13 May 2009

Field Size

I know there is a correlation between field size and handle. Just take a look at any result charts and see which races get the largest handle at any track.
But as a handicapper, too many 12-14 horse races can be quick bankroll killers. Personally, I prefer races with 8-11 horses in it. 8 horses are OK for exactors, doubles and pick 3's, and when it comes to supers and tris, 9 horse races are OK, but I tend to want 10 or 11 horse races for those type of bets.

Large win bettors probably feel more confident when there is less horses in the race, and may make bigger wagers. But $2 win bettors probably like bigger fields.
It is very tough to properly predict how a race will set up when there is 10 or more horses in it. In 6 horse races or less, the early speed horse usually can be predicted.

I know that horsemen prefer really small fields, and I know that the closer one comes to a two horse race, the more devastating takeout becomes to players. The house advantage on a football game is less than 5%, and betting football is a tough game to beat.

Woodbine prides themselves on big fields, but I don't see their handles doing all that great. I think a lot of players are aware of their high takeouts, and many players avoid polytrack. But definitely, the races with the highest amount of betting interests usually attracts the biggest pools. But at a price:

Larger fields do not attract new money. It just gets some of the money that might have been devoted to smaller field races.

They don't make a difference on the bottom line. If horse racing were to have an average field size of 11 tomorrow, the amount of money lost by patrons would be the same as if the average was 7.5 collectively in the industry.

They just might be more appealing to existing bettors, but that is it.

The only way to increase the bottom line is to attract new players, and it is broken record time: Takeout needs to be reduced and/or rebates need to be higher so that winners are created. Word of mouth that the game can be beat will create new players and/or bring back players who are betting offshore.

I started a thread on Pace Advantage regarding Field Size, and it became pretty active.

A point I made in the thread:
I still say that too many 12-14 horse fields are bankroll busters. It does create more chaos because of traffic jams, so if anything, a lower takeout is required. These races also kill churn.
But on the positive side of things, if you do hit an exotic in a 12-14 horse field, you might get enough to keep your bankroll alive for a week or more.

I look back at my most successful cashes, and I think they mostly occurred in races that had 8-11 horses though.

I always look at the Derby as a crap shoot.

I liked Bobphilo's comment (I think he represents quite a few horseplayers with this):
I see both sides of the argument. On one hand the larger fields bring larger prices but bring lower strike rates. Smaller fields give smaller prices but also a higher win percentage. Now these would even things out except for the fact that the lower win % you get with larger fields is not something that can be compensated with better handicapping. They are more difficult because the larger fields also cause more traffic problems and are therefore less predictable out of proportion just to the increased number of horses you have to beat – they add an increased element of chance. That’s why I personally prefer small to medium-sized fields of 6 –8.
I also prefer smallish fields because I employ comprehensive handicapping and they give me more time to devote to each horse and make it less likely that I’ll miss an important factor.

Of course these are just general rules. I make exceptions in large fields where many of the horses can safely and quickly be eliminated.


Imriledup pretty much shares those views:
Here's 4 reasons why i prefer 8 horse fields over 12 horse fields.

1) It doesnt' take as long to handicap an 8 horse field. Time is money and a 12 horse field might take me 33% longer to handicap.

2) I bet more than 2 dollars. If you are a 2 dollar player, you need that 12 horse field so you can hit the trifecta that pays 1500 for 1 dollar. But, for me, i'd rather have a tri in an 8 horse field that pays 500 for a dollar and have it multiple times. I don't need the tri to pay 1500 for 1 dollar, i can have a tri that pays 500 for 1 dollar and have it 3 times (or 30 times). Those 4 extra horses cause you to spend much more money chasing down that illusive tri score.

3) Much less of a chance that my horse will get bothered or disqualified. Its a 'truer' race because horsepower matters more than racing luck.

4) In the shorter field, you can really make a concentrated score if the heavy favorite is a dog. In a 12 horse field, you still have 11 bodies to navigate thru.


Testing for anabolic steroids in Ontario will commence on June 1st. Those claiming horses right now need to watch out. Steroid testing doesn't happen during private purchase or on new claims right now, even though steroids could remain in a horse's body for 45-60 days from their last injection. Trainers could feasibly be using steroids right now, and racing horses on steroids, with an eye towards giving them a couple months off, which means that they know the horse is on steroids, but if the horse gets claimed the new outfit won't. And if the horse comes up with a positive after May 31st, the new outfit will face fine and suspension for using a Class III drug.
It costs around $150 to test to see if it is on steroids right now.

Free Past Performances For The Preakness
From Brisnet
From DRF

Delaware senate approves sports betting
This is the type of competition that can only hurt horse racing more. Not that sports betting is more appealing to horse racing customers to handicap, but it is a much fairer gamble. House take is much much lower, and guess what? Gamblers have a chance to become long term winners.
Racing needs to compete instead of hoping alternative forms of gambling just go away.
HT/HANA's Blog

Sunday, they barely did over $300,000. They only average around $75,000 a race on Monday and Tuesday. It is imperative that the have 10 races on both Monday and Tuesday, even if it means scrapping Sundays altogether.
Meanwhile, what could this track be worth? It seems to be dropping in value every day.
In July the Passport issue won't help. How many Americans who go to the track over the border have Passports? I guess we'll find out soon.
Also, with the Stonach tracks going on the market, the price of all tracks wind up going down. There are only so many race track buyers out there, and once a buyer purchases one track, the chances they buy another are drastically reduced.

Empire Resorts Close To Bankruptcy
They own Monticello Raceway in New York state. Gaming revenues are off, as they appear to be everywhere.

Great Canadian Gaming Posts a First Quarter Loss
Their stock is on a roll though. It has gone up close to 50% in the last month. The company has been treading very carefully in light of the recession.

Cobra Venom Vet Gets 5 Year Suspension In Kentucky


Barney Frank's new bill to regulate on-line gambling, throws sports betting under the bus

Lebanon Raceway mutuel clerk accused of theft: she came up $31,000 short one night


Tony C. said...

Excellent blog – and one of the few on which serious commentary on industry issues can be found.

The most salient, yet deeply under-appreciated point relating to field size is this: the biggest boost that the North American Thoroughbred racing industries could receive are Betfair type markets.

Given such markets, field size would become a virtual non-issue, as there would be excellent opportunities to back, lay and arbitrage even in 5-6 horse fields. Those inclined to play exotics could continue to do so, and yet a whole new class of bettors would be attracted to the game.

Furthermore, the churn would improve considerably, as their would be more successful bettors, and even those who don't make a profit would be involved much longer.

Scott Ferguson said...

must say I prefer bigger fields because I'd rather find the 10 or 20/1 shots that have a chance. In eight horse races, the 20/1 shots should be 50/1 because the takeout is so harsh on small fields. Bigger fields tend to have more genuine pace and taking into account factors like barrier, tactics and the speed map make a difference. Bear in mind this relates primarily to turf - and betting volumes in Australia in particular back up the bigger is better argument. Dirt is a whole different ball game.

Scott Ferguson said...

the other part of my point about field sizes is that most racing in Aus & the UK is handicap races, which is geared to make the betting more even. Something you rarely see in North America from my limited expereince of it...

Anonymous said...

FE handle isnt as dismal as it seems. Dont forget last Sunday was Mother's Day and this is their first Monday-Tuesday week. Their bread and butter is simulcasters who probably forgot they even exist over the winter. After 2 0r 3 Sun-Tues weeks the 'regulars' will gradually drift back. I think we'll see 10 race cards with million dollar handles around the same time we saw them last year (which was Mid-June if I remember correctly?).

Cangamble said...

Tony, when it comes to betting win, Betfair is really the only way.
Scott, it is hard for a bankroll to last waiting for 50-1 shot overlays to come in. But they are more apt to do so on the lawn in big fields than on the dirt.
Anon, I don't recall Fort Erie ever having Sunday handle under $400k once, let alone twice in a row.

bullring said...

A 5 horse field with a couple of 2/1 favs is great, and probably my personal fav to bet. It's all about having an equally matched field.