08/12/2010 2:18PM

1-9: A Pari-Mutuel Impossibility


Before and after her victory in last Sunday's Clement L. Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar, Zenyatta was quoted in many publications as the 1-9 favorite. This is a common occurrence these days and one that needs to be rectified, for the simple reason that it is a mathematical impossibility for a horse to be 1-9 on the American pari-mutuel system.
In fact, Zenyatta was the 1-10 Clement Hirsch favorite, as a quick perusal of the Daily Racing Form chart will inform you. This means that if you bet $10 on her to win, you would get back exactly $11, that is, your $10 stake plus $1 in winnings. If Zenyatta had been 1-9, her $10 backers would have gotten back $11.11, that is, their $10 stakes plus $1.11 in winnings.
This is not a matter of semantics, but one of the much more accurate science of mathematics. To determine one's winnings for a $10 win wager on a 1-10 shot, divide 1 by 10. The answer is $1. To determine one's winning for a $10 win wager on a 1-9 shot, divide 9 by 1. The answer is $1.11. Zenyatta's $10 backers all received $1 in winnings, therefore she was 1-10, not 1-9.
In the American pari-mutuel system, in most cases we break the odds down to a dime, sometimes to a nickel, but never to a penny, which is what would be necessary to have a horse go off at 1-9, or to state it decimally, 11-100, or 11 cents to the dollar. The only country in the world with a pari-mutuel system that breaks down to a penny is Italy, where horses are always going off at strange odds like 5.61-1 or 79-100.
The reason so many of us have come to accept 1-9 as a fact is our antiquated toteboard system, one that is incapable of displaying a two-digit number in the place of the divisor, that is, the 10 in 1-10. In this highly computerized day and age, that is unacceptable. If we have the ability to be accurate, we should be accurate, whether it is displaying odds of 1-10, 5-1, 3.60-1 or 10.80-1.
If none of this makes sense, bet $10,000 on a horse that is listed on the tote board at 1-9. Then, if it wins, just try collecting the $11,111 you would get if the horse really was 1-9. You will get only $11,000 because the winner could only be 1-10 under the American pari-mutuel system.
This 1-9 business has gotten so out of hand that some morning line makers are even quoting horses at that impossible price. The Associated Press reported in its post-Clement Hirsch story that Zenyatta had gone off at 1-9. Let's all get on the same page and stick 1-9 where it belongs- in the ashcan. At least until tracks start breaking odds down to a penny.


DEAR READERS: Some of you have been inquiring why none of your comments on my blogs have been published. I am sorry to say that the fault has been entirely my own. New to the blogosphere, I was unaware of the intricacies necessary to post your comments. I have since wised up to the system, and all previous comments have now been published. Please keep your comments coming, be they positive or negative.  Again, I offer my heartfelt apologies.