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, 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


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