Friday, May 30, 2014
Whales Disproportionately Dictate Betting Policy
LOS ANGELES, CA, May 29, 2014—Recreational bettors and industry management were both taught an important lesson last Sunday when a smart, well-heeled horseplayer boosted the entire Gulfstream Rainbow Six pool of $6,678,939 while other whales were simply watching and waiting.
Dan Borislow, previously on racing fan radar as the owner of Toccet, told the Daily Racing Form
'he spent $15,206.40 to win the jackpot. He fashioned two nearly identical tickets using the "all" button in five of the Rainbow Six races. He played four horses in the sixth race, two on each ticket, …' costing $7,603.20 apiece for a payoff exceeding 438-1.
Luck was also on his side, however, as despite having the last race covered, his unique-ticket winner barely beat a carryover-preserving 2nd place finisher by a nostril.
Borislow also provided several noteworthy revelations:
"I've probably played the Rainbow Six about six or seven times over the past several months ..."
"I handicapped the races and liked one race in particular, the sixth. When I made out the original ticket, it cost $3,600. So instead of playing a regular ticket, I just decided to take an all in the five other races."
"I’ve probably been one of the bigger horse bettors in the country over the last 15 years."
"I guess if you work at something long enough, eventually you should get it right."
Inferring from the above that seven prior "regular" plays hadn't hit to the cumulative tune of $25,000, elevating his play by a factor of five for the last chance prior to a mandatory payout actually makes a lot of sense for someone playing with monopoly money. I wonder how long it will take Borislow to churn those multiple millions?
What is assumed but hasn't been revealed is whether a portion of those bets were being returned as rebates, which could have amounted to about $4,000 from all that action from subsidized bettors. What should be clear now, though, is that – with rare exceptions – this wager is simply a funnel for transferring funds from the pockets of small bankroll bettors into those with comparatively huge bankrolls.
A truly equitable People's Pick Six might have a 10-20 cent minimum, no consolations, and a seeded jackpot to start. Takeout should be low enough to preclude rebating. Management might consider a mandatory payout the first Saturday after the jackpot reaches $1,000,000.
What surprised me were all the negative comments that followed the announcement of this one-man betting coup. It takes one hell of a handicapper to accurately predict chaos and it takes one hell of a horseplayer to manage it once identified. Players like Borislow have the wherewithal to do it all on their own; most need partners.
The industry is missing the boat by not enabling partnerships outside the "Players Pool" that can distribute tax liability to individuals based on their specific contribution to the total wager. This is another way to level the playing field for small bankroll bettors while reaping the benefit of the resulting higher collective handle.
Does anybody think Borislow is any less deserving of accolades than the ultimate little guy, Graham Stone, who had the lone winning combination for the 2003 Breeders' Cup Ultra Pick Six
with an $8 ticket?
Coming on the heels of the "Fix Six" scandal of 2002, Stone was forced to undergo vetting by Breeders’ Cup to establish the legitimacy of his play (and perhaps prove he wasn't a time traveler). Stone played the three Richard Mandella-trained winners, with a horse ridden by Jerry Bailey, with a pick by Andy Beyer, and a selection of his own.
I can't knock any strategy that utilizes knowledge of the game -- especially one proven to have worked -- but I suspect very few others could apply it successfully. If Gulfstream doesn't make some changes, however, Borislow clones will be cropping up with regularity.
That would be good for Gulfstream, a track that purports to be customer friendly but, like any American track, or corporation for that matter, is a slave to the bottom line. As such, it’s unreasonable to expect them to alienate their whales for the benefit of rank and file bettors.
I’ve noticed several comments that perhaps Gulfstream management should have funded two plays with all combinations on each of the final days leading up to the mandatory payout in order to guarantee it wouldn't be hit ahead of time.
Also, some opined that Borislow's score was proof of management's integrity, but how could we know whether or not such fraudulent pool manipulation did occur?
Greater transparency in this regard should augment earlier reforms driven by the Rainbow Six. Ideally, all states should uniformly outlaw such practice with very serious consequences for offenders.
It wouldn't surprise me if the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau is already vetting cashers of tickets using "ALL" in more than three legs in order to discourage money laundering. If so, they should also be checking possible jackpot payout avoidance.
I am not among those for whom the missed opportunity for attacking the long-awaited mandatory payout left a bad taste. As far as I'm concerned, Borislaw performed a public service in exposing yet another weakness in a wager that some thought had the potential to create a holiday on which the action world would focus its gaze on horse racing.
Written by Indulto
Monday, May 19, 2014
On Making the Triple Crown Even Better
LOS ANGELES, May 18, 2014—Along with considerably more competition than he faced in the Preakness with fresh and ready-to-pounce rivals in the June 7 Belmont Stakes, California Chrome's destiny awaits him in New York, pending stewards’ approval on whether he will be permitted to race with his customary nasal strip.
[Ed. note] On the recommendation of Dr. Scott Palmer, the NYRA unanimously agreed to allow the colt to race with a nasal strip in the Belmont Stakes. All Thoroughbreds in New York State no longer will be banned from wearing the apparatus that aids a horse to breathe. Palmer said that "it is not performance enhancing."
If permitted to start, NYRA will get its coveted Triple Crown attempt after all. The new cast assembled to derail Chrome’s bid for superstardom over the weekend was particularly underwhelming this year as 16 of the 19 Derby runners said no to Maryland’s hospitality.
Parenthetically, four of Chrome’s 18 Derby rivals were trained by Todd Pletcher. Pletcher’s Preakness pass-over has become the rule rather than the exception, but he is not alone in this thinking.
With the Tonalist unable to make into the Louisville starting gate, for example, Christophe Clement never gave the Preakness a second thought. Having the Belmont as the ultimate goal, Clement pragmatically chose lesser rivals, an extra week’s rest, and a race over the track rather than run in the Triple Crown’s second leg.
Without change, this example and others like it will continue to be the rule, not the exception, and the series will not be all that it can be in the future. No sport in the modern era has resisted schedule change like racing has.
This is not a new problem for Pimlico or the modern Triple Crown series. Even raising the purse didn’t change things dramatically. And Tom Chuckas, president of the Maryland Jockey Club, spoke up and said he would approach the other.
Triple Crown tracks to discuss what has become the game’s spacing issues.
I was unfamiliar with Chuckas before his interview with John Scheinman but his plan for "spreading out" the Triple Crown certainly had a familiar ring. Wrote Scheinman: "Blood Horse
"Chuckas said he will work toward a schedule that has the Kentucky Derby retain its position on the first Saturday in May, while the Preakness would be moved to the first weekend in June and the Belmont Stakes to the first weekend in July."
One might have first read about a similar proposal here at HRI in 2009 when executive editor John Pricci wrote in "http://www.horseraceinsider.com/On-The-Line/comments/06122009-altering-triple-crown-schedule-gaining-momentum/#comments"
target="_new">this blog, "a Triple Crown of longer duration not only better serves the horse but makes promotional sense by keeping the series alive longer. The distances and venues should remain the same …
“The Kentucky Derby has secured its traditional place on the first Saturday in May… We originally proposed that the Preakness be run on the first Saturday in June. This makes it more likely that the Derby horses would run back in the Preakness, thus improving series continuity while raising the profile of racing’s glamour division with mainstream fans…
“A Memorial Day weekend [schedule], which would allow a minimum of 3-½ weeks between the first two legs--likely closer to four if that weekend stretches into the first Saturday in June…
“And what could be a more fitting conclusion to this uniquely American series than a Belmont Stakes on the 4th of July…?
“Wouldn’t the accomplishment be even greater if the Derby and/or Preakness winner had to defeat a larger number of contiguous rivals…?
“Find a sponsor and bring back a participation and winner’s bonus… Even mainstream media is getting into the act on this. ESPN.com senior writer Pat Forde has adopted the Triple Crown holiday scenario …"
[Ed. Note: Forde wrote about it again this year].
Chukas's remarks followed those stated by Stuart Janney III a day or two earlier which were reported in the Baltimore Sun
"If Janney had his way, the Derby would take place the first Saturday in May as always but the Preakness would be moved back to Memorial Day weekend, and the Belmont would be a month after that, which would reflect a more normal running schedule for top 3-year-olds."
"I think it would help training patterns because trainers now are more comfortable giving horses a bit more time trying to produce what they would hope would be a peak effort," [Janney] said.
"And I don't think at this point they're comfortable running in the Preakness the way they have been in the past. What you are seeing again this year is that a lot of trainers just skip the Preakness and run the Belmont because they think they get an advantage having the horse rested for that period of time. Certainly, that's [Todd] Pletcher's strategy."
One might suspect this idea now could gain the support of Frank Stronach who has made a career out of thinking outside the box. It will be interesting to see whether the new NYRA and Team Cuomo are willing to cooperate.
Unfortunately, one can envision a scenario in which California Chrome comes through and becomes the long-awaited 12th horse in history to sweep the triad. How ironic would that be: a Triple Crown winner that could inhibit rather than inspire industry cooperation?
My own preference is for four weeks between legs; long enough to provide adequate rest but not too long to seriously impact the national schedule in an overly-dramatic fashion.
In my view, a Memorial Day-Independence Day Triple Crown schedule would not only weaken focus on the proceedings but would also remove two of racing's prime exposure opportunities for other divisions, particularly the handicap division with familiar names from prior years' Triple Crown events.
Racing needs more big days to promote itself, not fewer. How ironic, too, that the new $8 million Belmont Stakes day schedule denies promotional opportunities on other big Belmont Saturdays.
Given California Chrome’s quest, the storied Metropolitan Mile and the Race of the Year, featuring the Breeders’ Cup Distaff rematch among champion Beholder vs Princess of Sylmar vs Close Hatches are already mainstream media afterthoughts. Attractions have become distractions.
An aside: Perhaps someday there will be a national graded stakes schedule that provides optimal exposure of past and younger equine stars with optimal spacing between divisional events. Imagine the best facing the best in full fields on a regular basis. What a concept.
Presently, the Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup allow for big days at a single venue are the best things racing has. But optimizing big days that comprise big races at multiple venues could provide shared promotional opportunities and costs by offering affordably-low-takeout horizontals such as a 50-Cent National Pick 5.
But for something like that to occur, confrontation and consuming self-interest would have to give way to cooperation and compromise, admittedly a very tall order. A sensible lengthening of the Triple Crown, making the series stronger, not weaker, would be an excellent place to start.
Written by Indulto
Sunday, May 11, 2014
For Racing, Derby Was a Pleasant Distraction
LOS ANGELES, May 11, 2014--Derby day has come and gone and despite the presence and previous day's success of Steve Asmussen, the subject of a widely anticipated interview with Bob Costas, racing still seems to be alive and solvent; even if still unreformed and unfriendly to bettors.
[Ed. Note] There was, however, no mention to Asmussen from Costas as to why thyroxine was used needlessly on all his horses.
Though I watched without wagering for the first time in many years, I still enjoyed what I saw of the broadcast; the running, the result--and not being split by longshot Commanding Curve who came from the clouds to finish second.
California Chrome proved himself the real deal; capable of carrying the high-speed with which he motored over the Autobahn at Santa Anita a furlong further over a slower surface at Churchill Downs.
Parenthetically, one need only remember the track maintenance performed in Louisville prior to Invasor's Breeders' Cup victory to rationalize the relatively slow fractional and final times recorded for the Derby following a rapidly run sprint several races earlier.
But those fractions may have been as much, if not more, a function of jockey tactics and a lifeless, waterless surface. Clearly, nobody wanted a repeat of last year's suicidal pace, anyway.
In its second year, the new Derby eligibility system produced a popular winning favorite whose vertical exotic payouts were leveraged considerably by the longshot runnerup.
Hopefully, Commander Curve's surprising placing is a preview of what is to come rather than a reprise of Golden Soul's and Ice Box's careers as one-hit wonders.
The ‘Commander’ will be waiting to get even in the Belmont Stakes rather than take on Chrome in Baltimore where the pace figures to get hotter than the Derby’s. The ultimate wisdom of that plan will have to wait until June.
It is worth noting that the Chrome would also have qualified for the Derby under the previous earnings-based system, as well as the weighted points system based on graded stakes finishes exclusively. Commander Curve only would have qualified under the new rules.
Like old friend Drosselmeyer, he had only a third place finish in the Louisiana Derby to recommend him.
Once more Todd Pletcher's presence was underwhelming given his mastery of the Derby preps; especially given the new rules. His Derby trainees finished 3rd, 10th, 12th, and 17th, Danza could have finished closer owing to his troubled third.
Potential prepmeister Mike Maker's multiple entrants were unable to muster serious threats, as they finished 11th, 16th and 19th.
If Danza shows up in Baltimore at the last minute, it will be his third race in five weeks, a la Bodemeister, compared to six weeks for the Derby winner. If as expected he doesn't, it will reaffirm that Pletcher regards five weeks rest more important than racing his Derby also-rans in the Triple Crown’s second jewel.
All but the top two finishers had troubled trips to varying degrees. If you totally trust the Equibase charts, Dance With Fate seemed to have encountered the most interference. At various stages he was jostled, shuffled, bumped, and shut off, yet still managed to finish sixth. I am awaiting his next start with interest.
As there will be betting on the second leg, too, I won't be expecting to find any from new shooter Social Inclusion. As of this writing, only Ride on Curlin and General A Rod are the only Derby survivors to join the Preakness cast—although I believe Ride On Curlin needs more distance, not less, to turn the tables.
In terms of wagering, apparently DRF Bets account holders were given a chance to bet the Derby after all but had to transfer their account to Xpressbet to do so. Unknown to me is why couldn't both platforms offer Derby betting?
At the end of the day, I and my bankroll both got a well-deserved rest from the rigors of handicapping and wagering, respectively, which doubtlessly saved both my bankroll and sanity.
I will still be boycotting Churchill Downs races, only the Grade I Stephen Foster really representing any sacrifice at all.
The old friends I was Skype-ing with Derby Day supported my decision to boycott in principle, and only one attempted to entice me to split a ticket. He cashed the winning bet by himself, the racing gods being the poor sports that they are.
Knowing my affection [affliction?] for alliteration, he pointed out what a perfectly symmetric exacta box the two CCs would make. I replied that the asymmetric Danza/Dance With Fate combination might work, too. All I wound up losing was my mind.
My friends were as outraged by the takeout hikes imposed by Churchill Downs Inc., as they were when the Thoroughbred Owners of California did the same thing three years earlier. They understand how rebates--enabled and masked by excessive takeout--put them at a disadvantage.
The difference is that my friends play five to 10 days a year compared to my 50 to 100. These days they're into the entertainment and social aspect of the game with perhaps a slim possibility of making a score, even more than in staying in the black.
Parenthetically, I find this a source of amusement since some of them are the same guys that in their earlier days frequently burned the midnight oil on Friday nights, marking up their Morning Telegraphs prior to making long drives the next day to the nearest track with the best purses. How we loved horseracing then, and still do.
They will be watching the Preakness and the Belmont and those with grandchildren might attend the Belmont if the Chrome is still chasing the dream. But they only participate when the best face the best.
They have expressed no interest in the majority of races they perceive to be less reliable; the contestants too frequently over-medicated to the detriment of horse, rider or bettor.
Contraction seems inevitable to them unless the California Chrome story can be replicated and told over and over. It’s often said that in this game there’s always tomorrow. That’s still true. Unfortunately, the game’s prospects don’t look as good as they once were.
Written by Indulto