JC / Railbird


Tools of the Trade

Bill Christine’s search for a Kelco put me in mind of my favorite piece of handicapping ephemera, a volvelle for assessing value called the Raceometer:

The 1940 Race-o-Meter

“The more green the better the bet!” Handy, but at 10 cents a race, pricey.

The 1940 Race-o-Meter

I’ve been on the lookout for more Raceometers, but all I’ve found so far is a similarly named wheel chart, the Race-o’Meter (note the odd apostrophe), produced by the Southern California Research Company in 1948:

The 1948 Race-o-Meter

Unlike the Raceometer, a tool for betting, the Race-o’Meter considers eight factors to create individual horse ratings. “Be sure you have a racing form before you when use you the Race-o’Meter,” advises the instructions:

The 1948 Race-o-Meter

It’s science! Beginning in the 1930s and continuing into the 1970s, “scientific” and “scientifically” were favored adjectives of marketers hawking handicapping systems and methods. In 1933, as defined in “Systology: The Science of Wagering Upon Horse Races,” a compendium of eight chart-heavy betting systems, “scientific” meant the complete eradication of individual judgment. “By the use of ‘Systology,’ the human equation is removed from wagering,” wrote the authors. “It leaves nothing to the imagination.” (How dull.) In 1961, “Science in Betting” assured its readers that it would tout no “miraculous betting-system,” instead, it would teach bettors how to use “scientifically collected” data, “which if applied intelligently can work consistently and accurately.” Just like the Race-o’Meter claimed, and most likely, the Kelco.

California Complication

Oh, California. In an industry roiling coast to coast, the turmoil out west is something else. Handle is down more than $77 million at Santa Anita. Too few horses cause canceled days. Horseplayers are in revolt. “In my opinion,” bettor Andy Asaro told Art Wilson, “the CHRB leadership has failed California racing.” The matter of who’s leading is about to get more complicated: A new group called the California Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association issued a press release last night challenging the standing of the Thoroughbred Owners of California as the official group representing owners’ interests in the state.

Time for True Payouts

Steven Crist:

The argument against providing true payouts like $2.06 or $2.39 has always centered on the flimsy issue of forcing mutuel clerks to deal with pennies. The real issue is that all those confiscated pennies add up to several million dollars a year in each of the largest racing jurisdictions …

In an age where most of the handle is bet offtrack and increasingly through wagering accounts where no one is counting out small change, it is time to re-examine these policies. A horseplayer whose $2.39 payoff is being knocked down to $2.20 is having a 47 percent rounding tax applied to his rightful winnings – on top of a 15-to-20 percent takeout.

Ending breakage should be as much an issue as shrinking takeout.

Save Horses! Mug Horseplayers!

Let’s stop this idea in its tracks now:

Violette said there has been discussion about dedicating one-tenth of one percent of New York’s handle to retirement programs, which would need legislative approval. This would generate about $2.2-million per year.

“That way everybody that participates in racing — handicappers, tracks, jockeys, trainers, owners — would be giving something,” he said. “Yes, it means an increase in takeout. But I can’t think of a better reason for a takeout increase than the protection of our race horses.”

Raise takeout? An unfortunate necessity. Mandate that everyone who registers a foal pay $25 toward racehorse retirement? An impossible dream.

I’ve given money to the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation and other retirement groups in the past; I’ll surely do so in the future, because horses deserve a decent quality of life after the racetrack. But like most horseplayers, I don’t breed horses. I don’t own horses. And until those who do breed and own horses levy a similar burden on themselves to help cover thoroughbred retirement costs through registration, sales, or earnings — all possible sources of funds — then I’m not going to see a takeout increase, for the horses, as anything other than what it is — a politically palatable passing of the buck.

3/25/11 Note: There’s an excellent conversation going on in the comments about takeout and funding racehorse retirement, to which Violette thoughtfully replied this afternoon. “I will go even further; let’s not raise the takeout and take the same .001 from the existing levels,” he writes. “NO INCREASE. A solution must be found, this is for the greater good.”

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