Sunday, January 20, 2008

Harville, Longshots and Sunday Notes

NFL Championship Sunday today. I spoke with a client on Friday and he told me he was going to the game in Green Bay - he got tickets. I thought "wow, that is pretty cool!" Literally and figuratively I realized; I just watched a pre-game show and it is zero degrees F at Lambeau. Those folks better bundle up!

I watched a healthy dose of Woodbine last night. I have not been playing seriously for a bit, but I was fairly impressed. The fields were fairly deep and for winter racing the product was pretty good. I think I am going to start playing Saturday night harness at Woodbine regularly.

For our handicapping lesson we have to look at the sixth race last night. Arid N, a downunder invader for top trainer Casie Coleman was 25 cents on the dollar and ran out. The tri and ex was a bomber. A 30-1 onto a 26-1 onto a 75-1. The ex came back around $1000 and the tri? Only $2300. This shows that longshots simply do not pay what they should. If you are figuring out fair exactor odds you can use a Harville Formula. This formula helps you figure out a "union" in logic parlance - that is, if horse X comes first what are the odds Y comes second, and what should the exactor pay?

It goes like this: Pa / (1-Pb), where pa is the probability horse a comes first and Pb is the probability horse b comes first.

So with a 30-1 shot and a 26-1 shot we can figure out what that exactor should have paid.

pa = 0.03
pb = 0.035

0.03/(1-0.035) = 0.031

Now for the chances of the winner coming in and the 26-1 coming second we have to multiply the fair odds of the winner by the above.

0.03 X 0.031 = 0.00093

1/0.00093 = 1075 to 1

So that $1000 exactor should have paid around $2150. It paid less than half what it should.

I am either not smart enough, or am too lazy to do the fair tri odds, but you can bet your bottom dollar that with a 76-1 coming third, $2300 for that tri was nowhere near fair. I think it is smart for us horseplayers to realize that there is a sweet spot in your wagering - usually somewhere in the middle. Extreme longshots simply tend to be not worth our trouble from an overall ROI perspective.

From the funny file: On a harness chat board last night I was pointed to a poster that was keeping track of how much money Ledford was making since his return to driving. The posters running tally involves his revenue and subtracting gas and tolls. The people don't seem to be too sad that he had a negative ROI week. It's kind of funny what you can find on the Internet.

Further to that and integrity in racing, we have had some decent comments from horseplayers, trainers and fans on the New York Times post immediately below. One poster shared his thoughts:

As a passionate player of some 30 years, I could never envision not playing and betting Harness Races.

Having made several trips, over the years, to Meadowlands racetrack, specifically for betting purposes, I was very excited when common pool wagering started for that track.

Last week, however, I deleted all my database records for that track, (and I had myriads of data) and have vowed to never bet that track again, all because of the Ledford and Rucker fiasco's.

When integrity sinks to the lowest possible level, I just can't continue. Clearly its quite irrelevant what I bet or don't bet, but multiply my decision by all the others that might feel this way, and that just might be relevant.

Horseplayers are a passionate lot, and a dying breed. Usually you can kick us in the head and we get up, then kick us again and we get up again. But after some time, some find we don't have the will, or the strength to get up - and handle goes into the toilet. It's sad over the years that we have seen so many go on to other pursuits, or lose interest in this game. Not only horseplayers, but long time owners have also seemed to lose interest (like another poster in that topic). If we ever get our act together to make this great game great again, I hope both owners and bettors of this persuasion come back. We need them.


Anonymous said...

Just wanted to comment on the longshot prices that you feel were light. I have found that when a race finishes like that, with a bunch bombs in the exacta and tri, sometimes the tri doesn't pay as much as it should. I haven't found it to be with the exacta really, but often the tri comes up light. I have never really thought about why, or what circumstance might lead to such an anomoly, but I know that it happens. At some of the smaller tracks I chalked it up to pool size, but Woodbine Harness on a Saturday night should be handling quite a bit.

My other comment was about the Ledford/Rucker fiasco as you call it.I kind of feel the same way that the gentelman you quoted does ... I have a post up on my blog about those two plus another trainer on the thoroughbred side ...

Take Care

Pull the Pocket said...

Nice blog Phil. I linked it below.

I will keep an eye on it when I pull up my Laurel sheets to go play!

Anonymous said...

Man, these guys at SC are causing a frenzy lately with their results.
Last week it was that $56 7 of 7 they posted that got many in a uproar, only to find out later that it was for 4 of 7.
Now this?
That triactor paid out on EVERY horse for third as NO TICKET was sold on that 4-10-8 combination.
I'm thinking I should start collection some commission for publishing their corrections.
As far as the Ledford thing goes, maybe it's not him that we should be standing at the fence throwing eggs at...we should be throwing them at the guys like Varty, Adam, Fusco and the like that have the testicular fortitude to list him on their horses.
Marion Jones had to give up all her medals. What did Ledford have to give up? A year of his life? Big deal!
Were all the horses that he loaded to the tilt have their records erased or purse money re-distributed? Nah, but it sure is funny to see some of them pop up in 5k claiming races at a B track near you.

best regards,


Anonymous said...

Thanks Lou. I did not listen at the end of the race to see if it was an all for third;

Now I know!

The post however does stand. Oft times there is simply no value in the bomb tris. I guess rakes on tri's, sometimes as much as 30% at places plays a part, but I think mostly it is people "boxing their numbers". It seems that can and does make a difference. To me anyway.

Thanks for the comment!

Anonymous said...

Thanks you. Yours is a nice change of pace, not too many harness blogs it seems and I like to follow both though I do more wagering on the thoroughbreds.

I don't understand why any of these trainers would give Ledford mounts after him and his father were cheating them. I mean these two nit wits were racing the horses they were doping/drugging against these guys.

Anonymous said...

Let's have lots more of the

handicapping series blogs.

We can't have too many.

Chairman Rich said...

Re: Harville et al.

Summed-up nicely in a tidy little book titled Racetrack Betting: The Professor's Guide to Strategies.

Still available on

Not to mention similar goodies by D.B. Hausch & W Ziemba

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