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Showing posts from December, 2008

Two Thousand Seven

I started the blog last December. Near the end of 2007 I wrote this piece about what the future may hold for us in racing. Unfortunately it is a year later. It dawned on me that I could write exactly the same piece today. Nothing has changed. In fact, we are worse off than we ever have in modern racing. I sincerely hope that I do not have to regurgitate this article again 12 months from now. Let's hope not. Let's hope we have hit rock bottom this time.
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December 27,2007 - Rock Bottom

I thought, with the turning of the calendar, I would jot down some thoughts for harness racing in 2008. I'm optimistic. I have entitled it "rock bottom."

Huh? An optimistic piece entitled rock bottom?

Yes.

Flip on an entertainment show and we might see a star du jour speaking of his trials with whatever it may be, and he will say "I had to hit rock bottom before I could change." I think 2008 in harnes…

Pictures Galore

Our thoroughbred friends are having a debate on the Eclipse Award Winning photo that you can see here. A good deal of bloggers do not like it.

Dana at Green But Game has a look at twenty other photos she thinks might be as worthy as this one. Check that out if you are into horse photography; there are some beautiful pictures there, and I agree with Dana that the Casino Drive picture is great.

I am in the minority I guess, but I like the winning picture. I do see everyone's point about one like it winning before.

It got me thinking that I get pictures sent to me from a friend who (along with his daughter) dabbles with photography and loves the horses. Some of their pictures are flat-out amazing. They are often seen at the rail at Mohawk or Flamboro clicking away. Here is a sample from my hard-drive that you might like. You can click them to enlarge.

Here is winter in Southern Ontario, with two fellas with their coats on.



This is an awesome picture of one of their horses who passed on …

Interesting Posts

From two sides of the gambling spectrum. First our old friend Phil made a post about switching some of his play to poker.

On racing:

I have matured as a handicapper and consider myself to be atleast as good if not better than I have been at any point in time.

Yet, as time moves along, I find myself struggling more and more just to stay afloat.

On poker:

I consider myself a mediocre poker player at best. I probably play too many hands and am probably not able to calculate pot odds quick enough to be considered good, yet I can win at that game.

Case in point, as mediocre as I am, I had a convention in Atlantic City three weeks ago. So to kill some time, I took $40 dollars in chips to the poker room to play Hold’em. Over the next three days, I turned that $40 into over $400. Yet, this week while I was off, I used my above average horse playing skills to lose almost everyday. So tonight I decided to ditch the horses and fire up online poker. It was a good decision. In the last 5 hours I have mu…

Damn the Torpedoes

The local horseman association here in Ontario called for a boycott of the box at Woodbine because of the lack of a racing contract. It appears that the sticking point is the fact that Woodbine can use their private property rights to exclude, or put restrictions on trainers and/or owners who they deem are bad for their business.

The horseman's executive seems to have thought this a good idea, but the rank and file have spoken against them. Woodbine received over 90 entries today for the 'supposed' boycotted card. There will be racing on January 1st.

Bettor Does Good

I got an email from a long time blog reader and contributor. He is trying to be a winner at betting and he has been keeping track of his wagers this year. I found it a cool note. Especially the ending:

Thought I'd give you an update on how the horseplaying is going. Over the year I am down but I had a lot of fun. The first half of the year killed me, I was pretty bad and didn't really know what I was doing. So I ended down most of the year. I did cash out a few times but never really finished above $300 (starting with $50). All year maybe on 3 occasions I bet above 700 in a night before losing my $50. That was a goal, because then I'd get about $40 back in a rebate via Premier Turf Club. Most times I would lose the 50 before that. I made a ton of action bets, which killed me and over all discipline was and still is pretty bad..... It has to be the most important factor, IMO.

Kept reading your blog for tips and followed the links you provided. I was reading a thread on Pacea…

Counting Down the Top Ten

I got an email from our friends at Harnesslink last night to alert me to a new harness racing blogger on their network. He is currently counting down the top ten harness races from 2008. Pop over and say hi, if you are interested. We harness folks have to stick together; there are so few of us left.

The Word From the Fans

I went to Woodbine tonight for the races, which were cancelled due to unsafe track conditions. The strike talk that the horseman association is trying to drum up support for was not exactly a hit with the fans. From my very limited sample tonight:

"Are they nuts?"

"Do they know there is a recession out there?"

"We should call our MPP's and demand that slot money does not go to you people any longer because you are all crazy"

So far, New Coke was considered a big hit compared to this.

Fight Club

The economy is in shambles. Auto bailouts, CEO's coming with cap in hand looking for cash from citizens. Consumer confidence low. A general malaise and a very big public chip on a shoulder for businesses who can not make it on their own.

With that, the local horseman association in Ontario, has voted to boycott the entry box because they are without a contract for 2009.

Most things like this are political in nature and this one looks about that way to my untrained eye. One must wonder, with racing handles crumbling, governments running 2009 deficits, with everyone belt tightening, who is running this show?

Usually when these fights occur there is about a 50/50 for and against factions on various chat boards. For this fight I would say it is more like 10/90 for and against. It appears, at least anecdotally, that rank and file horsepeople and horse owners think this is a bad time to be doing this and we should be very thankful that we have subsidized purses to race for in 2009.

Harness Herb Goes Christmas

Harness Herb contacted us. He was gracious enough to send this note, along with a video Christmas message. Along with Herb, may I wish you all a happy holiday season, in whichever way you are celebrating, and a great new year.

Message from Harness Herb:

Pull the Pocket Dweebs,

It has been a good year on the blog, made much better by the presence of me. As you know, my immensely popular Top Ten List is suspended as I train for the upcoming season in cycling, but I thought I would wish you all a merry holiday.

As a special treat to you losers, I figured I would call in a few favors for a video that I choreographed myself. I contacted a few folks who love and respect me, like most of you do. Trainer of Deweycheatumnhowe Ray Schnittker is a personal friend. He said "yes." Paul MacDonnell is a personal friend who contacts me for driving tips and thanks me as the sole reason that Somebeachsomewhere kicked butt this year. He said "sure Herb." For a dash of star power I went …

New Harness Racing Commissioner - Santa!

I change my vote for harness racing commissioner from time to time. I started with Jason Bourne. I ditched that after Matt Damon started giving political interviews. Then I switched to Fusion Man. But I checked the news today. I think I want Santa, despite him being pretty much a one hit wonder.

I am watching him on NORAD. His speed is being tracked at 100X the speed of the Tokyo bullet train. He is efficient. He is moving from home to home with laser-like precision. He is exactly what Harness needs. Check this out.



I think I want the big fat red dude as harness commissioner. Infighting would be a thing of the past.

Beach Named Nova Scotia Newsmaker of the Year

Somebeachsomewhere is starting to get some accolades. He was named Newsmaker of the Year in the province of Nova Scotia.

For our American friends who might not know, Nova Scotia is a gorgeous province with a population of around 1M people. Near Truro, where Beach was from, you can get a nice slice of East coast Canadiana, and if you head south you can get a big city feel in Halifax. To be newsmaker of the year in this province is not a small thing. The connections should be proud of this honour, and so should harness racing.

Christmas Eve Cards; and Monday Handles

Unless I am mistaken, it appears that tomorrow there is one track racing - Monticello. What an opportunity for an "A" track if they held a noon card. There is nothing else to bet. I just checked and WalMart is open 24 hours, so are some department stores here in the big smoke. No excuse for a racetrack not to have a big December 24th card.

Woodbine handle for Monday (during the 7/8th's racing experiment) was up to around $1.5M. It was a very slow day. Philly Park was cancelled and so was Penn National. No Mountaineer. All they had to compete with was Northfield and Flamboro (maybe one other small track). I wonder what handles would be tomorrow if Woodbine was the only big track going - thoroughbred or harness. Would we see $2.5 million if they really promoted it, maybe with a Fat Quaddie?

Horse Betting is Number One!

There is a fair bit of gloom and doom out there. Out of the $700 or $800 billion dollar skill-game market (poker, sports betting etc), horse racing sits at around $15B of it. But reading the Betfair annual report I came across this gem:

Betfair is the only online bookmaker which has racing as its Number One product: most others rank football, tennis, golf and cricket above it.

I know we are not them; I know our business thinks cheaper takeout is something they get at Dominos on two for one Sunday's, I know we are run by the same business model that was used when people listened to Dion and the Belmonts on the radio while driving to Belmont. But heck, is that not really encouraging? A company that is new, that is 2.0, that offers players 24 hour a day world wide racing, at as low as 4% takeouts in a neat way actually wants to offer racing and calls it their number one sport.

No slots, no sports betting, no asking for a handout from government, no ADW fights, no horseman fights. Just…

Mobile Betting Ready to Explode?

``We now have a 0.2 second delay for a decision in poker, which is pretty much the same speed as online. Four years ago that delay was 16 seconds, which meant a hand of poker could take as long as 20 minutes. Obviously no one wanted to play at those speeds.''

American gamblers are unlikely to see any of these innovations soon. The largest mobile gaming software companies refuse to touch American clients because of questions about the legality of these services in the U.S., and it is likely that U.S. phone companies would swiftly block any gambling sites.

Horse racing has a monopoly on online gaming in the US. Do you think they will roll hard and aggressively invest in this to snatch this willing market? No, I don't either.

More via Bloomberg

Ho Ho Hamilton

Mike Hamilton, Woodbine's on-air handicapper and other assorted things, has a Christmas list at the Woodbine blog... er column site. He pulls no punches. It is a good piece as he touches on myriad issues in the game.

A few here.

On "one racing customer": Acknowledgment within the industry that not all racetracks are in the same business.... [there are] two very different segments of society and a one-size-fits-all national marketing initiative just won’t work.

On a new way to deliver products: If the pari-mutuel model isn’t broken, it’s certainly on its last legs.

On data: Data from a number of different sources should be available through one co-operatively run web site.

On takeout: Reduced take-out for at least one pool per card.

On rules: Uniform racing rules and penalties at all North American tracks. It doesn’t matter which hockey, baseball or basketball game you’re watching, the rules, penalties and quality of the officiating is the same.

Nice piece by Mike that is w…

A Radical Post Position Policy Change

Dean Hoffman wrote in this months Trot Magazine that we need to think outside the box with post positions. Some of his ideas are extremely radical. Radical is good, because our sport has hit the skids. Ray on Paceadvantage.com has given us post position stats for 2008.

Flamboro Downs Post One: 46% more than expected winners

Buffalo Raceway Post One: 41% more than expected winners

Yonkers Post One: 41% more than expected winners

On half mile tracks are we a racing game with nine possible results or are we a coin flip?

This is a speed game. Horses can go like the wind and stagger the last bit and win. Further, lower class horses are more prone to this, and tracks like Flamboro with many $4500 claimers exacerbate the numbers. Draw the rail, you win (522 winners out of 2276 post ones). Single file racing, in post position order is (in many races) assured.

In addition, this is terrible for horse owners. At some B tracks it is tough to get in more than three times a month. With vet bills and infl…

Sun on a Saturday

For those of us in the Northeast, the winter has been tumultuous. Last night a pile of tracks were closed, including Woodbine and the Meadowlands. I did a couple things yesterday. I took the day off. I think I worked for about 20 minutes. I helped push a car up a hill, for my good deed for the day. And I played like 11 hours of racing.

All in all a good day.

Well the sun is shining today, and we won't see cancellations I would think. It is pretty cold and I am sure I saw two polar bears fighting over KFC scraps left in one of the city garbage cans on my street; but it should be fine for racing. A few things that I found interesting today.

Our pal Dana had a follow up post regarding marketing the sports lookers. She used the word bikini in the piece's title. That is a sharp cookie. Scouring around the chat boards, Rootintootin posted a link to a Chantal Sutherland interview that I had not seen. She is truly into marketing herself. Good for her.

Happy Hoot, one of my favourite horse…

New Ad Company Chosen for ADW Commercials?

I got a message today, it said "Pull, I am hearing some rumblings of a new racetrack/ADW ad campaign" and they sent me a link of a skeleton commercial. Could we expect to see Dave Willmot of Woodbine, Chris Roberts of Georgian, Jack Liebau of Youbet and other heavy hitters in this commercial in these roles? Gosh, let's hope so.

It is Like We Live in the 1800's

Old time racing should love this article to change the Interstate Horse Racing Act. In essence, it states the mantra that the producers of the product should get upwards of 90% of the revenue. The resellers should get a few scraps. In effect they want two things: 1) Reverse the rules of 500 years of capitalism and 2) Do the opposite of what successful gambling businesses do.

But I guarantee racing will love this. It gives them more money, in a pot they think is static, like we are an electrical utility.

This of course will not result in more money. Handles would more than likely be off 40% or so if we took money away from the sellers. When these folks learn that handle is not constant it will be a fine, fine day.

There are virtually dozens of things in this article that make little sense in the gambling economy, or frankly in any economy. A few parallels?

* A songwriter gets about 10% and has to pay a packaging fee for a song. They get about 7% of sales.

* An author writes a book and gets …

Aranesp - Ten Years and $40k

The EPO drug has reared its ugly head again.

Investigators had received information that a number of prescriptions were being written for the drug Aranesp®, and were being filled at a Windsor area pharmacy. Darbepoetin-alfa is a brand name form of darbepoetin-alfa.

As a result of the information, out-of-competition testing was conducted on horses trained by Daniel McFadden. The tests confirmed the presence of erythropeietin/ darbepoetin-alfa in blood samples taken from two horses at the relevant time. Scott McFadden is the owner of the horses.

This is tough stuff, but we have to commend the investigators for this. In racing, like in cycling, it is virtually impossible to catch EPO/DPO in systems, because of timing issues. It is like finding a needle in a haystack.

Checking the horses in question racelines, they are interesting. Who knows if this story is 100% as reported (horseman and owners have appeals to take care of this, and we have not heard about an appeal yet), but here is the sc…

A Couple of Things I Found Interesting....

.... but then again I am bored, so maybe they ain't. No one is at work, so I am not at work. I love the holiday season.

Anyhoo:

I found this hilarious: "GreenbutGame (I can't find it now but her site is great anyway) had a post a while back where she commented on how she receives multiple Google search hits a day from people looking for 'naked pictures of Chantal Sutherland.'"

I am combing through this month's Trot mag. It is the Holiday issue, and in it there are scores of horsepeople wishing everyone a happy one. I read virtually all of the best wishes ads. One of them caught my eye. In a game that is unwilling to change we rarely see anything from the grassroots about changing it. One ad said this: "My thought for 2009: We can not adopt the way of racing that was satisfactory twenty years ago. The world in which we live in has changed and we must change with it." I said, wow, what a nice thought.... who is this guy? When I check the name I find…

Happy Holidays...... Kinda

From this months Trot Magazine I found this comment from one of the sports leading drivers interesting.

"Everyone is happy for each other at Christmas - we take the time to shake each others hands and we all try to get along. But it's the only time you see that in the driver's room! It seems like it's the only time of the year there is harmony in there."
Randy Waples

I wonder about that. Jocks and drivers both are hyper-competitive; and let's face it, they must have thousands of things to yell at each other about, considering they are driving or riding 1000 pound animals for money. But we hear very little of it. It is not exactly NASCAR where public disputes over accidents hit a fever pitch.

Lack of media attention? A better public face put on by our participants? I don't know, but it strikes me as odd we do not hear more about disagreements than we do.

Time to Capitalize on Slots is Shrinking

Purses are down.

Slots are down.

Handle is down.

Tracks are closing.

The time to grow using this subsidy is growing smaller and smaller. A couple of days ago, Bob McCown of Sports radio FAN 590 in Toronto let racing have it. It was with regards to Fort Erie closing. According to a good poster on a chat board:

Bob McCown of Prime Time Sports devoted the first 15 minutes of his show tonight on the Fan 590 to this subject. He basically said let horse racing die, it has been dead for a long time. It was a powerful condemnation of the government continuing to prop up horse racing via racinos/slots.

Further, John Swetye, long time horseplayer and VP of the Horseplayers Association had a very good piece on slots, and what they have done to handles.

Thalheimer and Ali present an ominous scenario in their paper entitled, "Pari-Mutuel Horse Race Wagering -- Competition from Within and Outside the Industry" (The paper can be found in "Handbook of Sports and Lottery Markets" by Hausc…

Sex to Sell

In our post below on Idealism we spoke about branching out by selling the game in myriad ways, one of which was selling good looking riders, drivers and so on. Well Harness Racing Australia seems to be on that as we speak. In a new ad campaign "Harness Racing Turns Up Sex Appeal", several spots push the envelope.

One of the ads already has gotten some free buzz on the cover of a newspaper sports section and the creators make no apologies. "This is just a taste of things to come," they say.

h/t to Standardbred Canada.

Indisputable

Anyone watch the Steelers-Ravens game on Sunday? I did. If you did not, the game came down to a 3rd down inside the 15, with the Steelers driving. Steelers QB Ben Roeth-icantspelltherestofhisname dropped back and hit the receiver at the goal line. The call? Down on the two inch line. Immediate review.

The booth seemed to stumble with it. The commentators did not know which way the call should go. It looked close. Was he in? Was he out? No one could tell. But then, after some time the referee called a touchdown.

This call received a good deal of press. Most onlookers, including Chris Collinsworth of NBC brought it back to basics: "Replay was put in so that if the call is indisputable, it can be overturned. If you have to watch it over and over again, that means it is not clear and the play should stand."

I could not agree more.

Of course, we now have to parallel this to horse racing. Am I the only one annoyed when a judge rewinds the tape 246 times looking for a foul? Seriously, …

Oval of Dreams

..... We roll into a parking lot bustling with activity, while local college students brave the westerly wind, tailgating behind their well cared-for Honda Civics.

..... A local high school marching band runs onto the track

..... ‘The Betting Team,’ 20 young women dressed in driving colours, stand at attention. Following the final note, into the crowd they go, automated wagering devices in hand. “Would you like to make a bet on the first race ma’am?” one says kindly to my wife. “Have you been to the races before?” My wife smiles and nods

..... “The fractions are way too fast, this horse is done,” I blurt out to my wife. I pull out my Blackberry to monitor the in-race betting lines. “We can buy the post-time favourite at 6-to-1,” I say, plunging $20 to win and pressing “confirm.”

Twilight Zone? Another planet? Maybe a bit of both, because the author is describing the day after Christmas at a racetrack; one which does not exist, but sure sounds nice if it ever could. To read the excellent …

Can I Get a Fat Quaddie Please?

I want a fat quaddie.

We were speaking below about how we have seemingly marketed everything over the years, except the betting element. As we see from handle figures this has not been a rousing success - yearly per capita handle on horse racing probably resides somewhere near what the average Canadian spends on Vanilla Ice cd's. It has recently been released that Woodbine harness is looking at moving the start-finish line, the photo finish camera and the press box to accommodate a new track configuration. It is speculated that since Woodbine's track is biased to speed, this will help make the product better.

Price tag: $1,300,000.

Although I admire them trying, I believe there are better places to spend a buck. I am not even close to sold that the track configuration is the reason we see less movement. Despite the novelty element, I do not think it will make much of a difference for our long-term growth, and I think that even if a bit more movement is the result, it will not ra…

Target Poker Players

As we spoke about below (Marketing what you are, not what you are not), I am a big believer in using marketing to target gamblers. One group I would like to see us aggressively go after are poker players. They like 'games' and if they were not paying poker they would be sports betting, or playing backgammon for cash like in the basements of New York City.

Craig at Trackmaster gives us a look at some of the similarities of the game in his last post: "Hold’em Your Horses: Using Poker Concepts at the Track"

Comment on the Admiral

Jen wrote below:

"The return of the grey gladiator sparked nothing but controversy on Woodbine's website and Standardbred Canada.

What is the opinion here, I can't really gauge if you agree that this horse should have been brought back.

Sure he won, so now the owners can pay for whatever it is they needed to pay for (heat? groceries?), but this horse had a giant going-away party at Woodbine years ago, a scam put on by the owners.

I don't agree with giving them press again."

Since they have owned and been with the horse since he was three, I have little problem that they brought him back. He will make $70,000+ in limited starts this year. And he appears to love to do his work. I do not question their motivation. If they put him in a claimer I would feel differently of course. But he'll have a nice home for life with those people.

Here is a story on him from a couple of years ago. He looks like he wants no part of retirement.



Nice story on another tough horse - Dewych…

202-1

You don't see this every day.

7 Double Up 7/6Q 8°/6T 4/2Q 1/NS 1:59.1 29.3 202.25 Jay Randall

7 Double Up 406.50 40.40 11.00
4 Suddenly In Charge 3.10 3.70
5 On That Note 3.40
Wager Type Numbers/Payouts
Exacta (7-4 $404.50)
Trifecta (7-4-5 $2,840.00)

h/t to showbet

What Allan Wants from Santa Harness Racing

Frequent contributor Allan wrote a comment to our last post immediately below. It was long. We tend to post long comments here :)

What I Want for Christmas - The Harness List

1 - Shorter seasonal meets. Nothing was better than when Roosevelt Raceway was around. You raced three months at Yonkers then moved to Roosevelt and then back. You had some excitement and you didn't get bored. Opening day meant something. Meadowlands - Starts January 2 and finishes eight months later. Fatigue sets in. Yes, less time to race for the horsemen but guess what? Those that race at racinos they have super purses and the horses get rest.

2 - Meaningful circuits. Similar to above but set up regional circuits cross state lines (yes, a Yankee)so no more than one or two harness or T-bred tracks race at a single time. Doesn't mean you can't have a track start at noon; a track start at 4 and one start at 8 within the circuit.

3 - Reduce post times. For the few of us that go to the track, is there a rea…

All Hail the Admiral!

I love war horses. The horses who are throwback to a different time. It is no secret that Admirals Express is one of those horses. He is soon to be 13 years old. He's raced 317 times and has 82 wins. He's made $2.2 million. He set the Woodbine track record about four years ago, at age 8 or 9.

He has been slowing down some, finally. I was not sure he could get it done at the 'A' track any longer. But counting out this guy is not a smart thing to do. Tonight he won at the big track again, in 152.2, in a $21,000 conditioned race, against horses more than half his age.

Standardbreds are a cool breed. Not only do they want to work for you, they are tough as nails. Recently with the breed getting faster and faster (if you compare the leg speed of Somebeachsomewhere versus Admiral Express it is like comparing Usain Bolt to Urkel) we have lost some of that. But it is still there and on display whenever the Grey Gladiator races. We're lucky to be able to watch this horse as …

Brrrr

Entering the season when we will see more and more cancellations due to driver/jock votes, Renee Kierans of Woodbine really lets them have it for the closing day vote:

.... next time the same type of situation comes up, think of the consequences to others before you behave in such a selfish way.

Marketing What You Are, Not What You Are Not

Paul Moran’s article, where he said that we are not NASCAR, or football, or other sports; that we are a gambling game and we should sell it as such, has sparked some chatter. It is kind of fun actually. Since very few are actually speaking of racing, at least someone is.

In Jack Trout’s 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing he outlined rules that have stood the test of time. One of them describes racing perfectly: "Success often leads to arrogance, and arrogance to failure." We had success, and we were arrogant. Unfortunately our success was based on a fallacy. We were a monopoly and people flocked to the track to gamble, not because they were die-hard fans. It was the only place to gamble. If your city mandates that only one restaurant is allowed in town, and it has to serve Iranian food, we would never conclude that the food was good and the population loves Iranian food. But somehow we came to these conclusions with racing. It was a huge mistake.

This was, in my opinion, the catal…

This is Our Market

From Paceadvantage.com:

An elderly man I sat near in a Las Vegas race book every day for over a year. One of the morning regulars. Lost his wife the previous year. He said without racing, he'd have no reason to get out of bed in the morning. I believe he meant it. He loved his "work" and his "office" cronies. Then one day, he stopped showing up, and everybody just knew...

A middle aged guy, at the race book most nights, standing up, hooting and hollering, pounding his fists in the air every race, betting a whopping $2. I wish he'd just shut up but his enthusiasm just cannot be contained. Hey, he just hit a $20 winner. I do my best to suppress a little smile.

A young man, whose previously anti-gambling wife prodded him to get his bets in once he started making serious money, casually makes his $2500 in bets for the day, one $100 bill after the other. I don't handle $2500 in Monopoly money that dispassionately. His extensive betting records are an open book.…

$500,000 Upper Canada Cup

If you head up highway 400 north of Toronto you hit cottage country, where the people who used to be rich own cottages. On the way, you hit Georgian Downs. Pre-slots, it was called Barrie Raceway and purses averaged about $900. Now with one-armed bandits, the purses have exploded. So much so, that it was announced that we have a very lucrative event to be raced for the first time in 2009 - The Upper Canada Cup for three year old pacers. It is to be staged the last week of May.

I recently read a weird article on the CBC website that the Canadian something council wants to look at regulating the Internet to make sure that there is enough Canadian content on it - yes I know that boggles anyone's mind who lives outside Canada, but they do strange stuff like that here. So to make sure I comply with any new regulations and not be shut down by a score of people wearing tweed jackets from Ottawa, here is a link explaining the history of Upper Canada.

Ok, with that out of the way, this race …

4 Harness Trainers Not Using EPO

In a spot of good news on the medication front, four trainers who had horses test positive for EPO this fall at the Red Mile have been cleared.

The Pennsylvania Equine Toxicology and Research Laboratory has confirmed the blood samples taken from horses trained by Jan Johnson, Bob McIntosh, Jim Arledge and Joe Seekman, who were scheduled to race those horses at The Red Mile earlier this Fall, tested negative for EPO and DPO.

Twinkies and Techno-babble

Patrick, who is at the Arizona thing is super-messaging the festivities in real time using "twitter". His buddy (who we hold in high esteem because he took Mr. Thoroughbred player to the Breeders Crown) Alan can't figure out what this twitter nonsense is all about.

I guess for horseplaying, picture this: You have a couple people at the track. One watched the seven warm up and he looked great, another is in the paddock and he says the horse is alert. You have the horse at 5-2 fair odds. He is 5-2 on the board. You revisit it based on that real-time twitter information and you make your odds line 8-5. You bet using Kelly and the horse wins and pays $6.80. Twitter just made you money.

The Racing Post in the UK offers exactly that. Real time short notes from paddock inspectors. It is a neat tool when you think about it, in my opinion. And it is growing year over year.

John Pricci chats about technology and younger racing fans in his last post.

More tech news. Harnesslink speaks …

"No Horses Allowed"

The press has been having a tough go of it of late. Many say they have lost the confidence of the readers, and they have been passed by technology. Yesterday, at a meeting to name Athlete of the Year in Canada "it was announced by the Lou Marsh Committee that only humans be eligible for the award."

35 years after Secretariat was named Athlete of the Year by Sports Illustrated; 28 years after Niatross was named Athlete of the Year by a New York newspaper; it was deemed that in 2008 a horse was not allowed to even have his name put up for a vote.

Somebeachsomewhere brought tens of thousands of fans out to the racetrack. He brought fans from the US out to watch him train, like he did on a morning in Lexington, invoking memories of a long ago time when people met Dan Patch when he walked off a train. He brought an entire part of our nation to its feet, like he did in Nova Scotia. But more importantly, sports is about excellence. It is about someone, or some thing rising up to be t…

Still Waiting for the Magic Word .......

OK, first we had the post below regarding the NYRA dude on where the slots cash was going and no mention of the bettor (I hope you played my quiz!). Now we have a story on Bloodhorse direct from Arizona. This one titled "Is Racing Using Its Slots Money Wisely?"

As hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue from slot machines flows to horse racing, there is growing sentiment that perhaps the racing industry is failing to capitalize on the new wealth by solely pumping money into purses and breed development programs.

I was pumped. I was really excited. I was as excited as (when I was a tot in 1978) when I found out that a new Kiss album was being released; hold it, I was even more excited than that .... Finally: the symposium and our business was going to talk about using slots cash to help the customer!

Nope. They think the any excess cash should go to build barns and stuff.

Damn, the article started out so promising.

I, Pull the Pocket, your humble cub reporter will not be diss…

Plenty Going On

I have some of those webinar thingies all afternoon, but there is some dandy stuff worth chatting about.

The twinkles coming from the racetrack symposium are good. Today, racing with young people. I don't know who Jhamlin is but "I don't buy [the fact that young people need instant gratification] as they sit through 4 hour college football games". Bingo, whoever you are.

Subsidizing a product that no one is buying is a bad business plan? Someone thinks so.

Check out the revenue mix in New York for the new slots. For today's quiz: Find out what percentage goes to the customer.

Much more today to chat about, but alas I have to pay for my massive gambling losses by working. Enjoy the day everyone, and follow along with the tweetering if you are hanging out. That bug is pretty cool.

Race Track Industry Symposium News

In Arizona the RTIP is happening now. Dana over at Greenbutgame is speaking about it this evening, and according to her (and I see it on the side of her site) there is a bug with twitter, tweets, tweekies, twinkies, or whatever you'd like to call them. For the uninitiated, it is simply a collection of short messages - in real time - that people are typing in from the Symposium. It's like a live blog on steroids.

Last year if you remember the theme, and keynote, was based on wagering: getting internet wagering up to speed, easy access to customers, bringing new forms of wagering to fans and so on. It is a year later, and what happened? It has gotten worse. In 2008 this business has shut out wagering for thousands of fans with disputes in Ohio, Florida, California and elsewhere. It is ironic that this symposium is held in Arizona where last year they made it a felony to bet a race over the Internet.

This year the theme is customer service. Oh boy. Great piece from Ed at the Thorou…

Accountability

Dandy Wire to Wire column by CBS legal analyst and horse owner Andrew Cohen on accountability in racing.

On the human side of harness racing, accountability is too often a joke. Or more like an insult.

He goes on to outline several items that he is scratching his head over. Our horses move at fast speeds - the Beach's second quarter in the Meadowlands Pace was about 36 miles an hour - but our sport moves a little more slowly. I am not sure it could beat a turtle carrying a fat man, while dragging a sled of bricks.

Things move fast in the digital world as we spoke about here. The business world is getting it. Companies are moving at laser-like speed to address concerns, sometimes addressing them in minutes like here. I think we might want to get cracking.

Quotes of the Day

The Toronto Star's Dave Perkins, on Somebeach being Athlete of the Year:

"This time, there's a new twist, namely a write-in campaign for the brilliant pacer Somebeachsomewhere. Here's the rub, though: can the Lou Marsh Trophy go to a racehorse? It never has before."

Horseplayer Association of North America, on why racing finds it hard to lower the take:

"Hey, who can blame 'em! If you or I were selling hula hoops in 1950, we were the only seller, and the government mandated that the only exercise the citizenry were allowed to do had to involve a hula hoop, we would have stuck it to hula-hoopers everywhere. Cheaper hula hoops? Not a chance."

Note - Just out. The Lou Marsh Award was given out. No Somebeach, but a valiant effort by all involved, especially Standardbred Canada's Darryl Kaplan.

Missed Chances & A Great Game

Our friend at Gathering the Wind is talking some horse ownership. Yep, it sure is tough. We were recently wondering about when this game suddenly turned into one where we are all supposed to make money. I think I had an epiphany. I think it is not us, it is some of the syndicates that sprung up mostly this decade. I believe that to sell shares some of them have to promise potential investors a good chance to make money. And now that many of them can not, or are having trouble we must look for more money, or higher purses. In speaking to one who does run a syndicate, Woodbine's on-air handicapper Mike Hamilton (blog for the group here), he said he tried to stay realistic with new entrants. As well he prepared them for the vagaries of horse ownership and the simple fact that this is not some sort of big-three-bailout printing press. This is important to do, in my opinion. This is no surprise from a guy like Mike.

I believe that to succeed we need one thing and one thing only - luck.…

A Horse Goes National

In an interesting quest (as mentioned below) Somebeachsomewhere is currently being promoted by racing to be "Male Athlete of the Year" in Canada, to follow Secretariat who earned the nod in 1973. This took a turn today as "The National", the nations nightly newscast is airing a piece on the horse, and on the quest this evening.

I am sure someone from Standardbred Canada will post the piece on youtube, so when it is up, we'll post it here.

To add your name to the petition, no matter where you are from, click the cute Panderosa colt to the right.

"Younger can't race against older alert!" as we spoke about below, Chancey Lady, a three year old filly, just beat older Open mares at Chester in a track record 150.3; at 4-5.

Give a Man a Horse; He Will Race It. Unless it is Sick.

Two Sunday notes: 1) Check this out. We have been racing horses for centuries and it shows. It's what we do. These guys are probably racing for 40 bucks and a pitcher of beer.

2) Somebeachsomewhere is sick and scratched from tomorrows Matron at Dover. What a shame. I heard Dover was planning some good things and would have had a great crowd for him.

Note: Do you want to know what those thoroughbred folks are thinking when they watch harness? Well Valerie will tell you :)

Questions

I am reading Crazy Good: The True Story of Dan Patch. Early on I had a chuckle at the passage that relayed a neat fact from the publication of the day: In 1910 out of 50,000 horses, 500 showed a profit for their owners.

My question: In the 2000's when did a switch go off and suddenly we are expected to make money as horse owners? It is all I read about with this ADW nonsense. It makes absolutely no sense to me. I have had horses since I was a kid. I know that this is not a business to make money in. You know that, I know that, we all should know that. It is a hobby business that vets, feed men, trainers, drivers/jockeys and others make money at. We don't and never will. Why within the last few years did this delusion start? When were we all expected to trip over hundred dollar bills on the way to the fridge for a snack? Who started this rumour?

I read the excellent post at HANA today. It compares the postage stamp business in something like 1840 in England. It cleverly shows a …