01/24/2013 3:51PM

Dave Tuley: ROI talks to Las Vegas horseplayers

Tom Keyser
Little Mike's win mutuels in 2012 included $36.60 in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita and $26.40 in the Turf Classic at Churchill Downs, totaling $78 in seven starts for a return on investment for every $2 bet on him of $11.14.

LAS VEGAS – Welcome to the 13th annual ROI Awards.

The Eclipse Awards were held at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla., last Saturday to honor the best in our sport. While we in Vegas politely applaud the athletic ability of the champion horses, we horseplayers cheer loudest for our money.

ROI stands for return on investment, and for our purposes it refers to the average payoff you would have received if you had wagered $2 to win on each of a horse’s races this past year. Since these are national awards, only horses who ran at major U.S. simulcast tracks that attracted sizable betting pools were considered, with a heavy emphasis on stakes races.

The fact is that the top horses usually get pounded at the windows and don’t offer the best bang for our buck, so that’s why we started the ROI Awards. Now, there are exceptions, and it takes a special horse to win both an Eclipse and an ROI Award. I predict that by the end of the decade that both awards will be hosted here in Vegas and we can all celebrate together (but we’ll save that discussion for another day).

So, without further ado, the envelopes please . . .

Older male: We always like to start the show with a category that really illustrates what we’re looking for in an ROI Awards winner and what makes us different from the Eclipse Awards. Wise Dan won the Eclipse for older male and turf male and was named Horse of the Year, but his five winning payoffs were $3.60, $5, $3.10, $3.20, and $5.60. You add those together and divide by his six races and get an ROI of $3.42 for every $2 wagered. On the other hand, Little Mike didn’t win a single Eclipse despite 4 stakes wins in 7 races, but his win mutuels were $36.60 in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita, $26.40 in the Turf Classic at Churchill on the Kentucky Derby undercard, plus a $9.80 payoff in the Arlington Million and $5.20 in the Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream. That’s a total of $78 in seven starts for an ROI of $11.14 and our award in this division.

Older female: This was our tightest division this year with a lot of chalky results. Love and Pride had an ROI of $4.48 (highlighted by a 10-1 win in the Personal Ensign Handicap at Saratoga) and Love Theway Youare had an ROI of $4.75 (entirely from an 18-1 score in the Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park), but they were both edged out by Include Me Out with an ROI of $4.77 from seven starts that included a top payoff of $19 in the La Canada Stakes at Santa Anita.

2-year-old male: We try to not give ROI Awards to horses who make just one North American start, but do so when there’s not another standout in the division (and especially if the one-hit wonder is on Breeders’ Cup Weekend when everyone is focused on those races). Such is the case with the 2-year-old males. Rolling Fog had a very respectable ROI of $10.30 from his two wins in a maiden special weight ($4) and the Del Mar Futurity ($16.60), but he was trumped by George Vancouver’s score of $20.60 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, so George Vancouver invades and steals the ROI Award.

2-year-old female: The same thing happened in this division. Sign and Seaneen Girl had respectable ROIs of $12.90 and $11.52, respectively, but we give the nod to Flotilla with her $24.80 score and ROI in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.

Female sprinter: This division was decided earlier than usual when Emma’s Encore won the Victory Ride at Belmont back on July 7 at odds of 39-1. She had three more wins on the year and total earning of $108 from nine starts for a solid ROI of $12.

Male sprinter: Poseidon’s Warrior also clinched his ROI Award early, winning the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga on Aug. 5 at 36-1. He ended up 1 for 6 on the year, but his overall ROI of 12.42 still blew away 13-1 BC Sprint winner Trinniberg ($7.38) and Next Question ($6.75).

Turf female: This was a hotly contested division until Better Lucky won the Matriarch at Hollywood Park on Nov. 25 at 35-1 to blow away the competition with an ROI of $12.

Turf male: Joshua Tree returned $10.70 as the winner of the Canadian International at Woodbine in his lone North American start, and King David had an ROI of $10.06 from nine starts highlighted by a 28-1 score in the Jamaica Handicap at Belmont, but they were both topped by Little Mike’s $11.14 as he wins his second ROI Award of the night.

3-year-old female: This was a pretty chalky division with Questing ($4.37), Contested ($2.98) and My Miss Aurelia ($2.70) winning a lot of the key races as heavy favorites, but Believe You Can separated from the bunch with her 13-1 score in the Kentucky Oaks and finished with an ROI of $7.32 from five starts.

3-year-old male and ROI Horse of the Year: Here is the exception to the rule that says an Eclipse winner is unlikely to win an ROI Award since their odds are usually too low. I’ll Have Another started his year with a 43-1 upset in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes. That alone would have won this division, but then he won the Santa Anita Derby at 4-1, the Kentucky Derby at 15-1, and the Preakness at 3-1. His total payoffs equaled $140 from four starts for an out-of-this-world ROI of $35 for every $2 wagered and he’s our runaway winner of the ROI Horse of the Year Award.

That’s it for this year’s honors. Have another drink (not cookie), and be sure to tip your waitress.