How to make Horse Racing BETTER

markinsacmarkinsac Member
I've been ranting and raving about how bad things are. I've decided to cover a lot of topics here, because as you people are learning, horse racing is complicated. You wouldn't think so. Just pick the horse that crosses the finish line first and you're a winner. But every professional gambler knows that beating the odds is more important than picking the next winner.

And that's where I'm going to start.

BEATING THE ODDS. About the safest way to beat horse racing or any gambling game is to bet less when the odds are against you. For example, a good horse player will look in the racing form and pick a few horses he/she sees as standouts. But the odds come into play too as well as the takeout or house edge.

Horse racing's high takeout wasn't an issue back in the day. Why? Because it was the only game in town, in most cases. Before the 1980's, a horse bettor could only bet on the 9 live races from the host track. There was no out-of-state simulcasting, just 9 races period! Plus there was half-hour gaps between races, making handicapping an art.

But as times changed, so did the odds. While the takeout has remained the same, other forms of gambling have crept up. And these other forms have much more appeal. But horse racing is stuck on a bad rail.

In one of Steven Crist's articles, he complains, and rightfully so, about the unjust tax code against horse players. But what struck me was Steve's brutal honesty when he used the example: "TO KEEP THINGS SIMPLE, LET'S TAKE A HYPOTHETICAL EXAMPLE OF A BETTOR WHO PUTS EXACTLY $100,000 A YEAR THROUGH THE (BETTING) WINDOWS AND GETS BACK $95,000 FOR A NET LOSS OF $5,000. HE'S ENJOYING HIMSELF AND HIS HOBBY, IS ONE PHOTO-FINISH AWAY FROM A WINNING YEAR, **AND IS BEATING THE TAKEOUT**.

What is astounding, is that this particular horse player in the example is very, very good. He beat a 20% takeout by only losing 5%, BUT THIS PROFESSIONAL PLAYER STILL LOST! Meaning even the best in the game can't win.

And back to beating the odds. Let's say the horses are loading into the starting gate and you notice that the favorite to the second choice in the exacta is paying $19 when it should be paying about $11, this is considered an underlay, meaning that if you wait for these situations, YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO BEAT THE GAME. They don't come too often, that's why you need patience.

But many wiz kids have their computers hooked up to the probable exacta payoffs as well as the WIN, PLACE and SHOW pools. It's called ROBOTIC BETTING. By the time the computers do their work in the last minute of betting, that juicy exacta payoff was hammered down to $10. Now it's an overlay, not only are you paying the 20% takeout, because of the robots, you're probably paying about 23%.

It makes it almost useless to sit around and wait for a juicy price. They hardly exist anymore.

In order to keep the players you still have, attract new players and get back the players you lost, the price of playing the horses HAS TO COME DOWN! There are no ifs or butts about it. And with over a 100 races to bet on daily, 20% will render so few winners, that a 40-year veteran like myself will give up.

In all honesty, I really like the intrigue of picking winners. There are so many factors, each race is like a puzzle that needs to be solved. I enjoy watching the races where horse and jockey make the right moves to get the job done. IT'S SATISFYING TO WIN BECAUSE NOT ONLY DO I BANK CASH, I FEEL SMART FOR MAKING THAT CHOICE. A slot machine doesn't give me that satisfaction, because if I win, it was luck, not skill.

But I still do better when I play the slot machines. Something to think about. Bettors have bottom lines too. Don't ever forget that. The casinos surely haven't.

More next time.


  • markinsacmarkinsac Member
    edited June 2013

    For you newbies who went to the horse races for the first time, what was the question you asked a veteran while you were there? In my personal experiences, most of the first-timers I took to the track asked this question: How do you know who is better than the other? Or: How do you pick a winner?

    It doesn't make sense that a horse who ran 6 furlongs at Penn National in 1:11 is actually faster than a horse that ran the same distance at Turf Paradise in 1:10. Thank goodness for the Beyer ratings. Not that the BR is infallible, but it does a lot of the homework. So I'll start by telling the newbies to look at that number (Beyer Rating). The higher the better. Find a horse with a high number at high odds. You'll get a good run for your money.

    This IS a complicated game. And you can't get the satisfaction unless you teach the people the basics. While the Daily Racing Form has Past Performance explanations, I'm not sure many people know where to find them.

    I feel EVERY track should have a handicapping education course. It doesn't have to be all at once. It could be in, let's say three courses. And after every course, the track gives the newbie a $2 betting voucher, incentive for staying the course and taking the time to learn. It could be as simple as a small room with a video screen. That same video could be playing at every track, so it wouldn't be expensive for the tracks to do.

    Many people FEEL INTIMIDATED WHEN THEY FIRST GO TO THE TRACK. "What are all those numbers floating across the video screen?"

    A New Players course would make them feel more comfortable as they could hang with other newbies. NPC videos could also be played on social media. "HEY WANT TO LEARN HOW TO PICK A WINNER?" If the newbie is challenged in small steps, progress could be made.

    Maybe even have a Newbie Tournament or other free contests like SHOWVIVOR. Make it simple to start. Let them learn in layers. And no question is a bad question, as some of us veterans still have plenty of questions.

    Nothing irks me more when I see an "insider" like an owner or a trainer say the bettors have "nothing coming." What that means we don't to tell you what we put into the horse before the race. Or we don't have to tell you how the horse is training.


    Where do purses come from? FROM THE BETTORS!

    What do businesses' rely on to stay in business? CUSTOMERS!

    Who is more than likely to come back to the track? A CUSTOMER THAT WINS? OR A CUSTOMER THAT LOSES?

    If owners, trainers and racing associations RELY on bettors, why wouldn't they bend over backwards to assist them to win. Remember, in a casino, the gamblers are betting against the house. And every casino CEO would tell you it's good for business when their customers win once in awhile.

    But in horse racing, bettors ARE NOT betting against the house. The pari-mutuel system is bettors betting against each other. The house has no stake in who wins a race. So that's even more reason for the insiders to want the bettors to win. If a horse player heard a trainer say in a morning seminar, "Lemon Juice Kid has been working a hole in the wind" and I bet on that horse because of the trainer's confidence, I feel like I outscooped my competition (who are all the other bettors who didn't take the time to come to the morning seminar). I am seeking knowledge, they're still stuck in traffic.

    I've been supporting you guys for many decades. I'd like to think that I do "have something coming." And as soon as racing starts to feel the pulse of what the bettors are saying, I'll be back.

  • markinsacmarkinsac Member
    edited June 2013

    They'll never admit it, but the NFL recognizes that people who bet on pro football games are valuable customers. Out of one side of their mouths, the NFL states that they don't want further proliferation of betting by states other than Nevada and what Delaware has going. But the NFL REQUIERS every team to put out an injury report each week. They don't want unscrupulous moves. Why? To please the bettors. The NFL surely doesn't want a player or a big-time bettor or a bookie to fix a game. Even bookies rely on clean games. So they do a pretty good balancing act. Why?

    If I wager on an NFL game there's a much better chance that I'll sit there for three hours watching it. If I do not wager, I probably will not watch it. The NFL relies on TV ratings for advertising rates. Just think how much those bettors have made them?

    Want further proof? The NFL games used to start at 1pm Eastern and the second games started at 4pm. Since many NFL games go past the three-hour mark, the second games were starting before the first games ended. Some players had all their stakes on the first games and couldn't bet on the second games until the first games ended. The other reason was so there was no overlap, fans and bettors could watch the whole second game. The second games now start in the neighborhood of 4:25.

    I remember some Mondays and Tuesdays where you only had three big tracks going, Calder, Parx and Delaware. And guess what, they each scheduled their post times within a 2-minute span. Many times all three tracks were running their races at the exact same time. This made bettors go crazy as handicapping takes time. This went on for over a decade. If only they spaced out the races in 10-minute intervals. Why? For the bettors.

    There's no question that Ohio and Maryland horse racing needed slots. They were surrounded by other states that had slots. If a $5,000 claiming race went for a purse of $8,000 in Maryland but went for a purse of $15,000 in Pennsylvania, where would you race your horse?

    Who benefits from slots? The owners, trainers, jockeys make more through higher purses. The race track gets a nice slice of the action too.

    Who doesn't benefit? The bettors. There is actually some minor benefits for the bettor in the form of free admission and parking at a racino. A nice buffet may be waiting for them too. But while the industry workers are whooping it up with all this new-found cash, bettors at places like Parx pay takeout rates of 27% on some bets, and that's BEFORE taxes.

    And as I said before, I actually would rather bet on house advantages of 1% to 10% on games of luck than bet on games of skill (horse racing) at 20%. Especially when almost all casinos entice with free bus rides and free play.

    While the owners, trainers and CEO's of horse racing are pouring the bubbly celebrating, do they notice that many of their loyal customers are starting to drift? Drift to the casino where the betting is comfortable? Where the wins are more frequent? Where the action is fast-paced?

    Ohio horsemen complained that Penn National was building new racinos without adequate seating for their horse customers. Penn National was just going off of experience. They know that the racino will suck the life of the racing side.

    In southern California where the race tracks will NEVER get slots because the horse lobby isn't even close to being as powerful as the Indian casino lobby, Santa Anita formed an advertising partnership with a casino 50 miles away. If you go to Santa Anita, you'll see that casino's name splattered all over the jumbo tron, the casino spins a wheel where horse players can win free play and other goodies. The Santa Anita program even has a coupon for $10 or $20 worth of free play at that casino.

    If you go to that casino, you see NOTHING pertaining to Santa Anita. It's a one-way street. Horse players get incentives to go to casino, but casino players get no incentives to go to Santa Anita.

    You can't blame the casinos. They are slick. They are supposed to be.

    And what happens when it all comes crashing down? In Ontario, breeders and horses are going out of business. They put all their chips in on the slot machines. And while that money was flowing, they forgot one thing . . . what about marketing horse racing in case of a rainy day.

    It's happening in Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana and Delaware. With state budget deficits increasing, don't you think politicians will go after the slot subsidies? That's easy prey. And what is racing in slot states doing in the meantime? Nothing. Instead of setting aside, let's say 10%, to market horse racing, they're too busy running to the bank.

    Why do we need horse racing customers when we have slot subsidies?

    Ask Ontario.
  • markinsacmarkinsac Member
    edited June 2013

    Unless he was unsound. Smarty retired right after the grueling Triple Crown Races. His legs surely were sore. At the time I didn't have a problem with him retiring, it's much better than him getting injured during a race.

    But since that time, many have stated that Smarty was sore, but he wasn't unsound. The owners were looking at a $48 million payday in breeding. Even if Smarty continued his winning ways, he probably wouldn't have made more than $5 million racing and that racing comes with risks.

    But even with the loss in the Belmont, Smarty still had the potential to become one of the sports' all-time greats. He was bred to be a sprinter; he was from Pennsylvania: And yet he almost won the Triple Crown while being undefeated.

    It was believed that Smarty might even start in the Pennsylvania Derby at Parx that would have brought out a crowd of 30,000 on a Sunday where maybe 2,000 normally show up.

    But they took the money and ran. And horse racing lost.

    It had been announced that Zenyatta would retire after the 2009 Breeders' Cup Classic. She raced for two solid years, won a Breeders' Cup Classic and a BC Ladies Classic. And she was undefeated.

    But late in 2009 the Moss' and the Shirreffs had a little meeting. They discussed the tangibles of retiring Zenyatta and the tangibles of letting her race another year. And I know SOMEBODY in that meeting said, "Just think what it would do for horse racing?!"

    Horse racing won this time.

    The race horse, the jockey, the trainer, the groom the hot dog vendor, you guys are putting on the show. People pay and bet hard-earned money to come see the show. Yet when somebody like Andy Beyer uses the word "cheater" it doesn't even lift eyebrows anymore. We're so used to it.

    It doesn't have to be this way. Ann and Jerry Moss got more by not being greedy. They gave this sport a gift because they care. The tide is starting to shift. The good guy are starting to win races in bunches. Even horses who race without Lasix are doing good.

    This business employs a lot of people. Some work seven days a week. And they've been doing this all their life. When the trainer of a Kentucky Derby winner (Mine That Bird) urinates on a slot machine, that kind of tells the story of how much some in this business care.

    I think we can do better,
  • ZeebestZeebest Member
    edited June 2013
    Mark, no matter how frustrating and downright maddening horse racing may be, I doubt if you'll ever completely abandon the sport. I realized long ago why "railbirds" like me can't resist the attraction of a crowded race track on a weekend afternoon.
    Baseball, basketball, hockey and footfall games may be fun to see in person or on television, but the fans are basically engaged in a passive activity - watching other people perform.
    Sure, spectator sports can evoke passionate emotions like jubilation and grief. But, a stadium packed with gaudily dressed, home team supporters, shouting their lungs out at players and referees, has little or no effect on the outcome of a game.
    Horse players don't just observe racing, they participate. From the moment we open the pages of a new racing form and start scrutinizing the entries, we're confronted with an intellectual challenge - decisions that we and we alone make on our own behalf. There are few arenas in life where financial success does not depend upon social status or academic credentials. Anybody, including a hotel maid or a pizza delivery guy can became a big winner at the track, even if only occasionally. How often do ordinary working folks get the chance to flex their mental muscles and test their memory skills? Isn't that what makes handicapping races so interesting - the expectation we might notice some clue "smart money" bettors are likely to ignore?
    I do however admit, it is the alluring beauty and tenacious courage of thoroughbreds that can seduce a person for life. Why? Because there is something almost rapturous about about seeing the horse YOU thought would win, burst from a herd of stampeding rivals and dash like a gazelle across a finish line.

  • Too true about the rapture of watching thoroughbreds run!
  • Zeebest...your line 'dash like a gazelle across a finish line'...makes me feel so lucky, 'cause I actually HAVE watched gazelle dash across the road (not a finish line). I live in a part of rural, hill country, Texas, where there are many game ranches and there are occasionally 'escapees' that get out. All sorts of gazelle and antelope types. I'd rather see these guys running around than horses. Critters and vehicles don't mix well :((( Ya have to be watching all the time.
  • RachelRachel Member
    im starting to see the slow fall of thoroughbred racing even in the sales ring. a total black type pedigree in this horse by Unbridleds Song out of Dixie Holiday and not alot of people wanted it. went for $27,000. easily should of been over 100,000 or 200,000. gorgeous horse but everyone wants those speed demons
  • Could it have to do with the perceived bone weaknesses in Unbridled Song? I don't know, I'm asking you experts.
  • Rachel, the fall has accelerated greatly. And it's because the industry continues to disregard their own customers. How can any business succeed without customers?

    Who in the industry even mentions the "customer" word? All they talk is about Breeders' Cups, Triple Crowns, Lasix and slot machines.

    The NBA uses the phrase "Fantastic!."
  • On Sunday I was in Reno, I stopped by the racebook and checked out some races. The video feed from Arlington Park and Golden Gate kept focusing on the rather large crowds that turned out on Father's Day. That is a good thing. People don't want to go to a baseball game with the stadium only one-third full. It's much more exciting when it's a packed house.

    Whatever Arlington does to capture the magic of Father's Day should be shared and repeated at tracks across the country. ARLINGTON OWNS FATHER'S DAY AND THEY SHOULD BE CONGRATULATED ON DOING SO.
  • Right now, horse racing is the ONLY LEGALIZED INTERNET BETTING ALLOWED IN THE UNITED STATES. They have a monopoly. And yet they still can't capitalize on what they got. And the walls are closing in. It's only a matter of time before internet poker, maybe slots and maybe sports betting will be legalized.

    Once again, the problem is this: Betting on horses is a bad bet considering the takeout and betting on horses is rather confusing. Yet horse racing doesn't even try to tackle these two points.
  • RachelRachel Member
    but wouldnt the presence of the broodmare bring good genes to the breeding? the dam is by Dixieland Band who in turn is by Northern Dancer but the foal looked pretty good
  • Here's a recap of the humongous crowd that attended Arlington on Father's Day:
  • Congratulations Arlington Park on a job well done!
  • My bad, actually that was from 2009. I'm still searching the 2013 numbers . . .

  • but wouldnt the presence of the broodmare bring good genes to the breeding? the dam is by Dixieland Band who in turn is by Northern Dancer but the foal looked pretty good
    I have no idea. I just have heard chatter about him and wondered what everyone thinks. He seems to have gotten a lot of bad press about his bone issues.
  • RachelRachel Member
    not all of his foals are that bad tho, he has alot of runners but its not like every single one of them breakdown. i think when paired with the right mare his foals can be sound
  • RachelRachel Member
    My bad, actually that was from 2009. I'm still searching the 2013 numbers . . .
    32,000 is still a good number lol

  • Hey Mark, would you consider making a contribution to my "Trackspeak" discussion? You probably know some words and terms that weren't mentioned. My goal was to help new racing fans learn to talk like "Jimmy the Hat". Thanks!
    P.S. Sorry for going "off topic"...
  • Sure, where is "Trackspeak?"
  • In the general category: Track Speak: What in the heck is a "late scratch"?
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