We get very few hard ROI numbers in harness racing, because data is not free, or readily available. As well, unlike the thoroughbreds, interest and pool size make doing the work not as profitable, either for sale or for personal use. But there are some folks out there doing some, and coming up with some interesting statistics.
I had a friend ask me for some thoroughbred data the other day and I sent him a bunch of angles that he has heard are good bets. All were ROI negative. In fact, if you look at any regular or popular angle, the ROI's are generally horrible. With takeouts so high playing the norm IV angles makes this a very hard game to win at. In harness racing, it is just as bad. Usually you can find some things that are negative plays (which help, because you can jump off those for being overbet and search for plays elsewhere). We'll share a few here, from our pal Ray (one of the participants in the Tioga Challenge).
First, let's check something we know has a decent hit rate - inside posts on half mile tracks. What would happen if we box up the inside four horses for a year? Trips to Vegas with a bottle of dom, or a ride home on the streetcar with a slice of pizza? For 2009 we have the following:
Bet: Tri box 1234, for $48 each race
Amount Bet: $1,274,928
Amount Returned: $851,946
When you bring your grandma to the track and tell her to box the inside four horses, hoping she makes some money, you are not being a very good grandson or granddaughter. Considering the takeout of the lottery in Massachusetts is 31% this is pretty appalling.
With tri takeouts in harness so high, it is pretty tough to argue for a betting pattern from those statistics. If you try to subset a -33% ROI you can not find any gold. I guess if we are playing tris on half milers, we really need to look at a key horse winner outside those posts and work with that. The problem with that, of course, is that the worse posts we go to, the lower our hit rate, by quite a bit. Those bankroll swings can really kill us, and you need to have the money management style of a Buffet to stay afloat (and sane).
Half mile tracks in general are somewhat anachronistic, I believe. They were alright when we went to the track for some fun, but trying to play into them at high takeouts is very difficult.
One area I believe can give us an edge using the above numbers is post positions on larger than half mile tracks. In harness, our demos skew older, and many players cut their teeth on half mile tracks. This lends to what I think is an inside post bias. As the numbers show on larger tracks, the inside horses are almost always overbet, sometimes way overbet. The rail at the Meadowlands wins at around 11%, but the ROI is well below -40%. The other posts win at or near the same rate, but they pay off much better (the center of the gate gives us the most value).
I think we can use post positons, in both exotics and win bets, to up ROI, but we must think pari-mutuelly, and slightly outside the norm to do so. If you are betting what most people are, like post positions or driver changes because you are afraid to go against the grain, you are probably not doing your wallet any favours.
If you'd like to take a look at Ray's tri data you can download it here.