For photos from the Meadowlands contact

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Does the Sun Come Out Tomorrow in Ontario?

Today is the final day of the Slots at Racetrack Program (SARP) in Ontario.  Many predict with the end of SARP, the industry will collapse.  While the province will end the program it has, at least for now, backed down on its plans to consolidate the market to six racetracks in the province as it appears to have offered all tracks the option of continuing to race.

In addition to Mohawk and Woodbine, Fort Erie, Western Fair, Clinton, Hanover, Grand River, Flamboro, Georgian Downs, and now the latest Kawartha Downs have transitional agreements in place.  Granted Kawartha Downs, which previously was ready to surrender its license will have its racing program significantly cut from 92 days in 2012 to 25 in 2013, but race they will.  That makes at least ten tracks to operate this year with only one breed, the quarter horse,  lacking a home track as Ajax Downs has not yet reached an agreement with the OLG(four days of QH racing at Fort Erie is planned).

With all these tracks being approved, it appears the government will not decide which tracks will survive; it will let the market do it and I suspect it will be a combination of purse accounts and the upcoming shortage of Ontario-breds in three years when at present it looks like seven hundred two year olds will be available for racing in 2016.

I will leave it to others to talk about jobs lost and the like.  What is the immediate impact at the racetracks this year?  Well, as alluded by the reduction of days at Kwartha Downs, there will be less racing days available for horsemen.  While horsemen at Woodbine and Western Fair District will continue to race for the same reduced purse levels they already have been on April 1, tracks like Flamboro Downs and Rideau Carleton will be cut 10%-15% initially (when comparing condition sheets to races run last week).

While any purse cut is bemoaned, in the grand scheme of things, what dos a 10-15% cut really mean?  Certainly not a doomsday cut which will likely occur when the 'C' tracks reopen.  The problem comes when you couple the purse cuts with the reduction in race dates.  A 10% cut maybe a shave, but when you consider there will be less days to race, this 10% purse cut will be compounded.  Owners and stables which have been operating on the edge will throw the towel in and get out of the business.

So while the impacts on racing looks 'not to be that bad' right now, don't kid yourself.  While the sun will come out tomorrow in Ontario, unless the government's promised integration into the province's gaming strategy takes place, the clouds will begin to build until the storm hits.

If what is going on in Ontario makes you feel blue, you have company in Italy where four trotting tracks were forced to close.  The Government says the sport is dying while industry participants say it is the government's rules on wagering which are to blame.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

PA Blowups

Calling the MSOA.  Calling the MSOA.  Valley View Downs may need you now that the PHHA has thrown in the towel with regards to being the official horsemen association for the track which is yet to be built. 

You can't blame the PHHA for their withdrawal.  After all, this track is about ten years behind schedule and I imagine they feel this project is never going to get built.  By withdrawing from an oral agreement, Valley View Downs is in violation of one of the terms required to get a racing license; representation of the horsemen from one of the two existing horsemen groups.

Fortunately, the MSOA, the group which represents horsemen at the Meadows could step in and solve that problem.  To tell you the truth, their representing horsemen makes more sense beiing it is geographically closer to the Meadows than the turf of the PHHA which is Pocono and Harrah's.  When you think about it, what are the odds that the Meadows will race when Valley View Downs is open, assuming it finally gets built?  One would think a circuit between the Meadows and Valley View Downs will be developed and is a natural to be represented by the same group. 

Of course, that assumes they ever get the shovel into the ground..

After that thumping Mohegan Sun took on the Rainbow Pick 6, it has been pulled off the menu "to be brought back for special occasions".  Not too many wager types have been yanked after two days.  Despite wagering being up last year in Pennsylvania (we don't know the split between the runners and trotters), it is clear the whales are avoiding tracks like Pocono Downs. 

To be perfectly honest, I don't know if the Rainbow Pick 6 would work at any harness track; there is just not enough wagering interest in harness racing.  Any wagers on the Rainbow wager would likely come from other pools, not bring in new money unless the carryover became huge.

Friday, March 29, 2013

April in Ontario and Friday Comments

Well, racing dates have finally been issued by the ORC for the month of April in Ontario, with little time to spare.  A few tracks have dropped dates, while some have added dates.  With Kawartha Downs applying to surrender their license, it makes it official that they are done.

The Ontario Parliment passed a resolution calling for SARP to continue and to put the OLG's modernization plan on hold.  This is nice except for one thing, it is worthless.  These 'sense of'' resolutions only provide members of parliment (and congress) with fluff to go back to the voters with.

HANA Harness has announced their 2013 Handicapping Challenge.  It sounds like it may be real fun to follow and perhaps get ideas for wagering strategies on the Grand Circuit races.  While the list of handicappers has not yet been released, last year's winner Mark McKelvie is rumored to return to defend his 2013 victory along with some other interesting handicapers.    The contest begines in late April.

Round Two of the Matchmaker and Levy Series this weekend at Yonkers.  It seems last week's winners in the Levy have been saddled with bad posts.  I realize it is a random draw but on a track which favors the inside posts, it is good that last week's winners get handicapped this week.

Week two of the Meadowlands competing against Harrah's and Pocono Downs and Thursday's draw was a bit light while Saturday's card actually isn't that bad with only one seven horse field and three nine horse fields out of the 13 races on the card.  I must confess, I wonder if it was wise to drop the $10,000 claimers from the Meadowlands condition sheet.  Yes, it is spring time, but when you know you will be short of horses, dropping any class may not have been the wisest move.  We know gamblers want competitive fields instead of quality.  I won't be surprised if we see the $10 claimers back later this year.

A Early Season Look at the Hambletonian Contenders

VFTRG contributor Joe F takes an early look at this year's Hambletonian:

During the Hambletonion’s first 55 years a trotter could be required to complete four heats for a win; for the next ten years—from 1981-1991—the race maxed out at three heats; and from that point on it became possible to win the Hambletonion while capturing a single heat. His year the race will revert back to the same day format employed from 1991 to 1997. The winner of a single heat can still take the prize, but the eliminations and final will now be raced on the same day. If 13 or fewer enter the race there will be a single dash. If an elimination round is necessary for the Oaks, it may or may not be held the previous week. 
Last year there was much hand-wringing over the absence of Googoo Gaagaa from the race. He wasn’t nominated, but his owner/trainer didn’t appear to have much interest in it anyway. The previous year it was Dejarmbro who wasn’t nominated. In that case the connections would have liked to have their colt in there and they did supplement him to the BC and the Kentucky Futurity. As it was, Dejarmbro won more money than MOMM or Chapter Seven that year, and Goo earned more than all but five of his classmates in 2012.

This year the Crazed gelding, Tirade Hanover, is not among those eligible. He beat Explosive Action in a $30,000 NYSS event at Tioga, and won a $58,000 split of the Lou Barasch at Yonkers, over 1/5 favorite Fashion Blizzard. And he was second to that one in the $225,000 Night of Champions at Yonkers. His dam is a sister to the dam of Some Girls. Tirade earned 95% of his $194,000 bankroll in the NYSS and he will  make plenty of dough there this year, but not in the Hambletonion. (The Yonkers Trot is now one week prior to the Hambletonion, and with no eliminations clouding the calendar this year that race may draw a respectable field.)
Creampuff MacDaddy, who won two OSS-Gold legs as well as upsetting Murmur Hanover in the OSS Super Final, wasn’t nominated either. Other absentees of note are Mystical Dew, Russell Mania, Powerful Poe, Majestized, Boy Meets Girl K and Natural Herbie. The important players are all eligible.

Of the top performers from last year’s freshman C&G class who are staked to the race, Cantab Hall has three: prohibitive favorite—at this early date—Wheeling N Dealin, the winner of the PA Championship, Dontyouforgetit, and My Man Can. Credit Winner has a strong pair in Night of Champions winner Fashion Blizzard and ISS winner Pine Credit, while Yankee Glide has the Haughton winner, Aperfectyankee, as well as Bluegrass winner All Laid Out.
Wheeling N Dealin was a perfect nine for nine, with wins in the BC, Champlain and Wellwood. He won both the Dan Patch and O’Brien. He drew off from all but second place finisher Royalty For Life in the BC. The two top fillies went faster than he did and he doesn’t have a live cam in his stall  or a contest built around him, but he was just as convincing a class leader as Captaintreacherous was.

Aperfectyankee, winner of the Haughton for Jim Oscarsson, held the fastest mark of all the boys. He also won a division of the Tompkins Geers and a $112,000 division of the PASS. He was second to WND in the Champlain. On the downside, he had no kick while finishing out at 1/5 in his Wellwood elimination and scratched out of the final. He didn’t race after that. And while Oscarrson uses catch drivers for his Master Glide colt, Banco Solo, he always drives this one himself.
Royalty For Life had a strong season in the NYSS and got even better in the fall. He beat even money favorite Dontyouforgetit in the ISS at Lexington, and finished second to Wheeling N Dealin in his BC elimination and the final. He banked $334,000 on seven wins and eleven board finishes in fourteen starts, and it’s noteworthy that more than 60% of his income was generated from non-restricted races. His division of the NYSS was strong last year with the likes of Fashion Blizzard,  Tirade Hanover and Explosive Action. This big, strong colt should be heard from.

The little Cantab Hall colt, Dontyouforgetit, was the scourge of the PASS. He beat Major Athens in the $200,000 PA Championship at The Meadows; won a $104,000 division of the Florida Pro; won a $79,000 division of the Hickory Pride; and won another $112,000 PASS division. He finished second behind Royalty For Life in the ISS, and he was the 5/2 second choice in the BC but finished out. He then finished out as the 1/5 favorite in the Matron. He didn’t do so well when he moved into open waters.
The Andover Hall colt Major Athens earned $310,000 on seven wins and 10 board finishes in 12 starts. His dam is half to Miss Wisconsin. He won his Haughton elimination for Sears as the even money favorite but finished out in the final. He won a division of the Bluegrass and was third  in the ISS, won a $78,000 division of the Hickory Pride, won a $111,000 event at Harrah’s, won the Keystone Classic as the 1/9 favorite at The Meadows, finished second in the $200,000 PASS final as the 6/5 favorite, and won a couple of other PASS races at Pocono.

There really is no traditional GC type in the mix. Wheeling N Dealin comes closest in that he never left Canada to race in the PASS, but that also resulted in him skipping races like the Haughton, Bluegrass and ISS that a typical GC colt would participate in.
The fact that Jim Campbell’s Credit Winner colt Fashion Blizzard earned 35% of his $300,000 bankroll in open stakes is very good. He made the board ten times in twelve starts for Campbell and Jim Morrill. He broke coming to the gate from the eleven post in the BC but prior to that he won the $225,000 Night of Champions Trot at Yonkers as the 3/5 favorite. This one was highly regarded all year. He finished second behind Tirade as the 1/5 favorite in a division of the Lou Barasch at Yonkers, and he won a $48,000 NYSS event as the 2/5 favorite at that track. Fashion Blizzard was second in his Haughton elimination and finished third from the ten post in the final. He was ahead of Royalty For Life for most of the season in performance and perception.

All five of Murmur Hanover’s wins came in the OSS but the $400,000 winner has plenty of gate speed and he used it to get a third behind Wheeling N Dealin in the Champlain, a second behind that one in the Wellwood and a third place finish in the BC at 75/1, from the ten. He was the 3/5 favorite in the OSS Super Final but Creampuff MacDaddy, who is not staked to the Hambletonion, beat him. In August Murmur nosed out Creampuff in a series record :55 in an OSS Gold Final at Mohawk. The Majestic Son colt was a $70,000 yearling purchase.
Erv Miller’s Credit Winner colt, Pine Credit, was an easy winner in a division of the ISS and also won the Harriman at Vernon. He also took a $57,000 division of the Lou Barasch at Yonkers. Lewayne Miller drives.

Corky, the NJSS champ, won the $150,000 NJSS final, was second behind Aperfectyankee in the Haughton and was second in the Simpson and Reynolds. The son of Muscles Yankee made all his starts at the Meadowlands…..The Cantab Hall colt, My Man Can, only won once--his Wellwood elimination—and he finished third behind WND and Murmur in the final.  He finished second in the Champlain and had some strong board finishes in the PASS......The Glidemaster colt, Puxsutawney beat Bluto in a $112,000 PASS event at 44/1. The latter is a Donato Hanover colt who showed some promise. He won a $112,000 division of the PASS. The problem is that Jimmy Takter likes to drive him: Guccio all over again. Donato and Dewey have plenty of colts nominated but they didn’t show much last year. Maybe $825,000 yearling Detour Hanover will come alive…….Noel Daley’s Yankee Glide colt, All Laid Back, had a good win in the Bluegrass over My Man Can and Fashion Blizzard.

Here are some pre-season odds on the colts I consider the primary contenders in this year’s race.

Wheeling N Dealin….4/5

Royalty For Life……..5/2

Major Athens………...3/1


Fashion Blizzard…….5/1


Pine Credit……………12/1

Murmur Hanover…15/1

All Laid Back…………20/1

My Man Can………..20/1

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Michael Doherty for Governor

John Brennan of The Record wrote a blog entry where he interviewed the few people in the legislature who opposed the online gaming bill.  Clearly these people are the smartest people in the legislature.  Here are two gems from NJ Senator Michael Doherty.

“New Jersey needs to diversify its gambling locations like other states have done, like Pennsylvania,” Doherty said. “We still have the same model, thinking it’s still the 1970s. We’re bending over backwards to try to help Atlantic City, when the model needs to change. The horse is out of the barn – there are casinos everywhere.

“We need to open casinos at the Meadowlands, Monmouth Park, Freehold – are you’d kidding me, we’d blow away Yonkers,” Doherty said, after noting that Yonkers Raceway – with 5,000+ slot machines – has been sending as much money to Albany as all 12 Atlantic City casinos send to Trenton.”

The clincher? “I’m not even a big fan of gambling – but I don’t like stupid policies". 

Someone quick, recruit him to run for Governor.  Forget about the fact he would help horse racing, he makes sense, something those doing the bidding of special interests don't.

Those were the days, when racing was the only game in town. If you have some grey hairs on your head (assuming you still have hair), you probably remember the good old days at Roosevelt Raceway and Yonkers Raceway when Saturday night the place was jumping. In some ways the worst thing that could happen was you won a race; by the time you collected your wager, the next race likely went off without you placing a bet.  To successfully collect and wager, you needed to be a tag team, one to go make the bets, the other to collect; both wearing sneakers because you ran to the windows.

The first turn at Roosevelt Raceway in its heyday. This photo was recovered from a dumpster when the Raceway was being demolished. While not sure, it is believed that the original photographer was Mike Lizzi.

Well, those days will never return, except perhaps on a special day such as the Hambletonian, but over all, tracks don't need more than 2,000 seats to serve the clientele on any given day. It will be the rare track like Scioto Downs where Ohioans still consider horses part of their lives which will get large crowds but for other tracks, the reality is the track will have the fans and those looking for a night out; your whales will be likely wagering from the comfort of their living room. That being said, just because most of your money will be coming from elsewhere, there still is a need to make the track a place to come to.  After all, where else are most people going to get their initial exposure to horses? 

Where to Begin Today?

Just a few stories of interest from the past day or two.

Western Fair District is unable to complete their draw for Monday's racing card because they still don't have a permit to conduct parimutuel racing.  How much longer are they going to hold off on finalizing things for the province in 2013 so the necessary permits can be approved and racing returns to the 'new' normal?  It is time to release the schedules and get the necessary permits issued.  If any other tracks want to come on board add them as the year goes on.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board released their findings on the impact casino gambling had on racing and one point stuck out in particular. In addition to revenue generated for the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development Fund, racetrack casinos operators invested over $7 million in 2012 and approximately $46 million since the casinos opened in 2006 to improve the stable and backside areas of their racetracks.  I guess I missed the part where the tracks invested in the customer areas of the racetrack.

Also of interest is in 2012, the total amount of purses paid out at all tracks (both breeds) was $209,041,000.  Out of that, $175,469,000 was paid from slot revenue while $33,572,000 was supported by wagering.  This means 16% of the purses paid came from wagering in the Keystone State when looking at both breeds.  Not a particularly desirable position to be in.

Bob Pandalfo has a column in the DRF where he talks about the Cal Expo resurgence and why horseplayers are drawn towards the mile track.  I love half mile racing but I must admit for betting, it is boring and not profitable.  Pandalfo claims we need to slow up races on half mile tracks by returning to the old wooden sulkies.  That will never happen but there are other things which can be done to make half mile racing exciting again.  Unfortunately, slot operators have little incentive to do so as racing is only the side show.

You have to love the OSRC.  Once again, they have put the kibosh on PNG's plans for new racetracks to replace the existing Beulah Park and Raceway Park over seating.   The OSRC has indicated that no permit approving construction plans will be given unless 650 additional indoor seats with view of the track for the Dayton facility replacing Raceway Park as well as similar requirements for the new running track.  By holding to its convictions, the OSRC is delaying the construction of the new racetracks by a period of 4-6 months.

In New Zealand, the thoroughbred interests are instituting a registry of all thoroughbreds to track their whereabouts after racing careers are over.   Why can the runners take solid steps to protect their horses while standardbred interests languish when it comes to horse welfare? 

Our running cousins in West Virginia are not happy about a proposal by Charlestown Slots and Racetrack to cut the minimum number of racing dates down considerably, by one third.  It seems with table games in Maryland, they are losing business as they are allowed only slots. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


It was just another lazy early spring afternoon at Monticello Raceway with 10 races carded and nothing unusual happening until lightning struck .

Not literally, the lightning referred to was that a once in a lifetime thing occurred when a father and son finished in a dead-heat for win in the ninth race here today.

Jimmy Marohn, Sr. was driving Quiet Hero (#1) from the pole position while Jimmy then Younger had Best Of Times (#5) from post five.

As the gate sprung young Jimmy went right for the front and had the lead at the quarter in :29. From there the younger Marohn kept the pedal to the medal and was never seriously challenged until his dad got Quiet Hero in high gear as the field headed from home.

Pop Marohn came charging at his son’s pacer and both horses finished simultaneously with Pop’s pacer getting up in time to tie his son’s pacer after the finish in a final time of 1:59.3

“I won the St. Paddy Pace with this horse a couple of weeks ago by racing him on the front- end so I thought that I’d race him in front again today and hopefully that would get the job done,” Jimmy Jr. said after the race was completed.

“But the old man outfoxed me; he laid back and came charging at the end and so fast that I thought he won the race. I even said to him on the track ‘you got it’ and then I went directly back to the paddock. “

Jimmy Sr. headed to the winners circle with Quiet Hero for a photograph and it wasn’t until he got there and saw the posted order of finish on the tote board that he found out that there was a dead-heat for win.

And when he got back to the paddock he was reached for a comment which he gave with tongue in cheek.

“I even gave him (Jimmy, Jr.) a head start but I got him at the end,” the older Marohn chirped“ And it’s hard to give him an inch and beat him in a horse race, you know.

Then he got serious and added:“We drive together in the same race often here at Monticello and over the years we’ve finished first and second quite a few times but a father and son finishing in a dead-heat has gotta be a first.”

Quiet Hero is owned by Frank Cuccio of Montgomery NY and trained by his son Anthony Cuccio while Best Of Times is owned by J& R Class Act Stable of Yonkers NY and trained by Anthony Regina. The former paid $7.50 for win while the later returned a $9.20 win mutuel.

And according to most accounts a father son dead heat for win may have happened in the sport once before at a county fair but even if it did, it never happened at an extended pari-mutuel meeting.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Good News - The Ontario Addition and a NJ Road Trip

Add Flamboro Downs, Georgian Downs, and Fort Erie Racetrack as three more tracks which will see the light of day come April 1. In a press release today, it was announced that agreements in principle have been reached with these three tracks.

In a way I was surprised that the two harness tracks would have come to terms. Being for profit racetracks, I didn't think Great Canadian Gaming was interested in running a track just to break even; they would want to see a profit. My guess is they see the possibility of full scale casinos coming to their facilities. Eithe way, it is good news for horsemen looking for places to race. Purses though, are another question....

In a bit of irony, slot workers at Woodbine's casino are preparing to strike, basically over the uncertainty of their jobs and working conditions as the result of the OLG's actions. While no doubt Woodbine's casino is the most valuable to the government, it would be great if all casino workers in the province at racetracks would strike; that would drain the governments coffers. One thing for certain, if the current workers want a say, now is the time for later may be too late.

Just did a little bit of checking and it has been 3 1/2 years since a proposal to introduce the fair start rule to New Jersey has been proposed.  Hard to believe it, the NJRC is still working on it.  Who knows what the final disposition will be but isn't it kind of funny how some proposals get put on the highway while some seem to take a trip between East Rutherford and Trenton via Gris Fjord in Canada?   Take a look at the map below, you'll get the idea.

Gris Fjord, Canada, a slight detour on the road to the fair start rule in NJ.

Imagine that, killbuyers are using forged health certificates to move horses between states on their way to their final destination! Who would ever have thought they would violate regulations? Anyone who doesn't have a job dealing with killing horses would.

The Meadowlands Increases Payouts; Both Ways

The Meadowlands is increasing the purses for their nw1 through nw3 classes, no doubt following up on what Yonkers Raceway announced recently for their green 3 and 4yos.  The purse increases are as follows:

  • Non-Winners Of 1 Pari-Mutuel Race: $10,000 (Increased From $9,000)
  • Non-Winners Of 2 Pari-Mutuel Races: $12,500 (Increased From $9,500)
  • Non-Winners Of 3 Pari-Mutuel Races: $15,000 (Increased From $12,500)
The press release claims this is the first of hopefully additional steps to increase the purse structure at the Meadowlands if wagering continues on the pace it has been going.

The Meadowlands is also increasing payouts for on-track bettors who hit the late Pick-4, provided they meet certain conditions.  If you are a Big M club member who bets at the track or Winners-Bayonne and makes your wagering using your Big M card and are fortunate enough to hit the Pick-4 (4 for 4), your Big M account will automatically be credited with a 10% bonus within 48 hours. 

Clearly this is an incentive to get the gambler back to the track wagering where there is a higher retention rate for both the track and horsemen.  There is nothing wrong with doing that.

Single Pool Wagering Approved; Hambo Nominations Up

Single pool wagering has been formally approved. by the NJRC. While it has been approved, it will not be offered immediately as it requires licensing and in the case of simulcasting, it requires the approval of the rules for other states.

You may be asking what is single pool wagering and how it impacts you? I am seeking clarification but from what I have read, this is what is involved.
  1. A gambler can make a limit wager (not accepting odds less than X)
    1. The wager may partially be filled.
    2. The gambler may specify all or none, meaning either the entire wager is honored or none of it is.
  2. Legalizes combination wagers. New wagers can be accepted, such as picking two of the top three finishers in a race in any order.
  3. In the case of a dead heat, provides for distribution of payoffs as currently done or when only two horses are involved, allows for a payoff half of what it would have been if no dead heat occurred.
  4. The existence of an unawarded surplus. Say, no one picks a horse to finish second and the horse does indeed finish in the second position. It creates an unawarded surplus which is to be paid out in a manner approved by the commission.
  5. Single pool wagering can only be approved for simulcasting provided participating states permit wagering into single pool wagering.
At one point, there was discussion that some money from the various pools would be diverted to other pools to keep prices from falling too far.  I don't see anything in the regulation to suggest this.

I am sure when single pool wagering is actually approved, there will be a guide towards single pool wagering made available.  Now if we can get them to work on Exchange Wagering rules.....

It was announced that 116 horses were nominated for the 2013 Hambletonian. I was curious to know what the impact of the format change would have on nominations so I contacted Darin Zoccali of the Meadowlands who provided the nomination count from last year. One may suspect the number was cut down when it was announced the race will return to an earlier format; where eliminations and the final were raced the same day. Well, you would be wrong if you thought that as last year the Hambletonian drew only 108 nominations. Apparently, when there is enough money on the line, racing two heats is not a problem; especially when the final goes for $1.2 million.

On the filly side, The Oaks did have a drop in nominations, from 105 to 91. Is it possible the thought of meeting To Dream On scared off some nominations. It should be noted that unlike the Hambletonian, the Oaks retains the running of the eliminations the week before the final.

In what I hope will be my final mention of cartels for a while, Eric Cherry opines on the subject.

Hit them where it hurtsBill Finley in a column for ESPN writes how suspensions don't work thanks to beards.  Hit them with a $70,000 fine instead of a six month suspension and that they will notice.  There is something to be said about it.  What do you think?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Kudos to Yonkers Raceway and the SOA of NY

Yonkers Raceway has announced pures for their NW2 and NW4 classes for 3-4yos  will be increasing to $15,000 (NW2) and $18,000 (NW4); a $5,000 increase for each class starting next week.

This is a step in the right direction to offer owners of young horses, the ones who tend to buy them at auction a better chance to earn their way back.  As a result of these increases, NW2 horses which were racing for the same prices as $12,500 claimers will now be racing for more money than $20,000 claimers; the NW4 horses, have been racing for the same prices of $15,000 claimers will now be going for more than the $25,000 claimers, basically leap froging two classes.

Is this enough to help revive the breeding industry?  Of course, not but it is a step in recognizing the plight of yearling buyers and the breeders.  Yonkers and their horsemen, whose approval was needed should be applauded for this step.  Additional tracks need to do the same thing; perhaps for a higher increase.  

That being said, Jay Bergman has some advice for Joe Faraldo.  He recommends instead of worrying about what is going on at the Meadowlands, he take care of business at Yonkers to make it a more desirable product, a product people would like to bet on.

Monday's Notes

The Rainbow Pick 6 was hit at Pocono Downs last night by one winner who earned a nifty $25,000 for their efforts thanks to the guarantee.  The only problem for Pocono was the pool was a mere $1,392 with a $759 carryover.  But I suspect there were few players of the wager since the largest pay-off in the sequence was 3.30-1.  Under the rules of the Rainbow Pick 6, it is hit only if one player selects the winning combination.  A wager like this at the Meadowlands would have had more than one person selecting the winning combination. 

Was it the $1 minimum which made it easy for only one gambler to hit a very hittable combination?  It could very well be as a dime minimum would have allowed more people to cover multiple combinations.  One thing for sure, Pocono's brand being tarnished for serious gamblers didn't help for even with the minimum $1 wager, the pool should have been higher if the gamblers were playing Pocono; especially with a reasonable 15% takeout.  According to Dale Rapson, the $25,000 guarantee was a one time promotional offer.  They have another $50,000 which will be used for $25,000 guarantees on other wagers later in the meet.

Speaking of takeouts, PTP has suggested what he would call 'optimal' wagering rates.  A few of them are a lttle too low in my estimation, but the concept is correct.   Why should anyone be expected to pay 17% for WPS wagers is beyond me.

We are a week away from the new world in Ontario and while there may be whispers as to where horsemen will be racing come April 1, there is nothing official per the ORC.  That being said, politicians keep playing politics and playing with the hearts of horsemen throughout the province.  This Thursday, the Progressive Conservatives have a bill posted which calls for the SAR program to be continued into 2014.  Great right?  Wrong, it is a non-binding resolution and if anyone thinks the Liberal government's OLG is going to continuere SARP, they must have been the one who collected the Rainbow Pick 6 at Pocono last night.  What this bill represents is political theatre; passing a bill which does absolutely nothing.

The Meadowlands takes its first step in fighting back against the PA tracks by attemtping to seduce the C class pacers and trotters for two weeks.  Race week one for normal purses and the C-2 trotters and pacers can find themselves racing for $17,500; the equivalent of an A-3 trotter if they advance; C-1 pacers can find themselves racing for what A-2 pacers race for the following week.  If this is successful, expect to see these enducements at least until stakes season kicks off in earnest.

Despite having slots in Maine, the situation there is not good.  The tracks want to cut purses as well as reduce the number of required race dates.  The reason?  Slot revenue is down.  This should be a cautionary lesson to all slot states.   

Have a great week.


Saturday, March 23, 2013

And Now For Something Completely Different

Let's talk about horses. George Morton Levy Memorial horses specifically.

It has been awhile, but today we are going to talk about the six legs of the Levy Memorial at Yonkers Raceway. As you may be aware the Levy is sort of a two directional pacing series. For those horses who have been racing all winter, the Levy represents their own version of the Breeders Crown; one last chance to earn the big money before the stars of the division return in force. For the precocious FFA horses, the Levy is the start of their season, many making their first starts of the season; not as much concerned as being ready week one but hope to work their way up into top form early enough to qualify for the lucrative $500,000 final. Every once in a while we find that winter horse growing into true FFA stock, able to compete with the sport's best during the prime time of the racing meet.

The key is to be able to identify which horses are coming from both directions are able to take down the top prize in these preliminary legs; in particular the opening leg which is tonight. Well, after taking a look at tonight's divisions, we take a look at coming up with the winners.

Race 5 - Roadway (#2, Pantaleano, 4-1) looks to be the local horse with the best chance to take down the morning line favorite. He has been racing well for the most part at the Old Hilltop this early part of the year. While there have been only two wins thus far, his best efforts of late are from coming from behind which should be an advantage as Versado (#7, Sears, 9-5) comes over from the Meadowlands, winning the weekly feature last week with a wire to wire victory. While Versado may not be able to easily get the lead, expect him in front from the quarter pole on taking the field the whole way, possibly getting caught in the stretch by my top pick. Aussie Reactor A (#6, Brennan, 10-1), needs to step up his game but get a driver change which should be helpful for the eight year old Aussie import. He may be able to get the show position and add some value to the trifecta.

Race 6 - This race has no show wagering. Annieswesterncard (#5, Gingras, 8-5) picks up the services of Gingras after winning the Open Handicap last week from the seven whole. Considering he move in to the five hole, he looks hard to beat. Classic Rock Nroll (#3, Goodell, 4-1) opens up his campaign after two qualifiers, the last a winning 1:55.1 effort at Woodbine. While he looks ready to give a good account of himself, I am assuming he will need to get a race under his belt returning to the half mile oval. In Commando (#1, Brennan, 8-1), move over from the Meadowlands where he was competing in the Aquarius series (4yos) with little luck. He tries his luck on the half mile and from the rail, may be able to get into the number.

A possible longshot is One More Laugh (#2, Tetrick, 5-1) whose last efforts at Yonkers were dull to say the least, perhaps being over raced (31 starts last year). With some time off and a race under his belt, a return to the half mile oval may be what the doctor ordered. Those doubting his ability on the half mile should note OML had a victor in an Invitational at Batavia going against Hypnotic Blue Chip.

Race 7 - Clear Vision (#2, Gingras, 9-5) looks ready to make his pari-mutuel debut for 2013 a winning one with two qualifiers under his belt at the Meadowlands, his last a 1:52.2 mile including a :26 final quarter. Second best is Electrofire (#6, Sears, 4-1), who has been racing consistently well in the weekly Open Handicaps. He stands likely to take the top spot if the favorite falters. Flipper J (#3, Bartlett, 6-1) was a winner an a lower class last week but is another one who is tough from the inside posts. He may be good enough to pick up the pieces.

Longshot Play is Heza Trick N (#4, Chiodo, 10-1). This New Zealand import by way of Australia bombed in his first American start, a B-1 pace at the Meadowlands but he had been racing in the FFA ranks down in the land of Oz. Of particular interest is his December 23 start at Tabcorp Park Melton in the SEW-EURODRIVE POPULAR ALM FFA, a Group 3 race at 2,240 meters where he finished second behind Smoken Up NZ one of the better horses down under. He failed in Group 2 and up races, but despite the purse, the Levy is probably equivalent to a Group 3 event. If he can return to his southern hemisphere efforts, he could be an upset play. That being said, I would want double digits odds to give him a play.

Race 8 - The first of two Superfectas in the Levy divisions. A wide open race. Sapphire City (#2, Holland, 5-1) is my pick to score the minor upset. His last race was a toss coming the outer posts. The horse shows an ability to race competitively from the inner posts and figures to be riding the rails in the pocket, taking his chance in the passing lane and likely will be trying to catch Something For Doc (#3, Gingras, 9-5); a Burke trainee who has finished fifth in two starts from the eight hole in the open handicaps. Moving to the inside he will be formidable to catch. Bet On The Law (#1, Sears, 6-1), ships in from Pompano Park and picks up the service of Brian Sears after winning his first two starts of the year in Sunny Florida. He will likely end up racing at Pocono Downs; how soon depends on how he does in this series. Completing the ticket is Safe Harbor (#7, Brennan, 8-1). Quite honestly, this pacer would rate higher in my predictions if not for post position seven. Racing well for the most part in the winners over class, he is likely to make the ticket.

Race 9 - A two horse race in my estimation. Atochia (#6, Gingras, 8-5) kicks off his 2013 campaign coming off two qualifiers. His last qualifier was a second place finish behind Clear Vision, so watch the 7th race for guidance. If he is ready, he will be hard to catch, but if anyone is going to bring him down it will be Code Word (#7, Sears, 6-1) who has been alternating between the Meadowlands and Saratoga of late, winning the top open class at Saratoga in 1:53 in preparation for this race. Taking advantage of the rail is Sea Venture (#1, Brennan, 6-1) who returns from a seven month layoff finishing second in a non-winners of $25,000 event finishing second. He may need a race but I am looking to add a little value to the triple.

Race 10 - The final division of the Levy offers a Superfecta but no show wagering. Razzle Dazzle (#4, Sears, 6-1) made his seasonal return in a fifth place finish in an A1-Preferred handicap at the Meadowlands finishing fifth. He figures to be tighter this go around so I give him an advantage over Foiled Again (#1, Gingras, 4-5) who is making his first start of the season after a 1:52.4 qualifier at the Big M, especially considering how he finished second behind the morning line favorite in the Indiana Pacing Derby at Indiana Downs. Being a little tighter may be enough to turn the tables on the favorite. River Shark (#7, Dube, 8-1) has been racing well in the top class at the Meadowlands but the post position here will compromise his chances for the top two positions. Completing the Superfecta is Our Cullenscrown N (#5, Tetrick, 8-1). This son of Christian Cullen had no chance last week from post seven in the open handicap; a move to the middle should permit him to give a better account of himself; completes the Super.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Friday Late Briefs

The Last Word:  I could go on and on about how wrong Joe Faraldo was regarding the Meadowlands 'cartel', but it a waste of time.  However. to close this out once and for all, Harness Racing Update gets the last word.  But what I will say, and this is because it is a different topic, is that Faraldo's screed shows us one of the problems with harness racing.  While Faraldo's job is to represent the interests of the (Yonkers Raceway) horsemen, it's all about them; to heck with the gambler.  With his worrying about in effect selling the signal at a discount, how quick do you think Mr. Faraldo would agree to a takeout reduction at Yonkers?  Don't hold your breath because that would be selling the signal at a discount.  Unfortunately, there are other horsemen group leaders who feel the same way.

Exchange Wagering Delay:  The California Office of Administrative Law has rejected the CHRB's proposed rules regarding exchange wagering, thus delaying its arrival at Cal Expo.  No reason for the rejection has been given yet so one has to wait to see if the rejection was minor or a total rejection.  Hopefully, there was no lobbying by those in California against exchange wagering for fear of selling their signal at a discount because while the commission per bet is small, the multiplier effect is much greater; this is the experience in Europe and there is no reason to think it wouldn't be the experience in the United States.  Exchange wagering will get here in the United States; it is just a question of whether it will be California and New Jersey and when.  The sooner the better.

God Bless the OSRC:  Two times now they Ohio State Racing Commission has rejected PNG's plans for their standardbred and thoroughbred track's seating plans.  I wouldn't be surprised unless PNG realizes the state isn't going to let the tracks become a raCINO and provides enough seating that is at least enclosed and facing the track, they are going to be kept held up on their construction schedule.  Granted by forcing them to put more seats in isn't going to make them pay more attention on racing, but it makes me feel confident that the OSRC isn't going to allow them to neglect their racing program either.

Running Aces a Go:  By a 5-4 vote, the Minnesota Racing Commission granted race dates to Running Aces Harness Park to start their meet on June 1 to give a rebuke to the thoroughbred horsemen who sought to have their license pulled.  There are issues which need to be resolved between Running Aces and the thoroughbred horsemen but that can be done via the court system, without shutting the track down.  With such a close vote, I would like to know how many of the commissioners have thoroughbrd backgrounds versus standardbred backgrounds.  If anyone knows, please share it.

Speaking of Cal Expo:  Here is a nice blog entry on Cal Expo's website.  It talks about a newcomer getting introduced to the sport and all the preparation that is involved.  Some running tracks have morning workout programs, it would be nice if more standardbred tracks had similar programs even if offered as part of school field trip programs.  After all, with school budget cuts and a tight economy, teachers are looking for 'free' programs.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Hold that Press Release

Is harness racing's most famous feud damaging racing?  While the person or entity who gets attacked in the media needs to respond in kind, these public spats need to stop.  As an example, do we need this blog entry in Meadowlands Matters?  Fortunately, this blog entry didn't make it into the newspaper but often they do.

What benefit would it be to racing for this story to make it into the newspaper?  If you were John Q Public after reading this article, how quick would you be heading down to a racetrack or wager on a computer?  The headline is enough to stop someone from going to the track.  Wha does Mr. Public know about liquidity in mutuel pools?  Odds are from the headline alone they are going to think large bettors get special treatment which means the little guy gets hosed; no sense in going to the track if the odds are stacked against you before you show up.. 

But this goes beyond feuds.  Everyone so inclined to send out press releases continue reading....

Racing gets enough bad press without throwing ourselves to the wolves by writing accusatory articles and sending them out in press releases only to be followed up by the obligitory rebuttal.  Using an issue to feed your personal agenda and grind your axe is only going to harm us all; yourself included.

This is not to say controversial issues shouldn't be discussed.  In this new world of ADWs, account wagering, and small pool sizes there are legitimate issues which are open for an honest examination.  But if you are so inclined to discuss an issue you feel there is a problem with, see if one of the industry trade journals will write an article about the issue with them examining both sides of the issue.  Failing that, write your own article for Hoof Beats, Trot Magazine, ot The Horsemen and Fair World, etc. and discuss it in an academic manner.  Or if so inclined, start your own blog and post it there.

Whatever you do, don't send out that press release. 

I have been discussing Running Aces' problems in Minnesota with Canterbury Park.  Since I have been discussing this more than once, it is only fair to hear the other side of the story from the head of the Minnesota HBPA. 

Racetracks are no longer just for horses nor should they be.  Colonial Downs has applied for permission to hold an AMA event at their track.  For those who don't know, AMA stands for the American Motorcycle Association.  This one day motorcycle race will bring Colonial Downs $200,000 in revenue; money which can go towards paying for the operating expenses of the track.  In addition, these alternate events brings new people into the facility.  Concerts, racing, and other activities; all things which can improve the bottom line.  After all, expenses don't stop when the racing season ends.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Meadowlands Responds

The following is a press release issued by the Meadowlands in response to an editorial written by Joe Faraldo as President of the SOANY.  More comments from me after the press release.
The Meadowlands Responds To Faraldo’s Editorial

While it is unfortunate that Mr. Faraldo has targeted The Meadowlands in another public outburst that would have been better left to a private discussion, due to the vast inaccuracies in his “editorial,” The Meadowlands Racetrack feels compelled to respond.

Yes, The Meadowlands Racetrack, like many other racetracks with larger-sized pools has players that bet through a computer-assisted wagering system.  The notion that these players are a “cartel” is erroneous.  Contrary to Mr. Faraldo’s beliefs, The Meadowlands Racetrack has not been made any guarantees from a wagering prospective by these players.

For full disclosure, prior to the start of our meet, The Meadowlands has amended an existing simulcast agreement with one of our present customers which would likely result in their increased wagering.   We did this mainly to see if by their added handle it would encourage others to wager into the larger pools.  To protect ourselves and our customers that if there was a problem, we intentionally added a clause that would allow us to cancel the agreement on three days-notice. Fortunately the results are better than expected.  That increase has been nearly $7 Million, or 29-percent of our overall handle increase.  However, there has been additional 71 percent in increases from other sources, just as we had hoped.  Therefore, the idea that these bettors are creating “the illusion of beneficial revenue” is false.

The simple truth is these players bet more than the average customer, thus receive a larger rebate.  This is a concept that has existed since the opening of casinos in this country.  A $1,000 per hand blackjack player is going to receive a larger rebate than a $10 per hand player.

The allegation that New Jersey horsemen are not seeing “beneficial revenue” is also false.  By the end of this racing season, the S.B.O.A.N.J. will receive additional revenue well into six-figures directly from these larger players.  The agreement was made with the full support of the S.B.O.A.N.J. and it’s leader, Tom Luchento had this to say:

““The Meadowlands Racetrack and the SBOANJ have an outstanding relationship.  We support each other in everything we do.  The Meadowlands Racetrack is an industry leader in moving this sport in the right direction and utilizing new ideas to make The Meadowlands successful.  The idea that the management at The Meadowlands and Jeff Gural would ever do something that would harm the horsemen of New Jersey is utterly ridiculous and offensive to both The Meadowlands and the horsemen of New Jersey.”

Mr. Faraldo also questions the revenue earned by The Meadowlands on these bettors in relation to the purse account.  For full disclosure, The Meadowlands has carried an overpayment into the purse account for 2013 of nearly $300,000.  Thanks to our game plan for 2013, we are on track to wipe out that overpayment by years-end.  It is impossible to raise purses until it is proven that we will continue to have full fields since the Pennsylvania tracks have opened and a total handle that continues to perform at the same consistent level it has all year.

Furthermore, the allegation that The Meadowlands is misleading its investors and “playing them for more support” is both erroneous and defamatory.  The Meadowlands Racetrack is in constant communication with our investors as they are given daily updates of how our business is doing.  They have been extremely pleased with the progress we have made in 2013 at both The Meadowlands Racetrack and Winners Bayonne.

It comes as quite a shock that Mr. Faraldo would grow “tiresome” of reading about The Meadowlands success.  The national handle figures published on the USTA website, show an increase of over $50 Million in industry-wide betting handle in 2013.  The Meadowlands Racetrack is responsible for 45 percent of that increase.  Thus, The Meadowlands is literally driving the industry in the right direction.  But rather than supporting The Meadowlands, since the industry is clearly so dependent upon its success, he tries to tear it down.  This is one of the major problems within our industry today.

In his editorial, Mr. Faraldo touches upon the subject of integrity.  With all due respect, no racetrack in this sport has done more to promote integrity than The Meadowlands.  No person in this sport has done more to promote integrity than Jeff Gural.  When a trainer is suspended, The Meadowlands does not allow that trainers horses to be raced under an “assistants” name for the duration of that suspension.  We believe our customers appreciate the stand we have taken in this regard and it is reflected in our handle.

Additionally, Mr. Faraldo cites two examples that could represent the danger of these larger players and the potential for pool manipulation.  Let’s put this to rest right now.  Neither of his two examples have anything to do with larger computer-assisted wagers.  The individual that wagers $2,000 to win on multiple horses does so at a simulcast facility at a teller window.  Furthermore, the $2,000 win bets are never cancelled, so where is the pool manipulation?  The daily double made reference to was also predominantly due to an individual who placed a large daily double wager at The Meadowlands.  After looking into the wager, there was nothing suspicious or “manipulative” about the wager.  Neither incident stemmed from large computer bettors at all.

We apologize that this editorial required a public response and we hope to have clarified the issues raised by Mr. Faraldo to our betting customers as they are what matters the most to us.  Lastly, if Mr. Faraldo took issue with a business decision The Meadowlands Racetrack made, he should have contacted us privately and professionally.  Quite frankly, his concerns should focus on the standardbred horsemen of New York and he should leave The Meadowlands to us.  After all, despite boasting large purses thanks to an approximate $50 Million casino-subsidized purse account, The Meadowlands consistently handles five times more wagering dollars than Yonkers on Saturday night.  This is because large purses alone do not make for a great betting product.  However, the integrity-driven, quality racing that The Meadowlands presents does make for that great betting product.

Some may wonder why I am posting this press release in full while only providing a link to Mr. Faraldo's comments.  To be perfectly honest, for reasons I outlined yesterday, I found Mr. Faraldo's editorial to be overstepping and full of unproved insinuations more characteristic of an attack letter.  Being the Meadowlands was attacked, I felt they were entitled to this forum to respond.
Were Mr. Faraldo to have written an editorial questioning the wisdom of the practice of offering these types of bargains to large bettors and the potential impact on horsemen conceptually, there is a good chance I would have  looked more favorably on it; in fact in my column yesterday, I explained why there is no problem with offering these discounts to provide liquidity to the mutuels market; similar to the way Wall Stree has market makers for every stock to ensure there is liquidity in the trading market.

Look Out New York and Pennsylvania

In an interview with Harnesslink's editor Duane Ranger, Lou Pena claims he plans on heading east to race in New York and Pennsylvania once he has his stable put together.  At the present time, he has no horses lined up but he has agents looking for horses (and owners) both in Canada and the United States. 

Not only is he planning on resuming his training career, he plans on doing it well, aiming to win the training title at the track he competes at.

Of course, the question is will tracks back east have him?  It is one thing to say you want to race at a certain racetrack, but with the ability to pull in the welcome mat, that racetrack may decide it doesn't want you.  For example, it's no secret that he is unwelcome at Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs in addition to the Meadowlands.  I am pretty sure he will be back as some track will let him return, assuming the NYGC is unable to reinstate his suspension.

Maybe these races have a few FFAllers and plenty of pretenders, but my favorite early season series, the Blue Chip Matchmaker and the George Morton Levy Memorial series kicks off at Yonkers Raceway.  On Friday night there are thirty-five mares dripping in for five divisions of the Matchmaker while Saturday night there are forty-two horses going in six divisions of the Levy.  The one thing which surprises me is the number of horses making their first starts of the season in this opening leg of the Matchmaker ( a lesser number in the Levy).  While many of these first time starters have class advantage, this week may be the opportunity for some upsets.

Accepting Nominations

Some will say I assign a lot of the blame for racing's decline on horsemen, perhaps that is true to some extent but don't think for a moment that I absolve racetrack operators from any blame. Far from it, they definitely need to shoulder some responsibility, especially when it comes to the facilities.

Maybe the non-racino tracks have an excuse, the lack of income but for racino operators there is no valid excuse. What am I talking about? Rundown racetrack conditions. Sure they have snazzy casino areas, but for those with their racing areas segregated, some of them looks like Newark, NJ after the race riots of the 1960s. Perhaps it is more succinctly said in Britt Kennedy's Standardbred Canada blog entry from which I quote:

As our tracks made more and more money, the conditions of the facilities got worse and worse..and with absolutely no consequence to the powers that be. It's not our fault these owners ran our tracks into the ground, milked them for all they were worth and put forth an embarrassingly limited effort to attract patrons. Do they honestly think we enjoyed seeing our home tracks fall to pieces before our eyes, getting worse and worse each and every year? Do they think we enjoyed sending our partners, owners and their families to the stands to watch their racehorses compete in grandstands that not only reeked of urine but could barely provide them with a meal? It was an absolute embarrassment.

While Kennedy's blog entry was talking about the conditions in Southwest Ontario, it also applies to tracks in the United States, both standardbred and thoroughbred. I would have argued in enabling legislation for racinos, it should have been mandated that track portions of the facilities be maintained in proper condition if not upgraded but let's face it, the state's could have cared less; it was all about gaining income for the state.

Let's not kid ourselves, the majority of horse racing fans follow the sport from their computers, the days of 40,000 people in a grandstand are long gone. Instead of 12,000 people you are lucky to get 1,200; that on Saturday nights. We talk about gaining new fans/gamblers, but how are you going to get them if they don't go out to the track to see them live? Are they going to say, "Let's go to the track Saturday night and subject ourselves to an evening in the slums"? Of course not.

Racinos were granted the right to operate on the premise it would help support horse racing and that includes keeping the facilities in a condition that is conducive to people attending the races; let's call it a cost of doing business. No, it doesn't need to be up to date like the casino, but it sure means more than applying a coat of paint.

When you go to your local racino, does the track portion of the facility look more like a war zone or a throwback to the disco era? If so, please comment. The only limitation is the track needs to be part of a racino; nominations from all breeds are welcome. When you provide me with your nominations, please list what breed(s) of horse race there. Since some of us go to multiple tracks, you may nominate more than one racetrack. If enough of you respond, I will put a link on the blog home page calling it the 'Racetrack Wall of Shame'.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Overstepping and Memory Chairs

Joe Faraldo let loose with his latest missive against the Meadowlands with his comments regarding cartel wagering and its accompanying insinuations. As what usually happens in these cases is Faraldo launches a missive and Jeff Gural responds, so I will let Mr.Gural set the record straight from his perspective.

Mr. Faraldo, as President of the SOANY, represents horsemen and his comments basically talk about things from the horseman's perspective; after all that is his job. That being said, the last I heard the SOANY represents horsemen at Yonkers not the ones who race at the Meadowlands or Freehold. The SBOANJ, which is presided by Tom Luchento, represents New Jersey harness horsemen. I think Mr. Luchento is capable of speaking up for his horsemen and doesn't need an assist. I would think there is enough going on in New York to keep Mr. Faraldo busy without getting involved in another state's business.

But if one is going to make comments about life in the non-racino states, I would suggest one sit in a memory chair where they can remember the days they were racing $2,500 claimers and the track was up for sale. How were things for you back then? Not so good I imagine.

I do understand it must be annoying hearing about all these handle improvements at the Meadowlands; especially when Balmoral Park, the Meadowlands, and even Cal-Expo at times handle more money than Yonkers on a nightly basis. After all, what would the horsemen at Yonkers be racing for if not for slots?

That being said, I have some general comments regarding what was said so I thought I'd share them with you.

For the record, news of 'this' cartel is no secret. Jeff Gural in interviews made no secret of this happening.

Yes, a cartel gets a great discount on price, whether it is 2%, 3%, or whatever means less money for the horsemen. It also means less money for the track operator. Yet, for the Meadowlands to offer such a deal, I believe the SBOANJ had to approve it as well so it was not imposed on the horsemen.

Why would the track and horsemen agree to such a deal if it benefits them so little? It provides liquidity. Liquidity which entices others to wager into the Meadowlands' mutuel pools; providing them the comfort of knowing their $100 wager isn't going to bring the odds of a horse crashing down from 10-1 to 3-1. So while the track and horsemen may be getting little direct benefit by having the cartel wagering, they get an indirect benefit by their wagering enticing others to wager or wager more because there are pools large enough to wager into. For example, on February 22, the Meadowlands handled $3,201,100 compared to 2012 where the same night the handle was $1,201,477. Are we to believe this cartel wagered $2 million that night? Let's say this syndicate went hog wild and wagered $1 million; that means another $1 million came in from elsewhere.

I would suggest Meadowlands horsemen make out better because of this large discount. Let's say the horsemen were getting nothing from this $300,000 the cartel is wagering, but because of this cartel providing liquidity, another $400,000 is being wagered from other people. Isn't more money going into the purse account? I don't know about you, while it would be nice to have an extra $30,000 in the purse account, I rather have an extra $15,000 in the account instead of nothing. Yes, these numbers are made up, but it illustrates the point. I guess when you are racing for slot money you have the luxury of saying all or none because it really doesn't matter. Unfortunately, when your purses are determined only by wagering you can't be that fussy.

Yes, a cartel is in effect getting a huge rebate which allows their money to last longer. Whales get rebates at the Meadowlands through a rewards program when they bet on track. Many gamblers who wager through ADWs get rebates depending on how much they bet with their ADW. Aren't they getting an advantage over the 'regular' player who doesn't qualify for any rebate? In a way, is this any different than volume pricing some stores get from manufacturers for the same item? It is the way of the world.

Regarding the possibility of pool manipulation. It goes without saying that pool manipulation is bad and should not be tolerated. That being said, it has been around for eons. I am showing my age here, but back in the days when Vegas was a legal bookie that paid track odds, how many times did people wager on other horses to pump up the odds on a horse they were betting big in Las Vegas to get a big payoffs? If pools are being manipulated, the track and regulators have an obligation to protect the general public from it. This is why they have reports which can track where bets are being made from as well as being cancelled. Dare I say pool manipulation can happen at any track, be it the Meadowlands, Yonkers, or any other track; the only difference is it is easier to manipulate the pools at tracks where the handle is lower.

Handle no longer means how much a track and horsemen make on wagering, at least not easily. However, it does show the interest gamblers have in your product. Dare I say there is a more interest in the racing product at Balmoral Park, the Meadowlands, and at times Cal Expo with their cheap stock than at Yonkers? Let's look at the average pool per race from this past Saturday.

Balmoral Park: $1,019,467 over twelve races; $84,955 per race
Cal Expo : $878,330 over fifteen races; $58,555 per race
Meadowlands: $3,593,659 over thirteen races; $276.435 per race
Yonkers: $798,602 over twelve races; $66,550 per race

So if you look at per race handle, the Meadowlands was the most popular; Balmoral Park second; Yonkers third; Cal Expo fourth. If I was connected to Yonkers, I don't think I would be crowing about how well we did.

When it comes to investing, you and I may by 100 shares of Penn National Gaming without doing due diligence, but it is unfathomable to think that a large concern investing real money is going to take an ownership position in any company without doing due diligence. A press release is not going to get a large investor to buy into any company without going over the financial statements; to suggest otherwise is absurd..

The rules for operating and surviving in a racino state are different from those in a non-racino state. I certainly won't begrudge the 'haves' for their good fortune, but when they walk in the shoes of the 'have nots', then I want to hear their opinion; until then, worry about things in your own backyard. After all, as we saw in Ontario, situations can change overnight.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Monday Briefs

The problems at Rodney Farms continue.  The farm continues to deteriorate and according to Barbara Galbraith, they need to reduce their stock by roughly thirty horses as she hopes to keep the breeding farm going, perhaps at a new location.  Quite honestly, I suspect the damage to the farm through their misfortunes makes any chance of becoming a viable breeding operation daunting. 

In the meanwhile, private citizens have been trying to help by providing hay to keep the horses somewhat fed.. A new social media attempt to raise funds for Rodney Farms has begun in an effort to keep the horses fed and avoid the euthanizing of their horses.  Their goal is to raise $5,000 over the next forty-four days; an effort which apparently just begun.  Some may be asking what the USTA is doing about this problem?  The USTA is willing to provide funds via ths SOS program to help feed the horses but they are unable to release funds until the Humane Society takes action which for unknown reasons they have not. 

Something I admit I don't understand is the attempt by horsemen in Ontario to open a new track, Lakeshore Raceway near the old Windsor Raceway.  Yes, they initially are looking for a ten day race meet but in a province where racing dates are being slashed, does it really make sense to start up a new track, even if it replaces a track which closed down?  Maybe down the road it makes sense to start up a new track but when the industry is attempting to stabilize, does it really make sense to build up a new track?  I think not.

Elsewhere, there has been criticism about the Meadowlands racing two late closing finals as the first two races of the card on Saturday, avoiding the popular Pick-4 wager.  Quite honestly, this is a comment a 'horse racing as a hobby' person would make.  Coming from that mindset, even I realize it is the handle which matters.  Carding these two races as the first races on the card made sense in the new world, the one where the economics of racing matters.  Forget about the Pick-4; get the two non-bettable races out of the way when people are still walking in or wrapping up dinner.  Moving the two races early was the right move as once again the Meadowlands put up great numbers at the window  We all love big races but the fact is we see at Balmoral that full fields of cheap competitive horses will earn more than a short field of top horses. 

Why do people buy race horses?  Some people buy them for the chance ot make money, others do it for other reasons, such as uniting a family.  Harness writer talks about what horse ownership has done for his family in Barrons.   Somethings can't be measured in dollars and cents.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Real Race

New Jersey isn't taking the federal court's upholding of the ban on sports wagering sitting down.  While they are appealing, it appears the state's Division of Gaming Enforcement will be introducing 'Fantasy' wagering where gamblers will put up money as entry fees and play against other players with winners to get paid off in cash.  Of course, it will be interesting to see if casinos will be able to take a percentage of the entry fees as a 'handling fee'.  Fantasy gambling is expected to come to the casinos on April 22.

Oh, racetracks are not included in this effort.  In the meanwhile it's just the virtually non-existent standardbred breeding industry in New Jersey which is suffering, the runners are hurt as well.  In Part 1 of an Examiner article, it begins with:

It’s March. ‘Tis the season for Thoroughbred foals in New Jersey. Or is it?

Spring is in the air and the Thoroughbred farms in the Garden State look oddly tranquil. In years gone by, one would notice herds of mares and their newborn foals dotting the fields of New Jersey’s Thoroughbred horse farms. This year, there are few Thoroughbred mares and foals to be seen. Fields are empty and farms are up for sale. In large part, the situation is due to a Governor who apparently chose to abandon the horse industry in exchange for indulging in a “new and improved taxpayer-funded” Atlantic City.

In part 2 of the article, we learned in 1997 there were 401 NJ-bred horses born.  In 2011, that number dropped to 186 and who knows what the final numbers will be in 2013?  Granted, in New Jersey when it comes to breeding, standardbreds have been king but that number is declining.  The NJSS is in shambles with it being a matter of time before the finals of the NJSS will be non-wagering events, or even worse; walk overs.  Yet the state continues to funnel money to Atlantic City, another failed business model due to the influence of party bosses and investment banks while offering little, some would say none, assistance to racing.  Unless change in Trenton comes soon, the real horse race may be which industry disappears first, the runners or the standardbreds.

Jeff Gural responds to a HRU letter claiming that his request for loyalty was naive.

Well, at least the standardbred industry in Ohio has learned from the debacle in Ontario.  From Harness Racing Update comes this quote:

Both Mossbarger and Greenfield [breeders] said it is imperative that Ohio learn from some of the mistakes made in Ontario, where the core product of harness racing was forgotten while slots mania took over. They say that can't happen in Ohio.  "Ohio has that tradition and people love to race horses here," Mossbarger said. "We are going to have a great program, one that's going to cause excitement and bring people back. But I hope we in Ohio will get together and develop a good marketing and promotion plan rather than just put out a sign say 'racing tonight.' We have to do these things ourselves. Our tracks are run by casino operators and it's no secret they prefer that the customers go to the casino."

Moosbarger and Greenfield recognize there is no sense asking the casino companies to promote racing, like it or not it is up to the horsemen.  Hopefully, the horsemen buy into what these two say otherwise, the Ohio renaissance will be over quick.

Lastly, management and others at the Meadowlands did their own version of The Harlem Shake.  I said I wasn't going to talk about it anymore, so I will just  post it without further comment other than to say track management was part of this video and the drivers colony got involved in video #2.