Getting to Know the BCBC Boys – Tournament Players

Nice profile / handicapping piece from a few years ago by Ren Hakim Carothers

We’ve long marketed our sport as that of kings. While this packaging does reflect the money that goes into breeding, training, and running these majestic athletes, heightening the stakes and romanticizing the idea of triumph, it can also convey exclusivity. It’s no wonder why horses with blue collar backstories competing at elite levels have captured the imagination of those outside our industry on more than one occasion. David, meet Goliath.

It’s time that mainstream audiences realized you need not be an owner of a horse, a trainer, or jockey to delight in the spoils of victory. Racing is not merely a spectator sport. It’s interactive. You simply need a ticket -a bet slip- to go along for the ride, and the fact that it’s not just the horses competing for seven figures this weekend puts an exclamation mark on that point.

BCBC Tournament Players

Again, the BCBC Bonus Boys are fascinating. Take Stephen Thompson, who is known as the “Undertaker” on the betting circuit, as an example. He is from Lebanon, Pennsylvania, where he’s the owner and licensed director of Thompson Funeral Home, Inc, which was started by his great-grandfather in 1890. He fell in love with racing at the tender age of ten, going to the races with his family, and has won entry into the BCBC seven of the last eight years. Stephen says you get so pumped up in these tournaments, but he has to stay “flatlined” to stay focused, and that, should he win, the first check he’s writing is for $100,000 to benefit retired racehorses. “Without them, we have nothing!”

There are two entrants looking to pull off a BC/BCBC double. David Lanzman was hooked on racing after he and a couple of friends snuck under the fence at Hollywood Park as teenagers, having a security guard place what would be winning bets for them. He realized you could make life-changing scores playing the ponies when, with his $400 rent due and …

Understanding Claiming Prices in Horse Racing

and Why Numbers Can Be Deceiving

As much as numbers don’t lie, they can confuse you.

In claiming races, numbers like 12,500 can have different meanings. Sometimes, horses who run for the same $12,500 claiming price at different tracks can face different levels of competition.

At Aqueduct, for example, a horse racing in a $12,500 claimer is probably facing some of the weakest horses on the grounds. Meanwhile, at Finger Lakes, with a much lower ceiling for claimers, some useful horses could be running for that tag.

And sometimes, $12,500 claiming tags can have different meanings at the same track or circuit…

Thoroughbred Idea Foundation on Panel at 2019 National HBPA Convention

In an effort to continue supporting and promoting Thoroughbred racing and the encompassing industry, the keynote address at the National HBPA’s annual convention in March of 2019 will be a panel of representatives from the recently established Thoroughbred Idea Foundation.

The non-profit Thoroughbred Idea Foundation (TIF) was formed earlier this year to create an active forum for the exchange and curation of ideas with the mission of “improving the thoroughbred racing industry for all stakeholders, especially its primary customers — horseplayers and owners — through the exchange, curation and advocacy of sound, data-driven ideas shared with and implemented by the sport’s existing entities,” according to the organization’s website, racingthinktank.com.

The panel is scheduled for March 13, opening day of the three-day Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association Convention at the Sand Key Sheraton Hotel in Clearwater, Fla. Panelists will be board members Craig Bernick, Jack Wolf and Corey Johnsen, along with TIF executive director Patrick Cummings.

Other convention speakers will include Dr. Jennifer Durenberger, founder of the consulting company Racing Matters; economist Dr. Steven Vickner from the University of Louisville College of Business’ equine industry program; Jen Roytz, executive director of the Retired Racehorse Project; as well as a panel discussion led by prominent racing talk-show host Steve Byk on the topic of how the industry can best utilize statistical information in the future.

Details on registration and agenda will be available soon at nationalhbpa.com.

“There are a lot of good things going on in horse racing, a lot of good buzz,” said Eric Hamelback, chief executive officer of the National HBPA. “We want to accentuate positive developments in horse racing, and the purpose of both the HBPA Convention and the Thoroughbred Idea Foundation is to spark dialogue on how to improve our sport.

Thoroughbred Idea Foundation“The Thoroughbred Idea Foundation is committed to putting out productive, well-thought-out ideas that we can all back to make our industry better. There is so much going on that it made sense to have a panel of their representatives — who come from different horse and business backgrounds — rather than just one keynote speaker. This promises to be a can’t-miss session, and I know I can’t wait to hear their thoughts and how we can all work together for positive change that benefits every aspect of our sport.”

TIF does not take money from industry organizations but rather is funded by individuals from a cross-section of the sport. The core belief is that everyone benefits by taking care of owners and bettors.

“Having been on some other industry boards, they can be so large with such large agendas that sometimes it’s hard to focus on specific areas to improve the economics of the business,” said Bernick, TIF’s founder and a prominent owner and breeder through his family’s Glen Hill Farm. “A group that advocates for the financial drivers of the business — owners and horseplayers — to try to improve the sport from an economic standpoint is necessary. They’re just ideas until you can get them implemented. We hope by speaking to the National HBPA that people understand what we’re about, and we’ll be looking to push some of that stuff forward when it makes sense for horsemen. I don’t think we’ll advocate anything that doesn’t make sense for horsemen.”

Bernick is president and chief executive officer of Glen Hill Farm, the Ocala farm founded by his grandfather, the late Leonard Lavin. He’s also managing partner in Elevage Bloodstock, which invests in stallion shares and broodmares, and launched the Breeders’ Cup wagering committee while on that organization’s board. In addition to supporting many thoroughbred charities, Bernick is an officer of the Lavin Family Foundation. He was a business development and marketing executive at Alberto-Culver before going into the thoroughbred business full-time.

Wolf and his wife, Laurie, began Starlight Racing with six yearlings in 2000, one of which developed into Grade 1 winner and major stallion Harlan’s Holiday, and ultimately turned the stable into a partnership that participates at the highest level of the game, including being a minority owner in Triple Crown winner Justify. Wolf, who retired from his work as a hedge-fund manager to concentrate on racing, was the driving force behind launching the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, the industry’s first broad-based initiative dedicated to helping retired racehorses.

Corey Johnsen has earned a reputation as one of the country’s premier and most innovative track executives, who with partner Ray Reid turned Kentucky Downs into a major-league player by taking a gamble on instituting historical horse racing to not only help the track but to strengthen the Kentucky circuit. Johnsen also is a horse owner and breeder who started out as a $2 bettor and groom while attending college in Arizona. He was fundamental in the opening of Remington Park and Lone Star Park and currently is involved in the re-opening of Arizona Downs, formerly Prescott Downs. Under Johnsen’s leadership as track president, Kentucky Downs has been named the Horseplayers Association of North America’s top-ranked track for three straight years.

Pat Cummings has been an executive with the Hong Kong Jockey Club and racing technology and data-provider Trakus, as well as a media and communications specialist. An expert in international racing, Cummings covered Dubai for a decade for various media outlets. He also is a partner in racing syndicates in both America and South Africa.

TIF already has issued two white papers: advocating for “penny breakage,” where payoffs are calculated by rounding down to the penny instead of to the dime in most jurisdictions, and adopting nationwide an interference philosophy where a horse or rider who impedes another horse won’t be disqualified and placed behind the impacted horse if the stewards believe the impeded horse would not otherwise have finished ahead of the horse causing the interference. (The paper recommends stiffer jockey sanctions for careless riding in instances where there’s not a DQ.)

Source: Press release

Equestricon Ticket Construction Panel

AGOS Founder Rich Nilsen participated in one of the handicapping panels at the recently concluded 2018 Equestricon conference in Louisville, KY.  Unfortunately, this panel was not videoed, but another one was – the panel on ticket construction.

The following links to the wagering ticket construction panel that was on day 2 of the 2018 Equestricon Conference.  Included on this panel was my friend Mike Maloney, one of the best horseplayers and bettors in the country.

Keeneland News

Keeneland is at the forefront of fan education and this fall will introduce new programming targeting the intermediate fan that further enhances the track’s BETology efforts.

Keeneland Trainer Stats on your Tablet, phone or eReader

Among the new programs are Pop-Up BETology, with Keeneland’s famed BETologists going directly to the fans via a “BET Mobile” golf cart that will invade The Hill tailgate area and parking lots to offer quick BETology sessions. Each race day, Keeneland will present organized short-form BETology 101 and 201 level seminars at 12:05 p.m. and 12:20 p.m, respectively, at Wagering Central. Topics for the beginner or intermediate fan include “The Vocabulary of Betting” and “Understanding Odds”.

Keeneland and Daily Racing Form have collaborated on programming and more advanced materials that target the intermediate bettor. The partnership includes Saturday 201 sessions with a “Play Like a Player” segment about how to read a Form, understand Beyer Speed Figures and more. In addition, Keeneland and the Form have developed materials to guide conversations with BETologists about how to use more advanced handicapping tools.

You can also plug into Keeneland.com and Keeneland’s social media platforms to keep pace with all the racing action and special events fun. Follow Keeneland on Facebook @Keeneland, Instagram @Keeneland and Twitter @KeenelandRacing and @BetKeeneland. Bet from anywhere via your phone with the Keeneland Select app.

Returning this fall is the popular @BetKeeneland on Twitter, an interactive handle that provides horseplayers with real-time handicapping tips and insights while benefiting the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA) through its Handicapper of the Day Series. Guest handicappers slated for this fall include Britney Eurton, TVG reporter and part of the NBC Sports Triple Crown broadcast team; Gabby Gaudet, on-air racing analyst for the New York Racing Association and its Fox Sports telecasts; Scott Hazelton, on-air host and reporter for TVG; Richard Migliore, retired jockey and racing and workout analyst for XBTV; Jeff Siegel, noted Southern California handicapper and analyst/on-air host for XBTV; and Steve Sherack, senior editor of Thoroughbred Daily News.

The free Keeneland Race Day App offers a number of options to make your race day more memorable. Among the features available at your fingertips: live streaming of Keeneland races and race replays; entries and results; Expert Picks; special events information and a GPS-enabled interactive map of Keeneland. A Bet Simulator shows you each step in placing a wager, calculating the cost of a bet and projected simple will-pays. App users may also receive exclusive access to daily promotions, contests and giveaways.

Return of popular Pick Fours and Pick Fives

Each race day, Keeneland offers a daily Pick 6 in addition to its early and late Pick Fours and Pick Fives. Highlighting the Fall Meet schedule are a number of Pick Fours and Pick Fives with guaranteed pools:

· $200,000-guaranteed Friday Pick Four Presented by TVG (Fridays, Oct. 5, 12, 19).

· $350,000-guaranteed All-Stakes Pick Four Presented by TVG on Saturday, Oct. 6, on races 7-10: Thoroughbred Club of America, First Lady, Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity and Shadwell Turf Mile.

· $250,000-guaranteed All-Stakes Pick Five Presented by TVG on Saturday, Oct. 6, on races 6-10: Woodford Presented by Keeneland Select, Thoroughbred Club of America, First Lady, Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity and Shadwell Turf Mile.

· $350,000-guaranteed Pick Four Presented by TVG (Saturday, Oct. 13 and 20).

Source: Keeneland

UofL Equine Business Program Names New Director

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Sean Beirne, an early graduate of the University of Louisville’s Equine Industry Program in the College of Business, has been named the program’s new director.

Beirne, who has worked in various capacities in the horse racing industry nationwide, has most recently been employed by industry vendor Roberts Communications Network. He was on the Colorado Racing Commission for the past eight years, serving as chairman from July 2015 to June 2017.

Beirne“On Nov. 1, I will begin what I consider to be my ‘dream job,’” Beirne said. “I am thrilled beyond words to receive the opportunity to come back to my alma mater and prepare students to become the future leaders of our great sport of horse racing.”

He replaces Tim Capps, who died following a stroke in April 2017.

Beirne earned his bachelor’s degree from the equine program in 1990. He earned his first undergraduate degree, in political science, from UofL in 1986.

Beirne and his wife, Mary, are both Louisville natives. Mary Beirne graduated from UofL’s School of Nursing.

The Equine Industry Program at UofL is an accredited business degree with an equine focus. Graduates can be found in all aspects of the industry, from training to broadcasting.  Beirne attended the UofL Equine program at the same time as AGOS Founder Rich Nilsen.

For more information, contact Terri Burch, interim director of the Equine Industry Program, at terri.burch@louisville.edu or 502-852-4859.
#WeAreUofL

Beat Saratoga! 8 Tips for Turning a Profit

copyright AGameofSkill.com

8 Tips for Turning a Profit!

UPDATED FOR 2018

Download this free guide "Beat Saratoga: 8 Tips for Turning a Profit" by AGameofSkill.com founder Rich Nilsen and play the 2018 Saratoga meet successfully.  Beating this 40-day meet with so many contentious races is no easy task, even for experienced horseplayers, but the tips in this guide will get you on track to do just that.

15-time NHC Qualifier and 7-time major contest winner Rich Nilsen walks you through the steps required to beat this prestigious race meet.   In "Beat Saratoga: 8 Tips for Turning a Profit" you'll learn:

  • What steps it takes to beat this meet successfully
  • Which jockeys and trainers dominate the Saratoga meet
  • Which 'dark horse' jockeys and trainers you need to know about.  These guys bring home the prices, and one trainer in particular is the King of Saratoga Longshots!
  • How each of the three tracks (dirt and turf) play and how this affects you as a handicapper
  • Plus .... be on the lookout for this one important trend - it occurs every year!

Fill out the short form below to claim your free report "Beat Saratoga!"  You will automatically receive an email with a link to the PDF document that you can download to any device.

The 2018 meet is over.  Check back next summer

The 2018 Travers Stakes Begins in...

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New Horse Racing Book Released Overseas

Book Shines Spotlights on Horse Racing’s Emergence into the Mainstream

An emeritus professor from the University of Cumbria, who last year was elected to the post of President of the European Committee for Sport History, this month publishes his latest book Horse Racing and British Society in the Long Eighteenth Century.

The volume, published by Boydell press, is the fifteenth of Mike Huggins’ monographs and edited collections. It explores the cultural world of racing and its relationship with British society during the 1700s, examining how and why race meetings changed from a marginal and informal interest for some of the elite to become the most significant leisure event of the summer season.

The book provides a fascinating chronicle of racehorse ownership, as well as the previously hidden world of racing’s key professionals: jockeys, trainers, bloodstock breeders, stud grooms and stable hands.

Mike is not only a major commentator on sport history and culture, but also on British mainstream history, and his long and distinguished career has resulted in widespread recognition for his international scholarly work from the North American Society for Sports History, the British Society for Sport History and the International Society for Physical Education and Sport.

Mike says of his new book:

“Exploring the hitherto under-explored origins of British racing has been fascinating. The recent move to digital history has really opened up the past, so I was able to search early newspapers on-line, exploit genealogical material, search court records of testimony to see how racing was used in discourse, and track trends through what historians now call ‘culturomics’, as well as using more traditional archival approaches. And it has also informed my next collection, out later this year, which explores the world of match fixing in sport in historical perspective.”

Source: University of Cumbria (UK)

Battle of the KY Derby Sires

by Justin Dew

In the red corner, standing 16.1 hands, a son of Johannesburg and the winner of the 2007 Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby, the now deceased Scat Daddy.

In the blue corner, standing a number of hands that I wasn’t able to confirm on Wikipedia, a son of Smart Strike, the winner of lots of huge races and two-time Horse of the Year, the amazing Curlin.

Scat Daddy via Coolmore

At Churchill Downs next month, the ‘Battle of the Sires’ will captivate horse racing fans around the world as the main event on a day that also includes an undercard event known at the Kentucky Derby.

Punching it out for Scat Daddy:

Justify– The Kentucky Derby favorite. Undefeated in three lifetime starts. Has run faster than any of his prospective Derby opponents.

Mendelssohn– The UAE Derby winner. A half-brother to the great Beholder. Expected to be among the top three favorites in the Derby wagering.

Flameaway– Your Sam F. Davis Stakes winner and Blue Grass Stakes runner-up. A hard-trier who fires every time.

Combatant- Consistent runner for Steve Asmussen picked up minor checks in both Arkansas Derby and Rebel Stakes.

Curlin via Lanes End

Representing Curlin:

Good Magic– Your 2017 Champion Two-Year Old. Winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Blue Grass Stakes.

Vino Rosso– Trained and ridden by last year’s Derby winning team of Todd Pletcher and John Velazquez. Winner of the Wood Memorial.

Solomini– From the owner and trainer who brought us American Pharaoh, he is a recent bridesmaid on the Derby Trail.

Am I a pedigree expert? No, I am not. Thank you for asking. But in a battle of attrition like the Kentucky Derby, which sire do YOU think has the best chance of seeing his offspring, either from the farm or from Horsey Heaven, win the roses?

My money is on Curlin. And in the Kentucky Derby, my money will be on his kids. In one form or another.

Opportunities on the KY Oaks and KY Derby Undercards

By Art Parker

It will not be long before Kentucky Derby weekend is upon us. Derby Day and Oaks Day make up the big week at Churchill Downs. Naturally the talk on the Derby and the Oaks never stops but little is said about the undercards on both days, which are filled with great races and great opportunities.

On Oaks Day the big races on the undercard are the La Troiene for fillies and mares (8.5 furlongs); the Alysheba (8.5 furlongs); the Twin Spires Turf Sprint (5 furlongs on the turf), The Eight Belles for three year old fillies (7 furlongs); The Edgewood for three year old fillies (8.5 furlongs on the turf.)

On Derby Day the big races on the undercard are The Humana Distaff for fillies and mares (7 furlongs); The Churchill Downs Distaff Mile for fillies and mares (8 furlongs on the turf); The Pat Day Mile (8 furlongs); The American Turf (8.5 furlongs on the turf); The Churchill Downs Stakes (7 furlongs); The Old Forester (formally known as the Woodford Reserve at 9 furlongs on the turf.)

churchill downs ky derby dayWhat makes the undercards on these two days exciting is that a player can experience high quality racing with unusually good wagering opportunities. When examining these races over the last few years we find that favorites have won only 8 of 33 times for a subpar 24% win rate. Like so many big days at a race track, many novices and amateurs are in attendance and that usually means more money on the favorites.

Of these races the lowest price to win was Tepin in the 2016 Distaff Mile at odds of .30-1.00. The longest price was 18.70-1.00 by Camelot Kitten in the American Turf in 2016, oddly enough trained by Chad Brown (how many times do you get his horse at that price?)

The median of all winners is 5.30-1.00, which makes the median winner pay more than $12.00. That gets my attention.

Other than Todd Pletcher, no other winning trainer of the undercard races in the last three years has ever won the Derby.  Here are the trainers that have been in the Winner’s Circle after undercard races the last three year (multiple winners number of victories in parenthesis):

Todd Pletcher (4); Mark Casse (4); Buff Bradley (3); Brad Cox (3); Jorge Navarro (3); Chad Brown (2); Dale Romans; Brian Lynch; Bret Calhoun; Bill Mott; Vann Belvoir; Paul McGhee; Tom Amoss; Ian Wilkes; Peter Miller; Rusty Arnold; Ben Colebrook; Simon Callaghan.

I’ve always been told that horses that like the Matt Winn Turf Couse at Churchill Downs really, really like it. Upon examination of turf races we see some truth to that. Trainer Buff Bradley won three races on the turf course with the same horse, 2015-2017. Divisidero won the American Turf once and the Woodford Reserve twice. That happened to be three of his five lifetime wins. Trainer Mark Casse’s Tepin won back to back editions of the Distaff Mile in 2015 and 2016.

What isn’t true about the Matt Winn Turf Course is that far outside posts cannot win going short. The 2015 Twin Spires Turf Sprint at 5 furlongs was captured by Power Alert that broke from the 10 post. In the same race in 2017 Green Mask won the race from the 12 post.

The dirt sprints have experienced one gate-to-wire winner, which was Private Zone in 2015. All sprint winners have been in the top three runners when they get to the quarter pole. The Pat Day Mile, similar to an extended sprint, has had the same results. A horse needs to be close and in contention when running one turn on the dirt.

Where do winning horses come from for the undercards? Keeneland has produced almost half of the winners over the last three years (16 of 33). Gulfstream is next (7 of 33), then Oaklawn and Southern California (each with 4 of the 33 total), Tampa and Fairgrounds one each. Strangely New York has not been the sight of a last race for an undercard winner during these years.

The undercards at Churchill Downs on Oaks Day and Derby Day are always outstanding. There are plenty of opportunities with the undercard stakes races. Remember it is just as nice to win money on something other than the Oaks and the Derby.