2 July 2017

2017 Queen's Plate Predictions

Queen's Plate Day is upon us once more and as a Canadian who blogs about horse racing, albeit very sparingly these days, I feel an obligation to at least give my picks for the race.

Because I avoid filly repeat winners at all costs, the fact that the morning line favorite is exactly that means that there might just be some value in this race. Lightly raced Holy Helena is coming off a top figure in the Oaks and a same day time that was one full second better than the Plate Trial. It is almost certain that she will bounce, the question is how much. I'm envisioning midway through the far turn, generally when jockey Luis Contreras asks his horses to go, a bit of life followed by an empty sign at the 1/8th pole.

So who do I like? It is very hard to really like anyone coming from the Plate Trial, but if were to pick the one with the best chance, it would be King and His Court. He looks like he can improve off that last race and because he had success as a two year old at Woodbine going a mile and an eighth, I expect him to handle the extra eighth of a mile.

I'm pitching Guy Caballero who seemed to fall into a win. It is possible he can improve, but he just doesn't seem good enough. State of Honor is another horse who will probably take action because of who he faced in the past, but he looks like a 7 furlong to a mile horse. If he has any pressure on the lead, look for him to falter by the top of the stretch. Without pressure he still should be passed by at least 3 comers.

The top figure horse (if you eliminate the filly) is Channel Maker. I see the one post as a benefit in the Plate. I don't like horses off over a month going this kind of distance, but these days 35 days is acceptable. The obvious question is can he get the distance? He seems to be a mile and sixteenth horse, so he'll need a good trip to win the race, any trouble, and it will be an uphill climb.

Malibu Secret is a real mystery. Something tells me his entire training campaign this year has had one goal in mind and that is the Plate. His numbers put him in the hunt here.

It can't go without saying that Eurico Rosa Da Silva took Tiz A Slam in this race. Right now, he looks like a better grasser. His numbers make him a contender, but his post might be too hard to overcome. Finish 3rd or 4th is a good possibility for him.

Aurora Way was very impressive beating up on maidens in his only race, but his speed fig coupled with his post today doesn't do it for me.

Chad Brown's filly Inflexibility (named after racing's stance against recognizing that horse racing is about gambling not so much sport) may improve off her last, and I can see her even beating Holy Helena. Even so, at best she might get fourth.

Spirit of Caledon is another who might just improve enough and get a good enough trip to graze the superfecta.

As for the other horses not mentioned, I just don't like them enough to mention them, and if they run in on me, I'll turn the page, I have no issues turning the page regardless if the race has a million dollar purse or a $10,000 purse.

My official picks: 1.6.8.12

Fort Erie's Pregame Show is full of Queen's Plate Picks by horsemen in the backstretch:






9 June 2017

Is It Time For The Omni?

The Omni wager, also known as the Swinger has spread into North America, not yet on any US or Canadian's track betting menus, but it is available to North American Horseplayers on South Africa and Hong Kong cards. If you play it you no longer have to say things like "Ist and 3rd again, the story of my life," because if you finish 1st and 3rd, you cash.

After takeout is removed from the Omni pool, the balance is divided by three. One third goes to those who wagered on the 1st and 2nd finishers, another third goes to those who wagered on the 1st and 3rd finishers, and the final third goes to those who wagered on the horses who finished 2nd and 3rd. In other words, it is about 3 times more likely that one would cash this wager as opposed to playing an exacta box or quinella. Of course, the payout is around one third of what an exacta box would pay as well.

It is a wager that could fly with new players. If you look at the success of Daily Fantasy Sports, churn is a key factor. Many players are content when they double their money for the night as they have action money for the next couple of days without having to go to the well, while also keeping an eye on the big prize. As an entry level wager, the Omni offers enough of a reward to put a smile on the face of a newbie, while also introducing them to the idea of using multiple horses which leads to understanding handicapping more which could lead to more horizontal and vertical wagers where bigger payoffs occur.

The Omni was set to debut at Aqueduct in 2014 with a 15% takeout, but for some reason, the December 2013 news releases never came to fruition. It could be argued that NYRA understands churn and growing business more than most, if not all organizations out there today. The fact they don't offer jackpot bets is evidence of that, and if anyone is going to begin offering the Omni at a North American track, it will probably be them.

The big problem regarding the Omni is that pools are already diluted as players have too many options each race. Pool size is important to value players, so it might take a while for the Omni to catch on, however, if racing is to grow, the focus should be on high churn low takeout wagers as opposed to the current jackpot fad, that is lazily becoming available at more and more tracks hope to fluke into a Gulfstream Park Rainbow 6 situation rather than think out of the box for ways to grow handle. Jackpot wagers create little to no churn and create no new long term players, the Omni could do the opposite.

How about repealing and replacing jackpot bets, Hi 5s and high takeout superfectas in races with less than 7 betting interests with a low takeout Omni?

19 April 2017

Jackpot Wagers Are A Hindrance To Growth

Many racetracks have introduced Jackpot bets over the last few years. Beulah Park had the Fortune Pick 6, which was a carbon copy of Puerto Rico's very popular poolpote wager, was going for a few years without much fanfare. Things changed on Derby Day 2010. The Fortune Pick 6 had a carryover of
over $400,000 and there was a mandatory payout that day. The industry took notice as a small racetrack was getting unusual attention, even taking some attention away from the Derby itself. $700,000 in new money was wagered on the Pick 6 that day.

Some observers saw this as a good thing. Even Andy Beyer wrote an optimistic article on Jackpot bets, and he was probably the first person to bring up the idea of developing Hi 5 Jackpot wagers.

Although Jackpot Bets may be good for an individual racetrack because the majority of money being wagered originates off-track and larger jackpots attract some players to play a track they may not have without the jackpot, these wagers collectively kill churn. Also, there is no evidence to show that Jackpot wagers create new customers and it is common sense that customers are using "extra money" on these bets. Horseplayers do not have "extra money."

With horse racing handle on a downward spiral, especially when taking into account inflation and population growth, from an industry standpoint it makes no sense take away potential churn. For racing to grow, horseplayers need to be engaged. The biggest way by far that they are engaged is by having money to play the next race or the next day. Keeping horseplayers in the game keeps them focused on horse racing 24/7, this means there is a chance that family members and friends may get exposed to the existing player's passion.

Not only do Jackpot wagers take significant churn dollars away, when someone hit it (with the exception of mandatory days), the lucky winner is unlikely to churn back the winnings any time soon, also the winner is taxed if the Jackpot is high enough, and this represents lots of money that is forever taken from the potential churn pot.

It is tough to expect a track like Gulfstream to take its Jackpot bet off the menu as arguably part of its current success could very well be attributed to the Rainbow 6, but this goes hand in hand with today's racetrack culture which is all about competing for a shrinking piece of the pie, not growing the customer base. Problem is that tracks are contributing to the shrinking the pie even more by offering Jackpot wagers.

Racetracks see Jackpot wagers as a marketing tool, and there certainly is a lot of interest on mandatory payout days at tracks like Woodbine and Gulfstream Park especially, but the build up to those days isn't worth it for the industry. Surely there must be alternatives tracks can use.

A fifty cent Pick 7 would generate frequent decent carryovers if they become popular, for example. A nationwide lottery similar to Sweden's V75 would be fantastic as it would bring in "extra money" from new potential players, though it would take a lot of cooperation by jurisdictions and racetracks to get it to go. Canada has national lotteries, however, in the US the closest thing to a national lottery is Lucky For Life which now available in 23 states. Another positive about such a lottery is that it potentially can be used by the horse racing industry to get into states that currently do not allow wagering on horse racing. Just a thought.

This article can also be found in HANA's Horseplayer Monthly, Keeneland Edition.

21 February 2017

Let's Make Horse Racing Great Again!

President Donald Trump took some time off Twitter to sign 8 executive order specifically having to do with horse racing.

"Horse racing is a great American pastime. Many jobs depend on the game. But tragically, the game has been dying for years. It is so bad, that total handle went down even under Obama when just about everything including how much Americans gamble went up.

I alone can fix horse racing and create many many more jobs in the process. Handle will triple in just two years thanks to these executive orders. Let's make horse racing great again!"


"I know more about track takeout than the whales do. The lower the takeout, the more money that goes back into the gambler's pocket. And the gambler isn't going to spend that extra money on a course at Trump U., because Trump U. doesn't exist anymore thanks to the dishonest media, no, they are going to bet it back on the horses, and because they'll be able to bet more often, they will tell their family and friends how much fun they are having and how easy it is to bet on the races. Soon everyone in America, except the deceased, the illegal aliens and the minority of voters who voted against me, will be betting on the 7 horse in the Kentucky Derby. I saw something on Fox News that the 7 is a lock this year.

As for the international 16% cap, I already have Russia and all their racetracks on board."


"I listen closely to the people, and one of my biggest supporters, I forget the guy's name, told me about this breakage situation. It is so wrong. Gamblers should get back everything they have coming, and once again, the more they have in their pockets, the more they will bet, and the longer they will bet. I ran an extremely successful casino empire, I know all about churn, believe me."


"Horse racing needs stars like the Kardashians. If the Kardashians retired to pop out babies, nobody would watch them. And this order should strengthen the breed too. The reason I'm the President at 70 today is because of great genes, everyone in my family has great genes, you don't see me retiring early, only people with bad genes retire early."


"I know this race day Lasix ban is going to anger the Bernie Sanders supporting Left but it must be done. No Bernie, if a horse bleeds without Lasix, it shouldn't be given the opportunity to be on an equal playing field with a horse that doesn't bleed. Really bad bleeders need to stop racing, and it is only a few horses that really bleed that much and because Lasix drains a horse, without Lasix horses will be able to come back and race more often, field size will actually increase, and I heard that bettors like bigger field size."


"Drugs are killing the game. Super trainers don't even train their horses anymore, they just inject the same drugs illegal immigrants use before they swim across the Gulf of Mexico and land on the shores of Florida and Louisiana. These guys have super endurance, you must have seen them swim on TV like I have. This is bad and must be stopped. It will be stopped."


"We will lower taxes on Americans, and abolishing taxes on racetrack winnings is a great way to start. Once again, the more money that is in the pockets of the gambler, the better off the industry will be in the long run. And I hate Jackpot bets, they are churn killers. My 50% tax will stop players from playing and then tracks will stop offering this silly wager and don't believe tracks who say that Jackpot bets create new players, that is Fake News!"


"With every state now allowing horse racing betting, handle will go up bigly on that alone. And we'll see more states start building racetracks. If Florida had a racetrack I'd be spending my weekends at the track rather than on the golf course, and now they might build one, maybe even two.

I also propose that the residing state of the gambler receives 1% of whatever is wagered by residents online, or 1% of what is wagered at tracks or OTBs. Lets face it, someone from South Carolina could be betting at a track in Pennsylvania but other than the holes in his jeans, how can you tell he is from South Carolina? On the internet it is different, you can tell. But some states are out of control on what they charge, Minnesota recently started charging and arm and a leg on their residents wagers, and now no betting company wants to take Minnesota residents except for illegal offshore bookmakers that help fund ISIS. This stops today."


"I'm an expert on Sweden. If it wasn't for the V75 the only thing they'd have going for them are their meatballs. Most of the blonde women, and I do love women, have left or want to leave because of the daily terrorist attacks. I'd like to sign an executive order that allows a few hundred thousand blonde women from Sweden to come into America as refugees but I was told I could never get it passed."

24 January 2017

Teenagers Are Gambling Their Skins Away

I don't know much about eSports, but apparently quite a few mostly younger people know a whole lot. Not only that but there is a whole lot of (illegal?) gambling go on.

Teenagers from every jurisdiction in the US and Canada can bet on everything from video game outcomes to coin flips using something called skins as currency. A fifteen year old in Texas can bet on a variety of eSports but 50 year old can't make a legal $2 bet on a horse race online in Texas, Alaska, Georgia, etc. Something is really wrong with this picture. Instead of fighting for a bigger piece of a shrinking pie, horse racing execs need to get together and expand their customer base.

Simple suggestions: A nationwide horse racing lottery like the V8, lobbying the states that don't allow online horse racing betting to get in the game, and ahem, lowering the takeout.

I'm sure that the States will come down hard on eSports.....eventually, like they are doing right now with Fantasy Sports. I just don't see any jurisdictions legalizing it. Meanwhile, just like with the online poker surge from a few years back, we just see more proof that young people like to gamble, they just don't seem to like to gamble on parimutuel horse racing. A few visible winners might change that, but that would mean that all racetracks, not one, not two, but all, would have to reduce takeout to the 10-12% range tops. I don't see that coming to fruition anytime soon.

The horse racing industry pats itself on the back over handle gains that don't even beat inflation and use these results as the reason that radical changes are just not necessary.

Back to eSports, this video is quite an eye opener:


And guess what?, horse racing is also an eSport now. Check the slot machine like churning that goes on (I think the takeout is in the 5% range):

14 December 2016

Fake Horse Racing News

Here are some headlines:

Thoroughbred Tracks Ban Whips, Allows Fishing Poles With Carrots Attached

Donald Trump Blames Russia For Undetectable Drugs Used By Super Trainers

Churchill Downs Increases Racing Dates For Arlington Park and Fair Grounds

Texas To Re-Allow Adults To Bet On Horses Online, Bans AR 15's

With An Eye To The Future, Thoroughbred Sire Minimum Age Set At 6

Gulfstream Park To Offer Only Jackpot Bets On Pegasus Day

Racing Execs Relieved As Horse Racing Is Officially Deemed As Entertainment, Raise Minimum Takeout Rates To 35%





14 September 2016

IMPROVING THE GAME PART TWO

Here is a recent article I wrote for HANA's Horseplayer Monthy:

IMPROVING THE GAME PART TWO

Here are a few more ideas on how to improve the game of horse racing:

Minimum Wagers

Back in the 1940's and 50's, arguably when horse racing was at its peak of popularity, the minimum wager was $2 and there really weren't any known issues with that. Using an inflation calculator, a $2 bet in 1947 is equal to a wager of $21.58 today. Down is up and up is down when it comes to horse racing it seems at times. Today, one can make a $1 win bet and a 10 cent superfecta bet (superfectas weren't around back in 1947, but still....).

Lotteries in many jurisdictions have been raising their minimums without a loss to their bottom line lately, not decreasing them.

Besides the possibility that racing might be selling itself short be feeling it needs dime minimums, keeping minimums so low may actually be hurting the bottom line. They take away much of the incentive from the gambler when it comes to a big score, and also takes away the possibility of carryovers which attracts bigger dollars. If supers had a 50 cent or $1 minimum and lets say that half of the pool or the full pool (after takeout) was to be carried over if nobody had the top four horses in the right order, players would be watching these situations daily like hawks. The same is true for Pick 4's and Pick 5's.

Raising the minimum win place show and daily double bet to $5 would more than likely create more value, which would attract more players and would increase the ability of value players to have a chance to make money long term, something horse racing really needs in order to grow.

Has any racetrack ever asked their Horseplayers if they'd rather have a 20 or 50 cent minimum or a dollar minimum Pick 4? Has any research been done? Here is an idea, tracks that have two Pick 4 should have different minimums for either Pick 4 and see what happens.


Standardized Payout Prices

When someone says "I hit the super and it paid $569.60" what goes through your mind regarding the payout? Was it $569.60 for a dime? for twenty cents? for 50 cents? for a buck? or for a deuce? Nobody reading this knows for sure and it really shouldn't be that way. Also, there is also an issue that occurs once in a while where the payout might show $28,753.80 (for a two dollar base) but in reality only one person had the whole pool for 50 cents and collected $7,188.45. There is something deceptive about that and it isn't necessary either.

To get to the goal of having industry standardized payout prices one must first acknowledge the problem that different tracks have different minimums. There needs to be a sit down of track owners and minimums for each bet type should be agreed to be the same everywhere. That is going to take a while achieve as some jurisdictions need to tinker with state laws, etc, and getting two tracks to agree on minimums is hard enough, asking for all to agree might be more difficult than peace in the middle east.

Until that time comes, prices shown should be based on the minimum wager. If tracks like to see higher payouts so they can advertise it, raise the minimum.


Jackpot Bets

It looks like Beulah Park created a Frankenstein. Jackpot bets have been put on many a racetrack's wagering menu in the past few years. If they attract lots of action, then it might make sense in some cases, if they don't, they are pretty much useless. They kill churn and they don't attract players to that track unless the jackpot has risen to larger amounts, and even then, in many cases they don't attract enough players to justify their existence. Wouldn't you rather invest in a $1 Pick 4 or Pick 5 carryover than a dime or twenty cent high five jackpot? Has any research been done on what players want when it comes to these bets? Probably not.

If a jackpot bet can't attract at least $5,000 in new money a day, it should be banished to the cornfield (replace it with something with true carryover potential like a $1 Pick 5 or even a buck Pick 7). As for the ones that do attract $5k a day or more, why not cap them at $100,000 and when that is reached, pay out all new money (minus takeout) to the multiple winners each day? In the long run this might even end up increasing that racetrack's bottom line.

It is probably more attractive to most horseplayers when there is a shot at $100k if you are the lone winner coupled with ability to get your real share of the new money put in if you pick the right five in order.

The other solution is to simply stipulate that the racing day after a jackpot pool hits $100,000, it is automatically a mandatory payout day. A mandatory payout with a $100,000 is probably just as good, if not better, than one with an $800,000 carryover, for example, when you take frequency of mandatory pool payouts into account.


If you missed the August/September free issue of Horseplayers Monthly, check it out here.

4 August 2016

Modernizing and Improving The Game



Here are a few ideas that can improve, modernize and/or grow the game of horse racing:

Drugs

It is pretty much a given that most Horseplayers and Horsemen alike know that the drug problem in horse racing isn't about what is tested for, but what isn't tested for. The use of performance enhancing drugs hurts Horseplayer confidence and it also drives out owners, even trainers and potential new owners as the playing field just doesn't seem level. Keeping up with designer drugs is nearly impossible for regulators. By the time one is discovered and banned, another new one comes along and replaces it.

The solution has to be tougher penalties. First, there has to be an approved list of drugs that can be used, and only the drugs on the list can be used. Barns caught using drugs not on the list have to receive something much greater than a slap on the wrist. There needs to be harsh fines and suspensions. Is it too much to ask for trainers to only use drugs from an approved list? It really shouldn't be, but for some reason, the thought of this is offensive to some.

Horseplayers and new potential owners (who are looking to claim or buy privately) shouldn't be totally in the dark regarding which drugs are being used either. Trainers and possibly vets should be required to list drugs and even supplements, and any medical procedures used on a horse and the reports should be available at a national database for the public to access. Violators should be fined enough so that they aren't even thinking about not reporting everything. It is 2016, there is no good reason for the game to not be transparent, for the sake of its customers.

Timing of Races

Once more, it is 2016, so why is horse racing not even using 20+ year old technology when it comes to the exact distance of a race from when the timer goes off to the finish of the race? Lengths are somewhat subjective and at best can only be used to calculate estimated times, especially horses other than the winner.

The solution is to put to use, for example, GPS technology, put a device in the saddle, and accurately time all the horse in the race to the hundredth of a second. The public can then look at the past performances and decide if they want to look at the actual time or the lengths beaten when trying to handicap winners.

Wind speed would be a nice addition too. It is available for quarter horse races so this shouldn't be too complicated to implement.

Takeout

Lets bang our heads against the wall some more. Takeout needs to be no greater than 15% on almost all exotics and 10% on win place show. And this has to be industry wide.

Horseplayers, like every other gambler on the planet like to stay in action. The lower the takeout, the more they get to stay in action without having to "go to the well." The longer most gamblers stay in action with the same bankroll, the more entertainment they have, the more likely they are to stick with the particular game that is giving them that entertainment fix, and more importantly, they become more focused on that game and they are less likely to focus on the competition. The lower the rake, the more the game is perceived to be beatable both long term and short term.

Claiming

This is what one might call thinking out of the (claiming) box. How about giving owners the ability to claim horses after the race? Hold an auction right after each claiming race.

The way it would work is each horse would do a 10 second jog in front of the camera after unsaddling, then the horse can go back to the test barn or their stable. The owner or authorized agent puts a minimum bid on their horse. The bid can be much lower than the claiming price up to 125% of the claiming price (to protect the owner in case the horse ran exceptional or lost a conditioned race by a small margin). If the owner doesn't submit a minimum bid, the bid is the original claiming price.

Horses can still be claimed prior to the race. If claimed the traditional way, they do not become part of the auction. The rest are auctioned off in program order. Owners must have funds to cover their transactions in full prior to auction. Authorized agents or owners can bid, even via the phone or internet. The auction can take place in the grandstand which may get the public somewhat involved (and it also kills the excuse of too much time between races somewhat as well).

The owner of the horse being put up for auction can buy back their horse as well, but any amount above the 25% allotted premium will be donated to a retired horse rescue or the Jockey's Benevolent fund.

The pros of this are many. Owners buying with more confidence. Owners looking to sell their horses can get a good market value. Owners/Horsemen will be focused on viewing more claiming races than they are now, especially potential owners. The fans may get their interest up as well, enough to perhaps dabble in ownership. With more focus on these races, wagering will most likely increase as well.

The above article was written by me for HANA's Horseplayer Monthly (July 2016 Edition): Check out the entire issue for free!

5 March 2016

Horse Racing Should Market The Heck Out Of The Trifecta

For once and for all, new potential horseplayers and fans are not staying away from horse racing because the gambling aspect of it is too hard to understand, or because of drugs, and certainly not because of racetrack jargon.

I think I was 4 years old when I figured out win place and show, maybe I was an exceptionally smart four year old, but you get my drift. I could also read past performances when I was 8, it isn't rocket science. I also don't think that there is a wager easier to understand than win place or show other than coin flipping or roulette, which I think is just as easy to understand. I'd even state that slots is harder to figure out than a show bet. Understanding a horse race bet is even less complicated than betting against a point spread or playing craps. One doesn't even need a Trump U. diploma to figure out how to an exotics wager works either. It is a matter of wanting to figure find out what a superfecta is, not how a superfecta works, and we'll get to this difference shortly.

When it comes to drugs, I don't believe it stops anyone other than animal cruelty warriors, and they would stay away even if horse racing was drug free because horses do break their legs no matter what. The perception of drugging horses as well as potential rigging has always been there, but lets face it, horse racing was a lot more popular and mainstream in the 40's to 60's than it is today, and getting new players involved was much easier back then. Other sports have had their fixing and drug scandals, but popularity for most of these sports have become much stronger as the years go on.

And then there is jargon. Jargon doesn't keep anyone out. All sports have words unique to them, and even a life long sports fan and sometime participant like myself still has trouble figuring out exactly when a balk in baseball or when a zone defense technical in basketball should be called. I'll leave figuring out that stuff up to the umps and refs and still enjoy the game, of course, I'll enjoy the game much more if I have at least one fantasy player participating. As for keeping newbies from getting involved, not knowing what a bug boy is is like not knowing what a sophomore pro is. Does not understanding what a sophomore is keeping any newbie away from football or basketball?

Nah, what keeps new participants away from horse racing is that even if they are drawn to looking these days, they have no interest in learning more. The simple reason is that there is no buzz when it comes to long term winning gamblers. Yes, there is a learning curve, but it isn't anymore difficult than the learning curve for playing fantasy sports. Today's millennials are gambling. They also like skill games. They'd be perfect for horse racing except one thing, they need the right motivation to learn about horse racing, and that motivation would exist if horse racing was perceived as beatable in the long term. The collective average takeout of 21% is twice as a high as it is needed to be in order to grab substantial new players.

Until the industry wakes up and revamps takeout, there are a few band aid solutions that might keep the ship from completely sinking. One is to go after established horse players aren't playing because they don't have access. It is mind boggling that residents of Texas, Georgia, Mississippi, Hawaii, the list goes, cannot bet on horses over the internet. Horse racing needs a lobby group that tackles this specific issue. Handle could rise another 33% if these dry states allowed their adult populations to gamble if that is the adult's desire. It makes no sense that someone in Dallas can own an assault rifle but can't bet $2 to show on California Chrome on the internet.

The second suggestion is to get more eyes on the product (though, as stated above, even with more eyes on horse racing, it is near impossible to get the eyes to stick due to pricing). Besides another Triple Crown winner, horse racing should try to take advantage of the word trifecta, a word that has made it big time in the mainstream. Trifecta originated in 1974 when it was strictly a horse racing term (simply and evolved variation of perfecta). Today, a day can't go by without either hearing the word on TV or reading it in the news, and not very often is the word used with respect to horse racing. Check out the Google News Search of "trifecta."

Now check these seven "trifecta" quotes out, none have anything to do with horse racing.
Here are a couple if you didn't bother with the link:




So what should horse racing do? Promote the heck out of the trifecta. Focus on the bigger payouts. House handicappers should focus on the tris. Lower the takeout on trifectas, make it the bet for the millennials. And to Woodbine and all the rest of the Canadian tracks, change the name from triactor to trifecta. Triactor is strictly a horse racing term, and it means a wager with a takeout of 25-29%. Not very attractive, not a great sell.

Early use of the word trifecta outside of horse racing:) :



6 January 2016

Same Old Same Old

Horse racing was up a mere 1% in 2015. Did American Pharoah even matter? Lets hope not.

Applauding contraction as the direction to go is pure willful ignorance. Sure, intuitively contraction seems the only way to go as long as racing feels it can't compete with other forms of gambling, but nothing good can come out of it. It is only a band-aid for those who have the most invested in the game today but it will definitely not grow the game, it will have the opposite effect long term. When you cut dates, you cut exposure, you cut participants as well. Participants have families and friends who are potential customers and potential participants. This is simple stuff.

Owners who have 20-40 horses seem to forget how and why they got started, and that they probably started with 1 horse, two tops.

Race tracks cutting dates severely in Suffolk, for example, or altogether in Virginia only will cause those living in those areas to stop even thinking about horse racing, which included betting on it.
Less participants means governments will care less about horse racing and the economies created by horse racing, which will lead to less monies from alternative gambling in the future.

Another example, Texas cutting online betting on horse racing. Texas is a very large state, and asking Horseplayers to drive 50-100 miles in many cases just so they can bet into an average 21% takeout is ridiculous. Most of those who used to play horse racing online will forget it exists. They'll play offshore or play something else (see DFS).

In 2015, we had American Pharoah (which brought many new eyes to the game) and millions of gambling hungry (see DFS) millennials, a slightly improving economy (much much better than 2009 for sure) and handle only went up 1%...and forget about factoring in inflation, of course. Also, handle has been dwindling the past decade+ as well, and the industry can't even get a dead cat bounce:


Gamblers are out (see DFS) there, but the masses want two things: Their gambling fix to be satisfied, and a game that is perceived to be beatable. Simply put, a game with no visible winners that has a 21% average takeout makes both impossible.

DFS can teach horse racing a few things. First, it is palatable to have 1-2% consistent visible winners. Second, a 9-10% takeout is also permissible as a maximum. Third, if the first two things are happening, quality doesn't mean much, games loaded with teams below 500 are just as like as games with that include elite teams. The gamblers horse racing needs want the action, want to think they have a chance long term, and hate to reload their account every day or two.

So what is racing doing to improve the gambling aspect?

More jackpot bets! Really? Yes. Have jackpots bets created more Horseplayers? Doubt it. Do jackpot bets take more churn out of the game? 100% for sure. When gamblers want to fulfill their fix of staying in the game financially, the worst thing you can do is hold back money or take money out of circulation and even worse, distribute it rarely to one gambler who will be subject to massive withholding and is highly unlikely to bet the money back quickly enough to help churn.

More Hi 5's! Jackpot or not, these wagers do for growth, again, the opposite. An industry leader or two has brain farted the idea that putting them in every race is a good business move. The only time anyone should consider betting a Hi 5 is when the Jackpot is over 200k and one can justify throwing a few bucks at it as a lottery play, but to those who built up the Jackpot, how about more cold showers? Two things, people silly enough to play a Hi 5 with less than 10k in the pool aren't attracted to low takeouts, and because there are so few winners, if a track is going to lower takeout, this is the worst wager to lower it on. Second, why not try this, lower takeout on a few exotics instead and see how it goes.

20 cent exotics? Great, if the takeout isn't over 20% for those wagers. But when a 25% tri or super (where the average bet is over $4 to get it) pays the same on average for twenty cents that a 20% takeout ex or dd pays for a deuce, you end up with a disingenuous way of killing churn (the gambler's fix), and you are end up helping the Horseplayer to gradually disappear from the game.

Back 3 years ago, I wrote a piece: Shh! I Know How To Grow Racing I didn't mean for the industry to take the Shh! literally, but so far, it has. See also Location Location Location

Funny thing is that three years ago I also wrote a piece on how the four major league sports could improve: Horse Racing Isn't The Only Game That Can Improve. Guess what, the NHL and NFL make me look like some kind of savant.




10 September 2015

Horse Racing's Two Biggest Obstacles To Growth: Takeout and Drugs

I haven't been blogging much lately. I started off hoping to help the industry change for the better, but looking back at my past posts, I'm safe to say that nothing has changed. If anything it has been one small step forward, one big step back. When it comes to whether I blog or not, I'll quote Hillary Clinton: "what difference does it make?"

This has been a banner year for horse racing with the success of American Pharoah, yet horse racing handle is flat. Until there are visible winners, horse racing cannot attract new players to make for dying Horseplayers and other regulars who have decided to bet less. It is not that the game isn't great. It is. At least in theory. Daily Fantasy Sports simply offers a better bang for the buck when it comes to brain games for money. The rake makes it possible for their industry to get away with focusing on winners in commercials. There may or may not be a lot of long term winners, but the perception is everything. They can focus on WINNING. And guess what? It works:



This type of commercial would not work for horse racing. Horse racing has to focus on "the thrill" (entertainment) only. The problem is that horse racing is about 10% pure entertainment, 90% gambling, and the thrill when it comes to gambling is a) winning b) the ability to keep gambling. Two thing important to all gamblers, the ability to possibly be a long term winner, or at least, the ability to keep gambling without going to the well too frequently. Slots proves that the more you cash without going to the well too much, the more you will tend to come back and play again at a later date, despite losing almost every time you go. It works just as well for roulette and blackjack. The more money tracks take out of the collective Horseplayers hands each and every race, the less fun they will have, plain and simple, and the less likely they will go home, or get up the next day (if they are playing from home), believing the game is beatable.

Has the industry ever toyed with the idea of optimum takeout? 5 letters: NEVER. The concept doesn't seem to exist, thanks to the pie-shrinkers who rule the industry. Most of these pie shrinkers don't want to shrink the pie, but short term thinking and the just plain bad priorities make shrinking the pie inevitable.

The industry keeps tapping its Ruby Slippers together while closing their eyes, repeating "the game is 100% entertainment and people want to just bet on it." Seriously, how much money from those who may have wagered for the first time on American Pharoah in the Belmont is in the pools today, or yesterday, or will be tomorrow?

If horse racing were to have come along after Daily Fantasy Sports, they would enter the market with a takeout of around 8-10% for Win Place and Show, 12% for Exactors and Doubles, and maybe 14-15% for all other exotics tops.
Who knows, in a parallel universe or two or three, maybe that is what is happening right now, but not here on planet Earth.

DRUGS

Super trainers exist. There are only so many ways to train a horse, yet some trainers, even when they have strings at multiple tracks which means it can't possibly be due to superior horsemanship, especially if this special horse whisperer isn't even around, yet they win consistently at around 18% or more using their "special" routine. It is an insult to anyone's intelligence that these outfits aren't using chemicals or supplements that aren't being tested for. I also hate the excuse that 99% of drug tests come back negative. Pretty simple stuff, they are testing for a limited amount of substances, and there are ways to mask certain substances too.

I know this isn't politically correct to state at this time, but fixing the drug problem, and yes, it is a real issue, will only create perhaps a small handle bump from regular customers, but it won't create any newbies because the rate that regulars lose their money will not change by much.* *In theory, the backstretch money, lose a little less than outside money. I know the old argument is that backstretch money is dummy money, but really, how can it be. If you know a horse didn't eat up or was feeling kind of sluggish before a race, you are likely not to bet the horse and maybe likely to find something else in the race to bet, and what if you know
that a horse has turned the corner, or just had a shock wave treatment or just came out of a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, you may be able to get your ROI to .94 level (which, although won't make you money, it does take away some money and some potential future run ("gambling fix" money) from anyone who has a lower ROI).

Newbies will come and learn the game once there are visible winners. The game could be hay and oats with a 360 hour barn surveillance, and it wouldn't create an extra player, except perhaps through friends of smaller owners who might be in the game a bit more thanks to a higher ROI (because the ROI of drug trainers' outfits will decrease). With B and C racetracks racing less now, even that portal to growth is shutting down and may not swing to positive territory even if there was an equal playing field.

Whipping rules, which I'm all for, don't change handle totals at all.

The fact that fixing the drug problem may be irrelevant to handle, it still should be attempted.

Lasix or no Lasix? I've read and heard many pro and con arguments out there. I'm still learning. For example, by watching the NYRA conference on Youtube, one trainer mentioned that in the old days, they used to prevent bleeding by not allowing the horse to eat or drink 24 hours before the race (I've since heard that some trainers used up to a 72 hour time frame). And of course, the pro-Lasix people state this was more inhumane than using Lasix today, but when it comes to my Columbo instincts, I still have to ask, why did horses used to run twice as much in the 60's or 70's than today, and was it a more cruel backstretch back then? Is it Lasix or a combination of Lasix and all the other chemicals that are pumped into today's horses (It isn't a far cry to believe that the best trainers today are superior junior chemists or have a great junior chemist vet going for them)? Does it affect recovery time that much? Are horses weaker today than they were back then because of breeding horses prone to bleed or the use of well bred sires who retired early due to injury? Does the need to breed speedy 2 year olds to get quicker returns for the buyers the cause? You know, it is probably a combination of lots of things, but it wouldn't shock me that if Lasix was banned horses would be racing more often, fields would be fuller (maybe 5% would have to be retired, but the other 95% would be able to race 50% more times, maybe even greater than that).

With high takeouts, the use of non-detectable designer drugs, the slaps on the wrists given to cheaters who are caught, the use of shock therapy, and so on, the industry has proved it can't price itself and it can't regulate itself either. Something should be done. I use the word "should" be done versus "must" be done, because as we've seen, nothing might be done, and the industry can keep floating in a near purgatory state.

From a bettors standpoint, and I've stated this before: In a perfect world, there would be around 5-10 drugs and supplements (I don't think Cobalt should be on the OK list, for example) combined that can be legally administered. Anything else would be forbidden, and cheaters, when caught would be faced with a minimum 1 year suspension first offense, 3 year suspension second offense, and lifetime ban for a third offense. Vets would be just as liable.

As for any surgeries, shockwave treatments, hyberbaric treatments, and tappings, the public should know. How come we know if an NFL player stubs his toe on Tuesday night while getting out of bed to check on his baby, but Horseplayers are in the dark when comes to an outfit shelling out some good money to tap a joint?

And finally, I still find it perplexing that one can legally bet on Fantasy Sports online in almost every US State, yet the list of States where potential gamblers are shut out altogether from betting the ponies is much greater, and this includes the "free" State of Texas. Racing does not have its act together to even make an attempt to grow their customer base that way.


4 June 2015

Free Past Performance Links For Horse Racing; Science Says No To American Pharoah Winning Belmont

The industry likes to think that Horseplayers aren't value oriented, that takeout doesn't matter, that lowering takeout doesn't work, etc. At best, this is wishful thinking. Horseplayers are like any other consumers. Sure, there are some that will pay the high prices at Quickie Marts for convenience, some regularly, some once in a while, but the majority of consumers have are attracted to Walmart. Maximizing one's bankroll makes for more fun (assuming that many gamble at least partly for the rush, the more bets one can make, the fun one can have) and for the more serious Horseplayer, increases ones chance for profit.

There are betting sites that give out selective free past performances as long as specified thresholds are met. Normally these sites do not give much in the way of player rewards which really can increase one's bang for the buck. Why not have the best of two worlds?

Aside from this, if the industry is really to grow, besides lowering takeout, free past performances should be a must. Sports fans (whether they bet or not) and fantasy sports players can have just about any free stats on players and teams with the click of a mouse. It has been like that since the internet was invented. Some handicapping info sites like Equibase and TimeFormUS give out a freebie race or two each day and if it makes sense, monthly subscriptions can be the way to go.

The best one can do today is mostly free selective past performances. Here are some of the better sites for newbies and smart consumers to check out:

Thoroughbred Graded Stake Races In One Handy Place

Selective Free Past Performances by Stable, Trainer, or Sire For All Thoroughbred Tracks

Selective Free Past Performances By Track and Much More

Free International Past Performances

Japan Racing

Northlands Park might be the only track that has free past performances that have track variant adjusted speed figures in them.

Harness Racing:

USTA Strategic Wagering has a page specifically for selective Pick 4 and Pick 5 sequences for specific US tracks each day. The TrackMaster numbers are very good, especially for thoroughbred guys like me who needs to see a track variant adjusted speed figure. I need a number for reference or I find it hard to even make a fun wager.


Many Canadian harness tracks have free past performances available at their websites (a few even have track variant adjusted speed figures).

Century Downs (*Has speed figs)

Clinton Raceway

Flamboro Downs

Fraser Downs (*Has speed figs)

Georgian Downs

Grand River Raceway

Mohawk Raceway

Rideau Carleton (*Has speed figs)

Western Fair

Woodbine Thoroughbred and Harness (no speed figs)


HANA's (Horseplayers Association of North America) free online magazine Horseplayer Monthly is out. Belmont Stakes edition. Lots of handicapping insight, always a must read.

Will we have a Triple Crown winner tomorrow in American Pharoah? Science says no. Science has evolution and the age of the earth right, maybe science is due for a loser?