10/27/2017 10:46AM

Fornatale: Value much more than price in contest world


Value is one of the most misused terms in racing. Too often, when you hear a racing fan talk about a horse being “value,” he simply means the horse is a longshot. Being a longshot does not make a horse value. A favorite can easily offer more value than a longshot.

The defining characteristic of a horse that offers value is that his chance of winning is greater than the implied probability of his odds. For example, the implied probability of an even-money shot winning is 50 percent. If that even-money horse has a 60 percent of winning, he is tremendous value, despite being a shorty.

In mythical contest play, value exists in the traditional sense but its meaning also morphs into something else. This is because within the ecosystem of a contest, there are a finite amount of points available. This means that not all points are created equal. Within the contest, points that you have that others do not have are essentially worth more – not on the leaderboard itself of course but within the context of the contest. Put another way, when you get points that others don’t have, you not only move up the leaderboard, you move up alone.

What are the best ways to move up alone? There are two main ways of achieving this.

One good way to move up alone involves over-cap horses. Typically speaking, in mythical contest play, wins are caped at 20-1 and place at 10-1. If you like a 30-1 shot that wins, in one sense you’re not getting full credit for it. The horse can return $64 and $32, but you only get $64, not $96. Some players think this is a reason to avoid playing over-cappers, because they’re not as likely to provide value in the traditional sense discussed above. But there’s another way to look at this equation. Because many players avoid these over-cappers, and because they’re so darn difficult to find, they actually provide extra value within the contest. If you hit one, especially early in a contest, you are very likely to move up alone. The cap means that you probably won’t win with just one horse, but you’re likely to be out on a loose lead and difficult to run down.

The converse of this is easier to execute but can be every bit as powerful. Many contest players are favorite averse and understandably so. It’s very hard to string together enough chalk to make a meaningful contest run. And even if you miss when a favorite wins, it’s easy to say to yourself, “Chalk won, no harm done.” But as with so many things in the contest world, there’s another way to look at the situation.

If you can catch points on a favorite, even just $5, there are many, many times where that $5 is going to be the difference between winning and losing. Ask any experienced player what he or she might be willing to spend in cash at the end of a tourney to get those extra $5. The answer is an awful lot in a world where $500,000-plus has been decided by less than $2 mythical.

In live mythical play (as opposed to all-in), those extra $5 can mean even more. In addition to keeping you off the bubble (the money line or cut line), that money can put you in a far better position strategically. Maybe those points are the difference between being able to play the horse you want rather than the one you need in the anchor leg. Or maybe they leapfrog you over a tight band of contenders, making you the blocker rather than the blockee come the endgame.

In the contest world, a big part of value is moving up alone.