Cary Fotias

Cary Fotias is the Founder and President of Equiform, a New York City firm that produces The XTRAS and The SHORTS, handicapping products for evaluating current condition and form cycles. He is also the author of the critically acclaimed handicapping book, Blinkers Off, which describes an innovative numerical approach to form-cycle analysis.

After spending eight years as a currency trader on Wall Street, Fotias has spent the last 16 years as professional handicapper. He is a member of the NTRA Players Panel and was chosen to give a presentation to the Ad Hoc Committee on the Future of New York Racing on behalf of New York horseplayers.

Fotias is a vocal proponent of lower takeouts. He also has a strong interest in the cutting-edge concept of betting exchanges and how they might be developed in the U.S. He feels the game would prosper if it would only adapt to the economic and technological realities of the information age.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Another Inconvenient Truth

Five-O. Fifty Percent. That's the take on lottery tickets, but they still sell like hotcakes. Whether it be Pick-3, Pick-4 or Lotto with a big carryover, state governments handle big money every day (and some places, twice a day). Even with a take that would make horseplayers blush, the lottery does a great business. Why? First of all, it panders to the modern American mindset that requires virtually no thinking. Secondly, it sometimes offers prizes that even the Sultan of Brunei wouldn't sneeze at. But most importantly, it can be played almost anywhere at any time. In New York City, you never have to go more than a block or two to get a bet down at your favorite bodega or newsstand.

In order to prosper, horseracing has many issues that need to be resolved. You've all heard me rant about takeout rates but, today, I'm going to talk about convenience - or rather, inconvenience. In business school, we learn that having a good "distribution network" is crucial to sell a product effectively. Coca-Cola and Marlboro have superior distribution networks. Horseracing doesn't. But it should, given that you can't drink a Coke or smoke a Marlboro over the internet.

Byzantine simulcast rules and regulations, Patriot Act invasions of privacy and right-wing fundamentalist anti-gambling zealots have coalesced to make betting on horses a frustrating experience that alienates many players. Magna, Churchill, NYRA One Account, You Bet, Xpressbet, Tracknet, Brisbet, Winticket,
New York City OTB, and on and on. Often, a player has to open accounts at multiple wagering platforms to get all the action he or she wants. One outfit doesn't carry this signal and another place doesn't take that one. What a joke! The game is struggling to attract business and these morons make it tough to get a bet down. Can you imagine Caesar's Palace saying they don't deal blackjack? The casinos offer one-stop shopping and have perfected a way to "take your money and make you feel good about it". Racing could do the same but, until the powers that be realize that the "customer comes first", it will be remain a second-tier gambling (yeah, it's gambling) option.

Written by Cary Fotias Provides the Most Accurate Thoroughbred Handicapping Data
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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Well, here I go again

I am going to beat this “dead horse” ‘til more of you wake up. Ellis Park has a 4% take on the Pick-4 – YES, 4%. I am ashamed to say that my fellow horseplayers have not yet supported this wager with the handle it deserves. This bet should be handling $300,000-$500,000 per day.

Just last week, horseplayers bet over seven million dollars into a big carryover pool at Hollywood. I invested thousands that day and, let me tell you, it was not vintage racing. The Pick-6 sequence started with a bottom-of-the barrel $8,000 Claiming Race and continued with a cheap Starter Allowance for horses who had broken their maiden for $40,000 or less, a NW1 Allowance, a Cal-bred Maiden Special Weight for fillies, a small Stakes, and the usual So Cal Maiden Claimer in the finale. What a card!! And yet over SEVEN MILLION dollars was poured though the mutuel machines.

This Hollywood pool was the biggest Pick-6 pot in US pari-mutuel history and made thirteen (twelve if you only count the Los Alamitos guy once) lucky winners very happy. It left the rest of us poorer and, apparently, none the wiser. Chasing big Pick-6 payouts provides a lot of entertainment value and, once in a blue moon, a life-changing score. But day-in and day-out, it is LOWER
TAKEOUT RATES that will keep us in action and give skilled handicappers a real chance to win in the long run.

If you don’t get involved in the Ellis Park Pick-4 as often as you can and for as much as you can, you are obviously not a card-carrying member of the Horseplayers Union. If Norma Jean can create change, we can too – but only if we take this golden opportunity to speak with our pocketbook. SEND IT IN on the Ellis Park Pick-4 and show the industry that TAKEOUT RATES DO MATTER. Let Ellis Park and innovative owner Ron Geary be a beacon unto an industry that treats its customers like cattle being led to slaughter.

Are you tired of horseplayer/handicappers being referred to as bums and compulsive gamblers. Well, here’s your chance to show the powers that be what we are really all about. We love the intellectual stimulation of handicapping and that, when coupled with the majesty of the thoroughbred, we are playing the greatest game in the world. We will not all die broke. But certainly, many of us will give up playing the game seriously if takeout rates and other issues are not
concretely addressed in the not too distant future.

I am doing all I can to promote the Ellis Park Pick-4. Along those lines, I am offering all HorseRaceInsider viewers free Equiform product for the rest of the meet. That’s right, just e/mail and we will send it out every day.

I am doing all I can to show the industry that SERIOUS PLAYERS REQUIREE CHANGE. Ron Geary and Ellis Park are doing all they can do. The question is, dear horseplayer, are you doing ALL YOU CAN DO?

I Hope So..

Written by Cary Fotias Provides the Most Accurate Thoroughbred Handicapping Data
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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Take Stops Here

Players CAN make a difference -- Almost a year ago, I planted an idea in the fertile mind of innovative Ellis Park racetrack owner Ron Geary.

Ron is a player himself, and a very good one at that, having qualified for the last three DRF/NTRA National Handicapping championships. Ron was looking for a way to differentiate Ellis Park from other tracks. After looking at the Ellis handle figures for the Pick-4 for last two years (avg of $18,000 per day), I came up with the idea of a low takeout Pick-4. The track wasn't getting rich off this bet, especially considering the fact that 85% of the handle was from simulcast outlets. The simulcast operators retain a very high percentage of the takeout, leaving a few scraps for the host track. In short, nobody was making much off the Pick-4 due the meager handle.

As a member of the NTRA Players Panel, I have been a vocal proponent of lower takeout rates across the board. I received a rousing ovation at the 2004 Handicapping Expo in Las Vegas when I declared that the "the handicapping game will not prosper until takeout rates are significantly reduced." Economics 101 teaches us that the way to maximize profits is to let the free market operate to find the point where supply meets demand to maximize profits. Sadly, the racing industry is run more like a public utility, with bureaucrats, politicians, OTBs, and slot-machine opportunists putting their interests way above the good of the game. Their actions and beliefs defy economic common sense and exhibit a total disregard for the horseplayers whose wagering dollars fuel the game.

As a member of the Players Panel, I really thought it could make a difference. At the 2004 Expo, the panel made some 60 recommendations to improve conditions for players. At last count, maybe two or three minor issues have been addressed and change instituted. But the larger concerns regarding the integrity of the wagering pools, takeout reduction, illegal drugs, and late odds drops have been given nothing more than lip service. THIS IS ABOUT TO CHANGE IF YOU TAKE ACTION!

Ron Geary and his team deserve the lion's share of the credit for making this fantastic bet a reality. Ron got the horsemen and the state of Kentucky to sign off on it early on, but worked until Wednesday morning to finalize simulcast agreements with the major outlets. I just had an idea.

To win the war against the incompetents who run this industry ( apologies to the few racetrack and politicians who actually get it), revolutionary tactics are required. It was Victor Hugo who said, "THERE IS NOTHING AS POWERFUL AS AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME." Well folks, that TIME IS NOW if you want to send a message to all parties involved that lower takeouts are the savior for our great game. If you don't invest in this Pick-4 as often as you can and for as much as you can, you will be sent to Siberia for reprogramming.

It's one thing to chase huge carryovers like we just had at Hollywood Park. I got caught up in the madness myself. But the day-to-day business of egregious takeouts has not changed. I will be betting $400-$600 a day into this new Pick-4 pool. A 4% take? Are you kidding? If I can't win at that rate, I should give it up.. And to top it off, you can play in 50-cent increments if you so choose. This pool should be handling hundreds of thousands a day after it catches on. Let's show the industry that lower takeouts do propel horse-racing's economic engine. By heavily supporting the new Ellis Park Pick-4, we will draw a roadmap for the industry at large. After recognizing the economic and marketing benefits of lower takeouts, other tracks will follow suit. IT'S ONE STEP BY RON GEARY but a GIANT STEP for HORSEPLAYERS.

Written by Cary Fotias Provides the Most Accurate Thoroughbred Handicapping Data
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BallHype: hype it up!

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