11/08/2007 12:02PM

Q&A 11/8/07

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jlwood says: 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?

The size of year-over-year betting declines on the Distaff were indeed one of the biggest surprises on the handle comparison. The straight pools were off 25 percent, while the other seven races were down from 12 to 20 percent in the WPS pools; the declines of 23 percent in exacta betting and 33 percent in trifecta betting were also the largest dropoffs on the card. What makes it so odd is that this is one race where field size and perceived difficulty were so similar to lat year. While the size of the Turf was down from 11 to 8 and the Classic down from 13 to 9, the Distaff had 14 horses in '06 and 12 in '07.

One shot at an explanation: The pick-3 ending with the Distaff showed the smallest year-over-year decline of the six involving BC races. I suspect a lot of people played that pick-3 narrowing in the Sprint and then spreading in the Mile and Distaff and were alive to a bunch in the last leg and just watched it play out instead of getting further involved in what seemed like an impossible race. Similarly, last year more people were already dead in the late pick-4 after Miesque's Approval won the Mile at 25-1 than this year when Kip DeVille won it at 8-1.

There's also a fine line between a "great betting race" and an "impossible" race. Anecdotally, I don't recall hearing a single horseplayer tell me he "loved" one of the seven horses who went off between 9-2 and 9-1 in the Distaff. I'm not arguing with anyone who liked Ginger Punch at 9-2, Hystericalady at 9-1 or Octave at 7-1, but were these really such incredible bargains in a field where you could make some kind of a case for most of them?

scott_thomson says: I know you are a fan of 10-cent supers. What about a 10-cent pick six?

The pick six is the only bet I don't think should be offered at a dime minimum, simply because there would rarely be carryovers and carryovers are what make the pick six so attractive and popular. I do think there's an argument to dropping it at least to $1, though, on Breeders' Cup Friday and/or Saturday, since there are no carryover issues. (Yes, technically BC Friday carries into BC Saturday, but this year's $82k carry into a guaranteed $3 million pool didn't attract an extra nickel.) I would love to see them try a $1 pick-six on BC Day at OSA next year, and maybe this year's massive drop -- from $4.7 million to $3.2 million -- provides the cover for an experiment.

kchris says: I put together a $180 ticket[for Wednesday's Aqueduct carryover]. I live 50 miles from the Tampa track and cannot bet New York tracks on-line, so did not put the ticket in. I had a 3 x 5 x 3 x 1 x 1 x 2. 1a,8,10 with 3,4,5,8,9 with 1,5,6 with 3 with 1 with 4,5. In the 2nd leg, 9 was my 5th choice, but if I was that deep, how could I leave it out? Now I am kicking myself - 5 favs and it paid $14k - crazy.

On the face of it, $14k for five favorites and an 11-1 shot sounds like an early Christmas, but yesterday's Aqueduct pick-six is a textbook example of how much easier these things can look in retrospect than in practice. Those five winning favorites were as shaky as you'll find, a collection of completely untrustworthy runners who, for the most part, were favored by default. I think it was a day that worked better for small-to-medium bankrolls than for larger ones: Forced to use just one or two horses per race, you probably would have included them all, but more aggressive players probably went deep to come up with them, leaving them little money to go deep enough to come up with Love Cove.

tom_mcdonough says: I am curious as to how you analyzed the 2d and 6th legs of the Pick 6-I put in a $216 ticket and went three-deep in the 2d race and had the winner, but didn't have either of the two favorites in the final-I had the 2 and 3 neither of which you touched going 6 deep.

In the second leg, I thought (mistakenly) that Going Day and Impressionism had kept better company and run faster than the rest and included Thiella because I thought she had room to improve. I never thought about using Love Cove, who was moving from statebred to open company, had been laid off 10 weeks followed by three slow works, and had run consistently slower than the top pair.

In the last leg, I quickly tossed Ofcr. Sheila T. Rex and Aintwegotfun because both had quit badly in six-furlong turf sprints and now were stretching out to a mile and a sixteenth in a full field where there was going to be plenty of early speed. In general, I've found it profitable to play against turf sprinters the first time they go longer. Grass routes are occasionally stolen on the front end but not as often as people think. A second-time starter stretching out after being unreasonably sent in his debut can sometimes be worth a shot, but a stone-cold quitter with no grass pedigree is a horrible proposition going long on the turf. I was astounded that Ofcr. Sheila T. Rex was 4-1.

mike_p says: I'm interested in the total handle on the Night of Stars, as well as the handle for the Pick 6. I noticed where it paid $15k, and the largest priced winner was post-time third choice (didn't compare morning-line odds)?

I'm interested too for curiosity's sake, but because the 17 NOS races were run at 17 different tracks, none of which routinely publish their race-by-race handle, it's impossible to put together. Here's a link to the results. The pick six paid $15,937.50 with a $75k guarantee and apparently no consos. That's either 3 or 4 winners, depending on the (unpublished) takeout rate.

flip_dawson says: Was checking the superfectas at Oak Tree, and for some reason, even with large pools, the supers pay very low. For instance, 7-1, 5-1, 8-1, 7-2 might pay an insulting $1698.40. This is too low, as at Woodbine, the same odds would pay at least 3 grand. I get the feeling that someone is hammering these nags down in the supers at Santa Anita.

I'm hearing more and more that people think superfecta payoffs are being depressed and offering less value because of dime minimums but this doesn't make any sense to me -- other than the very occasional payoff where one player might have scooped the pool at a $1 minimum. Otherwise, the takeout rates and the number of possible permutations haven't changed, and if some are paying less than they used to, others must be paying more.

By the way, the fair payout for a superfecta of 7-1/5-1/8-1/7-2 is around $2800 for $2, give or take for field size and local takeout and pool size, so I'm not sure whether you were properly insulted by a $1698.40 return for $2 or got a pretty square return of $1698.40 for $1.

---Going to wrap this up quickly so I can get on record before 1:30 p.m. with our Day 2 NMLF (No Morning Line Favorites) Aqueduct Showdown selection. Today's third race scratched down to a field of four and you're crazy not to make your selection in a race where you only have to beat one horse to advance. (There's no actual show betting on the third at Aqueduct but you could still use the race for contest purposes.) Let's take Be Bullish, originally 10-1 on the line, which makes him the after-scratch second choice behind originally-5-1 Beijing House. The latter comes off a blowout against suspect company at Suffolk Downs while Be Bullish has faced better, turns back in class and distance, and can't possibly finish last from the outside post in a field of four, can he?

Update 1:31 p.m.: Oh yes he can. Outbroken early by Beijing House, Be Bullish tired from chasing and came out on the short end of a three-way stretch duel for the distant runner-up spot. Also, Be Bullish went off the post-time favorite at 1-1 vs. Beijing House at 6-5, so I think all the people who used the scratched Rollers and Captain Backfire got transferred to a loser. Once again, we're out of the Showdown on Day Two. Tough game.