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Real Writing on Racing 💯
I seriously considered not writing today.
Yesterday I felt more frustrated than usual at the inept mess that the horse racing industry has become. This sentiment has sadly become the status quo for many both within and outside of the game. The trigger on this occasion was an occurrence that has become closer to the norm than an outlier, the late plunge of odds on a winner during the running of a race. It’s a plague on this sport and that it has rarely been addressed or even mentioned as an issue by the racing establishment shows a complete and utter disregard for the wagering public that actually breathes air.
I don’t want to hear the reasoning about why a horse “shouldn’t have been” a certain price, usually because based upon other pools, the win odds were out of whack. That is EXACTLY the scenario that sharp players should be looking for and it misses the point. When a horse loads into the starting gate at a price, the amount of time left for a human making a wager is running out. Once the last horse loads most jurisdictions will close the pools, at least they are closed to us. Now when you push the send button on your ADW bet 3 seconds before the last horse’s gate closes and the price on the horse you wagered on is 18-1…you should have a reasonable assumption that you are getting 18-1 or very close to that price.
Yet far too often you aren’t.
As the CAW (computer assisted wagers) money pours in at the last possible second in huge batches, the race is off before the final odds are calculated. Now the person who made their wager at 18-1, at the last possible second they are able to, has no idea if he will be getting that price anymore. Hell the price may go up though those cases are far less frequent. The damage beyond getting paid less, is one of lost confidence in something that we had come to believe was accurate and fair.
Essentially the tote board can’t be trusted.
Is this a simplified explanation? Yes. It’s more complex like most issues are…yet you shouldn’t need to be a mathematician of Carl Gauss-ian proportions to determine the odds on a win bet when the odds are listed for you…but now you can’t trust them. A regular person is being told they can’t just make a bet at the last possible moment, they are forced to sift through daily double payoffs to determine how inaccurate the tote board might possibly be? Yeah, yeah, yeah we get the efficiencies of the market and the different pools and probabilities and such but the end result is creating a wildly negative perception.
Perception is everything for a slumping industry that faces unprecedented competition in the marketplace where they had close to a monopoly for decades. Reality is that more and more longtime, everyday players are leaving for what they perceive to be greener pastures, even if the truth is that those sports wagering pastures aren’t all that green either. If you are a racing executive or own a track you should have figured out that the customers who gamble on your product are mostly cognizant of their delusion about winning. Deep down they know they aren’t going to be profitable in the long run but they enjoy the challenge of trying to beat the game in the short term. Yet when they lose even that tiny smidgeon of hope that they have a chance to outsmart the crowd here and there, when the enjoyment has faded…they don’t walk away, they run.
Racing is a very difficult game from every angle but when the winners aren’t happy, what exactly are we doing here?
🏆 Chez Pierre doesn’t run all that often but he had some good races on his resume coming into yesterdays Maker’s Mark Mile (Gr 1). Yet I’m not sure that anyone expected the blowout performance that he produced, wrecking the field going past the quarter pole and streaking down the lane to stop the clock at 1.33.46, a stakes record. There wasn’t that much early speed signed on and Chez Pierre was quick to the lead from the gate, setting reasonable fractions heading down the backside. In what is reminiscent of a standardbred race at the Meadowlands, Dr Zempf and Tyler Gafflione powered by him to the front heading to the half mile marker before Flavian Prat asked Chez Pierre to retake the top going into the far turn. From there it didn’t matter what odds on favorite Modern Games or second choice Up to the Mark did from there, Chez Pierre blitzing the last quarter in 22.66 made him impossible to catch. Modern Games chased futilely throughout as he never really appeared to be a danger to the winner while gutting it out over Up to the Mark to be second though the bizarre camera work now employed by Keeneland didn’t allow TV viewers to see most of his battle for the place spot.
🌟 Frankie Dettori…still got it!
💰Going in Circles Digest Keeneland “play of the day” from Barry ‘Sniper’ Spears
Lexington (Gr III) $400,000 3yo 8.5 furlongs (20 KD pts)
Baseline Beater - at a style disadvantage here as a deep closer at Keeneland in a short stretch race. Needs a pace meltdown
Reinvest - he just looks too slow
Demolition Duke - had issues leaving the gate in both starts (the 2023 issue of the season is gate problems) but ran very well after that. Paired up 4 TG which is faster than a lot of horses heading to the Derby. Obviously a clean break will help but has to be considered a major player here.
Transect - adds blinkers and the last could be tossed but he doesn’t look fast enough to contend here
First Mission - destroyed maidens last out at FG though the runner up showed nothing in his next start, St Johns in yesterday’s finale. Sounds like a broken record but obvious contender from Cox outfit.
Disarm - this is only a “Derby prep” for him as he alone can win and qualify but it is a $400k graded stakes race so running in it isn’t some bizarre decision. He can win but isn’t really that much faster on figs than several others and I’m not crazy about him on short rest after moving up quite a bit from his season debut.
Denington - ludicrously wide trip in the La Derby (Gr II) along with soft pace gave him impossible task. Like the switch back to Hernandez, should have pace to run into and these are the spots at long odds where McPeek is dangerous in Kentucky.
Empirestrikesfast - gelding won a strong MSW at GP last month, defeating Wood 3rd place finisher Dreamlike in the process. Earned a TG 7 which won’t win this but a move forward second time out for this barn wouldn’t be a surprise. Gets Frankie and will likely be overbet making him a tough play for me
Prairie Hawk - will have some backers who will point to Tapit Trice and Lord Miles and call the Tampa Bay Derby a key race. They may not be wrong but he has to be a lot better than he has been and I’m not willing to bet on that.
Curly Larry and Mo - his best TG fig was first time out on the dirt back at Saratoga. Assuming he will be sent to the lead though with Arabian Lion in here he likely won’t get the opportunity to try to steal it.
Arabian Lion - the “other” Arabian horse in the Baffert holster doesn’t have the same firepower as Arabian Knight, likely the best of this crop though clearly not the hardiest of the group. However this guy has to be considered a contender here, he figures to get a stalking trip under Irad, a rare occasion where he and Baffert team up. His numbers are erratic and he will likely be over bet but on his best he can beat this bunch.
Apple Blossom (Gr I) $1,000,000 FM4&up 8.5 furlongs
Secret Oath - came back with huge effort, a lifetime top TG of 0.5 and will be the prohibitive favorite here. She has reacted negatively from tops in the past, draws the rail here and will be inside of Clairiere with Gafflione expected to keep his eye on that one as they play a cat and mouse game. I mean you can take 3-5 on her if you’d like but I am way more skeptical than you’d ordinarily expect about an odds on fav.
Hot and Sultry - her name describes Norm Casse’s Oaklawn meet this season as he has been on fire since the beginning. This filly ran great in her first foray around two turns in the Azeri (Gr II) and looks to be loose on the lead here. She needs to fire her absolute best shot but has done nothing but improve under Casse’s care and is very dangerous
I Feel the Need - Burl McBride May only be batting 6% on the year but he knows an easy 50k paycheck when he see it
Clairiere - Rosario is well aware of the situation here and likely will be sending her away from the gate to sit off of Secret Oath’s flank, hoping to out kick her in the lane. She needs to put in her Shuvee slow pace effort not her CCA Oaks slow pace effort.
The Lexington of Lexingtons! The 1988 version with Risen Star squaring off against Forty Niner!
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