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?

Learn more about horse racing with AGOS Horse Racing 101 articles

Handicapping Tip of the Day #46 – When 4/5 is Value

Handicapping Tip of the Day

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

by Rich Nilsen

Day two of the Tampa Bay Downs winter meeting (Nov. 28, 2018) was pretty chalky with lots of favorites winning.  In the 3rd race on Wednesday a second time starter named Russian Roulette was 3/2 on the morning line.  According to the Ultimate PPs, her trainer Monte Thomas was a dismal 4% with second time starters, but he had plenty of ‘live’ runners among them with one-third finishing in the money.   He is also known for being very good with two year olds, in general, another fact offsetting that low win rate. There is a lot of debate over profits and win-rate in horse race betting. Horse racing fans can use the twi-promo-code.com to wager on the horse they prefer regardless of win rate or profits earned.

Russian Roulette looked like a stand-out in this field for several reasons.  First, she was coming off a nose lose in her debut at the same claiming level of maiden $16,000 but that effort came at Gulfstream Park West, a tougher circuit and one that produces a lot of winners at Tampa.  Secondly, she had earned a 70 BRIS Speed Rating in that performance, which was equal to the BRIS Par for the race. BRIS handicapping information can be found here.

Par represents the average speed rating for the winners at this level of competition for the track in question. When handicapping maiden races, it can be a wise decision to compare the Speed Rating Par to the ratings earned by the entries in their recent races.  In doing so, you can sometimes find opportunities like the one presented at Tampa Bay Downs.

Here was Tuesday’s field for race 3 at Tampa:

#1 My Heart Dominus – best figure of 38 in three starts.

#2 Valley Girl – best figure of 62 in three starts.

#3 Russian Roulette – ran a 70 when second in debut.

#4 Quickandwildcoco  – ran a career best 48 five starts back.

#5 Fooli – firster for 3% trainer with debut runners.

#6 Phyliss Driller – 0 for 6 maiden who ran a 71 on the synthetic track at Presque Isle Downs.  Her best sprint figure was a 60 in four attempts.

#7 My Little Rosie – improved to a 26 in her second career start.

Needless to say, this was an awful field.  The only two horses that looked like they had any type of chance against Russian Roulette were #2 Valley Girl and # 6 Phyliss Driller.  The problem with the #6 was two fold – she was a Presser which is the wrong running style in Tampa Bay Downs’ sprints, and her only good race was around two turns.  The #2 had three opportunities to run at or near Par, and she had not been close.  Eight points off Par is significant.

To make matters worse for her competition, Russian Roulette also figured to be the controlling speed in this field, as none had shown any type of early foot to challenge her.

So here you had a horse that was faster than everyone in the field, and the field consisted mostly of proven, bad horses.  She was the controlling speed over a speed favoring oval.  Despite her low maiden claiming class level, this daughter of Soldat deserved to be no higher than 2/5, and 1/5 would not have been unreasonable given her credentials against this field.

To make a profit in this game you have take the opportunities that are presented to you.  4/5 was a gift on Russian Roulette, and she rewarded her supporters with a 16-length drubbing of her six rivals.

copyright 2018 Equibase.com all rights reserved

 

Have You Seen Our Other Handicapping Tips?

Equestricon Ticket Construction Panel

AGOS Founder Rich Nilsen participated in one of the handicapping panels at the recently concluded 2018 Equestricon conference in Louisville, KY.  Unfortunately, this panel was not videoed, but another one was – the panel on ticket construction.

The following links to the wagering ticket construction panel that was on day 2 of the 2018 Equestricon Conference.  Included on this panel was my friend Mike Maloney, one of the best horseplayers and bettors in the country.

Lessons from the 2011 Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs

By Lenny Moon (reprinted with permission)

The handicapping process does not end when the bets are made; it ends by reviewing the results of the races that were bet and analyzing the handicapping process to determine if anything was missed. After taking a day to recover, I looked back at the 2011 Breeders’ Cup results and came up with the top four things to take away from the last Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs.

#4 Some Breeders’ Cup Results are Impossible to Explain

Every horseplayer has watched or bet a race that was won by a horse that appeared to have no chance of winning. The horse may have appeared to be too slow, was running at the wrong distance or had not run well in months or years. The horse triggers large payouts and causes great frustration. After reviewing the past performances nothing points to the horse as a winner. The result is still implausible but that is perfectly acceptable. Horse races are run by living breathing animals and ridden and trained by humans. The horses are not machines and the jockeys and trainers are imperfect so it is inevitable that from time to time a race will produce an un-explainable result. This scenario occurred not once but twice on Breeders’ Cup Saturday.

The first impossible to come up with horse was Afleet Again in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon. Afleet Again was the least likely winner of the Breeders’ Cup Marathon after a subpar 2011 that saw him go winless in eight starts including two losses in allowance races. Afleet Again was also unproven at the distance and based on speed figures was the slowest horse in the race. Despite all of these negative factors Afleet Again won the Breeders’ Cup Marathon by a comfortable 2 ¼ lengths at odds of 41 /1.

The second improbable winner was Court Vision in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Court Vision was the least likely winner in the Breeders’ Cup Mile after a lackluster 2011 season.  Similar to Afleet Again Court Vision was winless in 2011 and based on speed figures was the slowest horse in the race. Court Vision was coming off a mediocre seventh place finish in the Woodbine Mile yet he managed to blow past three-time defending champion Goldikova and hold off Turallure (winner of the aforementioned Woodbine Mile) to post the biggest upset in the twenty seven year history of the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Even after the race was run it was impossible to make a case for Court Vision.

After reviewing the past performance of each horse and knowing they had won their respective races I still could not find a reason to bet either one of them but guess what? That was perfectly fine.

 

#3 – Look for the “Horse for the Course Angle” in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint

Some horses prefer one track over all others or in extreme cases only run well at one particular track. These horses are often referred to as a “horse for the course.” This angle plays out everyday at tracks across the country.

This year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint was won by Regally Ready, a Churchill Downs “horse for the course,” who was two for two in turf sprints at Churchill Downs prior to the race. The “Horse for Course Angle” has become a potent handicapping factor for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprints as it has produced all four winners of the race [through 2011]. Chamberlain Bridge won the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint after compiling a record of three wins and a second from four turf sprints at Churchill Downs. California Flag won the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint on Santa Anita’s downhill turf course and had previously won two of four starts over the course. Desert Code, who I mentioned in my post about multi-ticket betting strategy, won the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint on the same downhill turf course and had won three of five turf sprints at Santa Anita.

The Breeders’ Cup returns to Santa Anita in 2012 and once again the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint will be run on the unique downhill turf course. The downhill turf course is notorious for producing “horse for the course” winners so it will pay to give special consideration to horses that have won or performed well over the course in the past.

 

#2 – Favor the “Turn-back Angle” in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile

Betting a horse “turning-back” in distance is one of the oldest angles in the book. To fit the angle a horse simply needs to be running in a race at a shorter distance than its previous race. The most common example is a horse going from a route to a sprint, such as from 1 1/16 miles to seven furlongs, but the angle also works for horses “turning-back” in distance from a route to a shorter route .

breeders cup 2010

copyright AGameofSkill.com

Caleb’s Posse, Shackleford and Tres Borrachos completed the trifecta in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile this year. All three fit the “tum-back angle.” Caleb’s Posse and Shackleford were exiting the 1 1/16 miles Indiana Derby and Tres Borrachos prepped for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in the 1 1/8 miles Goodwood.

The “Turn-back Angle” has become quite possibly the most important handicapping factor for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile as it has produced the winner of all five runnings of the race [through 2011]. Dakota Phone won the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile after running in the 1 1/8 miles Goodwood. Furthest Land won the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile after prepping in the 1 1/8 miles Kentucky Cup Classic. Albertus Maximus won the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile after running in the 1 1/8 miles Goodwood. Corinthian won the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile after competing in the 1 1/8 miles Woodward. One day a horse may win the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile after running in a sprint race but until the trend is reversed it pays to give preference to horses “turning-back” in distance.

 

#1 – Favorites Need Not Be Avoided

Favorites in horse racing are normally associated with unexciting payoffs, however when combined with a few upsets they can produce massive payouts. The six Breeders’ Cup races on Friday (2011) made up the Pick 6. Three of those races were won by the post time favorite (Secret Circle in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint, My Miss Aurelia in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and Royal Delta in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff), the other three were won by 6/1 Stephanie’s Kitten (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf), 20/1 Musical Romance (Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint) and 27/1 Perfect Shirl (Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf) resulting in a Pick 6 payout of $444, 571. The last four Breeders’ Cup races made up the Pick 4. Two favorites (My Miss Aurelia and Royal Delta) combined with the aforementioned 20/1 Musical Romance and 27/1 Perfect Shirl produced a Pick 4 payout of $23,428 . In both sequences favorites won half of the races which proved that it is not necessary to beat the favorite in every race to win a substantial amount of money.

 

Final Thoughts about Breeders’ Cup 2011

Although these points relate directly to the Breeders’ Cup each can be applied to everyday handicapping. The most important lesson however is that just like horses are not machines handicappers should not bet like machines. Automatic bets should not be placed on horses that meet the criteria outlined above; they should be one factor to consider in the handicapping process. Sound handicapping involves evaluating all of the available information and using that information to bet the horse that figures to win the race at hand.

Handicapping Tip of the Day #45 – Clearance Sale

Handicapping Tip of the Day for AGOS Visitors

by Rich Nilsen

I wrote an article roughly 20 years ago for Brisnet about the “For Sale” runner.  This is a horse entered for a claiming tag that makes absolutely zero economical sense.  The horse is damaged goods and the entry into the lower-level claiming race is like flashing neon lights “Sale!” Punters and horse racing fans can use the William hill grand national betting offer for 2019 and look for these types of “for sale” horses before this year’s event.

Sadly, recurring events are still happening from time to time in horse racing to this day.  A case in point was Monday, August 20 at Saratoga.  Note that in this article I will not hide the names of the guilty.

A runner named King Kranz was entered for the bottom of the barrel claiming tag of $12,500.  The 5yo son of Munnings was a former stakes winner and in only 19 career starts, he had earned an amazing $412,630.  It was only this past April at Aqueduct when he scored in a “three other than” optional $80,000 claimer for trainer Rudy Rodriguez.  After a subpar 5th place finish in a stakes event at Belmont in May, King Kranz was back in a similar optional claimer on July 7, this time for $62,500.

For Sale King Kranz

His sharp spring form and back class was too much to resist for high percentage trainer Danny Gargan and R A Hill Stables.  They put up the money and submitted the claim form.  When King Kranz finished 7th, beaten over 15 lengths, he was now their horse… and their problem.

King Kranz would work out twice for his new connections prior to his first start for the new barn, and one of those works was a half mile in a pedestrian 53.4.  This is hardly fast enough to be given an official clocking by the New York clockers.

Then came the clearance sale.  Gargan, a 23% first-off the claim trainer, entered his new runner for $12,500 on Monday, $50,000 less than the purchase price six weeks ago.  This race featured a total purse of $25,000.  If a horse wins, the owners will “clear” about half the purse; so, in this case, approximately $12,500.  If the horse is claimed, they also receive the claiming price; which in this case was another $12,500.  Does any of this make sense?

Off at odds of 8/5, King Kranz made a gallant effort to the top of the stretch in the 6 furlong affair before calling it a day.  In the final 1/8th of a mile he was literally galloped down the stretch by leading jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr.   He was eventually eased and the margin of defeat in the 5-horse field listed at 28 lengths.

He was claimed by low percentage trainer Naipaul Chatterpaul.