05/07/2014 3:49PM

Pandolfo: In search of a better morning line


The morning line is supposed to show where the money is going to go. An accurate morning line maker will give you a good idea of which horse will be the favorite, and which horses will be longshots. There's a mathematical formula that the line maker should follow to ensure that the line is mathematically feasible. Most use 120 points, since the takeout is roughly 20%. If you see a line like this, 2-1, 5-2, 3-1, 7-2, 4-1, 9-2, 5-1, 10-1, you know that whoever made the line, doesn't know what he's doing, because this line equals 170 points. This means that the horses can't possibly go off at those odds.

Many tracks have poor morning lines. When a track has a bad morning line, it reflects poorly on the track. The morning line is a service the track provides for its customers. The line is important, especially for new customers and novices.

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TrackMaster has come up with an automated line that's available to harness tracks free of charge. They started working on this about a year ago. This year, TrackMaster and the USTA finalized the project, and as of March 2014, the free service was available to member tracks.

TrackMaster developed a computer algorithm that analyzes 75 different variables, and through a process called linear regression, creates a morning line. There were also 9 different categories of data reflecting different track sizes. This also allows the program to differentiate pace and race classes. Races with a bunch of first time starters have to be handled differently than your basic $10,000 claimer. Basically, it's a lot of number crunching.

TrackMaster then compared their morning line with the existing morning lines. This ongoing test covers several hundred-thousand races. The first test was the entire year of 2011. They compared their morning line and the morning lines that the tracks were using, to the actual final odds.

I have the results for the entire year of 2011. Out of 82 tracks, TrackMaster's automated morning line beat the host track's ML at 66 tracks. Out of the 16 tracks that did a little better than the TrackMaster line, only one of those 16 tracks, Cal Expo, actually races a long meet. The other 14 tracks are small tracks that run short meets.

The results for the tracks that race long meets are impressive. At Balmoral, Dover Downs, Freehold, Hoosier, Hazel, The Meadows, Maywood, Monticello, Northfield, Pocono Downs, Pompano, Yonkers, and most other tracks, TrackMaster's morning line was more accurate, and in many cases, much more accurate. In case you're wondering, in 2011, the Meadowlands morning line beat the TrackMaster morning line by a very small margin; it was basically a tie.

I looked at the statistics. I have no bias and I'm not affiliated with TrackMaster. But, from the stats I've seen, TrackMaster's automated morning line is consistently better at virtually every harness track that runs a regular meet, and in many cases, it's a much better line.

This service is available free of charge. Any racetrack can use the line. Since the service is computerized, the line is generated in 10 to 15 seconds.

Tracks that would like to use this free service can contact Sherry Antion-Mohr at the USTA or David Siegel (dsiegel@trackmaster.com). According to Trackmaster’s website, Yonkers Raceway was the first track to utilize the new system in April.

[Editor’s Note: According to track officials, Yonkers has not used the Trackmaster morning line for its live program but is currently running beta tests.]

There are some tracks that have a knowledgeable and qualified person doing their morning line. But based on the statistics TrackMaster has compiled, not many. It would be good if most of the tracks used this service. It's creates uniformity and consistency, and helps to provide a better experience for Harness Racing's customers.

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.