05/07/2014 11:03AM

Fornatale: The secret to value in the last race of a contest


Christopher Larmey is one of the most respected contest players there is. Tomorrow there will be an article in this space about him and his attempt to qualify for the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge via BCQualify.com (registration for Sunday’s contest is open now). Today, Larmey shares some strategic insights, including the secret to finding value in the last race of a contest.

I’ve found that the very definition of what value is changes when you’re talking about a contest as opposed to cash play. Do you agree?

Sometimes the same horses are who are value on the totebaord are also value within the contest but not always. You might have to throw the usual concept of value out the window, especially when it’s late in a contest. You might have to either stab at a longshot who isn’t a good value play or maybe play a likely winner who is no value at all because all you need is the most likely winner. It can get very tactical based on where you are on the leaderboard.

Interesting idea. Tell me more about how that works.

Practically speaking, in the last race of the contest, if you’re 30 points away from your goal, you’ve got to play a horse that’s going to get you at least that many points. So that’s going to take most of the favorites, maybe half the field, out of play. And then, depending on where you are on the leaderboard, that same logic applies. There are going to be tiers of people. Some online contest sites will show you who everybody played right when the race goes off and you can see the picks are in clusters – the same horse will show up for a bunch of people because that was the logical play based on where they were on the leaderboard.

Isn’t the right move in that spot to reach a little longer than the minimum you’d need in theory?

It’s really hard to predict. You would think you would want to play higher than you’d need but then, I’ve noticed everyone tends to do that. Sometimes the ideal play in that spot is to look for the horse that opens up lower odds than you need who floats up to past where you need. Most of the other people aren’t going to look again at that horse who opened up at 5/1 if they need a 10/1 horse. But a lot of times that horse who opened at 5/1 is 11/1 by post time. All of a sudden you might be the only one in your situation playing that horse.

That's brilliant. How do try to stay aware of those types of horses?

I have my own odds line on the horses I like so I pay attention to those. Especially if a horse is 12/1 on the morning line and opens up at 5/1 or 6/1. I pay extra attention thinking maybe he’ll float up. I’ll do that even if it’s not the last race. On the horses that I like, I’ll watch their odds all the way to post time.

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Is that something you try to do in every type of contest?

It’s a lot easier to do that in an online contest when it’s all mandatory races because you only usually have one race to worry about at a time. Where it gets trickier is when you’re at the NHC or the Orleans’ contests where you’ve got optional plays and eight or nine tracks and it’s all happening at the same time because in the great wisdom of the thoroughbred industry, nobody coordinates post times. In those contests, you’re bound to miss something and some people will beat themselves up over that. I just try to stay as organized as I can and not worry about it if I miss something.

How do you stay so philosophical about that?

Well, half the time, if you miss them, they’re going to run badly anyway and when that happens I say, “OK, great. I would have played that and I missed it so actually, I lucked out.”

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mr Larney is the real deal.He sat at our table in the last ntra.On the last day he had winner after with winner.He is a real horse player and a nice guy.He is allways in avction and play's the game very well.Hope he wins the point race this year and the Big prize.
bill bart More than 1 year ago
Off topic, but could someone educate me on the takeouts at Belmont & Saratoga for 2014? Thanks .....
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
depends on the bet. . .here is a complete list of north american takeouts from the HANA website: http://www.horseplayersassociation.org/hanatrackratingsbyoverallscore2014.html
Russ Jenkins More than 1 year ago
Awesome article.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Tx Russ. . .I'd been meaning to speak with Chris for a long time and he did not disappoint!
Lightning Strikes More than 1 year ago
Peter, after talking to many of the top tournament players, what do you think is the number of tournaments a top 10 tour player invests in? What is the percentage of "live" tournaments versus online?
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Great question. I think it varies A LOT based on a number of factors including geography. I know a lot of players seem to target 5-10 live contests a year and then fill in with as much online as they can. But I should probably do some more research and tackle this question in a future ASK PETE on the site.
Lightning Strikes More than 1 year ago
Chris, on average, how many tournaments do you play a year? What percentage of those are "live" tournaments?
derby1592 More than 1 year ago
Hello, before I answer the question I would first like to thank Peter for giving me the opportunity to chat about and share with others my experiences and opinions regarding a topic for which I have a true passion. I enjoyed our conversation and hope that some of you also enjoy reading Peter's articles about our discussion. To answer the question, I probably target 5-10 on-site contests per year. On most Saturdays, I spend the afternoon watching and betting on races and playing in some sort of contest. It might just be a "bankroll builder" with a $25 entry fee or it might be a "free roll" contest on the NHC tour, or a BCBC qualifier, or something else but, almost always, I will be entered in some sort of contest. What can I say? I love playing in handicapping contests! Fortunately, now more than ever there is a contest to fit almost an budget and preference. Handicapping contests are the one real growth area in racing today and those of you who (like me) love the added competition and excitement that contests bring to the table are really benefitting from that growth. Cheers Chris