Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Through the Looking Glass? Hardly
LOS ANGELES, September 10, 2013 -- Is the promised transparency at the "New NYRA” headed down the rabbit hole?
Lucky for me blogger Tom Noonan has the constitution to sit through entire NYRA board meetings. I dozed off shortly after NYRA’s CEO started his statement.
That also seems to happen to me at the sound of Bo Derek’s voice when I listen to California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) meetings. Maybe if they had video as well as audio, like New York …
As usual, Noonan pulled no punches
‘"…we first had to sit through Chris Kay’s reading of a prepared statement for almost 40 minutes. …
… Then, with only about five minutes left in the meeting, Skorton asked if "everyone was comfortable" with operating as if there were no VLT revenues …
… I wondered; was I hearing correctly? The Chairman of the Board allows the CEO to drone on for 40 minutes about a host of inconsequential matters then prods every other speaker to move quickly so the meeting can end on time.
Then he drops a bombshell leaving little time for discussion.
Fortunately, not everyone was comfortable with this approach. After several Board members raised legitimate concerns, Skorton allowed "these subtleties are important," and that a "fuller discussion" was warranted.
But he also wants to have that discussion in private while simultaneously stating his commitment to operating in public.
It is a discussion that is necessary and important, which is why it must be conducted in the open. "’
Listening to the replay, it seemed as if much of what was presented to the board could have--and should have--been read beforehand for public discussion.
For example, CFO Susanne Stover’s reporting of 6-month figures included such stats as NYRA’s accounting for 16% of total handle nationwide while paying 12% of U.S. purses over 5% of live racing days. During that period, "every dollar paid in purses generated $15.29 in handle compared with $10.93 industry-wide."
Average field size declined to 7.39 from 7.78, but average betting handle per betting interest increased 6%. Interestingly, none of the preceding stats for any reported period elicited any questions from the board.
Why was there no dialogue as to how these figures relate to NYRA’s net operating loss for the associated period, as well as who were the top three performers according those metrics, to provide needed insight?
Or as Fred Pope posited in his open letter to NYRA: "… As the leading producer of live racing ... [NYRA] has sufficient handle to make a lot of money and restore purses, marketing, staff for live racing and infrastructure.
“But, it cannot achieve its mission to maximize revenue from its races without changing the amount it receives from off-track wagers.
“NYRA exports 5 times more than it imports. Last year the races generated over $1.8 billion in off-track handle. Every 1% increase NYRA earns on its exported races is worth $18 million to its bottom line. … In the short term, NYRA can earn over $100 million in new revenue by solving this distribution problem.
“The huge demand for NYRA races can drive partnerships with other major producers, direct distribution to customers and revised distribution agreements. Anyone saying it cannot be done has the mindset of a bet taker, not a producer …"
Indeed a common internet wagering platform operated by a consortium of tracks could increase revenues for all through lower operating costs, quicker settlements, and a higher share of revenue to each host. Absent a
National Horse Racing Commission (NHRC), however, it seems highly unlikely that such a cooperative venture will emerge.
Suppose either Twinspires or Xpressbet were to become NYRA’s new provider of ADW services. Would that improve the chances of their parent companies becoming the new franchise holders?
One has to wonder whether any NYRA investment in an ADW upgrade -- collective or independent – would be premature prior to privatization.
Near the end of the Board Meeting, one of the "uncomfortable" directors pointed out that the VLT revenue was contractual payment for NYRA’s giving up the land to the State.
Would privatization legally terminate that contractual obligation? Would the same be true of union contracts? If so, no current contractor/service provider should be qualified to bid. The sweep must be clean and the franchise operation entirely separated from State government.
Per usual, Pope left horseplayers out of the equation:"As a non-profit, NYRA returns everything back to the sport, racehorse owners and breeders. As our largest, most-sophisticated market, New York is and always has been Thoroughbred racing’s True North."
A "New North" is needed so that something goes back to bettors as well in the form of a more attractive racing product for all pari-mutuel participants.
Fat chance, of course, but VLT revenue in the next three years should go to fund lower takeout initiatives so that legislators will get the message that parimutuel price-points matter, that less equals more.
So far, the “new NYRA” has been transparent in name only. What’s everybody afraid of?
Full fields with familiar foes featured more frequently is a future racing fans could look forward to.
Written by Indulto
Friday, August 30, 2013
At Del Mar, Beach Blanket Stinko
LOS ANGELES, August 29, 2013—Like a stopped clock that’s right twice a day, my handicapping of Grade I races for three-year-olds tends to be right twice a year. Both times this year, D. Wayne Lukas provided a vehicle of value that helped overcome my inconsistent wagering strategies.
And that ship might have sailed when Oxbow went to the sidelines and Will Take Charge will take lots more money now that his profile has been raised several notches.
This was a weekend when even the highest of high-profile trainers served up longshots; Todd Pletcher in Saratoga’s King’s Bishop and Bob Baffert in the Pat O’Brien at Del Mar. I caught neither, having exacta-boxed the four survivors from the Amsterdam and only watched Goldenscents complete the Pat O'Brien exacta with hands that never reached into my pocket.
Perhaps what we need here at HRI is a wagering clinic where hapless handicappers like me can get some diagnostic assistance in turning red ink into black before our fingers turn blue from pinching dimes. Indeed, opening my wallet for week-end wagers looks more like a moth–release program given my recent inability to isolate singles at the top of my superfecta tickets.
Even when my analysis is reasonably accurate, financial reward is too frequently interrupted in vertical exotic pools when the right horses finish in the wrong order. Sunday’s Pacific Classic was a perfect example.
I figured that the draught might end because Game On Dude appeared a most logical winner since his previous conqueror made several disappointing efforts since their last meeting. But a Single-All-All-All superfecta would have involved 990 combinations which was unlikely to produce a profit, especially when the single is the favorite. Some trimming in the middle two slots seemed appropriate.
The battle for place appeared to be between dead-fit Hollywood Gold Cup Runner-up, Kettle Corn, and a resurgent two-time Pacific Classic winning Richard’s Kid. Even though I had my doubts, Dullahan, the 2012 winner, was impossible to ignore. It was reasonable to assume that one of my choices would finish second; probably third, as well.
Parenthetically, I always use All in the 4th slot, efforting to give myself at least as many chances to get third or second money. So I added Holding Glory, a 10-furlong graded stakes winner in Brazil, to the 3rd slot. He rated to improve off his fast-closing 2nd at one mile over the track. That play took 98 combinations, compared with 270 if I used All for third.
The bottom three superfecta finishes were decided by noses. If the 3rd and 4th placings had been reversed, I would have cashed. A 40-1 shot, You Know I Know, finished 3rd behind more highly regarded stablemate Kettle Corn. Both had outfinished Richard’s Kid, resulting in a Dime Super worth $226.04. The odds were 6-5, 6-1, 40-1 and 14-1, respectively.
Ironically, You Know I Know also happened to be an optional-claiming miler who narrowly defeated a freshened Holding Glory. The racing gods insured that my 33-1 longshot would finish a troubled fifth beneath Sutherland-Kruse, a head behind Richard’s Kid.
I know, I know: If I liked Holding Glory I should have liked You Know I Know, too. It would have taken only nine more combinations to get it right. All I can say is that I’m more inclined to spend a little more when my top selection isn’t the favorite.
(Maybe I would buy 10% more combinations if I were subsidized with the 10% rebate that goes to racing’s 1 percent, even though we bet into the same pools).
Jay Hovdey’s entertaining recap at http://www.drf.com/news/jay-hovdey-how-about-pacific-classic-blanket-finish
was more forgiving of Chantal’s ride than either the DRF charts or replays indicate. See for yourself. I’ll be revisiting my own drawing board.
Written by Indulto
Friday, August 23, 2013
Travers Program a Sight for Track-Sore Eyes
All would agree that no one needs stakes races with short fields and odds-on favorites, but relief is in sight Saturday at Saratoga, which will offer four graded events--three Grade 1s and a Grade 2—replete with competitive fields of at least nine horses.
Furthermore, those four races comprise four legs of the Pick Six. The 14-race card returns to reality with New York’s seemingly obligatory $20,000 claiming turf sprint and maidens on turf going long. The 13th race concludes the Pick Six sequence.
Parenthetically, the turf route preceding the four stakes has a full field and is a much more attractive handicapping puzzle. But racing secretaries seem to think that bettors want to use lower class runners to complete their horizontal wagers.
This is, of course, shortsighted and wrong-headed, but then what do executives know about what dedicated horseplayers really want?
Why couldn’t the Pick Six conclude with the contentious Travers? Parenthetically, the last two races could have been eliminated altogether, allowing those inside the shrine of American Thoroughbred racing on its most memorable day to leave with a final image of racing at its very best?
Post time for the Travers is 5:46 PM EDT and 5:10 for the preceding King’s Bishop which will be included in the hour-long national telecast.
How hard would it have been to include stretch runs of the prior Pick Four legs, the Test and the Ballston Spa, so that conclusions to both Pick Threes would also be viewable live? I understand this is a network decision but since they pay for the air time, racetracks should have some input as to program content.
The excitement of gambling also needs to be part of this opportunity to lend exposure to the game.
So why am I whining even when things aren’t as bad as usual? Because this opportunity is just the latest example of racing executives in leadership positions lack of imagination, even at its most successful venues.
Impertinent Questions and Possible Solution?
Who needs uniform wagering rules much less race-day medication guidelines? Why are players at NYRA tracks unable to play all exotic wagers offered with fifty-cent minimums at other venues? Why should residents of some states not be able to watch and wager on races like U.S. citizens in other states?
Why can’t DRF Bets customers bet Arlington Park? Why can’t stakes schedules and post times be staggered permanently to generate greater participation and handle?
There’s no need for the Federal government to get in the business of running horse racing unless ineptness, self-interest and corruption is truly widespread. All that’s needed is to mandate the existence of a national racing board whose membership equally represents every state that conducts interstate racing.
This Board can be funded by those states in proportion to the total annual handle generated from out-of-state sources. Two tiers of membership would exist based on the level of funding with the major tracks contributing the highest levels and lesser tracks at lower levels, respectively.
Representatives could be comprised of reputable and respected industry participants. They could not be active employees or officials of any State government agency, racetrack operator, or horsemen/breeders’ association. Nor should they be board level decision-makers associated with the preceding.
In a perfect world, racing participants, including customers, would register to choose their representatives for their home states.
These elected representatives would, in turn, elect a Commissioner of Racing from among membership for a specified period. Their decisions would be final during that term.
This should inform the level of industry knowledge and experience needed by all board members. All majority decisions would have to include a majority in both membership tiers in order to be implemented and binding on all. Subsequent issues that did not reach the level of agreement required would then be decided by the Commissioner.
The board would be charged with establishing uniform rules of racing and wagering, including guidelines for all medication testing procedures and levy penalties for violators. Decisions as to the appropriateness and accuracy of information supplied to the board would be made by the Commissioner.
Any representative could propose an initiative for change or additions to existing rules for the Commissioner’s consideration. All changes approved by the Commissioner would then be validated by board vote. All decisions made by the Commissioner must be in writing to assure transparency and made available to the public.
What prominent name in racing do you most associate with good communication and organizational skills, having the ability to balance the interests of competing parties who would have the confidence and trust of the racing public?
This notion seems workable and fair. Could something like this happen? If so, would it be viable?
Written by Indulto