Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Thoughts on the Spa Meet that Was

I, like many of you, watched most of the Saratoga meet this season. I figure I'd jot down a few thoughts. 

  • Handle was down only 9%. Considering the weather, the scratches and all the rest, this is a strong number. Many years ago I turned to a NYRA card, saw off the turf and a three horse scratched down turf to dirt field and it generated more than almost every other track I was watching. That brand is bonkers. But still, only 9% is surprising to me. 
  • The pick 5 debacle and the response to the breakdowns, to me, is a symptom of on the fly confusion in a sport such as ours. The left hand often doesn't know what the right hand is doing when things are happening fast. I'd hope, and expect, they work on a plan for upcoming meets and this gets better; including updated protocols on scratching, which even after the breakdowns seemed somewhat capricious. 
  • The stewarding is a sore spot, and it'd be foolish to say these are just whiny bettors whining. I'd love to see an overhaul to breed more consistency in the judges room. A good place to start - if a horse is getting herded or bumped near a wire and he or she loses by a nose or a head, it's by all logic and reason a toss. You can't let some go and some not go when the margin is so thin. 
  • NYRA's team and those who follow it continues to be pretty awesome, in my view, and Phil's.  Aragona's lines were solid, his analysis strong. Say what you want about Serling, and most of us do, but he adds sizzle and sharpness and thoughts to his picks. The paddock crew is very good because they obviously do the work. We can tell when we're getting the right information and what's being mailed in and there's no mailing it in with Maggie and Acacia. 
  • I don't think Frank had a super strong meet, and I know some agree. But with race callers it's simply someone's opinion more often than not. Maybe I'm still smarting when he pretty much called my pick 5 key home when he was staggering and I got beat and it's jaded me. 
  • Short stakes fields can be the norm and I doubt we're doing anything about that. But one thing I'd like to see a powerful entity like NYRA spearhead, is building a system where the takeout is directly correlated to field size. Two four to fives, a six to one and two twelve to ones is silly. They're big enough to do this and set a new market for others in the sport to follow. 
  • I was not overly sold on the whole kicking CRW's out at two minutes to post thing, but after watching win prices and betting accordingly, I was pretty pleased with this change. It did affect the changing of prices near the bell and I was confident that when I bet I was going to get my number. 
  • I was down this meet, which started well with a nice pick 4. I handicapped well and was on a lot of the right horses, but I simply couldn't get rid of the seconditis, and failed to convert way too many last legs of the multis. The biggest kick in the ass - a $20k score on a skinny $10 pick 5 ticket with the chalk going, and a $10k score on the third choice in the same race with a $4 ticket. They ran third and fourth. Oh this game we play. 
For a full recap of thoughts on the meet, Chuck and Barry's pod is up and fresh this morning here.

Chris's Bet with the Best pod has Dan on here.

Have a great Tuesday everyone

Monday, August 28, 2023

Horse Racing - The Sport that Loves Data, and Then Never Uses it.

After a disasterous couple of weeks at NYRA, on the heels of a disasterous run at Churchill, there ain't been much good to talk about. And the response, so far at least, doesn't amount to much. 

It's a sport that says it has data to make these tough decisions. Here's some of that data:

That data is not the right kind of data, so the sport looks for other data that fits better, or something.   

There's plenty of data on lowering takeout to increase handle and make the sport more popular. In fact, Magna, or whatever we're calling it these days, certainly has some. They're the home of Elite Turf Club, which hits everyone right in the face with their massive volume with lower takeout. 

There's also the same set of data that shows increasing purses to be much less effective to increase handle. 

I'm sure Kentucky Downs has seen that data. Hell, the above even came from a university in Kentucky. 

Then why did they cry poor and increase takeout while increasing purses?

Matt wrote a piece about the issues at the Spa for the DRF last week, and this line caught my eye. 

It's 4th and four from your own 38 with three minutes left down 8. The data guys have run the numbers; they've placed them into a real time algo, and it shows a clear answer: Go for it. 

If you're the sport of horse racing, you do what you always do. Ignore the data and punt.  

Have a nice Monday everyone. 

Friday, August 25, 2023

Is it Time They Investigated the Mohawk Betting Pools?

Peruse twitter for only a moment the past couple of years and you'll find tweet after tweet about some of the odd payoffs at Mohawk. 

But last night it probably reached its zenith. 

Race 3, a horse with one flat line took boatloads of money in one flash, moving from 5-1 to 2-1 and crushed at 5-2. One handicapper on the Mohawk feed had the horse third, the rest not in their top four or five. 

A race later, another horse with a flat line was bet from the off in all pools and closed at 4-5 and crushed by many. Again, these seasoned handicappers on the feed were in the dark, with not one of them even having the horse in the top four. 

Race 7 a 10-1 morning line horse who again was not even in the top four of any handicapper closed as chalk and won easily. 

Then the coup de grace. A horse not on anyone's radar, crushed in the last setting a new life's mark by three seconds in a driving rainstorm. Not only did the horse take money from the get-go, he actually went down from a crazy 7-5 to a completely inexplicable 3-5 the last couple of flashes. 

 What in heaven's name is going on there?

We all know math, and that the pools are fairly efficient. Most of us who've played the game since we were 12 years old can spot a 4-5 shot or a bad line. Linesmakers like David Aragona for many years has never once been so far off a horse who is bet down from high morning lines to 3-5 or 4-5. Never once would be so far off that it stretches all credulity, at places like Belmont or Saratoga. 

At Mohawk this seems to happen on a regular basis. 

Customers, in my view, deserve to know what's been happening. I'd hope a professionally run racetrack would want to know, too. 

Have a nice Friday everyone. 

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