09/14/2009 1:53PM

Weekend in Canada



There were maiden-special-weight races at racetracks in the seven most populous metropolitan areas in North America this past weekend, and I saw the richest of them all:


Okay, the comparison is a little unfair, but only a little. When Saratoga and Del Mar were running last month, there were MSW's in the $50k range, and the Woodbine purse above is stated in Canadian dollars. But at a current exchange rate of $1.00 CAN = $0.94 USD, last Saturday's purse still translates to $71,346, substantially bigger than any American maiden race.

Canadian racing and its gaudy purses remain one of the best-kept secrets in North America. There weren't any NY, LA or Chitown shippers in the Woodbine maiden race. Horseplayers, though, are warming up to Woodbine racing, as the track has successfully expanded the availability of its signal in the east in recent weeks. Next weekend, Woodbine will put on four of the continent's five richest stakes races, including the $1 million G1 Woodbine Mile (Bribon and Ventura are expected) and the G1 $750k Northern Dancer (whose namesake is immortalized in bronze at the track's main entrance:)


Woodbine is often cited as a model for a happy marriage between racing and slots, or at least as happy as such a shotgun arrangement can ever be. The slots are not creating horseplayers, and there's the same concern there as anywhere that the government could someday alter the revenue splits and stop subsidizing racing. But at Woodbine the racing is treated as king rather than being hidden out back as some sort of necessary evil to enable slots, and the entire facility is plush and immaculate.

--The weather was clear and sunny in Toronto all weekend (and I made the under on my flight out of rainy New York, but not by much.) Heavy rain affected the weekend's only two Grade 1 events, Saturday's Ruffian and Garden City at Belmont, with odds-on favorites losing both. Seventh Street was 3-10 in the Ruffian but couldn't hold scond choice Swift Temper, who surged past her to win by 1 3/4 lengths. In the Garden City, Gozzip Girl was 0.45-1 but was off porrly, stumbled and clipped heels early, and never recovered, flattening out to run fourth. There apparently was some birdgejumping in the show pool, as 1-2-3 finishers Miss World, Shared Account and Keertana, paid $13.20, $9.30 and $10.00 to show respectively as the 5th, 3rd and 4th choices in a field of eight.

--Finally, the Breeders' Cup may have set a dangerous precedent with its hollow and self-serving offer to enrich purses by $1 million if Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta were to meet.

Clearly this was more of an effort to make a public statement than anything else. They could have contacted Rachel Alexandra's owner, Jess Jackson, privately to see if a purse increase would have any effect on his months-old decision not to run her on a synthetic track. He would have told them privately precisely what he instead had to say publicly less than 12 hours after their "offer" was announced -- that she's done for the year, and wasn't going to run on a synthetic track in any case.

Cup officials already knew that, so the point here was for them to be able to say, when the general media starts asking next month why the likely Horse of the Year isn't running in the Cup, that they tried everything they could to get her. Cynics would say that the Cup, operating at a $5 million to $6 million deficit this year, didn't really have $1 million to throw at a race anyway.

The dangerous part is the precedent: Never before in 25 years of Breeders' Cups has there been any offer to enhance an announced purse to attract a particular horse. Now what happens the next time a superstar is iffy for the Cup -- will there be an offer to jack up the purse? Will his or her owner demand a purse hike, citing the 2009 offer to attract Rachel?  

fashion slipper More than 1 year ago
Hi Steve Can't remember where i saw the post and/or comment regarding preps for the Breeder's Cup races pointing out that all winners except midnight lute either won their last two or won one and ran 2nd or 3rd in the other. Please help. Love the blog thanks fashion slipper
pk6 willie More than 1 year ago
Hey Harvard - took down the WO pk6 yesterday - had all 6 live horses and only 9 was a split - 11 won so home w/ almost 55k Love this track especially w/o the betting syndicates - Columbia
Douglas Amos More than 1 year ago
Finally someone is exposing WO; there are added hidden slices for industry, pensions and provinces attached besides. Also, an administration that did everything possible to prevent foreign providers from gaining access to Canada. This for a typical AW product that compresses odds on a pack of uncompetitive grey globs where horses in actuality only race for the last 1/4 mile. The best daily variant maker in the world could never wager on any AW with confidence. The turf course, for all its appeal, is biased. Rider after rider ships in, views the expanse, and decides, to their great chagrin, that staying in is of little consequence...
Cangamble More than 1 year ago
Robert, first off the best track for takeout is Keeneland. Secondly, when you bet you aren't betting against very many people who don't have a form or good information these days. Back before slots, yes, pools were full of dummy money, not anymore. Supporting a high takeout venue like Woodbine is being anti-horseplayer. Woodbine had a great handle on Mile day (they get two or three good handle days a year), but take a look at Friday's handle. Mountaineer beat them. People are starting to avoid high takeout venues.
bullring More than 1 year ago
What is the takeout on triactors up to nowadays at Woodbine?
Robert Slifer More than 1 year ago
Cangamble thanks for the info on takeout but like many of us I work for a living and its hard to get out and play certain tracks that run during the day except on weekend. I'm not a huge player when I go I usually have about $700-$1000.00 in my pocket which is chump changed compared to some that are on this blog but thats what I allow myself. I myself play tracks were I feel like I have a advantage over others and my number one track for that is Charlestown which I have 5 years of data on now and they run at night. I also love to play Delta Downs but whats funny is I couldn't pick the winner at the quarter poll at Evd so other then the turf races I avoid playing there. One thing nobody has ever answered for me is why when you hit a irs ticket do you have to pay the state taxes when the state is already getting a piece from the takeout? Bob in PA
Robert Slifer More than 1 year ago
This is for Steve who complained about not playing certain tracks due to takeout! I will agree that certain tracks have very high takeout but if your a very good handicapper especially at tracks were sharp people play like NY & Cali your better off. I will use a example at out local parlor we have a large row of tv's and a wall I have named this "millionares row" because not one person playing there have a program or form in there hand now if its me vs them I'll take those odds everyday. Pennsylvania has different takeouts for every track which makes no sence to me a example is Pocano which is a buggy track has a 35% takeout of the tri poll which I agree is insane. The lowest takeout in the country I believe is Prairie Meadows and I don't see them having a 3 million dollar daily handle until people start complaining with there voice nothing will be done to change the problem but again when I go to the track its not me against them its me against those folks who refuse to buy a form because of its cost... Bob in PA.
Jeff Tatus More than 1 year ago
luisbe & gocashbaby... I feel for you two and all your countrymen. I cannot think of a larger disadvantage for a horse-player than what you describe. Are there no Canadian officials who can comprehend the complete disadvantage of a Dollar ($1.00 versus a $.10) against a Dime wager? This clearly benefits your pari-mutuel provider of services at Woodbine and tilts the odds in their favor that they will have to "pay out" or "pay off" or even have to "pay" at all. When the folks that run things in my State did the same thing (by failing to change their computers to accept $.10 cent wagers on Supers), I threatened to take the issue up with the State's Attorney General. The lawyers easily understood how that could be misconstrued as a "racketeering" offense and I hope you can explain the same to those who clearly don't have your best interests at heart. Now, they may say that if you don't like it, don't play the races... but that is hardly the point. What they are doing in effect; is cheating or tilting things in favor of the house... plain and simple.
Walt P. More than 1 year ago
Couple of things here concerning TV: As we get closer to the Breeders' Cup, ESPN/ABC likely will promote it more, Rachel or not. They actually have done a good job of promoting the BC the last three years, something NBC sorely failed to do much of, especially in the last year or two before it went to ESPN/ABC. If the BC were still on NBC, the ratings I suspect would actually be lower than they have been on ABC/ESPN, especially given how much in the tank NBC's ratings are in prime time these days. The cutbacks on horse racing this year on ESPN/ABC have more to do with the NTRA not having the sponsorship they have had in past years because of the economy being so bad. I also believe NYRA either was forced to do the deal with Cablevision (MSG Plus) to put NYRA stakes there by the state to get whatever money in they could AND/OR that was a backlash from March when TVG and HRTV as I recall were not allowed to show the Gotham live because ESPN had the rights, and even though they weren't showing it live didn't allow anyone else to either. One thing that is being done to promote the BC is in addition to the two hour telecast on ESPN Classic October 10, either the Lady's Secret or Goodwood from Santa Anita is going to be shown on ESPN as part of their "College Football Scoreboard" show, which will expose the sport to a ton of people tuning into ESPN following the 3:30 PM ET games while waiting for the prime time game at 7:45 PM ET to start. Otherwise, the lack of telecasts this year show the NTRA and everyone else involved in the sport need to be more creative and flexible in scheduling stakes, which is what I have been advocating with some of my made-for-TV race programs designed to get maximum exposure IN PRIME TIME on ABC or NBC during the summer, when viewership is normally low anyway and the horse racing telecasts I proposed actually have a chance to bring in viewers that otherwise would not be watching TV at all on Saturday night. That is something the NTRA needs to seriously look at for 2010. Speaking of 2010, I suspect those temporary lights Churchill had this summer will become permanent, mainly because NBC I suspect (and if so, likely at the insistance of NBC-Universal Chairman Jeff Zucker) will want the Derby telecast in prime time next year so it qualifies those ratings (which were 10.2 this year) in the "May Sweeps," but also because I think next year's BC will be the first held at night in order to tap into the Asia-Pacific region for simulcasting. The potential for hundreds of millions in new handle on the BC (and also the Oaks and Derby day programs) from Asia and Australia is too big to ignore any longer, especially if it keeps the BC purses at least where they are if not increase them severely (as I maintain the view that if the BC is at night, the handle from the Asia-Pacific Region could eventually swell the purse of the BC Classic to as high as $20 million, the Turf and Ladies Classic to $12 million each and other events into the $5-7 million range plus millions more that can be added to the purses of other major races for older horses that can likely help in keeping top three year olds in training at four and five).
Larry Thiel More than 1 year ago
If the Breeders Cup is so willing to do any stupid thing, and so anxious to entice Jackson, why don't they offer to run the race at Churchill or Belmont?