3 heads

3 heads
The Last Great Prizefight: Jack Johnson, Tex Rickard, Jim Jeffries

Monday, June 28, 2010

FIFA Fair Play

What is it that we want our children to learn by playing team sports: teamwork, fairness, empathy, respect, humility, discipline, persistence, obedience, sportsmanship?  As a child you learn to play but not to cheat.  Play to win, play for fun, but play within the rules.  Cheating diminishes the game and the victory.  That sounds fine, even utopian: reasonable for children but not for professionals?  We use sport as a metaphor for life; we hope that children learn valuable lessons by being part of a team.  But, somewhere along the journey from children's games to top flight professionalism, this code becomes inverted.  Justice and sportsmanship no longer matter or at least do not matter as much as victory.  Maybe the break down begins the moment games are organized and officially sanctioned by some governing body.  When recreational players participate in sports with no referees, they are honest, admit to fouls and play fairly.  That changes when a referee is added. Is it then that structure, organization, the addition of dedicated officials obviate the individual player's responsibility to be honest.  Add a referee and sole responsibility for maintaiing the integrity of the game now belongs to the official?

During this World Cup tournament it has become obvious that if mistakes happen on the field, no one is to blame except the referee.  Never would a team that benefits from a bad call dream of questioning that call.  Only the team that suffers complains, and that resolves nothing.  But what if the team that benefited asked the referee to reverse a call out of fairness.  That would have traction.  It is never done, yet to accept the benefit of a patently wrong decision is poor sportsmanship whether it is normal behavior or not.  Rather than meekly accept the status quo, we should ask for higher standards from players and managers.  Does no one think that it is wrong to benefit from a tainted goal or to deny to your opponent one that is legitimate?  In real life, if you find a wallet, would you not return it to the owner?  Do you need a police officer to instruct you to do so?  FIFA does have a Fair Play Code.

The generic concept of fair play is a fundamental part of the game of football. It represents the positive benefits of playing by the rules, using common sense and respecting fellow players, referees, opponents and fans.

The Fair Play Campaign was conceived largely as an indirect result of the 1986 FIFA World Cup™ in Mexico, when the handball goal by Diego Maradona stimulated the admirable reaction of the England coach, Sir Bobby Robson. Since then, the campaign has had with the unconditional support of former FIFA President João Havelange and current President Joseph S. Blatter.

To give fair play more visibility, FIFA created a programme that turned the generic notion into a simple design and an easy to understand code of conduct that could be recognised and respected by players and fans alike.

Fair Play has a fundamental role in sport and there is a need to apply it to all sporting activities, especially children's activities. Children need strong values to grow up with, and football, being a team sport, makes them realise how essential discipline, respect, team spirit and fair play are for the game and for life.

FIFA's Fair Play Campaign is represented by the slogan "My Game is Fair Play".

There are 10 tenets to FIFA's play fair campaign which you can find on their website.  Number one is to play fair.  They're still working on that one but it's a start. 

Carrying the sport as life metaphor further, participants should not cheat, but in case they do, there are the officials, the police of the game.  It is their responsibility to prevent fraud.  Frequently they fail.  But in the real world, there are not only police, their is a judicial system that backs them.  Where is FIFA's judicial system?  If a player commits a "crime", a handball, which the referee does not see, that player should be punished all the same.  Does the statute of limitations last just 90 minutes.  How about diving?  Make the punishment severe enough and players will think twice about this sort of cheating. 

When France qualified for this World Cup courtesy of a Thierry Henry handball versus Ireland, it foreshadowed the series of dismal officiating decisions which have marred the tournament so far.  By all rights, Ireland should have made the trip to South Africa, not France.  In hindsight, this would have been less embarrassing for Les Bleus.  But is technology the answer to poor officiating?  Maybe, in part, but couldn't most obvious blunders be resolved by sportsmanship? 

When Diego Maradona scored his famous "hand of God" goal in 1986, when Thierry Henry's handball cost Ireland a trip to the World Cup, when Carlos Tevez scored an offside goal and England were denied a goal on Sunday, could not all these incidents have been rectified by sportsmanship.  Would it be so wrong for a player or a manager, out of a sense of fairness, to decline to accept a goal if it was not earned fairly?  Wishful thinking in a world where victory is more important that justice.  Sadly, soccer is after all a metaphor for life.  For children who play, the lesson is: if you can get away with it, do it.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Latin Furious

P.T. Barnum has nothing on Bob Arum. $39.95 PPV for Latin Fury 15? Whatchew you talkin' about, Willis? Julio Ceasar Chavez Jr. vs John Duddy: This is an 8 round undercard fight masquerading as a main event. Although, it is for the coveted WBC Silver belt. I'd like to get a mailing list of everyone who purchases this event because I have an excellent paperback book that I will sell them for only $250. The way I figure it, anybody willing to spend $40 on this will gladly spend $250 on the greatest boxing book ever written.

Chavez is the house fighter; the plan is for him to win. And that is showing up in the betting. For a bout that one would think should be very competitive, the money keeps coming in on Chavez. Yes, I know. No way the judges give this fight to Duddy. Still, -400 on Chavez? Isn't that just a little steep? I guess not, since even at +320 on Duddy, it is not easy to pull the trigger. Maybe play the over 9.5 rounds, then hope Duddy doesn't get badly cut.

The undercard features Marco Antonio Barrera vs Adailton De Jesus, but no one is paying $40 to see De Jesus. In his day, the great Barrera would have knocked this guy out early. Now, I'm not so sure. Solely from looking at the weigh-in press photos, Barrera looks like hell. He did not make weight. I worry about old guys like this fighting guys who still have testosterone. Gotta go against the -650 favorite here. Say it ain't so. Sigh.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Take the A Train to Aqueduct

The savior of New York horse racing will be the proposed racino at Aqueduct. Or not. Paraphrasing Jeff Gural at Tuesday's New York Gaming Summit, as reported in the Saratogian, "Don't count on it."
At present, NYRA is more concerned about getting a proposed Aqueduct Race Track racino open that will give the industry a major financial boost.
"The question is, is it a permanent solution?" said keynote speaker Jeff Gural, a prominent New York realtor, who’s heavily involved with racing and gaming.
He likened video gaming to a heart transplant that saves a patient’s life, but offers no guarantee of a long, healthy life.
"I worry as a horse owner that there’s going to be a day of reckoning for the horse industry," he said. "Racing guys are the mercy of politicians. States need money these days."

Yes, one of these days state legislators may question the logic in subsidizing an anachronism like horse racing when they could just spend the casino revenue on a more important or more powerful constituency, like education, law enforcement, or the NY Yankees. Bottom line: the Aqueduct casino is a temporary fix; eventually, racing will have to downsize.

Speaking of the Aqueduct racino, one wonders why anyone would want to get involved with such a clusterf--k.  The thought of a casino in the heart of New York should make casino execs drool like Pavlov's dog, so who wouldn't?  It's the best location in the country, scenic Queens, just catch the A train.  And yet, where is Harrah's? Where is MGM/Mirage? I don't see them on the bidder list. Harrah's probably learned its lesson in the 90's when they bid on the "can't lose" casino in New Orleans. That didn't work out so well.  The Aqueduct bids are due next Tuesday. The "winner" will be on the hook for $300 million, plus the the $25 million loan that the New York Lottery gave to NYRA on their behalf a few weeks ago.  But might the most recently unearthed impropriety delay the bidding yet again?  From the NY Times:

New revelations of insider leaks involving the proposal for a casino at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens have further marred a selection process that has attracted the attention of state and federal investigators.

 Oy vey! I thought this was supposed to be an above board, no lobbying allowed, bidding process. Uh huh. The Aqueduct Entertainment Group "won" the last bid and was then rejected when it was determined that the bidding was rigged and that the organization was "unlicensable."  Why do I get the feeling that they will "win" again?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Quality not Quantity

A common disparaging remark made about soccer is that "there is not enough scoring,"  as if the quantity of goals scored correlates to the excitement of a particular game.  There is no logic behind that argument.  Sometimes plenty of scoring is exciting, sometimes it isn't.  To demonstrate that scoring does not equal excitement, see the NBA.  In fact, if scoring a goal is difficult and infrequent, the excitement generated is greater.  See the USA vs Algeria.  The USA soccer team advanced to the next round of the World Cup by scoring just one goal.  How boring?  Not!  Goooooooooooool! Gooooooooooooool! Goooooooool! Golazo!  This solitary goal will be remembered as one of the year's great sports moments. 

Perhaps the NBA could make it's version of basketball more exciting by legalizing goal tending.  Then they could adopt the rules of the ancient Aztecs; the first team that scores, wins; and the losers are sacrificed.  That would be interesting, although, an 82 game schedule might be difficult. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

No Rest for the Wicked

I don't know which is more surprising, that a whack-job like Raymond Domenech lasted this long as France's Manager or that France's national team self destructed.  Obviously, the two are linked.  Patrice Evra's coy remarks:
"There is a cause for all this failure, several things will come out. Then, if people don't want to forgive, at least they will know the truth.''

"I will say everything I went through as captain,'' he said. "The whole of France needs to have an explanation for this disaster. It's not the time to give them, but I will personally give them.
Patrice, you've piqued my curiosity.  I can't wait to hear the players' side.  But aside from the soap opera entertainment value here, maybe there is a betting angle hidden in the madness.  The World Cup is not yet over, but for top flight soccer players, there is no rest.  Club season just ended last month and starts again in August for most European football associations. The national teams gear up again for the qualifying round of the European championship in September.  On September 3, France hosts Belarus.  Normally, I wouldn't expect the players to be especially motivated.  The endless grind of club and national team games can sap the motivation out of any player; and there is the fatigue factor.  Even the best club teams don't seem to really kick it in gear until Spring, so dogs can be a good play.

But for France, this  will be their first match in the post-Domenech era; they might be worth a flyer on that day because they are loaded with talent and should be extremely motivated.  They may even be worth a shot to win the European championship.  They are currently quoted between 10 and 12 to one with the European bookies and 14 to one at Betfair, but the pool is thin.  It will be interesting how this shakes out, but come September 3, I probably will be looking to lay the handicap with France versus Belarus!  It's a way off, but I'll put it on my calendar.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Race Wagering Earthquake

This could be huge: the first crack in America's pari-mutuel infrastructure.  The revolution is coming.  From the Bloodhorse

A New Jersey Assembly committee released a bill June 17 that would allow exchange betting on horse racing.
The measure approved by the Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee would put the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority in charge of establishing a betting exchange allowing bettors to wager against each other on the outcome of races. The exchange would match the bettors and see that the winner was paid.
 There will be hell to pay.

Bad Intentions, AARP Edition

You gotta love it: Every few months a couple of geriatrics from the boxing senior center go on a field trip to Las Vegas, get into a ring and try to hurt each other.  Yahoo sports columnist Kevin Iole, in his  Hooks and Jabs column, mentions that Mike Tyson's induction into the National Boxing Hall of Fame could be delayed because their is talk Tyson may come out of retirement to fight Evander Holyfield.   I'm not sure who is doing the talking, but I've been hearing about it for several months now.  As far as the senior tour goes, it seems like a logical "title defense" for Holyfield, who became "champion" once again by defeating the fighter whose appearance resembles his nickname, the fighter who declined to remove his shirt during the weigh-in, the "Great White Buffalo," Francois Botha.  Holyfield may be the most alphabetized heavyweight champion in history. He has held the IBF, WBA, and WBC  heavyweight titles. Not too long ago, he failed to capture the WBO version, but beating Botha added the WBF to his list of trophies.  That, of course, is the World Boxing Federation, the one based in Luxembourg, not Arizona; and not the WBF which abbreviates World Boxing Foundation, from which, as best as I can tell, this WBF split.  It's like scrabble, but the letters self-replicate.

If you are interested in purchasing a title belt, the WBF seems to have plenty available.  This is akin to purchasing a knighthood, but less expensive; you might also need to beat someone, anyone, in bout contested for the vacant title. I am available for a small fee. On the WBF's website, they used to post empty or nearly empty ranking for all the weight divisions.  They would list Botha as heavyweight champ with Holyfield as the number one contender, then 19 empty spaces.  They've wised up; now they only list the champions, like this: 
While you might regard Tyson - Holyfield III with antipathy, don't disparage the fighters and don't fret too much over their well-being.  Even old fighters need to make a living and there is no better way than to fight each other.  By this mature stage they've learned the ropes; they know how to make money without taking too much punishment.  This is not the case of a delusional Ali stepping in with a young Larry Holmes, or corpulent Jim Jeffries cajoled into going 45 rounds with Jack Johnson.  Both these two have been around the block.  Their testosterone levels are waning, but they still have bills to pay.   That said, I wouldn't step in the ring with Holyfield and I think it would be wise for Tyson to stay on his stool after 2 or 3 rounds.  I'm not sure Holyfield realizes that he is 47.  This will be an intriguing match, (Note: I didn't say good.) providing equal measure of cynicism, silliness, and petulance; not a "war" but at least a curiosity.

By the way, if you need a job, the WBF's vice president for American operations is open.  With a potential heavyweight championship bout in the works, one would think that an astute boxing executive would be in high demand.  If you live in Las Vegas and can attend the Nevada State Athletic Commission hearings, your chances of getting the job are good.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Nevada, queen of hypocricy.

It's 6 a.m., do you know where you are?  Me? I'm in Backwardland. And I'm in bed and groggy, yet awake enough to know that the Queen of England is approaching in her carriage and the Queen of France, the best turf miler in the world, is in the paddock at Ascot. It's opening day of Royal Ascot; and how can a true horse racing fan miss the opening race, the Queen Anne Stakes? So, after a few minutes, I locate my glasses and rotate to vertical. After watching the 2 queens (can there be two?) of American racing, Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta, run this past weekend, it's time to watch the queen of European racing, Goldikova.  That makes 4 queens if you count Queen E, not a bad poker hand. TVG is televising Ascot all week. That's great news. In the last few years Americans have been blessed with TVG and HRTV; we can now watch most of the great international races from: Dubai, France, Japan, Hong Kong, Australia, and the U.K., except, strangely, the Epsom Derby. Hmm?

6:10 A.M., I make coffee and turn on the T.V, to witness her Royal Highness, exiting her carriage unaided - not bad for 84 - greeting some muckety- mucks, progressing to the royal box. At Ascot the sport of kings really is the sport of kings. Blue bloods are in abundance: queens, dukes, lords, sheiks, you name it. Time for racing: In the Queen Anne Stakes, Goldikova displays her dominance by holding off a fast charging Paco Boy. It was an excellent race, and although my handicapping ability of European thoroughbreds is a little dodgy, it would have been fun to put down a small wager. But, here in backwardland, das ist verbotten! (German sounds so intimidating, doesn't it?) Explain to me why I cannot bet on Ascot from my PC? (That's a rhetorical question.) Is there a reasonable justification for denying this opportunity? Regulators and legislators, are you worried that a minor might place a wager? That someone will gamble away their life savings at Royal Ascot like they do in your bricks and mortar casinos? Or become addicted like the old women who pee their pants sitting in front of real video poker machines? Undeniable hypocrisy!

Nevada, are you afraid of the feds? Not when it comes to horse racing. Unlike sports betting, horse racing has a special legal exemption that allows for online betting. Cool! Er, but still verbotten in Nevada. TVG and other online race wagering sites are legal next door in California, from whence comes most of your customers, so why not in Nevada. Let's blame the casino lobby. That seems like an easy target.  Just like government everywhere, money talks and casino gaming is still the most powerful industry group in Nevada, so I don't suppose TVG will be legal in backwardland Nevada any time soon.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Sometimes it's hard to by cynical. 

"Harrah's Entertainment oppose sports betting."

Oops!  The president of Harrah's Atlantic City properties must not have gotten the the memo.   From pressofAtlanticCity.com:
Speaking to reporters on a conference call Thursday, the head of the Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. casinos indicated he supports sports betting as a way to boost the slumping Atlantic City market.
“It couldn’t hurt,” said Don Marrandino, president of the Bally’s, Caesars, Harrah’s Resort and Showboat properties.
Marrandino later provided a statement through a Harrah’s representative, which read: “Harrah’s Entertainment, along with the entire New Jersey Casino Association, oppose sports betting.”
Some New Jersey state legislators are looking to legalize sports betting at casinos and racetracks. The first step is to place a referendum on the ballot but that was quashed in committee last Friday thanks to opposition from Harrah's Entertainment, Inc, which owns half of the world Atlantic City. Senator Raymond Lesniak accuses "the evil empire" of blocking legislation in order to protect its Nevada Monopoly. I doubt it is that straight forward. Sports betting is important to Nevada, not so much for the revenue it generates directly, but as a marketing tool. Direct revenue is comparatively miniscule, but tourists flock to Vegas and Reno every weekend during football season.  Believe you me, NFL fans are jonesing for September 12!  But why would Harrah's oppose the same opportunity for their Atlantic City casinos? I suspect if sports betting were only legalized inside casinos, they might go for it, but they're afraid where this might lead. Online betting, maybe? Better to leave well enough alone. Besides Harrah's, the NFL is surely not fond of the idea either, so chances are slim for legal sports betting in Jersey.

But think of this: If sports betting were legalized at racetracks, the Big M, Meadowlands racetrack, would do gangbusters business when the Giants or the Jets play their home games.  Fans could get their bets down at the track before they enter the stadium.  I wonder if they could make it from the stadium to the track in time to make halftime bets.  Do I hear Big M shuttle service?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Uruguay, no offense.

Pun intended.  Multilingual Homer Simpson.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Advice: Don't be a Butthead!

Here's what I remember about the last World Cup: Zinedine Zedan's head butt of Marco Materazzi and Italians continuing to play for penalty kicks even after France went down to 10 men.  Italy played for the draw during the entire second half and extra time, a disgrace to the beautiful game.  Sure, they played within the rules and won.  Good for them!  But I hope the team that wins this year plays beautiful attacking football, à la Brazil or the "total football" Netherlands team of the 70's. If I could be king for a day, i.e. Sepp Blatter, the championship (of any sport) would not be decided by a penalty shootout.  Of course, betting has nothing to do with the aesthetic considerations and if I had bet on Italy then I would be happy despite their style.

Betting Advice:
When betting on individual games,there are usually two formats, a 3-way proposition and a handicap.  Not every casino will offer the handicap since their theoretical hold, their profit, is lower.  Leave that sportsbook and go to one that does.  Here is a sample line for the opening match.  In the 3-way proposition you must pick, surprise, one of the 3 possible outcomes.  In the example below, if you pick France and the game is a draw, you lose.  The books prefer this wager to the handicap; the theoretical hold, the "juice," on this 3-way prop is 7.6%, while on the handicap line, with a 20 cent spread, the juice is 4.5%.  The handicap is typically a better deal for the gambler, regardless of which side you like.

France         +110
Uruguay      +230   Juice = 7.6%
Draw           +230

France          - 1/2    +120    Juice = 4.5%
Uruguay                   even

In Nevada, the handicap will be either be 0 or in half goal increments.  If you're laying a half goal (-1/2), you need to win.  If you're laying one and a half goals (-1 1/2) you need to win by 2 goals.  The opposite is true if you're taking the goals.  If you're getting a half goal (+1/2), then you win with a draw or better. If the game is a pick'em, (no goal handicap) then a draw would be a push and you get your money back.  In some offshores you'll find the "asian handicap" in increments of 1/4 but Americans don't understand this so Nevada books stick with halves.

Sometimes, though, the line in a 3-way is better than a handicap line.  This morning I saw one of the offshores with France at a better price in the 3-way then when laying the half goal.  In that case, the 3-way is better if you're betting France.  That's usually not the case. Rule of thumb: play the handicap line.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Size Matters

Check out: Felix Salmon of Reuters blogging on the optimal World Cup betting pool buy-in.  In theory, office betting pools are good gambling opportunities since there is 100 percent payback.  Back in the dark ages, when I worked at the Chicago Board of Trade, there was a Super Bowl pool, a pick the squares game with a buy-in of $10,000 per square with one payoff of $1,000,000.  So, I guess the optimal buy-in depends on the company you keep.  $20 might be the optimal buy-in at Reuters, $10 k for bond traders, but maybe more for the Goldman Sachs crowd.

Maylasia Gets the Juice

How can you tell a Muslim from a non-Muslim?  Sounds like the start of an offensive joke; it's not, but apparently it can be done, at least in Malaysia.  Malaysia is on the verge of allowing gambling on sports, for a couple of standard reasons that benefit the state but of course have nothing to do with personal freedom.  In that sense Malaysia is akin to Nevada.  I'll explain later.  Malaysia is on the cusp of granting a single license to a "hospitality" company to take sports bets.  The catch, according to Le Monde: sports wagering will only be legal for non-Muslims!  How, exactly, does that work?  According to Reuters, the granting of the license is still being debated.

"The government is still sourcing feedback from various quarters for the proposal to license bookmaking in Malaysia, with the aim of reducing and subsequently eradicating illegal gambling..."
Muslims are demonstrating against gambling, even though wagering on horse racing and the lottery are already available.  There was anticipation that legal sports wagering would be ready for the World Cup, now the proponents are shooting for the start of the English Premier League. 

Those in favor of legalization argue that it will increase tax revenue and help to fight organized crime, which has been linked to "manipulating" the outcome of European soccer leagues.  According to Le Monde:

En octobre 2007, puis en novembre de l'année suivante, une vaste opération policière avait été menée dans plusieurs pays d'Asie du Sud-Est, dont la Malaisie. Près de 2 000 personnes avaient été arrêtées et accusées d'avoir manipulé certains matches de championnats européens.

What? you don't read French.  Try the translation, courtesy of Google:
In October 2007, then in November the following year, a major police operation was conducted in several countries of Asia South East, including Malaysia. Nearly 2000 people had been arrested and accused of having manipulated some European leagues matches.

To fight gambling corruption, the government is going to issue one, I repeat, one license.  The government is granting a monopoly to a large corporation, majority owned by one mega-wealthy individual.  Competition and consumer freedom are irrelevant.  You can assume that this means more revenue for the government.  The lesson is that gambling is okay as long as the government gets their cut!  Halfway across the world, the Netherlands sees things the same way.  This week, Ladbrokes lost a restriction of trade case against a Dutch sanctioned gambling site.  England based Ladbrokes cannot take online bets while Holland-based De Lotto can.  So Holland and Malaysia will be in the same philosophical boat: gambling is okay, as long as you do it through a government approved agent. On the surface that sounds okay, but the putative reasons given by the government are hogwash.  What else is new? Blah blah blah, welfare, blah blah, addiction, blah blah, corruption, blah, blah, blah fraud, blah blah under-age ....  The bottom line is restriction of trade and restriction of personal freedom for the benefit of someone else.

Nevada is in a similar boat, but I think it is still using a steam driven paddle wheel.  Sports wagering is barely legal in Nevada.  Could a bookie open up a shop in a mall or in a sports bar or across the street from a brothel?  Negatory.  How about online? Again, no.  Like Malaysia and Holland, sports wagering is restricted to preferred corporations, in this case "resort-casinos."  See NRS 463.1605.  Worse than Holland, you cannot wager online in Nevada, even on horses, which is legal in the majority of states. If you want to make a bet, you must go to the casino, which is too bad if you don't happen to live near one.  And if the casino run sports book does not offer what you want, that's also too bad.

It's amazing that bookmakers even exist.  In the Internet age, they should be replaced by, or they should become, market makers in an exchange based system such as Betfair.   No one should need a bookie to take the other side of a bet.  Someday....

Monday, June 7, 2010

Belmont's Decline

Joe Drape bemoans Belmont's poor numbers this weekend and gives 15 reasons for the decline of horse racing, plus an additional 6 specific to the New York racing quagmire.  All his reasons are valid but racing would be far worse off if legislators in some jurisdictions did not subsidize the industry with revenue from electronic gaming, i.e. slot machines.  From a free market point of view, there is no reason to prefer the horse racing/breeding industry over the manufacture and maintenance of electronic gambling devices.  Yet, the grand, old, historic tracks
like Churchill and Belmont cannot compete without  this outside money.  Racing has become an excuse for electronic gambling and the upshot is that this encourages the breeding of low quality horses to fill racing cards who run until they breakdown and then need to be disposed.  And this is the sport of kings!  Horse racing needs to stand on its own.  If this means the elimination of 80% of the races the are currently run, the cheap conditional claimers, in exchange for high quality cards that could generate interest, then so be it.  In this case, quality is better than quantity. Perhaps Monmouth's summer experiment will prove that.

One point Drape makes is the perception of cruelty, the image of a jockey vigorously whipping a horse, as disturbing to viewers, but in the last few years the padded whip has gained widespread use in an effort to treat the animals more humanely.

"The whip is not a whip," Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux said during the Keeneland fall meet. "It's a noisemaker."  

Ironically, because it does not sting, jocks need to use the whip more aggressively to get results.  It looks bad.  ESPN has an excellent article on this topic. 

I love horse racing but it does have it's dark side.  Whipping is just one of those negatives but the larger inhumanity is the breeding of unsound animals with legs that cannot take the punishment of the track (See Drape's reason #11).  Breeding speed in exchange for soundness is not a humane trade off.  If viewers are repeatedly subjected to the sight of thoroughbreds breaking down during racing's big events, then this will depress racing even more.  So far this year, we've been spared seeing any of the elite horses break down.  Uunfortunately, you know it will happen again and the fact that we've not seen an Eight Belles break down this year does not mitigate the regular break down of cheap thoroughbreds who will be run too frequently for their own good in order to fill cards that are needed to keep the doors to the casino open.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Red Ticket beats Hot Ticket

Approaching the finish line: Bar JF Red Ticket leads Bar JF Hot Ticket.  Genie-Jones for the show.  Now I'll stop with the mules for a while!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Big Apple: Big Weekend

What a great weekend for New York. A young man with stamina could
spend the afternoon at Belmont Park and the evening at Yankee Stadium.
Of course, this Saturday is Belmont Stakes day, with neither the Derby
Winner, Super Saver,nor the Preakness winner, Lookin at Lucky, going
in the Belmont.  Nevertheless, it's still a big event and a great
card; 4 Grade ones and 2 grade twos.  That night, Miguel Cotto and
Yuri Foreman square off in Yankee Stadium for the WBA Super
Welterweight (154 lbs) Title.  Cotto is a $2 favorite, but Foreman
looks like a live dog.  I have a feeling this line will drop 20 or 30
cents.  I've got Foreman at +165 and I'm happy with that.

Seems the consensus for the Belmont is that First Dude is the
lone speed and that he can steal it. That's reasonable.  Although, it
seems counter-intuitive, a mile and a half is an easy distance for a
front runner to shake lose on a relaxed lead and have plenty left to
hang on in the stretch. IF, First Dude is indeed the lone speed, that
would be a good play, but sometimes horses that never showed pace in
the past decide to gun it.  Then, after you watch your "lone speed"
duel or not take the lead at all, things don't look as good as you
envisioned.  I'll have to bet early since I'll be in Winnemucca in the
afternoon.  Since the price on First Dude may be a little short, maybe
5/2, I'll pass on him.  Instead I'll take a flyer on Fly Down. It's always interesting trying to guess how the odds will turn out.

You can check out the Past Performances for free; Brisnet offers free PP's for one select race every day of the week. Of course the Belmont Stakes is the race for Saturday.  Get those here.

One horse you can throw out is Spangled Star - probably not that
difficult as a ML 30-1.  Dick Dutrow is always good for telling it
like it is.  When asked what makes him think his horse can get a mile
and a half, he replied that his owner makes him think that.  I hear
you loud and clear, Dick!

More Mule Racing

Mule racing season kicks off this weekend in Winnemucca, after that it
will cross the border to commence the California fair circuit.  There
are a lot of California fairs, so the mule connections will be busy
until mid- October.

I mentioned in my last post that one advantage that the Humboldt
County Fair has over Meydan is gambling.  That said, the pools are
thin; strictly low stakes.  A hundred dollar wager could crush your
payout, easily dropping a mule from, say 3/1 to 3/2, so don't plan on
laying the lumber if you get a hot tip. In a couple of weeks, in
California, thanks to simulcast wagering, the pools will be much
larger.  So, if you're at an OTB that carries California racing, you will
be able to get a little mule action.

With the decline in the California thoroughbred population, mule
racing has a bright future, perhaps helping to fill the card at
Hollywood some day.  No more 4 day racing weeks.  No need for poly
tracks.  Hey, it could happen.  Mules are durable and affordable,
making them a much better investment for middle class owners.
Thoroughbreds need rest and break down easily.  Mules can race on back
to back days and aren't fragile like horses.  Maybe in the future they
will be, once breeders get a chance to breed the soundness out of
them in exchange for speed, like they've done with thoroughbreds.  For
now, if you want to get into racing, go with a mule.  In any case,
if you like to wager on California racing, it might be a good idea to
brush up on your mule handicapping skills.  Most races are Speed Index
races.  To find out how these are calculated and to download the most
recent figures, visit www.muleracing.org.

Over the last several years, mule racing has been dominated by 2
mules.  Early in the decade, Black Ruby won almost every race she was
in for several years running.  Last year, it was Bar JF Hot Ticket,
who won every race until he was finally beaten by Bar JF Red Ticket on
October 18 in Fresno.  The rematch will takes place tomorrow, race 7,
in Winnemucca.  Both mules were sired by Sterling Sweetwater, a
jackass whom my friend, an owner of racing mules, tells me is 15 hands
tall.  That's a big ass.  You might call Sterling Sweetwater the
Danzig of the mule breeding world.  I have no idea what his stud fee
is or if he is even available, or if you can purchase semen since
artificial insemination is not forbidden.  Mule breeding is governed
by different rules than those governing thoroughbreds, which forbids
artificial insemination and cloning.  Not so for mules.  In 2006, the
grandstand in Winnemucca was packed, the pools were doubled, and the
news coverage was ubiquitous thanks to the presence of 2 cloned racing
mules, Idaho Gem and Idaho Star.  You will never see that in
thoroughbred racing, but that's probably a good thing.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

It's a long way from Dubai to Winnemucca, NV

The last track I went to was Meydan in Dubai for World Cup Day.  This weekend we're heading to Winnemucca for the mule races.  Could there be a greater contrast between Sheik Mohammed's thoroughbred Shangri-la and the Humboldt County Fairgrounds?  Dubai hosts the finest thoroughbreds in the world, who fly first class and room in spacious, air-conditioned stables; with the richest race, the $10 million Dubai World Cup as its showcase; and the most luxurious grandstand imaginable with an attached hotel that has a pool deck overlooking the clubhouse turn.  Most of the races at Winnemucca will run for a purse of $750, but the showcase, the Winnemucca Futurity, has a substantial purse, for mules, of $6000.  The grandstand is typical rural county fair architecture with wood plank seating.  Grandstand seating in Dubai? Between $250 to $500. Winnemucca? $2, if you don't have a coupon from the local newspaper.  One thing that Winnemucca has that Dubai does not, besides pretentiousness, is gambling.  Arabs love thoroughbreds, but the Koran puts the kibosh on gambling.  Lots of things are illegal in Dubai although its not always clear what.  The judiciary system is still evolving so the bottom line is: what Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum says, goes.  It may even be illegal to use kibosh and Koran in the same sentence.  Anyway, no gambling.  Even if you try to do it online, Internet filters are in place to keep you on the correct moral path.

And no drinking!  At Winnemucca beer is readily available. Thus, Winnemucca has at least 2 distinct advantages and I have not yet mentioned the joy of watching young mules try to run in a straight line! Don't get me wrong about Meydan and the World Cup.  There are not enough superlatives to describe it.  If I were rich, it would be an annual pilgrimage.  Since I am not, my annual pilgrimage will be to Winnemucca; and I'm looking forward to it!