John Pricci executive editor John Pricci has over three decades of experience as a thoroughbred racing public handicapper and was an award-winning journalist while at New York Newsday for 18 years.

John has covered 14 Kentucky Derbies and Preaknesses, all but three Breeders' Cups since its inception in 1984, and has seen all but two Belmont Stakes live since 1969.

Currently John is a contributing racing writer to, an analyst on the Capital Off-Track Betting television network, and co-hosts numerous handicapping seminars. He resides in Saratoga Springs, New York.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

A Win, However Small, Is Still a Win

Several players I know and respect online and on social media categorized the recently announced takeout reduction for the upcoming Keeneland spring meet as a Pyrrhic victory.

While the notion has some validity given the sliding scale reductions, the assessment above is unfair.

The rollback, however partial, was a positive response to a call for action or, more precisely, betting inaction at the Keeneland 2017 fall meet.

Keeneland noticed that they went down while every other major venue increased, in part no doubt from handle that would have been ordained for Keeneland but found itself elsewhere.

In the final analysis, horseplayers made progress on a policy and price disagreement with track management. How often does that happen? We’re nowhere close to being sick of winning yet but walking before running is a good start on the road to relationships.

Admittedly. Keeneland was chintzy with its discounts; the new rake on exactas set at 19.5 percent, a half point higher than pre-Fall levels. And why weren’t doubles included as part of two-tiered-exotic bets reduction?

Further, the only justification for leaving three-ply exotics at 22 percent levels is to leave wiggle room for rebate houses at the expense of the daily rank and file. Consequently, I will wager accordingly (read less) in the super-exotics; kind of a personal partial boycott.

To Bet or Not to Bet, That Is the Big Sports Question

In his most recent column, TJ spoke of the Trojan-horse nature that legalized sports betting at racetracks could have on racing handle. Of greater consequence is how booking sports bets could cost tracks to lose money if they get too much action on one side.

The only conceivable answer would be to make sports betting a parimutuel wager but as TJ posited, even with a relatively low takeout, it is more likely that both sides in a game would pay less than even-money, less than the norm.

It might work if the point spread were included in the proposition. Take the Super Bowl e.g., when the Patriots were 4.5 point favorites at most outlets. For optimum results, the most accurate line possible must be available with same-day betting.

If the pointspread is good, it should attract action on both sides; injuries, atmospherics, trends are factored in by then. Post the line: Eagles +4.5. Then allow bettors to wager on the proposition at a modest 5 % takeout rate.

It also could be done via a series of fixed-odds wagers.

If one team becomes the steam, we believe a majority of players would rather take an odds-on payoff then give more points. Underdog bettors won’t get that extra point but would be rewarded with a payout offering points plus value.

Willing to consider better ideas to begin the conversation.

Can Parlay Wagering Lead to Lower Takeout?

Better still, could it be promoted as a horseplayer being in a handicapping contest with himself? Consider:

Santa Anita is going to be offer parlay wagering in the near future. If it or any other track is willing to pay for the programing to make parlay wagering possible, it could use this opportunity to lower the takeout. Spend money to make money. Why?

Because parlay wagers that players choose themselves, instead of the given horizontal betting menus currently mandated by racetracks, will produce more churn for the average to above-average handicapper. Why?

A daily double features one takeout that covers two mandatory races in succession. With parlay wagering, takeout is assessed twice, hence a lower takeout rate assessed twice will increase handle more than would a double or a Pick 3.

And in the case of the Pick 3, a round robin wager can be created; think the European two way bet. If two of your three round robin horses win, you cash one parlay. If all three win, you cash three parlays.

It was posited that Santa Anita would offer variations of the parlay theme; one could wager on a best bet to win in Leg A, parlaying that winning wager Win and Place on a horse in Leg B.

The difference is a straight Win parlay that costs $2 would now cost $4: Win payoff to Win in Leg B; Win payoff to Place in Leg B. Or any variation on that theme. The lower takeout rate would incentivize the parlay wager, maximizing straight pools and increasing churn.

With a little imagination, anything is possible. The question is will parlays prove simple enough to allow churn to work better with a lower takeout rate, which has the added benefit of flattening the learning curve for newcomers racing keeps trying to attract without success using the same stale models.

Written by John Pricci

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