04/27/2009 10:43AM

Derby Odds

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With co-favorite Quality Road now officially out of the Derby, what's the toteboard going to look like on Saturday? One of things we'll be doing in this space all week is making an odds line together, updating it amid late changes, the post-position draw and any other relevant developments. I'll take the first crack at the end of this post, then y'all should feel free to weigh in on what looks square or goofy, what prices feel too high or low, and make your case for an adjustment.

This is a line predicting how the race will be bet, not what the "fair" or proper odds are, a distinction often overlooked in these exercises. The goal here is to predict the actual prices, not to drop the odds on a 30-1 shot whose virtues you think are being overlooked.

A good first step might be to review recent Derby betting, to see how the money has been distributed in the last three races, each of which had a 20-horse field. The first chart below lists their dollar odds:

Converting those odds to percentages of the win pool yields the following restatement of those prices, which can be useful as you try to figure out where the money will go. Note that these percentages incorporate Kentucky's 16 percent win-pool takeout:

A couple of guiding points in constructing a likely set of odds:

--The 80/20 rule: The top half (10) of the field takes roughly 80 percent of the money, with the bottom 10 horses the last three years accounting for right around 20 percent. That means those bottom 10 horses, regardless of what merits you may see in them, are going to attract only 1 to 3 percent of the pool each and thus go off at over 25-1.

--The top five betting choices have taken a combined 57.6, 53.4 and 50.4 percent of the pool in the each of the last three years.

The first iteration of a line below groups much of the field into tiers rather than trying to split hairs among each longshot. My feeling is that the Big Four (formerly Big Five including Quality Road) will take a little over half the combined betting; they're followed by a quintet I've listed at 15-1 apiece; two who figure to be bet pretty close to that group, at 25-1; then the eight likely longest shots. One of the things we can tinker with throughout the week is breaking the logjams at various price points and trying to settle things like which of the five we've started at 15-1 is likeliest to be the 5th vs. 9th choice in the betting.

What might look unsusual in this first pass is the absence of any horses between 8-1 and 15-1. It's tempting at first glance to drop some of those 15-1 shots to 10-1 or 12-1, but it's hard to jack up prices elsewhere to compensate, and I do think there's going to be a huge gap from the 4th to 5th choice this year. In that respect it's a little like last year's board, where there was a big falloff from Pyro as the 5.7-1 third choice to Eight Belles as the fourth choice at 13.1-1.

Note that the morning line that comes out Wednesday will not add up to 100 percent of the pool. Morning lines adhere to odds points such as 15-1 where the linemaker is not predicting a price of precisely 15.0-1 but saying he expects the horse to go off anywhere between 15.0-1 and 19.9-1, after which the next group would be at 20-1.  

Okay, here goes. Let the disagreements begin.

hyena_my More than 1 year ago
Mr. Hot Stuff is going to shock the world. One of the Big 4 will run second.
Matt Harper More than 1 year ago
Dear Horseplayers, Last night, Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) introduced a bill that would eliminate the automatic 25 percent federal withholding on pari-mutuel winnings of $5,000 or more for bets that carry odds of 300-1 or higher. Rep. Charles Boustany, Jr. (R-LA) is the bill’s lead co-sponsor. The “Pari-mutuel Conformity and Equality Act of 2009” (H.R. 2140) or PACE Act was introduced by the Congressmen in the U.S. House of Representatives. Both Congressmen have race tracks in their respective districts and are members of the powerful Ways & Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over tax matters. Compared to other gaming industries, the pari-mutuel industry currently suffers from an inequitable tax law that requires wagering facilities to automatically withhold federal taxes from certain pari-mutuel winnings as defined above. This burden impacts the amount of dollars horseplayers have to re-bet, which subsequently affects handle figures and ultimately purse levels and bloodstock markets. Please watch for information from the NTRA on how you can help change the antiquated and unfair taxation of pari-mutuel winnings. We also encourage you to follow the bill’s progress at www.HorseplayersCoalition.com and ask you to consider supporting the NTRA’s legislative effort by becoming a member of the Horseplayers’ Coalition today. Sincerely, Joe Bacigalupo Director of Membership Development NTRA Phone: 859-422-2677 e-mail: joeb@ntra.com
NJTDerby#34 More than 1 year ago
Hold me back should be a little higher. No performance record on dirt should hold people back. Friesan Fire should be a little higher also. Think the California Angle of who beat who will be ovcerbet. POTN should be an underlay and I expect him to be about 4 to 1 fro a public point of view. I am fading Dunkirk. IWR will be a great story but favorites do not win the derby.
Aaron More than 1 year ago
Have to agree in thinking that Dunkirk will go off as the 2nd choice--I can imagine him being as low as 5-1. Steve, would you mind commenting on the Beyer from the Florida Derby. I know AB publicly explained why he went back and increased the figure, but to what extent do you think we should trust that 108 for Dunkirk? Should we demand a little extra to compensate for some uncertainty there?
AJH More than 1 year ago
togoonthego- If I remember correctly horses aren't coupled in races where the purse is $1,000,000 or greater.
Dan The Man More than 1 year ago
togoonthego, The 2 Godolphin entries aren't coupled because they don't have to be. Several years back Kentucky changed their coupling rules so that in stakes races of more than some purse size (I think it is $500K, might be $1mil) entries don't have to be coupled. This was done after a Derby that ended up with something like a 5 horse entry because of overlapping ownership groups.
pru More than 1 year ago
Steve, I think the line looks pretty much spot on. I would lower Dunkirk's as many other bloggers have mentioned. I also think Desert Party and Mr Hot Stuff will take a bit more action than you first line listed. I see Mr Hot Stuff as a Giacomo/Tiagoesque type. Just leaving Vegas for the first time and for the first time I feel like I was treated like a true bettor. The David Donk off a layoff on the turf angle at Aquduct angle worked well this weekend.
C More than 1 year ago
saso: "if QR was such a shoe-in for favorite, then you have to have Dunkirk as second choice less than 3-1. If you took QR out of the Florida Derby, he wins by 6+." Yeah, against who, Theregoesjojo? If Quality Road didn't run in the Florida Derby, it "would've been" a completely different race, so we don't know what might've happened. "Also, has anyone noticed that they moved the UAE derby? It's now the same date as the Florida Derby." Wrong. The Dubai World Cup (and the UAE Derby, first run in 2000) has always been on that last weekend in March. They moved the Florida Derby to be 5 weeks out a few years ago.
Old Timer More than 1 year ago
Steve, Nice job and a great math lesson also. I agree with a few of the previous posts that the "Big 4" will be closer together; probably IWR as favorite, but at no less than 9-2. Either FF or POTN could sneak in as the choice by post time. Dunkirk will be slightly higher odds only because the other 3 won their last preps. Can Pletcher finally win one? How about a POTN-Flying Private exacta for the only 2 trainers who have actually won this thing?
togoonthego More than 1 year ago
A QUESTION, STEVE: This may be perfectly silly or I may be stuck in the past, but it certainly impacts this odds discussion. Why in the heck aren't DESERT PARTY and REGAL RANSOM coupled?!? It seems to make no sense, even in the day and age that require identical ownership and trainers; both are Godolphin + Suroor. Once explained (and thanks in advance), here's a fun, follow-up history question: What would the odds HAVE BEEN on some notable stablemates, if they were separate betting interests, such as, say, COALTOWN or ANGLE LIGHT?!? TT