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Sunday, January 13, 2008

SIZZLIN

Fast is fast but how about how fast the much-maligned SANTA ANITA CUSHION TRACK is currently?
Great day for Canadians yesterday - surely more to come...The HOT CANADIAN-BRED LIST is being updated...
Thanks to those who send me heads-up on news items and bits and pieces - like our friend EURICO ROSA DA SILVA..
Read on....

FRENCH CANADIANS

Fair Grounds good fun (no Beyer Figures available yet)

It’s beginning to feel a lot like last winter! The Canadian horses and folks are on a roll and it’s only January 13.

FRENCH BERET, a quirky fellow from the Sam-Son Farm, won the Grade 3 Colonel Bradley yesterday after a perfect trip under James Graham (Emma-Jayne Wilson was named in the DRF but Graham’s original mount Got the Last Laugh was scratched).

A Broad Brush 5yo gelding out of Misty Mission (Miswaki), French Beret stalked the pace duel from 3rd (it was a slow pace), surged to the lead off the turn and kept his closing rivals at bay. It was his first win in 13 races and only 3rd of his career,although he’s run some winning races but had a habit of losing them. He seems to like 2 turn grass races better than the Woodbine course it seems.

He’s the 1st foal for Wonder Where Stakes winner Misty Mission (who quashed her stablemate Catch the Ring’s Triple Tiara bid when she won that day). The mare has unraced 2004 and 2005 offspring. The 2nd dam is HANGIN ON A STAR.

Sam-Son is thriving and that’s nice to see since the passing of Tammy Samuel Balaz.

Woodbine trainer MALCOM PIERCE won the Leggio Memorial Stakes with Richard Lister’s DANCEROFTHEREALM, a Great Britain-bred by King of Kings out of Now Dance (Lister bred this gal overseas).

The 5yo mare won her Fair Grounds debut on Dec. 28 and was spinning back into action fast but won at 13 to 1 and she is blossoming nicely. She was blanked in 5 races at Woodbine this year.

It was a super card at FAIR GROUNDS yesterday – too bad the main track was strongly favouring speed however.

The chunky chestnut colt EUROEARS (by Langfuhr) outduelled Stormin Baghdad to win the Gaudin Memorial and remain undefeated.

The 3yo stakes – the TIFFANY LASS and LECOMTE did not look like races that were going to produce any stars…the late pace in the latter event was very slow.

And in other Fair Grounds news..(courtesy Thoroughbred Daily News)

10th, January 12, Alw, $40,500, 4yo up, 8f, fast, 1:37.93.
1st—WON AWESOME DUDE, B. h. 5, Awesome Again iSD—Lil Punkindo, by
Maria’s Mon. O—Kuehne Racing; B—Adena Springs (On.); T—Michael
Mareina. 5-2-1-0, $38,507. $100,000 2005 ADSSPR.
2nd—MISTER FUSAICHI, Dk b. or br. c. 4, Fusaichi Pegasus iSD—Gracie Lady
(Ire), by =Generous (Ire). O—Robert and Beverly Lewis Trust.
3rd—BUDDHA CALLING, Gr or Ro. g. 4, Buddha iSD—Makin’ Calls, by Phone
Trick. O—Gary and Mary West Stables Inc.

SPEED HIGHWAY AT SANTA ANITA

98 Beyer for that GATO

“If the times are really fast, the surface can’t be that safe.”

That’s what many folks have said to me over the years. Santa Anita’s Cushion track was bananas yesterday with the first race, a $40,000 maiden claimer for fillies going in 1:08 1/5. Pleaaassssse.

Meanwhile EL GATO MALO sat off a wild pace in the San Rafael (G3) and won with a flourish with a 98 Beyer Figure, The El Corredor gelding RNA’D twice at auction and was a $95K yearling. He is unbeaten in 3 races.

Here’s more on the Santy races from my favourite paper out there, the Los Angeles Times…

LATIMES.COM – CUSHION TRACK COULD BE SAVED…$400,000 BUY-BACK WINS (Air Commander)

Air Commander wins at 52-1

By Larry Stewart, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

January 13, 2008

On a picture-perfect Saturday, a Santa Anita crowd of 11,936 was treated to a thrilling photo-finish race in the Grade II San Fernando Stakes as 52-1 longshot Air Commander nipped Johnny Eves at the wire, with favored Tiago finishing third.

With the sun beaming down on the scenic San Gabriel Mountains in the background, it was a particularly bright day for El Gato Malo, who with an impressive 6 1/4 -length victory in the Grade III San Rafael Stakes established himself as a leading Kentucky Derby contender.

Another bright spot was an optimistic viewpoint on fixing the troubled synthetic Cushion Track. It was provided not by Santa Anita officials but an outside source, USC professor Jean-Pierre Bardet, chairman of the school's civil and environmental engineering department.

Bardet, a professor at USC since 1984 and a department chairman since 2006, has been consulting Santa Anita officials on their difficulties since Dec. 22. He was at the track Saturday and believes the troubled synthetic surface can be saved.

The reason for the optimism is what he calls a "binder" brought from Australia by Ian Pearse, founder of Pro-Ride Footing. Bardet and Pearse have been testing this binder additive in USC labs since Pearse arrived from Australia on Thursday.

Santa Anita officials, taking a cautious route, were not ready Saturday to make any official announcement, despite Bardet's positive outlook.

Asked to explain in layman terms how this binder will fix the synthetic track's drainage problem, Bardet used M&M candies as an example.

"There is a hard shell around an M&M that prevents it from melting in your hand," he said. "This binder will put a hard shell around the tiny sand pebbles, the silt, that is causing the drainage problems, and allow the water to drain through it."

Asked about the track's most recent problem -- loose asphalt pieces showing up on its surface -- Bardet said he is confident that too can be fixed.

Some jockeys and trainers have feared the asphalt base, which lies on a bed of crushed rock, is breaking down underneath the seven-inch top layer of sand and synthetic mixtures.

But Bardet believes the loose pieces were created when the asphalt was sprayed-washed with high-pressure guns during the recent three-week renovation project and that those loose pieces can be cleaned up at the same time the additive, or binder, is applied.

In Saturday's other stakes race, the Grade II San Pasqual, recent claimer Zappa, a 6-year-old gelding who went off at 13-1, gave jockey Joe Rosario a nice present two days before his 20th birthday with a one-length victory over Well Armed.

Speaking of birthdays, Saturday was Joe Talamo's 18th and he had his fifth and six wins of the meet after starting 0 for 30.

In the San Fernando, which was the 10th race on an 11-race card, Air Commander jockey Aaron Gryder and trainer Bob Baffert both thought their horse had been beaten. But the photo showed it was Air Commander, triggering a winning payoff of $106.80, a record for the San Fernando.

Baffert said before the race someone in the stands asked him about betting on his horse.

"I told him make it a show bet, so somewhere is a happy fan," he said.

The horse paid $10.60 to show, a far cry better than Tiago's $2.60 show price. Tiago, the winner of the 2007 Santa Anita Derby, was racing for the first time since a fifth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 27.

El Gato Malo burst to the head of Southern California's 3-year-old class with a breathtaking rally in the San Rafael, covering the one mile in a Cushion Track record of 1:33.37.

The gelding, ridden by David Flores and trained by Craig Dollase, has three wins in three career starts at three different tracks by a total of 16 lengths.

larry.stewart@latimes.com

EURICO!

Jan. 11 results from SINGAPORE

RACE 4: CLASS 5 (2) - 1200M (SAND TRACK) TIME: 20:00 PRIZE MONEY: S$35000 TRACK:GOOD WIN TIME:1.12.6

Horse No Horse Name Horse Jockey Trainer

3 GIANT EIGHTLEGGED E DA SILVA D DRAGON


Horse No. Horse NameWin DividendPlace Dividend

1st

3 GIANT EIGHTLEGGED $213.00 $42.00

2nd

TRANSCEND $11.00

3rd 9

THE PILOT

$6.00

BIG DAY FOR BLAKE BOYS

Ontario stallions IMPEACHMENT and TEJANO RUN, who stand at Chris and Mike Blake's ASCOT STUD (see banner ad at the top of this page) could have a good day with their babies.

NOOK AND GRANNY, by Impeachment, is in the Santa Ynez Stakes at Santa Anita against Indian Blessing and FLEET CAROLINE, by Tejano Run, is in the El Encino. Good Luck to the Fabulous Blake(r) Boys!


SOME THOUGHTS ON WOODBINE/MOHAWK IMPROVEMENTS

At the risk of treading into the standardbred side, this blogger has some good ideas for what the tracks at WEG should be doing by 2010. PULL THE POCKET is an excellent blog for harness lovers and badly needed for a sport that lacks in passionate people (at least the ones I have seen locally).

Here’s his post…

A poster below asked "what should Woodbine/Mohawk racing look like in 2010?" I don't know what it will look like in 2010, but here are some thoughts as to what might be put into place to improve its product.

As I mentioned before, WEG and most of harness racing in Ontario, is held to horseman agreements, CPMA rules, ORC rules and more. In effect, when Wal Mart wants to have a sale, they have a sale. When they want to change product lines, they change product lines. When they want to fire someone who hurts their business, they fire them. It is what makes the free enterprise system work - namely a quick response to the customer and the business. WEG's business model in terms of product and price is not very malleable.

As in other posts though, we have a magic wand. Here at Pull the Pocket Downs, we can make changes. Regardless, this post will look at what might or can be done to improve the Woodbine product in 2010.

I would do the following ten things (notice there is a change, then promotion with that change..... they would go hand-in-hand):

1. The Super 7 - er Pick 7 - would be scrapped. I would immediately lower pick 4 takeout back to 2003 levels, which I think was 14.75%. Why they raised prices in a falling handle landscape in the first place is beyond me. We immediately right this wrong. This lower takeout would then be advertised. "We have the lowest win 4 rake in North America" is our tagline. If this grows, I would seed this pool on Saturday nights to a big number and hope to get new money into the pool. The racing secretary would make sure all pick 4 races are 9 or 10 horse fields. There will never be a trap race in a pick 4 again - i.e. a race with a seven horse field with a 1-5 shot.

2. With WEG currently at 4 nights a week for harness, there is absolutely no excuse to card races with fields less than 9 - with some work. Entries have been in the 160 range, for 110 spots the past while. The horse population is there. After a few weeks of tweaking the condition sheet, we should be able to see full fields in most races. Once full fields are established, promotion begins: "Woodbine Harness Racing has the Fullest Fields in North America" is our tagline.

3. The high end of the condition sheet - FFA's etc, will now be full fields with FFA Handicaps. The purse for this event will be made $60,000 from $45,000. It will be a feature race every week and press releases about this race will be sent out - it is our draw. It will be a field of ten. The FFA's we currently see seem to be 5 or 6 or 7 horse fields and are generally snorefests. The promotion: "WEG Harness has the richest and deepest Handicap division of Open pacers in North America" We might even attract some new horses from the Meadowlands.

4. We own a night. Trots are raced on Thursdays, perhaps with some sort of bet promo. Young horses are raced, say Fridays. We own Saturdays: The best fields are assembled, the pick 4 is seeded, HPI rewards points are doubled, purses are upped to attract the best horses we can (while diverting purses from other nights), 13 or 14 high quality races are carded, the pre-game show with Mike and the boys is promoted and they work on camera most if not all night - no dead air, we also take the Saturday show up to Champions where interaction with customers can occur and we can create some buzz up there, all simulcast races have volumes turned down - on track stuff is key and it is the focus. On track giveaways, slots stuff to hopefully cross people over - virtually everything is done for that night. Promotion: "Saturday at Woodbine is Harness Night In Canada"

5. Claiming races are written, and written and written - every week until they fill. If purses need to be diverted to these races, and taken away from some others, so be it. Make it happen.

6. Rewards programs are increased immediately. I read a "Harness Tracks of America" conference transcript several years ago where WEG's exec said "we won't pay people to play" with regards to rewards. How is that working out? Well we pay people to play in WEG 2010 - every gambling business does it, and has for literally centuries.

7. Day of the week promotions, whether that be a seeded superfecta pool, a cincofecta, a low takeout pick 3 night - whatever, are established and promoted.

8. The signal is now available to anyone who wants it. Mountaineer Racetrack went from a backwoods place who races 5 claimers at night, to a high handle track within a few years. Their philosophy was to sell their signal to resellers and let them do what they want with it. There is a new sheriff at WEG in 2010, and he exports the signal. This increases gross handles and gets us to hopefully compete, and within a few years beat Saturday Meadowlands racing; making Woodbine Saturday harness the destination for harness fans. If a small track in West Virginia can own night thoroughbred racing, we sure as hell can do better.

9. In the corporate offices a new employee incentive program is announced. It is based on handle. If handle goes up, your bonus goes up. This program is established for everyone - right down to a program seller.

10. Judges rulings are explained on air, by the judges. The racing product itself is scrutinized. No hock kicks, no illegal whipping - these are fined heavily - $500 for a first offense, and up $1000 for each offense after that - these guys are making $200K a year, $100 fines don't cut it. After three infractions you are suspended for 30 days - no appeal. If a hole is given; it is for a strategic purpose. If not, fines are given. $1000 for the 1st offense, and increases of $1000 from there on out. That will stop this stuff in about a week, once and for all. A jockey in Hong Kong just got two months for not riding a horse hard enough for second place, which will probably cost him $50K, so please, no one tell me this is too penal. It's time we joined the rest of the world and show our bettors we mean business.

That's it in a nutshell. In summary: We become a racetrack who pulls out all the stops. For horseman, they get a night with great racing and big purses. For the customer they get a wonderful on track experience. For the bettor, they get quality, deep fields, lower rakes, a competitive rewards program and respect for their hard-earned dollars from judges and horseman. For employees, they get a chance to be part of something, and are given incentives to achieve the goal of becoming the best harness track in the World.

Most of all: These changes are tried for a long period of time and each change is promoted. The first time someone comes into the office with a "bean counting" thought, they are shown the door. We don't bean count. Jeff Bezos, when no one was coming into Amazon.com in 1995 and buying books, did not say "whoops, didn't work, let's close up shop. This Internet thing won't catch on!" Neither did Ebay, or Paypal, or Careerbuilder. It is the 21st century - things are different now.

That's my thought on WEG racing in 2010.

Please comment below if you wish. I would like to hear what people think.

PS: Of note, I have made the above suggestions based on the landscape of Ontario racing and its rules. Of course I would want lower rakes for all (in the 7-10% range as many wagering economists have said it should be.... and it has to be across the industry, not just one track) and do much more, but with the landscape as it is, without change, the above is doable, imo.

Courtesy of the Pull The Pocket blog.

3 Comments:

  • At 11:57 AM, Anonymous LAKEAYS said…

    Though I do not understand all of the wagering configurations, I applaud the recommendations for Woodbine/Mohawk Stdbred racing by the author. Too bad he couldn't be made a Marketing Director!! Encouraging spectators and participants at Woodbine should mean more than the stullifying drone of the slots! Everything is made as difficult as possible for anyone who wants to participate in the racing from fans to owners to trainers. I've had to stumble on alot of things because my "Welcome to WEG" package still hasn't arrived in the mail!
    And as a cynic, I am copying a paragraph from an ORC letter posted on the CTHS site. I like clear wording and am a little nervous about the structure here...

    "The ORC Board thanks all the members of both the Advisory and Working Committees for their hard work and dedication and for being able to put the well being of the industry first. It is confident the parties will quickly agree to the changes, which are proposed to include a reduction of the wagering levy and Program funding based on slot revenue."

    (ORC)

    The conjunction "and" in the last sentence would seem to mean a reduction also in Program funding based on the slot revenue. Does anyone have clarification on that?

     
  • At 7:42 PM, Anonymous woodbinechalk said…

    well at least these recommendations are realistic. lol. forget strategic planning lets be like nike and just do it!

    and there is a COMPREHENSIVE profit sharing formula rather than just linked to handle.

    It should be noted that woodbine is in the business of attracting the highest quality racing vis-a-vis attracting top owners and trainers which can easily be seen by looking at the stall apps. when was the last time you enjoyed watching a race from mountaineer?

    Kudos to woodbine management for lining the pockets of local horseman over the past few years and its ongoing commitment to revenue diversification.

     
  • At 9:07 AM, Anonymous Cangamble said…

    A lot more interesting comments can be found on Pull The Pocket's excellent blog.

    Woodbinechalk, a chimp could do the same job as a Woodbine exec when it comes to attracting top horses and owners at Woodbine. Slot money does it.

    As far as revenue diversification goes, Woodbines gives too much to the top horses, and not enough to the lower claimers.

    With all the technology out there, why is it Woodbine struggles to increase betting revenues? Because they don't understand the bettor. They are out of touch with reality. They are whining because the bigger bettors have discovered rebate shops and Betfair. High track takeout mentality has caused stagnation in the racing industry in general, and WEG is a leader when it comes to keeping the takeouts high.

    Take slots away from Woodbine and the top execs at Woodbine might be qualified to be greeters at Wal Mart, or french fry makers at McDonalds.

     

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