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Tuesday, January 15, 2008


- A commenter over at Not to the Swift asked John: Why are you obsessed with Frank Stronach? Well, Frank's a fascinating guy, whatever you think of him, so I could think of worse topics to consume oneself with. John responded by taking Stronach to task for the Gulfstream disaster, and deservingly so. Of course, I always prefer to look at the positive side of people. I'm even happy for Mitt Romney.

In case you missed it, there was a feature story on Frank in Sunday's Baltimore Sun. It's largely a rehash of familiar Frank Follies, but with some interesting detail and quotes. It's a long piece, so I'll leave it for you to read if interested; but a couple of points to mention.

Gulfstream is, of course, one of the main topics, and reporter Hanah Cho notes that the win per machine numbers there have gone up from $74 from July - September, to $183 in December. However, a closer look at the figures [pdf document] shows that Magna has executed its strategy to reduce the number of VLT's, replacing some with video poker. The number of machines has gone down from over 1,200 to 516 in December; so the net revenue has remained virtually flat, with just a slight increase at the end of the year.

The Broward County figures show that the racinos are not doing the kind of business as those in Pennsylvania. Pompano Park is doing the best at a steady $220 or so per each of the 1,500 machines.

I'm looking at these numbers, and it's really staggering if you think about it. In total at the four racinos in Broward - and if I'm reading this thing right - over $243 million was wagered in December alone. $222 million, over 90% was returned to bettors, leaving a net profit of over $20 million. The state gets half; not a bad deal, eh? Easy to see how states get hooked on this. More gambling is coming to the state....perhaps. Governor Crist's Indian tribe casino deal, which would net the state some $100 million a year, is being challenged in the courts, and Miami-Dade voters get another shot at approving slots on January 29. Hopefully, the damn NY franchise will be settled soon so we have time to enjoy that battle. It's already heating up.

Back to Frank, the Sun article also discusses the Horse Wizard machines.

It was Frank Stronach's pet project. To the founder of Magna Entertainment Corp., the Horse Wizard took the thinking out of betting, while offering the excitement and instant gratification of casino gambling to a new generation of patrons.

But if Stronach expected others around him to embrace his enthusiasm, he didn't hear it. "I remember sitting there, and he had some test ones, and I tried them and said, 'This is really bad, Frank,'" recalled Gino Roncelli, a former Magna director.

"'Oh no, they're going to get used to this. This is going to be great,'" Roncelli remembered Stronach saying. "I said, 'Frank, this is a terrible loser.'"
This makes me feel silly, because I think they were a good idea too. Just not at racetracks I guess. Anyone who's going to Laurel in December is certainly not there to have the thinking taken out of the process. But the Horse Wizard machine is, after all, the same concept as the successful Instant Racing machines, with live races instead of old ones. Perhaps they would do better in bars or casinos.

And there's trouble for Frank at his Canadaville project in Louisiana. Magna is being sued by the local mayor, who claims that Magna has not fulfilled its contractual obligations. He claims that crime is up since the "strange people" came to town. [National Post] Presumably, he's not talking about Frank.


Anonymous said...

Romney is the Man.

Brett said...

Very off-topic here Alan, however not as off topic as anon above.

I'm about to get my first Form of the year and first since the Breeder's Cup. School gets in the way especially in Missouri where there is no racing whatsoever. And I'm in Columbia, closest OTB is Fairgrounds, tow hours away, ugh. However I digress. I was wondering I am looking to play the Thursday cards mainly Aqueduct, Fairgrounds (love the 50 cent Pick Fours), Gulfstream Park, and the occasional TB Downs.

All I really have watched is the occasional Gulfstream race and a little Aqueduct and TB Downs on TVG. From the little I have watched at Aqueduct I feel speed has held really well(I could be totally wrong).

I was wondering if you could give me some pointers on Aqueduct this season, maybe some hot trainers, biases, or some picks for Thursday which is the day I will be going to the Arlington OTB and handicapping.


And always keep up the great work.

steve in nc said...

I'm not Alan, but...

This AQ inner track meet has been extraordinarily speed favoring in sprints.

I use three categories:

SPEED: on or within less than a length of the lead the entire way.

NEAR PACE: not more than 3 lengths from the lead at any point of call.

CLOSER: more than 3 lengths from the lead at some point in the race.

And so far this meet, out of the 220 sprints, 118 have been won by SPEED horses! In the '06-'07 AQ inner meet, only a little over a third of sprints were won by speed horses.

Traditionally, early speed had mattered more in routes. In the '06-'07 meet, 45% of routes were won by the SPEED category. And that rate has held so far this meet (actually 44%).

So what has happened this year in sprints is really remarkable. In both sprints & routes, the closer category has done a little better than the near pace category in producing winners.

The speed trend has been at its strongest recently. Last week in sprints, there were 18 SPEED winners, 5 NEAR PACE winners, and 5CLOSER winners.

Watch the winds at AQ because the track is near Jamaica Bay. There's a link to the weather for that neighborhood on the NYRA website. The horses run due north down the backstretch, so very strong north winds help the closers in sprints (usually it takes more than 20 MPH and cold temperatures to produce this effect). NW winds blow in their face on the turn and also help closers in sprints. South winds happen less often but can help the speed types even more. A strong southerly gust will produce really fast first quarter clockings that don't hurt the speed horses.

Again, this is a really windy place (I grew up nearby in an 8th floor apartment, and between the wind and the airplanes at Kennedy, it was noisy up there!) and 12-15 MPH winds are typical, but unless the gusts are much stronger or it is really cold, it doesn't seem to change the bias.

Your source here (me), is one who attributes very little to bias. I assume that most of what happens at the races with regard to dominant running styles day to day is just normal statistical variation. But what is happening at AQ is too consistent and too overwhelming to not be a bias.

Now, predicting who will be on the lead isn't always the easiest thing, at least for me. But on obvious speed crazy days, I will eliminate from the top position in sprints any horse with established form who hasn't run a good race on the lead before.

I key longshots only, and the AQ inner meet is a good place for me. Lots of horses with in and out form because of physical problems, and horses being overbet on very scant evidence. My advice is don't get scared off a horse you like at this meet just because he's dead on the tote.

Last year, Dominguez was golden, and he is a great rider, but this meet he & Contessa have been overbet. Betting the Elliot/Asmussen combo blindly would have made you a lot of money here, but even the journalists are noticing, so the profitability will disappear even if the win rate holds.

Good luck, especially if you're gonna play Thursdays, when you might be able to outrun some of the horses.

Alan Mann said...

Brett -

Er, what he said. (Thanks Steve!)

Anonymous said...

Another note, outside posts are dead in the water, look at the PP stats in the Form.

Speed bias usually increases the colder and wetter it gets (unless the winds are blowing hard, as noted) and Thursday it will be cold enough but not wet.

We have had a wetter than usual winter which I believe has contributed to the bias.

As for hot connections, just look a the winning percentages.

Beside Dominguez and Elliot, Garcia is hot and just plain good.
Coa holding his own mostly due to getting live mounts.

Apprentice Arboleta? is ok with Dutrow only, and Carol Cedeno can ride a little, do not downgrade a mount if she is aboard.

The remaining journeyman are just not getting live mounts, and N Arroyo is noticeably riding bad and losing mounts.

Trainers: A Dutrow, D Dutrow, Assumussen, Violette, and Levine is warming up.

Contessa way overbet, as always.

Shippers are overbet and not doing as well as you would expect, although they probably will start to rebound now with a race or two over the track.

Good luck and enjoy.

Anonymous said...

Alan, I like those machines too, think they would go over well in OTB/Pubs.

Anonymous said...

The minute I trash Arroyo he sweeps the early DD for Jacobson.