Ask Ray: Takeout, Claimers, TV Harmony and A Guy Named Frank

by | 12.28.2010 | 1:33pm

Another week, another  series of questions from our admiring readers.

I've been reading your recent articles about takeout and how the morons in California decided to start gouging us horseplayers even worse. You are defending them. How did you get to be so (deleted) stupid? I thought you were smarter than that.

I used to be smarter. Then I had teenagers.

But seriously, thank you for those kind words. I am not in favor of raising prices unnecessarily, but unless and until there is a complete overhaul to the business model, I don't know that the “morons” in California, as you so nicely put it, had a whole lot of choice. The horse shortage is real – though it's really an owner shortage. As fields get smaller and revenue for purses gets lower, we'll lose more owners. Smaller fields will lead to smaller betting pools. Simple as that.

The California Horse Racing Board, Thoroughbred Owners of California and racetrack owners surveyed takeouts across the country, rationalized that they could get away with an increase and still be competitive. Further, they put all of the additional revenue toward purses in the hope – and this is kind of like the old hope sandwich that is two pieces of bread and you're hoping to find a slice of cheese to put in between – that higher purses might keep owners from leaving and even increase investment in horses. That will not happen overnight, if it happens at all.

If takeout as the most important ingredient to horseplayers, Turfway Park would be king right now. They have the lowest takeout in the country on most bets.

It's another year and Santa Anita's races are not on TV. Those of us who would love to watch, especially when we can't be at the track for some reason, CAN'T.

The squable between TVG and Magna continues
The message I get is,  “to hell with the fans.”

TVG does have greater exposure, especially in Southern California, than HRTV, which telecasts the Magna and Churchill Downs tracks. Those two companies jointly own HRTV.

Your options are to watch the races on your computer screen ( provides free live video, or you can view them on one of several ADW providers), get the DISH network (which offers both TVG and HRTV), or take up golf (the Golf Channel is available almost everywhere).

Speaking of golf, why is it that such a popular participatory sport only has one cable channel, when racing has two channels, and they often show exactly the same races at the same time? It would make sense for TVG and HRTV to consolidate into one, or perhaps come to some agreement on content sharing. But it looks like, if I can use the politically incorrect term, a Mexican standoff, where neither side is willing to budge. I don't see TVG going away anytime soon, since Betfair paid a pretty penny to buy the company and its ADW arm, and Churchill Downs Inc. and Magna have a lot of content for HRTV. 

It's just another strange symptom of our dysfunctional racing family.

When is there going to be a California Horse Racing Board investigation of Frank Monteleone?

Good question, and one I've been asking the CHRB for years, ever since the CHRB-licensed trainer Monteleone allegedly accepted money for the purchase, training and veterinary care of two horses he told two clients he had imported from Europe on their behalf.  The clients won a lawsuit against Monteleone when it was discovered the horses never left Europe. 

Apparently, in the eyes of the CHRB, there's nothing wrong with that. And yet that same CHRB supported an increase in takeout because of a concern owners are leaving the game. Helloooooooo? Anybody home?

Noticed a 10-year-old mare, Gata Be Wild, was entered to race at Mountaineer recently.  This was to be her first race after over a five-year layoff.  The age doesn't bother as much as the LONG layoff.  She has a below-par record on the track (24-1-2-2) and I don't see why she is racing. Concerned, that's all.

Gata Be Wild didn't do so well in that Dec. 4 race, a $10,000 claiming event in which she finished last of 10 runners, beaten more than 30 lengths. It was her first start since Nov. 19, 2005, so maybe she needed the race.

Lo and behold, Gata Be Wild was entered again on Sunday night, Dec. 26, this time carrying only a $5,000 claiming tag. She finished last of six starters this time, beaten 44 1/2 lengths (and 22 3/4 lengths behind the fifth-place finisher). 

Not sure what her owner and trainer, Lisa Armstrong, thought of her performances, but the horseplayers didn't give her much chance, sending the mare off at odds of 79-1 and 40-1 in the two starts. Equibase footnotes from Sunday's race tell the story pretty well: “Gata Be Wild was quickly outrun, struggled throughout, never involved.”

For her two starts since coming back, Gata Be Wild has earned $174. Tough way to make a living.

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