Thursday, May 22, 2014

Build a Win 4 Series

The Molson Pace is coming to The Raceway at Western Fair District next Friday, May 30, 2014.  As in previous years, management is asking racing fans to pick the first three legs of the Win-4 (Pick-4) as the final race in the series will be the Molson Pace Invitational.  To select the three races you would like to see linked to the Molson Pace in the Win-4, click here.  The deadline is Monday, May 26.

Western Fair makes Molson Pace night their big evening.  The early Win-4 will have a $7,500 guaranteed pool with the final Win-4 (the one you are selecting the legs for), having a $10,000 guarantee.    There will be a Super High-5 in the seventh race which will also have a $10,000 guarantee and since it is closing night, there will be a mandatory distribution.

As for the race, the Molson Pace will once again be an invitational with Foiled Again committed to return for a sixth time in an effort to win his third Molson which will have a purse of $150,000.  In addition to the race, there are plenty of activities and giveaways which makes it worthwhile for fans to attend the race in person.

So if you haven't voted on which races you want to see part of the $10,000 guaranteed Win-4, make sure you go to the survey site and vote.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Someone is Being Your Eyes

If you are like me and you don't have time to watch the replays of the races but there was someone willing to do so for you at no charge, would you consider playing those races?

If the answer is yes, why aren't you playing Tioga Downs and/or Vernon Downs?

You see, at these tracks, Tioga Downs track announcer James Witherite is doing the work for you, reviewing each race at Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs and compiling trip notes in addition to providing his analysis of the races.

We are not talking about the two or three worded trip note in the past performance line if the track even provides the information; we are talking about fully descriptive trip notes such as the following:

7. Prince Marathon 
16May sprinted clear, yielded, 2w str, driving, just up 
09May locked in ½, labored ¼, evenly 
04May 2w 9/16, failed to catch cove 

The information compiled in the notes is any race since April 11 at the two track.s  Unfortunately, if a race is contested elsewhere other than Tioga and Vernon, the information won't appear so  a day where there are NYSS races, the information may be limited but when overnight races are being contested, this information may be invaluable; especially if you are a trip handicapper.  To access this information, follow these links for Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs.

So knowing this information, why aren't you playing Tioga Downs and/or Vernon Downs?  True, the handles are not Meadowlands-size but it may still be profitable to play these tracks even if you cuts back on the size of your typical bets.  Don't forget, Tioga Downs has some of the lowest takeout rates in America so you get more bang for your dollar.  In enough time, handle will build up and larger bets can be handled without impacting the odds.  If you are a casual player, then these track should be on short list of tracks to play.  After all, what other track(s) provide you with this level of information?

Ripping Off the Regulars

A seat in the dining room at Belmont Park on Belmont Stakes Day goes for a princely sum of $450.  I understand there is a demand for seats, but what about the horseplayer who comes regularly to the track and eats in the dining room?  No room in the inn for them?  If it was me, I would tell them they have seen the last of me.  Don't get me wrong, I understand demand is high and accept the fact the prices will be somewhat elevated since it is a special event but to attempt to extract this much money from the regulars or tell them the hot dogs are available downstairs is unconscionable.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Many Ways to Handicap

Reprinted with permission of DRF Harness.  Originally appeared on May 8, 2014

by Derick Giwner
 There is more than one way to skin a cat. While I understand the meaning, despite a quick Google search, I’m still not sure what skinning a cat has to do with finding multiple ways to do something.
As a participant in the HANA Harness Grand Circuit contest this year, I’ve been giving some thought as to how each of the 15 contestants are making their wagers. Through four legs, nearly half the field (seven total), including myself (slight pat on the back), are currently in the black. Those are impressive statistics, albeit using a small sample size.
What’s interesting is that each handicapper is using different techniques and styles to achieve success. But even more compelling is reading the person and learning which days they are betting from a feeling of strength and when they may simply be making a play for the sake of obligation. Selections with no background information or explanation are somewhat useless.
In the HANA contest, each handicapper is required to wager at least $150 but no more than $250. From this, do we assume that a handicapper who wagers $250 feels strongly about his bets that night? That would seem logical but it is worth noting that the two players which have wagered the entire $1,000 through four legs are ranked first and last in the standings. I for one have yet to fire a $250 shot, mainly because that standout wager has yet to present itself.
Bob Zanakis, one of the “bet it all each week guys”, leads the way with a net profit of $827.35. It is interesting to note that he has played a nice mix of win, exacta, trifecta and superfecta bets each week. Knowing that, if he simply posted a win/place bet one week, I might wonder if he didn’t like the races that night. Similarly, Earl Paulson is showing a profit with nothing but $150 win wagers. If he put in an exacta or trifecta, that would certainly catch my eye. Is he simply conservative or is he waiting for the right moment to strike? I guess we will learn that in the coming weeks.
Contrary to popular belief, there are many ways to win at the races. There is no hard-line theory ala blackjack. But each wager has an inherent value on any given night that can prove worthwhile. Is it possible that Earl can make $150 win wagers each week and win the contest? Sure. Is it likely to happen? No.  In a head-to-head contest he would have a reasonable chance, but against 14 others, I believe you need to widen your wagering options.
Has my strategy been strong? I have played exclusively win and exacta bets. In retrospect, I screwed up on Sunday night at Miami Valley. I should have played trifectas in addition to exactas. As post time was approaching on Sunday, I looked at the race a second time and it was clear that the trifecta was a better play. There is a good lesson to be learned here about giving yourself a fresh look when handicapping.
I handicap every card at the Meadowlands three to four days prior to the races. When the night of the races arrives, I don’t simply bet whatever I selected. I find it constructive to handicap the race a second time. Typically, since there is such a large time gap between my first and second look, I often don’t recall the exact horses I selected. When I do remember my top selection immediately, those are the “best bets”. You always remember a horse you really like. I’m also looking to see if I missed something. Handicapping a race can be like looking at a piece of fine art. There are many details to be uncovered if you stare long enough.
But I digress from the handicapping contest. Below is a list of each handicapper and the amounts they have wagered along with the type of plays they made that night. If you plan to use their opinions (some of these people are fine handicappers), the background information may help you uncover when to act and when to watch.
By the way, this week’s contest race in the TVG-FFA pace on Saturday at the Meadowlands. Without revealing my exact plays, let’s just say the bets total the minimum $150. It is a tough race with too many possibilities to have any strong opinion.
Handicapper (Wagers)Leg 1Leg 2Leg 3Leg 4Total Wagered
Garnett (Tri/Super)240250240250980
Ray C. (Win/Exacta)230150150170700
Ray G. (WP/Exacta/Tri)250250225210935
Derick (Win/Exacta)200150150180680
Sally (WPS/Exacta/Tri)250180150150730
Brian (WPS)250250150250900
Mark (WPS/Exacta/Tri)250170180220820
Rusty (WP/Exacta/Tri)250250150250900
Dennis (Win/Exacta/Tri)240250240250980
Earl (Win)150150150150600
Ann (WPS/Exacta/Tri)250246240250986
Brandon (Win/Exacta)250150250250900
Josi (WP/Exacta)2502502502501000
Gordon (WP/Exacta/Tri)250160200250860
Bob (Win/Exacta/Tri/Super)2502502502501000
For more columns like this please go to

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Are You Watching?

If you have been following the HANA Harness Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge thus far, you will have seen some great hits in the few contest dates already contested.

For example, Friday afternoon at Freehold Raceway, Gordon Waterstone of The Horsemen magazine focused on the second division of the Lady Suffolk and took advantage of the short field to wheel the 1-9 favorite Cee Bee Yes in the exacta and connected with 35-1 Pinking of You for a $540 profit on a $40 Exacta wheel.  On Saturday, Bob Zanakis was the hot one playing the Dexter Cup as a fifty cent superfecta partial wheel earned a profit of $165,15 on a $60 investment and his $25 Exacta key earned him a net profit of $275 on an investment of $100.  Will there be a big winner with the Grand Circuit races at Miami Valley Raceway tonight?

I am not saying every night will have a breakout hit, but it is clear with the revamped contest, HANA Harness' site is a site worth visiting.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

HANA Harness Handicapping Contest Begins Today

The 2014 HANA Harness Grand Circuit Handicapping Shoot-Out sponsored by the Hambletonian Society, DRF Harness, Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment, Northfield Park, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs begins today with the team of 15 handicappers taking on the Blue Chip Matchmaker and George Morton Levy Memorial Series finals at Yonkers Raceway. 

The big question of course is can Foiled Again be defeated?  While the vast majority expect Foiled Again to win his third Levy Series final, there is some support for #5, Apprentice Hanover driven by Jody Jamieson who  has a morning line of 8-1.

Unlike previous contests where handicappers had to play certain races for a set amount of money, this year's competition requires handicappers to play anywhere from $150-$250 on specified Grand Circuit events (and in some cases consolation races).  With these rules, the handicappers can play which races they want much closer to their preferred handicapping methods, in effect, removing the shackles.  As with the past, the top three handicappers at the end of the contest will win prize funds for their chosen standardbred rescues.

To see who the handicappers like tonight and every contest day, check out the selections page on the website

Thursday, February 27, 2014


Meadowlands Racetrack offers spot in prestigious World Harness Handicapping Championship to help raise money and awareness

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – When the world’s top horseplayers convene at Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment in East Rutherford, NJ on April 19 to compete in the World Harness Handicapping Championship, an estimated prize pool of more than $50,000 will be up for grabs.

But one prominent player won’t be playing for himself; he’ll be playing for the health and care of retired racehorses.

Rusty Nash, recently the runner-up in the Horseplayers Association of North America (HANA) harness handicapping tournament, was given a seat in the WHHC by the Meadowlands ($800 value) in exchange for agreeing to donate any winnings in the event to a standardbred rescue organization. The first place prize in the WHHC is $20,000.

“Rusty Nash has been a valued player in previous Meadowlands contests and we are happy that he received the $800 charity buy-in to the WHHC Final, said Rachel Ryan, WHHC Contest Director. “The Meadowlands and HANA have enjoyed a strong partnership and have worked together to promote racing and wagering at the Meadowlands as well as supporting horse retirement and rescue charities.  This event is the premier betting contest for Harness players in North America and we hope this sparks further interest in the World Harness Handicapping Championship.”

"The HANA Harness Handicapping Contest has raised - through its sponsors - over $7,000 for retired racehorses the past two years. The Meadowlands' stepping up to the plate to give one of its top handicappers the chance to earn even more for the horses is truly appreciated. We wish Rusty, as well as all the participants in the World Harness Handicapping Championship, good luck" said HANA Harness Director Allan Schott. 

The WHHC is a one-day tournament, with a welcome reception the evening prior. 

Players may earn a seat in the WHHC through a qualifying event at a partner wagering outlet or through direct $800 buy-in.  The WHHC contest format requires players to bet 10 races: their choice of seven Meadowlands races, plus three designated mandatory races from partner tracks.  Players keep all pari-mutuel winnings.  Prize payouts are to the Top 10, with an estimated prize pool of $50,000.

Registration deadline is 10 p.m. on Thursday, April 17.   For the contest entry form and complete rules visit

Monday, January 6, 2014

Harness Racing's Tote Integrity Problems is Actually a Video Integrity Problem

Reprinted with permission of View From the Racetrack Grandstand.

Yes, Virginia, there is a problem with tote integrity when it comes to harness racing; it lies with the video feed.  Unfortunately, the powers to be will deny there is any problem and the tote system is secure.  They will cite the fact windows are shut at the same time all over and when they detect for some reason wagers being made after 'off time', those wagers are returned unaccepted.

Yes, with respect to wagers being accepted, machines are shut down at the same time so no one gets to wager after the race begins.  The problem lies with the video feed provided to simulcast sites.  So maybe instead of calling the issue Tote Integrity, let's call it by the correct technical term, Video Integrity.  Apparently, there is none.

Let's return to the November 29 7th race at Yonkers Raceway as an example.  In that race, the 8-3 Exacta which was going to pay $646 as the field was heading down the stretch to start ended up paying only $87.  How did that happen?  According to HRU, Bill Finley made a case indicating the race was legitimate as the handle is not there to make it worthwhile for chicanery.  Fair enough, but the article doesn't go into detail as to what happened.

I have talked in the past about the mysterious C-Band which is available for purchase by receiving tracks at their option.  While in the past, I talked about this alleged 'C-Band', I have talked to enough people to have the confidence that the C-Ban does indeed exist.  What is the benefit of having a C-Band signal versus a regular transmitted satellite signal, about six seconds which we talked about before.  Those bettors who happen to be at a track/simulcasting facility which has the C-Band signal, get to see six more seconds before the start of the race than someone who wagers at a facility which takes the regular simulcast signal.

So what if some gambler gets to see six more seconds of the start up?  Anyone can be a 'Bell Beater' if they wish, it is the amount of video feed which makes the difference.  Six seconds may not sound like much but it gives those bettors six seconds more to avoid betting on a horse going off-stride, it gives them six seconds more to see who may be staying back or leaving.  Does it matter?  Sometimes it may, sometimes it may not,  The question is do you want to compete against someone who has those extra six seconds or so?

Look at it this way, let's say each horse was a poker hand.  Those wagering at a location with the C-Band signal have the ability to look at each horse's first card and then bet on the horse(s) they want.  Those betting elsewhere see no cards.  Seeing the first card doesn't necessary allow you to pick the winner, but it gives you an edge over the person who doesn't see the first card.  I dare say over the long run, those who get to see the first card will do better than those who don't get to see the first card.

As bad as signal inequity may be, can you imagine how bad things will be with exchange wagering if in-running wagers are accepted and wagers are offered by those who see six seconds more of the race than you do?  You need to wonder if they will be offering odds with 'insider information'.

My problem is not the C-Band signal itself, it is a matter of fairness.  Why do some gamblers get to see the C-Band signal and others get the delayed signal?  If you are a Bell Beater and wager at a facility which doesn't offer the faster signal, you are not playing on a level playing field.  Yes, those who are not a Bell Beater aren't directly impacted unless those who bet at the bell guess right; they can also guess wrong which can benefit the bettor.

One person took an opposite view.  Instead of blaming the C-Band signal, they want to know since the C-Band is more expensive, why don't the other simulcast facilities simply pay for the C-Band signal to put everyone on equal footing?  That would be nice but some of these facilities don't have the budget to purchase the better quality signal for every racetrack.  It was also pointed out to me if the windows were closed six seconds earlier, this becomes a moot issue.

My question is why are there event two signals available out there for each track?  Whether C-Band or traditional satellite feed, there should be one signal available for all horse players.  Everyone should be on equal footing.  As to shutting the windows six seconds earlier, I would agree (or even argue they should be closed earlier either at the old recall pole or when the starter calls for the horses) but it's not going to happen.

Why don't the racing commissions step in to protect the integrity of the game by mandating all simulcast signals receive the same video feed or require tracks to shut their windows six seconds earlier?  Sadly, while racing commissions technically are supposed to protect the wagering public, this point of their mission statement gives way to the interests of horsemen and racetracks.  The moment tracks and horsemen complain these changes will cost tracks and horsemen wagering handle because you run the risk of losing some of the whales wagering which would impact their bottom line.  Racing commissions are not going to do anything which may the bottom line of racetracks and horsemen even if the public be damned.

What is a gambler to do?  If  you are a large gambler, you better be checking with the simulcast facility management whether or not the signal you are seeing is the C-Band or satellite signal.  You should have the right to know if others have an advantage over you.

If you are a recreational gambler, one that doesn't bet at the bell, this inequity probably doesn't matter much to you.  I would still recommend you find out what kind of signal they are receiving because it may come in handy if your horse goes off-stride as you may get a chance to cancel your ticket while may be stuck.

In the meanwhile, while most likely not as dramatic as the Yonkers Exacta, we will continue to see payoffs that seem unusually low.  Gamblers will suspect chicanery when it really is attributable to signal inequity, giving racing a black eye it can avoid.