Friday, December 20, 2013

Handicapping Quotes from the HM!

With the weekend finally arriving, here are a few quotes and a reminder from us!

**** And for me when handicapping what “it” most often “depends” on is PRICE, which is why my favorite line in Len Ragozin’s book The Odds Must Be Crazy is “at 30-to-1 I loved the line [the horse’s form or pattern]; at 3-to-1 I would have hated it.” (Ed DeRosa)

**** A man touting his own system might tell you that it had an ROI of 37% last year at Belmont. Nice (if it's true), but what about every other track? Did it lose everywhere except Belmont? Often, it's the information that isn't being revealed that it is the most revealing. (Barry Meadow)

**** This angle provided a couple of bomb winners in 2013, including Phil’s Thunder at Woodbine who paid $77.

**** This year, unlike some pockets in his career, maiden claimers have not been a strong suit. His win percentage has been decent (23%), but his horses are very over-bet (returning 77 cents on the dollar)

**** Short term and more subtle track biases however give astute horseplayers a major advantage and it takes only a few minutes a day to find them. Here's how. (Lenny Moon)

 **** The condition moves and form cycle theories Ragozin formulated have revolutionized not only handicapping but thoroughbred training methods and claiming as well. Finding value through hidden form and avoiding racing horses too often so as to avoid bouncing are now commonplace in modern racing. (Melissa Nolan)

Where did those quotes come from? The Horseplayer Monthly. Download 20 action packed pages right here, for free. And signup to never miss an issue (we do not spam!) Have a great weekend everyone.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Nice Carryover and Some Carry-Math

Mike Antoniades is a horseplayer, who happens to write press releases for a track. Oftentimes they are interesting press releases and this is one of them.

Not only do you learn about a good carryover tonight, you get to see some carryover math.

Low takeout Balmoral Pick 4 carryover swings huge advantage to players on Wednesday
                 Tuesday, December 17, 2013 - by Michael Antoniades, Balmoral Park racing analyst

   Balmoral Park handle this Wednesday will get a giant boost because no bettor was able to select all four winners on the Sunday Pick Four or the top five finishers in the Ten cent High Five. Both of these Wednesday wagers will now have guaranteed pools. The Wednesday Pick Four pool will be seeded with a one day carryover of $28,237 and Balmoral Park along with the United States Trotting Association will guarantee a Pick Four pool of $75,000.
   With the low takeout of 15%, the Balmoral Pick 4 will offer the rarest of gambling opportunities which is to play with a substantial gambling advantage. Simply speaking, the amount paid back to the winners will exceed the amount wagered on the bet if the final pool is less than $216,474.  Based on the extraordinary value of the bet, the Balmoral Pick 4 this Wednesday is from a statistical gamblers view one of the must plays of the year. The following example is based on a variety of final pools starting with the guaranteed final pool of $75,000.

Final Pick 4 pool       New money        Net pool after 15% takeout   Players advantage        

$ 75,000                      46,763                         67,985                   plus  45.2 %
 100,000                      71,763                       89,235                   plus  24.3 %
 125,000                       96,763                       110,485                  plus 14.1 %
 150,000  l                  121,763                         131,735                   plus  8.1 %              
 175,000                     146,763                       152,985                   plus  4.2 %
    Using the $75,000 guaranteed pool, you would have $67,985 returned to the winners after the fifteen per cent takeout even though they wagered only $46,763. This would create a surplus of $21,222 which would be added to pay off the winners. The $75,000 pool would create a players advantage of over 45%. This statistical anomaly occurs with the combination of low takeout and a substantial amount of dead money in the pool.
    Therefore we will go with an estimated pool of $125,000 which will still give the players a 14.1 per cent advantage (see above chart). Clearly there is ample reason to believe that players will respond strongly to this wagering opportunity. And that is not all. The Ten cent High Five also has a one day carryover of $13,893. The USTA and Balmoral will offer a $40,000 guaranteed pool on the Wednesday pentafecta which is also the final leg of the Pick Four. The Pick Four is on the Final Four races and starts with race seven at approximately 9:15 central and ends with the High Five finale on race ten at approximately 10:25 central. 
   Balmoral Park and Maywood Park, with the help of the USTA Strategic Wagering program and Track Master offers free deluxe twelve race program pages for the Pick Four and High Five on every racing night at

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Handicappers & Our Sponsors Help Retired Horses

HANA Harness Handicapping Contests Nets Standardbred Rescues $7,000 Over Two Years

December 17, 2013 – In addition to providing handicappers an opportunity to show off their handicapping skills and provide race fans with some wagering ideas during the year, one of the major goals of HANA Harness has been to raise awareness and funds for standardbred rescues.  Thanks to our handicappers, who have been willing to handicap lengthy contests for nothing more than satisfaction in knowing they are helping unwanted horses, and our sponsors, it has allowed HANA Harness to donate in excess of $7,000 over the past two years.

While HANA Harness is thankful for last year’s sponsors, we would like to specifically thank this year’s sponsors for their donations, for without their assistance, we would not be able to donate funds to this year’s worthwhile rescues.   

Thanks to our Gold Sponsors, the Hambletonian Society, Chicago Harness (Balmoral and Maywood Parks), Illinois Harness Horseman Association, Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs.  In addition to these sponsors, recognition also goes to our Silver Sponsor, Red Shores Charlottetown for their donation to Canadian Standardbred Rescue.

HANA Harness looks forward to hosting another handicapping contest in 2014.  We welcome sponsorships from racing organizations, tracks operators, horsemen associations, suppliers, and owners.  If you wish to be considered for possible sponsorship opportunities in 2014, you may contact HANA Harness at to be contacted when the time is appropriate.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Turning Fans into Horseplayers

Players' Expectation and Random Selections in WPS pools
One of the hurdles the industry faces in converting the first time track visitor and new would be racing fan into a long term horseplayer is the severity of the negative gambling experience imprinted during those first few track visits.

How bad is it (really?)

If WPS takeout is 16% you might think the novice horseplayer, who doesn't know a thing about betting horses, and whose selections therefore might realistically be no better or no worse than random picks, should have an expected return no worse than 84 cents per each $1.00 wagered (1.00 minus the takeout percentage) right?

You might intuitively think that - but you'd be wrong.

Believe it or not, the true long term mathematical expectation of horse race bettors who make the equivalent of random selections in WPS pools is a net loss approaching 25 cents per each $1.00 wagered.

That's approximately 1.5 times worse than the percentage net loss most of us might intuitively think results from a 16 percent takeout rate!

Below is a cut and paste of some numbers pulled from my calendar year 2013 database. The database includes every thoroughbred race run in North America during calendar year 2013 from Jan 01, 2013 current through a few days ago Dec 08, 2013.

The top part of the data readout shows what would have happened to the player unfortunate enough to have bet $2.00 to WPS on every starter in every race during the time period covered by the database (approx 350k starters in all.)

The ROI numbers towards the bottom of the WPS columns reflect the return for each $1.00 wagered: Net losses bordering on minus 25 percent for WPS bets.

Data Window Settings:
Connected to: C:\JCapper\exe\JCapper2.mdb
999 Divisor  Odds Cap: None

      WHERE [DATE] >= #01-01-2013#
      AND [DATE] <= #12-31-2013#

Data Summary          Win         Place          Show
Mutuel Totals   529184.70     529707.00     531006.60
Bet            -699134.00    -699134.00    -699134.00
P/L            -169949.30    -169427.00    -168127.40

Wins                45440         90386        131813
Plays              349567        349567        349567
PCT                 .1300         .2586         .3771

ROI                0.7569        0.7577        0.7595
Avg Mut             11.65          5.86          4.03

Next up, the second part of the above sample with the data broken out by odds rank with no attempt to break ties:

By: Odds Rank

Rank       P/L        Bet        Roi    Wins   Plays     Pct     Impact
 1   -14901.00   93348.00     0.8404   17228   46674   .3691     2.8396  
 2   -15208.70   88526.00     0.8282    9642   44263   .2178     1.6758  
 3   -18372.90   88404.00     0.7922    6540   44202   .1480     1.1382  
 4   -18563.50   88650.00     0.7906    4681   44325   .1056     0.8124  
 5   -22870.40   87296.00     0.7380    3078   43648   .0705     0.5425  
 6   -22460.60   81236.00     0.7235    2034   40618   .0501     0.3852  
 7   -20465.90   65288.00     0.6865    1155   32644   .0354     0.2722  
 8   -14106.40   46530.00     0.6968     616   23265   .0265     0.2037  
 9   -10315.90   30140.00     0.6577     294   15070   .0195     0.1501  
10    -8129.40   17866.00     0.5450     110    8933   .0123     0.0947  
11    -2351.20    7388.00     0.6818      46    3694   .0125     0.0958  
12    -1884.80    3616.00     0.4788      13    1808   .0072     0.0553  
13     -245.60     578.00     0.5751       2     289   .0069     0.0532  
14      -63.00     258.00     0.7558       1     129   .0078     0.0596  
15       -2.00       2.00     0.0000       0       1   .0000     0.0000  
16       -2.00       2.00     0.0000       0       1   .0000     0.0000  
17       -2.00       2.00     0.0000       0       1   .0000     0.0000  
18       -2.00       2.00     0.0000       0       1   .0000     0.0000  
19+      -2.00       2.00     0.0000       0       1   .0000     0.0000  

This part of the data sample shows the favorite-longshot bias and hints at why horse racing might be at least attractive to some players from a viable gambling standpoint.

Note that win rate and roi (or player's expectation) varies with the odds.

The player who makes a serious go at studying the past performance records of horses will discover that horses have both positive attributes and negative attributes in their records. Positive attributes incrementally increase the likelihood of strong placings. Conversely, negative attributes result in incrementally worsened placings. Of course, the betting public realizes this and a high percentage of those attributes (as collectively seen by the crowd) are reflected in the odds.

I don't think there's any question that the newbie would be horseplayer faces a steep uphill climb. But most of us assume the hill to be climbed is 1.00 minus the takeout rate. (As you can see from the above numbers that is clearly not the case.)

In my mind getting people out to the track by itself isn't going to cut it.

The real question as I see it is this:

How do you create a good enough GAMBLING EXPERIENCE for the new would be horseplayer to make them want to come back for more?... A LOT MORE? (Enough to where the "fan" turns into a horseplayer?)

In my mind the most probable way the new would be race goer gets converted from a casual fan into a horseplayer is the same transformation process most of us underwent ourselves.

How I Became a Horseplayer
Speaking from personal experience and strictly for myself, 30 plus years ago when I first began looking at horse racing data:

I studied some data and noticed certain things in the data suggesting a realistic shot at break even play and beyond. And because of that I made the shift from "fan" to horseplayer. For me that conversion process did not happen overnight. It took about two years.

I'd like to point out that had I not seen anything early on in the data to suggest break even play was even possible I never would have taken up betting horses in a serious way. My first early visits to the track were at Turf Paradise back in 1981-1982. I initially began going to the races with a group of about a dozen friends who - one by one - dropped out by attending less and less frequently.

By 1984 I realized I was the ONLY one left from my original group. Everyone else had stopped going.

Oh, I'm still in touch with many from that same group. We've gone on many a camping trip, have gotten together for ski weekends in Utah and Tahoe, trips to Las Vegas, have rented beach houses in San Diego, etc., but largely as a direct result of the negative gambling experience imprinted on them - no one from that same group other than myself has expressed even the slightest bit of interest in a day spent betting on horses.

The game was different back then. In my opinion things were easier for the would be horseplayer.

When I first started betting horses in a serious way there were still crowds of people at the track - and many among that crowd were there for a good time... Hell, I remember being in my 20's and striking up conversations with LOTS of people whose betting was based on birthdays and phone numbers. (Good luck finding people at the races doing that today.)

The numbers in the above data sample paint a realistic picture as to the severity of the negative gambling experience faced by the new would be horseplayer.

Keep in mind the above data is WPS only. (FYI, it's worse for exotics... MUCH WORSE.)

I would be curious about the transformation process any of you underwent during your own conversions from "fan" to horseplayer. (Feel free to drop me a line at

Racing's Long Term Handle Trend
According to statistics at The Jockey Club website, North American thoroughbred handle peaked at $15.9 billion back in 2003. The trend has been down sharply ever since.

If the long term handle trend in North America over the past 10 years or so wasn't off by one third or more (not adjusted for inflation) I wouldn't be writing about takeout.

However, I think the long term downward handle trend is alarming. I also think it's crystal clear that insisting on takeout rates that create net losses bordering on minus 25 percent for bettors making random selections in WPS pools plays a big big part in shaping that trend.

According to economic studies commissioned by The Jockey Club we've stopped creating enough new horseplayers to replace the ones who are leaving the game each year. (The last one that I read says the net loss now averages 4% per year.)

The crowd attending the races when I first started going isn't there anymore. And as was so eloquently pointed out by one poster in a thread at in this post about getting people out to the track

"Guys don't worry about it.........nobody new is coming"

How Many Zeroes?
Today you still have that same crowd, the 20 and 30 somethings I used to see at the track - only now they are in the casino - where instead of minus 25 percent for WPS they are betting on games of chance where the prize payout percentages offered are significantly higher.

The built in house edge for roulette is 5.26%. I'll use that for example purposes because roulette is generally considered to be one of the worst gambling games you can play in a casino. If you study the layout of a roulette table, you'll quickly realize it's those two 'zeroes' that create the house edge and make roulette the bad gamble that it is.

Q. How many 'zeroes' do you have to add to a roulette wheel to turn roulette into the equivalent of what a newbie horse bettor faces? (Where random WPS selections produce long term net losses bordering on minus 25 percent?)

A. Believe it or not you have to add TEN ADDITIONAL ZEROES - until the layout itself has TWELVE ZEROES ON IT! – in order to turn roulette into the equivalent gamble (net losses of minus 25 percent) faced by a horse bettor making random WPS selections at 16 percent takeout!

TWELVE zeroes! (Mull that over for a few minutes until it sinks in.)

No one in their right mind is going to spend any serious amount of time immersed in study trying to develop a system to beat a roulette wheel with TWELVE freaking zeroes on it. (Can we at least agree on that much?)

While I agree that "marketing" can and will get new "fans" out to the track...

How can anyone in their right mind think that takeout isn't a huge part of the problem?...

That "marketing" alone is all it takes to convert "fans" into horseplayers?...

When what we are marketing, from a prize payout standpoint, is a gamble equivalent to a roulette table with twelve freaking zeroes on it?

I humbly submit to you the idea that no amount of marketing will ever be successful selling THAT.

In my mind the only way to convert first time race goers into long term horseplayers is to give them a realistic sense they can win.

How do we do that (with a straight face) given the above numbers?

Jeff Platt
President, HANA


Tuesday, December 3, 2013


John Pricci talks about the DRF in his most recent column. 

"In practical terms, DRF stopped covering the game when it got into bed with the racetracks, the most glaring example when it failed to even acknowledge that a boycott of Santa Anita betting pools organized by the grassroots Horseplayers Association of North America group that was protesting a significant rise in takeout existed, much less that it was successful."

We do not place that quote up to editorialize about it; you can draw your own opinion. In fact, we have not read every column or column inch to know or not know if the boycott was ever mentioned in the DRF.

However, looking back we would like to thank the various publications that we do know spoke directly for you, the horseplayer, during that time, by covering the story.  They are too numerous to mention, but including Mr. Pricci's own site, the heavy hitters did work the story, like the Bloodhorse and Paulick Report, and, along with local beat writers like Art Wilson and Ed Zieralski. A good deal of them (large sites and small sites) stuck their necks out to cover the boycott, whether they agreed with it or not, whether they liked us or hated us, or whether or not they may have gotten a nasty email from an advertiser threatening to pull their ads. We appreciated all of them during the time we were working - on almost no budget, solely on donations from people like Barry Meadow and other horseplayers - to get your voice as a customer heard on a very important issue.