And gambling America loves ‘America’s Race’ card, too. All-sources wagering was up a whopping 13.2 percent to $187-million; heady numbers considering the game’s recent travails and an economy that’s improved but far from back to pre-crash levels. A record $113-million was bet on the Derby alone.
But the numbers could have been better were it not for shortsightedness and greed. I’m sure Churchill Downs Inc. will say Dime Superfectas are not available on Derby weekend because it would mean chaos at the betting windows, the tourists creating insanely long lines and shut-outs; counter-productive.
But there are ways around this, such as additional self-service machines specifically dedicated to Dime Super wagering, or designated windows at the end of each betting bay for Dime Super betting only.
If it wasn’t about greed why would the minimum Super bet go from a dime to a dollar on the two biggest days of the year including the Breeders’ Cup championships? Here’s an example of how CDI Inc. cost its shareholders, and one horseplayer, money.
I consider myself an average bettor, big by $2 standards, guppy-like when compared to the whales. As such, I try to be in as many of my preferred pools possible, considering each event part of a wagering portfolio.
In the main, a typical race wager would include win, exacta, and Dime Supers. My bankroll generally can accommodate handle of from $40 to $60 per race, as much as 50 percent more on a handful of preferred bets.
The lack of Dime Supers, available at Churchill since 2007, cost me a minimum of $387 on Oaks day alone. And that amount doesn’t include churn, a concept many industry leaders, including horsemen, fail to grasp when they think it’s time to raise the takeout.
I didn’t have a strong opinion about the Oaks but I did have what I thought were good ideas earlier, in the Eight Belles and Edgewood Stakes. The Eight Belles was a sprint for 3-year-old fillies and the exacta of Contested (even) and Good Money (3-1) appeared to be a cold proposition.
I rarely bet even-money shots to win. Instead I hope optimize the odds in the multiple pools. First would come a one-way exacta and next the superfectas using the “all button” in the third and fourth positions and second and fourth positions.
(This strategy allows bettors to be wrong by definition but likely to cash a bigger ticket. To make the play suggested above in an 8-horse field would cost $6, or two separate $3 bets. But at $1 per combination, the cost is $60).
Not only is $60 too rich for my bankroll but it takes me out of my comfort zone for a race and situation like this; after all, the keys here are a heavy favorite and a 3-1 shot in a relatively small field. Chances of making a score are slim.
I played a cold 7-3 exacta for $10 and collected $70 when the two Eight Belles favorites finished 1-2. If Dime Supers were available, I could have taken two tickets on the favorites running 1-2 with “All,” and one ticket with “All” finishing first and third.
In that case, the $9 wager would have returned $143. Had the favorites been split, I might have collected more, even if I one combination and not two. These are good percentage plays because “All” makes a friend of chaos.
The Edgewood result really stung. The turf event for 3-year-old fillies marked the return of Stephanie’s Kitten to Churchill, the course over which she won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf last year. Her Equiform performance figures towered over the field.
Another strong favorite, but this one coupled with two price-shot exacta opinions, virtually the same approach as was used in the Eight Belles. Two cold exactas using ‘Stephanie’ over Welcome Dance, 12-1 with Julien, and Treasured Up, also 12-1, with Garrett Gomez.
When faced with this situation in the Super pool, I would use ‘Stephanie” over the two pricey fillies, hoping for a 2-3, 2-4 or 3-4 finish, with “All” to finish fourth or third or second.
The Edgewood had a full field of 12. Taking a series of $1 Superfectas using Stephanie first with 10,13 with 10,13 with All; Stephanie with 10,13 with All with 10,13, and finally Stephanie with All with 10,13 with 10,13, combinations costing $54 (3 x $18)--out of my price range.
For a Dime, however, each of those three tickets cost $5.40, a total of $16.20. Even if I had lost the Eight Belles, it’s likely I would have taken each ticket twice. But another longshot, Firehouse Red, finished second, at 26-1. The Dime Super payout on the 3-5-13-10 would have paid $315.25.
There’s really no telling how much money Churchill Downs management cost me--and their company--the remainder of the weekend. We were terrible in the Derby itself but had a tremendous undercard.
Between Cary Fotias and myself at Equiform’s E-Seminar Derby Eve, we selected Top Projected Value Plays of $33.30, keying a $2 Super worth $3,129.20, and a $10.80 winner, keying a $1,341 Super. Further, three Top Projected Tote Busters returned $17 ($72 exacta), $13.80 and $42.40 ($203.60 exacta). [All results are verifiable on the Equiform website].
But I wasn’t the only player who jumped OUT of Churchill’s Superfecta pool last weekend. Here’s an admittedly small, but instructive sample:
On four racing days prior to the Oaks, when Dime Supers were available, Super handle on the day’s feature races, as a percentage of 50-Cent Trifecta handle, was 54%, 60%, 51% and 60%. These were allowance events featuring three 8-horse and one 7-horse field--not an attractive Super proposition.
But in the 14-filly Oaks and 20-horse Derby, $1 Super wagering only attracted 33% and 38%, respectively, as a percentage Trifecta handle. The positive effects of fractional wagering cannot be starker even in this small sample.
Hopefully, Churchill Downs management will study this phenomenon more closely and make Dime Supers available on and off track come Derby 139 week-end. And maybe the New York Racing Association can take a look at this, too.
Despite years of making suggestions to NYRA executives, bettors still are unable to make fractional bets such as 50-Cent Trifectas at simulcast tracks that offer them. It’s a simple programming issue, so the question is why not?
The other question is why fan/horseplayer grass roots organizations purporting to be bettor-friendly are not fighting for fractional wagering across the board in an effort to make racing’s costly learning curve more affordable? Isn’t it about the player? Or is it about advancing some other agenda? How about some enlightened self-interest?