Racing is complex and daunting already. The nuances and subtleties are discouraging to newcomers. It’s not like sports where you pick a side and if you are right, you get paid the expected reward.

With legalized sports betting now a reality in many states and soon to expand almost nationwide, the leaders of the racing industry decided they had to do something to compete.

One of the remedies presented at the annual Jockey Club Round Table is a new bet so complex that even seasoned professionals have no idea what it is about.

Jim Gagliano, president and COO of The Jockey Club outlined a new form of betting horses called single pool wagering. If you have never heard of this, join the crowd.

I happen to be in Las Vegas this week. What better place to get the lowdown on a form of wagering I had never heard of. If you can’t get this kind of information in Vegas, something is wrong.

So I asked race book managers and big players what they knew about it. The universal reaction was blank stares.

Patrick McQuiggan, the longtime house handicapper at South Point, said he had never heard of it. Since he doesn’t bet in Hong Kong--the only place I could find that features it--there is no reason he should have.

But the ever anxious-to please handicapper promised to do some research and let me know what he found out.

I did the same thing, squeezing Google for everything I could find. Apparently it works like this: Money bet into all pools (WPS and exotics) is combined and sifted through an algorithm, which determines the true odds on every horse.

Best I could figure, this means a horse who is the second or third choice in the straight pool but is getting hammered in the exactas could wind up going off at a devalued price to win.

So there is no way of knowing in advance what you will be paid if you win. This is part of racing’s plan to attract new players.
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Even if I don’t have this exactly right, one sentence in a Racing Form report by Matt Hegarty convinced me that this is not a good thing for the guy in the grandstand or at an OTB:

“Single pool wagering is favored by teams that operate robotic wagering programs that dump hundreds of bets into the pools at the last moment before the pools are closed.”

As if the computer whales don’t have enough of the kind of edge that screws regular bettors several times every day, The Jockey Club wants to give them another huge advantage.

Racing has to be an amazing game to survive its leadership this long.

To borrow a phrase from Kevin O’Leary, Mr. Wonderful on Shark Tank, this is an idea that needs to be taken behind the barn and shot.

Throw the bum out


Plaudits to Gulfstream and its stewards for acting quickly and decisively to ban jockey Tony Maragh to the full extent of their ability.

Maragh, from all appearances, stiffed his mount in Sunday’s fourth race. His failure to allow Musical Heart to run to the best of her ability was apparent even to casual fans, who bombarded social media with protests.

Gulfstream officials reviewed the race, saw what everyone else saw, and suspended Maragh for 60 days, the most Florida racing law allows. However, state officials could and should tack on additional penalties.

If the standard is 10 years for Richard Dutrow, whose alleged offenses were trying too hard to win—apparently planted syringes notwithstanding--Maragh should get at least double that.

Maragh’s lame explanation arguably was worse than stiffing the horse. He said he felt so weak, he was afraid he was going to fall off.

If Maragh had this feeling in the gate, he put not only his own life but that of every other rider in jeopardy. Money can be replaced. Human life can’t.

Unbelievably, TVG host Mike Joyce expressed sympathy for Maragh, saying 60 days is a long time to deny someone his ability to make a living. Analyst Matt Carrothers concurred. This is like saying it’s too bad that a bank won’t allow an embezzler to keep working.

Gulfstream is also going to investigate trainer Aubrey Maragh for possible involvement in keeping Musical Heart from showing her best form. In the meantime, he is barred from the grounds.

Second thoughts on Travers


Upon further consideration, I might have been too hasty a couple of weeks ago in dismissing Wonder Gadot’s chances in the Travers.

I have long been an advocate of fillies taking on colts, especially superior fillies. Wonder Gadot falls into this category.

My initial thinking was she was beating an inferior group of males in the first two legs of the Canadian Triple Crown, and I still feel that way.

However, after watching replays of the Kentucky Oaks, I’ve altered my thinking. Despite a horrid trip, she came as close as anyone has to upsetting Eclipse Award cinch Monomoy Girl.

And that’s before blinkers sharpened her focus noticeably.

Moreover, trainer Mark Casse said in a phone interview that Wonder Gadot’s connections are not just taking an overly optimistic shot in the Midsummer Derby. They really think mile and a quarter distance is her sweet spot.

This isn’t true of Good Magic, who I feel could turn into the 21st century’s Alydar, a supremely talented horse, who came along in the wrong year. Chad Brown said 10 furlongs looks like Good Magic’s limitation.

Trainer Jonathan Thomas said he feels Catholic Boy--whose stirring victories over Analyze It aren’t quite as impressive since the latter gave it up again nearing the finish in the Arlington Million—that the mile and a quarter is his horse’s best weapon, too.

All of this brings back visions of Keen Ice wearing down American Pharoah in the 2015 Travers.

Brown, on the other hand, grew up in Mechanicville, a few miles from Saratoga. He wants to win this race so badly he will have Good Magic ready to run the race of his life, and Brown isn’t doing anything wrong these days.

My final selections will appear Friday when the entire HRI staff gets their chance to weigh in.