• The Betting Coup That Wasn’t

    POSTED Jun 2, 2011
    If there’s one thing that will make a handicapper as giddy as Maria Shriver’s divorce attorney it’s the possibility of a betting coup. As horseplayers, we dream of that moment when — on the subway (à la a famous "Seinfeld" episode), at the track, or through our own analysis — we unearth what we consider to be a “setup” race.

    This is not a fixed event, in which the outcome is predetermined by some larcenous means, mind you. No, I’m talking about the race that contains a horse or horses that don’t figure on paper, yet are strong contenders based on other factors — usually involving the animal’s human connections.

    I stumbled on just such a creature, or so I believed, in the seventh race at Delaware Park on Saturday, May 28:

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    At first glance, Whata Soandso looks completely overmatched in this maiden special weight affair at a mile on turf, but I knew something the crowd did not. In digging through the pedigree records, I discovered that the three-year-old gelding had two full sisters — Lucrezia and Dream Louise — that had won a total of five races on the green (the former being stakes placed). What’s more, all three thoroughbreds were owned and trained by Edwin Merryman.

    But it was when I viewed the past performances of Dream Louise that my heart skipped a beat and visions of a betting coup danced in my head:

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    Notice that in her career debut, “Louise” competed in a turf sprint and, although she finished a well-beaten 10th that day, she still managed to gain six lengths in the final eighth of a mile. In her very next start, Dream Louise was entered in a route and wired the field to the tune of $62. Now take a look at Whata Soandso’s lifetime bow. You see why my ticker was going haywire?

    So, with all the restraint of Charlie Sheen at an open bar, I bet Whata Soandso like he was Secretariat in a Beulah Park claiming race… for Ohio-breds. I also spent the better part of an hour working on a smug smile that I could assume when I re-told the story of the day I became a millionaire to my grandkids. With apologies to the late Paul Harvey, the chart tells “the rest of the story:”

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    To my dismay, Whata Soandso looked rank early, lethargic late, and ran dead last. Frankly, the whole ugly affair reminded me of a story Andrew Beyer related in “Picking Winners.”

    Convinced that a steed named Sun in Action was primed to run a good race, Beyer touted the horse as “the betting opportunity of the year” in the Washington Daily News, where he wrote a regular column in the early ‘70s. After the horse won — via a disqualification — and paid $43.20, Beyer naturally assumed that the animal’s trainer, Ron Bateman, had cleaned up on the race. Upon asking Sun in Action’s jockey Martin Fromin about it, however, Beyer was stunned.

    “He’d probably laugh at you if you asked him,” Fromin said. “Normally trainers will tell you if they’re betting their money. They’ll lay a story on you about why his last races were bad. But Bateman just said he didn’t know much about the horse and told me to ride the way I wanted.”

    Who said this was an easy game?

    Professional Pursuit Continues

    With the Triple Crown series winding down, I decided to resume my “pro” betting experiment and thought Monday, Memorial Day, was a good time to start. Regular readers will remember that I detailed this test in “Becoming a Pro Gambler, Part Deux,” but a quick summary is probably in order.

    Basically, on April 7, I vowed to handicap and wager in a professional manner — in other words, practice what I preach — and see what happened. Well, things went beautifully and, after a nice score in the Rainbow-6 on closing day at Gulfstream Park, I was up several thousand dollars. Nonetheless, the Rainbow-6 and other such exotic bets are not really in the spirit of what I am attempting to do. Hence, I realized that in order for this experiment to be meaningful to you, my beloved readers, I would need to create separate wagering accounts, thereby separating my “fun” bets from my more serious wagers. That has now been done.

    For the most part, I will be betting to win and playing fair-value exactas with my top contender(s). Thus far, it’s been the latter strategy that has saved the day, as I am currently up $179.50, despite a -82 percent ROI on my win bets:

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    Those wishing to improve their own exacta betting may want to utilize the following chart, which gives the fair $1 payoff on various odds combinations:

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    Derek Simon’s Free Weekend Win Factor Plays

    Coming soon.

    Derek Simon said...

    I should note that the exacta chart has no ADDITIONAL tax or breakage attached to the fair payoffs. Obviously, if one is using the post-time odds as a guide, the takeout is manifest in the odds themselves.

    LetItRideMike said...

    Derek, thanks for the article, and for mentioning Picking Winners. It was the book that brought a whole generation of us into the realm of "Hey! I can DO THIS!"

    The new generation of horseplayers is lost in the wilderness. Grab the baton and write a Picking Winners for the 2000's!

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