03/12/2008 5:14PM

Q&A 3/12/08


Let's kick off this Q&A with a trio of questions from players who thought some recent payoffs were too low. My point in doing so is not to argue with commenters, but to illustrate the gap between our intuitive sense of what things "should" pay, often based on bad rules of thumb we all were taught when we started playing the game, and how the parimutuel system actually works.

gary says: I was at Gulfstream on Saturday. The sixth race was reduced to a match race between two horses. Communicated went off at odds of 1-2 and paid $3.00 for the win. Ode to Roy went off at 4-5 and would have paid $3.60 had he won. This means the track took 50% of the dollars bet in the win pool on the winner and 20% out of the win pool on the dollars bet on the loser. The track claims to take 17% out of the overall win pool. How can this math work? No matter how you look at it, it doesn't. A two horse race seems to illuminate that the track is actually taking much more out of the win pool than the advertised 17%. Is there any explanation for this? Thanks.

It might seem like the odds in a two-horse race should be higher than 1-2 and 4-5, but those are in fact the correct prices at a 17 percent takeout. Here's how it works:

The win pool on the 6th race at Gulfstream March 8 was $79,212. The amount bet on each horse was (within a few dollars):

Commentated: $43,566 (55%)
Ode to Roy: $35,646 (45%)

Start by subtracting the 17 percent takeout from the $79,212 ,which is $13,466, leaving $65,746 to pay the holders of tickets on whichever horse wins. For Commentated, that's $1.509 for every $1 bet, or $3.018 for every $2 bet, and the $3.018 is riounded down to $3.00 (odds of 1-2) due to breakage. For Ode to Roy, that's $1.84 for every $1 or $3.68 for every $2, which is rounded down to $3.60 (odds of 4-5).

If both horses had been bet equally -- exactly $39,606 on each -- that would come out to $1.66 for $1 or $3.32 for $2, rounded down to $3.20 (at Gulfstream -- in New York, it would be $3.30.)

jeff says: Any insight into the seemingly low exacta payoffs at Gulfstream? Perfect example is Saturday's 3rd race....$27 winner followed by the lukewarm 2/1 fav....$1 exacta pays $37.00??? I usually like playing exactas but GP is either taking out a huge %age...or somehow bettor's are pounding the eventual winning combo??

A $74 for $2 exacta payoff for a 12.50-1 winner over a 2.00-1 runner-up is well within normal parameters -- the combo "should" have paid right around $80 under Gulfstream's takeout structure if the horses were bet in precisely the same proportions in the exacta pool as they were in the win pool. Are you sure you're not confusing the $37-for-$1 with $74-for-$2? Blowing up the $27 win mutuel by 2.9 seems about right for a 2-1 shot, doesn't it? Not that this intuitive rule always works:

rich_hiller says: Can you do some checking on the pay outs of the La. Derby. I have been playing horses 40 years and I have never seen an Exacta pay so poorly on a big Saturday when the pools are large. I know Pyro won the race at 4/5 but he wasn't 1/9. The second place finisher was over sixty to one in the race and when he finished 2nd I thought no pay could be less than $125.00 for a $2.00 Exacta. When the pay was approximatly $81.00 for $2 I was astounded. Was there a computer malfunction?

Unlike the two previous cases, this is one where the payoff does seem low relative to the win odds, but it's a perfect example of how the real market works differently from a straight application of win odds.

At least the reader didn't think the exacta shoulda paid $216, the first expectation of some players when a $3.60 winner beats a 60-1 shot. You can't just multiply $3.60 by 60, because Pyro was not part of "the race for second" once he finished first. So the 60-1 shot is more like 32-1 once you subtrract Pyro from the equation.

So why didn't the exacta pay $3.60 x 32, or $115.20? I think the answer is that 60-1 shots and 32-1 shots are usually significantly lower prices in the exacta pools, due in large part to players who wheel and part-wheel. I don't think that 20-1 shots are used three times more often than 60-1 shots for second underneath favorites. Wheels and partwheels bring these horses much closer together in price.

It's also possible in this particular case that more tickets than usual attempted to beat some of the shorter-priced horses for second. There was good reason to be wary of third and fourth choices Tale of Ekati and Majestic Warrior, both making their season debuts in a two-turn stakes. The actual second choice in the race at 4.50-1 was J Be K, who in a sense was more likely either to win or finish off the board than run second -- you could take a shot on his wiring the field, but if he didn't get loose early, he was likelier to be unplaced than second. So if all these factors made My Pal Charlie more like 40-1 than 60-1 in the exacta pool, the payoff is understandable.

c says: Isn't possible that Daaher was never as good as he was hyped up to be? Let's face it, Midnight Lute was a spent horse going into the Cigar Mile, so his "Grade 1" victory there has to be looked at with some skepticism. Also, Forefathers was the second best horse in the Jerome. That gives you an idea about how good that field was. The more graded stakes they cram into the schedule, the more flashes in the pan we're going to see.

Daaher ran two dismal races this year at 2-5 that were so at odds with his previous races, it's difficult to believe he was physically at his best. We'll never know how really good he was, but his raw talent is undeniable. Maybe he had a glass jaw and never would have been able to withstand top-class early pressure, but when he had things his own way on the lead he was impressive both visually and against the clock. Tens of thousands of horses get loose on the lead every year but few of them run as fast as Daaher did in his Saratoga allowance, Jerome and Cigar Mile.

Download daaher.pdf

I also don't know why we can assume Midnight Lute was a "spent" horse going into the NYRA Mile. He ran pretty fast and was at a huge tactical disadvantage. It was nearly five lengths back from him to Naughty new Yorker, a ultiple stakes-winner and a horse you can set your watch by. I thought it was a solid race all around, and there was every reason to think Daaher would be a major player this year. Something clearly went awry.

richiebee says: While living in NO in the early 80s, I enjoyed shrimp and oyster po boys extensively,resulting in a cholesterol count which resembled a zip code. I'd never heard of a corned beef po boy. Could "cajun kosher" be the culinary wave of the future?

Maybe: http://www.koshercajun.com/menu.pdf

Upstate Joe More than 1 year ago
Gary, Although possibly mathematically correct, I think the example you used to determine that win betting is a "ridiculously bad wagering proposition" would only apply if you only had two horses in every race and had to bet on EVERY race. It is more likely one would only be inclined to bet when you feel one horse has an advantage. Also, horseracing is like poker where it is a game against other players not the house. Casino games like roulette guarantee long term losing. There are no professional roulette players that I am aware of. Bob, I was not aware that the breakage when to a charity, do you know what tracks do that? Also, I thought the breakage was always down to the nearest multiple of .20, except in NY thanks of course to Mr. Crist.
Freezy More than 1 year ago
stewart: Daaher has been retired, so he'll see no more one-turn miles... todd: The Beyer Figs take into account the relative speed of the racetrack. But I agree with you re: the trips/visual impression of Pyro. He's been goooood... daniel_fink: comparing War Pass to Bellamy Road at this point is pure folly. After a 2-year-old season in which he won races at Delaware & River Downs, then got plastered in a Keeneland Gr1, Bellamt Road wasn't even on anyone's top 100 list at this point of his 3-year-old year. Certainly War Pass is way ahead of that game to this point.
Wayne80 More than 1 year ago
I will book all of your money on Elysium Fields and War Pass right now. Load up fellas. Funny Cide was much further along than EF at this point. And War Pass will not get 10 furlong even if allowed to gallop alone loose on the lead, a highly unlikely scenario. Pyro is the horse to beat right now, but there are still a few potential challengers on the trail. You will all be talking Z Fortune tomorrow.
SamG More than 1 year ago
I liked Elysium Fields last race and he`s bred to run long but I would have bet more if he had been higher than 17-1.He`ll need to make a lot of progress in the next 2 months.
can man More than 1 year ago
Flip, Would be interested in what criteria you use for your "derby stats." Are they similar to the parameters that can be found on the courier-journal's website (Louisville's newspaper). I can't remember the name of it, but it is a searchable database that shows various stats for Derby contenders. I have found these to be useful in years past.
Daniel Fink More than 1 year ago
It's very hasty to be in love with the Derby chances of War Pass at this point. He couldn't be any more inspiring than '05 Derby hopeful Bellamy Road at this time of year, and could easily face similar circumstances that compromised Bellamy Road's Derby try. Emerging as the 5-2 Derby fave after winning his previous 2 races by 15 3/4 and 17 1/2 lengths (Wood Memorial and 120 Beyer)while on the rail, from post 16 Bellamy Road found himself 5 wide to the stretch before ultimately surrendering to the vastly different trip. The fundamental aspects of horses' performances (pace, position on the track relative to previous trips) aren't ready to be analyzed before the draw for posts.
HUD More than 1 year ago
I believe Daahar is retired Stew...You need to keep up with the news.
Stewart More than 1 year ago
Gocashbaby, the issue with Daaher is that he simply doesn't want 2 turns or anything further than a mile against decent competition, as he showed in the Queen's Plate last year and in his 2 races in 2008. A freshened Daaher, properly pointed for races like the Westchester and other one turn stakes in NY, will show his talent like he did in the Jerome and the Cigar Mile. It wouldn't surprise me a bit if the trainer tries him on the grass, given the series of one turn grass stakes at Belmont and Woodbine during the Summer and Fall.
todd More than 1 year ago
I was sitting around looking at the form with my brother, when he noted something about the Fairgrounds which must be mentioned: the 7f track record is 1:24, set back in 1915, according to the Daily Racing form. the record for 1 1/16th is 1:42.1 what is everyone killing pyro about? the track is basically a desert, and there are rarely any fast times run there. the fact that pyro overcame trouble in both his starts, and won for fun under a hnad ride, is much more compelling than the speed figures garnered at a very slow racetrack. IMHO
gocashbaby More than 1 year ago
I saw both the Queen's Plate and Prince of Wales in person and was astonished by the races Daaher ran after performing dismally against weak competition. Without getting too specific, I find his performances in those races a little hard to believe. It is hard to stomach him beating Midnight Lute with a 114 Beyer figure if you saw him run in those races. The horses that finished behind him at Woodbine and the Fort would have trouble winning a race at Finger Lakes. Doesn't anybody say "How did he do that?!?!" anymore. Do y'all just accept the results at face value like rubes? I, for one, do not.