Thursday, July 30, 2015

Phinding Phair Betting Value At Sunday's Haskell

Addressing an entirely different menu than yesterday's restaurant suggestions, here I tackle the betting options for Sunday's card at Monmouth Park, highlighted by what is now the $1.75 million Grade 1 Haskell (purse was increased yesterday from $1 million), scheduled to go off just before 6 p.m. and Race #12 on a 14-race program.

Please be clear that I am not making selections yet (I expect to do that in a later installment), but rather addressing the types of wagers that will be available, along with a brief reference to "takeout", or the house's cut of each bet you make.

Readers would be well-advised, first, to read Lenny Moon's explanation on the Equinometry blog of "Picking the Proper Parimutuel Pools" to get a tutorial on each specific wager.  Lenny provides thorough, simple explanations for wagerers based on each person's bankroll range. 

I share Lenny's belief that a person with a $40-$50 bankroll for the day should not be lured into multi-race "exotics," but rather focus on win-place-show or, at most, daily double and exacta bets.  If exacta and daily double are too confusing, then scale down your expectations and consider bets based on the program handicappers' selections or listening to the free race-by-race analysis provided over the loud speakers by Mike Curci and Brad Thomas for some win-bet ideas.  

In sum, you might hear people talking about bets like "Pick 4" or "Jersey Shore Pick 6" but those are akin to the lottery, even for the deeper-bankrolled players and pro handicappers.  Just ignore those.

3 Equitable Betting Options

Based on published "takeout" rates on Monmouth Park's website and the ease of these concepts, and consistent with the advice I typically give customers as a volunteer racing ambassador, I recommend 3 bets: win (or "win-place" in spots), exacta (straight or "box"...more on that later) and daily double.

There are several reasons -- the concepts are easy to grasp, one can profit a bit (more so with the exacta and daily double bets) and the "takeout" favors the bettor more than other betting options at Monmouth Park: 17% on win-place-show and 19% on exacta and the daily double.  

The lowest takeouts at Monmouth Park are 15% on the more-complex Pick 4 and Pick 5, where bettors need to pick the winner in a specified 4- or 5-race sequence.

Here you'll generally find your bigger-bankroll players, since the cost is higher for exponentially higher return potential; Monmouth, to simplify, only keeps as profit 15 cents of every dollar bet into the pool, which is way better than in the trifecta and Pick 3 pools (25% takeout, 75% final payout to bettors).   

Win or Win-Place (17% "Takeout")

Monmouth's takeout outstrips top rival summer tracks Woodbine (14.95%), Del Mar (15.4%) and Saratoga (16%), but is around the median for the industry, according to Horseplayer Association of North America's 2015 Track Ratings.  

On a minimum $1 win, place or show wager, in other words, Monmouth Park keeps 17 cents of profit, and your final win payout (say, $5 on a $1 win bet on a horse at final odds of 5-to-1) is from the other 83 cents in the parimutuel "pool".

The betting concept otherwise is simple -- bet on the horse you want to win, finish second (place) or third (show).  To be clear, betting $2 on a horse to "show" produces the "show" payout if the horse wins, not the higher win payout. 

The "show" payout is usually a waste of time (unless there's a "bridge-jumper" effect, as I'll discuss below as a likelihood for American Pharoah in the Haskell), since the "pool," or total dollar value of show bets track wide, is generally small.  In short, a 2-1 favorite who wins will pay (on a $2 bet) $6 to win ($4 profit, plus your initial $2 investment), $3 and change to place and $2.20 to show. 

Is it really worth betting $2 to show on a favorite (or most horses)?  Probably not, unless that 20-cent profit is going to set you up for life or merely boost your ego in making a winning bet.

I generally encourage straight win bets, or in the case of a long-shot (say, 10-to-1 odds or more) a $2 win-place bet that will still yield a profit even if your horse finishes second.

Exacta (19% "Takeout"), Straight or "Box"

Monmouth's is third-lowest in North America, according to HANA, behind little-known Kentucky Downs (18.25%) and the three New York tracks (Saratoga, Belmont and Aqueduct: 18.5%), giving a great option to bettors to bet in a high-return pool.  

I am increasingly surprised at customers' lack of insight on the exacta concept whenever I'm volunteering at Monmouth Park.  

Simply put, bet as little as $1 to pick the first- and second-place runners in order of finish to produce a much higher return on the wager than a win, place or show bet.

Say you logically think the #6, Asskicker, is going to pummel the field; but you're also into hunches and there's the #7 horse at 20-to-1, Gladys, like your great grandma.  

You're torn which to bet your last $2. 

Sure, you can come away with $2.20 and a slightly bigger ego on your win bet on the big favorite (#6), or $42 in the event that Gladys (#7) shocks the world.  

However, there's a more-profitable option: the exacta.

You can play a $2 "straight" exacta (go to the betting window and say "$2 exacta #6 and #7"), in which Asskicker must finish first and Gladys must finish second in order for you to cash a winning ticket.  

Another option is to hedge your bet and play a $1 "exacta box #6 and #7," in which case you win so long as Asskicker and Gladys both finish first and second.  

The payout will be much higher if Gladys upends Asskicker, but either way you'll come away with a more-lucrative payout than a win bet on Asskicker (and potentially Gladys).

Naysayers will argue that you're wasting $1 of your $2 right off the bat (since one of the bets will come out a loser if the other wins), but to me that's too technical for the Haskell Day crowd and I'd fully endorse the exacta box wager.

Daily Double (19% Takeout)

Monmouth Park again deserves credit here for one of the lowest takeouts in North America (see "DD Takeout" on the HANA chart).  

On Sunday, Monmouth will have daily double wagering starting on Races 1 through 13.

This is another simple concept -- for a minimum $1 wager, select the winners of back-to-back races.

The "double," back in the day, was only offered in 2 races (1 early, 1 late card) and the only "exotic" wager offered at the track, but seems to now play second fiddle to "multi-race exotics" like the Pick 3, 4, 5 and 6 featured on TVG and other horse handicapping venues.  

However, a 19% takeout is low relative to the Pick 3 (25%) and 10-cent Pick 6 (20%) and easier. 

Let's invoke American Pharoah's name here.  

You're convinced, like me, that he's going to route the Haskell field (Race 12) and will not be bet-able as a win, place or show proposition; who wants to risk $2 to make 10-20 cents of profit, after all.

Instead, you can play either a Race 11-12 daily double or Race 12-13 daily double, using American Pharoah as your single selection for Race 12.

You can bet 1 horse per race, or the entire field.

Say Gladys is the horse you like in Race 11.  As a 20-to-1 long-shot, you'd be well-advised to make a $1 daily double bet (go to the teller and say "Race 11, $1 daily double #7 with insert American Pharoah's # here").  

If Gladys upsets the field and Pharoah dominates the Haskell, you're in for a really nice return.

If you have $10 burning a hole in your pocket and love Pharoah but no idea which of the 10 horses to take in Race 13, you can play the Race 12 double with Pharoah on top of the entire 10-horse Race 13 field, hoping to maybe catch an enormous long-shot that turns your 10 bucks into, say, 30 bucks ("Race 12, $1 double Pharoah with ALL").  

The downside is maybe about $5-$6 of losses if the big favorite wins Race 13 in the above scenario and you only get a few bucks back for your winning double ticket with 2 prohibitive favorites.

1 Haskell Bet Worth Considering -- $2 ALL (except Pharoah) to SHOW

Extremely wealthy (and/or nutty) bettors will sometimes bet solely into the Show pool on a horse they sense is guaranteed to finish in the top 3 of a race.  

You'll generally find this at lower-tier tracks, such as in West Virginia, where the state mandates a 10% return on investment on show bets (10 cents to the dollar), contrary to most states (5%).  Very few places you'll be able to make a 10% return on investment in a minute or two...

I'm making up numbers, but in some cases, you'll see $500,000 bet into the show pool on 1 horse, compared with $10,000 in the win pool and $5,000 in the place pool.

The end result is 1-to-9 odds on the prohibitive favorite and what's known as a "bridge-jumper" (whereby the person(s) who bet gobs of money on that horse would jump off the nearest bridge if the horse finishes 4th or worse).

Show pools often skew a horse's odds, and based on the suspect field that Pharoah's facing in the Haskell, I am speculating that Pharoah could get sent off at 1-to-5 or 1-to-9.

Watch the Haskell
"show pool"
Keep an eye on the show pool, found on the infield tote board at Monmouth Park.

If infinitely more money is bet on Pharoah to show than to win, it might behoove you to bet $2 to show on all of the other horses in the field.

God forbid Pharoah stumbles out of the gate and pulls up in the backstretch to avoid potential injury and does not finish the race, all of that show money in Pharoah's pool would go to the top 3 finishers, and likely to the tune of at least $20 apiece.  

If each pays $20, your $12 of total show wagers (6 horses at $2 to show each = a $12 investment) would yield at least a $48 profit ($60 total return), and profiting is what betting horse racing is all about.

I would completely understand it, though, if you make a $2 win bet on Pharoah to have the ticket for history's sake, but consider backing that up with "$2 ALL, except Pharoah" to show.  

I have seen instances where bridge-jumper losses resulted in an $80 show payout on a horse, so for the risk of a $7-$8 loss, to me it's worth considering.

Next posting, I will take a look at a more-nuanced subject: "handicapping contests" being offered this weekend surrounding the Haskell Invitational. 


  1. 10 or 15 years ago there were 4 horses running in a race at Monmouth, the track had show wagering, there was $3M to show on a horse who's name i can't remember, but the bridge jump horse ran 4th. show payoffs were in the thousands. Anybody remember the horses name that ran 4th... i though it was Busters Daydream, but his charts don't have any monmouth races.

  2. Anonymous, that was before I got into the game seriously, but I found a DRF story about Buster's Daydream finishing off the board in an Ellis Park race where show payouts ranged from $130-$230:

    Was there a race at Monmouth w/this horse as well? I couldn't find anything.