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Thursday, 22 August 2013

The Fort Erie Pick 5: Best Bet in Ontario?

The Pick 5 is a wager that seems to be growing in popularity. California has it's 14% takeout Player's Pick 5. NYRA, after months, if not years, of pressure from horseplayers, will be introducing a 15% takeout Pick 5 come the start of the Belmont Park autumn meet. Louisiana Downs has a Jackpot Pick 5 that paid one lucky bettor $889,726 a few weeks ago. People like the Pick 5.
     Here in Ontario, we have one track that offers the popular wager, and it's not our beloved Woodbine. Fort Erie Race Track offers a $.20 Pick 5. You get about $3,000 in the pool on Sundays and anywhere from $7,000 to $10,000 on Tuesdays. If no one comes up with all 5, you get an okay little 4/5 payout.
    At least that's how it was until last Tuesday.
    On August 13th, Fort Erie changed the wager a bit. They got rid of the annoying $.20 minimum that has been diluting multi-race wager payouts in Ontario for a while and upped it to $1. Instead of paying to 4/5 if no one could complete the sequence, a 100% carryover (after takeout it's actually a 73.4% carryover after takeout) would be added to the next day's pool. Fort Erie started experimenting with carryover wagers last year when they introduced a $1 Super High 5. This kind of wager doesn't work according to WEG, who discontinued their last carryover wager, the Pick 6, in 2011, despite constant requests from bettors for a Pick 5 or Pick 6 to be added to the wagering menu. Apparently the $.20 guaranteed pool Pick 4 isn't the most satisfying bet on the market.
    But I digress.
    Fort Erie has had three days of this new Pick 5, and the results have proven very positive. On Tuesday, August 13th $4,976 was bet into the pool. A bit lower than a usual Tuesday, but no one hit and $3,672 was added to Sunday's pool. That added money stimulated a bit of new interest, as $4,270 of new money was bet, up from a standard Sunday. No one hit again. Then on August 20th, another one of Fort Erie's very popular Twilight cards, there was a $6,823 carryover. The bettors jumped all over that and bet $43,402 into the pool. That's a terrific pool considering that this is Fort Erie we're talking. Not only that, a few lucky players hit for a payoff of $11,051.80. That should keep them coming back for a while. The win payouts of the 5 that made up the sequence were $14.70, $8.40, $9.80, $15.10, and $6.50. Challenging, but far from impossible.
    While other tracks in Ontario are sticking with $.20 minimums that are doing more harm than good, Fort Erie has taken a positive step forward to create more interest and handle. Although the takeout is a bit too high, that's a problem that's plagued all of Ontario racing. I think it's safe to say that at the moment, the Fort Erie Pick 5 is the best bet in Ontario racing.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Wicked Courage: Quarter Horse racing's newest star?

Quarter Horse racing is an interesting game. Of the 3 major racing breeds, it is probably the least mainstream. Everyone knows about things like the Thoroughbred Triple Crown, even people with zero interest in racing, and there are plenty of people who know about major Harness events such as the Hambletonian and the Little Brown Jug. Quarter Horse racing, however, is only culturally popular in the Southwest. People in places like New York and Kentucky couldn't care less about the All American Futurity or the Bank of America Challenge Championship or any major Quarter Horse events.
      But Quarter Horse racing may have a new star that could potentially draw some attention from Thoroughbred or Harness fans.
      On Saturday afternoon, Wicked Courage won his 8th race in a row, posting the fastest qualifying time for the Grade 1 Rainbow Derby at Ruidoso Downs. He's already won the first leg of the Quarter Horse Derby Triple Crown, the Ruidoso Derby, and looks pretty good going into the second leg.
      Racing fans like to follow horses that keep winning. I don't follow Australian racing at all, but when I heard about some mare named Black Caviar who was undefeated going for her 15th or 16th win, I started staying up to watch her races. Then I noticed that pretty much everyone on Twitter was staying up to watch. The hype was attracting people. Same deal with Frankel. I'm not a huge harness fan, but when horses I like to follow like Foiled Again and Warrawee Needy are racing, I'll tune in, and I'm not the only one like that. Quarter Horse racing has potential to attract some of that hype with Wicked Courage.
     Wicked Courage could make up for what One Dashing Eagle could have been last year. One Dashing Eagle went 6 for 7 in his career, with wins in the Ed Burke Million Futurity, the All American Futurity, and the Golden State Futurity. However, due to minor injury and major breeding value, he was retired before the hype really started to build. Wicked Courage on the other hand is a 3 year old racing against more proven horses, something that Thoroughbred and Harness fans will appreciate. He's a gelding, so we don't have to worry about him being retired to stud anytime soon. This is the formula to create a fan-favorite horse.
      Let's say he wins the Rainbow Derby. He will then proceed to run in an All American Derby trial, and we'll assume he qualifies. He will be racing for a $2.8 million purse, the richest ever Quarter Horse race. He will be going for his 11th consecutive victory at that point. That will create some interest. Someone will say to his friend "Have you heard about that horse at Ruidoso? He's won a bunch of big races, I think I'm gonna watch" or something along those lines. Of course, Ruidoso would have to do some marketing to get the word out, but it wouldn't be too difficult. "The Great Wicked Courage looks for his 11th consecutive win in the Grade 1 All American Derby!" Then toss in a "Watch and wager on (insert ADW name here)" and boom, you've got some publicity for your event. People will watch because let's face it, they don't have anything else to do for about 21 seconds of their life.
     Quarter Horse racing needs a star. A name that people will recognize and be interested in. With luck, Wicked Courage could become that star.

Monday, 10 June 2013

A look at Georgian Downs' opening night

On Saturday night I took a trip up to Georgian Downs in Barrie for the return of live harness racing. I'm not a huge harness fan but I do enjoy it and there's nothing better than a night at the races.
     Georgian is an interesting little track. It's located just off Highway 400, an always busy road, and just outside of Barrie, a pretty good sized city. It opened in 2001 (I think, I don't remember) to replace Barrie Raceway and play host to a slots parlor. Now that slots in Ontario have become completely useless for racing, Georgian has gone from racing ten months a year to four. I think purses are the same as last year, but I can't remember 100% and they may have taken a slight drop. 
     There was a good sized crowd at Georgian. I can't give you an exact attendance figure, but the parking lot was packed and there were a lot of people in the grandstand. I'm sure plenty were in the slots, but there were a lot of race goers. As usual, the facility was clean and the staff was pleasant. It was a great environment for racing.
     How successful was the card handle-wise? It wasn't that great. Bettors put $101,060 through the windows over the 12 race program. Only one race had more that $2,000 in the win pool. The largest pool of the night for any wager was the 7th race Superfecta, $2,599. Now, let's find how much the track got from takeout. It's pretty easy to calculate, every wager at Georgian has a 24.7% takeout except for Triactors, which are 26.7%. Not exactly bettor friendly. $23,677 was bet into Triactor pools, of which $6,321.76 was taken out. The remaining $77,383 wagered had $19,113.60 taken out, equaling $25,435.36 for the track. This doesn't even equal half of the $63,900 given out in purse money. Georgian earned 40% of the purses they paid out in takeout. 
     This is a perfect example of how sad Ontario Harness racing has gotten. Everyone is in a panic about slots, but nothing is being done to grow the 'other' revenue source, handle. I fear that we'll be seeing a few more tracks go the way of Windsor and Woodstock and shut down. If handle doesn't grow, and grow fast, it may be necessary to say goodbye to few more tracks. Georgian Downs could very easily be one of them.

Friday, 31 May 2013

Champions face off at Remington, Grand River takeouts & Penn Mile

Saturday is a big day of racing at Remington Park, it's Heritage Place Futurity day. The Heritage Place Futurity is a Grade 1 race with a purse of $1,075,260. Ten of the best two year olds will line up to compete for the winner's slice of the pie.
     But the Heritage Place Futurity isn't the best race on the card. Not even close.
     The real highlight of the night is the Grade 1, $250,000 Remington Park Invitational Championship. It's essentially a summer version of the Champion on Champions, and the field is fantastic. Two of Quarter Horse racing's greatest are competing.
    Making his first start since November is 2011 All American Futurity and 2012 All American Derby winner Ochoa, the richest Quarter Horse to ever race. He's making his Remington debut after a disappointing 5th place finish in the Texas Classic Derby at Lone Star where he was a bit slow at the break and couldn't rally. Ochoa's main competition is stable-mate Cold Cash 123, 2011 World Champion looking to defend his title in this race. He exits a victory in the Grade 2 Bank of America Oklahoma Challenge Championship. Among their competition is Leo Stakes winner First in Class Dbs and Kool Country Man, who won the Bank of America Texas Challenge Championship at Sam Houston last time. It's a field packed full of talent and worth watching for any racing fan.


     Up here in Ontario, one of our many B-tracks for harness racing, Grand River Raceway, is about to start their meet with some nice takeout reductions. Win/Place/Show is now 16.95%, Exactor is 20.5%, Daily Double and Pick 4 are now 15%. They're also introducing a 15% Super High 5. They're doing what Western Fair has already done, but taking it a step further. This is a great step for Grand River, and hopefully it will be successful. Really, every track in Ontario should be doing this but they aren't. Kudos to Grand River Raceway, good luck to them. I'm not much of a harness player, but I'll play some Win and Doubles at the low rake. The meet starts on Monday, June 3rd. Post time is 7:05 PM.


     Who likes Penn National? I don't. Slots cash fuels huge purses for cheap claimers, but they still soak you 31% for Triactors and 30% for Superfectas. I refuse to play there. But, on Saturday night, Penn will host the inaugural Penn Mile, a $500,000 purse for 3 year olds going on the turf. It's a race that'll show us some future turf starts. It's a very good field, 3 of the 8 are Graded Stakes winners, 2 more are Graded Stakes placed. The favorite is Chad Brown trainee Noble Tune, who sports a 4 for 5 record and exits a win in the  Grade 2 American Turf at Churchill. Be sure to tune in. I'm not going to encourage you to wager, though.

Have a good one, and good luck.
   

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Triple Crowns: Thoroughbred vs. Quarter Horse

Last Saturday we watched our dreams of a 2013 Triple Crown break into little pieces when Kentucky Derby winner Orb finished a very flat fourth in the Preakness at Pimlico. It was a very disappointing race, and while there a million reasons and excuses we can make for Orb's disappointing race, Pull the Pocket stated it best here.
     But although Thoroughbred Triple Crown dreams have died, Quarter Horse Triple Crown season is just beginning.
     In case you didn't know, Quarter Horse racing has it's own Triple Crown. It compromises of the $750,000 Ruidoso Futurity, the $1,000,000 Rainbow Futurity and the $2,600,000 All American Futurity, all at Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico. There is also a Derby Triple Crown composed of three Derbies that go by the same names, but it is less important. 
     Although the task of winning the Triple Crown is the same for both breeds, win all 3 races, getting there is very different.
     As we all know, in order to win the Thoroughbred Triple Crown you must first earn enough points by running in prep races to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. The top 20 points earners make it into the Kentucky Derby starting gate. Then, after winning the Derby, you simply need to win the Preakness and the Belmont.
     Getting into the Quarter Horse Triple Crown is a little different. You first need to compete in a trial race for the Ruidoso Futurity. This year there are 25 trials for the Ruidoso Futurity with 245 horses entered. Each horse is timed individually, and the fastest ten times will make it into the final. After that, you need to compete in the Rainbow Futurity trials, be one of the top ten fastest times and then win the final. Then you need to go through the exact same process for the All American Futurity. So in order to complete the Quarter Horse Triple Crown there are six races you need to compete in. 
     The Thoroughbred Triple Crown is contested at three different tracks and three different distances. The Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs is 1 1/4 miles, the Preakness at Pimlico is 1 3/16th miles, and the Belmont is 1 1/2 miles. While the difference between the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness is minimal and not very important, the 12 furlongs in the Belmont is difficult and not very many horses are meant to go that far. The Quarter Horse Triple Crown is a bit easier in this respect. All three races are held at the same track so the stress of shipping from track to track isn't a factor. Each race is a different distance, the Ruidoso Futurity is 350 yards, the Rainbow Futurity is 400 yards and the All American Futurity is 440 yards. Most good Quarter Horses will be able to do all of these distances, while a good Thoroughbred is more likely to have trouble making the distances of the Triple Crown races. 
     Trip is a major factor in the Thoroughbred Triple Crown, especially with the big fields. You can get hung too wide around the turns and lose ground, get stuck in traffic with nowhere to go, or any number of little problems that can make or break a race. Trip isn't as big a deal in Quarter Horse racing. The big factor in the Quarter Horse races is the break. Races are made at the break. If your horse stumbles and the break or gets a hard bump, the race is probably over for you. It's an ever bigger factor with a group of inexperienced two year olds who are more likely to be fractious and cause havoc. 
     So which series is more difficult to complete? It's arguable but interesting. If you're interested in following the Quarter Horse Triple Crown, the Ruidoso Futurity trials are on Friday. Post time is 12:00 Eastern, 10:00 Mountain, and you can watch at qracingvideo.com.
     Have a good one, and good luck.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Simple mistakes that keep getting made

Any of you who follow my twitter have probably seen me complain about stupid little things that tracks do. The kind of things that make no sense, hurt the product and are incredibly easy to solve, but they just keep happening. These are things that tracks are in complete control of. It's not like takeout, where they have to negotiate with horsemen to change things. No, these are the kind of things that they are 100% in control of, and it's frustrating to me.
     I noticed two of these little things within five minutes of each other, and that's probably why I'm so focused on it right now.
     I was checking my email and I had gotten notifications from Equibase with overnights for Friday cards at Assiniboia and Woodbine. I pulled up the Assiniboia overnight and after a quick look shook my head.
     Assiniboia's signature wager is their 15% takeout Pick 4. In fact, they frequently call themselves "Home of the 15% takeout Pick 4." The Pick 4 starts in the 4th race. Field sizes in Friday's Pick 4 sequence are 8, 8, 6, & 9. Also take note that the 7th race, the 9 horse field, is the Super High 5 race. This looks like a great sequence, especially for Assiniboia. For a gambler, this is great, good field sizes and low takeout. There's definitely some value in playing. But then I looked at the rest of the overnight and saw that Race 2, a race that's only notable as the end of the early double and the start of a Pick 3, has a 10 horse field. The biggest field of the night. And it's not in the Pick 4. Why is there a six horse field in the Pick 4 sequence, but NOT the field of 10? Who was the genius who made that decision? Not only should that race be part of the Pick 4 sequence, it should be the Super High 5 race. Am I crazy for thinking this? To me this is common sense. When your going out of your way to promote your Pick 4 wager and attract some new bettors, don't you want to create the very best Pick 4 sequence possible?
     But the genius-train didn't stop in Winnipeg, it had to make a stop in Toronto for our friends at WEG.
     Woodbine is also a track that takes pride in its Pick 4 wagers. There are 2 Pick 4s per card and they work hard to promote them. The early Pick 4 ALWAYS starts in Race 4. The late Pick 4 is ALWAYS the last 4 races of the card. That's the way it is. And boy, did it work out well on Friday. Friday's card has 9 races. The early Pick 4 is races 4-7, the late is 6-9. Now, I'm not a genius but I know there are some things bettors don't like. Overlapping Pick 4s is one of those things. This will hurt the late Pick 4 pool, guaranteed. It happened a few times last year, and each time the late Pick 4 had a much lower than average pool. People are more likely to play the early because it has a $50,000 guaranteed pool, while the late has nothing. Instead of changing the way things are usually done and maximizing the potential of the Pick 4 wagers, WEG is opting to be lazy and creating a 'good enough' wagering menu. Why can they not start the early Pick 4 in Race 2 and the late in Race 6? That way there's no overlap, and pools will be maximized. Bettors aren't going to refuse to play the early Pick 4 because it starts in Race 2, it doesn't work that way. But WEG, a supposed 'industry leader,' is either too stupid or too lazy to take the initiative to change the way they do things.
    The sad thing is that we see these sort of things happening almost everywhere all the time. These are the simplest little things to solve, but they just keep popping up. Will racing ever learn from it's mistakes? We can only hope.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Ontario Racing Needs Handle: Ideas For Growth

Horse racing in Ontario has made it through the first quarter of 2013, and we're now at a point where we are getting no slots money. We're in what a time that silly people who have forgotten that bettors exist think is the apocalypse. Don't listen to those people. This is a challenging time for racing in Ontario, but with proper steps towards creating great wagering products at all of our tracks we can return to our prior glory. Here are 3 of my ideas for creating handle in Ontario.

  • Western Fair has recently added a Super High 5 wager in the last race of the day. To make the Super High 5 a better wager, they've added a 2nd horse to the trailing tier on the gate, giving the race a 9 horse field. Now, why don't they do a 9 horse field in every race? Bigger fields mean more handle, and with less tracks racing at the same time there should be no shortage of horses. This doesn't just apply to the Western Fair. Georgian Downs for example could run 10 horse fields with a horse coming from the trailing tier. This only makes sense to me.
  • Here's something I've said quite a few times: lower the takeout. Lower the god damn takeout. Some tracks have done this and seen some success. Western Fair has 15% takeout Pick 4 & Super High 5, and they've both proven to be successful wagers for the track. Woodbine has lowered Win takeout for Thoroughbred racing to 14.95%, the lowest in North America. Low takeout is something that should be embraced with arms wide open. Look at Hastings, the Meadowlands & Sam Houston. All have lowered takeout rates and seen success. In Kentucky, the highest takeout rate for any wager is 19%. Why can't we do this here?
  • Race where there's less competition. Ajax Downs is doing this. Last year Ajax raced on Sunday & Tuesday. Ajax never got big handles, but their Tuesday handles were significantly higher than Sundays. This year, Ajax is running on Tuesdays and Holiday Mondays. This will be great for handle. Fort Erie is moving their signature race, the Prince of Wales, to a Tuesday this year as opposed to the traditional Sunday. I'd be willing to take short odds on 2013 Prince of Wales Day handle being higher than 2012. Racing when there is less competition is an important part of growing handle. You need to make yourself more apparent to the players. 
These are 3 simple ideas. Very simple. Hopefully racetracks in Ontario take action and get our industry into a state of stability.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

ASD - They're trying. They're really trying.

Sunday was opening day at one of my favorite tracks, Assiniboia Downs (ASD) in Winnipeg. It's a bullring where bottom level horses run for small purses, handle is microscopic and the rake is high. Really high. But I like it. Don't judge me.
     Now, ASD's a tough track to take seriously. It is ranked last on HANA's track ratings. No one seems to have heard of it. It just seems to be there for the sake of being there. But they're trying. They really are making an effort to improve their product.
     Let's take a look at a few of the things ASD has done. Last meet they embraced a low takeout Pick 4, lowering the rake from 29% to 15%. This meet, they've pushed their post times back a half an hour trying to face less competition. Rolling Doubles and Pick 3s have been added, and there is now a Super High 5 wager. All of these seem like positive steps.
     But is it working?
     Like I said earlier, Sunday was opening day. There was an 8 race card, and they handled $143,660. Last year on opening day, also a Sunday afternoon, the handle was $168,679. That's about a 15% drop. Not good. Not good at all. Now, we still have 59 days of the meet to go, but this isn't the way things should have started off.
     I've written about this before, and I'm writing about it begin. I want to see Manitoba racing thrive. I want to see racing in all of Canada thrive. In order for that to happen, though, things must change. ASD needs to take their positive steps, and go further. Why just lower the Pick 4 takeout? Bettors aren't interested in 26% Exactors and Doubles, or 29% Tris, Supers, Pick 3s, and Super High 5s. Schedule changes must be more drastic than a half an hour later. Remove pointless Friday cards that attracted the lowest average handles in 2012 and run them on a Monday or Tuesday, days where there is little competition. These things need to happen. For the sake of the racing industry, it needs to happen.
     This blog post is a call out to Assiniboia Downs to continue making positive changes. Keep focusing on the bettor. Build a product, the players will come. And if positive encouragement isn't enough, just remember that tracks like Arapahoe, SunRay, and Fair Meadows are considered superior products. It's time to make some changes, Assiniboia. It's time to make some serious changes.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Thoughts, observations, & notes.


  • Churchill Downs starts it's meet on Saturday night, and it features the Grade III Derby Trial Stakes. 11 races carded, average field size 8.1. That's pretty good, but I have to question something. The first 3 races have a combined total of 17 horses entered. That drags the average field size down. Let's say the first 3 races are scrapped. Average field size would now be 9. With all 11 races, the card ends at 11:10 PM Eastern. If the first 3 races were removed, the card would end about an hour earlier. On-track fans may not be able to stay until 11, but 10 seems more reasonable. Those first 3 races seem very pointless to me. Kentucky is supposed to be home of full fields, why would they card 5 & 6 horse fields when they don't have to?
  • Canada's favorite sprinter, Essence Hit Man, is making his 6 year old debut on Saturday at Woodbine in the $150,000 Jacques Cartier Stakes. After the passing of owner/trainer Audre Cappuccitti last fall, I was curious to know who would takeover training her stable. The Hit Man's new trainer is Sylvain Pion. I'd like to tell you who that is and give you some info on him, but I have no clue who he is. You can check out his career stats here. Go Hit Man Go!
  • The Ontario Racing Commission released the 2013 Ontario Racing Program Criteria this week. It divides racing for all 3 breeds into Premier, Signature, and Grassroots levels, and shows what the purse structure will look like. Basically, everything but Woodbine Thoroughbreds will be taking a purse cut this year. No great surprises there. 
  • Racing returns to Belmont on Friday. I'm not a big follower of New York racing, but, unlike Aqueduct, I enjoy watching the races from Belmont. I won't miss being stuck watching the Big A at all. 
  • With the Sunland meet finished, I've been watching the races from SunRay Park just to keep up with what's going on in New Mexico while I wait for Ruidoso to start. What an odd track. It was built as a racino, it gets no handle, and it's the exception to the rule that B-tracks will get better handles on a Monday or Tuesday than on the weekend. On Tuesday, they handled $112,950. On Sunday, they handled $130,885. There also seems to be a $50 or more winner almost every day. Weird little place.
  • Remington has a great card of racing on Saturday night. There are 2 Grade I races for Paints, the $42,000 PSBA American Paint Derby and the $89,000 PSBA American Paint Classic Futurity. Whether you're a Quarter Horse fan or not, it's a terrific wagering card, with an average field size of 9.9.
  • Has anyone been following Thistledown? They've got big fields and much better quality racing now that they've got slots. Oh, wait. No one outside of Ohio can watch or wager on Thistle because the Ohio HBPA have blocked the signal from going out of state because they don't have a revenue deal. They're still getting 9% of the slots money, which has already done wonders, but they've decided to shoot themselves in the foot but blocking all the wagering money. I understand that the horsemen want and deserve a fair deal when it comes to slots funding, but punishing the bettors who have been supporting your product for years, the people who were your only source of purse money before, doesn't seem like a good idea at all to me. 
Have a good week everybody, and good luck.

Monday, 22 April 2013

My Kentucky Derby List

I've followed the Kentucky Derby preps since the 2 year old preps began, tweeting my thoughts on horses I liked and thoughts on each race. However, I've yet to do a Derby list. Not on Twitter, not on this blog, not anywhere. But it had to happen eventually, every good horse racing blog needs a Derby list. So without further adieu, here are my top 10 horses for the 2013 Kentucky Derby.

#1. Orb
A bit predictable, but a deserving top choice. This talented Malibu Moon colt has improved leaps and bounds in his last few starts. After fairly easy wins in an Aqueduct Maiden Special Weight and a first-level Allowance at Gulfstream, Orb was given a chance to take on the big boys in the Fountain of Youth. He closed down the stretch to beat Violence by a 1/2 length, and scored his first 50 Derby points. I was impressed by that performance, but his Florida Derby win proved how serious this horse is. He won easily, and he only seems to get better with more distance. No doubt in my mind that he'll get 10 furlongs. Hell, I think he can go even further. 

#2. Goldencents
The Santa Anita Derby winner has been my favorite Derby horse for a long time, only because he's out of a Manitoba-bred mare. I wasn't exactly convinced that 10 furlongs would be his game, and to be honest I'm still not 100% about it. But the one thing he showed in the Santa Anita Derby: serious class. He went wide, continuously tried to pass Super Ninety Nine, failed a few times, but refused to give up and eventually prevailed. That's a horse with heart, and that's why he's a major factor.

#3. Revolutionary
While Todd Pletcher's Triple Crown record is atrocious, especially considering what a massive corporate stable he runs, this horse has guts. In the Louisiana Derby, he was far back early, rallied 5 wide on the far turn, caught traffic down the long Fair Grounds stretch, but still got up for the win over Mylute. One thing closers should expect in a 20 horse field is traffic. This guys got experience with traffic. Having Calvin Borel in the saddle doesn't hurt, either. 

#4. Govenor Charlie
What's one thing this horse did that none of the others have done? Broke a track record. Although the track was lightning fast that day and 2 other records were broken, Govenor Charlie did win the Sunland Derby in a very quick 1.47.54. Although he didn't beat much that day, he's dangerous as a pace setter. He was up with the leaders going some fast fractions, and he was still driving at the end. The major question mark with this guy is how good is he really, as he hasn't had much of a class test yet. 

#5. Normandy Invasion
This is a horse that has been screaming out for that 10 furlong distance. Had the Wood Memorial been 10 furlongs, or even 1 3/16 miles, I can say with great confidence that he would have been the winner. This is the horse I think is best suited to 1 1/4 miles. I just prefer horses that are winning over horses that are coming close.

#6. Departing
I was very impressed with this horses run in the Illinois Derby. Although he didn't earn any points to the Kentcucky Derby for that win, he should end up with enough to qualify after certain horses like Uncaptured and Super Ninety Nine are eliminated. He's keeps improving with every start in my opinion. 

#7. Verrazano
The likely favorite in the wagering on Derby Day is the most overrated one of the bunch. Yes, he's undefeated, and yes he's shown some versatility, but I wasn't overly impressed by the Wood Memorial win and I don't think 10 furlongs is his game. He still has to be respected, though.

#8. Will Take Charge
This guy is kind of like a less classy version of Revolutionary to me. In the Rebel at Oaklawn, he got some traffic problems on the backside and went wide around the turn, but still managed to grab the win as a 28-1 upset. We've never seen him a 9 furlongs, let alone 10, which is a question mark, and he didn't compete in any of the major preps.

#9. Overanalyze
Arkansas Derby winner should probably be given a higher spot, but I noticed looking through his races that he seems to regress a bit after he wins. Coincidence? Maybe, but a bouncer is a bouncer, and the Kentucky Derby is not the place you want to bounce.

#10. Itsmyluckyday
Finally, Holy Bull winner was perhaps a bit disappointing in the Florida Derby, but I (along with several others) feel it was a bit of a bounce effort. I still believe Orb is the superior horse, especially going a 10 furlong distance, but there's no reason to disregard this guy, he's still very talented.

So there you have it, the 10 horses I like the best in the Kentucky Derby. Only 12 days left until the first Saturday in May!

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Weekend Recap

Woodbine meet kicks off
Thoroughbred action returned to Ontario on Saturday with the 1st day of the Woodbine meet. Opening day was a success, with a large crowd on track, an average field size of 7.9, and a total handle of $3,380,720. Saturday's feature race was the $150,000 Star Shoot Stakes, a 6 furlong sprint for 3 year old fillies. The race was won by Sam Di Pasquale-trainee Rootham Triple E's ($20.10), an Ontario Sired filly owned by Murray Stroud. Justin Stein was the winning jockey. Sunday's card featured the $150,000 Woodstock Stakes, the boys version of the Star Shoot. Dan the Tin Man ($13.60) and jockey Patrick Husbands came out victorious for trainer Ricky Griffith and owner Debmar Stables. The 133-day meet will continue until December 15th. Racing will be held on Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons, with Wednesday night cards starting on June 5th.

Charles Town & other T-Bred Stakes
Game On Dude wins the Charles Town Classic
I stayed up on Saturday to watch the Charles Town Classic. I wasn't watching for Game On Dude, I was cheering for Caixa Eletronica. Needless to say I was disappointed, Caixa had nothing to offer. Game On Dude got a great trip and won. However, I don't think he ran the best in the field. I was impressed by Ron the Greek, he got a rough break and was last early, rallied very well and finished 3rd. He was beaten a nose for 2nd by Clubhouse Ride, and the two of them were only a 1/2 length from Game On Dude, who was really saved by the wire. Mike Smith said after the race that GoD 'hated the track.'
     The Illinois Derby at Hawthorne was run this weekend. Back when the Kentucky Derby points system was announced last year there was a bit of an uproar when people saw that the Illinois Derby wasn't included. It seems like most people forgot about that yesterday, but whatever. Departing was a very easy winner. He's actually tied for 20th with a few others in the Kentucky Derby points standings, so there's a possibility he could go be going to Churchill. I haven't heard what the plans for him are.
      The other big Thoroughbred Stakes race I tuned in for was the San Juan Capistrano Handicap at Santa Anita on Sunday afternoon. I love marathon racing, so 1 3/4 miles on the downhill turf was a must watch for me. Bettors made Sky Kingdom the favorite after his win in the Tokyo City going 1 1/2 miles on the dirt. I kind of understood why he was the favorite, he was impressive last time, but he was way overbet for a horse who never touched turf before. He ended up last. Not good for Bob Baffert, who's very cold in SoCal right now. Argentina-bred Interaction won the race by a nose over All Squared Away. It's never surprising to see a South American horse win a marathon race.

Remington & Houston Quarter Horse Stakes
There were a bunch of big races for Quarter Horses on Saturday night. Remington's card held 5 Stakes events, most notably the $253,000 Remington Park Derby and the $720,000 Remington Park Futurity, both for Oklahoma-breds. In the Derby, heavy favorite Brace for Bernal broke from post 1 and wasn't the quickest away, but rallied strongly to win by a length under jockey Paul Nieto. I was very impressed by the performance, and the final time was strong as well, 400 yards in 19.602. The Futurity turned into a two-horse race between heavily favored Coronado Cartel and longshot Houdini. The two dueled all the way down the stretch with Coronado Cartel prevailing by a nose in one of the tightest photo's I've seen in a while.  To point out how close it was, Coronado Cartel's final time for the 330 yards was 16.755, Houdini's was 17.760. The difference was 0.005 seconds. Jimmy Brooks rode Coronado Cartel for trainer Eddie Willis and owner Reliance Ranches LLC.
      Sam Houston held a pair of Stakes events as well, the Red Cell Texas Distance Challenge and the Grade I Bank of America Texas Challenge Championship. Heavy-favorite Kite Flyer broke quickly, dueled with Dashers Midnight down the stretch, and prevailed to win the 870 yard event by a length in a time of 46.500. A couple races later, in the Bank of America Texas Challenge Championship, defending champion Kool Country Man broke alertly and crushed the field by 1 1/2 lengths, covering the 440 yards in 21.756. I'm going to follow him throughout the rest of the year, because if he keeps running as well as he did, he'll be tough in the Challenge Championship at Los Alamitos in November.

My Sunland Record
So, with the Sunland meet done, here's a quick look at my record at the meet. Of the 540 races I handicapped on this blog, I picked 129 winners, hitting at 24%. Had you bet $2 to win on every horse I picked throughout the meet, you'd have ended $146 poorer. I'm satisfied with my handicapping seeing as I've never handicapped Sunland before. My best division was the Thoroughbred 2 year olds foaled in 2011. There were 9 2 year old Thoroughbred races in the Spring part of the meet. I picked 5 of the winners, and no horse I picked to win finished worse than 2nd. Had you bet $2 to win on every 2 year old Thoroughbred I picked in the Spring you'd have profited $31.80. That's a pretty good stat for my handicapping. If you haven't noticed, I'll be blogging my Woodbine selections on here until the Ruidoso meet starts on May 25th.

Have a good week, and good luck.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Sunland Meet Coming to a Close

Sunland Park's 2012-2013 meet is in the final yards, with 4 cards of racing left on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday. Throughout the meet, we've seen some incredibly talented horses of both breeds, and we still have 9 Stakes events left in the last few days.
     Friday's card is a decent card, no Stakes events, but a couple of Allowance events for Thoroughbreds and a 2 year old Maiden for Quarter Horses highlight things. There's an average field size of 9.9 and some terrific betting races so be sure to play.
     Things get very exciting on Saturday, with 4 Stakes events carded. The Sunburst Stakes is an $85,000 race for State-bred 3 year old Quarter Horse fillies, which features Sandys Jesse, who won the RGII NMHBA Stakes 2 back. Right after the Sunburst is the West Texas Juvenile Stakes, for 2 year olds who competed in the trials for the West Texas Futurity but did not qualify for the final. The Morning Line sees this as a fairly competitive race, the favorite being All About Tonight at 7/2, a trial winner who was 0.031 seconds short of making the final. Later on the card are the first 2 Stakes races of 2013 for 2 year old Thoroughbreds, the Copper Top Futurity finals for state-breds. There are 2 divisions, 1 for fillies and 1 for colts and geldings. Prides Cousin, a daughter of Diabolical and a Todd Fincher trainee, highlights the filly division off an easy trial victory. Weeping Aly is the favorite in the boy's division, rebounding to win his trial after finishing 4th in a 2 furlong maiden special weight. All 4 of Saturday's stakes feature full fields of 10, so be sure to get in on the action.
     Sunday's card features two of the meets greatest races. Race 5 on the card is the West Texas Futurity, the first Grade I Futurity of the year and a very important stepping stone to the All American Futurity and the Futurity Triple Crown at Ruidoso this summer. Trainer Roy Marcom, Jr. has 4 of the 10 in the field, including fastest qualifier Dynasty Edition, who won his trial in a wicked 14.887. I'm very excited for this race, it's one of the country's greatest Quarter Horse races and it's always fun to watch these incredible talents start their careers. Later on the card, Race 10 is the Sunland Park Handicap, the best Thoroughbred race of the meet excluding the Sunland Derby and Oaks. Of course, the highlight of the field is the great Forest Mouse, a 5 year old who's won 12 of his 30 lifetime starts with earnings of $449,879. He won the Zia Park Distance Championship in December, then won the Winsham Lad Handicap here at Sunland in a track record 1.39.01 for the 1 mile 70 yards distance. He then shipped up to Santa Anita for the Grade II Arcadia and the Grade I Frank Kilroe Mile. He was 6th and 5th, respectively, in those races, beaten 4 lengths in the Arcadia and only 2 lengths in the Kilroe Mile. He returns to New Mexico ready to romp as the 127lb highweight. His only competition looks like classy veteran Red Lead, who exits back to back victories in the Curribot Stakes and a classy Optional Claimer on Sunland Derby Day. Tizpat, who dead-heated with Red Lead in the Optional Claimer, also appears here. It's a great race, and a terrific way to end the Handicap season at Sunland.
     Tuesday will end the season with a trio of Stakes events, and a mandatory payout in the Solo 6, which should have a carryover of around $2,000 by then after being hit for $18,000 last Sunday. The $50,000 Getaway Stakes is a race for Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds going 870 yards. Then there are 2 Thoroughbred features, the first in the condition book is the $50,000 KHEY Y County Sprint for 3 year olds going 6 furlongs. Highlighting the nominees is Sunland Derby runner-up Show Some Magic. Then, finally there's the Adios Amigos Claiming Handicap, a $12,500 claiming stakes going 1 1/4 miles, the longest race of the meet. Handle is always big on Tuesday's, so I hope to see you all playing.
     I've enjoyed this meet very much, it's been fun to follow and handicap. The New Mexico circuit will move to SunRay Park, with their meet starting on Friday, April 19th. I likely won't be handicapping SunRay as much as I did Sunland, but I will be following the meet and paying attention to the happenings.
     Have a good one, and good luck.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Two Year Old season starts in California

Thursday marks the beginning of Juvenile season in California with a 2 furlong Maiden Special Weight for fillies at Golden Gate Fields. Then on Friday night, Los Alamitos will hold 4 races for Maiden 2 year olds going 300 yards, 2 for fillies and 2 for the boys.
     California is home to some of North America's most prestigious 2 year old races. The most notable for Thoroughbreds is the Grade I, $750,000 CashCall Futurity at Betfair Hollywood Park. Some notable winners of the CashCall Futurity, or Hollywood Futurity as it was previously called, include A. P. Indy in 1991 and Lion Heart in 2003. For Quarter Horses, Los Alamitos plays host to a trio of huge Futurities, the Ed Burke Million, the Garden State Million, and the Los Alamitos Two Million. Last year, superstar One Dashing Eagle won the Ed Burke and the Garden State before shipping to Ruidoso Downs to win the All American Futurity. He earned over $2 million, winning 6 of his 7 starts before being retired to stud.
     In the Golden Gate MSW, I like La Tonga, who's flashed some quick 1/4 mile gate drills at Santa Anita and gets Russel Baze riding. She's by Brave Cat, a new sire who's a son of Lion Heart. I'm a fan of almost anything with Lion Heart blood. At Los Al, a few to watch for are Shake Djibouti and Cartel Fantasy in Race 2, Jess Bring It and Barefoot Bluejean in Race 4, Miss Paddy in Race 6, and Micato in Race 7. All of them are well bred runners with some nice works.
     Juvenile's are always fun to follow. It's nice to see some young horses begin their careers, and then watch them develop. For all we know, we may end up watching a future Grade I winners this week.

Some other notes
In other 2 year old news, Sunland will be hosting the 1st 2 year old Thoroughbred stakes races of the year on Saturday, with the Copper Top Futurity. There are 2 divisions of the state-bred race, the $88,389 Filly division and the $95,125 colts and geldings division. Several of these horses will end up running in the Mountain Top Futurity at Ruidoso this summer, a big race for the NM breds.

Lot's of good racing at Keeneland this weekend. Wise Dan is making his 2013 debut on Friday in the Maker's 46 Mile. Then Saturday is Blue Grass day, where Mark Casse is making a last chance attempt at making the Kentucky Derby with Dynamic Sky and Uncaptured. There's an all-stakes Pick 4 on Saturday starting with the Shakertown and ending with the Blue Grass. I probably won't be playing it, but it will be a huge pool.

Lone Star and Hastings both start up this week, Lone Star on Thursday and Hastings on Friday. Lone Star has completely resurfaced their main track after a very notable bias during the Quarter Horse meet last year, so it will be interesting to see how the track plays. Hastings is getting ready to roll after a very successful 2012. They had a big boost in handle, a lot of which was due to lowered takeout on their Pick 3s, Pick 4s, and Pick 5s to 15%. Both are tracks I enjoy and hope you all take some time to play.

Have a good one, and good luck.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Weekend Recap

It's Monday, and since nothing interesting happens on Monday, let's recap the happenings in racing on the weekend.

Verrazano and Goldencents, Derby preps
Verrazano won the Wood Memorial, Goldencents won the Santa Anita Derby. We all know that. Verrazano was impressive again, but not nearly as impressive as he had been. I don't really know how much he was asked, but had that race been 9.5 or 10 furlongs, Normandy Invasion. There were some debates yesterday on Twitter about  which one was the better horse. My 2 cents: Verrazno is an overall more talented horse, but in a 10 furlong or longer race, Normandy Invasion would win.
     I was very happy that Goldencents rebounded and won the Santa Anita Derby. He pressed on the outside, but was more relaxed this time and it worked out. I'm cheering for him in the Kentucky Derby, he's out of a Manitoba-bred mare. My dad also trained his great-grandmother on the dam's side for her last start or 2 at Hawthorne in the 80's, so I kinda have a connection. To me, he looked like he could do 10 furlongs, but it will depend on how much other speed he'll have to deal with and what post he gets.

Sunland Stakes races; Moonifisant looks like a freak
Sunland held two Stakes races for Quarter Horses on Sunday, the Grade 2 Bank of America New Mexico Challenge Championship and the Restricted Grade 2 New Mexican Spring Futurity. Jess Featureme Quick was the 3/5 favorite, but finished a clear 2nd behind Feature Mr Who. The two had competed in the same trial, with Jess Featureme Quick winning and Feature Mr Who finishing 2nd. Feature Mr Who came from post 1 yesterday, a gate that does extremely well in the 440 yard distance. May that have helped? I don't know, maybe.
     But the real highlight was the Spring Futurity. After winning his trial by 3 lengths in the fastest qualifying time of 15.007, Moonifisant remained undefeated, holding off Threedeewoodee by a 1/2 length. The crazy part was his final time: 300 yards in 14.706. Incredibly fast for a 2 year old. The track record at Sunland is 14.594, so Moonifisant was 0.112 seconds short of the track record. I think he'll be a freak, he looked incredible to me. I assume he'll either be going for the Ruidoso Derby next, or possibly hold off for the Zia Derby and continue to race against NM breds. I'm also interested to see how fast they go in the Grade 1 West Texas Futurity on Sunday. Dynasty Edition is the fastest qualifier to that, winning his trial in 14.887.

Ajax Downs gets 30 days
Quarter Horse racing in Ontario can breathe a sigh of relief. It was announced on Friday that Ajax Downs had made a transitional funding deal and will race 30 days this year. 10 less that last year, but it's better than nothing. Brian Bell, a top jockey at Ajax, told me a couple weeks ago that Ajax has enough money in their purse account to race for 3 more years. Hopefully the track will start working to grow handle, as it's pretty terrible now. We still don't know how many Quarter Horse dates Fort Erie will race.

HANA releases 2013 Track Rankings
The Horseplayer's Association of North America released their 2013 Track Rankings list. Of the 67 tracks ranked, 2 things remained the same: Keeneland was ranked #1 (for the 5th year in a row) and one of my favorite tracks, Assiniboia Downs in Winnipeg, was ranked last. Some other interesting ones, Sam Houston is ranked 6th, Fort Erie was ranked 2nd last, and Saratoga was 9th. I'm surprised Saratoga isn't a bit higher, it's outranked by Tampa, Houston, and Hawthorne, none of which are tracks you would guess would be higher than the Spa. Aqueduct is, not surprisingly, the lowest ranked of the 3 NYRA tracks, placed 17th. HANA will have the full chart of takeout rates up on their website this week.

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Some weekend notes

World Cups, Derby preps, smart racetracks. Let's look at what happened this weekend in this wonderful world of racing.

Animal Kingdom proves U.S. ability
Despite technically representing Australia, Animal Kingdom scored a huge victory for the U.S. in Saturday's Dubai World Cup, proving the American horses can beat international talent on synthetic surfaces, specifically the Meydan Tapeta. Not only did he win, but he was damn impressive. I didn't pick him to win (I put him in for 2nd behind Hunter's Light) but I was incredibly happy when he drew out.
     Animal Kingdom was the 5-2 favorite on the North American tote, but he was 11-2 in Britain. Funny to see how nationalism can affect odds on these international days. Royal Delta was a very close 3rd choice on the U.S. tote, which was completely ridiculous and it showed. Dullahan was the 4th choice at 5-1, and he also ran poorly.
     Now American (and Aussie) fans will have to wait until Royal Ascot to see our hero race again. It's also been reported that he may race in Australia before retiring to stud. Hopefully he'll compete well over there.

Pj Chick in Black is still terrific
After an impressive trial, Pj Chick in Black showed her class again on Saturday, romping in the Grade III West Texas Derby at Sunland. She's now 7-for-8 lifetime, with earnings of $623,919. Her trainer, John Stinebaugh, said in a post race interview that she will get some time off before returning in the Ruidoso Derby trials. Not surprising. Great filly. She covered the 400 yards in a very fast 18.808. If she stays on form, maybe we'll have a Derby Triple Crown winner this year.

Stuff happened at Gulfstream and the Fair Grounds, too
Anybody watch the Florida Derby? I did too. Orb ran very well, and Shanghai Bobby isn't as good as he was. Some people are saying Itsmyluckyday bounced/regressed a bit, but I believe that Orb is simply a better horse. Not by a huge margin, but a more talented horse.
     Dreaming of Julia was incredibly impressive, but her fast time was a case of taking no pressure and being able to accelerate. Had she taken some pressure, she probably would have still gone faster than the boys, but not by as much as she did. She can't go to the Derby, but it will be fun to watch her and Midnight Lucky in the Kentucky Oaks.
     I was impressed by Revolutionary in the Louisiana Derby, but I think Departing is a horse to watch in the future. He got stuck in traffic down the stretch, swung out once he got an opening and ran pretty well to be third. The New Orleans Handicap was a good race as well, Graydar's really showing that he's a very talented horse. I'm a Flat Out fan, and I was a bit disappointed with him, but I'll survive.

All About Larry shows his 870 dominance
Sunland's feature today was the Grade III Red Cell New Mexico Distance Challenge going 870 yards. Despite finishing 4th in his trial, last year's AQHA Distance Champion All About Larry won today's final easily, looking to defend his title. He won by 4 lengths under a hand ride, and went in a 44.122. Had he been asked, he probably could have gone in the 43.95 range. He's a fun horse to follow, an incredible talent, and I hope he remains dominant in the 870 division this year.

Northlands Park: Doing It Right
I was checking out the DRF website, and I stumbled across an article about the upcoming Northlands Park meet. Once again, the Grade III Canadian Derby will highlight the meet, with the $100,000 Speed to Spare being the feature race for older horses. Both are 1 mile and 3/8ths races.
     But on to the doing it right part. In the article, it was said that the Edmonton track will be moving their Sunday afternoon cards, which haven't been performing well, to Monday afternoons. Very smart move, less competition creates more interest. I've stressed this point several times, and it's nice to see that there is a track that's smart enough to apply this. I wish Northlands a great 2013 season. Hopefully the new Balzac racetrack will get built and the Alberta racing industry will be able to grow and thrive as it had in the Stampede days.

Have a good week, and good luck.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Fort Erie fights back, other notes

It was announced the other day that Fort Erie, along with Flamboro and Georgian, had reached a transitional funding agreement with the Province. Terrific news.
     Fort Erie will race 50 days this year, starting on May 26th, with the backstretch opening a month prior. Besides that, we don't have any details. We don't know what the purse structure will look like, we don't know about the Prince of Wales, we don't know any details about Quarter Horse racing. We just know that there's 50 days.
     Now, in this post-slots era, there are some positives for the Fort. Total handle was up at the end of last year's meet, although I can't find the total. They introduced a $.20 Pick 5 and a $1 Super High 5, which were both fairly popular wagers, especially considering that they aren't available at Woodbine. There is real potential for Fort Erie to grow. Like other tracks in Ontario, the takeout is high. Last year, the Pick 4 was lowered from 26% to a pretty nice 17%, compared to Woodbine's 25%. If the Fort takes the initiative and can come to an agreement with the horsemen, takeout can be lowered on other wagers, and they can create a dominant Monday-Tuesday product. They need to get big bettors to play their races. If so, Fort Erie can be the first of the Ontario tracks to prove that racing in the province can be sustainable without slots funding. Hopefully, this can become the reality.

Pj Chick In Black tough in West Texas Derby
Pj Chick In Black, winner of last year's RGII New Mexican Spring Futurity and GI Ruidoso Futurity, will be heavily favored in Saturday's GIII West Texas Derby at Sunland Park. After a disappointing 6th place finish in the All American Futurity, Pj Chick In Black was given some time off. She returned on March 8th in her West Texas Derby trial where she drew off to win by an impressive length as the fastest qualifier, covering the 400 yards in 18.841. She will break from gate 3 on Saturday. Among her competition is G1 Southwest Juvenile Championship winner and trial winner Secret Courage, and Icu Deity, who was the fastest qualifier to the GII Sunland Winter Futurity. The West Texas Futurity will go as Race 5 on Saturday, with post time expected to go as 2:15 Mountain, 4:15 Eastern.

Sam Houston starts with trial action
Sam Houston kicks off their Quarter Horse meet tonight (Thursday) with a weekend full of trials. Thursday's card features 7 trials for the Sam Houston Maiden Classic. Then, Friday will hold 7 trials for the Sam Houston Derby, along with the $20,000 Harris County Stakes. Saturday will end the week at Sam Houston with a 15 race card full of trials for the Sam Houston Futurity. Saturday's card will have a special 3:00 Central post time. Thursday's and Friday's cards start at the regular 7:00 Central post time. The meet will also feature occasional Arabian races. Don't forget the Sam Houston has ultra low 12% takeout on Daily Doubles, Pick 3s, Pick 4s, Pick 5s, and Super High 5s, making it one of the best tracks to bet value-wise.

Dubai, Florida, Fair Grounds
Yeah, there's major Thoroughbred stuff going on this weekend, too, specifically on Saturday. First, the U.S. is looking to end their losing streak in the Dubai World Cup with Dullahan, Royal Delta and Animal Kingdom. To be honest, Animal Kingdom looks like the only real hope, now I just gotta look at the internationals. Sorry, Royal Delta fans. Then we have the Florida Derby and the Louisiana Derby. I'm cheering for the ever-improving Orb in the Florida Derby. I haven't looked at the LA Derby yet, but it's a big field with some nice horses.

Good luck to everyone this Easter Weekend.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Weekend Recap

A day of records at Sunland

Govenor Charlie wins the Sunland Derby
On Sunday, Sunland hosted their signature race, the Grade III Sunland Derby, along with 6 other Stakes races including the Sunland Park Oaks. It was a day of records, as 3 track records were broken and bettors sent a record handle through the windows. The 12 race card handled a total of $3,820,986. The track was lightning fast, and it led t 3 new track records. In The Bill Thomas Memorial Stakes, Isn't He Clever romped his way to a 5 3/4 length victory, and covered the 6 1/2 furlong distance in 1.13.45. Two races later, Bob Baffert trainee Midnight Lucky was sent off as the 1-5 favorite in the Sunland Park Oaks, drew off to win by 8 lengths, and finished the 1 mile 1/16th distance in 1.41.06. Midnight Lucky earned 50 points for the Kentucky Oaks and is virtually guaranteed a spot in that race. Right after the Oaks, Baffert doubled up to win the Sunland Park Derby with Govenor Charlie. Winning by 5 lengths, Govenor Charlie set the 3rd track record of the day, going the 1 mile 1/8th in 1.47.54. He has now earned 50 point towards the Kentucky Derby, also virtually assuring a spot in the gate on the first Saturday in May. Let's see how legit these impressive winners were.

Futurity season underway
The 2013 Open Futurity season and the road to the All American Futurity is officially underway. On Saturday afternoon, the Grade III Harrah's Futurity highlighted the Louisiana Downs card. 3-1 favorite Separatist Firstdown did not disappoint from the far outside post, covering the 300 yard distance in 15.527 under rider Saul Ramirez Jr. for trainer Isidro Flores, earning $86,202 of the $191,560 purse. Later on in the evening, Remington Park hosted a card featuring 4 Stakes races, highlighted by the Grade II Oklahoma Futurity. Fetching Beauty grabbed the win in the last jumps at a 10-1 upset with Victor Olivo in the saddle for trainer Sacramento Chavez. Earning $130,000, Fetching Beauty covered the 300 yards in 15.279. On Friday afternoon, Sunland held 10 trials to the Grade I West Texas Futurity, the first Grade I Futurity of the year. The final will be held on Sunday, April 14th. Thoroughbred Futurity season also started last week. On Tuesday, Sunland held 4 trials (2 for colts, 2 for fillies) for the NM Bred Copper Top Futurity. The finals will be held on Saturday, April 13th.

Black Onyx upsets Spiral Stakes
Black Onyx wins the Spiral Stakes
The Sunland Derby wasn't the only Derby prep this weekend, as Turfway held their signature Spiral Stakes on Saturday. Launching a wide bid, Black Onyx took the lead at the top of the stretch and won by a length and a half over Ontario-bred Uncaptured. I didn't handicap the Spiral, but I'm surprised that Black Onyx was almost 16-1, coming off an Allowance win at Gulfstream on the turf. Based on what I can observe, this wasn't the toughest field, and I saw quite a few people on Twitter use him. It will be fun to watch Black Onyx in the Derby to see how Polytrack horses continue to perform in the big race. We all remember Animal Kingdom winning the Derby a couple years back after prepping in the Spiral.
     Also, can Turfway PLEASE get a new race caller? I'm a big fan of Mike Battaglia as a handicapper, but he is definitely the worst race caller in North America.

Assiniboia Downs: Starting to do it right
Last week I blogged about Assiniboia Downs and their racing schedule, and how I believe it needs to change. While they aren't adapting the schedule I believe they should, they have changed one thing. It was announced on Thursday's Insider that post time will be pushed a half an hour back from 7:00 to 7:30 Central in order to reduce competition. They are also introducing the popular Super High 5 wager. Smart moves, Assiniboia. Now please, stop taking 29% from Tris and Supers and maybe more people will care.

Idaho approves Instant Racing
It has been reported that Idaho has approved of "historical racing." Wyoming recently passed a similar bill. This is a positive step in reviving the struggling racing industry in the region. Let's see if these racetracks become another bunch that slide by on gaming money.

Have a good week, and good luck.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Assiniboia Downs and their Schedule

Assiniboia Downs has posted their official 2013 racing schedule on their website.  As expected, they're using their standard schedule of Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday night racing, with occasional Holiday afternoon cards replacing Wednesdays. Nothing surprising.
     After the end of last year's meet, DRF reported that handle was down 8% from 2011. In the comment section of that article, someone named Rob Nokes commented that Assiniboia should "takeover Turf Paradise's time slot on Monday and Tuesday." This made me consider how the day affects handle. We see it at smaller tracks like Turf Paradise or Sunland all the time, weekend cards draw modest handles while weekday cards, specifically Mondays and Tuesdays, draw very good sized handles. Why does this happen? Simple, there's little to no competition from major tracks, but serious bettors still want to bet, so they'll play one of the smaller tracks. Will Rogers Downs has figured this out, racing on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday schedule. So, how does the day affect handle at Assiniboia Downs?
     I decided to take some time and do the math. I went on Equibase and looked at the full card charts for all 60 days of racing last year and organized them into a chart, dividing them into columns of Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Holidays. The results weren't surprising.
     In 2012, there were 12 Wednesday cards, which handled a total of $1,874,316, which is an average of $156,193/card. There were 20 Friday cards, but one was cancelled after 4 races so I took it out of the Friday column. The 19 full Friday cards handled a total of $2,134,054, an average of $112,318. There were 20 Saturday cards, handling a total of $2,526,429, averaging $126,321. Finally, there were 8 Holiday cards, which gathered $1,624,454 in handle, an average of $203,056. With the addition of the $44,717 handled on the 1 cancelled card, this equals a total of $8,203,970. Please note that the official total is $8,198,785, which means I had a typo somewhere in my numbers equating to me being $5,185 too high, but it's not that large a difference so I'll live with it.
     The total average handle/card in 2012, subtracting the cancelled card, was $138,292. This shows that Wednesdays, the weekday cards, and Holidays both consistently perform above average while Fridays and Saturdays, the weekend cards, both consistently perform below average. So why does ASD insist on keeping weekend racing? Track attendance. While Assiniboia doesn't report official track attendance totals, it's common sense that Friday and Saturday nights will draw a bigger crowd than a Wednesday night.
     But we're in the era of simulcasting. Assiniboia needs to start playing to the simulcast market, where the real money lies. Much as it's nice to have a large crowd out and enjoying your races, you have to go where the money is, and the money is in simulcast betting. You need to get your signal out as much as you can and race when you'll get the most possible attention. Let's say Assiniboia moves their Friday cards, which are their worst performing, to Tuesdays, keeping Saturdays just to be fair to weekend fans who like to come out to the track. On a Friday night, specifically September 14th, Assiniboia has to compete with Emerald Downs, Charles Town, Los Alamitos, Mountaineer, Northlands, Prairie Meadows, Presque Isle, Remington, and Turfway. Had Assiniboia had that card on Tuesday, September 11th, their competition that night would have been Mountaineer and Presque Isle. On Tuesday night, Mountaineer dominates the night market, while Presque Isle is more of a late afternoon/early evening card. So on that Tuesday, Assiniboia would have had 22% of the competition they had on that Friday night. When you deduct 88% of your competition, handle goes up. Maybe I'm crazy, but that seems correct to me.
     Assiniboia has other problems. Field size in 2012 was only 6.9. Not quite as bad as Beulah, but it's small. Takeouts at the Downs are ridiculously high, 26% on Exactors and Doubles,  and 29% on Tris, Supers, Pick 3s and Pick 5s. They took a positive step in 2012, lowering their Pick 4 takeout from 29% to a low 15%. However, a low takeout on one bet isn't enough to lure serious bettors when they're still being soaked ludicrous amounts on all their other wagers. There are also issues with the Manitoba Government and the Red River Exhibition, but I don't know a lot about that and I'm not going to talk about it. All I know is that there's a possibility of Standardbred racing coming to the Downs.
     Does Assiniboia have a smart racing schedule? No. Can it be fixed? Yes. Would it create a positive change? Absolutely. We can only hope that the Downs figures this out and acts accordingly. If so, it would be a positive for bettors, horsemen, and Manitoba racing as a whole.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Winter Racing

Today I was bored. To cure my boredom, I decided "I guess I'll watch Parx." Watching Parx got me thinking. It got me thinking two things: a) holy crap, my life is sad, this is terrible, and b) is winter racing in the north-east really necessary?
      Let's take a look at the two major winter tracks in the north-east. We have Aqueduct and Parx. Both tracks are currently offering huge purses, bigger than all the winter tracks in the south, but there are a lot more horses in the south. After scratches, the average field size at Parx today was 6.7. Aqueduct's average field size on Sunday after scratches was 6.5. Meanwhile, Gulfstream's average field size after scratches on Sunday was 9. Parx and Aqueduct both hosted 9 races on their respective days. Gulfstream held 11.
     I'm not a fan of winter racing in the north, and there's several reasons for this.  
     Winter racing in the cold north is hard on horses, and it seems to really take it's toll on the Aqueduct inner track. If I had to choose between taking some time off or sending my horse to Parx in the winter, I'd opt to take the time off. If I had to choose between racing my $15,000 maiden claimer for a $22,000 purse at Parx or running for a $12,500 tag at Gulfstream for a $17,500 purse, I'd choose Gulfstream all the way. I'd definitely catch an easier field at Parx, but I believe that racing in a warm climate is easier on a horse and safer. It's safety first. In regards to the idea that's been frequently discussed about having a synthetic surface for the inner track at Aqueduct; yes, it would be safer than the inner dirt, but problems can arise with synthetic surfaces in cold temperatures, so is it really a great solution? I don't really think so.
     Handle-wise, let's do a quick comparison. This isn't scientific, this is just an observation. On Sunday, Aqueduct's 9 race card handled a total $5,745,539, which is an average of $638,393 per race. Gulfstream handled $9,351,204 over their 11 races that day. That's an average of $850,109 per race. Significantly higher than Aqueduct. Just for comparisons sake, on Sunday October 14th, a non-special day, Belmont handled $7,609,361 on a 10 race card, with an average of  $760,936 per race. This all shows that bettors are more likely to play a southern meet over Aqueduct, and that NYRA is more popular in the fall than in the winter. I could look at Parx' handle too, but why bother?
     Let's picture how things would be if there were no winter racing in the north-east. More horsemen would be forced to go south, while others would opt to take a break. With more horses in the south, field size would go up and the southern tracks handle would increase. Meanwhile, the winter break would allow tracks to fuel more money from their casinos for purses, and would be able to spread that money throughout the spring, summer and fall purses, which would be a benefit for horsemen. Horses that raced in the south would be fit and ready, while the horses that took a break wouldn't have had to deal with the stress of winter racing. To me, it seems like this would be a total positive change.
     So is northern winter racing really necessary? I don't think so. Not at all.

Some Other Notes

  • Remington kicked off their Quarter Horse meet on Friday, with a weekend full of Futurity and Derby trials for both Paints/Appaloosas and Quarter Horses. While Friday night's card handled $395,125 and Saturday night's card handled $519,674, Sunday afternoon's card handled $276,507. Bettors are more likely to play Quarter Horses either on weekend nights or weekday afternoons when there isn't as much competition, so Remington should be smart and move their Sunday cards to the evening. In case your interested, lists of qualifiers from all of the weekends trials are available here.
  • Kawartha Downs announced this evening that live racing would come to an end on March 31st, saying they couldn't come to an agreement with the province for transitional funding. I've never been to Kawartha, but based on what I've been told it's a dump. Handle-wise, it's terrible, and it would be near impossible to ever make it a sustainable track. So now it's bye-bye Windsor, Hiawatha and Kawartha for the harness people.
  • Will Rogers began their meet last Monday. Their schedule is 3 days a week, Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. You know, the days a cheaper track like them will attract bettors. They aren't racing on Saturdays and trying to compete with major stakes races from Gulfstream and Santa Anita, they're racing where the money is. That, my friends, is a track that's doing it right.
Have a good week, and good luck.

   

Sunday, 24 February 2013

What a Weekend!

This has been quite an interesting weekend in the racing world, hasn't it? Let's take a look at all the fun stuff that's happened.

All American Derby estimated at $2.8 million
A press release on the AQHA website has announced that the 2013 All American Derby's purse has been estimated at $2.8 million, making it the richest race in the history of Quarter Horse racing. It's also interesting as this will be the first time ever that the All American Derby will have a greater purse than the All American Futurity, which is estimated at $2.6 million. Ruidoso Downs is the only racetrack in North America with 2 races worth more than $2 million on their annual stakes schedule. I believe this is an attempt by Ruidoso Downs to make their racing more "mainstream" by making a Derby their greatest race, as opposed to a Futurity. I have nothing to base that on, I'm just going to say that.

Gary Stevens has anger issues
Hall of Fame rider Gary Stevens was unhappy when blogger, journalist and horseplayer Adam Hickman posted this tweet after Stevens, to the surprise of many, sent Proud Strike to the front in the Risen Star at Fair Grounds:

Stevens was clearly unhappy, later responding:


Twitter immediately went up in a firestorm of people either taking Stevens' side, claiming that Hickman has no right to criticize a Hall of Fame Rider, or people who clearly understood that Stevens messed up.
      But this shows a whole new dark side of Gary Stevens, the angry egotist who can't handle criticism, and will be put into a terrible rage when his methods are questioned. Adam should be happy he didn't say anything to Stevens' face, he may not have survived if he did. Also, Gary Stevens has some issues with Grade 3 level spelling.

Quarter Horse blogger wins handicapping contest
Fans of Quarter Horse blogger L. Doug McPherson, A.K.A me, were put into tears of joy when they found out that he won the http://www.danonymousracing.com/ handicapping contest of the Stakes races from Fair Grounds and Gulfstream on Saturday. I want to thank Danonymous Racing, and encourage everyone to play his free contest. He holds them every weekend, they're free to play and very fun. Also, follow Danonymous on Twitter at @DanonymousMan.

Zia Park Quarter Horse Championship earns berth to Champion of Champions
Los Alamitos has made a wise decision, giving the Grade I Zia Park Quarter Horse Championship winner a berth to the Grade I Champion of Champions, replacing the Refrigerator Handicap. This makes sense as the Zia Park Championship is an invitational race that collects a higher quality field than the Refrigerator. Los Alamitos fans can looks forward to seeing one more actual Champion in the Champion of Champions this year.

Todd Pletcher is a big baby
Todd Pletcher has secured a nomination for the "biggest baby in racing" award. Ray Paulick tweeted this dandy Pletcher quote on Sunday afternoon:



Really, Todd? You're implying that Lasix, a drug that almost every horse at every bush track who couldn't win for $2,000  runs on, is the reason that Orb won the Fountain of Youth? Give me a break, Todd. I do feel bad about Violence's injury and the fact that his career is likely over, but just accept it Todd. You weren't the best here. And one more thing: Violence raced on Lasix too.

It's been a fun weekend, very fun indeed. Let's hope for some more interesting stuff next weekend.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

What's age got to do with it?

It's funny how we think of horses as they get older. Everybody loves to see a nice, consistent 8 or 9 year old running regularly and winning races. At the same time, there are tons of horses who start tailing off at 5 or 6 and people will say "I guess he's just getting too old." In a very cliche sense, some horses are like fine wine; they get better with age. On the other hand, some horses are like a loaf of bread in the cupboard; they go bad fairly quickly. Most people will tell you they've had more bad loafs of bread than bottles of old wine.
     Back in November I wrote a post about 2011 All American Derby winner Llano Teller, questioning whether or not he was tailing off after a disappointing 6th place finish in the Zia Park Quarter Horse Championship. He then finished 9th in the Championship at Sunland Park. The once tremendous Llano Teller seems to be another has-been in this racing game. The sad thing? He's only 5. His racing career seemed to be cooling off at the end of his 4 year old campaign. He's a young horse with a long life ahead of him but in the racing game he doesn't seem to have much time left. Now, he can easily rebound and prove that this is just a period of bad form. It happens to many horses, they'll go bad for a while and come back eventually. But is Llano Teller getting old? Is his age starting to get to him? We'll see. There are hundreds of examples I could have used to get this point across.
     Now, I don't know about you but I don't like bad bread. Let's get to the fine wine. On Sunday night, Quarter Horse fans tuned into the Grade I Los Alamitos Winter Championship and were impressed by Rylees Boy's late rally to score the victory. The 8 year old had won the 2012 Bank Of America Challenge Championship and Champion of Champions and showed no signs of slowing down. His victory in the Winter Championship made him the oldest horse to ever win the race.
      I spent some time watching his replays yesterday afternoon, and I was amazed at how much better he's gotten since he was 2 and 3. At the beginning of his career he was a minor player in some Futurities and Derbies in Arizona. He never won a Stakes race at 2 or 3, only a Maiden, a claiming event, and a few Allowances. Then in his 4 year old campaign he took off. He won 5 consecutive races, one of which was a Bank of American Championship Challenge at Turf Paradise. He then finished 3rd in the final at Los Alamitos. The horse that couldn't win some small Futurities at Yavapai Downs was all of a sudden a Graded Stakes winner and Grade I placed. Since February of 2009, he's finished out of the money twice, both times caused by bad racing luck. He's won several of the most major races for older horses at 6, 7 and 8 years old. He keeps getting better.
      So what's age got to do with it? It all depends on the individual. The once wonderful bread that you ran to for your sandwich will eventually go bad. A bottle of wine may not be too great at first, but as it ages, you'll pull it out after a stressful day at the track, have a glass and you'll love it. The horse that you won tons of money on in the Derby will cost you so much later that you'll curse his name. But eventually you'll cash a few tickets on an 8 year old and you'll have a big grin on your face that makes you look like you drank a bit too much of that wine.

Fun Fact: Los Alamitos race-caller Ed Burgart was the race caller in Rylees Boy's Maiden victory at Yavapai Downs in Prescott, Arizona back in 2007.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

State-breds highlight Sunland weekend

I love New Mexico racing. I love the Quarter Horses, I love lightning fast dirt tracks, and I love frog juice. One thing I'm not a big fan of, and I'm not a fan of it anywhere, is state/province-bred racing.
     But sometimes state-bred racing can be exciting, competitive, and intriguing when it comes to betting. Sunland will be hosting two Stakes races for New Mexico-breds this weekend; the Peppers Pride Handicap (previously the Sydney Valentini Handicap) on Saturday for Thoroughbred fillies & mares going a mile, and the NMHBA Quarter Horse Stakes on Sunday for 3 year old Quarter Horses going 400 yards. Both races have a purse of $85,000.
Peppers Pride wins the 2008 Sydney Valentini Handicap
     The Peppers Pride Handicap is named after the most famous New Mexico-bred ever. Peppers Pride went undefeated in her 19-start career, earning $1,066,085 in the process. Enough to warrant a Stakes race named after her. A field of 7 will go to gate, and an argument can be made for almost every one of them. Perhaps the most notable of the bunch is Hennesey Smash, the only 4 year old filly of the group. Hennesey Smash has only been beaten once in her 7 race career, but has yet to travel farther than 6 furlongs. She has class, and it was proven last time in her win against open company in the Bold Ego Handicap, but she may have a tough time overcoming the anti-speed in route race bias at Sunland. Hennesey Smash's trainer, Todd Fincher, also sends out Rose's Desert, who's won 7 of her 10 lifetime starts and has never finished worse than 2nd. She's earned over $400,000, which is more than anyone else in the field, and she will likely go off as the favorite, as she has in her last 9 starts. The other interesting horse in the race, and the one who will likely be my top pick when I get to fully handicapping the race, is Iplaytricks, who's 2 for 2 at the mile distance, 4 for 8 at Sunland and 8 for 18 lifetime. Like I said, very competitive field of mares and potential an interesting betting race.
     On Sunday, the RGII NMHBA Stakes will showcase a group of 10 talented 3 year old Quarter Horses. Last year's winner, Fury of the Storm, later won the RGI Zia Derby at Ruidoso Downs, and this race will likely produce several Zia Derby runners this year as well. The obvious horse to beat is Slew by You, who is exiting a win in the RGII Shue Fly Stakes. Although she was slow into form in the summer, she's gotten better with experience and is looking for her 4th consecutive win. Hottest trainer/jockey combo in the country Victor Rodriguez-Flores and Esgar Ramirez are looking for a win with One Blazin Kimbo, who finished 4th by a 1/2 length in the Shue Fly after being forced out at the break, rallying strongly. In a sense it's a race between them, but in a Stakes with no trial races, it won't surprise me if a horse shows up from an Allowance that may be overshadowed by the Shue Fly runners. These are some very talented horses, several will be Restricted Graded Stakes winners in the future, and some will be open Graded Stakes winners as well.
      Horses bred in New Mexico, Thoroughbreds at least, may not be the most incredible horses in the world, but you have to be proud of what you've got. Take some time out of your weekend to see some talented horse from the Land of Enchantment.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

The Sad State of Canadian Racing Pt. 2: Ontario

Last Saturday I talked about racing in Western Canada and the fragile state it's currently in. Now it's time to discuss the place everyone cares about: Ontario.
      Everyone remembers about a year ago when the Ontario Government and the OLG announced they were ending the Slots At Racetracks Program (SARP) and the industry flying into panic mode immediately after the announcement was made. As you may have read on Standardbred Canada, the SARP was 'highly successful' and ending it was completely unjustified according to every harness horsemen and many thoroughbred people I've talked to. Oddly, I've heard nothing from the Quarter Horse side of things.
      For the first few months after the SARP cancellation announcement, I took the Standardbred Canada side of the argument, spewing all the garbage about how 'highly successful' the SARP was. But I started reading more than SC, and realized this program wasn't so successful after all.
      The idea of the SARP was to rejuvenate racing in Ontario for both horsemen and bettors. The horsemen got what they wanted, purses in Ontario are great. The bettors got basically nothing.
      Let's take a look at what harness bettors in Ontario have to deal with.
      WEG takes only 13.65% from WPS and 17.2% from exactors and doubles. That's not too bad. Then you look at the Tri and Pick 4 and you begin to shake your head at the 21.7% taken from those. Every other wager, which at WEG is Supers and Pick 3s, 23.0%. WEG is a major circuit who made a lot of money from their slots over the course of the SARP. They gave bettors the cold shoulder, taking their status as a major circuit as an excuse to not care for the bettors who play their product, taking them for granted. That's a theme that's common when discussing WEG, and many other track operators.
     Now, onto the B harness. Grand River: WPS: 20.7%, All others: 21.6%. Flamboro & Georgian: All wagers: 21.4%. Hiawatha: All wagers 21.3%. Kawartha: WPS, EX, Tri, DD: 18%, All others: 21.3%. Rideau Carleton: All but tri: 20.75%, triactor: 21.95%. Western Fair: WPS: 18.1%, Pick 4: 15%, All others: 23.0%. In shorter terms, the rake is high. Along with the high track, many of these tracks will race against each others, making their small handles smaller and smaller. The bettors got NOTHING from the SARP, even though 10% of the money generated by the program was supposed to go towards improving the racing PRODUCT. Not just the purses, but the product. Needless to say, the harness tracks are in a panic as to what they'll do come when their racing will be surviving on handle only.
     Now, onto Ajax Downs, the home of Quarter Horse racing in Ontario. Ajax was transformed from Picov Downs, a bush track where 3 digit purses were common, into what it is now when the owners came to a deal with the OLG to put in slots and create and actual race track. All of a sudden, the low level Quarter Horses that raced for tiny purses started racing for some of the best overnight purses in Quarter Horse racing at a very nice facility.
     I've been to Ajax Downs a couple of times, and both times the crowd was a very good size. People do go to Ajax, and enjoy the races. However, Ajax is only simulcasted on Tuesdays, and there are very few bettors anywhere outside of Ontario who care about Ontario Quarter Horse racing. Go look at some Equibase charts from Ajax. Take a minute so you understand the handle we're talking here. The fact that the takeout on every single wager is 21.3% doesn't help. What's worse is that they have done NOTHING to make themselves a legitimate product. No one from Ajax has taken advantage of any form of social media. Go search for Ajax Downs onTwitter. There's nothing there. The only semi-Ajax Downs related person on Twitter is me. Most bush tracks have taken advantage of social media. Look at Marquis Downs or the Rocky Mountain Turf Club. They have Twitter pages, and most of you probably haven't heard of them. I am in full support of growing Ontario's Quarter Horse industry, but apparently the Quarter Horse track isn't. That's a problem for an industry that I believe has a great facility and a serious potential to grow into something more respectable than what it already is.
     Now finally, the Thoroughbreds. Woodbine has been successful at creating handle, mainly because they're a major track in a major city with important races. Note that all WEG Thoroughbred takeouts are the same as WEG harness, with the exception of triactor wagers. Thoroughbred triactor take out is 19.7%, 2% lower than harness. Woodbine has done a good job creating a greater interest in their product, with large Pick 4 guarantees and decent field size. Even without slot money, they'd be able to retain a fairly stable purse structure. Nothing compared to the current purse structures, but it would still be respectable. But like I said earlier, WEG does nothing for their bettors. They would be able to attract a lot of new handle if they would just lower the rake to something more reasonable.
     Then there's Fort Erie. Fort Erie is standing on the last toe on the foot of it's last leg. It's sad because it's a very scenic place with a long and storied history. For a while during the SARP, the Fort really did well. The purses were good, the handle was good, attendance was good. Then politics made it tougher for Americans to come over and spend some time at the Border Oval. Bettors and slot players began spending their time at Batavia Downs and Buffalo Raceway. It didn't help that Fort Erie really wasn't doing much to save themselves. The backstretch there is awful. The grandstand isn't too well kept. Their big experiment to try and increase handle was introducing Quarter Horse racing, which makes no sense for an Ontario Thoroughbred track but I enjoyed it so alright. Needless to say it didn't work. I heard nothing from the Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium about lowering the 22.9% takeout of every bet but WPS. I didn't spend any time at the backstretch there in 2012, but from what I heard it was no different than it was the previous year when I was there frequently. The FELRC did nothing but complain and make it sound like there was nothing but doom and gloom ahead.
      And that's the sad state of Ontario racing. Not ONE race track has said anything about how they will make their racing product prosper and grow in the future. They've whined about the loss of slot money on and on. The grand solution to these tracks was to sign 2 year lease agreements with the OLG to keep slots at the tracks on a rent payment system. They're clinging to their slots like a scared child afraid of losing their mother. It's sad and pathetic. If the racetracks don't smarten up and do something about the state of their racing product, racing in Ontario will come to a screeching halt. Hopefully we don't let it get to that point.

Note: all harness takeout rates taken from a WEG Harness program from November 10th, 2012. All Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse takeouts taken from a WEG simulcast program from September 23rd, 2012.

Sorry this was so long. There's a lot more to be said about the current state of Ontario racing but I'll leave it here.