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Handicapping the Burlington; and some notes

Well I might as well kill some time. Been busy today, and not much up for posting, but in reading a couple things tonight got me thinking of the Burlington.

First some notes:

The Molson Pace was contested tonight and was won in stunning fashion by longshot Eagle Luck. Gotta love the way they do it up at Western Fair. Frank really gets up for the event, they had a huge crowd and all looked well. I checked to see if it was on HPITv tonight, but HPIWest did not have the card. What a shame, they all work hard there, so the TV coverage would have been good for handles. Regardless, great race. You can watch it here. It is worth it. Old time harness racing.

On Equidaily.com, which I read daily, he rarely has a link on a standardbred story. But today he links the Toronto Star piece on Somebeach and calls it "Debut of Somebeachsomewhere is highly anticipated". How true that is. This is one of those horses who may be able to transcend breeds.

Below when I mentioned that Woodbine does many…

NA Cup Friday

Greg chimes in with a Cup post. We'll handicap the Burlington tomorrow. Looks like rain in the forecast. I hope that holds off.

If you have not checked out the North America Cup website, it just keeps getting better and better. The intro gets the blood pumping and WEG's shiny-domed handicapping guru has some great updates for fans. Check it out. If you are in the area this year, head out to Mohawk for the Cup. It's packed.

Thanks Greg for this update. Top notch as usual.

Road To The NA Cup: It’s Burlington Time

Business will begin to pick up this week as the Burlington Stakes will be held on Saturday at Mohawk. The is always an interesting event because some horses are just prepping for the Cup, others are looking to win because they aren’t eligible to the Cup, and so forth. Today, we’ll take a look at each of the divisions and highlight some of the contenders.

The first division should be a battle between Dali and Sand Shooter.

Dali, who drew post one, is making his season’…

Paying to Play & Thursday Notes

Some things popping up on the wires this Thursday morning, and a thing or two that rankled my wires:

First up, I went to Woodbine last night to watch some thoroughbred action with a few friends. I went up to Champions (the upstairs betting lounge) and was completely shocked when I could not get in with my HPI VIP card. Shocked is not too strong a word, especially when the attendant at the door said: "what's that? That does nothing for me". Jamie, Andrew, whomever who might read this blog, you guys have to fix this. There is no business in the world who would charge their highest value customers $5 to get in to bet, giving them upwards of 20% of every dollar spent. And your employees should all be schooled on VIP cards (given a list like the program sellers have) and how to act when shown one.

Relaying a story about a Vegas racebook, which shows the marked differences in customer retention and happiness, I went to one a couple of years ago. I decided I might play in the rac…

Cohen Chimes In

Moderator at the Harnessracing.com blog, Andrew Cohen has chimed in on the Bloodhorse story and blog post below.

All of us know how we feel on many of the issues here at this blog, especially those involving having our sport set up a central body, with a commissioner. Cohen has written several articles on this subject before and is a proponent of such a body.

Would any of you who support this mind heading over to his blog linked above and offer your support by commenting? Andrew is well read by the business, and well respected. I think we should all throw our weight behind getting some of this done in harness, before the Fed's come calling. And remember, the Interstate Horse Racing Act is part of the solution and part of the problem - but this act governs harness racing, too so we as harness owners and fans are a part of it. Any changes to it will directly affect harness and thoroughbred racing. We need to be a part of these discussions, in my opinion.

So please, let Andrew and his m…

Government Mandated Commissioner?

Well many have said it, but now it's here.

In the bloodhorse: "Congress May Call June Hearing on Racing"

One of the items:

The subcommittee is seeking, among other things... whether industry officials support formation of a national governing body for horse racing.

The answer better be yes, or they will do it for us. No more, "laughter when someone mentions a commissioner".

And:

Congress may look at the Interstate Horseracing Act, which authorizes simulcasts across state lines, including account wagering.

No more fighting over a shrinking pie, perhaps?

“Given the benefits of the IHA to the racing industry, we believe congressional oversight should play a role in determining whether the special status of the sport under federal law is still warranted,”

No more "special status?" Will we be forced to finally compete?

[looking into] whether racing programs bolstered by gaming revenue use money for research to improve the breed;

No more ten race careers before stud…

Hector Clouthier on Whips

Last month at the Standardbred Wagering Conference in Montreal I mentioned that I had met several people I was very impressed with. I commented that perhaps I would get to speaking a bit about them in the future. I have not done that yet, but it is a good time to start. I meant to post about this last week.

Hector Clouthier is a long time participant in harness racing. He is currently heading up the OHRIA - the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association. For a look at Mr. Clouthier's schedule, check it out here. There clearly is not too much grass growing under this man's feet.

Well he is one of those people that "I meant to tell you about". He was front and centre at the conference and I was really, really impressed. To boot, he and his wife were enjoyable to speak with on non-racing subjects as well.

Recently he came out with an opine on harness racing and whipping. This is not like you and I speaking of whipping, because we have rarely sat behind a horse. It is from s…

USTA's Marketing Committee

There has been much talk in the harness racing blogosphere about the USTA's marketing initiative set up in part by Mr. Axelrod, Chairman of the USTA. Andrew Cohen at harnessracing.com's blog has been chatting about this and offering some insights and opinions.

The definition of the word specious from dictionary.com is: Apparently good or right though lacking real merit; superficially pleasing or plausible. I hope that this committee does not fall into the trap of many before them, who hope to do well, but make the wrong assumption for their focus.

Racing has two types of fans, or potential fans. We have seen this for generations, and racing has been told who they are, and what they are for years. But I rarely hear the business speak of them in those terms. Hambletonian Day brings out 30,000 people. The on track bet is under $2M for those 30,000. Offtrack, the bigger bettors, playing online and in simulcast bet upwards of 250% more. At the Little Brown Jug the handles were around…

Monday Morning

Some news and notes that I found kind of interesting this past while.

First up, some solid 3YO racing at the Meadowlands. I watched a few races, but perhaps the horse that caught my eye the most was not in the Classic elims. It was Share the Delight, a NA Cup eligible. Coming off a break he was somewhat conservatively handled. He got away third last, did not have a ton of pace to chase, but that did not stop him. He sailed off third over cover and ran down the very good Real Tough with ease, coming home in 26 and change under a hand ride. I think he punched his bus ticket to Mohawk with that effort.

At Mohawk, Keystone Horatio and Lennon Blue Chip did battle in the first OSS Gold of the year. We did not learn much as both got great trips and only had to sprint home.

Somebeachsomewhere went a training trip on Friday to prepare for the Burlington. Touch wood, it looks like all systems go with the World Champ.

A hearty congrats to Luc Ouellette and Peter Klienhans on Enough Talk's solid…

Over the Next 12 months.......

.... I would love it if horse racing decides if it is a sport with a fan base, or a breeding business.

With Big Brown winning the first two legs of the Triple Crown, buzz throughout much of the sports world is not centred on him winning the Belmont, it has been on "when will he retire."

A smattering of buzz (most thanks to headlines on Equidaily.com).

Cangamble a few weeks ago said: "No Surprise if the Preakness is Big Brown's last race"

A Philadelphia sports writer lists his top things he does not understand about sports.

The sport's sole purpose appears to be identifying talented horses who can win enough big races so they can be sold for tens of millions in order to produce more horses whose careers will be ended prematurely by greed and shortsightedness.

Jeff Frank of the Sports Network says:Is this really what the sport needs? The brightest star to come along in thirty years and in one split second.."poof...he's gone?

In the Whittier Daily News, the…

Rules, Regs, Polls. Closing a Hole?

There is some industry buzz this past week about some of the things judges should be calling, and how drivers act on the racetrack. Standardbred Canada has a poll, asking for people's opinions. The harness edge has been getting much mail about the subject.

We have discussed some of the things here before and most certainly the betting public needs to see consistency, but one area that I think voters and bettors are dead wrong on, is the outcry to "close holes". 20% of respondents have said this is their #1 issue. I (unfortunately) think that the handicappers have not thought this one through.

Leaving a hole open for strategic reasons is a staple of our racing. If someone leaves from the ten post, is 8-5 and grabs a four hole in front of Mark MacDonald, that is not an advantage to the other horses - it is an advantage to Mark - because he suddenly gets second over behind the chalk. Taking that away not only disallows drivers to think and get the job done, it also prohibits …

We Need Change - and Fast

Thanks to the Harness Edge, they have linked to an editorial in the Montreal Gazette entitled "Horseracing Rides off Into the Sunset"

It is maddening the government had to lose so much money before seeing the light.

To see Quebec's harness-racing industry become a financial disaster brings both relief and exasperation.

Relief because the industry had hitched its fortunes to building racetracks in conjunction with video-lottery terminals, devices that have already wrecked countless lives. That the industry's VLT revenues are far below projections means the machines are sucking fewer people dry.

But even more irritating is that this was so predictable. Harness-racing here is as out of step with the times as is dancing the Charleston.

It does continue, but you get the drift.

At the Standardbred Wagering Conference several ideas were batted about. Most seemed to think they were worth 'looking into'. I think the 'looking into' phrase should be replaced by 'l…

It's Elitlopp Time!

Forget this North American racing, it's time to head to Sweden for one of the most interesting and watched events in the World of racing - the Elitlopp.

This weekend some of the best trotters assembled will be knocking heads at Solvalla racetrack in Sweden. I believe HPITV will be covering it Sunday morning. I always wished I had a decent trotter - ok, who wouldn't - as I think it would be a huge thrill to make this trip. Two people that are lucky enough are Luc Ouellette and Peter Klienhans. They are teaming up to try and get Enough Talk the trophy.

Peter is blogging from there, exculsively for harnessracing.com.

"No matter what happens in the race, however, I am already certain that I made the right decision in accepting the invitation to compete. What a beautiful country Sweden is: clean, calm, and low stress. The people here have given Enough Talk, his groom Jen Durden, and myself a royal welcome- literally. In addition to paying for the horse's shipping and for o…

Handicapping - Can You Be a Pro?

There is a very, very good article up, "Lunch with Mike Maloney" at the Louisville Courier Journal, that explores the mind of a guy who plays the ponies for a living.

It is a very tough game - prices are high, this is not 4% rake poker - and boy do you have to work at it.

A lot of that is pressure and just the grind of being there. And it's very labor-intensive work. I work 80 or 85 hours a week when I'm playing seriously. If I don't work those hours, I'm not successful. It's that tenuous for me: If I don't do it at a certain level of effort, then I can't be successful.

And there ain't many out there doing that, that's for sure.

Mike is the rare person who makes a living by playing the horses. :Rare is a good word for it, " he told us over lunch at Ginza Japanese Steakhouse. "The number I hear floating around is a couple hundred of us in the country."

Mike shares more thoughts, many of which we have gone over before in the handic…

Big Brown Horses - of Two Breeds

The NA Cup Road

Thanks to Gregger for another good report yesterday. I guess we could have waited until today, though. Last night at the M the NJSS was contested, with many NA Cup eligibles in action. Standouts? Maybe not, but some decent miles, like Genuwine's, and some clunkers that might say that a couple are not ready for prime-time.

At Mohawk, the Somebeachsomewhereless OSS elims were contested. NA Cup winter book favorite (one of them) Keystone Horatio defeated Deuce Seelster in 51 and change. He was somewhat on one line, but he did not look lame to me, more of an equipment thing. Since John Kopas knows what a snaffle bit is and I have not the foggiest, I am sure that he will rectify that. Regardless, 51 over Deuce makes this big brown horse one to be watched.

Big Win for Big Brown

Thoroughbred racing sure knows how to ratchet up the excitement. Big Brown is hyped a pile, and delivers. Was there anyone - and I mean anyone - who watched yesterday that will not tune in for the Bel…

NA Cup Update

From Greg, another sharp report.

It’s been a busy week in the news department for many of the top three-year old colt and gelding pacers as the North America Cup draws ever closer.



Pull The Pocket’s (and everyone else’s) #1 rated three-year old, Somebeachsomewhere, had to be scratched from his scheduled debut on Saturday in the first Ontario Sires Stakes Gold Series event of the year due to a foot injury. It doesn’t appear to be a major injury and Somebeachsomewhere will make his debut instead in the Burlington on May 31.



That’s also where Dali will begin his season, as the #2 horse on our board took the week off after qualifying impressively at Mohawk the last two weeks.



#3 rated Santanna Blue Chip was very good in qualifying action on Friday morning at Mohawk as he won by eight lengths in 1:53.2. He is also being pointed to the Burlington in two week’s time.



After our update last week, our #4 rated contender, Sand Shooter, made his pari-mutuel debut at The Meadows in the first Pennsylv…

Sad Stories on HBO & Advertising

It is certainly not something I'd like to promote, nor encourage watching, but unfortunately it is a reality. Cangamble makes note on his blog, and it has been grabbing headlines - it is the HBO expose on the practice of racehorses being slaughtered. He provides an opinion and offers people the chance to view some of the show via youtube bubbles.

I can't watch it. So you'll get no notes on what you may see if you choose to. But we're adults, so do as you wish.

I remember one afternoon a couple of years ago I was working and then flipped onto the Harness Edge to check the news. The news just out was that three horses - all standardbreds, two of whom I remember betting on - were on their way to the meat man. And they wanted to save them. They were asking for help. The story they told would break anyone's heart. These were young horses who slipped through the cracks. A couple, if I remember correctly, were skin and bones. It took about 30 seconds for me to grab the phon…

Unfortunate News on Somebeachsomewhere

The Harness Edge is reporting that the colt, scheduled to make his debut this weekend at Mohawk has been scratched due to a bruise he received in the paddock.

Although this is probably (touch wood) not serious, it does show the vagaries of the game. No matter how much you plan, or how good a horseman you are dotting i's and crossing t's we are still dealing with living breathing horses. This can happen to any horse, at any time. It has happened several times to some of ours, and we are a small stable. I would suspect it has happened thousands of times in our game.

On the blog I went through the web log recently. I was amazed at how many hits we got from the search string "somebeachsomewhere". Some of them were: somebeach first start, where can I see somebeach, somebeach north america cup, somebeach great horse, somebeach at mohawk, somebeach qualifier.

People are stoked to see this horse. Let's hope that this is just a minor ailment and he can be back as scheduled …

Infighting, the Bizarre...... and Some Nice Stuff.

“The racing industry has a habit of setting fire to its hair and trying to put it out with a hammer,” said Ed Martin, president of the Association of Racing Commissioners International.

“We are dysfunctional,” said Nick Coukos, executive director of the Ontario Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and secretary/treasurer of the National HBPA. “We have been for a long time and probably will continue to be. For whatever reason, we can’t get our act together.”

“My experience in 20 years is the worst enemy of the pari-mutuel industry is the pari-mutuel industry,” said Florida Sen. Steven Geller, who suggested the legislature could give the industry a $100-million tax break, and its factions would do nothing but fight over how to split the money.

Those are some comments from a recent bloodhorse story about racing. These are not my quotes, they are from industry insiders. Never is this more apparent than right now in the US, with the fight over ADW revenue.

In the real business worl…

Kenny Mayne, Too Hot for TV?

Well I sure hope the demographics department at ESPN didn't come up with a blunder by scaling back analyst Kenny Mayne's airtime.

Yes we know that racing is watched by over 55's, yes we know we are not a "young person's sport" (well we tend to be with betfair, but that is a whole other story), but sheesh, can we not recognize talent in a broadcast that can help us grow?

How much of your work with ESPN revolves around horse racing?
"It's changed over time. It used to be none, and then it became a lot, and now it's back to very little. Not because I don't want to; it just kind of turned out that way with the new contract I have. I'm only going to be at the Triple Crown races, the Breeders' Cup and maybe one or two prep races. ... It was kind of funny -- for better or worse, they decided that when it came time for the really big ones -- the Belmont, the Breeders' Cup -- that I was a little too wild for the general audience. I can under…

They Shoot & Score, Eight Belles & a New Look

Some news, notes and opinion for Tuesday.

I see Andrew Cohen at his blog placed a link to the "Only in Racing" piece. It has some good comments, and was fun to read. I think many of us feel the same way. We simply do many things that do not make sense in this business. Andrew has been a big proponent, like many watchers, of a commissioner. Could you imagine what the PGA Tour would look like if golf had different rules for each tournament? Could you imagine what the NFL would look like without Pete Rozelle in the 1970's? This seems like such a basic thing, yet when it is mentioned it is met with laughter. When the powers that be think fans are nuts to even suggest it, as getting it passed in such a fractured industry is impossible, we are in trouble.

Harnessracingblog.com did an only in racing piece as well, asking for some reader feedback. They said I was "ranting". It is not ranting at all. I just care about the business and want to see many of these issues clea…

Only in Racing

I got to catching up on a bit of reading tonight. We have spoken and discussed many times that racing is one bizarre business. Being fortunate enough to be able to work with many companies in many businesses in a consulting role, I can't help but be amazed at the disconnect in our sport with virtually every business known to man.

So, thinking out loud, here goes some Monday thoughts on the bizarre and crazy in this industry:

We go on strike for more racedates at places where no one watches us race.

In 2007 we made it a felony to bet a race over the Internet from Arizona.

We have home market areas that are 10 hour drives from a racetrack.

We expect customers to open seven different betting accounts to play our sport.

We get a report from a respected University telling us that an ideal takeout rate to maximize our revenue is 7%, but charge 20%.

We charge people for racing data and past performances. Like McDonald's charging $2 to look at their menu.

We can't decide if racetrack is o…

Spring at the Hawk

Saturday nights at Mohawk in Campbellville look like the place to be. I took in the races last night and was struck by the number of bodies at the track.

Mohawk is the anti-woodbine.

I usually go about five or six times live in the summer. If the stable is lucky enough to have one to race at the A track it is something that has to be done, because I have a good time there. This first trip of 2008 was nice. We sat at the tables that overlook the finish line. The service was excellent. Sitting beside us was Western Fair race secretary Ian Fleming (he had a horse racing; he raced well, so congrats) and he was pretty amazed at how many people were there, and what WEG has done with the Hawk.

There are a few tracks in Ontario which really get the juices flowing for live racing, and Mohawk is one of them. We are huge proponents of internet wagering as noticed by many, many posts, simply because it is the future and it is where our biggest bettors toil with their craft. However, the live experie…

It's a Long, Long Road

With the stakes season upon us the hype, excitement and dreams of owners and fans is at a fever pitch. The headlines of 3yo's qualifying seems to point to some good talent out there, so it is not unexpected.

But it is time to step back. These are qualifiers or first starts, nothing more.

When I started university I got placed in a mandatory calculus class. The class was a weeder class to trim enrollment in the business program and the old cliche surfaced. "Look to your left, and look to your right. One of you will not be here in six months." Unfortunately, history has shown that this is the same in harness racing. It is a tough sport now, and extremely tough on horses. The speed they have to go is mind-boggling. They have to dodge sickness, they have to dodge allergies, they have to dodge lameness. When Cam Fella, a horse I grew up on won 28 in a row, all with tough trips, I thought that is what harness racing was about and what it always would be. It clearly is not.

When …

North America Cup Friday

Our weekly look at the NA Cup contenders. As stated earlier some interesting things are happening. I have updated the list on the right with an odds line. Next week it will shape up further I think, as many potential starters show what they can do in race conditions.

Here is Mr. R's update on the top five this week.

The Road To The NA Cup: May 9 Edition

Another busy week on the way to the Pepsi North America Cup, so let’s get right down to business. After yesterday’s poor performances by both Duneside Perch and Moon Beam that were mentioned on the blog, we’ll only do a top five this week.

Somebeachsomewhere: The Mach Three colt got a week off after his big 1:51.1 qualifier. His first start will be next Saturday evening at Mohawk in the first Ontario Sires Stakes Gold Series eliminations of 2008.

Dali: Dali made his 2008 debut on Friday at Mohawk with a sparkling 1:52.2 qualifier (with the track rated one second off by the judges). He will probably qualify one more time and then…

North America Cup Website

Kudos to Greg Blanchard and crew with the NA Cup website. It can be accessed here.

Included are notes on contenders, and a really neat feature, video highlights. So far they have On the Brink, Somebeach, Dali, McArdle Park and several others featured in full video reports.

If you are interested in getting prepared for the Cup it's the best place to do it. Well, second best. The best is of course here as we have Reinhart to give us weekly reports at Pull the Pocket :)

His next report is tomorrow. There is quite a bit of action on the Road to the Cup.

Qualifying Action

Some big name Q's today at the M, reported on media sites.

We will have a post up tomorrow, updating the North America Cup eligibles, and we will update the odds lines, but a couple of quick notes, that were, for me, shocking.

Duneside Perch who was bought last year for $700,000 had a poor debut. So did former stablemate Moon Beam, who is also close to tops on our list.

That's about $1.5M worth of horseflesh qualifying poorly. That must be tough for the owners to swallow. Let's hope they bounce back.

A few other goods one qualified well. We might have to add them to the list of ones to follow.

When Did We Lose Our Way?

Jeremy Plonk has a more than interesting piece up on ESPN.com about racing, drugs and the reporting of news.

Thoroughbred racing may finally have its Triple Crown winner, but it's not what anyone wanted.

The convicted drug offenders have now swept racing's Holy Grail. First, Steve Asmussen's Curlin captured the 2007 Preakness, followed three weeks later by Todd Pletcher's Rags to Riches in the Belmont Stakes. Had you ran those two races in January of 2007, the classic-winning trainers would have been Scott Blasi and Anthony Sciametta. Why? Asmussen and Pletcher opened the year banned from training as they sat out suspensions for medication violations. And now comes the poster child for questionable-character trainers, Rick Dutrow, with his Kentucky Derby 134-winning Big Brown. Dutrow spent a good chunk of 2006 banned from the racetrack and his own barn, leaving the "official" training duties to assistant Juan Rodriguez.

The inmates officially are running the a…

Somebeachsomewhere....... Wow!

Continuing to catch up on some news here, and I finally got around to watching his qualifier.

Wow.

I have been watching and mesmerized by the stars of racing since I was a kid. Getting the Canadian Sportsman, or Trot was a great day at my house. When we finally got ESPN in the house and I could watch Nihilator battle Dragons Lair in the Breeders Crown, or Cam Fella beat Coal Harbor live, it was a good day. I can honestly say that I have never seen a horse this good in my life.

Here are some comments from a couple industry insiders about this horse (courtesy of chat board harnessdriver.com)

Randy Waples, $70M harness driver:

Without a doubt the most impressive horse ( greatest, phenomenal, outstanding) I've seen since Niatross. Monday morning I felt like a kid at Xmas waiting to see that horse on the track as a three year old..a fellow walked up to me Monday morning and asked me if I would Qualify his horse in the 4th race and I refused because I wanted to see Brents colt qualify

Jeff Gi…

EPO in New Jersey - Ernest Adam

Well I was stoked to place up a post on Somebeachsomewhere today. I will get to it. But first, let's get this bad news nonsense out of the way.

As mentioned William Elliott and Evzen Pindur were nabbed with EPO. Evzen was mostly toiling on the smaller tracks, but Elliott had some wicked stock, including Tigerama and Michelle's Power. In this day and age, when everyone knows EPO/DPO is being looked at hard, I can not believe people would be doing it. It is just so damn stupid.

Then this week, boom. Here we go again. Super-trainer Ernest Adam is nabbed. Six of his horses, including a world record holder test positive. One of the horses, Art Maker is as tough as nails and works as hard as the day is long. He is one of my favourite raceway horses of all time. He did not deserve this.

About a year ago, Ernest was rolling. No one I knew had heard of him. He was winning with shippers like a house on fire. Handicappers commented how his horses never seemed to get tired. It appears handi…

Frailty

There was "absolutely nothing you could do,"

That is a quote from the on-call vet at the Derby yesterday, where filly Eight Belles broke down and had to be euthanized.

I was going to link that picture in the article, but that's too much for me to look at.

We have chatted many times about the capriciousness of racing, and how the highs are high and the lows are low. I think this is no more apparent in this quote:

Jones, who sent out Hard Spun to finish second in last year's Derby, said, "We were high-fiving. We were ecstatic. I thought we had déjà vu with last year. As she galloped around the turn, she was following [winner] Big Brown and her ears were up. I knew she'd be back quick to be unsaddled.

"When I heard a horse had broke down, I thought that maybe it was one of the ones that had run poorly. I saw [jockey Gabriel Saez] on [NBC interviewer] Donna Brothers' horse and I said, 'What's up?' He said, 'Mister Larry, they put her down.&#…