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Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Wednesday Morning News and Notes

Uncle Sigh worked out for the Wood; according to David Grening on his Twitter account, it was a 1-2 mile 47.61 secs, last 1-4 in 22.86 out 5-8ths in 59.99. The esteemed NY correspondent for the Daily Racing Form, whose insights are available for free on Twitter, continued:

Shortly after Uncle Sigh breezed, Social Inclusion had spirited gallop in blinkers; first morning on main track
We were talking in the office about who will be favored, and agreed it would be Social Inclusion. No doubt, actually, considering the big 111 Beyer he got in his allowance win, the best number earned by a three-year old this year.  Samraat and Uncle Sigh aren't anywhere on the Beyer leaderboard I'm looking at, and it goes all the way down to 97.  That came as a surprise for those of us going by the TimeformUS figs these days, as we have the two NY-breds amongst the fastest horses in the group. Only Social Inclusion and California Chrome got better numbers (114 and 111, respectively) than the 110's they earned in the Withers.  The Gotham was rated at 108, for both.  This difference of opinion is only partially due to the fact that our figures take pace into account; the assessment of the track variants are just different.  So I've been thinking in totally different terms than you guys using the Beyers may be.  Based on those numbers, I imagine that Social Inclusion is going to be 1-2.  It's also true that In Trouble, who finished just behind the two New Yorkers in the Gotham, disappointed in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn.  Still, I'm looking at this as being a more evenly-matched race than others may be.

 - Andy Belfiore of the NY Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association posted some photos of the Longshots bar on her Twitter account on Tuesday. Looks like they still have a good amount of work to do, but Ms. Belfiore reports that it will be open for Wood day.

 - Well, we were promised that we'd get a request for proposals from applicants for New York casinos in March. So, on March 31, we got at least a price list.
According to the casino application issued on Monday, a license in Orange or Dutchess County would cost a minimum of $70 million, and a license in the northern Catskills would go for a minimum of $35 million. But if no license is awarded in Orange or Dutchess, a license elsewhere in the Catskills would cost $50 million. Depending on the location, a license in western New York would cost from $20 million to $50 million. A license in the area between Saratoga and Albany would cost a minimum of $50 million. [NYT]
Details as to a required minimum investment will be disclosed after a conference for the bidders in April (probably April 30) and the applications, accompanied by a nonrefundable application fee of $1 million, are due by June 30 (of course). Perhaps by then, the Gaming Commission will have named the two other appointees to the Resort Gaming Facility Location Board.  Or, then again, since the three present members consist of 2/3rds Cuomo cronies and constitute a quorum, maybe we won't.  In any event, the longer this thing stretches out, the better case the existing racinos can make for being able to get revenue flowing by the beginning of next year, as comically forecast by the governor for March of next year.

 - Matt Hegarty reported on the latest racing fatality stats, and here's something that is becoming a regular occurrence:
  The 2013 fatality rate for artificial surfaces was 1.22 per 1,000 starts, according to the data, while the dirt-track rate was 2.11, 73 percent higher. The two rates have been sharply different in every year since 2009, and the difference became statistically significant three years ago. [DRF]
However, as Matt goes on to note, the trend these days is distinctly away from synthetics and back to dirt.  In addition to the already transformed Santa Anita, Del Mar plans to replace its Polytrack for next year's racing.  And there have been rumors buzzing that Keeneland, like Del Mar with its eye on the Breeders' Cup, may do so in the near future as well. [UPDATE: Well, what do you know, Keeneland announced they will make the switch by the fall meet.]  One thing that is definite - there are surely no plans in the works to change any tracks over from dirt, anywhere.

It's a funny little universe, this world of horse racing.  Here we are, under siege over issues of safety and animal cruelty.  Yet, the clear trend is away from something that is proving to have a statistically significant effect in the direction of saving equine lives.  The horsemen, breeders, and fans love the speed that the dirt surfaces provide.  Tracks want to host Breeders' Cups.  The criteria listed along with the latest HANA track rankings tell you where their priorities lie
Key factors including takeout rate, field size, wager variety, pool size, and signal distribution are analyzed track by track and weighted to produce a final composite score.
Nothing about safety records there.  Changing the culture of the game in this country is going to require commitment and sacrifice from all parties involved.  Despite all of the criticism and Times articles and PETA videos, the parties clearly have other priorities in mind.


Figless said...

Part of the reason for the trend back toward dirt is the underlying data that indicates sprint racing and racing class are the best indicators for higher breakdown rates. Far more sprint and cheap races are run on dirt thereby negatively impacting their overall rating. In addition there are far more cheap dirt racetracks in the study than there are high quality tracks, further creating the disparity.

And with the increased focus on safety the top class dirt tracks are trending in the right direction, especially NYRA.

I compared five years synthetic stats at KEE to dirt at Saratoga, and the fatality rate is almost identical at 1 in 1,000. We can all agree this is a fair comparison of racing class and there is zero statistical difference.

If you peruse the individual track information for those voluntarily reporting their data (and kudos to them for their transparency, especially the lower class tracks where rates are high) it quickly becomes obvious that cheap dirt sprints for older horses are the main offenders, no surprise to anyone with a smidgeon of common sense.

When I have more time I plan to compare all of the first class synth tracks with the same number of top dirt tracks, I strongly suspect the difference will be insignificant especially the last few years when more emphasis has been placed on safety.

The legacy of they synth movement may well be safer dirt tracks since the attention it brought forced management to take their racing surfaces seriously.

Figless said...

Speaking of which I hope NYRA resists the temptation to speed up the surface for the Wood.

I suspect the eventual Derby favorite may emerge from this race and it would be nice if we could actually get that horse to the starting gate in four weeks.

El Angelo said...

Figless stole my point. Synthetic tracks, by and large, have only been installed at better tracks with better horses where the breakdown rate is likely to be lower. Take the lower-tier tracks out of the equation and I'd love to see the stats.

Figless said...

PPS - two other factors;

1) The push back from trainers who are seeing an increase in soft tissue injuries on Synth, especially hind end. While most of these don't show up as on track breakdowns many end a horse career.

2) Money - tracks were promised the cost of installing Synth would be recovered from decreased maintenance costs that never materialized.

Figless said...

El Angelo, sorry to steal your thought.

Whenever I post this on other sites I get push back that the synth tracks include Turfway and Presque Isle and Golden Gate, but at best they make up 40% of synthetic starters vs. 60% at top class facilities.

There are literally 100 dirt tracks taking part, and I doubt more than 20% of the total starters occur at top class tracks.

This is a huge statistical difference, yet we keep getting press releases spouting the statistically significant benefit to Synth.

Sometimes it reads like a drug trial where the Pharma industry is paying for the study.

Figless said...

Apologize for multiple posts.

If they want us to take the stats seriously its time they provide more detail which they obviously have.

Give us the rate on synth and dirt for non-claiming races with a purse of 40k or more, broken down by distance, for example.

Don't just lob apples and oranges and (a lot of) lemons into one basket and call it "significant".

End of rant.

Alan Mann said...

Fair points....but there are some pretty really bad horses that race at Golden Gate, Presque Isle, Turfway, Woodbine, and even Arlington too.

Alan Mann said...

More from the DRF article:

"The 2013 data also continued to show that the fatality rate in races run at distances shorter than six furlongs was higher than the rates for longer races. In 2013, horses suffered fatalities in those sub-six-furlong sprints at a rate of 2.39 per 1,000 starts, compared with a rate of 1.39 in races longer than one mile. The 1.39 rate in 2013 may have been an outlier, however, because it was sharply lower than the 1.80 rate in 2012 and well below the five-year average of 1.75 for the longest races.

The fatality rate among 2-year-old runners shot up in 2013 to 1.63 per 1,000 starts, from 1.39 in 2012 and well above the five-year average of 1.41, but still below the fatality rate for 3-year-olds and for horses 4 years old or older. Horses 4 years old or older continued to show the highest fatality rate among all age groups, at 2.00 per 1,000 starts, while 3-year-olds had an overall fatality rate of 1.87 per 1,000 starts.

The data released on Monday was broken out into only three categories: surface, distance, and age. Dr. Tim Parkin, the epidemiologist hired to conduct analysis of the data, is looking at many more categories of data, including class of horse and type of race, in the hopes of identifying reliable factors that would give regulators, horsemen, and track officials the capability of identifying horses that may be at high risk of injury."

Steve Zorn said...

Way too many breakdowns, but, I suspect, not enough to generate statistically meaningful figures once you start slicing up the sample into ever-smaller variable groups. One rational way to get better data -- which of course won't happen since it's rational -- would be for a bunch of the low-end tracks to close, so that the number of racing days nationally would drop by the same percentage that the foal crop has already fallen. That might fix the breakdown rate too, as well as avoiding cards like this past Monday's at Aqueduct, which averaged barely more than 5 betting interests per race.

ljk said...

Can't compare cheap horses at GG, WO, TP, AP with Beu, WRD, Fon, PRM, etc.

Until I see a correlation of breakdown vs. purse value, I won't be convinced.

Figless said...

From the quote provided, its clear they DO have the data by class, so why not provide?

Whatever happened to transparency?
Release the data, let the world determine if it is statistically significant.

If in fact there is not enough data to make is statistically significant, caveat the release by stating that it is preliminary and requires more study.

Five years worth of data should be enough to begin making general class comparisons by purse level.

If there is enough data to release by three different distances there should be enough to release by three levels of purse, say 40+, 20-39, and -20.