For photos from the Meadowlands contact

Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Good Year to be a Harness Racing Fan

I have a confession to make.  For whatever reason, I was not much into racing last year.  Last year's crop of horses just didn't draw my attention.  It was a ho hum year and I am sure at times it showed in this blog

One year later, it is a different story.  The Meadowlands is beginning to recover  Problems in the Garden State remain but for now it seems to be adjusting to the reality that overnight racing was going to be quire ordinary but fortunately the gamblers (syndicate or not) are responding.  Despite what some people are saying, it may not be pretty in the Garden State but the racing industry appears to be adjusting nicely.

The racing this year has been much more interesting with the so-called Gural rule in place; not just at the Meadowlands but at WEG tracks.  The FFA ranks are much more interesting with the now four year olds continuing to race  Horses that didn't overly interest me last year now interest me as they compete against their more seasoned competition.  Who would ever have thought we would be seeing horses such as Market Share, Uncle Peter, Wishing Stone, and Arch Madness competing against each other.  Truth is in the past, the FFA class was FFA in name only but now, we are seeing true FFAllers doing battle with regularity.

We are still seeing aged campaigners like Foiled Again still being able to get that occasional victory.  Why his story may not be as compelling as Rambling Willie, in some ways Foiled Again seems to be a successor to the great Willie.

Those boring three year olds of last year have been replaced by a cast of equine characters that have caught my fancy.  Captaintreacherous, Jerseylicious, and others are making the sophomore pacing ranks interesting to watch while on the trotting side we have Smilin Eli making us wonder where his bottom is and Corky, who faltered last night at Pocono (yes he won, but a little luster came off), is sure to be heard from the rest of this year.  Not to forget the fillies, Ms Caila J Fra has been added to the mix.

The best thing is stakes season has really just kicked in, there is plenty more exciting racing coming our way.

Sure there are some forgetful stories, such as Thunder Ridge Raceway which thankfully, has most likely completed its final year of racing.  Make no mistake, the Kentucky horsemen needed that meet to earn some purse money, but let's not kid ourselves, its story will be grouped with the harness tracks of Phoenix and Las Vegas, mistakes which never should have happened.  Yet for all those bad stories we hear about horses who have been going on a tear such as Tracys Shadow whose win streak ended at eighteen,

North of the border, what was promised to be the destruction of the Ontario racing industry seems to have been averted; no doubt to late for some but finally the message was driven home that racing is an important economic engine to the Ontario economy.  Make no mistake, the glory days are gone but it appears Ontario will avoid the meltdown that struck Quebec. 

Yes, while last year was a bummer, this year is turning into a pretty good year for the harness racing fan.

This week's fines and suspension list shows us that Sheldon Ledford was recently denied a groom's license by regulators in Illinois.   If you want to know why even applying for a license was absurd, take a look here

Last Call:  If you haven't made your plans to go to the races at Goshen, New York for their four day meet and never have, now is the time do it.  The fourth of July features the New York County Fair Races; July 5 brings us the Landmark States for 2yo and 3yos; July 6 brings us amateur racing and the NYSS State Fair races for 3yo pacers of both sexes; July 7 the meet concludes with NYSS State Fair races for 3yo trotters, a RUS event, and Hall of Fame Trot.

Back to the Track:  It's been a while since you last went out to the track?  Why not check what your local track is doing on Back to the Track weekend which is July 5 thru July 7 and head out to the track?

I stumbled upon this Facebook page about Ali (or Alafiza as officially known) who is a registered Arabian horse that was burned in a fire.  Instead of the common answer of euthanizing the horse, his owners decided to give him a chance to recover.  It's a long battle but he is winning it.  Some of the pictures aren't pleasant to look at but what is wonderful is the will to live  If you have the time and are on Faceboook, you may want to give this page a look.


Anonymous said...

If the overwhelming bulk of the "increased" Meadowlands handle is coming from a syndicate that generates peanuts towards the purses, how exactly is the industry "adjusting nicely"? Since purses have shown no increase (despite the very abbreviated racing schedule AND "massive" handle), one can only assume that a large portion of the handle is "earning" a very small percentage, seemingly verifying that much of the handle is from the "cartel" (and The Meadowlands, while regularly boasting of the raw figures, has never acknowledged just how much comes from this high-rebate cartel). So here's the simple conclusion -- IF the cartel is earning themselves a profit, they'll keep playing; if they're NOT earning a profit, they'll eventually stop playing. I see EITHER scenario as problemattic; if they leave, obviously that will severely effect handle. But if they stay, that means that they are "winning", which means that the "regular" player will continue to see sub-value payoffs on any bet that might have been an overlay WITHOUT the presence of the cartel. Either way, the situation is less than desirable.

Pacingguy said...

In the ideal world, everyone would be at the racetrack betting and paying full freight. Unfortunately, that ship has left the port never to return.

I truly doubt the cartel is betting a million dollars a night so what can be concluded is 'regular' people are wagering more due to the fact the pools are deeper thus not causing the odds to swing as wildly. Hence, not only are everyone getting a little from the cartel money and more from the regular gamblers versus a lot from no increase in handle, there is even growth in the full-freight customer that shows up at the track.

I think there is too much credence given in the cartel causing payoffs to plummet as a result of them playing for there is a always a chance they will bet the wrong horse. For that reason, it is not in their interest to play in such a manner to kill the odds. And remember, there are times the bombs come in thus their money would increase odds as well on them.

As to big money having an advantage; this is the way of the world. Walmart gets better deals from manufacturers due to the volume of business they do. Institutional investors get better pricing on the stock market and even without wagering 'cartels', the bigger horseplayers get a bigger rebate than the $2 player.

Is it fair that a player who bets $500 a race gets money back in rebates where the $2 player may get zilch? If you think it is fair for them, then it is fair that the big, lets call them institutional gamblers (which is what I will now call cartels) to pay much smaller commissions.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure you fully understand how the cartel operates, or the "unfair advantage" it has. Please let me elaborate, and then hopefully you'll reply and be able to address these concerns:

It's NOT about the size of the rebate at all -- if The Meadowlands (and the horsemen) are content to make just a tiny percentage on those large bets, then they surely have my blessing. But that's NOT where their "advantage" lies. The enormous edge that they have is the ability to have direct access to the tote system -- this allows them to evaluate EVERY possible play based on the ACTUAL current odds, and then instantaneously upload wagers on all plays that have been determined to be "overlays". This gives them a ridiculously large advantage over the public, who are not afforded that same benefit. As you can see, while your Walmart example explains the (valid) reason why this cartel can get a larger discount for their play, it does NOT account for the REAL advantage they have over the rest of the players - specifically, the privileged access to the tote system (without which they could NEVER be able to utilize their batch system).

Regarding your observation that "there is a always a chance they will bet the wrong horse", again, it fails to recognize what this group is actually doing. They don't bet A "horse" or a specific exotic play, but rather they scan ALL the odds on ALL the available wagers and make plays on ANYTHING that is determined to be an "overlay". In other words, it's NOT about affecting the price on any given horse, it's about lowering the payoffs on ALL logical wagers that are paying "too much" right at post time (something they can do thanks to their unfair access to the tote system). The ONLY time their wagers ever "benefit" the players is when they are totally wrong in their calculations of "fair odds" -- but that generally means that either a totally hopeless horse/combination comes in (and that benefits very few "regular" players"), or when a predictable, yet already UNDERLAYED result clicks...which again, really benefits nobody.

I hope you don't feel I'm being condescending here, because that's not my wish at all. I realize that most people who aren't "gamblers" don't fully appreciate what's really happening here, and obviously the Meadowlands is not going to draw attention to it. But this is hardly a case of "bigger players getting bigger rewards" -- it's a case of selling out all of your "regular" players while the track, and the cartel reap the benefits.

Anonymous said...

The cartels are not betting on a horse...they are betting on many horses and many exotic combos each race. They might bet on 9 horses in a 10 horse race using an extreme example if one horse is horribly overbet in their opinion. It's an arbitrage thing with the cartels that are able to bet that kind of money. When you are only paying 2% takeout, you can play in an entirely different way than any normal player can. With that low of a takeout, a good computer program and an average opinion, it doesn't take too much to hold a small winning % pouncing on the public wagering inefficiencies.

Pacingguy said...

This actually isn't anything new. Odds on Racing has been able to bet the overlays themselves; they actually talked about it once on their pre-racing show. Not that this makes it right

What you describe is very similar to what some investment banks did (may still be able to do it They had access to trades seconds before they were executed so they knew which way the stocks were going so they could place their own trades knowing what was going to happen.

The sad truth is this industry needs the equivalents of these market makers; people willing to put up their own liquidity to keep the trading (betting) going by providing pools deep enough. This allows other bettors to play where they wouldn't in the past

I do recall the agreement to give these people access to the pools was set up so the Meadowlands could cut them off on three days notice if it had an adverse effect Once again, not that it is right but clearly to management and horsemen the benefits are clearly outweighing any downside.

Anonymous said...

There's a big difference between the "other" cartels (like Parnham's) and The Meadowlands version. Previously, these guys were betting FLATS, where the pools were large enough to absorb their plays without a hugely detrimental effect. But the Meadowlands crew probably represents over 20% of the TOTAL HANDLE, and is therefore making it impossible for the public, ON THE WHOLE, to be successful. You can also compare that to the Wall St. example, where the "cartels" are not handling anywhere near 20% of the trading volume! These guys aren't adding liquidity because they're WINNING -- only if they were "losers" would their added dollars provide a benefit. Of course, if they were losing, they would simply stop playing.

As far as having an "adverse effect", well it depends on how you look at it. If creating the illusion that business is much better than it actually is achieves your goal, I suppose you'd say that it's NOT having an adverse effect (as is clearly management's position). From the players' standpoint, the effect has been horrible. The overwhelming majority of results that WOULD have been overlays in the past are now all reduced in price, and whatever "value" that might have been left is now gone. From the horsemen's standpoint, all these glorious press releases about the booming handle have done nothing to increase purses....on the TWO nights they're actually distributed.

One last comment regarding your mention of "Odds On Racing". If indeed the Meadowlands cartel contains a member(s) that has direct ties to owners/trainers, think about how large they're actual edge can become. In a 10 horse race, there are 90 possible exacta combinations. Let's say that through their industry connections, they can comfortably toss just TWO horses, based on "inside information" that those horses are simply "no good" that night. Well, in the now EIGHT horse field (for their purposes), there are only 56 possible exacta combinations with a "chance" to connect. Their "universe" of potential combinations has been reduced by 40%, and they can focus even MORE heavily on the overlays that exist among the remaining combinations. Like I said, good for the Meadowlands investors, good for the cartel, BAD for just about everybody else.

Pacingguy said...

I don't want to keep this going because we obviously have a difference of opinions.

That being said, let me state you are making a big assumption that Odds On Racing is receiving inside information to reduce the number of combinations they need to cover. Let it be pointed out that there is no evidence this has happened. One may wish to assume that but it is clear assumptions, no proof it is occurring.

Secondly, it appears payoffs on win wagers tend to be higher than they were last year Some of this is due to more competitive races, but it also would suggest these individuals are not killing the odds as bad as you would suggest. Admittedly, being a win player, I can't speak for exotic wagers but I would think they would be hitting the win pools.