31 October 2010

The Ideal Racing Format

I've been handicapping and betting horses since I was 12, and probably even earlier than that (my memory escapes me as to when I actually began system handicapping). I'm 49 right now, so you can do the math.

Things have definitely changed in the world of horse race betting. Now, more than ever before, tracks are competing against each other for the online and simulcast player. Horseplayers like consistency, not only when it comes to form, but also betting format. Every player knows there is an exactor in every race, and there is a double that begins in the first race. This is true everywhere. But after these consistencies, chaos reigns supreme when it comes to betting formats.

Here is my idea of the perfect racing format:

1. 9 races a card. Not 10, not 8, and especially not 7,11, or 12. 9 races is just right when it comes to handicapping. 8 is too few. 10 or more races gets to be a bit overwhelming if you are handicapping by pen and paper as most people do.
Though not carved in stone, there are a few tracks that at least informally look to card exactly 9 races a day, no more, no less.

2. All races must have at least 7 betting interests or the race should just carryover. I realize racing secretaries these days are having a hard time filling some races thanks to a horse shortage brought on because owning a race horse has become less and less economical (especially in bad economic times), however a good racing secretary knows their local horse population, and most realize that if they put 2 or 3 bottom maiden claiming races in the book every day, they can almost be assured to fill 9 races a day.

3. Rolling doubles and pick 3's should be mandatory at each track. Daily doubles give savvy Horseplayers a possible edge over betting two horses to win, pick 3's too often pay much more than a three horse parlay (though the edge isn't as great at most tracks as the takeout is usually higher for pick 3's).

4. Two Pick 4's a day. One starting in the second race, the other in the 6th race. Hawthorne, when they run 9 races a day (which is their usual norm), does this. I know one thing I can't stand, and that is the Pick 4 overlap race. Woodbine often does this with race 7 in a 10 race card. If a handicapper who likes betting pick 4's can't stand the 7th race, he or she might pass the whole card. I think it also causes the late pick 4 to have less money bet into it as many players who are alive may bet less or not bet the late pick 4 at all.

5. Superfectas in every race with 9 or more separate mutuel entrants only. The track takeout is usually highest for supers than any other bets at most tracks, and I realize the public likes them. But having supers on races with short fields really wipes the Horseplayer out much faster. It is kind of like putting a large double cheese pepperoni pizza in front of me instead of a small. I'll eventually eat the large pizza, but it isn't good for me. Superfectas on short fields is not good for the growth of the game.

6. 50 cent minimums on superfectas, pick 4's, pick 5's and pick 6's. $1 minimums on all other bets. The movement towards 10 or 20 cent minimum supers and pick 4's (in Canada) again has a negative affect as it lures small players into high takeout bets that produce very little churn, and this causes players to go broke quicker, and disillusioned faster. The idea of these bets is (or should be) to give Horseplayers the shot at a year changing cash. 50 cent minimums leads to more pool shots and it is the chance of this that will build interest not only from existing players (especially the big bank roll players), but the lottery/slots player as well. Churn will still happen, as there will be more 3 out of 4's or three horses all results for supers. It will also curb the smaller every day player into wagers that produce more churn.

I'll add a few more ideas here that will do nothing but grow the game:

7. A 12% cap on takeout, 10% on WPS. Maybe eventually the powers of racing will get it, but the horsemen need to step aside and let it happen.

8. Eliminate breakage. It is the customer's money. Give it to them. It will get churned back. In today's day and age breakage is simply a way the track rips the Horseplayer off, as the technology is there to pay off in pennies, especially in account wagering systems.

9. Any trainer who is hitting at 25% or greater gets to race from a detention barn until their average drops. If a trainer has at least 50 starts and the field size average is at least 8, there is no way in heck they should be hitting at better than 25% or better without using something that isn't being tested for. That is my story and I'm sticking to it. Drugs not being tested for are bad for the game.

Zenyatta will be on 60 Minutes tonight. Horse Racing Simulation created a race pitting Zenyatta against some of the greatest horses ever:

If it were a true simulation, a race with a field of 10 would produce a different result every time (I wonder if that is the case with this program). I don't think the result of the race will hurt Rachel Alexandra's value as a broodmare.

One thing about this simulation program is that if racing keeps going in the direction it is going, it might be all that is left. The thing is, it could really catch on and attract Horseplayers of today and the future, especially if the takeout was low enough and the possibility of cheating within the program was at least perceived to not exist.

Fort Erie Handle Down 12%
This is worse than the industry average which is between 8 and 9%. And new management was "trying." Imagine if they weren't trying. The reality here is that Fort Erie has the third highest blended track takeout rate in North America. They bleed the Horseplayer, especially the ones that go to the track. The higher the takeout, the less the churn, the quicker the Horseplayer loses interest. It isn't only that, now, more than ever before, Horseplayers are collectively informed and many avoid high takeout tracks when given choice.

The new management is really the old management of Woodbine, and they just don't get takeout. Coupled with being directed by what Horsemen want as opposed to what Horseplayers want or whats best for Horseplayers, Fort Erie's 2010 results were a predicted disaster.

There is a reason why slot takeout is 8-10%. It is the highest rate slot players will tolerate, and most slot players wouldn't be able to tell you what the rate is, it is all about optimal pricing.



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Anonymous said...

agree with your ideas on racing format, esp with rolling P3's, DD's, and non overlapping P4's.

Looking at the race cards today, we have:

Belmont: 9
Hollywood: 9
Golden Gate: 9
Turf Paradise: 9
Philly: 9

Woodbine, Churchill, Monmouth: 11

Keyhole said...

last summer (2009), i dropped in on woodstock raceway after a bike ride in london.
ontario, of course. i've been to woodstock raceway several times but never
once without biking in london (canada) beforehand.

anyway, this particular time, i liked a coupla jugs in the first two races and
decided to bet the true daily double. i thought "jimmy, this has got to be
the first time in decades you bet the daily double." the last time i'd bet the
double was probably at greenwood. it had been a long time.

i sidled up to the mutels clerk and said "woodstock, two dollar daily double"
and he cut me off right there. "we don't have a daily double".

you've got to fire somebody. if you think you've got a "crack research staff",
i'd contend that your research staff is on crack. you've been embarrassed!
how can you flat out state that everybody has a daily double when woodstock
doesn't????!!!! woodstock isn't in iraq you know. it's in your own backyard!
how are you going to live this down? i just hope peter gross doesn't see today's
blog entry. we've got to keep it from him somehow. knowing what cangamble
means to him, it will probably destroy him. his favourite bet is the daily double!!

good god!

That Blog Guy said...

How does anyone not have one daily double on the card? The only thing I can think of is Woodstock has so little money wagered that there would be too many combinations not played and you would end up with a X-All, All-X situation often.

I hate it when a track doesn't have at least two of them (the first two races and the last two races). The one thing Monticello does is have an early, middle, and late daily double.