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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Why Looking at New Wagers?

Looking around where HANA Harness has announced the survey regarding new wager types (there is a link on the top right hand side of this blog for it), there have been comments as to why we are looking at new wager types in the first place?  Takeout should be the first issue to be tackled.  What is wrong with the existing wagers?  Other comments as well. 

The answer to these criticisms is why not look at new wagers?  First of all one of HANA's major concerns has been and remains to be a lower takeout.  Introducing new wager types does not change HANA's commitment to lower takeouts.  Should any new wagers be introduced, they too should have lower takeouts.

There is nothing wrong per se with existing wagers other than some of these wagers have no appeal to big time gamblers; some of these wagers have no appeal to smaller gamblers; all of these existing wagers have little to no appeal for slot players.  We have already seen quiniella wagers have little interest with all horseplayers.  Pick 5s and Pick 6s have a limited audience, primarily with whales and syndicates when the purses are large.  Pick 4s also tend to appeal to the regular gamblers who have no problem placing over $70 on a single wager.  So the smaller gamblers, are left with the traditional win, place, and show wagers that typically play little as well as Exactas and Trifectas which also tend to pay small payoffs; payoffs which really are not big enough for the risk.  Superfectas?  Many tracks allow dime wagers on them, so when a smaller gambler plays them, they win a whopping $10 to $20; at the same time the dime wagers allow the smaller gamblers to cover more combinations that the larger gamblers have less interest in the Superfectas because the chance for a big score has been eliminated.  As for the slot players, these wagers tend to have little appeal because there is a lot of education and thinking involved; something they don't want to invest time into.

Do some of these potential wagers have an appeal with larger gamblers, giving them more opportunities to go for a bigger score?  Do some of these wagers have potential for the smaller gamblers to give them potential for larger payoffs without investing a lot of money; perhaps inducing them to come to the track or wager on the races more often?  Do some of these wagers have more appeal to the slot crowd; a way for them to play with less knowledge or investment of time and give them a chance of winning something more than wagering on the 3-5 favorite?  What about those people who like the idea of parlaying, do any of these wagers appeal to them; allowing them not only to parlay but give them a chance to still collect if one of their selections don't win or having to get all their selections right?  I don't know.  You decide which of these wagers may appeal to you.

What about the racing interests who think certain wagers are the answer to their problems?  Wouldn't it be something if the wager they feel is the end all to their problems is rejected by gamblers in a survey so they have the option of abandoning that wager now rather than investing all that time into a bringing a wager to fruition only to flop?

Why not look at wagers offered abroad?  Yes, they may not be wagers we are used to, but if there is success in them overseas, should we just dismiss them because we never offered those wagers before?  Remember, racing hasn't changed much in many years, perhaps some of these wagers may offer new life into the game, maybe not.  One thing for sure, if we don't look at the wagers, we will never know.  Can we afford not to look at them? 

Typically, industries ask their customers what they would like to see.  Well, racing is one of those industries which tends to assume it knows what people want.  Wouldn't it be nice for once to be able to tell the industry what gamblers want to see and let them have the results so they can at least consider our collective interests?  Yes there are many problems in racing, but racing doesn't have the luxury of fixing one problem at a time; it needs to work on parallel paths.  If a new wager is one of those ways to fix the sport great; if not that's fine too.  What is important is we will know.

Jeff Gural has indicated he will be looking at bringing in some new wager tpes to the Meadowlands as well as the means to deliver these wagers.  Wouldn't it be nice to provide him with some input?

Whether something comes out of looking at new wagers who can say?  Without information, there is no way to know.  Here is your chance to have your say.  How often do you have the opportunity to offer your opinion?  You have the opportunity now.  Don't squander it; take the survey.

You can click on the link in the upper right hand corner to take the survey or you may go directly to the survey by clicking here

Sign of the Times

In New Jersey, the 30 day qualifying rule is going the way of the dodo bird.  Up to now, stakes horses were allowed up to 45 days between starts before having to re-qualify (something I don't agree with), but overnight horses were still subjected to the 30 day rule.  But now, the NJRC has passed an emergency rule to allow a 45 day rule for overnight horses through the end of the year and are looking to pass a permanent rule to allow the 45 day rule to become the norm in New Jersey.

This is due to the limited racing schedule in New Jersey and with limited racing, there are only so many races you can get in each week.  Hence, the possibility of going two or three weeks between starts is possible.  If you decide not to enter the week after you race which is more likely with cheaper horses, a horse can find itself on the wrong side of the 30 day rule.

Ironic, with the Meadowlands having been known to have problems to fill their races, the need to go to the 45 day rule for overnight horses exists.  However, this rule change is more in anticipation for the upcoming Freehold race meet.  Still you may ask with the other tracks having problems getting full fields, why can't these horses get raced?  There is no problem in getting the better horses raced, the problem has always been with the cheaper classes.  The sad fact is with racinos all around New Jersey, Freehold is going to be the local home for cheaper racing stock from New Jersey and surrounding states.  Like it or not, it is part of the changing face of standardbred racing in  New Jersey; it does not bode well for Freehold with respect to handle.  It is not a question of racing stock becoming cheaper at Freehold; it is a question of how low does it go.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Going Through the Motions

Today the NJRC has put in a request for a subsidy from the Casino Reinvestment Act as a recent law change permits to help racing of both breeds.  If approved, Atlantic City Racecourse and Freehold Raceway would each get $2.5 million in purse subsidies and the Meadowlands and Monmouth Park would each get $5 million.  Of course, while Governor Christie didn't veto the legislation, he made it known that he would veto the minutes of the NJRC meeting which would kill the approval of these grants by the NJRC.  I guess there is no harm going through the motions, but realistically, unless the Governor and Lt. Governor leave the state for the 4th of July holiday and the next in line has the audacity to approve the minutes, the chances of the racing industry getting the subsidy is 99-1.

On a positive note, the Senate has approve the legislation allowing Morris Bailey and Jeff Gural to run their respective tracks with the NJSEA.  Without this legislation, they technically have no say in anything as they need to be licensed first.  By September 1, both tracks should officially be under private operation. 

The official announcement has come out.  The Meadowlands debuts the $.50 Pick 5 on Saturday night.  They also will include the Ladyship Stakes being run at Tioga Downs Saturday night as part of their regular racing program as race number three.  Expect to see many of the stakes races being run at Tioga and Vernon Downs when the Meadowlands is running to be part of the racing card.  It is a win-win situation.  More money will be bet on these races at the Meadowlands than if they were just offered as part of a simulcast program and the host tracks still get their share of simulcast revenue.  As for the Meadowlands, they get a high-quality race on their racing card which may draw interest from out of state customers who normally wouldn't look at a race from Tioga or Vernon.

Surveying New Wagers

The USTA has issued it's calendar for the Strategic Wagering Program for July and there is finally a wager for the little guy to be interested in.  On July 3, Chester has a $20,000 guaranteed Exacta Pool for the 12th race.

Speaking of bets, does the current menu of wagers satisfy you or do you think standardbred racing can use some new wager types?  Many in the industry think a V75 wager is the way to go, but maybe you don't thinks so.  HANA Harness has put together a new survey which describes wagers which are traditionally not offered on harness racing or are offered in Europe or Australasia.  If you are a bettor, please take the survey and let us know what you think about each wager.  HANA Harness is aware customers are afraid of pool dilution, so please don't consider that when reviewing these wagers.  Each wager should be reviewed in isolation, on its own merits with no concern of pool dilution.

In addition to these new wagers, we have a couple of questions regarding HANA Pool Parties.  Which days work best for you and what type of wager would you like to see included in future pool parties?

So if you are a horseplayer, please take this streamlined survey.  It should take no more than 10 minutes.  You may access the survey by clicking on the above links or going to

Your assistance is greatly appreciated.

Meadowlands Facing Shutdown

Now that the Meadowlands lease has been negotiated, you would think everything would be smooth running and the racing season would go on without interruption.  Well, you may be wrong.  The Meadowlands may be forced to close on July 8.

The reason?  The New Jersey state budget.  At this point, there is no budget in place for the next fiscal year which starts on July 1.  According to the New Jersey Constitution, if no budget is in place, the state government shuts down and along with that goes the New Jersey Racing Commission (NJRC).

With no racing commission, there can't be no racing.  At the current time, the state Democrats, after cooperating with Governor Christie for most of his term, is beginning to flex their muscles calling for additional spending and a tax increase on New Jersey's richest citizens.  Governor Christie, who is a pretty strict demagogue, has indicated he would vote against any tax increase.  Without a tax increase any Democratic budget proposal would not be in balance which would be unconstitutional, thus requiring a government shutdown.

While the racing industry does not have the protection given to the casino industry (actually the regulators being declared essential employees) after the last government shut down in 2006, the NJRC did pass a rule change which would allow the racetracks to operate for up to seven business days if there is a budget crisis and the Governor declares a 'state of emergency', provided the tracks filed their intention to stay open by June 1.  One would think the NJSEA would have filed the appropriate notice as a matter of routine.  This means if the Democrats and Christie cannot agree upon a budget by July 8, the Meadowlands would be forced to close. 

Now, this assumes a deal is not made in the next three days and an impasse lasted more than seven days.  Hopefully, a deal will be made in time to eliminate the threat of a shutdown.  However, being the racetracks pays for the operation of the NJRC, it shouldn't boil down to a commission rule allowing the tracks to operate for seven days in the event of a shutdown of the state government (this rule expires December 7, 2015). 

Once this budget mess is settled, steps should be taken to move legislation to give horse racing the same protection Atlantic City casinos are receiving which removes any possibility of a shut down in the event of a budget impasse as long as the racing industry is paying for the regulators anyway.  Hopefully, this becomes a priority even if the Meadowlands (and Monmouth Park) are not forced to shut down this year.  If the casinos are not a threatened by a budget stalemate, why should horse racing?


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Optimal Takeout May Lead to New Approaches

Today, Pull The Pocket has an excellent entry regarding what is the optimal takeout.  I will leave it to you to read his column (us bloggers need to stick together) but the truth is the basic law of economics determines what the optimal takeout rate is for each wager.  Unfortunately, I will leave it to the experts to go into detail as it has been a while since I took my Economics 101 course in college. 

Here is the million dollar question.  What does racing do if the optimal takeout rate does not cover the costs for putting on 'the show'?  Racing could go out of business or change the way it presents the show by reducing costs (purses).  Well certainly no one who reads this blog wants to see racing go out of business so the question must be asked if the optimal price (takeout) is charged, and the costs producing a horse race exceeds the the price you can charge, what do you do?  Let's consider the options. 

But before we discuss the options, we must acknowledge that slot revenue upsets basic economic principles in providing subsidies which throws the basic economic laws out the window.  However, sooner or later the decision will be made (it has to) that the cost of producing the show with subsidies exceeds the demand and is not a good use of capital and the subsidies will be cut off).   It is not a question of 'if'; it is only a question of 'when', so sooner or later basic economic law will need to be addressed.

So what are the options if the cost of producing racing exceeds the optimal price?

  1. Cut costs in the form of reducing purses.  This is unacceptable as under the current model where owners pay all the costs including training and vet bills, the risk will outweigh the potential reward; hence the exodus of horse owners.
  2. Cut costs in the form of training and driver fees.  This is unacceptable as while the owners will be happy to pay less money for training and driving, the amount of purse money needed to make owning a horse profitable would allow a purse cut.  Of course, that produces an exodus of trainers and drivers who will no longer be able to pay their expenses or make it worth their time to participate in the sport (once again the risk/reward ratio gets thrown out of wack).
  3. Do nothing nad let fre market rules apply.  Tracks will close until we get to the ideal number of tracks needed to support the demand.  This will cause a wholesale departure of harness racing employees and need for horses.
With neither approach desirable, it is time to look outside the box for a new model which works; one that takes advantage of economies of scale. What can they be?

  1.  A modified Macau (a racetrack in a former Portugese colony off China; a gambling mecca)  model.  Racetracks hire trainers, drivers, and grooms and vets and pays them salaries.  Owners who decide to race at a particular track will be assigned to a specific trainer or given a choice of  trainers who have openings in their stable.  Owners will not have to pay for the trainers or drivers, but just vet bills  In effect, a limited lease of horses.  Since their costs are lower, the purses can be significantly lower as the risk is much less.  To encourage the best efforts from trainers and drivers, the tracks will pay them a bonus if their horses win.  The downside is there will be less need for trainers and driver as tracks are not going to hire an excessive number of them; hiring just enough to handle the tracks' racing stock. 
  2. Similar to idea #1, the only difference is the racetrack owns the horses and assigns them to trainers and drivers on their salary.  As before, the trainers and drivers are salaried employees of the racetrack and purses become virtually non-existent; after all the tracks own the horses.  The only purse money needed would be to pay bonuses for trainers and drivers to offer them incentives.  Of course, the downside is with tracks owning the horses, the breeding industry would be seriously hurt as there would be a limited number of purchasers for horses.  As before, there will be plenty of drivers and trainers who will be out of business as well. as the demand for them is reduced as tracks will not hire more than they need to operate.
The point is when racing finally gets down to seriously look at the future of racing, and the optimal pricing of racing is known, the fact is the old model of putting on the show may no longer be efficient which is not sustaining.  If that is the case, racing needs to look at the alternatives.  It may be the options outlined above, it may be something different.   One thing for sure, the way things are being done now is not efficient.

Tough decisions indeed.  Leaders deal with the issues head on.  Cowards hide their heads in the sand.  Let's see what happens when the time comes for a serious study.

There is an article in The Roar, an Australian webstie talking about the decline of thoroughbred racing.  While it talks about the runners, many of these issues can apply to standardbred racing and not only there, but in North America.  Funny thing is the very steps racing has been taking to get the younger generation involved in racing (an occasion to drink ala the Preakness), isn't working there so it probably wouldn't work in the States either.  It is worth a read.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday Notes and a Scapegoat

The first known edict of Jeff Gural since the memorandum of understanding has been signed has come down and starting with this week’s action at the Meadowlands, the Racing Fromthe Meadowlands show returns once again to SNY, a regional sportsnetwork.  Racing FromThe Meadowlands was dropped by the NJSEA as a money savings step at the start of this year’s standardbred meet and as a result, if you lived in the Meadowlands area and didn’t subscribe to TVG which is predominantly thoroughbred racing coverage, you were unable to watch the show.

In the movie Breaker Morant; based on a real story, three Australian lieutenants are executed for killing Boer prisoners that their superior officers ordered.  Such an outrage in diplomatic circles broke out that the high command decided to scapegoat these three soldiers to deflect attention from their own actions.  One problem was the three condemned men put up a good defense that it was obvious what the military high command did.
Well, while not quite the same thing, the Kentucky HorseRacing Commission is looking to ‘execute’ their own steward John Veitch for the Life At Ten debacle at this past Breeders Cup for the Life At Ten incident.  As you recall, the jockey of Life At Ten, Jorge Velazquez, didn’t tell the stewards about Life At Ten’s sluggishness, but told ESPN.   When ESPN allegedly communicated the issue to the Stewards, Veitch didn’t act upon it and when the race went off, Life At Ten was almost immediately pulled up.  Now, Veitch is facing an administrative hearing for the lack of action taken in this incident.  In an effort to placate the racing public, the KHRC is putting Veitch on trial where a person who earns $90,000 a year is may be suspended for five years and fined $50,000.  Were this to happen in a $10,000 claiming race, on any regular race day, nothing would have been done.  However, this occurred in front of a national audience so the KHRC must extract their pound of flesh from their scapegoat.  If Velazquez or the trainer did what they should have done and notified the stewards, this affair would never have occurred.  I doubt in the rulebook for Kentucky it says they must watch the ESPN telecast and take action based on an interview occurring pre-race.  The right thing which should have been done is the KHRC should issue a letter of memorandum to their stewards telling them what should be done in the future should this situation ever occur again; instead of correcting their errors, they have decided to kill the career of their own steward.

So what makes me discuss thoroughbred racing?  First, what they are doing to Veitch is plain wrong and outrageous.  Secondly it is typical of horse racing of all breeds; never get in front of an issue but reacts when all hell breaks loose.  There have been several incidents in harness racing where the potential for a big public relations failure has arisen.  Mistakes shouldn’t happen but they do.  The key is to fix them when it occurs and not wait until it becomes a national issue and to make a victim out of someone for a racing commission’s own shortcomings.

On the Harnessphere, opinion is split regarding the use of an open draws in final of stakes events.  Some feel the open draw is the right way to do things; others feel elimination winners should draw the post of their own choice.  While I can’t be certain, I am pretty sure you can tell who is a horse owner or not depending on their response to this question.  Gamblers tend to like the open draw.  As far as I am concerned if you are going to let heat winners chose their own post positions, why don’t we be honest and skip the other horses and just have the heat winners return for the final; after all, odds are one of them are typically going to win the race anyway.  Let’s avoid the charade and be honest that in most cases letting elimination winner chose their posts basically hand them the race.

In case you missed it yesterday, Monticello Raceway will race their only evening program of the year this Saturday, July 2 which will conclude with their annual firework program.  First race is 7:30pm.  Other tracks may be racing different schedules this weakened so you may want to check with your track’s website.

I would like to know from the judges what the purpose of fines are?  Recently a picture of a horsemen with his foot out of the sulky was shown and he was asked how much it cost him.  The response was basically, a $100 and they laughed claiming it was a cost of doing business.  I suggest if you have driver s laughing about fines as being a cost of doing business, the fines are not serving their purpose.  It is time to fine the drivers an amount so it is an actual deterrent.  Instead of returning the funds to the horsemen at the end of year, let’s use the fines to partially fund racing commissions or to fund health programs for grooms, a group of industry employees who are constantly mistreated.

New Wager Debuts at Meadowlands?  Rumor has it that a fifty cent Pick five debuts at the Meadowlnds this Saturday which comprises of the first five races on the card.  No word yet on any guarantees on the pool.

Don’t be surprised if the state of New Jersey is closed for business at the end of this week due to a budget impasse.   Fortunately for racing, new rules are in place to allow racing to continue for a several days before they would need to shutdown.  Hopefully, state legislators come to a settlement before the end of this week.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Time for That Annual Bit of Heaven on Earth

Those of you who are who are already aware of that bit of heaven on earth known as Goshen Historic Track have likely made their plans to attend this year's racing which takes place July 1-4.  Here you will see harness racing the way it was and the way it ought to be.  While there is no wagering at Historic Track, you will get to see some pretty good horses racing along with some top drivers at the "Cradle of Harness Racing".  Last year, Cassis gained some notice racing at Goshen in a NYSS event in an eye opening performance.  Who knows who will open eyes this year?

The schedule for Goshen this year is as follows:
  1. July 1 - The NY State Fair Sire Stakes for three year old pacers; The Catskill Amateur Drivers Pace; The Ladies Invitation for women drivers.
  2. July 2 - The Landmark Stakes for 2yo and 3yos of both sexes and gaits.
  3. July 3 - The NY State Fair Sire Stakes for three year old trotters; CKG Billings Amateur Drivers Series; Hall of Fame Trot (Invitational).  Guest appearance by Gallo Blue Chip.  Scheduled to drive in the Hall of Fame Trot is Jim Doherty, Herve Filion, Wally Hennessey, Mick Lachance, Cat Manzi, Bill O'Donnell, Dave Palone and Ray Remem.
  4. July 4 - New York County Fair Races for 2yo and 3yo pacers and trotters.
First post is 1pm each day.

Lest you think these races are like qualifying races, you would be mistaken.  The first three days of racing, there will be purses that exceed many racetracks, including some racinos.  Granted, on July 4, the racing will consist mainly of the not ready for prime time horses, but they will still be strutting their stuff as the purses at Goshen will be higher than most of the other county fairs in New York and being contested on one of the best fair tracks in the state.

When the day's races are over, stop by the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame to see the latest exhibits.  Admission is always free to the Harness Racing Museum.  The Museum is on the upper end of the homestretch.

So if you have no plans that weekend and are in the area, stop by.  If you are at Goshen on July 2, there is a special Saturday evening program at Monticello Raceway which features their annual fireworks show.

Monmouth Park Correction:  My sources had told me that Lou Raffetto Jr. was to take over duties at Monmouth Park.  Well, according to The Blood Horse, this is not true as Raffetto is to take over as President of the Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC).  All I can say is they better pay Raffetto well as the TOC is committed to the increase in their takeout to raise purses.  They claim they realize they will be losing handle but they need to get higher purses.  Under this logic as handle finally drops to the point where it can't cover the purse increase what are they going to do?  Raise purses again?  The saddest thing is the TOC claims it may take 3-4 years to achieve their goal.  Not being a thoroughbred player I could care less, but in 3 to 4 years there may not be a thoroughbred industry to raise takeout on anymore..

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Weekend Racing Action

This is a big weekend of racing; too much to cover them all.  There is sires stakes action in Indiana, New Jersey and New York, the debut of the Earl Beal Jr. Memorial at Pocono Downs, the Hoosier Cup at Hoosier Park, and at Tioga Downs, the running of the The Coaching Club Trotting Oaks and The Historic-Dickerson Cup; two races formally contested at the Meadowlands.  With so much racing this weekend, I will be reviewing the big races at Pocono Downs, Tioga Downs and Hoosier Park; all being contested on Saturday evening.

8th Race Tioga Downs   Trot - $75,000; The Coaching Club Trotting Oaks - 3YO Fillies
   2 - Don't Cry Lindy (Hensley, 6-1) - Failed in layoff.  Showed good efforts in stakes.  Should improve.
   1 - Angelette Hanover (Parker, 7-2) - The one to beat on class, but off three weeks.  Your guess.
1A - Firstclassprincess (Marohn, 7-2) - Should improve with better post position.  May land share.
   3 - Cabaret Princess (Johansson, 9-2) - Broke maiden in last race.  Will be tested for class.
   4 - Miss Lee (Lancaster, 20-1) - Last was a clunker.  Could sneak into Trifecta.
   5 - Katie Done Did It (Mettinis, 15-1) - Has shown nothing thus far this year.  Pass.
   6 - Massive Drama (Harder, 20-1) - Shows breaking problems.  Must show ability to stay flat.
   7 - Jezzy ( Schnittkerm 1-1) - Queen of the NYSS.   Willing to accept low odds from post eight?
   8 - Birthday Bonus (Braden, 12-1) - Found herself in last at YR.  Rewarded with post nine.
Coupled: Angelette Hanover and Firstclassprincess - Andrew Owned Entry
No Show Wagering
Selections: 1-7-1A-4
Interesting race.  Jezzy is 15 for 16 but draws post eight and meets open company for the first time.  Angelette is the classiest but has been off three weeks.  Appears to be a two horse race.

 10th Race Tioga Downs Trot - $78,200; The Historic-Dickerson Cup - 3YO Colts   3 - Tiger's Too Good (Parker, 7-2) - Winner of two straight and draws rail.  Steps up.
   1 - Winuendo (Schnittker, 5-1) - Gets class relief but not sure it is enough.
   4 - Whit (Hensley, 9-2) - Has picked up game this year.  Should finish well.
   2 - Live Jazz (Mettinis, 3-1) - Will be a nice horse when can overcome breaking issues.  Not this week.
   5 - Burnin Money (Marohn, 15-1) - Another breaker.  Pass.
   6 - Ice Machine (Norris, 6-1) - Needed class relief.  Threat.
   7 - VC Chocoholic (Merton, 4-1) -The one to beat in wide open affair.
2A - Johnny B Kemp (Braden, 3-1) - Another talented horse when on stride.  Not at 3-1 for me.
1A - High Pan Tolerance (Paquet, 5-1) - Seems over his head and draws post nine. 'Nuff said.
2B - Glidenfordollars (Johansson, 3-1) -  Best of the entry and draws behind leavers.  Don't leave out.
Coupled: Winuendo and High Pan Tolerance - Schnittker Entry; Live Jazz, Johnny B Kemp, and Glidenfordollars - Hartman Owned/Takter Entry
2B - Glidenfordollars scores from the second tier.
Selections: 7-4-6
Wide open affair.  Can see multiple horses with a chance.  VC Chocoholic is the class of the race but gets post seven.  Ice Machine doesn't have to deal with Blue Porche this week and also a threat.  A few horses in this race have breaking problems but if they stay flat they can be right there.  This race has the potential of a relatively large Trifecta.

14th Race Pocono Downs  Trot - $500,000; Earl Beal Jr Memorial - 3YO Open  
1 - I'm The Answer (Sears, 4-1) - Upset winner of his elimination last week.  Won't get same odds this week.
2 - Dejarmbro (Smedshammer, 5-2) - The other elimination winner.  Will need to be up closer to be in striking range.
3 - Big Rigs (Tetrick, 5-1) -  Quit late in last.  Expect the same this week.
4 - Opening Night (Buter, 12-1) - Best efforts in PASS.  Will try to work trip.
5 - Leader Of The Gang (Miller, 10-1) - Parked in last.  Share with trip.
6 - Broad Bahn (Brennan, 6-1) - Will need a slow pace to have serious chance.  Not likely.
7 - Bambino Hall (Napolitano, 15-1) - Draws poorly here.  Can't recommend.
8 - Pastor Stephen (Pierce, 3-1) - Elimination winner draws post eight.  Is the class but will need to work trip.
9 - Buffalino Hanover (Schadel, 20-1) -  Will be lucky to pick up a check.
Also available as the 10th race at the Meadowlands.
Selections: 8-1-2-4
Another interesting race.  Pastor Stephen is the obvious class of the race but draws post eight; will need to get a trip to be there at the end.  I'm The Answer also won his elimination in an honest pace.  Dejarmbro comes from off the pace and needs fast pace; not sure he will get the pace he needs; he may try to wire the field.  Any of these three horses have a legitimate chance.  Let the odds be your guide.  The real question is who completes the Superfecta?  Most pick Big Rigs, but I will take a shot with Opening Night who finished second to I'm the Answer; may be able to boost the Superfecta.

12th Race Hoosier Park  Pace - $500,000; Hoosier Cup - 3yo Open
1 - Townslight Hanover (Tr Tetrick, 4-1) - No shot in NA Cup final.  Will need a trip to be on the ticket.
2 - Samandar (Macomber, 8-1) - Winner of two straight but being tested for class.  Won't be surprised if gets thumped.
3 - Custard The Dragon (Teague, 7-2) - Almost stole the NA Cup consolation last week.  Best efforts in big money events.
4 - Alsace Hanover (Zeron, 6-1) - Another two race winner stepping up.  Minor spoils at best.
5 - Feel Like A Fool (Wrenn, 10-1) - Yet to show 2yo form, but it will be coming soon.
6 - Big Bad John (Miller, 3-1) - Quite late in NA Cup final.  The one to beat.
7 - Major Male (Magee, 15-1) - 3 for 4 but shall we say ambitiously placed?
8 - Wink N Atcha (Gingras, 10-1) - Will need to work a trip to be a factor.
9 - Wind Me Up (Widger, 9-2) - The wildcard.  Expect to land part.
Race features a $20,000 Guaranteed Superfecta
Selections: 6-3-5-9               
Big Bad John is the class of the race and Custard The Dragon looks like a solid second.  The riddle to this race is who finishes third and fourth and it looks to be two of the four Teague entrants who are racing uncoupled.  Wind Me Up seems certain to hit the ticket.  Feel Like A Fool has yet to hit his two year old form but he appears to be on the verge of it; the question is will this be the week he breaks out?  I say yes.  In this $20,000 guaranteed Superfecta, I will play 6 with the 3-5-9 being boxed underneath.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Sour Grapes

Jimmy Takter is quoted in an article on Standardbred Canada's website as being against the open draw format. when it comes to races with eliminations.  This can me only one thing.  Someone drew a bad post in a final; a case of sour grapes.

In this case, it is Pastor Stephen who the racing gods have decided should race from post eight in the $500,000 Earl Beal Jr. Memorial Trot Final.  This despite winning his elimination.  I am sure it is annoying when the other two elimination winners draw posts one and two and you draw post eight.  Unfortunately, this is the way the pills roll.

Excuse me if I don't feel any sympathy for Takter or, for that fact, any trainer who draws an outside post in a stakes final.  If a horse draws post eight or nine in an elimination it may find itself  racing on the outside the whole race just hoping to qualify for a lucrative final and they paid the same nominating and sustaining fees as a horse who draws post one in an elimination.  Is that fair?  I just don't see why it is any more or less fair to draw an outside post in an elimination as it is in a final.

If anything, the open draw is the fairest way to go in a stakes final.  When an elimination winner gets to chose their post in a final, often what is happening is the race becomes a coronation.  Is that fair to the horse who makes it to a final after drawing post eight in an elimination?  I suggest not.

That being said, in my opinion the worst thing which ever has happened to harness racing is the establishment of elimination races as we have them.  We refuse to have meaningful purses for elimination races so we have to deal with the possibility of horses racing to qualify for the final instead of trying to win.  Rather than increasing the purses of the eliminations, we come up with winners getting to choose their post positions in the final in an effort to entice a legitimate performance by elimination contenders; the net result is we are stacking the deck in finals against those who don't win their elimination even though they may have given a maximum effort to qualify.

The plain and simple fact is horse racing has always included the factor of luck.  Sometimes it is racing luck; sometimes it is the luck of the draw.  Great horses overcome adversity and make their own luck.

There should always be an open draw for a stakes final.  The question is how do we get there?  Unless we are going to increase purses of eliminations significantly (each elimination race goes for at least 10% of the final purse), they need to be eliminated..  The only way low value eliminations would be fair is if we had more than one leg of eliminations for a race and then had the highest money earners in the eliminations qualify for the final which assumes if the draw is unkind one week, it will be kinder the following week.  Unfortunately, it is hard to get horses to race at a specific track three or four weeks in a row.

So if we eliminate elimination races, how could we fairly handle the issue of too many horses entering for a stakes race?

  1. Just split the race into divisions.  Instead of one $500,000 race; have two $250,000 races.
  2. Limit the field to the top eight, nine, or ten money earners in all races or stakes races with the other horses possibly racing in consolation races.
  3. Here is a new idea:  The week before, have all horses compete in official workouts with the horses with the fastest workouts qualifying for the final.  No purse money; just a race against the clock.

Whatever is decided, the customer needs to be kept in mind.  They want to be able to bet on competitive races.  There is no reason why the solution can't be fair to horsemen and the customer. So instead of keep on going with the same defective system, let's fix it.

The Final Concession:  Apparently, the final concession to get the deals done for Monmouth Park and the Meadowlands is the thoroughbred horsemen will get 65% of all simulcast revenue.  To be fair, it should be noted that 85% of the simulcast business is on thoroughbred racing. As I suspected, this was a compromise both sides can live with as both Morris Bailey and Jeff Gural walked away from the table during the final week of negotiations.  A good compromise is one neither side is fully satisfied with. 


Thursday, June 23, 2011

When I Blow It, I Blow It

Well, when I blow it, I really blow it.

Apparently I really blew it when I called the Breeders Crown an "old boy's network".  With respect to the article I had earlier posted about the Breeders Crown, my memory really failed me and I got sloppy.  Since I always try to be accurate, I deleted the original entry and am posting a retraction here.  As I was reminded:

We have raced Breeders Crowns in the day and in the night----sent races to Down Under as far back as 1998…have been @ the forefront of the international simulcast including a large block of the BC races from Pocono last year…have worked hard (and mostly in vain) to get international horses over here for the Crown races…and lots of other initiatives.   In the past 28 years we have had rotation of tracks from Edmonton to Pompano as well as blocs of races at one track  and really worked had to get to the 12 races on one night format. It puzzles me to be called an old boys' network since there is very little backslapping going on, and of all races the BC has worked hard to  be flexible in format and conditions 

Clearly I was wrong in my original characterization and I apologize accordingly.. 

Promoting the Standardbred Breed

When was the last time your local racetrack or horsemen group sponsored a horse show open to standardbreds?  The USTA has in the past helped sponsor the National Standardbred Horse Show which is held at The New Jersey Horse Park (this year, being held on August 21) in Allentown, NJ.  This is great as it gives the opportunity for the industry to show off the versatility of the standardbred breed to the public, which hopefully promotes the standardbred and increases interest in adopting retired standardbred horses as their versatility is put on display.

Unfortunately, the one problem with the National Standardbred Horse Show is people must come specifically to the horse show to see it.  What we need is to bring the horse show to the people instead.   In New Jersey, there is the New Jersey State Fair/Sussex County Farm and Horse show where there are various horse demonstrations and classes where horses are put on display.  Yet, there is no standardbred class at this particular fair so standardbreds which have been retired or never made it to the track can't be properly exhibited to the public.  What makes it particularly sad is those in attendance are very interested in horses, so an opportunity to show these people how versatile the standardbred is is lost.  It would also be a good time for standardbred retirement organizations to have booths at these fairs to let people know these talented animals are available for adoption to help reduce the number of rescued horses under each groups' care.

However, it shouldn't be up to each retirement group to sponsor the standardbred classes at these fair shows.  Since racing helps produce these horses, local horsemen groups should sponsor standardbred classes at these horse shows to help promote retired racehorses.  The amount of money involved is minimal and may help address the problem of too many standardbreds waiting for good homes.

I must confess, I missed a two part series of articles featuring trainer Lou Pena on HarnessLink when it first came out .  In this series, Pena tells the editor how he feels he is being persecuted by the standardbred industry.  I have my opinion on the situation, but I will let you make your own mind up.  You can read Part 1 and Part 2 of the series and draw your own conclusions. 

Speaking of helping the industry, do you make your living racing horses?  Do you know a lot about harness racing and want to show your knowledge off?   Here's your chance to give back to the industry by becoming a "Back to the Track Volunteer" to help those less knowledgeble about harness racing and help them navigate the evening's festivities.  Go to the Back to the Track website and volunteer by signing up.

In The Year 2013....

Now that the deal has been completed for Jeff Gural and his group to takeover the Meadowlands, what does that mean to the Meadowlands and harness racing?  Yes, with Morris Bailey willing to walk away from the deal, standardbred horsemen had to concede somewhat on simulcasting revenues.  At this point, there is no sense to belabor the issue.  If Jeff Gural thought it too onerous, he would have walked away as well.  So basically, both sides are satisfied with the deal and if they are satisfied, who am I to have a problem with the deal?

With all due respect to Conan O'Brien, permit me to put on my outfit on and look ahead to the year 2013 when the new Meadowlands Grandstand opens.

In the Year 2013, the Meadowlands stakes program will continue to be presented at the reduced levels of 2012.  Like it or not, the stakes program at the Meadowlands will be reduced from the current level.  Even Hambletonian Day (we'll talk about that in a moment) will not resemble the program being presented this year; the purse account just will not support the current stakes program.  Stakes races are great, but at a certain point, you need to take care of your horsemen who race day in day out.  The good thing is these races will not disappear, they will be shifted to Tioga and Vernon Downs where slot revenue can be used to host these races.

In the Year 2013, exchange wagering will really take off in New Jersey.  As predicted, it will draw more interest in the Meadowlands and Monmouth product and overall handle will increase even excluding the wagers that go through exchange wagering..

In the Year 2013, the Meadowlands, Tioga and Vernon Downs racing circuit will be established.  Tioga will race Saturday, Sunday and Mondays  Vernon Downs will be racing Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.  This will allow the Meadowlands simulcast shows to consist of racing at the Meadowlands and Tioga or Vernon with some wagers requiring selecting winners at both tracks.

In the Year 2013, the Meadowlands will get the permission of the Local NFL teams to operate during preseason games as an experiment as track parking will be on Route 120, and not near the stadium.  If successful, in 2014 the Giants and Jets will allow the Meadowlands to operate on game days.

In the Year 2013, the Hambletonian may not be raced at the Meadowlands.  This is not even a question of being unwilling to dedicate the purse money to keep the race; they will.  With the new grandstand only holding 5,000 people, where 29,000 people being the normal attendance of late, no more than 10,000 people can attend the race with the newly configured facility.  The Hambletonian Society will need to decide if they want to race the event in front of 10,000 people to remain at the Meadowlands.  If not raced at the Meadowlands, possible hosts for the Hambletonian will be Balmoral Park or Springfield if VLTs are legalized in Illinois; Indiana Downs or Hoosier Park; Yonkers Raceway at a leased Aqueduct where a three week meet will be held. (The conditions of the Hambletonian now allow the race to be raced over a 7/8th mile track).

In the year 2013, the Breeders Crown will return to the Meadowlands as the Meadowlands will race a two week fall meet.  While the days of the Woodbine-Meadowlands rotation is a thing of the past, on occasion the Breeders Crown will make occasional visitis to the Meadowlands..  

In the Year 2013, more tracks will adopt the Meadowlands policy of having simulcast races part of their wagering program.  It is a win-win situation for everyone.  The deal racetracks are making is they will pay the host track the same percentage as if the race was simulcasted into the track as usual.  Why are host tracks happy with this deal?  Look at the Meadowlands simulcast of the Molson Pace on their regular card. About $118,000 was wagered on the Molson Pace through the Meadowlands.  Do you think if the race was just simulcasted in as part of the Western Fair card, they would have had anything close to the amount wagered on the race at the Meadowlands as part of their program?  More likely, they would have had about $18,000 wagered on the Molson Pace.  Those stakes races the Meadowlands gave up to Tioga and Vernon Downs will be prominent features of Meadowlands racing programs.

In the Year 2013, NJAW will be revamped.  A partnership of Monmouth Park, Meadowlands, Tioga and Vernon Downs will create an ADW which will go nationally.  With regards to wagers made on these tracks, the revamped ADW will be run as a non-profit with a minimal commission charged to cover the cost of operating the ADW with the balance of the funds being returned to the host track.  They will offer rebates to gamblers.  As for other racetracks without an equity stake, it will run as a traditional ADW with the commissions being split between the tracks with equity in the ADW.  In 2014, other tracks outside of the original owners will join in and buy an equity stake and get larger shares of wagers on their own tracks.

In the Year 2013, the thoroughbreds return to the Meadowlands in the fall for a two week turf festival.  Hey, they see how successful the mini-meet at Atlantic City is; it would be foolish not to have a similar meet at the Meadowlands.  As Jeff Gural previously stated, there will be no dirt racing for the thoroughbreds.

In the Year 2013, realizing the Breeding industry continues to suffer in New Jersey, the NJSS will be replaced with a stakes program for NJ Sired or Bred.  In a first for the industry, there will be significantly higher purses for maiden, non-winners of 2, 3, and 4 races classes for NJ Sired and Bred horses to stimulate the NJ breeding industry. 

In the Year 2013, things will have stabilized at the Meadowlands with regards to horse population.  The bottom claiming class will be $10,000.  Two year old races will be limited to NJ Sired and Bred as well as horses eligible to open stakes at the Meadowlands. 

In the Year 2013, Jeff Gural will announce the Meadowlands International starting in 2014.  The International race will be run in the last week of the summer meet.  After the Meadowlands meet, WEG will be offering an international race and the Grand Circuit tracks will offer international races up to the Breeders Crown to make it worthwile to have Europe and Australasia's best come to North America. 

Unfortunately, all will not be positive....

In the Year 2013, the New Jersey Supreme Court will hand down their decision as to whether or not the Meadowlands has the right to exclude individuals with a NJRC license from racing at the Meadowlands.  The argument by the lawyer for a certain trainer will argue while the Meadowlands is being operated by a private organization, they are leasing the property from a state agency which should be sufficient to deny the Meadowlands the right of exclusion.  The decision will go against the Meadowlands.

In the Year 2013, there will still be no sign of slot machines at the Meadowlands.  The entire New Jersey legislature will be up for election in 2013.  If the Democrats maintain control of the legislature, the party bosses in South Jersey will make sure Senate President Sweeney will continue to oppose slots outside of Atlantic City. If the Republicans take control of the legislature, don't be too optimistic as Republicans tend to vote against any expansion of gambling.

In the Year 2013, Freehold Raceway closes.  The Meadowlands and Monmouth jointly purchase the track and immediately retire the license and decide to convert the grandstand to an OTW and jointly operate it with the understanding it will be open only at night when Monmouth Park has live racing.  Monmouth Park and the Meadowlands divide the the OTW licenses owned by Freehold Raceway.  

In the Year 2013, Single Pool wagering is still a year away.  It was to begin in 2013, but Canada and other racing states have problems with comingling wagers as single pool wagering is different from the traditional parimutuel model.  Each state has to pass laws to allow wagers to be comingled into the Meadowlands pools.  For one more year, gamblers will have to deal with late odds changes.

In the Year 2013, Joe Faraldo will (still) be criticizing Jeff Gural regarding his operation of the Meadowlands.  Some things just never change.

Eye On Harness Racing - Check out later this afternoon at for the latest installment of Eye On Harness Racing.   This edition of Eye on Harness Racing will discuss VLTs at Ohio racetracks; a review of North American Cup Night at Mohawk; updates on "Back to the Track" and the "Strategic Wagering" projects of the USTA.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Breaking News: Meadowlands Deal Finalized

According to John Brennan of The Record, the deals for the Meadowlands and Monmouth Park were finalized last night at the Meadowlands in a nine hour bargaining session.  The Star Ledger had highlighted the Monmouth deal having been completed.  I imagine an announcement from the Governor's Office will be forthcoming.  I had reported earlier that the final piece in the Monmouth Park lease had been resolved.  Turns out a deal had to be completed for both tracks yesterday as the Governor's aides told all parties if a deal was not reached last night, both tracks would have been shut down.

The only downside in the deal is standardbred interests had to make further concessions to get the approval of thoroughbred horsemen.  What the concession(s) is remains to be seen.  However, the good thing is that short of the formalities, the Meadowlands survival is a done deal. 

Perhaps for harness racing fans, the best news other than the Meadowlands surviving is at least one trainer is likely to be participating in their final Meadowlands meet as Jeff Gural has indicated he will take advantage of his ability to ban individuals from the Meadowlands as it will no longer be publicly operated. 

Additional details will be forthcoming.

News Flash: NJTHA Reaches Agreement

Thanks to one of my readers, I have learned that the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen Asscoiation (NJTHA) has reached an agreement with Morris Bailey regarding the operation of Monmouth Park.  With this being completed, the last roadblock to the finalizing of the leases for the Meadowlands and Monmouth Park has been removed and things should move much faster.

Lou Raffetto Jt., who ran the MJC  tracks as General Manager for Frank Stonarch will be involved in running Monmouth Park. Raffetto was fired by Stonarch in 2007 in what was called at that time, the 'stupidest move' Stonarch made.  Subsequent to his firing there, Raffetto worked as CEO of the National Steeplechase Association.  I am sure I have wholes in his resume, but I will attempt to fill in the blanks.

I will attempt to find out more information and update this blog entry accordingly.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Has the Breeders Crown Lost its Purpose?

An excellent article regarding thoroughbred's Breeders Cup was written in the Bleacher's Report.  The Breeders Cup has morphed into something a lot different than it was originally intended.  The part of the article I found most relevant to harness racing's Breeders Crown is how the Cup has gotten away from it's goal of rotating to different tracks to bring the world's best horses to tracks where they never see the best horses.  Some of the best Cup attendance and handle records came outside of New York, Kentucky, and California, yet the Breeders Cup has now established a policy where other tracks outside of these three states need not apply. 

Well, in harness racing, there appears to be no interest to have the Crown outside of Woodbine and the Meadowlands.  Last year, the race was at Pocono Downs; necessitated by the Meadowlands being unable  to host it.  Now that the Meadowlands. is saved, will the race resume the Woodbine-Meadowlands rotation or will it become a Woodbine-Pocono event?  What about bringing the Breeders Crown to those tracks where they never see the best horses to promote the industry?  It seems that goal has been given up.

What is the goal of the Breeder's Crown?  Is the purpose of the Breeders Crown to bring exposure of harness racing to areas that seldom, if ever, see North America's best?  Is it to expand interest in harness racing outside of the seventeen or eighteen states that currently host racing?  Or is it merely an event for the sport's elite to showcase their horses on their way to the breeding shed?

I understand there are few tracks who can afford or are willing to host the Breeders Crown, but for the sport to survive, the Breeders Crown needs to get out of its comfort zone.  Charge each track (to be split between horsemen and the track) .5% of their handle to be contributed to the Breeders Crown to pay for purses.  Have a track like Cal-Expo host the Crown, either at their own track or have them lease a high-exposure California track like Del Mar for a three week meet to highlight the Crown.  Bring the Crown to an Alberta Downs or a Northfield Park and let people who only see the best horses on a computer screen see them up close.  Worried about handle?  Race the races during the day or night and have all harness tracks simulcast the event from the host track, without competing against the Crown events.

If the Crown remains an old boy back slapping event, there is a good chance there won't be a Breeders Crown much longer.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Record Handle at Running Aces and What it Shows

Sunday at Running Aces Horse Park, an all-time record handle was recorded and the obligitory press release was issued trumpeting this fact.  The amount wagered on the nine race card?  A whopping $157,668 passed through the mutuel windows; an average of  $17,518 per race.  For the recreational $2 gambler, enough of a handle to make it worthwile playing.  However, for the mid to large amount horseplayer, a handle not large enough for them to deem worthwhile wagering into and there lies the problem.  With a total purse distribution of $45,000 for the day; rest assured the handle was not enough to cover the purses and operating expenses.  Thankfully the card room which offers Vegas-style games, allows them to offer such purses.  The quality of Running Aces, while not equal to the quality of most racino tracks, is good enough to attract wagering interest if presented properly.

So the question must be asked why does a track like Running Aces handle only a record $157,668 on a Sunday evening?   Probably because they are overlapping Balmoral Park, Harrington Raceway, Ocean Downs, and Raceway Park.  Yes, Harrington has better racing stock but as for the others, Running Aces is equal if not better in quality.  The answer is clearly we are producing too much product for the demand we have.  This is not news; I and others have been talking about this for quite a while.  During the afternoon, things were not much better; as there were six harness tracks racing (well, there was seven if you include Players Bluegrass Downs, but if you look at their handle, there is no sense including them).  This does not consider Canadian racetracks which may be racing.

When are horsemen going to realize there is no sense to offer that much racing product on any given day; certainly not overlapped like it is?  If horsemen were to race shorter meets they would have larger purses with simulcast revenue accumulating and tracks would save operating expenses.  Yes, it would require shipping horses to other tracks when horsemen's local track is closed but in the long run the sacrifice would be worth it.

I know, the answer is slot money; who cares how much is bet?  For all the racino horsemen care, handle could be non-existent as at Blueridge Downs as long as they get their purse money from somewhere.  However, slot money will disappear sooner or later and if the foundation is unstable, the whole industry will collapse.

Will the day ever come when the horsemen look at the big picture instead of their small neck of the woods?  Until they do, all they are doing is sowing the seeds of disaster.    

Sunday, June 19, 2011

NA Cup Night the Morning After

It was an exciting night of racing at Mohawk last night in the big four states races, plus the Invitational held at Mohawk.  I was very impressed with the return of Won The West to the winner's circle by taking the Invitational in a Canadian record of 1:47.2.  Now, I knew last week in The Bettors Delight he had no chance in the overflow field but he raced incredibly well at Mohawk last night.  Someone asked me is the same horse we saw earlier this year?  We need to remember as they get older, it is harder to get them back to peak form.

I must confess despite the win, I expect WTW to have a tougher time in the States racing against true FFA caliber horses.  Not to say he will not win races, but I do believe he will not be racing as well as he has and won't be surprised if he retires after this year.

What is there to say about See You at Peelers who won the Fan Hanover?  As I suspected, last night may have been the night for Krispy Apples to unseat the undefeated filly, but being unchallenged the first half a mile definitely gave Peeler's the ability to hold off Krispy Apples when challenged in the stretch.  I do believe if anyone is going to beat Peelers this year it will be Krsipy Apples..This year, watching the three year old fillies may be the exciting division.

Last but not least, we must take a look at the North American Cup which was won by Up the Credit in 1:49.3.  This is a division which is going to be wide open with the boys beating each other up week after week.  As for early season favorite Big Jim and his new strategy?  I think we will see him in the winner's circle later.  It is kind of tough in a race like this to change racing strategy for the first time, but even though the first few steps where he pulled he got a little steppy, he came flying late.  Once they get the timing right he will be winning his share of races.  No, it may not be a year of domination by the boys, but I think this division will offer good betting propositions all year long..

Lest we think only harness racing tracks are running into problems, we bring you stories regarding two smaller thoroughbred tracks, Yavapai Downs in Prescott Arizona which has closed and Fair Meadows, a small track which is threatened with closure in Tulsa, OK.  What do both of these tracks have in common, they are run by fair organizations, where racing is only part of what occurs at those tracks. 

Fair Meadows was paid $2 million a year by Indian tribes in lieu of slot machines and is a throw back to tracks of the past; closed concession booths, old televisions which are unclear, and rusting facilities.  The problem at Fair Meadows is the $2 million dollars are spent on the entire facility and not jut the track  Yavapai Down's problems came from a desire of the fair wanting to move to a larger facility where they can build a larger grandstand; something racing did not need, resulting in mortgage payments which could not be supported by the racetrack.   Reading the two stories is worth doing, as we have many harness tracks which could find themselves in similar problems.  Already Lebanon Raceway is looking for a new location as the county where Lebanon runs their races will not allow slots at the facilityAny move of harness fair tracks needs to be done smartly. 

Ocean Downs Preview

To commemorate Ocean Downs' reopening tonight, I have handicapped the entire card and am providing my selections in this blog entry.  If you want to see if your simulcast location or ADW is carrying Ocean Downs, you can click above on the Ocean Downs Simulcast Guide tab.

At Ocean Downs, there is Exacta, Trifecta, and dime Superfecta wagering in each race.  There is a Daily Double on the first two and last two races on the card.  Pick 3 wagering is offered starting on the 2nd and 9th races. 
Ocean Downs - Sunday, June 19, 2011; Post Time 7:00PM
1st Pace - $4,500; Late Closer - NW 2 Races or $10,000LT as of April 15, 2011
1 - Prayer Answered (Callahan, 5-2)
3 - Whos Up Whos Down (Russell, 4-1)
7 - She's A Cowgirl (Baggitt, 8-1)
6 - Audrey Jane (Long, 4-1)

2nd Pace - $3,000; Claiming $4,000
5 - Blissfull Ball (Long, 6-1)
2 - American Fury (Russell, 3-1)
4 - Cohendoleezza (Brenneman, 6-1)
3 - Ira's Sunny Boy (Truitt, 4-1)

3rd Pace - $3,000; NW $1,501 Last 5 Starts or NW $300 Per Start  2011
6 - Sentinelle Hanover (Banks, 6-1)
1 - The Romester (Gray, 7-2)
2 - Gold Star Smokin (Goldin, 6-1)
4 - Darko (Baggitt, 9-2)

4th Pace - $3,300; NW $2,001 Last 5 Starts or NW $425 Per Start 2011
8 - All Pro Hall (Russell, 3-1)
2 - Hare Force One (Mackinnon, 5-1)
3 - Art Simpson (Gray, 6-1)
1 - Travers Hall (Pratt, 4-1)

5th Pace - $4,500; Late Closer - NW 2 Races or $10,000LT as of April 15, 2011
3 - Rhea Nourrir (Russell, 4-1)
8 - Badlands Style (Roberts, 3-1)
6 - Nuts And Jolts (Gray, 6-1)
7 - Scarlet Pandemic (Gannon, 10-1)

6th Pace - $3,700; Claiming $7,500
3 - Sweepstake Jake (Roberts, 9-5)
7 - Local Lawmaker (Kirby, 10-1)
2 - Mandala Quest (Long, 12-1)
4 - My Last Wiggle (Brenneman, 15-1)

7th Pace - $3,700; NW $3,001 Last 5 Starts or NW $600 PS in 2011
1 - Draft Hanover (Kirby, 3-1)
5 - Izzy Real (Burton, 6-1)
7 - True North Hanover (Russell, 6-1)
2 - Romania Hanover (Long, 9-2)

8th Pace - $4,500; Late Closer - NW 2 Races or $10,000LT as of April 15, 2011
1 - Dutch's Gal (Long, 2-1)
5 - Barking Mad (Roberts, 3-1)
3 - Rusty's Flying (Russell, 5-1)
2 - Major Spirit (Lynch, 5-1)

9th Pace - $3,000; NW $1,501 Last 5 Starts or NW$300 PS in 2011
2 - Wynnfield Scamp (Robinson, 3-1)
7 - Funtime Filly (Hill, 4-1)
5 - Missed Tide (Roberts, 4-1)
4 - Sand Montana (Perry, 6-1)

10th Pace - $4,500; Late Closer - NW 2 Races or $10,000LT as of April 15, 2011
6 - Quiet Judy (Gray, 7-2)
1 - Best Filling (Roberts, 9-5)
7 - Fox Valley Co-Ed (Kirby, 7-2)
2 - Towel Time (Belote, 10-1)

11th Pace - $3,500; NW $1,001 Last 5 Starts or NW $200 PS in 2011
6 - Yokuzuna Bo (Robinson, 5-1)
3 - Grab The Fortune (Roberts, 7-2)
1 - Supreme Rocket N (Burton, 7-2)
5 - Frapper Joe (Perry, 6-1)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Loneliest Man on The Track

Being a driver is a mixed blessing.  You win a race you are a hero and if you lose you are a goat; at least to the trainer, owner, and the gambler that backed your horse.  When you drive a big-named horse then the microscope is really on you and you may as well be a baseball manager; a person with a target on your back.

Right now, the driver with the target on his back is Phil Hudon, the driver of Big Jim.  The last two losses in the Somebeachsomewhere and the North American Cup elimination has the armchair trainers calling for Hudon's head, blaming him for the losses.

What is wrong with Big Jim?  Let's go over the possibilities.

  1.  Over Hype -  Yes, Big Jim finished last year good, winning the Breeders Crown at Pocono Downs last year and the press ordained him the early favorite for 3yo pacer of the year this year.  Well, with due respect to our esteemed racing media, how many times have they been over enthusiastic with their praise for a certain horse only to have expectations fall flat the following year?  Remember on the trotting side the Peter Haughton jinx, where everyone expected the winner of the Peter Haughton Memorial to win the Hambletonian the follow year?
  2. Not a Darn Thing - Big Jim can be the same horse he was last year but something funny may have happened over the winter; some of the other horses may have improved much more than Big Jim and maybe he is just not that good this year when compared to last year.  As a result the strategy used last year may not work this year,  While it worked in the NJ Classic and Elimination, it has failed at Mohwak in the Somebeachsomewhere and NA Cup elimination.  Now, I am not privy to the instructions Hudon has receive before each race if any, but if you have something which works, why change it?  You don't change the first time; but after a couple tries.
  3. The horse may not be right. - Trainers are under no obligation to issue medical reports on individual horses; they work on them quietly.  Sometimes they are easily apparent, sometimes they are very subtle changes which no one can determine easily. Sometimes you race through a good part of the season until it comes to the surface.  Big Jim raced ten starts last year; only three horses in the NA Cup raced as many starts as a two year old.  Wear and tear may have occurred.
  4. A Change of Strategy is needed. Depending on the relationship between the driver and trainer, they determine a change in strategy is needed.  This happens hundreds of times during the racing year, but when you are a high profile horse it become public attention.  We are told this week Big Jim will race off the pace which to me suggests the horse needing to depend a little bit on racing luck may not be a 100% or has been surpassed by others.
  5. Nothing wrong with the horse but eyes on the big prize - Yes, the last two races were 100K and 50K races but this week they are racing for $1.5 million; just maybe the horse was being saved for the big score.  It wouldn't be the first time a trainer/driver did that.
  6. Luck - Racing boils down to good old racing luck.  Sure a better horse has a chance to overcome an ulikely trip but like it or not, racing is a game of luck which is why it is called gambling.
  7. Driver mistake - Mistake is really a hard word to use; typically it is deciding on a strategy which for some reason doesn't work out.  The horse is short; someone else you don't expect to take the sting out of you, etc.  Because of #6 very few of a driver's move is a true mistake; it is called 'that's racing'.  If you are a regular on a major circuit, you know how to drive on that circuit and it is not a question of competency; it is more who gets the top first call on the best horses (success brings more success). 
Typically, the problem is a combination of items 1-6; seldom #7, but the driver is the one that gets the blame.  After all, rather than admitting the owner or trainer made a mistake, it is easier to blame and replace the driver.  Often the driver didn't make a mistake either; it is just easier to replae a driver than it is to admit a problem of your own.  This is why in baseball, no matter how terrible a team is personal-wise, the owner fires the manager and not the general manager or players; it is always easier to replace one person than a slew of others and no one wants to admit they made a mistake. 

This is not to say a driver change is never called for.  Sometimes, a change of hands is all that is needed; not that the driver was bad but just gets along better with the horse.  Sometimes one of the other proiblems gets solved at the same time  But to claim another driver is no good is just wrong.. 

I wish people would stop blaiming drivers.  If a driver is that bad, he will change driving circuits or retire; most often they just get on another horse

Just the same, I think at the end of the baseball season, drivers and managers should get together.  After all, they both often get blamed for a problem that is often not theirs.

Friday, June 17, 2011

North America Cup Night

Primetime begins for the 3year olds first string with the North American Cup taking place this Saturday night at Mohawk Racetrack.  But it is not just the 3yo pacing colts that take center stage.  In addition to the NA Cup, we have the Elegantimage (3yo trotting fillies), Goodtimes (3yo trotting colts), and the Fan Hanover (3yo pacing fillies) on the stakes-filled card.  In addition to these races, Mohawk's overnight races feature the best of the horses racing on the WEG circuit to make an attractive card.  In today's entry, I will handicap the four stakes races on the Saturday night card.

Note in the North American Cup, I did not pick Big Jim.  In fact, Big Jim is being tossed by almost every American journalist who covers harness racing.  This does leave the possibility of getting odds on the horse everyone practically coronated as the horse of the year before the year began which you would have never thought possible.  If the odds are right, I may chuck my selection in the NA Cup and play Big Jim to win, hoping the addition of ear plugs and the race from behind strategy will work.

Mohawk Racetrack - Saturday, June 28, 2011

3rd Trot - $519,000; Elegantimage - 3yo fillies
  1 - Eagle Canada (McNair, 8-1) - Has shown no evidence of being able to keep up with #4.
  2 - Beatgoeson Hanover (Miller, 4-1) - Filly went a tough mile last week winning her elimination.  Can score minor upset.
  3 - Lady Rainbow (Zeron, 12-1) - Elimination race was somewhat lackluster.  Pass.
  4 - Crys Dream (Ouellette, 1-1) - The horse to beat.  Take these odds?  I think not.
  5 - Oh Sweet Baby (Balliargeon, 30-1) - Could not keep up with top pick.
  6 - Iron Lady (Sears, 15-1) - Been improving, but not yet ready for prime time.
  7 - Seducedbychocolate (MacDonell, 12-1) - Finished second to top choice in second start.  Expect improvement.
  8 - China Pearls (Waples, 20-1) - Moves the wrong way post-wise.  Can't see.
  9 - Cedar Dove (Moiseyev, 12-1) - Another who can improve but draws poorly.
10 - Lukes Sophie (Jamieson, 6-1) - Horse must charge out and clear early.  Don't see.
Also Elibible
11 - Creme De Cocoa (Ackerman, 25-1) - Would love to see what this horse can do with a different driver.
Selections: 2-4-7-6

5th Trot - $347,000; Goodtimes - 3yo Open
  1 - Highland Thunder (R Zeron, 30-1) - Will be hard pressed to pick up a check despite the rail.
  2 - Imperial Count (S Zeron, 6-1) - Elimination winner.  Concerned with efforts in Onss.
  3 - Blue Porsche (Ritchie, 7-5) - Never challenged in elim.  The one to beat.
  4 - VC Chocoholic (Sears, 3-1) - Another elim winner but seems to lack the closing kick.
  5 - Mr Joe Sixpack (Jamieson, 15-1) - Second to fave. Decent effort to spice up exotics.
  6 - Onirique (Ouellette, 15-1) - Was unable to sustain last drive.
  7 - Soulful Delight (Tetrick, 5-1) - Returned well, eligible to still improve.
  8 - Ice Machine (Miller, 15-1) - Being tested for class here.  Don't ignore.
  9 - Sim Brown (Waples, 8-1) - Second best last start.  Wouldn't surprise if gets in money.
10 - Tamarind (Filion, 10-1) - Can't recommend.
Also Eligible
11 - Haulin Laser (Mulinix, 20-1) - In to go Friday night.  May be still too green. 
Selections: 4-5-7-8  

7th Pace - $1,500,000; Pepsi North America Cup XXVII - 3yo Open
  1 - Big Jim (Hudon, 7-1) - Pre-season favorite has been off of late.  Expect change of strategy. 
  2 - Up The Credit (Jamieson, 5-2) - Three races win steak.  The 'now' horse.
  3 - Powerful Mist (Miller, 6-1) - Won last despite being blocked in last race.  Consider.
  4 - Big Bad John (Miller, 2-1) - Undefeated last year.  The one to beat.  Take short odds?
  5 - Shadyshark Hanover (Tetrick, 5-1) -Lost least to #2.
  6 - Rockabillie (Sears, 15-1) - Beat Big Jim in last.  Consider/
  7 - Roll With Joe (Waples, 8-1) - Able to come back and land second./
  8 - Eighteen (MacDonell, 25-1) - Post hurts chances.
  9 - Dutch Richman (Zeron, 30-1) - Midwestern invader raced well in last, but draws poorly.
10 - Foreclosure N (Filion, 25-1) - :25.4 last quarter will hop for speed duel and fly late.  Will he get there late?
Also Eligible
11 - Townslight Hanover (Zeron, 30-1) - A real stretch with these.
Selections: 2-10-4-1

9th Pace - $601,000; Fan Hanover - 3yo fillies
  1 - Camille (Brewer, 20-1) - Good effort in return to the bigger oval but up against much better.
  2 - Krispy Apple (Tetrick, 5-1) - Won her elimination.  Looking for #2 to end #'s streak.
  3 - Whats New Pussycat (Waples, 15-1) - Has never had success against top pick.
  4 - See You At Peelers (Sears, 7-5) - 17-17 lifetime.  The one to beat but at these odds, I will look for an upset.
  5 - Shyaway (Zeron, 30-1) - Thrashed in EBC against #4.  Pass.
  6 - Athenas Legacy (Jamieson, 20-1)  - Having good year but not today.
  7 - Monkey On My Wheel (Zeron, 20-1) - May spice up exotics if races well.
  8 - Pretty Katherine (Miller, 8-1) - Second to Krispy Apple. Must include in exotics.
  9 - Live Inspired (Teague, 30-1) - Seems to be in a tough spot.
10 - Idyllic (Miller, 6-1) - Will get her share of stakes wins this year with better posts.  Tab for later.
Also eligible
11 - Honky Tonk Woman (Jamieson, 12-1) -  Don't ignore if she gets in with a good post.
Selections: 2-4-8-10

News Item: NJTHA votes on the Bailey deal for Monmouth Park Saturday. Credit for this story goes to one of VFTRG readers who alerted me to this which was then confirmed by another source. Approval by the NJTHA of Morris Bailey's proposition on the number of days of racing and purse levels would clear one of the last obstacles for the Monmouth Park lease. As we know, Governor Christie wants both tracks leased out at the same time so approval of this agreement may be key to finally getting the Meadowlands lease finalized and allow the the Gural team to formally begin their transition process.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ocean Downs Simulcast Outlets

Yesterday, I talked about racing returning to Ocean Downs this weekend.  For those of you interested in wagering on Ocean Downs improved product, here is a list of simulcast outlets and ADWs that will carry their signal.  Please note that not all sites will handle Ocean Downs every day.  If you don't see your simulcast outlet or ADW carrying Ocean Downs and you want it, ask.  If you don't ask, they won't know there is a demand for Ocean Downs' signal.

Harness Tracks
Thoroughbred Tracks
OTB's & ADW's 
Alberta Downs
Arlington Park
Atlantic City Casinos 
Balmoral Park
Atlantic City Racecourse
Illinois OTB's 
Chester Dows
Canterbury Park
Bet Pad
Dover Downs
Colonial Downs
The Racing Network
Fraser Downs
Delaware Park
Philly Park OTB's 
Freehold Raceway
Delta Downs
British Columbia Teletheaters 
Georgian Downs
Hastings Park
Indiana OTB's - 3 locations
Grand River Raceway
Hawthorne Race course
Day at the Track
Harrington Raceway
Indiana Downs
E-Bet online
Hazel Park
Laurel Park
Euro Off Track
Hoosier Park
Monmouth Park
NJ OTB's (2) & Phone
Indiana Downs
Penn National
NJ Bets
Kawartha Downs
Philadelphia Park
Lein Games
Maywood Park
Pimlico Racecourse
Isle of Mann
Meadowlands Racetrack
Presque Isle Downs
Lewiston Raceways, Inc.
Monticello Raceway
Retama Park
Northfield Park
Sam Houston Race Park
Magna Bet
Northlands Park
Suffolk Downs
MEC Internet & Telephone
Northville Downs
Sunland Park
Pocono Phone, Internet, & OTB's
Plainridge Racecourse
Premier Turf Club
Pocono Downs
Pompano Park
Raceway Park
TVG Network
Red Mile
TRN Internet
Rockingham Park
Running Aces Harness Park
US Off Track
Saratoga Harness Raceway
Victor Chandler International
Scarborough Downs
Sports Creek Raceway
The Meadows
Tioga Downs
Vernon Downs
Western Fair Raceway
Windsor Raceway
Yonkers Raceway