By Jonathan Stettin
If you are a fan of the Sport of Kings, or a passionate participant in any way, then I would think anytime something new and innovative happens, you should be both curious and excited. This past Saturday marked the debut of the Elite Racing Network. As a professional player, student of the game, and writer of Past The Wire, I was interested as soon as I heard about them. Their website can be found here www.eliteracingnetwork.com and I encourage you to check it out.
Who was this new network, what were they offering, and is elite really going to be elite were my thoughts. Now in fairness and full disclosure, I did not know at the time I was going to be a contributor to the show in any capacity. Subsequently, I became a guest “expert handicapper” and “analyst “. Accordingly, and to remain unbiased and objective, I will limit my opinion somewhat on that aspect of the production to general and factual observations. Believe me, there is enough to talk about without going into the regular guest handicappers in detail. We’ll get back to that later.
Let’s start by saying their debut, which was free to watch, came on the day after Christmas. This is a day when many are still involved in family activities and traveling, yet Elite reported successful numbers. That’s encouraging.
The production itself was top quality and the picture was perfect. There were very few, if any, first day noticeable glitches. The show and broadcast is basically a forum where serious bettors, looking for meaningful exchanges of ideas, angles, and information, can go for just that. It’s not really entertainment and I don’t think it’s intended to be. It’s about betting, and betting to win, and strictly business. In my opinion this is a great thing, and accomplishes something I think the industry as a whole has failed in. Know your customer. If you don’t take care of your customer, somebody else will.
Horse racing is a skill game. A serious one that takes work. Elite knows this and promotes it as such. The industry missed the boat on that and suffered a decline in part because of it. While poker exploded as it was being exposed as the skill game it is, and its players who are gamblers were being embraced, racing was having free concerts, ignoring drug issues and transparency, and wondering why things were declining. Instead of embracing the gambler and gambling aspect of the game many tracks almost seemed to distance themselves from it. Las Vegas was giving free show tickets and buffets, poker was televising and promoting skill tournaments, and we were raising prices on everything we could. I’m not saying there weren’t and aren’t other issues, but racing has never been promoted and marketed as the great skill game it is. Until now anyway. Tournaments were a nice start, and Elite Racing Network is a refreshing continuation in that direction. Hopefully more tracks and others will follow suit.
The on air hosts at Elite Racing Network are there to talk horses and betting. Louis Masry, Danny Wolf, Corey Black, and Gino Buccola are all knowledgeable and passionate. More importantly, they are sharing that knowledge, and not only trying to win and spot winners themselves, but help their viewers do it as well. I’m not talking just giving out numbers, I’m talking detailed analysis and reasoning. Educating. Again, this is not entertainment designed to steer housewives away from soap operas. This is for the serious horseplayer. Know your customer.
Take Corey Black for example. He’s won over 1500 races as a jockey. He still gets on horses in the morning and his brother is a trainer. Corey talks about horses he gets on, and horses he observes in the morning, and explains their habits and quirks in a manner that you can factor into the race. He also goes into detail about race riding and strategy and how things transpire from a rider’s perspective. All this while talking about the day’s races and where the good and bad bets may be. This is invaluable. This is a game of information and having an edge. Elite provides that.
A perfect example was the last race on the card at Santa Anita on Saturday. This was a competitive allowance/optional claimer on the turf at a mile and an eighth. Corey’s brother Kenny had a horse in the race breaking from the 11 post, normally a disadvantage at this distance on the grass. Corey went into detail about the horse’s ability, how special he was, and how he needed to be trained and ridden. He expressed confidence the horse was coming into the race right, was going to take it to them on the front end, and under the conditions the distance wouldn’t be a problem. He cruised wire to wire at $9.80.
Louis, Danny, and Gino all share similar insight and make a genuine effort to help people win. They aren’t promoting any specific ADW, or specific track or type of wager. They are looking for the best plays, and factoring value into the equation. They aren’t pretending to be entertainers, they’re handicappers, but to a horseplayer it’s fun and entertaining just the same. If you are like me, you can talk horses with knowledgeable people all day long. At Elite Racing Network you can do just that. You can enter questions for any host or guest and they will try and answer them right on the air. This is a game where even the best of us continue to learn and Elite Racing Network provides a good platform.
I’m a funny kind of player in that I love to talk horses, but when I’m playing I’m generally focused and in the zone, and I don’t want to be bothered. I’ve been mistaken for rude at the races at times but that’s not it. I play to live so it’s not a social gathering to me. Spending the day at Elite Racing Network didn’t take me out of my zone. You control your interaction and frankly most of what you hear is valuable. To the novice or even intermediate player it’s more than valuable.
While they openly admit they are an evolving network, with changes and surprises in store for the future, they currently offer some good features. In addition to the hosts, they have trainer and jockey guests, experienced expert handicappers, clockers and professional players as well. They are also interactive in where you can ask them questions or bring up topics for discussion right on line.
California trainer Phil D’Amato was a guest on Saturday. I would have to say he stole the show and set the bar pretty high. Phil had a few horses in Saturday and I believe he discussed them all. I was going to send in a question about Vigilante, a horse who he was running in a stake later on the Santa Anita program. Phil had just assumed the training of this horse from the high percentage and highly capable Wayne Catalano. Wayne’s as sharp as they come. So is Phil. I was going to ask what Phil does to improve a horse when he takes one over from such a winning barn as Wayne’s. I thought it would make interesting conversation. I didn’t have to ask as Phil openly and readily addressed that before I could even get the question in. These are the types of conversations you’ll hear.
Now to the show stealer. What Phil wanted to talk most about were his two horses, Toowindytohaulrox, and Coastline, both running in the Daytona Stakes. They were coming out of the 13 and 14 posts respectively. Phil told everyone both horses were training exceptionally well, he said ignore the tote board and price and use my horses as I think they will both be there. Toowindytohaulrox won paying $44.60. Coastline ran second paying $46.80 for place. The Phil D’Amato exacta came back $762.20 for a $1 wager. The triple paid $10,851.40 for $1. Nobody had the superfecta for a dollar but the 10 cent payoff was $24,476.30. As I said, show stealer.
This is a game of information and edges. With so many sharks in the water and so much information out there, it is my opinion your best chance is to gather as much as you can. I don’t buy into information overload. Give me the info and let me decide what to do with it. Elite Racing Network provides a good deal of information.
To continue along those lines, clocker Bruno De Julio is a regular on the show. Brunowiththeworks.com Bruno is one of the best clockers in the game, and works with a great team including Amy Kearns and Brandon Stauble. Bruno doesn’t just tell you who worked with who, and how fast they went. No, he goes into detail. Who was green, who had bad habits, who wasn’t being asked, who was nervous, who was breathing fire, who is dead fit and ready, who needs to grow up, and I can go on and on. These types of observations do not appear in past performances and even if you go out in the morning yourself, you have to have experience and a trained eye. Just as Corey Black and I discussed, watching a race is also a learned art. You can learn about that here.
Those who follow me on Twitter and read Past the Wire regularly, know that I often use The Ragozin Sheets as one of the tools in my arsenal. I also use Thorograph at times. I learned how to read the sheets in the mid eighties from “Teddy”. If you don’t know who Teddy is you should. I welcome any “sheet” questions during my segments. You can learn about the value of the sheets here.
If this wasn’t enough, Elite offers as regular guests, professional handicappers:
Daniel Cronin, also known as Keeneland Dan or Fat Bald Racing Guy, soon to be Skinny Bald Racing Guy. www.FatBaldGuyRacing.com
John Mooney, also known as Zenyatta John. www.pick4win.com
Both these guys have excellent records, do their homework, and put their all into it. If they didn’t have good opinions, they wouldn’t be around this long.
As for me, although I’ve tweeted and given out my share of winners, some at very nice prices, I generally don’t give out my plays as I am a professional and play for a living. I do try and teach and help people learn the game, a lot of that through the Past the Wire column, and as my Twitter timeline will reflect, if you ask me who I like I’ll tell you. Many times it has paid to ask. I have made exceptions on maybe three of the big days and offered my picks and webinars. I’m also making an exception with Elite Racing Network, as I believe in their concept and what they are doing, and I’m excited to help. I’ll be a regular contributor and as “The Pick 6 King” you can expect a good single or a good bet against on those big carryover days.
Now for the negatives. There really aren’t many. They don’t show the races which some people may not like, but if you are at the track with your laptop or tablet, then you are watching the races there. If you are playing from home, as I often do nowadays, I’m watching the live track feed on Roberts through DISH Network so it’s a perfect set up. There is also your ADW.
As a new and evolving venture, when they go to breaks there are no advertisements. I’m fine with this but I’m sure it will change. Frankly it’s a good time to catch up.
That’s about it in the negative department. It is membership based with a subscription but a review of their packages and what you get in return negates the nominal cost.
Elite readily admits there are changes and interesting plans for the future, and that they are willing to adapt to what works and what their subscribers want. That is a sound plan going forward and they are already carving out their own niche. Now for the original question, is the Elite Racing Network Elite? Well you can ask anyone who listened to Phil D’Amato, or Corey Black, or look at the level of experience and dedication they offer and answer that question yourself. If you prefer asking me I’d say yes.
Phil D’Amato, more like High One Hundred and Five
NYRA for cutting the replay show, we want more coverage not less