Handicapping Tip of the Day #49 – Why I Passed on $326,599 in Free Money

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

by Rich Nilsen

Tuesday night, September 10, 2019, featured a mandatory payout of the Jackpot Pick-5 wager at Prairie Meadows.  This jackpot wager had been building for months and, with closing day on tap, it was time to pay it all out.  This equated to $326,599 in free money in the pool.  Those funds, plus whatever was wagered (minus the 15% takeout), would be distributed to all the winners.

Despite the slow Tuesday of racing, and the fact that Prairie Meadows had recently been hosting quarter horse racing instead of Thoroughbreds, it seemed like everyone knew about it.  Major ADWs were sending out emails.  People were posting all over social media.  It seemed like if you were a horseplayer, especially one who liked horizontal wagers, you were playing it.

I was among them and was planning to participate.  My first concern was the notice that Des Moines, Iowa and the racetrack had been pounded with rain overnight.  How that might affect the track, even though it figured to be dry by post time, was anyone’s guess.

The second and more important issue was the entries.  The fields were large and with not knowing the track very well, that gave me pause.  If I could find one or two standouts, or a couple of races where I could easily narrow the field down to, let’s say, two major players, then this could be an affordable ticket.

However, that was not the case.  I was having trouble narrowing down the contenders in all five races.  Consequently, this sequence looked like it could pay gangbusters.  Of course, that’s the type of Pick-5 I want to be a part of.  I went back through it again, looking to narrow the races down to even 4-5 plays in most races.  I found it very difficult, regardless of the 2.57% edge as indicated by expert Marshall Gramm.*

Pick-5 Cost

A 4 x 4 x 4 x 5  x 5 partwheel is 1,600 combinations.  With the large fields there were 62,370 possible combinations.   At the $.50 base wager, this type of ticket would cost $800.  This was more than I wanted to spend when I wasn’t confident I would hit.  If I was wrong in just one race, I was toast.

The wise decision was to pass despite the six figures of “free” money.   The winning combination ended up returning $1,737.05.  This was a generous payoff considering the results, but it was hardly a life-changing score.

Recognizing when the situation isn’t right for you and passing on the so-called opportunity is very important.  Another big carryover is right around the corner.

Best of luck!

 

*If you want to learn more about the game, follow Marshall’s tweets.

Record Pick 4 payout hit at Canterbury. Interview with Winner

On Friday [July 12, 2019 at Canterbury Park], the first three races in the Pick 4 were won by horses paying 6-1, 7-1 and 8-1 on a $2 win bet.

Joe Tartaglia, watching the races from his home, was thrilled. His Pick 4 ticket had all of the six horses in the final race on his ticket. So he was going to win. It was just a question of how much. Along with his horse-playing pals around the country, with whom he was keeping in touch on Twitter, Tartaglia hoped for the best.

He got it when Lieutenant Powell, a 21-1 longshot, rallied to win the race. The payout: $31,522.90.

Here’s the interview…

You Can Beat Saratoga

by Rich Nilsen

There are several facets of Saratoga that every handicapper should know, and there are some solid strategies that I recommend for beating the upcoming 2019 meet which begins earlier than ever this year, July 11, and runs through September 3.  If you apply these nine steps, you’ll be putting the percentages in your favor over 95 percent of the wagering public who have no game plan and approach each day at the Spa haphazardly.

 

Key # 1 – Understand How the Tracks Play

On most days the Saratoga main track plays very kindly to speed horses. It can be very difficult to make a wide move on the turn for home, sustain that run and get up for the win. The predominant speed bias, of course, is more prevalent the shorter the distance, but on many days, the tracks favors early speed or tactical speed in all of the dirt races.  For example, in 6 furlong races last year, 38% of the winners won gate-to-wire.  That’s a typical Saratoga meet where nearly 4 out of every 10 six furlong races are won on the front end.

On the Saratoga main track, making a three to four wide move around the far turn is very difficult for most runners to sustain.  Always be on the lookout for horses that suffer from that type of trip with the hopes of scoring with them at a price next time out. See Key #7 below.

In my opinion the two turf courses can be very inconsistent, especially from one year to the next. Just because the inner turf course favored speed and tactical speed in one mile races last year doesn’t mean that is going to happen this summer. In general, both turf courses give the edge to closers, but there are plenty of races and plenty of days when that is not the case.

ProfitWhether it is the weather or some other factor, the turf courses can suddenly begin to favor early speed and it is vital that the handicapper keeps their eyes open to this short-term bias that can last one week or more.  You can “make” your meet if you spot the turf bias early enough and capitalize.

Do beware of the inside posts in the 5 ½-furlong turf sprints. It is well known that the rail (one post) can perform very poorly in turf sprints. If the inside horses don’t break sharply and demonstrate good early speed, they can get shuffled back and subsequently boxed in during the cavalry charge to the turn.  As a result, middle posts are often the best draws in these swiftly-run, short races.

Tactical speed is also very important. One surprising trend three years ago was that closers fared remarkably well in these short turf sprints.  In fact, over half of the winners in 2016 were Pressers (mid-pack runners) or Sustained types (closers from the back.)  Watch closely in the first week or so to see how the turf sprints play.  It may not be what you expect.

Be alert because there is always a range of days at Saratoga when the speed bias not only disappears, but the track begins to strongly favor closers. This is one of the most important times of the meet for the serious player. Just like with the turf bias mentioned previously, if you catch on to this reverse bias early enough you could make your entire meet in a matter of a few days.  It will happen, because it seems to every year, so keep an eye out for it.

Understanding how these tracks play and staying alert for short-term changes to the predominant biases is critical for the Saratoga horseplayer.

The 9 Tips to Beating Saratoga by Rich Nilsen – click here to download

Other Handicapping Articles:

Horse for the Course

Horse Racing Odds Explained

copyright Agameofskill.comBetting on horse racing can be very threatening for people who don’t understand how all this operates and what all of these numbers mean, But once you’ve learned the basics of horse racing chances, it couldn’t be easier. If anything, it can be even easier to understand than other forms of sports betting due to transparency.

The two formats used are decimals and fractions when looking at the odds (price) of a horse. Betting exchanges operate in decimals while betting firms with fixed odds generally operate infringements.

It can be challenging to find out how horse racing bets work with complicated, ever-changing winning rates and various types of bets. As a result, how do you decide which horse to wager on and how much to win? In this simple guide, everything is revealed to understand betting odds for horses. And if you’re looking for tips for betting on horse racing, Winners Enclosure can give you some great advice.

How Do Odds Operate?

The second number always suggests the stake when determining the returns of a fractional bet, and the first number denotes what the profit will be if the bet wins.

Take an example of 4/1. If you’re staking …

R.I.P. Tim Conway, aka Jockey Lyle Dorf

The one-and-only Tim Conway passed away today at the age of 85.  He was best known for his role in the Carol Burnett television show, but for those of us in the horse racing industry, he was also jockey Lyle Dorf.  Here is his skit with Johnny Carson.

Here is a 1988 interview with track announcer Trevor Denman of Santa Anita.  Denman sits down for a conversation with comedian Tim Conway, a big fan of horse racing.  Conway gives a great tip for new fans at the 1:40 mark of the video.   Denman also provides some great insight that is the worth the listen for every horseplayer.

 

Industry Profile: Professional gambler Mike Maloney

A Richmond native who lives in Lexington, the 63-year-old Maloney has been studying horse racing since age 15. But he turned pro, so to speak, about 20 years ago, becoming a full-time horseplayer and leaving his business as a wholesale antiques dealer.

It’s a journey he chronicled in the 2017 book “Betting With An Edge,” which was co-authored by Peter Thomas Fornatale. Maloney has wagered as much as $12 million in a year at one point, and he says he has turned a profit each year.

“I was in my 30s before I ever began to consistently show a profit at the track,” Maloney said. “Then once that began to happen, I thought, ‘There’s a possibility here.’ … I haven’t had a negative year, but there are a lot of years where I’m not happy and I want to do better. Then there are some years that were really good. But it’s not a smooth ride. You know, it’s gambling, and you have to embrace it that way.”

“There’s plenty of 12-hour workdays,” Maloney said. “It’s a 70 to 80-hour workweek.”

Some may instinctively recoil. Others might believe he’s got the best job in the world.

But neither response does justice to how rare it is that Maloney has had the makeup to thrive full time in a profession that a select few could do — or would want to — with numbers that seemingly dwindle each year as the game grows more difficult.

“These days, the people betting the most money, it’s AI, it’s computers, it’s algorithms, stuff like that,” Fornatale said. “But for an individual, you can’t really name (anyone better). Other people I know who’ve been doing it for a comparable amount of time as Mike are, I think, more consciously phasing out as the market gets more efficient and the game gets tougher. He’s still there grinding away, and it’s the only job he’s had in nearly 20 years.

“He really is at the pinnacle. As far as I’m concerned, put him on the Mount Rushmore of horseplayers.”   Read the rest…

Handicapping Tip of the Day # 48 – A Horse for the Course

Handicapping Tip of the Day

by Rich Nilsen

One of the best ways to find a value play in this game we call horse racing is to find the horse with clouded form.  For whatever reason or reasons, the horse had a legitimate excuse not to run well  in his last start or two.  Finding a legit excuse is not always easy, and the last thing a handicapper should be doing is inventing excuses to justify his or her preference for a horse.

A week ago at Parx Racing (Feb. 19, 2019), the veteran 10 year old runner Bowman’s Beast was returning to Parx off subpar efforts at  both Charles Town and Penn National.  He was well beaten at 3/5 odds last time out at basically the same level as today.  Of course, Charles Town is a step below Parx, so, on the surface, it didn’t look good for the old gelding.

However, there were three good reasons to throw out that dismal 4th place performance.  For starters, that last race was in the mud and Bowman had a career record of 11-1-1-1, showing 8 also-ran efforts.  He was clearly a better horse on fast going.

Also noteworthy was trainer Bernard Dunham’s record with beaten favorites.  According to BRIS data, he was a 57% winner from 7 starters in their subsequent races following a loss as the favorite.

Finally, and most important, Bowman was returning to Parx.   Here were the lifetime, tabulated records in his past performances:

Lifetime: 72-13-8-11, $453,590

Parx: 38-9-4-7, $331,260

Now subtract the two and you have a pretty revealing stat.  At tracks other than Parx, Bowman’s Beast was:

Elsewhere: 34-4-4-4, $122,330

The lifetime record for this 10 year old runner at Parx versus all other tracks was night and day.  Bowman could be expected to improve on the return to Parx, with the return to a fast track for a trainer dynamite with beaten favorites.

The morning line maker at Parx set his odds at 3/1, no doubt because of his familiarity with the Parx horse for the course, but Bowman went off at over 7-1 because of his clouded, recent form.  He cruised to victory, returning a generous $16.60 for his faithful backers.

 

Handicapping Tip of the Day #47 – 5 Ways to Conserve Wagering Funds

Handicapping Tip of the Day

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

by Rich Nilsen

One of the biggest challenges horse players face is the ability to manage their money and wager properly without losing focus.  Fail in any aspect of money management and the result is typically disastrous.  This year’s Cheltenham festival offers for new customers will keep you from failing to manage your funds correctly. Here are a few quick tips that will help you stay on track by conserving your wagering funds and not wasting bets on races you shouldn’t be playing.

  1. Stay Disciplined – Start with a defined bankroll for a set period of time and refuse to add to it.  ATMs and deposit options are out of the question.  Treat that money like an investment fund and work with it to turn a profit.  Have a game plan to start and stay disciplined in your wagering.
  2. Pick Your Spots – It’s alright to play every race if you have a small ‘Action Bankroll’ available.  You can use that to make bare minimum wagers if you lack discipline and absolutely have to have some action on a race.  However, the most important thing is to spot play and hammer those races accordingly.  Keep in mind that it’s simply impossible to have a good or strong opinion on every race. You have to pick your spots.
  3. Avoid Playing Out of Proportion – If your spot-play type of wager is $50 on a race, don’t play $200 on a race because you really love it for whatever reason.  Keep your best bet plays in proportion to one another, otherwise you risk damaging your bankroll and possibly even going on tilt.
  4. Choose Your Races Wisely – play to your strengths.  If conditioned claimers are not your thing, then avoid them at all costs.  If you excel at maiden turf races, then be sure to start with those races when you begin your handicapping for the day.  Choose your races wisely and your bankroll will be rewarded for it.
  5. Variance Happens – Understand that you’re not going to win every race, and worse yet, losing streaks are part of the game.  One of the best horseplayers in the country that I know has a stop limit.  If he loses a set amount of money, he stops for the day.  It’s a simple rule and he sticks to it, no matter what.  If it’s a good enough rule for a guy who successfully puts millions through the pari-mutuel windows every year, then it’s good enough for us.

Have You Missed These Handicapping Gems?

When 4/5 Odds is Value

The ‘For Sale’ Racehorse

Don’t Overlook Hard Races

 

Understanding Claiming Prices in Horse Racing

and Why Numbers Can Be Deceiving

As much as numbers don’t lie, they can confuse you.

In claiming races, numbers like 12,500 can have different meanings. Sometimes, horses who run for the same $12,500 claiming price at different tracks can face different levels of competition.

At Aqueduct, for example, a horse racing in a $12,500 claimer is probably facing some of the weakest horses on the grounds. Meanwhile, at Finger Lakes, with a much lower ceiling for claimers, some useful horses could be running for that tag.

And sometimes, $12,500 claiming tags can have different meanings at the same track or circuit…

Basic Horse Racing Bets

Not surprisingly, betting is what drives the sport of horse racing. The thrill you get when your horse hits the finish line in front is second to none. Below, we take a look at the most popular horse racing wagers, in the most basic of details, for you to begin to learn and experience that thrill firsthand.

 

Straight Horse Racing Bets

Win Wager

The easiest wager one can place on horse racing is the win bet and, thanks to its simplicity, it is the most popular among horse racing fans. Handicapping past performances PPsWager on a horse to Win.  If he or she wins the race, you collect the payoff based on a $2 win mutual.  It’s that simple.  The hard part, of course, is uncovering the horse that will win.

Place and Show Wagers

The place bet is wagering on a horse to finish no worse than second, and the show bet is wagering on a horse to finish no worse than third.  There is often confusion among newbies, believing that a horse must finish third in order to cash on the show bet.  Many a ticket has been discarded because of that mistake.

 

Exotic Horse Racing Bets

Daily Double

This is the simplest type of exotic wager, and probably the oldest.  The Daily Double is combining the winners of two consecutive races.  If your wager includes both winners, you cash.  The base wager is either $1.00 or $2.00 depending on the host track.

 

Exacta / Perfecta

The exacta is picking the exact order of the top two finishers in a race.  You can play the exact straight or you can box the wager, so that if the horses finish in any order, one-two, then you cash.  You can include as many horses as you wish in your exacta box, but the cost of the wager goes up exponentially and your chances of turning a profit diminish greatly. The base exacta wager is usually $1.00.

 

Trifecta

The trifecta is picking the exact order of the top three finishers in a race.  You can play the trifecta straight or you can box the wager, so that if the horses finish in any order, one-two-three, then you cash.  You can include as many horses as you wish in your trifecta box, but the cost of the wager goes up exponentially.  The base wager is usually either $0.50 or $1.00.

 

Superfecta

The Superfecta is picking the exact order of the top four finishers in a race.  You can play this quad bet straight or you can box the wager, so that if the horses finish in any order, one-two-three-four, then you cash.  Like the exacta and trifecta, you can include as many horses as you wish in your superfecta box, but the cost of the wager goes up exponentially.  At many tracks throughout the country, the base minimum wager is only $0.10 and that makes the bet affordable for the recreational horseplayer.

The industry has added a lot of new bets over the past few years, and we’ll take a look at them in an upcoming primer.

 

Miss These Gems?

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