JC / Railbird

Wagering

Increased Purses, Reduced Takeout

Citing the success of their September 5 program, Suffolk Downs announced the addition of a stakes race, purse increases for Mass-bred stakes, and promoted reduced takeout of 15% for all wagers on the October 3 card.

Saturday’s Suffolk Return

Live horse racing returns to Suffolk Downs this Saturday, the first of three days scheduled this fall at the East Boston track, with a 13-race card worth $507,500 in purses that drew 111 entries. One race is over hurdles, five are on turf, three are Massachusetts-bred stakes, and two are written for horses who started at least once at Suffolk Downs in 2014. First post is 12:30 PM ET.

Horses with local connections fill the fields — a full 77 starters are state-breds, ran at the track last year, or are owned or trained by familiar names, including Jay Bernardini and Bobby Raymond. Last year’s leading rider David Amiss is back, as is jockey Tammi Piermarini, who has 10 mounts, including for trainers Christophe Clement, Gary Contessa, and David Jacobson.

In the state-bred stakes: 2014 Rise Jim winner Victor Laszlo returns to defend his title, as does 2014 Isadorable winner Doublicious in that race. Plausible, winner of the 2014 Norman Hall, starts in the African Prince.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission approved on Thursday a reduction in Suffolk Downs’ takeout rates. All wagers on the October 3 and 31 cards — but not on this Saturday’s card — will be 15%, down from 19% on straight bets and 26% on exotics. Matt Hegarty raises the possibility that simulcasting sites may balk at the drop. “It’s certainly a concern,” Lou Raffeto told him:

… when asked whether simulcast sites will bite the bullet. “I think they will, because it’s in the best interests of the horseplayers. And really it’s not like we’re Saratoga or Del Mar, running all summer. It’s two days. It shouldn’t be a big deal.”

With luck, this little horseplayer-friendly experiment will goose some interest.

Buck Up

Shying from picking American Pharoah? Dick Jerardi understands (DRF+):

The near Triple Crown misses have collectively psyched us all out. I definitely include myself in that group.

When you see Smarty Jones run maybe the best race of his life and get beat, and you see Big Brown get eased, and you see California Chrome get stepped on at the start, get trapped on the rail and get beat, you would not be human if you did not at least consider the history that also includes Spectacular Bid getting a ridiculous ride, Silver Charm doing everything but win, and Real Quiet winning for all but the final stride.

For sure! But the Belmont Stakes has also been a great race for playing against the favorite in recent years. The last post-time favorite to win was Afleet Alex in 2005, and only short-priced Union Rags (the second favorite to 3-2 Dullahan) in 2012 disturbs the string of double-digits since:


Winning favorites are indicated by a gray background.

For that matter, Curlin in 2007 was the last favorite to finish second.

American Pharoah is 3-5 on the morning line for the Belmont Stakes, which drew a field of eight, and if the public sticks to its Triple Crown wagering ways, it’ll be as “incorrigibly optimistic” as ever about his chances.

Root for history, bet for cashing.

6/5/15 Addendum: More on playing against from Ted McClelland:

If you want to go for an even bigger payoff, spend $84 to box all the challengers in the exacta…. In Triple Crown attempts since 1987, when the exacta was introduced, that strategy would have cost $1,284 and returned $5,119 — a 299 percent return.

6/8/15 Update: American Pharoah’s win added to the chart above. He’s the first favorite to win since Afleet Alex. His win pay is the lowest this century. The betting public looks pretty smart this year.

The Right Side

So, here’s a feature idea I’ve been kicking around — an occasional series called “You’re Doing It Right,” calling out instances in horse racing of good work. For example, Woodbine choosing to replace its Polytrack surface with Tapeta, because it makes sense for their racing program and business goals. Or NYRA, for whatever it’s doing to deliver a sharp, never-buffering high-definition video feed of its races across its digital platforms. Or TimeformUS, for its upcoming faster and more responsive relaunch and the backend development involved in making that happen. (I got a peek; you’ll want to check it out.)

Or Kentucky Downs, which edged out Keeneland — the leader for six years running — in the 2015 edition of the Horseplayers Association track ratings by offering full fields and lower takout:

“… Kentucky Downs has definitely given horseplayers something to get excited about,” said HANA President Jeff Platt. “Despite the short meet, the ratings algorithm does not discriminate when it comes to value; Kentucky Downs has it and horseplayers have been responding.”

Complete rankings are in this month’s Horseplayers Association magazine (PDF). There’s also a terrific interview in it with Andrew Beyer about carryovers, jackpots, and the grind of the modern game, plus seven questions for several players and handicappers. (Including me. Thanks, HANA!)

Figuring

The March edition of HANA’s monthly newsletter is now out, and it includes two great interviews, one with jockey Julien Leparoux, and the other with Dana Byerly talking about Horse Racing Data Sets, the site she launched last month for sharing data. I’m biased, but HRDS is swiftly becoming a good, useful resource — the most recent addition to the site is a spreadsheet from Brisnet containing 25 years of winning speed and class ratings, which I’ve just begun exploring for possible Kentucky Derby implications.

Somewhat related: TimeformUS posted their winning figures for the last five years of Triple Crown race preps. You can find Beyer speed figures for the same races since 2010 in the Derby prep schedule (the column labeled “BSF”).

HANA’s newsletter also includes a short primer on churn, which Lonnie Goldfeder recommends setting a goal for each day you play. Goldfeder’s latest column at Daily Racing Form is about staying sharp; it’s a reminder that wagering, like any discipline, requires a commitment to practice.

← Before