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BC Handle, Sunday Stakes
Below, and in full-page mode if you click here, are the pool-by-pool handle totals for the last three Breeders' Cups -- Belmont in 2005, Churchill in 2006 and Monmouth last Saturday. While the big story this year was the 18 percent drop in total handle on the eight Saturday races, there are some other interesting nuggets about our betting behavior buried in the figures. Perhaps you'll find and share some others.
*If you share my theory that the overall decline was due mostly to bettors' trepidation about the rainy weather and sodden track conditions, you might think that players started out especially cautiously and picked up the tempo as the day proceeded. Instead, the day got off to a relatively strong start: The Juvenile Fillies showed the day's only year-over-year increase in exacta handle, and total handle on the race was down only 6 percent, while it was down 16 to 24 percent on each of the other seven races. It seems as if after watching the JF, even though favored Indian Blessing won, bettors were spooked by the track conditions and perhaps the performances of a few well-regarded rivals who floundered in it.
*The 31 percent decline in pick-six handle, from $4.7 to $3.2 million, was the day's most severe dropoff and consistent with the above thinking. Clearly, pick-six players either scaled down their intended plays or decided to take a pass on the basis of the early races and track conditions.
*The division of handle among straight, intrarace and multirace betting appears to have stablized after a long gradual shift away from the straight pools. In each of the last three years, the percentages have been 34 for straight, 51 for intrarace multiples and exotics and 14 percent for multirace multiples and exotics.
*The one obvious growth area on the betting menu is superfectas. Total eight-race super handle was virtually identical to last year's in the face of the 18 percent decline, and supers rose from 7.4 percent to 9.1 percent of total handle, a 22 percent gain. Trifecta betting, meanwhile, was down 27 percent year over year, suggesting a migration from tris to supers that can be largely attributed to 10-cent minimums on supers in most markets (Florida remains a sore-thumb exception.)
*The great unknown is what, if any, effect having three new BC races on Friday might have had on Saturday's handle. My entirely personal feeling is that this is an irrelevant factor. There has always been a stakes-rich Friday card preceding the main event, and I just can't see people saying, "Gee I'm going to bet less on Saturday so I can play those new Friday races." Also, Friday's weather was at least as bad as Saturday's, so if anything you would think people would have laid low on Friday hoping for improved conditions a day later.
--After Aqueduct cancelled Saturday, I turned my attention elsewhere and did a pretty good job of lousing up the day's exotics, going 3-for-4 in the Churchill and Oak Tree late pick-fours and 5-for-6 on the Greyhound Night of Stars pick-six. But I did get most of the way out thanks to a "superfecta saver" I tried out on the Chilukki Stakes at Churchill, a very cheap hedge you might want to consider.
After Istan walloped Sun King in the Ack Ack, I was alive only to my two contrary picks in the Chilukki, High Heels (#3) and Change Up (#4), both at 7-1. I thought both of them would run well, I had no idea why Windy was being pounded down to 8-5, and I didn't want to walk away empty-handed if both of my horses hit the board without winning. For a mere $18 per 10-cent super unit, I was able to buy some "insanity insurance" against such an outcome with the following play:
10-cent super: all/34/34/all = 60 combos = $6
10-cent super: all/34/all/34 = 60 combos = $6
10-cent super: all/all/34/34 = 60 combos = $6
Even though the race was won by ML favorite Rolling Sea ($10.00), 22-1 My Chickadee snuck in for third, splitting High Heels (2nd) and Change Up (4th). The $2 super paid $4,073, a return of $203.65 for every $18 invested.
It was a little sad watching both Lava Man and Sun King run so far below their glory days yesterday. Sun King was retired after his distant second in the Ack Ack and it's unclear what's next for Lava Man after a no-excuse sixth to Cal-breds in the Cal Cup Classic.
--As for Sunday's fare, there's a $599k carryover and a mandatory payout on closing day at Oak Tree, and the $34k carryover at Aqueduct is back in play after Saturday's scratch. Those are the sites of the day's only two graded stakes:
3:44 pm ESDT: Aqueduct race 8, $100k G3 Turnback the Alarm H., 3+F, 1 1/8m
Sugar Shake is the 9-5 ML favorite off five straight G1/G2 appearances and is the lone graded-stakes winner in a field of six. She's better than these on her best day, but she'll face a tricky pace scenario because both Folk and Peak Maria's Way usually want the early lead as well. The logical alternative is Altesse, who should get a dream trip from the rail just behind the speed. If you want to play the race for a meltdown, Victory Pool at 6-1 should be flying late.
6:36 pm ESDT: Santa Anita race 8, $150k G2 Las Palmas H., 3+F, 1m-T
Christophe Clement's pair of eastern invaders, Naissance Royale and Meribel, have both been facing slightly stronger fields than most of these but will need to get lucky working their way through a field of 12 while shortening up to a mile. The best of the locals, and probably the most likely winner of the race, is Black Mamba (7-2), second to Precious Kitten two back and a close third to Nashoba's Key and Citronnade in the Yellow Ribbon last time out. Trick's Pic is better than her local debut and is dangerous if she runs back to her Matchmaker, where she split Roshani and Humoristic to be second rallying into a slow pace.
Notice how those post times say EST? If you somehow missed the news that you were supposed to set your clocks back an hour last night, do it now. I remembered that part but still missed the opener at Aqueduct, where I forgot that first post has been moved from 1 p.m. to 12:30 starting today.
Re the sloppy tracks, on Friday it worked to your advantage. Margo's Gift in Race 7 at Monmouth paid the highest win price of the 2 days. $55.40 soothed my nerves. All the necessary information was given out at 20 minutes to post.There is money to be made on sloppy/muddy tracks. One has to find the nuggets, rather than complain about an off track. When I go to a track now, and see TRACK SLOPPY, I'm reaching for my wallet.
I really think the drop in hndle was more to do with Monmouth than the weather. I've never been a big fan of the smaller venues for the Breeders Cup alwys reminded of the Juvenile at Lone Star. If they must have it at a cold weather site for the Euros then give them Belmont once every three years.
Steve, A key element to consider in the handle discussion is the number of horses entered in each race and in total. I used your handle spreadsheet and plugged in the number of runners in each race in each year. In 2005 there were a total of 100 runners, in 2006 there were 102, but in 2007 there were only 87. If you then compute the handle per horse you see that by that metric handle was down 4% pretty much across every type of wager from a strong waging 2006. Therefore I might argue that the bulk of the decrease in handle was due to fewer runners which, of course, translates to fewer betting opportunities. The Friday cup races did have an impact on the number of runners on Saturday as certainly the dirt mile shifted at lease two (Corinthian and Discreet Cat) and the filly and mare sprint at least one (La Traviata) from Saturday’s to Friday’s card. Another observation I would make is that the “feature” races on card (the Turf and Classic) held up well in spite of significantly fewer horses (Turf; 11 to 8 and Classic; 13 to 9 in 2006 and 2007 respectively) and handle per horse on those races was up double digit in every wagering category. I would also caution that any conclusions need to be tempered due to the fact that in 2005 and 2006 in Cup was held at tracks that are "premium venues" and Monmouth Park represents a certain unknown quantity. Perhaps a comparison to other one-time hosts such as Arlington Park, Lone Star and a wet Woodbine might be more reveling. Another clear trend is the movement from three horse bets to four horse bets which is explained somewhat by the $.10 super (as you predicted in Betting Exotics) but was also true in the pick 3 and pick 4 pools. I personally believe that the pick four payoffs and premium to parley payoffs affords greater opportunity but I am not sure that is a popular opinion among bettors. I think that the point you made in the book about takeout percentages being applied on a per wager basis may have an impact here. Keep up the good work as we try to sort through the choices and gain an advantage. Bob
Steve-it's been over a week now;time to put all the philosophers in their winter quarters. The reason the handle went downhill after the first two BC races on Saturday were the size of the winning margins, the odds of the winners, and the failure of any outrageous bombs to mount a serious(or visible)stretch challenge. Those of us who have played enough knee-deep tracks in the past knew right away that some horses would love it, most would not, and the tote board would usually point out the animals who had no chance, just the opposite of a typical Breeder's Cup event. Oh,I stayed,as did everybody else,and played,but without the freewheeling enthusiasm that accompanies this annual long-shot producing spectacle. Next year the weather will be no factor and we can replace all this philosophy with a new record handle and a new slew of longshots that will leave the fans more bewildered than ever. Especially if they now think a NYRA prep is the new "trend". Thanks for the blog. It's great. John Grady
I'm amazed that the Distaff saw such declines. Players whine that all they want is full, evenly matched fields and the Distaff was all that with pretty much every high quality mare (except Rags, obviously) in the lineup. At two seminars I was involved with I saw full agreement this this running was suberb, a bettors delight for anyone who had an opinion. Was it that hard to form an opinion? My only response is that fans wanted to like certain mares (Unbridled Belle or Lear's Princess) with either no record or a poor record on mud.
Mr. Crist, it would appear that the Pick 6 drop is simply a continuation of a trend that has occurred in all of exotic betting. If you combine the percentages of the pick 3, pick 4 and pick 6 for the last 3 BC's you will find little significant difderence. 12.9% vs. 13.2% vs 12.7%. Multirace gimmick players have bet about the same, just moved it around. As to the superfecta, it's growth is at the expense the trifecta handle. Their combined percentage is also fairly stagnant. 27.6% vs. 28.2% vs. 27.7% for the past three years. The new $.10 bet allows bettors to move their money to a new pool, but not increase their total bet. As to the weak BC, can it not be traced to the absence of several of the larger more powerful stables?
steve, I know you are a fan of 10 CENT SUPERS what about ten cent pick SIX
Not related ... But check out the recent action of the runners in the Melbourne Cup on Nov 6. For most it was their third or fourth start since Oct 1. Maybe they don't allow drugs down under?
So which race in the BC could be rated as the most disappointing? If your answer is BC Classic, I agree with you. A highly anticipated showdown between Curlin, Street Sense, and Lawyer Ron turned out to be the sheer disappointment. How many of us expected the pitch battle down the lane between the three? As for handle, we must remember that handle is directly proportional to the attendance. Reportedly, the attendance was significantly lower this year than previous years. Of course, weather didn't help also and I, personally, played some token bets and abstained from ambitious betting. How about the pick-6 payoff? It ought to be one of the lowest in recent years.
I personally bet less on Saturday because I lost more than expected on Friday. I only had "X" amount to bet on the BC races and on Saturday it was down to "X-my Friday losses"