Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Mike Florio Uses Favorites Defensively & Other Notes

In football, using math runs the same gamut we see in racing when it comes to making the right play, or constructing the right ticket. 

Case in point, NBC's Mike Florio:

Leaving aside that thousands of data points is the whole shebang of the matter: If you watch the clip, Florio explains his opinion about how the math can be right, but if you're a coach and you blow the calls in these certain situations (leaning to the 'risky' call and having it not work), you don't have a job anymore. 

His odd diatribe (and this is not uncommon with old school folks) is totally beholden to not logic or math or doing what's correct - but for self preservation. 

This is exactly the argument about playing a chalk defensively in a pick 5. It's all about the preservation of the ticket, even though the math says if we add favorites to every leg, our chances of winning long term is precisely zero. 

We all hate to lose. A coach doesn't want to look like a fool on 4th and three too often to save his job, and we want to get through leg four by adding this horse, and this horse and that horse to "save" our ticket.  

But in the end, if we do that - coach or horseplayer - we're both still losing. 


My lunch time listen - Chris has a good guest, Sean, on his Bet with the Best pod. Interested to hear how he's moved his play to Hong Kong racing. 

20 cent Jackpots are slowly dying, with Del Mar joining the $1 pick 6 category this fall. It's one of the weird items where tracks have listened to folks. 

I read an article from a few years ago again recently. It's where Italian racing raised rakes to around 30% from 15%. Of note to me i) It didn't die in year one, it took about 20 years. This is drip, drip, not an avalanche, ii) They finally, after 22 years tried to change taxing to GGR, to stem the tide and make life better for customers and iii) our takeout in NA, when we factor in the teams, etc, is probably approaching 30% and has for a few years. 

Will racing pivot at all here? As we saw this summer when Kentucky Downs raised takeout, not likely any time soon. 

Have a nice Tuesday everyone. 

Friday, October 13, 2023

Is Morning Line Making the Toughest Job in Racing?

 I saw this tweet by Nick yesterday. Nick is the morning line maker at Keeneland.

"How could she be less than 10-1?"

She was, because despite Nick's due diligence, some are playing a different game when it comes to handicapping, and assigning probabilities. 

Pick virtually any random race in this day and age, and we'll see two horses that meet the co 7-5 shot eye test  - and sharp players like Nick will have them 9-5 and 8-5 in the morning line - but one will be 4-5 and the other will be 5-2. 

Rewind the clock 20 years, and we could predict this hot trainer, with a hot jock, with a horse who has won three in a row will be 4-5. "The public is gonna be all over this horse" and that was more often than not an accurate prediction. Now it's supremely difficult because oftentimes this is not the case. 

Just last night at Mohawk in race five there was what looked to be a two horse race. One of the horses was a likely 3-5 shot. He had won in 1:54 in nw2 already and was eligible in the same class. The other was beaten in his first try in nw2, and had never gone speed the chalk has already been in. 5 of 6 track handicappers picked the obvious chalk on top.

He lost, which happens. But he wasn't even the favorite. The other one was, at even money. 

How can one predict this? We can't. 

Now, put that into the context of a morning line maker - they're up against things like this each and every race. 

Most professionals in the game will tell you that the odds board does the handicapping for you, and they're not far off, either logically or in reality. It's all the sharp money from a lot of you, inside money, or outside money from people who have an expensive algo that's gone through billions of simulations that produces profit. Every single eyeball, every single dollar is represented, and the money is sharper than it ever has been. 

Morning line makers (no matter how skilled) are having to make these lines themselves, days before race time. It's an almost impossible job, and those skilled enough like Nick and David at NYRA for example, are bringing a pea shooter to a gun fight. Frankly, they even being as close as they are, is something I marvel at. 

Have a great weekend everyone.

Monday, October 2, 2023

The Ryder Cup Slot Money. Racing Could Learn a Thing or Two

This weekend's Ryder Cup in Rome was probably not quite as exciting as it could be, with the U.S. in a deep hole going into Sunday singles. What happened on the course might've not been overly interesting, but off it, sparks flew. 

Reports noted that one U.S. player was almost kicked off the team because of a protest (likely involving the want for more compensation), and "rifts" were pretty much the story of the weekend. They all appeared to involve (some) players wanting to be paid in cash for the week. 

The Ryder Cup's revenue is not unlike slot money in horse racing. It's a cash infusion outside its main events to organizations that run and grow the game. 

Where does the money go?

  • 20% of TV revenue goes to the PGA of America, this funds player pensions. Not all pro golfers end up rich. 
  • Revenue funds programs for junior golf, and college golf. It helps keep the pipeline of players going. 
  • Programs like Drive Chip and Putt, inner city golf for young people, and international golf is also funded. It helps golf become more of an inclusive and worldwide game. If golf is taken up early, people can play it for 50 years. This obviously helps the long-term health of the industry, like for example, demand at your local golf course.
  • Each player is given $200,000 ($4.8M total) for the charity of their choice (half of which is earmarked to be golf related). Since this is a tax write-off, that's some direct compensation. 
Regardless, the cash certainly doesn't go to some old rich guy in a top hat and a cigar, nor does it just go for "purses".

When we contrast this with horse racing slot cash, it's a different story.
  • 20% doesn't go to horse retirement, or jockey and driver pensions, or trainer pensions.
  • Millions don't go to cultivate the game; to engage the public, to grow horseplayers. Horseplayers are reached pretty young too, and they can play the game for 50 years or more. But with slots, they still play into 25% takeouts, making this a difficult pursuit (especially in the new world with 4.54% sports betting and everything else). 
In this sport, the slots money tends to go to two places - to purses and corporations that own the racetracks. 

Ironically, the money in horse racing that does go for things the Ryder Cup funds -- retirement, backstretch items, workers comp, promotion etc -- are taken from the betting dollar. The thing that they don't use slot money to directly grow. 

No matter how we feel about players getting paid to play the weekend in a Ryder Cup, they are certainly doing their part to grow the game. Can we say the same thing about slot money in horse racing?

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