Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Bet the house

Interesting topic coming out in a book to be released by Film critic and Chicago Sun Times columnist Richard Roeper with a working title of "Bet the House". Roeper is currently in the midst of a 30 day straight gambling spree. The idea is pretty simple:

”Each day for a month, I have to risk at least $1,000 on some form of gambling, from the OTB to the dog races in Kenosha to a poker tournament in Vegas to blackjack in beautiful French Lick, Ind. I will keep a running bankroll, just like [the late Sun-Times horse handicapper Dave] Feldman used to do in his column back in the day.”

We have seen this before, and often it is a mythical bankroll where a handicapper will follow a specific meet and start with $1000. This one is interesting because it is actual money and real bets. At some point in the 30 days Roeper promises to bet 25% of the bankroll on a single bet. I love these type of books and always find it fun to follow people who do this every day in effort to show a profit. Anyone can parachute in every once and a while and place some bets, but to do it every day is one tough task. Also even in these tough financial times, lets not forget that people love to gamble and Thoroughbred Racing is a great sport to gamble on. Without the gambling the sport will fade away, and let's not forget that.

Ten days into the bet and Roeper is up, going all in and winning big with a $1000 bet with comedian and Howard Stern Sidekick Artie Lange. Roeper won with Missouri plus the 4 1/2 points over Memphis in the NCAA Men's B'Ball Tournament.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Dunkirk gets Early Mainstream Media Spotlight

So far in the early Derby Trail Race, it seems like Dunkirk, unraced as a 2 year old, is grabbing the most mainstream media focus. The Todd Pletcher trained horse, going this Saturday in the Florida Derby is featured today in a NY Times article written by Bill Finley. Yesterday The Albany based Times Union paper had a article on Dunkirk written by Tim Wilkin.

It seems that of late, these lightly raced horses grab the attention of everybody, probably because of the intrigue factor, i.e. how good could this horse be? 2 years ago it was Curlin (unraced as a 2 year old), last year Big Brown (only 2 races before the Florida Derby-but he did race as a 2 year old).

Dunkirk will have his hands full with a competitive field including Quality Road, Theregoesjojo and Patena. I am also eager to see how Danger to Society, trained by Rick Dutrow fares.

Reminder to all fellow Run to the Roses players-check your active horses. I blew it last time Stardom Bound ran, forgetting to activate her and losing those points. These Saturdays sneak up on you. You can check out the Road to the Roses Tab on the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance Homepage to see the entire schedule of Derby Preps with a list of whose running.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Crowded out

The Equispace blog covers the ESPN coverage situation this weekend of the Lane's End Stakes, complete with a link to Alex Waldrop's NTRA blog commenting on how and when the the NTRA decides to buy time on ESPN for Racing telecasts.

Still shaking my head that we had no coverage the weekend before last weekend. That weekend we had 4 nice derby prep races that were run, all within the same hour, which would have made for a nice one hour show on ESPN. Plus they would have avoided the March Madness Weekend which is a ratings monster. Instead this past weekend they decide to broadcast the Lane's End Stakes smack dab against the NCAA Men's Championship. CBS Sports has sent out a press release stating that on Saturday, March 21 the overall average metered market rating/share for the Tournament was a 6.3/14, up +5% from a 6.0/13 last year.

That's a tough number to compete against.

Bad enough that the NTRA has to actually buy the ad time (like infomercials do) but how is a Saturday slot against March Madness attractive to potential viewers or ad buyers?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

New Voter for the Paulick Derby Index?

President Barack Obama spent time today being filmed for ESPN filling out his NCAA College Basketball Tournament Bracket, picking North Carolina to win it all.

With ESPN cutting this years Kentucky Derby Week coverage from 11 hours to 5 hours we don't think they have any interest in broadcasting the President's picks for the Derby but maybe Obama can be added to the panel who give us the weekly Paulick Derby Index or maybe the powers that be can get him to handicap the Kentucky Derby and have it broadcast on NBC the day of the Derby?

Monday, March 16, 2009

'09 3 year old Crop better than '08 Crop?

Still 7 weeks away from the Kentucky Derby and already I have read many media articles and blogs on how the 2009 crop of 3 year old's is so much better than the 2008 crop.

Really? Is that not just a bit premature? I realize Dutrow and the IEAH clan don't give the public a warm fuzzy feel, but man do they love to bash Big Brown and his 3 year old competition of '08.

I know we are in a instant gratification twitter crazed world right now, where opinions are lightning fast and immediate, but I like to let a 3 year old crop mature and judge them throughout the Derby Trail, than over the rest of their 3 year old campaign and finally follow them into the handicap division before granting proper judgement.

This past weekend the winners of the Gulfstream Park Handicap and the New Orleans Handicap were Smooth Air and Macho Again. Smooth Air, second to Big Brown in the Florida Derby is now 6-3-3 from 14 starts with earnings of $932,200.

Macho Again, runner up to Big Brown in the Preakness, is now 5-4-0 from 16 starts with earnings of $1,076,619.

Other '08 alumni of note include Gayego with 5 wins and $833,020.00 in earnings and Colonel John with 5 wins and $1,440,330.00 in earnings.

I think if you ask any of the owners and trainers of the '09 crop to cash in and sign on the dotted line right now for the above wins and earnings , they would ask you for a pen.

Friday, March 13, 2009

ESPN Slices Derby Week TV Coverage

The once promising relationship between ESPN and Horse Racing appears to be on the skids with ESPN cutting its Kentucky Derby Week Coverage from 11 hours in 2008 to 5 hours this year. The Kentucky Oaks will be a victim of the ESPN cuts, as they will not show the race on the Friday before the Derby. The Bravo Network, owned by NBC Universal, will pick up the Oaks Coverage as part of a one hour special. Last year ESPN had 3 hours of coverage on Oaks Day.

My initial reaction is that once again the horse racing fan gets shafted. However, I can't say I blame ESPN from the business side of the table. Although the Kentucky Derby itself draws impressive numbers, averaging an hefty 8.7 household rating share since NBC picked up the coverage in 2001, every other Horse Racing event draws anemic ratings.

This past Breeders Cup drew only a 1.0 share on the ABC portion of the Saturday 2008 coverage and "Filly Friday" on ESPN drew a very weak 0.3 on ESPN. I don't have last years Oaks ratings available to me but based on typical cable ratings I would figure it would also be about in the 0.3 range that the Breeders Cup had on ESPN on during the 2008 Friday coverage.

Looks like ESPN took a look at the ratings and just decided to go elsewhere, pushing other programs and sports that simply draw in better ratings and ultimately better ad rates. For instance, the ESPN coverage of the World Baseball Classic, is off to a strong start, with first-round game coverage on ESPN (four telecasts) averaging a 1.3 rating (up 44 percent from the original classic first broadcast in 2006). With an international audience for the World Baseball Classic, ESPN is smartly building its ESPN Deportes Cable Channel and ESPN360.com website.

Cuba vs. Australia on Tuesday, March 10, delivered a 3.3 rating on ESPN Desportes to become the network’s highest-rated non-soccer event ever.

The ESPN360.com is streaming World Baseball Classic games and traffic is way up with an average viewer time of 41 minutes per stream for Classic games.

It's all about drawing eyeballs to the screen and ESPN appears to have lost interest in using Horse Racing to do that.

SOURCES: Neilsen Media Research

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Marketing-Adapt or Expire

Instead of wondering if it works or how , the smart business person is using it right now, that being the tools of Blogging, Twittering and Internet social networking sites to market your business.

The lesson here is do it now, do it fast and don't stop. Spread the word of your business through every electronic avenue you can via your own web site, Internet social sites and the cell phone.

The horse racing industry got a late start but it seems industry big wigs like the NTRA and NYRA are finally getting it and using all platforms available to market such as Facebook and Twitter. We have a way to go and are behind other sports but in this constant changing every day is a new day and the time is now.

Speaking of which, you can see the various Twittering going on at the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance via TBABlogs. You can also read the Tweets at the TBA Home Page.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Happy Anniversary Mr. Spitzer

Today, March 10, 2009, is the 1-year anniversary of the revelation of former Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s connection to a prostitution ring.

At that time when not busy under the sheets, the "luv Gov" had on his desk a number of "things to do" including naming the organization that would operate video lottery terminals (VLT's) at Aqueduct.

After Spitzer's fall from grace Governor Patterson picked up the baton and on October 10 2008 chose the Delaware North Cos. Inc. to operate 4,500 video lottery terminals at the Big A. Groundbreaking was originally scheduled for January 2009.

Now on the one year anniversary, no groundbreaking has been done at the Big A, and with no formal agreement in place, no shoveling is scheduled.

On Feb. 11, 2009 NYRA President Charles Hayward said:

“We have been given no indication from the state or Delaware North as to when the groundbreaking at Aqueduct will take place and that date cannot be estimated until the [memorandum of understanding] is executed. Obviously we are very concerned for NYRA’s racing program and its stakeholders, and I am more concerned as a citizen of the State of New York that the state is foregoing [more than] $300-million in annual revenues as the delay continues.”

Even more confusing, now Patterson is pushing his "Empire State Development Plan" which includes a proposed VLT and Hotel development at Belmont Park.

But for now, one year after the Spitzer debacle not one shovel is in the ground at Belmont or Aqueduct. Is there any doubt that next year on March 10, 2010 we will still be sitting here with shovel in hand and dirt not yet dug?

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Stardom Bound says: "Scoreboard"

As usual Alan at Left at the Gate is dead on with his analysis of Stardom Bound's win in the Santa Anita Oaks yesterday. Dana from from Green but Game chimes in with similar comments. Both were perplexed with the criticism of Stardom Bound's win. On the one hand, that is what makes this game so great, the constant back and forth on why a horse won and the debate on what will happen in the next race.

I am always amazed as the widely divergent opinions out there on a outcome of a race. If Brett Favre in his Green Bay Packers days shrugged off 3 sacks and 2 interceptions to lead the Packers on a 97 yard drive to win the game with 2 minutes left in the 4 quarter it is called a "gutty" win and Favre is described the next day in the media as a "winner" a "true champion" a "never say die athlete". Only in horse racing does a gutty athlete get knocked.

This leads to the great paradox of our game-the athletes don't talk.

Did anyone interview Stardom Bound after the race? What did she say? Did she have aches and pains that slowed her up, was she feeling out of it, was she distracted early, did she learn anything off this race? Is she confident going forward? Does she think she can beat the boys? What is her mental state?

I never fully trust a handicapper, owner, trainer or fan when talking about a horse, because he/she never asked the horse. Until someone actually hears the talk horse, a 3rd party opinion is just that, a 3rd party opinion. Until then, all we have is the scoreboard and the scoreboard for Stardom Bound says "Win".

Friday, March 06, 2009

Aqueduct Fantasy

Published Attendance At Aqueduct Racetrack on March 5, 2009 as reported in the Times Union: 483,279.

Maybe they finally put in the slots?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Fantastic Product +Great Marketing=$$$$

If you have a great product and now how to market it, you can still make money, even in this economy. Media Week reports that CBS has nearly sold out all the ads for the online version of March Madness, CBS’s free on-demand access to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

Media Week estimates CBS is pushing close to $30 million in revenue, significantly ahead of last year’s $23 million. If it hits $30 million it will be up just over 30% in revenue year over year.

Remember all the criticism of the Friday Breeders Cup and "how do you market it to fans who are stuck at work?" Well, CBS found a way to market a day time event (1st round games are on Thursday & Friday) with the online feed and even found a Sponsor for a gimmick on the site. Comcast sponsor's the "Boss Button", which according to Media Week, will enable at-work viewers to display a fake spreadsheet on their screens with a quick click of the mouse if their boss approaches while they’re watching live games.

Smart Stuff. The main value in the CBS online inventory is that people can only watch some of the early round day games in their office, making the streams a substitute for a TV that would have otherwise been used, so those fans have no choice and that spells big money (online wise-$30 million is a huge #). Compare this to marketing of horse racing-where easily accessible live streaming of major race events is difficult to find.

Oh, in case your wondering, the CBS TV ad revenue for the tournament last year was $430 million.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Positive Praise

As a Time Warner Cable Subscriber I don't have access to TVG or HRTV but I do have Capital OTB on my cable system. It actually serves my purposes pretty well with simulcasts of the NYRA tracks as well as all the other big tracks. Yesterday I was able to watch the Aqueduct card as well as see the Fountain of Youth from Gulfstream and the Sham Stakes from Santa Anita. Unlike the NYC OTB Channel it does not share air space with other programs and seems to be relatively free of the technical problems often seen on the NYC OTB channel.

I like “Trackfacts Live” seen on Saturday and Sunday mornings from 9:30-11 am. The production valves are minimal but hosts Nick Kling (turf writer for the Troy Record) and Tom Amello more than make up for the low budget set and production valves with expert analysis and tons of information. I always pick up tidbits of information, especially on betting angles and different ways to handicap. The show is simple in format. The 2 hosts sit behind a table and take questions from callers and read e-mails off laptops placed on the table. Nothing fancy, just tons of information and commentary.

On This Sunday’s program Tom Amello read an e-mail from a fan asking about the Host’s feelings on blogging. Nick Kling was positive, citing the blogger's ability to write about angles not always written about in the mainstream media.

He specifically mentioned 3 blogs he particularly liked and they were all once or current members of Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance They were ex-TBA’ers (or is it former TBA’ers, or TBA alumni, or no longer TBA’ers?) Jessica from Railbird, Brooklyn Backstretch and current TBA blog Colin’s Ghost.

If you have any interest at all in Thoroughbred racing history, and appreciate fine writing and research may I point you to this recent piece written over at Colin’s Ghost.