentucky           Chestnut                 2,128
Gallant Fox         1927       Kentucky            Bay                         4,182
Omaha                 1932       Kentucky           Chestnut                  5,256
War Admiral       1934       Kentucky            Brown                     4,924
Whirlaway           1938       Kentucky           Chestnut                  5,696
Count Fleet          1940       Kentucky           Bay                         6,003
Assault                 1943       Kentucky           Chestnut                  5,923
Citation                1945       Kentucky           Bay                         5,819
Secretariat            1970       Virginia             Chestnut                 24,361
Seattle Slew         1974       Kentucky           Black                      27,586
Affirmed              1975       Florida               Chestnut                 28,271

12 Horses who won the Derby/Preakness
Spectacular Bid 1976       Kentucky             Gray                      28,809
Pleasant Colony 1978       Kentucky             Dark Bay              31,510
Alysheba             1984       Kentucky             Bay                      50,430
Sunday Silence  1986       Kentucky             Black/Brown        51,296
Silver Charm       1994       Florida                  Gray                   35,341
Real Quiet           1995       Florida                  Bay                     34,984
Charismatic         1996       Kentucky             Chestnut              35,366
War Emblem      1999       Kentucky             Dark Brown          36,929
Funny Cide         2000       New York            Chestnut               37,755
Smarty Jones      2001       Penn.                    Chestnut               37,901
Big Brown            2005       Kentucky             Bay                     38,362
I'll Have Another* 2009 Kentucky             Chestnut                  32,339
*scratched before race day

Which list will he be added to?
California Chrome 2011 California             Chestnut             23,150
There are some racing fans who feel the same way about California Chrome that they and others felt about Real Quiet (who began his career in New Mexico) and the New York-bred Funny Cide, when those runners were in position to join a list that includes Citation and Secretariat.  Is California Chrome worthy of being on such a prestigious list?  In this handicapper's opinion, the answer is absolutely yes.

No matter what Chrome accomplishes the rest of his career, it is unlikely that he will go down as one of the top 10 or 20 greatest Thoroughbreds of all time.  But that doesn't really matter.  He is a talented horse in a small and weak crop.  This doesn't diminish his feat, as it is much tougher now to win the Triple Crown than when Gallant Fox did it back in 1930 due to the vastly larger foals crops and the number of starters in each race.  But the fact that California Chrome hails from the smallest crop since the late 1960s plays to his advantage, statistically, and gives him a better overall chance than horses like Alysheba and Sunday Silence who came from crops more than twice the size of 2011. 
It's fairly simple.  No one will confuse any of the potential starters in this year's Belmont with the likes of Easy Goer, Bet Twice, Java Gold or Lost Code.  Sunday Silence had to face the great Easy Goer on his home track, and the result wasn't even close.

We all know by now that the California star brings along a great story.  He is trained by 77-year-old Art Sherman, one of the better trainers in California over the past several decades.  At the age of 18 he was the exercise rider for Swaps, who captured the 1955 Kentucky Derby and won a remarkable 19 of 25 lifetime races.  The chestnut colt would go on to be listed as the 20th greatest racehorse of all time by The Blood-Horse magazine.

In the game for no less than seven decades, and having enjoyed plenty of success with lesser quality runners out west, Sherman would not have his first starter in the Run for the Roses until this year.
But if the Art Sherman story weren't enough, California Chrome has the added appeal of coming from the most humble of beginnings.  The owners, Perry Martin and Steve Coburn, bought his mare for only $8,000 and bred her to a little known stallion in California named Lucky Pulpit.  They were called 'dumb asses' by some of their friends, so they named their stable Dumb Ass Partners.  

The result of the breeding was a beautiful reddish colt with four white 'socks,' and for some unknown and unexplainable reason, owner Perry Martin knew this foal had a big future.  In fact, he vowed to stay in the game until Chrome had the opportunity to prove himself.  It's hard to make this stuff up.
Chrome would show talent at an early age, but while the best horses were competing in the 2013 Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita, he was found losing on the undercard in a state-bred stakes race.  At that point of his career, becoming a starter, never less the favorite, in the 2014 Kentucky Derby would have been a 1,000-1 shot.

However, anyone who has followed California racing over the past few years knows the type of remarkable horseman Art Sherman is.  This is a man who in 2007 started 861 horses and won with 207 of them, an incredible 24-percent win rate.  And that particular year was far from an anomaly, as Sherman consistently won with a high percentage of horses year-in and year-out during a long time span that started in the early 1980s.

Sherman has demonstrated his expertise again with his masterful training of Chrome, and this is a critical factor in the colt's chances in New York.  Not only has he turned this Cal-bred into a Grade 1-winning machine, but he has given the colt the best possible chance of sweeping the Triple Crown.  By easing back on the horse's workload prior to both the Derby and especially the Preakness (no published works in the two week gap), Sherman comes to Belmont with the freshest horse possible under the circumstances.

Also in Chrome's corner is Victor Espinoza, a great rider who is six for six aboard the colt.  Jockey Stewart Elliott was blamed for the premature move of Smarty Jones in the 2004 Belmont Stakes, and that is unlikely to occur with a rider like Espinoza, a jock who has ridden at Belmont Park numerous times and is very familiar with the big, sweeping turns.  Espinoza is well aware of the fact that he can't move too soon in the 12 furlong race.  If he has enough horse, he will move him at the right time.

There are a few talented horses in California Chrome's crop, such as Ride On Curlin, Commanding Curve and Wicked Strong.  However, these are all horses that are subject to bad trips and not extremely fast from a speed figure perspective.  Chrome, with good early speed and tactical ability, creates his own luck.  He got a perfect path in the Kentucky Derby because he made his own trip.  That is a tremendous asset when the money is on the line.

The horse racing community has been crying for a Triple Crown winner for quite some time.  We have all wanted another Secretariat, a horse that can captivate the American public and put racing back in the headlines.  California Chrome is no Secretariat, but he is a talented horse with a big heart, a great trainer and jockey, and the perfect running style that includes push-button acceleration.
He carries with him a great story, which has already caught the attention of the general public, and it is only going to be better next Saturday.

Rich Nilsen is a 12-time NHC qualifier and founder of  He serves as Director of Player Services for, the only ADW offering same-day cash back rewards for members.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

June Horseplayer Monthly Is Out!

HANA is pleased to announced that our June edition of Horseplayer Monthly with stats, stories, and analysis not found anywhere else, is now available to download here -

In this month's edition, Rich Nilsen argues that California Chrome will win the Belmont, and there is plenty of other Belmont analysis courtesy of Tony Bada Bing, Melissa Nolan, and Dave Volento.  We also have many of regular contributors - Barry Meadow, Craig Milkowski from TimeformUS, Mike Dorr, Jerod Dinkin, and Lenny Moon- back with their handicapping takes.

There is also some harness racing information courtesy of Garnet Barnsdale and industry and Churchill boycott news.

Again, to download the Horseplayer Monthly, which is 100% free, please visit  All the ads and links are clickable within the PDF if you see anything that interests you.

All the best with your wagers this weekend,

Your HANA Team