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Showing posts from June, 2015

Modern Technology Kind of Wrecks Things

I read an interesting column today at Around 2 Turns. It was in regards to the American Pharoah Triple Crown, and the assorted memorabilia of such.

"Ephemera, or at least the hobby of collecting it, is dead or at least seriously unwell. Sure, a dinner menu from the Titanic or a JFK campaign poster still holds some residual value to somebody somewhere. But if Antiques Roadshow is to be believed, the market value of such things has been in steep decline for quite a few years. The pet theory here is that technology – aka, the Internet – has made such things less valuable because digital images of them are so easily obtainable. Why spend money on the real thing, when a perfectly nice digital representation of the thing is just one free click away?"

I think that's so true.

Years ago, well in the 1980's when I was getting into horse racing, I would keep a lot of things. Program pages from races, tickets, souvenirs. I did so like so many others did.

I remember when V…

Shuffling Around the Recipe in Pennsylvania & The Dreaded 'Monetization'

Good day racefans.

Over in good old Pennsylvania there have been a couple of interesting developments.

First, Philly Park Parx is cutting winter dates and sinking money into a fall festival of racing.

"Parx Racing and the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (PTHA) announce the creation of a new, annual $20 Million Parx Racing Fall Festival that will commence on Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015, and continue through Oct. 20, 2015. By doubling purse levels throughout the two month festival, Parx and the PTHA have created a signature racing meet that will attract top horse racing talent in the industry, increase the field size of the races, enhance betting interest, and draw new fans to the racetrack."

What we have noticed empirically, is that when purses go up, it is not strongly correlated to increased handle. Some people inside the sport, and some pure fans, can't seem to get their head around that, but it's not really that much of a paradox. If you serve…

MacAdam on Saratoga: The Modern Enterprise, Old School Game

The Gazette's Mike MacAdam penned an article today about Saratoga Racecourse that should get its fair share of tweets and retweets. He writes what oh so many in the sport would like to say - or more appropriate scream - but don't have a forum to. It's about the monetization (Mike, not wrong in doing so, calls it gouging) of almost everything.

"It’s one thing to look under every pebble in the quest to turn a profit. That’s all that a corporation is about. And it isn’t NYRA president and CEO Chris Kay’s job to win a popularity contest.
But NYRA is playing with fire at Saratoga. People are — what is a “P” word I can use for angry? — perturbed. Perhaps there will come a point when that starts to reveal itself through the kind of metrics Kay prefers, like hotel tax revenue."

You should read the article. If you like the romanticism, the feel, the everything that makes a racetrack a racetrack in a community, I suspect you'll like it.

This is nothing new, quit…

Bill Casner Knocks it Out of the Park

Bill Casner's op/ed today in the TDN regarding federal legislation didn't hit a single, he pretty much blew the cover off the ball. He laid out, with precision, some of the reasons he is for such legislation.

"Without having a central professional organization that is dedicated to creating gold standards for testing with the authority to conduct out-of-competition testing and administer punishment, we will continue to have those trainers who will seek an edge and we will continue our slide into irrelevance. Whether we want to accept it or not, the public views horse racing as drug-infested with impotent testing."

Casner is right, in my view, on several points, including, "The trainer’s mentality is that if it is not on the illegal list and won't test, it is okay to use."

That's right up there with my favorite quote from a trainer I know regarding soda and cobalt: "If a little of something works, a lot of it must really work."

We've se…

Like in Baseball, Racing's Innovation Has Been Good, Except for One Thing

The Los Angeles Dodgers baseball club is going through a cable provider dispute, and this fight has resulted in a television blackout of their games in most of the entire Los Angeles area since last year.

But there's good news. As Mina Kimes writes in her ESPN magazine piece "Stupid Tech Tricks", they are innovating, for the "fans" and "fan engagement":

"On April 14, the team issued a press release. It didn't mention the blackout. Instead the Dodgers announced, in a statement brimming with enough tech jargon to arouse a roomful of MBAs....

"The sports industry is ripe with opportunities for innovation," the release continued. "There are countless ways for new technology to create more powerful consumer experiences, heighten fan engagement ..."

Kimes adds in her piece: "Such as ... finding a way for fans to watch games?"

Last evening I re-read the NTRA report, done way back in 2008, by their online marketing…

Fantasy Sports "Grows Dramatically". Can it Keep Going?

The Fantasy Sports Trade Association announced some new numbers today.

It is estimated that 57 million people in the US and Canada now play fantasy sports. This is up 40% from a similar study last year. All that advertising you see from Draft Kings and FanDuel is clearly working to get people in the door.

One in five play DFS, and overall per capita spending on fantasy sports is $465 per year which is up from $95 per year in 2012 . That translates to around $26.2 billion spent in fees, wagers, pools etc.

The two major Daily Fantasy sports sites are targeting an increase in handle this year to about $2B, from $1B in 2014 (that might be conservative). With an average of somewhere around 8% rake, that generates about $160 million in revenues.

Where can it go from here? Top line revenues will increase, in my view, because the industry is still in a growth phase, and it has significant capital to burn through. What happens next is where it gets really problematic. Lifetime value of a cust…

Racing Can Learn From Fox's US Open Coverage

The critique of Fox's coverage of yesterday's US Open at Chambers Bay reminded me a whole lot of horse racing. From insiders, the laments centered on the lack of information given (what irons were being hit to what greens, what the break is on putts, what the yardages were), and what many thought were commentators not experienced enough to talk about what was happening. The features, like the one about the talking tree, made people ugh.

However, there was some good with that bad. The good happened in two main areas.

First, the use of technology to show the play was lauded. The "protracer", which shows the ball's flight off the tee was used on many holes, and allowed the viewer to see where the ball was headed, was fantastic. The split screen tracer was brilliant - this showed where the ball was headed, in real time, super imposed on diagram of the hole - and any one of us who have played golf on a video game, from Sega Genesis in 1989 to the PS4, knew what we we…

Three Real Game Changers for Horse Racing

Horse racing is always looking for game changers; mainly to bring the sport some great buzz, get on the front pages and get people to watch and attend the sport more. Movies, TV shows, Triple Crown winners, what have you, seem to fit that bill with insiders.

Unfortunately they never seem to work.

The most difficult part of the equation is that bringing people out for X doesn't really pay the bills, because the Y is betting dollars. It's a leap to show people a new coke commercial, and getting them to buy new coke forever. It's a colossal chasm between watching a Triple Crown race, loading up an ADW, buying PP's, understanding them, and betting. Until the sport charges $100 a ticket, or earns piles of revenue from shoe sponsors, or from Victor Espinoza silk sales, betting is where it's at.

Because racing seems to throw up their hands with ways to increase the bet - sometimes we wonder if they even care - here are three game changers that could, or at least have a …

The Body of Work, the Yabuts, The Buzz Dichotomy, and Danzig Moon

Good morning racefans.

I was reading Golf Digest this weekend, and came across an article about Tiger Woods. Woods' legend is pretty well known, but some of his records are not as well known. And some of them are impressive. One of them is consecutive rounds where he "beat the field", i.e. where his round was lower than the average score of the field.

Over an 89 round stretch, Woods' scored better than the field average. It might not mean much to you if you don't know golf, so we'll put it in context. The second place score is 35 rounds. In fact there are a cluster of players from 25-35 rounds rounding out the top 20. Tiger Woods is an outlier. That spread is mind-boggling.

What Tiger Woods has done is separate himself from the field through a body of work. There are the Majors, the tourney wins and all the rest, but these records - like this one - have cemented him as a golfer for the ages. It allows him to be included in the greatest of all time narrative.

"Cuz (S)He Isn't Going to Win" and Friday Notes

Good day racing fans.

California Chrome's connections announced his schedule for the next while, and if all goes well, the races for the rest of his career will be next week at Ascot, the Arlington Million, Jockey Club Gold Cup and Breeders' Cup Classic. That's an ambitious schedule. In fact, his whole career has been ambitious in many ways.

But, some people don't like it. Probably because people think he is not going to win those races.

On the flip side, Frankel was criticized for racing most races at a mile, not tackling the Arc etc. Zenyatta was butchered for not tackling the males almost every month, a la Rachel Alexandra. In many ways, those champs did play it safe.

We - me included - tend to think we know more than we do about a particular horse. We think a horse "can't get 10 furlongs", "can't race on dirt or turf", has "no chance". Ergo, the damn horse's connections should be listening to us. But this is a horse race, …

Yep We're a Skill Game, the 'MSM' & Horse Racing Messaging.

Good day racing fans!

Something to chew on:

"NBA commissioner Adam Silver seems particularly bullish on the potential of real-time data and in-game betting. So does Mark Cuban, who said the league will "charge the casinos for information sources [and] video sources" and cryptically told Bleacher Report's Jared Zwerling that "... as technology gets better, we will invent new things." Wizards owner Ted Leonsis concurred in a recent SI.com interview: "People are now going to start to make wagers in a real-time way. You know, 'I think he's going to make a pass instead of take the shot.' And you'll be able to instantly move money back and forth. So it's better to get in front of it."

So, a league that doesn't depend on gambling, where gambling is not legal, is investing in gambling related software and infrastructure. A sport that depends almost solely on gambling has a tote system that, with late odds changes, might be wors…

Saving Horse Racing? Wrong Question, Wrong Answer

Today in the Atlantic, "Can American Pharoah Save His Troubled Sport?":

"In 1973, the year that Secretariat won the Triple Crown after a twenty-five-year drought, attendance at North American race tracks topped seventy-six million. (By comparison, the combined attendance for American League and National League baseball that year was just over thirty million, a high-water mark for that sport.) Attendance at race tracks has since plummeted to a small fraction of those numbers."

All true, and for various reasons (some the article touches on), no one is ever going to see that again.

"Save" is a word that doesn't fit right in the first place and we really should stop using it. An oldie but a goodie, but apropos for many industry's losing market share, or who have lost market share due to disruption
"What means 'save'?If by save you mean, "what will keep things just as they are?" then the answer is nothing will. It's o…

Belmont Day Musings

Hello folks. I hope the weekend went well for everyone. Here are a few thoughts from Saturday's Belmont.

- American Pharoah won the Triple Crown (in case you missed it) and in my view it was very deserving. Often times cold, hard handicappers disagree on the merits of a colt that could win the Triple - is he worthy. We saw that a little bit last year with non-Chromies battling the Chromies. This year there are very few who are trying to undermine this colt. I had a chat with professional horseplayer (and no dummy) Inside the Pylons about it on the twitter and he makes a good point - that is, horses he raced against didn't fire their gun against him (sans Firing Line in the Derby I suppose). But, that's nitpicking. This dude is a quality animal and I don't know how anyone can think differently. 

- I was summarily impressed with his victory, like most. We can say the fractions were dawdling on a lightning fast strip, that Materiality threw in a clunker, that a few other…

"Marketing", CLV & Trainer Troubles

Good day racing fans.

We've all seen the troubles of harness trainer Bill Robinson. The Hagarsville area trainer was given a 5 year suspension back in 2003, handed his stable over to his son and assistant, and they were both given 10 year suspensions at different times subsequently. It's been, well, interesting.

In HRU today, Perry Lefko looked at the very short-lived Bill Robinson "comeback". Just three months ago he decided to begin training again. And:

"Controversial Canadian-based trainer Bill Robinson has been hit with another positive drug test, less than three months after he returned to racing following a retirement of more two years and a ban at Woodbine Entertainment Group’s tracks for more than 11 years for repeated drug violations."

“I can’t explain where it came from, I can’t explain who gave it,” Robinson said. “We (have done) nothing wrong here. These horses, I’ll just tell you straight up, when I came back they were racing like they came out…

Belmont Odds Lines, Big Days and Quick Quips

Happy Thursday people!

" If you go five deep in all four legs of a 50 cent pick 4, you will on average hit it more than half the time, but you won’t recoup your $312.50 ticket cost because the average payoffs won’t be enough to make you any money"

"Frosted is the only runner with lineage on both the sire and dam side with proven distance ability at the Belmont Stakes distance of a mile and a half"

"Any reporter who knew about the colic and didn’t report it, I’d say dropped the ball and let the game and the players down

"I realize that NYRA is taking some serious flak for capping attendance - they should be squeezing every last dollar out of the event, so people tell me. To them it’s clearly much more than that. They are being driven to create a better customer experience on Belmont Day so fans can come back in non -Triple Crown years."

"Business was good at the drugstore but not that good. Doc needed a supplementary source of income to suppor…

Wednesday Headlines - Ambivalence, Good With the Bad & Short Term Thinking

Today on the twitter, a response to some articles like this from SI's Tim Layden about American Pharoah:
@Pullthepocket Gossipy stuff. Patterns established, though. Hints why there's apparent in-game ambivalence about this TC bid. — Railbird (@railbird) June 3, 2015 I have been trying to get my head around this Triple Crown try and the seeming lack of true buzz, or pull, from the business. I was slowly moving towards the camp that believes the more Triple Crown tries we have, the more we are desensitized to them. But maybe it's simpler than that. Maybe that does explain it. Regardless, there is a real, palpable difference this year, in my opinion.

If I love animals how can I love horse racing?  An answer might take a philosophy degree, or a trip to Dr. Phil. The chasm between racehorses being pets and livestock is something that is hard to digest for almost anyone in this business.

Beyer takes a look at the lack of stamina in the breed. It appears he is on to something, an…

Cub Reporter ® Goes Inside Racing's War Room

I found an excellent email in my inbox this morning from someone I have not heard of for a long while - Cub Reporter. Cub, as he is known to his friends, got his hands on a piece of audio tape. This tape is a long, rather drawn-out meeting of racetrack braintrust, trying to come up with ways to increase horse racing handles. He transcribed a few parts via Wordperfect (yes, Cub still uses that), and told me to not release it to anyone; that it was just for my eyes only. So, I post it for you here.

Exec1: Hi Everyone. It's time for our monthly meeting. Before we start I'd like to introduce [redacted]. He's here to add some new blood. Tell us a little bit about yourself [redacted]

Redacted: Hello and thanks for inviting me. I have little background in horse racing, but I like gambling a lot. I have studied statistics and gambling economics at Wharton, and play all sorts of skill-based gambling games as a hobby and vocation. I hope that maybe I might help you along, giving my …