Monthly Archives: June 2008

I Don’t Heart NY

New York is sucking right now (ardenstreet)

At least not at the moment. Let’s review.

As Val’s comment indicated, one of Curlin’s imprisoned owners has an expired racing license and according to the newly launched Paulick Report, it’s looking like the New York State Racing and Wagering Board won’t be renewing Shirley Cunningham’s license in the “best interest of racing”. This means Curlin will not be racing in New York.

As mentioned yesterday, the new OTB bill boosts the take out on NYRA tracks by 1% starting in the fall. Here are some unsavory particulars…

For example, a New York bettor who makes a win bet on a race at Churchill Downs through NYRA’s account-wagering operation will be paid off as if the takeout is 17 percent, instead of 16 percent, the takeout charged by Churchill. NYRA would keep the difference.

So glad I never opened a NYRA account… thank you NYRA for never answering my email, which convinced me to never open a NYRA account!

Rest assured NYRA Rewards customers, “NYRA plans to increase rebates to customers of its NYRA Rewards Program”. However, that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to watch race replays on NYRA’s site (hat tip to Power Cap). Currently displaying on NYRA’s race replay page:

For regulatory purposes, NYRA is not permitted at this time to provide a link to our race replays. NYRA understands and regrets this inconvenience for our fans who have come to rely upon these services.

Please be assured NYRA is doing everything within its power to work with the New York State Racing and Wagering Board to restore this link to our web site as soon as possible.

And there you have it. While I couldn’t wager on Churchill using Twinspires this weekend (things are strange all over), at least I can watch NYRA replays there! And will the 1% be added to my payouts via Twinspires on NYRA tracks since I’m a New York resident (and presuming I ever cash a ticket again)?

If you’re interested in learning more about the thievery known as take-out (look up breakage while you’re there too), check out Track Thieves and specifically his chart of the takeout rates at various tracks on various pools.

Have a nice day!

New Poll, 1988 Filly Flashback

Thanks to all for the whopping 92 votes in the last poll… and a special thanks to equidaily and the NTRA for increased traffic!

The majority of you, 34 to be exact, thought Kent D’s ride didn’t really matter one way or the other because Big Brown didn’t show up. 20 of you, myself included, had mixed feelings about the ride, 16 of you felt it was prudent and you were glad he eased him, 15 of you thought it was a bad ride all the way around and 7 of you went so far as to say the ride was unsportsmanlike.

The new poll takes a look back… 1988 has been in the air lately. I first noticed it at Brooklyn Backstretch in a post entitled Phipps and Shug. The post features 4 races of the undefeated champion Personal Ensign, including her win against Gulch in the Whitney.

Then, news of Ocean Colors, daughter of Winning of Colors, breaking her maiden prompted Patrick to curate a little Winning Colors retrospective over at TBA site.

Winning Colors was one of only 3 fillies to ever win the Kentucky Derby. As I commented over at Brooklyn Backstretch, “Seriously, Winning Colors and Personal Ensign are all anyone needs to know about why fillies CAN run against colts”.

One of my all time favorite races was Winning Colors absolute romp in the Santa Anita Derby. While you can view the Distaff either at Brooklyn Backstretch or the TBA video section, I wanted to include it here, with a reminder to sign the petition to Breeders’ Cup about the name change of the Distaff… does this look a Ladies Classic to you?

Please Let it be Belmont

Curlin in the beginning of the Stephen Foster (creepy_coyote)

Asmussen said he would work Curlin on the turf and find a grass race for him in North America on the weekend of July 12-13. He did not say if he had a particular race in mind. He would prefer a race over an international style course, such as those at Arlington Park, Belmont Park or Woodbine. Major turf races for older horses scheduled that weekend include the $500,000 Man O’ War (gr. IT) at 1 3/8 miles at Belmont Park and the Arlington Handicap (gr. III) at 1 1/4 miles at Arlington Park.

That is, if he works well on the turf… fingers crossed!

Here’s a fun fact, in yesterday’s extremely satisfying chalk fest, favorites (with the exception of Pyro, who was a close second favorite) won by 35 1/4 lengths total!!

Fleur De Lis – Hysterical Lady – 7 lengths

Regret – Pure Clan – 2 3/4 lengths

Northern Dancer – Pyro – 1 3/4 lengths

Jefferson – Tizdejavu – 4 lengths

Stephen Foster – Curlin – 4 1/2 lengths

Mint Julep – Dreaming of Anna – 2 1/2 lengths

Obeah – Unbridled Belle – 5 lengths

Ogden Phipps – Ginger Punch – 7 3/4 lengths

I’m looking forward to seeing some races where there are actual stretch battles and one can find some betting value, but after the past few weeks I think we all deserved to see what real favorites and champions look like (even if they rarely compete against each other).

Free Advice


Who knew my good luck would come on Friday the 13th, when my open letter to the NTRA was not only answered by Alex Waldrop but blogged about by him on the NTRA site!

The comments and dialog on my site have been fantastic and a big thanks to all of those taking part in the dialog, but please go share your thoughts over at NTRA as well. I’m sure one of the reasons Alex made his way over here is that I posted my link over there, so please use their open forum to make sure your voice is heard.

This little moment in (my personal) internet history uncovered something else of interest. My post got a trackback (an automated alert that another blog had linked to my post), from a post entitled Everyone Wins. As it turns out, the blog belongs to SocialSphere, a group of slick “Web 2.0” strategists. It seems as though the NTRA has engaged SocialSphere to “implement a multi-faceted Web 2.0 plan for the “Sport of Kings””.

Really? While I’m not privy to what that multi-faceted plan might be, I am VERY familiar with web 2.0 since I’ve been building sites and web-based applications for major brands since web 1.0 (or even possibly web .05). I’m also overly familiar with consultants and their “multifaceted plan$”. So while Alex is listening, let’s review and discuss!

Success! (?)

By every measure, Straight Up has been a huge success — the right medium at exactly (or a little early) the right time. And the analytics have been staggering — keeping in mind that until about a month ago, the NTRA and the industry had very little social media presence, Alex’s 6 blog posts have been:

* Viewed 32,000 (uniques) times (20,000 more than the former top blogger on the site with a long-time following);

* Linked to from 39 other thoroughbred bloggers, including the New York Times;

* Commented upon by fans and other stakeholders more than 960 times — an average of 160 comments per post.

I’ll give them that Straight up is a success, I think it’s great and a good faith sign that a dialog is open. But the “right medium at exactly (or a little early) the right time”?

Given that the first racing blog was started 4 years ago almost to the day, I would argue that it’s a touch on the late side. I think the average number of comments also speaks to that, particularly if you read the comments, which tend toward “constructive criticism”. I would categorize it more as “it’s about time”.

And let’s not forget that the at it’s launch, Straight Up didn’t even display the comments it collected… that’s not very web 2.0!

Highlighting this passage: “until about a month ago, the NTRA and the industry had very little social media presence”. It’s true. I’m not sure how many of you noticed, but the NTRA has been quietly rolling out little bits of web 2.0-ness. There’s the Facebook Page, the MySpace page, the YouTube page, Wallpaper (which is very web 1.0, not that it shouldn’t be included in a strategy) and the widgets.

From what I can tell, the Facebook page is pretty much just a placeholder to tout the Triple Crown. They’ve created events for the prep races and TC races themselves, they’ve added some photos from the TC and a few videos. Not hideous, but not exactly scintillating web 2.0 strategy at work, particularly the kind one overpays consultants for.

The page currently has 377 fans (I’m one of them). Given that one of the reasons one uses Facebook in a strategy is that it has insane traffic and is a “medium discovery” (checking out what your contacts like and visa versa), the number of fans seems to represent a lack of strategy other than merely having a Facebook presence given that the Kentucky Derby Group at it’s height had over 1,300 members.

The widgets to date are comprised of souped up RSS feeds shrouded in a shiny web 2.0 wrapper. Again, not hideous, but definitely not something one overpays for, particularly when the tool used to create said widgets is accessible to everyone. Simply pick the site you want to create a widget for, put the url in and in a few clicks you have the widget.

Any of us could have made those widgets (like the one I had for Bloodhorse Triple Crown Madness headlines). I actually encourage you to use WidgetBox for all your widget needs, it’s incredibly easy to use and is definitely a way to both enhance your content and keep people coming back to your site.

My fellow TBA colleague, and hella web savvy “flagship blogger”* Jessica Chapel summed it up exactly right in an email exchange on the subject:

The NTRA launches Waldrop’s blog, starts a Facebook page, builds some widgets, and then — what? The fundamentals remain the same, all that’s changed is they now have a glossy, reflective Web 2.0 sheen.

Exactly. Again, I’m not privy to SocialSphere’s “plan”, but as someone who spends a lot of time thinking about all the issues at hand AND happens to know the “sport of kings”, I’m happy to dispense some free advice while Alex & company presumably are listening.

1. Standings

Fellow TBA-er Patrick has been a tireless proponent of standings. In fact, he’s even taken it upon himself to create standings for the TBA that we all carry on our respective blogs. He explains the standings themselves and why we need them here.

As I mentioned in my comment back to Alex, casual fans don’t understand our seasons. Making it clear that 1) we have divisions 2) who’s doing well in the those divisions and 3) that the divisions all correlate to championship races at the end of the year would help enable casual fans to hook in to our sport much more easily.

Currently on the upper right hand corner of the NTRA homepage there is what could almost be categorized as widget that displays the Top 10 Horses, Jockeys, Trainers and Owners. How are the Top 10 determined? By EARNINGS! Fans only marginally care about earnings, if it at all. How many graded races has the horse won, what’s their percentage of wins, percentage on in the money? Create some standings FOR FANS!

2. More than one star please

We all love Curlin. And some of us even love Big Brown! But these aren’t the only horses we all love. The casual fan relies on marketing and hype to find their next love object. This is not endemic to horse racing, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do better. Instead of pouring all of our hype eggs into one basket, we should spread the love a little bit.

This is where a well crafted widget strategy can come into play. The NBA in particular does a good job of this. They have widgets for everything… standings, playoffs, videos, teams etc.

The NTRA should have widgets for each division that display standings, RSS news feeds (per horse), and video replays of the week’s races in that division. Also, horses should have their own widgets. Say the top 5-10 in each division. The horse widgets could have their record, next target race, work outs, race replays, RSS news feeds and links to their bio pages at NTRA. I know I would have several on my site!

With this kind of strategy fans can put the widgets on their Facebook and MySpace pages which engages the medium of discover angle. Fans could also put them on their NetVibes, My Yahoo, and iGoogle pages which engages a “giving people the information they want, when they want it and where they want it” strategy. Note: please make sure to make the horse and standing widgets no wider than 160 pixels so they can easily be displayed on blogs!

3. Promote the racing season holistically

If it were up to me, I would get no more than 6 smart people in front of a big white board, map out the racing year and look for areas where marketing synergy can be leveraged (ew, I just sounded like a consultant!). Looking at the whole year end to end to catch things like Stephen Foster weekend coming on the heels of the Triple Crown.

Once you identify the various events and their timing, do two things… 1) create a plan to market the events through your social media platforms (Facebook, MySpace, etc) and your widgets which are pushing content out to fans and potential fans a like, in places you don’t even know about and wouldn’t even think of and 2) work with ESPN to get that event synergy in place in advance!

Web 2.0 “strategies” should be more than the sum of their parts. This is just what I came up with this morning and afternoon. No one had to fly anywhere, labor over any powerpoint decks, listen to any presentations or most importantly overpay any Millennial-laden slicksters.

In fairness, the NTRA would not be unique in needing to overpay slickly packaged boutique firms for common sense strategies, but as Jessica pointed out in the aforementioned email chain, that shouldn’t preclude tapping web savvy people who KNOW the industry for insight on how to use design and technology as a part of a meaningful strategy to create and retain fans.

Of course, it would be helpful to keep our “product” around long enough to market in a meaningful way. As you can imagine, I’ll have more to say about that as well!

* I can’t take credit for the term “flagship blogger”, hats off to Brooklyn Backstretch for that excellent turn of phrase.

He’s Back!

Pyro that is! He just cruised to a gorgeous victory in the Norther Dancer, winning handily over My Pal Charlie in second and Visionaire in 3rd. Had I been able to wager I would have had the exacta, which only payed $35.20, but that’s not the point, plus I would have wagered more than $2.

I’m surprised by Recapturetheglory, I would have imagined him to be in the mix up front, but not today.

At any rate, I’m really glad to see Pyro back on form!

And needless to say, go CURLIN!

So Much For That

I had fully intended to play the Stephen Foster card at Churchill today. I assumed I would be able to do so by using Twinspires. Not the case. I then moved on to my YouBet account. Again, no luck.

Truth be told it’s probably for the best, I haven’t exactly been on fire at the windows. The good news is that I can watch the card using the pretty snazzy beta of Twinspires TV (I wish their race replays used the same interface, which would make them larger and easier to see). The other bit of good luck is that I’ll be able to watch the Stephen Foster on the aforementioned Channel 71 as the race day will be over at Belmont.

Naturally I didn’t discover this until I had gotten pretty far into my handicapping. I was uninspired by the 6th (Hysterical Lady just crushed) but here are my thoughts on the Regret and Northern Dancer.

In the Regret I’m not convinced by Pure Clan as the favorite. CJ’s Leelee, Zee Zee and Magical Theater is where I would be looking and given the current odds I might focus on Magical Theater.

As for the Northern Dancer, we all know I love Pyro and the pace looks to be right up his alley. I’m bummed that Tiz Now Tiz Then scratched as I think he might have helped to tire out Recapturetheglory. That being said, if I had access to some wagering I would probably take a shot with Pyro over Unbridled Vicar. Unbridled Vicar had a nice confidence builder last out and can close off a slow pace. I’m not convinced Visionaire and Texas Wildcatter will like the pace.

Ok, they’re loading in the gate for the Regret. Good luck to all!

Update: my inability to access wagering is already working out for the best as Pure Clan just won the Regret! CJ’s Lee Lee and Zee Zee placed and showed respectively.

Go Riderless Horse!

I was just lounging around watching channel 71 (which looks safe for now) and in the 4th at Belmont #6 Count This Senora threw her jock, J Berrios Cruz right out of the gate.

She went on to run a really game, REALLY wide run to “place” to Classy Concern by nose. No report on how the jock is doing as of yet but hopefully he’s not seriously injured.

Speaking of wide runs, I happened upon this race this morning by way of Charles’ flickr stream. Although this wide runner managed to keep the rider in tact.