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Steven Crist: Some Fourstar hedging advice for the $15K winner
In his day job, Adam McNeill of Saratoga Springs dispenses investment advice as a financial planner with a local firm. On Saturday at Saratoga Race Course, where he won a drawing to make a free $15,000 win bet on the Fourstardave Handicap, he may want to consider some investment advice from more seasoned horseplayers: Hedge your bet.
Personally, I think that if you win $15,000 in free wagers, you should be able to bet it however you want – put it all to show on Wise Dan at a likely $2.10 for $2 and walk away with $15,750, or play it even safer and bet the entire field to win in varying amounts so that you would lose the 16 percent win takeout but go home with $12,600 no matter how the race turns out. However, under the rules of the ongoing contest – a different random patron gets chosen on each of five Saturdays as part of the Saratoga 150 anniversary celebration – one must bet the entire enchilada on one horse to win.
Last week’s winner had to select one horse and only one horse in the Whitney. He spent the week agonizing whether to go with Fort Larned or Cross Traffic, and this being the racetrack you know how that story turned out, whether or not you saw the race. The moment of truth came and he went with Fort Larned, who ran fifth as the 6-5 favorite while Cross Traffic won and paid $9.10. What would have been so terrible about letting him bet $10,000 on Fort Larned and $5,000 on Cross Traffic so he could have walked away with $22,750 instead of nothing but indigestion from second-guessing himself?
So McNeill must bet one horse to win in the Fourstardave and he would be crazy not to bet it on Wise Dan, not only because he is by far the most likely winner but also because putting the big free bet on the heavy favorite will allow him to hedge. This may not seem to be in the spirit of the thing, but there is no reason for him to go home empty-handed, or with nothing but a baseball cap and a sad story, if the reigning Horse of the Year is upset.
Here’s what he could do to guarantee keeping some of that free money: Bet the free $15,000 on Wise Dan, which will get him back $24,000 if he wins and pays $3.20, $22,500 if he wins and pays $3.00, or $21,000 if he wins and pays $2.80. Then he could take something like $8,000 of personal funds – I’m sure his firm could lend it to him if he doesn’t have it on hand, since this is a foolproof investment – and bet Wise Dan’s six opponents in varying amounts to get at least $15,000 if any one of them wins.
It would work something like this: Bet $2,200 on King Kreesa and Lea at 6-1 each to get back a minimum of $15,400 (he would get more if 6-1 turns out to be $15.80 instead of $14); bet $1,700 to win on Za Approval at 8-1 to get back at least $15,300; $1,400 on Mr. Commons at 10-1 for at least $15,400; $1,000 on Skyring at 15-1 ($16,000), and $500 on Willyconker at 30-1 ($15,500).
That’s a personal investment of $8,000 and yes, that means he’d “profit” on the $15,000 “stake” by only $7,000 to $9,000 if there’s an upset, and walk away “only” $16,000 to the good, instead of $24,000, if Wise Dan wins at 3-5. But isn’t that better than going home with nothing but a free lunch, a Saratoga baseball cap, and a sad story if Wise Dan loses?
As for all the debate about whether Wise Dan should be running in Grade 2 turf miles such as the Firecracker and Fourstardave instead of the Whitney or the Woodward and eventually the Breeders’ Cup Classic, I think some fans and the gelding’s defensive owner, Morton Fink, are missing the point. Fink is not obligated to run Wise Dan in the country’s best and most important races, and if he wants to try to keep winning the same turf miles every year, that’s entirely his prerogative.
What he can’t do is assume that redundant campaigns entitle Wise Dan to retain his Horse of the Year title year after year, because that ignores the fact that Wise Dan got the award somewhat by default last year, and I say that having voted for him. Had Game On Dude won the Classic or had Point of Entry won the Turf, either would have been more deserving.
This is no knock at all on Wise Dan, a very good racehorse, but by staying within a narrow band and running only on America’s secondary surface, his accomplishments in turf miles will by definition not match up with those of classic-distance horses at year’s end unless there is chaos among the best 10-furlong dirt horses and turf routers.
I bet $15 on Wise Dan to win. I'm happy with the result.
The connections of Wise Dan and Game on Dude have found a way to make their horses a bunch of money. And they should be criticized for this? Their horses have each won 12 graded stakes, 6 grade 1s, and millions of dollars, but yet we demand that their connections deviate from what they know works and from what makes them a lot of money? If a football team was able to gain 10 yards on every rushing attempt, would we demand that they call some pass plays to make their performance more aesthetically pleasing or for the sake of "sportsmanship"? If the team can win by only having to run the ball, it doesn't have to prove that it could win passing if need be; a win's a win. If one dissects the form of Wise Dan and Game on Dude race by race I think that one will find that the horses were usually exactly where they were supposed to be. Going back to late 2011, Wise Dan closed the year running in and winning the gr.1 Clark at 9 furlongs on dirt. Hard to fault that. He then began 2012 by romping in the gr.3 Ben Ali on synth. It was his first start of the year and thus totally appropriate. He then runs 2nd in the gr.1 Foster on dirt. No complaints. After that, they decide to focus on turf miles; and they hit a bunch of the biggies in the division. The Fourstardave is only a grade 2, but it carries a big purse and will likely be upgraded to a grade 1 in the next few years. From there, Dan then won the $1 million gr.1 Woodbine Mile, then the gr.1 Shadwell, and then the BC Mile. Hard to fault that. And for 2 races to start a new campaign, it's hard to fault the choice of the gr.1 Makers 46 and the gr.1 Turf Classic at Churchill; the Turf Classic might be the 2nd most important middle distance turf race outside the BC Mile. The only valid criticism of Wise Dan's campaign is the choice of the Firecracker for his 3rd start this year and maybe going to the Fourstardave again this year. The Firecracker was curious not only because it's a grade 2 but because it's a cheaper grade 2(unlike the Fourstardave). Furthermore, there were more prestigious and richer alternatives to the Firecracker, such as the gr.1 Shoemaker the same day and the Foster a few weeks earlier. Running in the Fourstardave has generated some criticism because it still is just a grade 2, and there are really enticing alternatives like the Whitney, Arlington Million, and Pacific Classic, 3 races with gr.1 status and bigger purses. To summarize, the only criticism that I believe to be valid concerning Wise Dan's schedule the last few years is the choice to run in the Firecracker and maybe the Fourstardave(this year). Thus, it's only the most recent races run during the last few months that should raise public ire. So, it's completely unfair to Fink for one to make it seem like these last 2 races were part of a larger "soft" schedule or just the most recent examples of a long running trend to avoid elite competition.
and how is this relevant to anyone whatsoever?
I can feel how the hard core fan with a clear memory is looking for a hero like John Henry. The problem with high stakes racing is there are too many opportunities to make the big $$. If there were only a half a dozen races on any surface with purses exceeding $250K, the big horses would have to be more adaptable and race more frequently and challenge the best in order to make the big $$. But that's not the world we live in. If you are looking for true racing heroes, there is no need. There are none. We made a "king" out of a "queen" (Zenyatta) and she won most of her races at the same three tracks against the same three horses. True racing fans best quit looking for heroes and just be glad the sport exists at all.
And just when you think the Saturday card can't get any worse than last week, you get this awful card. Terrible by Saratoga's standards. One high quality race with a 1/5 shot and nothing else remotely interesting.
MR COMMONS TO WIRE THE FIELD UNDER EDGAR YEAH BABY!!
Is the $15,000 actually pushed through the pool or are these wagers paper bets only covered by insurance. The latter would explain why these bets can't be broken up, actuarially speaking.
I wouldn't bet it on Wise Dan to win, period. He is the modern-day "Cigar" for sure, but I was not impressed mathematically with his last race...and he didn't really beat anybody in it. However, I did enjoy watching him "buffalo" his way into the lead during stretch run by finding some narrow daylight against the hedge. Racing secretaries keep adding more weight for him to carry. He's got one more pound added to what he carried in the Firecracker. Not that the additional 1 pound will be his downfall. It is age combined with the wear and tear of racing. I think Dan has his work cut out for him in this one. Originally, I thought that Lea would provide the most opposition. But I am concerned that his run in the Firecracker...albeit on a yielding turf surface that may not have been to his liking...was hot even close to his previous race. The other concern that I have is that he shows a gap in his workouts between July 22nd and August 5th. This leads me to King Kreesa. He has led every call in each of his last 2 races; only a horse that is truly in shape can lead every call. The other plus factor for him is that his last race...according to my mathematical formula...is slightly better than Wise Dan's Firecracker. I am not betting personally, as this one is for spectating and not speculating. However, if I had to wager the contest money on this race it would all be on King Kreesa. For those of us that would be tempted to wager on an exotic in this race, don't count out Skyring. His last race was only for exercise as this was his first race in almost 2 months. Being up close during the initial segments of his last race sets him up nicely for this. Could be a huge upset for a price (as any horse making his 2nd start after a layoff must always be considered).
Mr. Fink should be allowed to campaign his horse how he chooses. He has a great business mind and my understanding is he wants to maximize profit keep things conservative like he has in his business life, etc. However, I do not understand the logic behind the WD campaign based on the assumption that Mr. Fink isn't going broke or in financial trouble. IF he doesn't need the money then why not take a shot at something great? IF WD fails so be it, he has already proven himself on some level winning the HOY eclipse as essentially a mile turfer. Although I wish Mr. Fink many more years of good health;I believe now would be the time to take on added risk if you were ever going to.
Well said, Steve,