Power Cap

Power cap- existential handicapping

18 December 2009

Breeders' Cup Headed Towards Folly?

The Breeders' Cup released a round of strategic planning initiatives that seem to be based in questionable logic. These guys are are promising more change than the laundromat where Obama used to wash his college duds. If not timely or based in reason change can be foolish. The Breeders' Cup has undergone massive changes over the last few years. Now it looks like a plan has been hatched that will foolishly squander the appeal the Breeders' Cup held over the public.

Parking the Breeders' Cup at one location is an idea that I have a problem with. They might have missed these problems due to the "group think factor" of the board meeting. One of the broad appeals of the Breeders' Cup was that it was a world class event like the Olympics, The World Cup or the Super Bowl. These world class events travel around and the variety of locations provide these events a national or global home market. The Breeders' Cup benefited from a national home market. The memories of watching the Breeders' Cup at your home track resonated over the years and the Breeders' Cup built this relationship with fans from coast to coast. By parking the event at Santa Anita or Churchill they are going to lose the broad appeal factor. One of the charter goals -promoting the game to a broad audience-of the Breeders' Cup will be ignored. Churchill is a difficult/expensive place to fly to unless you are a box shipped on UPS- it costs more for me to fly to Louisville than to LAX from New York. Santa Anita is a beautiful facility with consistently great weather but it has a surface that is foreign to most American dirt horses. By moving the event around the drawbacks of each venue are mitigated. From the fans perspective parking the Breeders' Cup at one location makes a world class event depreciate into a provincial event.

It seems that the Breeders' Cup is dealing with revenue issues. There are going to be less foals in this corrected economy and thus less revenue for the B.C. This is unfortunate timing for the B.C. as the program has expanded to fourteen races over two days. This epic two day event featuring over ten hours of horse racing had grown a little too large to be consumed whole like the old seven or eight race format. A group supposedly tuning its marketing to short attention span twitter-ers should realize that anything over 140 characters or 4 hours is too much. When your revenue is not sufficient to finance your two day whopper of an event it is time to swallow the pride and cut it back to one day. For example I flew out to Santa Anita from New York this year for the Breeders' Cup program, but I spent Friday on the beach. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. The signs are there but Breeders' Cup and their hired consultants seem to be ignoring them and stubbornly managing around a plan based in folly.

The emperor has been naked for two years now; it is time someone finally outed this "Win and you are in" marketing as a waste of time. Now it seems they want to expand this ludicrous concept to more races and more countries. When has the winner of a Grade I like the Whitney -or any GI race- ever been excluded from the Breeders' Cup? What about the sprint this year? Did the "win and you're in" series help bolster that field? The intention to help make a complex game easier for casual fans to comprehend is an appropriate marketing goal. However the "win and you're in program" fails on every level. The whole program is absolute humbug to the core. How confusing is it when a horse like Fernelly won the "win and you're in" Del Mar mile but after the race he wasn't really in because he was not nominated? This whole effort is just a waste of time and does nothing for anyone. Hopefully the "Breeders' Cup Racing Series in partnership with North American and European racetracks" is a departure from the "win and you're in" concept, but I fear the emperors extended family will join him in his absurd garb.

The other goal expressed in their initiative is "social and digital media". Social media has become the marketing solution de jour because it is cheap, easy and everyone else is doing it. When everyone is doing something in a massive "little me too" copycat session the cumulative negative effects accumulate quickly, like leaves in a catch basin. Unfortunately because of over exposure social media has become well beyond cliche. The marketing returns that people are so anxiously awaiting- returns that are just a quarter away will never happen. Myspace is dead, facebook is a bore and twitter is the largest jumble of drivel ever assembled in the history of the written word. While it may be compulsory for a entertainment medium to have a presence on these social media outlets- it may be wise to temper the expectations as these fads wind down.

Someone at the Breeders' Cup needs to take charge. The wandering ideas of group think and foreign consultants have threatened to ruin a very good thing. The Breeders' Cup did so many things right- in their rush for change they seem to be dropping the good and picking up many short sighted marketing ideas. Like so many corporate types the "little me too" factor dominates new initiatives. Unfortunately the real factors are being ignored. My advice would be to keep the rotation of tracks, right size the event back down to one day and ten races to match declining foal nominations. If they really want people to become fans of racing they have a very good game to work with. Why beat around the bush with foolish marketing concepts? Make the game an even more attractive concept by lowering takeout and showing the world just how exciting this game can be. Once they win they are in.

16 December 2009

Play Of The Day Year In Review

All year we have been plugging away at the "play of the day". We have learned a few things from this exercise. The first thing I learned was that I am an ordinary handicapper at Saratoga; even a losing horseplayer. Saratoga would be a good time for me to take a European sojourn while the rest of the horseracing world is betting on twelve horse fields with shippers from all points. My strength is that am a good handicapper at a track like Aqueduct; this is a track where I can isolate over 50% winners at a gaudy ROI. The third thing I learned is that the game can be beat; in fact it can be brutally beaten with the existential handicapping principles discussed in the play of the day posts. In an era of "computer cappers" and outsourcing handicapping to commercial speed figures - having a holistic understanding of the game may be more profitable that ever.

Most handicapping publications will go on and on about class, speed and form. These are the three critical factors when handicapping horse races but they are not the chief quality of a winning player. It is rarely spoken of but the number one quality a punter must have is discipline. Discipline is not sexy nor does it fill parimutuel pools so it is not in managements best interest to promote discipline. Racetracks talking to the horseplayers about discipline is like a maĆ®tre d’ selling you on rice cakes as he seats you in a restaurant. It is in your best interest to have discipline in spades if you intend to make money from handicapping horseraces. This is a struggle at times. There are rare days when I travel to the races and it is expected that I am going to wager on almost every contest. It is important to keep the "Action Jackson" mentality in check and isolate it to pleasurable visits to the races. The overwhelming majority of days when a player is not going to the races is key; these are the days when the punter can assassinate races from afar and focus on the prime targets without getting mixed up in "emotional" gambling.

The antidote for discipline is confidence. Too much discipline and you are betting $2 to show on a 4-5 shot. While discipline is important it must be paired with confidence. Confidence is what allows the player to pull the trigger and blast the target with a large "power bet". This is a bet that is large enough to make you a little uncomfortable without doing any permanent damage to your financial health. This bet could be $20 for some or could be up to whatever the parimutuel pools can handle up to the point of diminishing returns. With increased confidence a $2000 win bet on all "play of the day" horses in 2009 would have returned $180,800 for a profit of $70,800. They say that this game can not be beat or that punters require a rebate to break even. The game can clearly be beat; the requisite qualities are a cool trifecta of power handicapping, contemplative discipline and stone-cold confidence. It is an investment with a 64% interest return.

play of the day breakdown

Turf/dirt or sprint/route revealed only marginal differences in the returns. However the location variable was key. Strong returns at Aqueduct with diminishing returns elsewhere.

09 December 2009

Philly Park Contest

As part of the celebration for the grand opening of the new casino called Parx at Philly Park we at Power Cap are sanctioning a contest. The first person to locate a reference to horseracing at the new Philly Park Casino website wins the pictured Belmont Park hat.

artists rendering of Parx At Philadelphia Park

The grand prize/never worn

08 December 2009

Philly Park Purse Surge

$5 for a large pizza, $1.20 for a pack of smokes and less than $500 a month for a nice one bedroom. The numbers are my fondest memories of my time in Philadelphia. Cheap living in an honest working class city. At that time the racing world had an even larger chasm between New York and Philly. Philly Park was barely holding on at the bottom of the racing class ladder while NYRA was the king of the new world. Ten years later and it looks like the roles have reversed. In a huge coup that nobody has even noticed New York is now the backwater with Philly presenting the better purses and potentially the better product.

Usually I have no interest in Philly park but today (Tuesday)they have a overnight stakes that has attracted nice sprinters such as Saratoga Russell, Cherokee Country and Joey P. Top New York jocks such as Ramon Dominguez, Lezcano and Channing Hill canceled a day of leisure and headed down I-95 to ride in the $75K Valley Forge Stakes. Usually I spend Tuesday with a nice book but I followed the lead of masterclass jockey Dominguez to Philly to cap the race and have a look. One glance at the rest of the card and something hit me- Philly Purses have surpassed NYRA purses. This is quite the deal for the horsemen. You have to have rocks in your heads - or a slow NY bred- to run in New York.

So not only are Philly based owners paying less for a large pie at their local pizzeria but they are also paying less in trainer day rates while cashing in larger purses. This is a great deal for the horsemen of Bensalem Pennsylvania. If I could have made more money driving the limo in Philly than New York I never would have left Philly. In New York we pay more for less with an onerous tax burden. However the lure of New York is that we have the old world at our finger tips while making more money than anywhere else in the country. This may have been true in the past but New York along with New York racing is living on past glory. The big lure of New York is the class racing but those days are also over. With the dilapidated facility in Ozone Park, inferior purses and a corrupt regime that has presided over a 9 year slots farce the time for New York to be a backwater is upon us. People just have not realized it yet.

Purse Comparison

If you are running a PA. Bred the deal is even better:

Now, somebody who is really invested in the business can actually make more money in a single race than the total purse. Imagine a race with a $42,000 purse. The winning owner gets 60 percent, or $25,200. If the horse is a Pennsylvania-bred, the owner gets a 40 percent bonus off the winnings. Now, he has $35,280. If he's the breeder, he gets another 20 percent of that. Now, he has $42,333 on a $42,000 purse. If the owner happens to stand the stallion in Pennsylvania, he gets another 10 percent.

What is fueling this purse surge? When I lived in Philly ten years ago the purses where less than half of NYRA purses. 18K claimers ran for $6K and maiden specials for 18K. The slots in Philly have been a raging success. Philly Park's casino opened in December 2006. In the first 3 weeks, players bet $175 million on the slots. In the fiscal year ending in June 2007, they bet $1.666 billion. In the next fiscal year, they bet $5.8 billion. In the fiscal year just ended, they bet $10.9 billion. Revenue (winnings after the players are paid) was $144 million, $469 million and $825 million, respectively.

Are all of these slot players making their way to the Philly racetrack inflating handle? Surely $10.9 billion in slots handle would have a spillover effect into the racing handle? A crowded casino combined with better purses and better claiming races would surely inflate Philly Park handle to beyond what NYRA achieves. Surprisingly the wagering on Philly Park races is only a fraction of what Aqueduct handles even as the Aqueduct grandstand lies in decay and the racing is inferior. Bettors are loyal to NYRA regardless of the quality of the races. A cursory study of 3 days last week reveals that Aqueduct handled $21 million the three days they ran against Philly Park. Those same three days Philly Park handled a total of $3.6 million- a staggering chasm especially when you consider the racing at Philly might just be superior.

What we have here is a pure slot purse advantage for Philly Park. Unless bettors start patronizing Philly Park this is terrible for racing. All of the "meat and potatoes" claimers are running at Philly Park while NYRA is left with an unappetizing menu of New York breds and beaten claimers. NYRA is presenting an inferior product that will eventually disenfranchise the bettors if they haven't been chased away yet.

Few "diners" migrated to Philly Park. While the best "chefs" have been lured away to cook at Philly Park the food has not been a lure for the public. The Philly "chefs" are basically cooking for their own profit while their food is going strait to the trash without being sampled by the wagering public. Meanwhile up at Aqueduct the "chefs" are being pulled right out of the dregs of the culinary world. While the restaurant at Aqueduct remains full the food is no longer world class. It is only a matter of time before the wagering public realizes how far New York racing has fallen and they turn away from racing all together. Can Philadelphia Park progress from being anything other than a horsemen welfare venue? The key may be in luring the Preakness north and snagging the attention of the public. If a $75K overnight stakes can lure Power Cap a million dollar classic can lure the masses.

03 December 2009

Big Push~Play Of The Day

Aqueduct Race 3
The 5-1 morning line is appealing on #4 Big Push. Horse has a ton of speed and he will likely be clear in here. The windy conditions will make speed very dangerous over this inner dirt course. Big Push has defeated graded stakes winners such as Affirmatif and General Quarters and also set a track record at Monmouth. The 5-1 will be a gift.

Win #4 Big Push

54 21-7-5
strike rate 39%
cumulative return 170.20
$2 ROI $3.15
average winner $8.10

02 December 2009

Not Very Bold ~Play Of The Day

After posting the horse as a single earlier I feel compelled to list Bold Union as the play of the day. The filly has a huge class edge over this field and should be make short work of this group. She was beat last out by Tar Heel Mom who is a talented older sprinter. Not a big price on Bold Union but a "metal thing on the door that keeps out the bad guys" type horse that should be incorporated into the wagering strategy on the inner track.

Big-A Race 8

Win #7 Bold Union

53 20-7-5
strike rate 38%
cumulative return 166.20
$2 ROI $3.14

The Last Fan In New York City

This kid is destined to be the last urban fan of horseracing in New York. For someone in my mid 30's there are few of my generation of sports fans that have the attention span to digest horseracing. Typically my generation of sports fans prefer to be spoon-fed ball-sports. Ideas are provided by the presenters and radio hosts and then parroted at the water coolers and cafeterias of the workplace. It would be glorious to talk racing with my colleagues but the last thing I want to do is bore someone with something they could care less about. Talk about a one way ticket to pariah-ville. Instead we have this web page.

If this trend continues the last local horseracing fan must be about 13 years old. It looks like I have located him. This kid must be in the same boat as I, lots of thoughts, a wellspring of fervor but no outlet. Perhaps he should start a blog. I can only imagine him trying to talk horses with his 13 year old classmates; not only would they be confused but if he is enrolled at a NYC public school he would likely face the double whammy of physical violence combined with social rejection. His description of school as "eighth grade hell" validates that presumption. Like sheep and liberals children are an ultra-conformist lot that do not tolerate divergent ideas; anything associated with horseracing is quite the divergent idea to urban youth. Hopefully "horseracing kid" has found an outlet for his interest and a safe place to discuss his opinion. We may have a budding Bobby Frankel here.

"horseracing kid" takes on opening day at the Big-A

Aqueduct Inner Track is Upon Us

The longest horseracing meet of the annum in New York begins today. This meet is so long it transcends the calender. Four months of the inner dirt will span the late fall of 2009 to the early spring 2010. This meet has all the utilitarian appeal of a metal fabrication warehouse. This is not Del Mar, Keeneland or Saratoga; this meet is a wagering factory no more no less. What the meet lacks in aesthetic appeal it holds in wagering appeal. With basically only two distances on one surface with a closed circuit of horses, the handicapping becomes much easier as the variables are reduced to a bare minimum. If you venture out to Ozone Park you will find a warm clubhouse and a dedicated group of horseplayers who love the joint. Tourists, softies and the meek need not apply. This is working class horseracing in the raw. It is also the time of year when I have found that I can really get into the heart of the races and align my mental rhythm with the ebbs and flows of fleeting fortune.
From Power Cap

There used to be a solid claiming contingent during the winter but I am afraid that these ranks have been thinned. There used to be a population consolidation that happened as New Jersey, Delaware and Massachusetts shut down their flat races for the year; these horses converged on New York during the winter. Now with slot purses available at many tracks up and down the eastern seaboard the heart of the Aqueduct inner meet will be different. This year I see the heart of the meet consisting of New York breds and the conditioned claimers. Bottom level racing but it is fair and the track plays formful; hopefully it will have full fields and hold the workmanlike appeal for most of the winter.
From Power Cap

The first card is a bit of a disappointment; five races restricted to New York breds and four maiden races. My plan is focus on a long lunch during the early portion of this card. Can you say toasted buffalo chicken sandwiches with sharp provolone and ranch dressing. The contrast between hot and cold is a flavor bonanza. That should cover races 1-6 if you throw in a relaxing post lunch siesta.

The late pick three has some appeal; at least enough to merit watching. In the seventh the heavy chalk "Not A Peep looms large. This mare came out firing off the bench and holds the lethal weapon that all inner track lovers have; speed. Citifiesta came firing off the layoff, she could win with progress second time off the layoff. I will use just one more, Submerge showed some talent last year and is stakes placed over the course.

The featured Tate stakes looks a great spot for Bold Union to go out a winner. This speedy filly drops way down class to restricted three year olds and has a two bullet works on the ledger. Her speed and class is a potent combination over this course.

Last week there was a massive speed bias on the turf course. The rail was out 18 feet; at the top of the lane the course was about as wide as a sidewalk. Inside speed horses dominated on the turf all last week. The rail remains at 18 feet for today's lone turf race. Today's ninth race for 16K open claimers may the last or the next to last turf race run all year. I will cover both speedy inside horses Midwatch and Lemon Shore with this speed bias in mind. In addition I would be remiss if I did not cover the very game stalwart Bon Marie along with old pro Bestowed; these two have enough speed to sit right off the pace, poised to score as they turn for home.

race 7 pick 3 1,3,8 / 7 / 1,2,5,11

a video portrait of Aqueduct from a few years ago