04/09/2014 3:29PM

Bob Pandolfo: Handicappers deserve more information

Derick Giwner
Meadowlands Racetrack is one of the few which provide detailed information on wind direction and speed for handicappers.

You always hear about how the internet is hurting retail sales. Obviously part of the reason for this is accessibility. But the internet has also transformed the way people buy things. Groundbreaking ecommerce sites like Amazon and Ebay spearheaded a new full-disclosure style of selling. If you sell your products on these websites, customers have the option to grade you, and each grade affects your "Feedback" score. Other sites like Yelp, Tripadvisor, Cnet, to name a few, give customers a way to review everything from hotels, restaurants and virtually any product or service available.

Graded commerce is a powerful buying and selling tool for both businessmen and consumers. This is exactly the type of honesty that builds lasting relationships with a business and its customers. The internet is keeping businesses honest.

This is exactly how racetracks should be run. Since Jeff Gural took over the Meadowlands, its business has risen sharply. Once again, the Big M is the unquestioned industry leader. There are many things that the track did to improve its bottom line. The Meadowlands has implemented changes that promote honesty and integrity. For instance, they hired a private investigator. Recently he saw three horsemen pull their van into a N.J. turnpike rest stop and throw a bag away. He confiscated the bag and found several used syringes. The Meadowlands took immediate action. The two horses were scratched and the men were banned from the track. And this week the New Jersey Racing Commission announced five year suspensions for two of the men, and one year for a groom.

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The reference point for integrity and full disclosure in horseracing is the Japan Racing Association. Compare how our thoroughbred industry handles workouts. We rely on trainers and clockers for the information. Workouts are kind of a best guess. In Japan, each horse wears an electronic timing device on its saddle so the workout times are accurate. In Japan, Lasix is prohibited on race day and the drug rules are strictly enforced. Legal drugs are tightly regulated.  Horses race clean and business is booming. In Japan, they have full fields, packed grandstands and the handle is monstrous.

I'd like to see more cooperation from racetracks. Here is some information that racetracks should provide its customers:

1) Wind direction (and mph if possible). As you probably know, I provide a list of track bias information for several harness tracks (plus horses that look ready to win). But one of my struggles is indentifying the wind. Some tracks don't have any flags to indicate wind direction. All racetracks should have some sort of flag or flags, even small ones, on the toteboard or a place where they can be seen on the simulcast screen. This is important information. If a horse is first over into a headwind, this is something that the track's patrons need to know. At the Meadowlands, the track announcers do a good job of mentioning the wind direction and strength at the top of the broadcast each night. Every track should provide this information.

2) Equipment changes. Some tracks do a terrible job at providing this simple information. Is it really that difficult a task?

3) Handle. Years ago all racetracks listed their handle. Now, some tracks refuse to show how much money was bet on each race and the entire card. This is absurd. You're running a racetrack with pari-mutuel wagering. People who want to bet on your product have a right to know how much money is in the pools. An experienced bettor who understands mathematics can calculate his wagers properly if he knows about how much is in the pool.

4) The start of the race. At many tracks, the starting judges are not doing a good job. Sorry, but it's true. Horses are supposed to be lined up behind the gate when the race starts. Some drivers try to get an advantage by lagging behind and then rushing up at the last second to time the start. Other drivers that have outside posts hold their horse off the gate so they can try to cut in behind the field and save some ground. This is a violation and should not be allowed. And, it's easy to fix. The starter simply has to fine the drivers who don't get their horses up to the gate.

5) Track maintenance. Sometimes, especially in the winter, a racetrack has to be scraped, or a lot of material has to be added to the track after a period of bad weather. This can change the track bias drastically. If I ran a racetrack, I would make a formal announcement in the program, at the track, and in a simple press release, that the track has undergone maintenance on a particular date. Is that so difficult?

I have top-rated Feedback ratings on two of the biggest ecommerce sites. I've found that customer feedback is crucial to my business. If people trust you and your product, they buy. It seems to me that racetracks should do everything possible to provide its customers with handicapping information and quality service. It is in their best interest to ensure the bettors that the track is doing everything it can to protect the integrity of the racing. You want us to bet our money? Give us a good reason to.

To find out more about Pandy’s handicapping theories check out his www.trotpicks.com or www.handicappingwinners.com websites, his free picks at handicapping.ustrotting.com/pandycapping.cfm or write to Bob Pandolfo, 3386 Creek Road, Northampton, PA 1806