04/25/2016 3:35PM

Bergman: Many flaws in following the morning line

Bettors react to the morning line and actual odds when wagering.

When we touched on the odds last week, it was with the idea that drivers should drive horses according to how they perceive the race to be contested as opposed to how bettors viewed the order of selection. Odds play an incredible part in the day-to-day running of a racetrack. In an era where there are so many multiple-race bets on a given program, gamblers have been known to handicap a few races and then add combinations based on morning line preference.

As someone that started in this business when there was ample time between races to handicap just one race, in today’s world with so much going on in front of you and so many win, exacta and triple wagers at your disposal, it’s no wonder that the attention of bettors wane in Pick 4s and 5s.

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Even daily doubles and Pick 3s are not immune from the betting public’s incredible reliance on the morning line as a tool when either time or attention span causes a player to go outside their own instincts and follow others.

The morning line has over time become what players believe to a valuable guide to the identity of the favorites in a particular race. Granted favorites don’t always win, but when playing a game with odds, most will choose those that have the odds in their favor as opposed to ones that don’t appear to belong.

The level of accuracy in morning lines is rather significant to those playing the game and especially to those playing multi-race bets. The pre-set odds can be the difference between a player putting in a horse in the third or fourth leg of a bet or throwing one out. When horses are set at odds of 15 or 20-1, they can often be left off a player’s ticket just because they appear to be “throw outs.”

With the industry trying to steer players into multi-race bets and especially those with carryovers, it is imperative that morning line accuracy is demanded to a high level.

The Meadowlands has done an excellent job of promoting its multi-race wagers. Pick 5s with carryover pools tend to activate bettors’ attention far and wide. Many of those people set the time aside to pore through each and every race and make a play based strictly on past performances. Some that have had their attention squeezed by other races and other tracks tend to rely heavily on the morning line hoping the odds laid out by the track handicapper will give them a realistic chance to cash a big bet.

But what if the morning line odds maker is really no better than those looking for his guidance? What if the pre-set odds guide the less sophisticated player in the wrong direction? Is that the type of advice we should be offering customers?

On Saturday (April 16) at the Meadowlands, only four of the 12 morning line favorites actually went off as the post time favorite. That’s a 66.6 percent failure rate. That is not to say The Meadowlands is the only track where the morning line can come up short.

Also on Saturday, Freehold Raceway and Mohawk had just 5 of 10 correct morning line favorites.

Of course, when the morning line can’t select the favorite with seamless accuracy there tends to be an inverted effect on the rest of the odds. Still, there should be few if any situations where a horse labeled at 15-1 or 20-1 in the morning line can come close to being the betting public choice. This error in judgment by the track oddsmaker (or computerized line) can make gamblers think they are being played with.

That’s right, public perception, while likely inaccurate, can be that the oddsmaker is purposely leading them off the track both literally and figuratively.

The impact of this unintentional misdirection is a player left in the third or fourth leg of a multi-race wager suddenly seeing the longshot in the morning line being played heavily.

Such was the case on Saturday night when Jacksrluckytoo, 20-1 in the morning line and racing in the sixth race, final leg of the Meadowlands early Pick 4, won the race for driver Jim Marohn Jr. and trainer Patti Harmon as the 5-1 third choice in the field. It is of less significance to the bettor that in this race the oddsmaker pegged the proper favorite in 1-2 shot Odds On Equuleus.

That 10-1 shot Transcending was the post time favorite at 9-5 in the second leg of the early Pick 4 probably didn’t bother that many people as he failed to hit the board.

The late Pick 4 was another misread proposition as in the eighth race Capozzo, admittedly not the same horse he was last year when he scorched the Meadowlands in 1:48 flat, was returning from a two-race freshening at Freehold for a non-winners of $5,000 conditioned race. The horse had routinely been at low odds at this level at the Meadowlands before his journey to Freehold. Tabbed at 20-1, Capozzo went off as a 2-1 choice.

To some at wagering outlets those following the morning line to such a fine degree deserve whatever they get. When the odds are assessed incorrectly there is room for others with finer opinions to profit. That has always been the nature of gambling on the sport of horse racing. We are in fact betting against others and their opinions, whether misguided of their own accord or led off the rails by others is a source of potential increased profit.

The lesson in today’s world for those serious about playing any multiple race wager is to take the time as far in advance as humanly possible and handicap the races without the morning line. There is no place for reliance on others. Realistically the game is still about selecting winners and just because the bet asks to Pick 3, 4 or 5 in succession, there is no reason to quit handicapping after the first and let someone else select the rest of the horses “you” like.