Overlay or Underlay or.... Wut?

 If we play racing we bet horses with odds we believe are overlaid. We've learned that from Ainslie, Cramer and dozens of others. 

In the modern game - by far in harness racing - this has become more and more difficult. Cases in point? It happens each day, multiple times it seems. 

On Friday night at the Big M, Nancy Takter had a new buzz horse coming off a huge qualifier. She's known to drop lots of time, and driver Yannick Gingras booked off Burke horses to drive the invader. In the betting, this slam-dunk buzz horse spent most of the wagering in the 3-2 to 9-5 range. 

Overlay? I guess so. But maybe not. 

On Saturday night at Mohawk, a Julie Walker horse going on lasix for the first time off some pretty bad form looked like a contender on the slight drop, but in no way looked like a slam dunk. There were other horses dropping in class; several who looked viable in this spot. The barn is more of a second lasix barn, so it was a bit of a mystery. The horse, in the doubles and exotics, as well as in the straight pools right from the jump, was hammered at 7-5. 

Underlay? I suppose so, right. But maybe not. 

Saturday at the Big M's overnight feature was an Open Trot. The contenders were Beads and Sorella coming off Breeders' Crown starts, Andy Miller's Open trotter Get Legs. The Jeff Cullpher horse - Dunbar Hall - raced well last week in the junior open, coming third. Dunbar Hall is well-known to Mohawk players as a horse who could not beat anyone, but is doing better in the new barn, and was actually picked by Bob Pandolfo, where he had his fair odds line set on him at an 8-1 chance. 

Dunbar Hall was 3-1 at post time and took massive money in every pool, even the horizontals. 

Underlay? I would think so. But maybe not. 

As you may suspect - 

The Nancy Takter horse was very flat off a second over trip, not hitting the board. 

The Julie Walker horse won under a hold by five. 

Dunbar Hall tipped off cover and made those Breeders' Crown and Open horses look like 10 claimers, jogging by 3 and a half. 

If we were Mark Cramer or Tom Ainslie, we're singing for our supper. 

As you know, these are not isolated incidents. 

Why is modern harness racing like this? I think there are three main reasons:

i) There is very little public money in the pools, and if there is sharp money (like we see at times with the Cullipher barn's horses, for example) it is easier to see, and makes up more of the final price. Think about a stock with a high float versus one with a low float and someone wanting to buy 50,000 shares who knows something. 

ii) The teams play harness racing, and one of their inputs is the odds board itself. It's not hard to make an algo based on money/trainer/barn and bet accordingly, exacerbating the bet downs. 

iii) We need to rely on an odds board more now. Horses race much less frequently. In harness, the sport in its infinite wisdom (i.e. horspelayers come last) have lengthened the time between qualifiers. More horses come off layoffs than ever before. 

This is, of course, a completely frustrating way to play a high takeout game. This is not our grandfather's racing. But navigating these questions is a must today, or we're betting against or for the wrong three horses above and losing our shirt. 

Have a nice day everyone. 

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