06/11/2015 10:26AM

Pandolfo: Importance of Return on Investment


As a horse player, there are always two factors that have to be weighed. One is win percentage. The other is R.O.I. Interestingly enough, the two of these often contradict each other. For example, a bet on every horse driven by the leading driver is usually a losing proposition while bets on a driver who is winning at less than 10% may be showing a profit.

But when you compare win percentage to R.O.I (measure of your profit/loss), the latter is much more important. In harness racing, picking a high percentage of winners isn't that difficult. The percentage of winning favorites on some half mile harness tracks is as high as 46% and several tracks are between 42 and 44%. So if you tell me that you had 5 winners on a 12-race card at one of these half mile tracks, I hope you're not bragging, because unless those winners returned more than $24.00, I'm not impressed.

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R.O.I. is often substantially increased by one or two big longshot winners.  Generally speaking, I think you have to carefully evaluate the odds. Even though favorites win at a higher percentage than they used to, there are still a lot of bad favorites.

At the Meadowlands so far this year, the favorites are winning at 39%. Let's look at a particular horse that has been racing recently. Saturday night (June 6) at the Meadowlands, a horse named Whittaker won the 13th race, a $10,000 claiming race.

In his last start on May 29, Whittaker had gone off as the 3-2 favorite. This was a particularly bad bet because you just can't take that short of a price on a horse like Whittaker, a 7-year-old horse that only had seven career wins coming into that race. But let's analyze the losing performance. Whittaker had post eight. As I've written many times, when a horse is the favorite, the driver often uses the horse hard. It's not the driver's fault. With the public betting the horse down to favoritism, the driver has to get the horse into contention and sometimes that means using the horse too hard. The driver may want to race off the pace and try to get a trip, but he knows that if he fails to enter contention some fans may complain to management. He could end up getting fined or suspended. That's why you have to be careful when you bet a favorite. If you don't think the horse is capable of overcoming a tough trip, don't bet it. Always ask these questions when betting a favorite: Can this horse win first over? Can this horse make two moves to the lead and win? If your answer is yes, it's probably a good favorite. If you bet a favorite because you think it’s going to get a nice pocket trip, bad bet. Favorites are only good bets when you think they are much the best, period.

In the May 29th race, Whittaker left and was used hard parked to a 27-second first quarter. He set the pace under second half pressure and tired to finish fifth. In the losing effort, Whittaker paced his final quarter in 28 1/5. It wasn't a bad effort. That night only two horses went wire to wire.

Last Saturday, June 6, Whittaker came back in a similar field but this time he drew post one. With his regular driver out of town, Whittaker picked up Eric Goodell. This time the odds were 9.50-1. Goodell left, yielded to the 7/5 favorite, sat the pocket and nailed the win in the final strides, paying $21.00.

Some people will say that Whittaker raced better. But he actually paced about the same race as the week before. But, instead of a 27-second first quarter, he went 27 4/5 to the quarter. In this race, he paced his last quarter in 27 2/5. See what happened? His first quarter was 4/5's of a second slower and his last quarter was 4/5's of a second faster. He was the same horse, he raced the same race. The only difference was the trip. Saturday night he got away with a slower first quarter and responded with a faster final quarter.

But the main difference was the odds. Every horse has its price. Whittaker is no world beater. But, he does the best he can with what God gave him. I don't have a problem betting Whittaker, or other typical raceway horses, if the price is right! But when you bet a favorite, you want to bet on a killer. And the shorter the odds, the more ferocious the horse better be. With a horse like Whittaker, you want a price.

To find out more about Pandy’s handicapping theories check out his www.trotpicks.com or www.handicappingwinners.com websites, his free picks at handicapping.ustrotting.com/pandycapping.cfm or write to Bob Pandolfo, 3386 Creek Road, Northampton, PA 18067.