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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


HALLANDALE BEACH, FL — The recent announcement that Monmouth Park, instrumental in securing legal sports wagering in New Jersey in 2018 and subsequently in several other states, had entered into an exclusive 10-year agreement to conduct fixed-odds wagering was welcome news.

With fixed-odds wagering, horseplayers can lock in their odds as sports bettors have done for years. Wagering would be conducted under the auspices of BetMakers, a company that will oversee a bond-posted bookmaking operation in compliance with New Jersey state law.

Alas, here is yet another reason for federal oversight to replace a 38-state patchwork of rules and regulations that has impeded the progress of modern Thoroughbred racing for decades since the emergence of the simulcast era.

This issue is too important for racetracks in other states to cave in to local political pressure. Fixed odds wagering in horse savvy Australia has increased to the extent that purses have doubled in less than a decade. And the advantages for American horseplayers are notable.

In addition to locking in the odds you play, true expertise and gambling savvy, which is more art than science, makes wagering on horse racing, at least theoretically, a better bet.

Fixed-odds wagering would give a rank and file handicapper a chance to outplay the million-dollar algorithm set. But since batch bets are made at the last minute in every sizable pool everywhere, expect big-time push-back from those bettors and bet-takers.

It’s at that point where we see if track managers are as feint-hearted as GOP Senators or as myopic as their past performances indicate.

Horsemen will have to get their fair share of the pie, of course, and the tracks are entitled to “rights fees.”

But if horseplayers are as smart as they imagine themselves to be, and the odds on their choice continues to climb, they can go bet more, gambling that their opinion will be rewarded without fear that the value they sought won’t magically disappear before the field reaches the half-mile pole.

American bettors will not want to lose their ability to bet into the horizontal and exotic vertical pools, but they won’t have to. Fixed-odds wagering is for straight players so it is highly likely that win and “each-way” eventually will replace traditional win, place and show pools.

An each-way bet is a hybrid version of an across-the-board wager and the same betting norms apply; beat a favorite and you will be rewarded. Most every bettor’s favorite aspect is never getting split in an exacta again; if your horses finish first and third, your each-way bet is a winner.

Personally, the idea that the influence of the huge batch bettors on final odds would be mitigated is a significant aspect of fixed-odds wagering, as the odds on your horse will not change once the bet is made.

Moreover, in addition to the ability to bet more as the odds climb knowing that they can’t affect your odds, it’s an invitation to attract potential new players with a stock market mentality, or sports bettors who understand when to bet on a favorite–early, or the high-odds underdog–late.

Obviously, sports bettors will have to master a steeper learning curve but today’s gamblers, aided with technology, are not the shot-takers of previous generations. They do not resemble the old stereotypical OTB patron in tatters.

“We have been working with racing bodies and bookmakers from all parts of the world to develop the best solution that fits into the horse racing ecosystem,” BetMakers CEO Todd Buckingham old

“We believe that U.S. horse racing has the potential to be the largest betting sport in the U.S., including basketball, American football, and baseball. There is a real opportunity for the U.S. horse racing market to grow.”

Indeed, racing, for better or worse, has been wooing the upscale crowd. Not today, and perhaps not until the next decade, but fixed odds wagering can have an impact on making Thoroughbred racing the Sport of Kings again.

Or put another way: Go big or go home.

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15 Responses

  1. Did not read the whole article BUT does that mean that the patron-bettor will get the odds when he/she made the bet
    and not those post time odds ?? Hmm,interesting especially for those of us who study and tab the probable DD,Picks [3-4-5] payoff$. I`ll read it again and absorb it when i got more time.Ps; my First bet which opened my eyes,Cordero on the last race at Aquaduct in the 70`s opening at some 12/1 and ending up at post time at some 5/1,,and winning the race,of course ! [ Too good to be true ! }

    1. JG,

      As TJ noted below, like sports betting, it’s only limited to NJ for now–and three other states for sports betting that is. (What stupid, hypocritical laws these states choose to enforce)!

      While I don’t know, the answer could be both, if a track wanted to offer parimutuels and fixed odds wagering, which is done in Europe.

      Let those with a higher pay grade figure it all out.

  2. A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. Fixed-odds betting is a major step in the right direction for players but I fear the learning curve will be long and arduous, more likely decades than years.

    Moreover, the fact that it is only being offered in NJ will retard the pace of progress.

    But it’s a start.

    1. TJ,

      Sadly, you’re absolutely right re first steps, although don’t believe it would take decades. Not sure about learning curve, just a variation on straight betting theme and when I occasionally bet on British racing I think the choices were WIN, EXACTA and EACH WAY, where your horses can finish one-three and you win. Like some weird quinella or something

      You are right too in that straight betting will take time to master but it’s up to the player to learn how to make his true odds line–not the way you think people will bet but the chances you give each horse to win.

      When I did something like that with Cary Fotias, we used a 100% odds line–compared to the reality of book that reflects takeout, more like 120-125%, the latter being a pretty loose line.

      It drives me crazy that fixed-odds will be available in one state but I’ll tell you it would entice me, if/when permitted, to wager more on Monmouth racing, which now I reserve only for big event days.

      How much do shell companies cost to establish anyway?

      1. JP,sir,how many times you `ve changed your mind on a bet just because you had more time to look at the PP? And if so, don`t most of us leave that first impression/choice on and maybe add an additional bet even if for a smaller amount ? Rarely has ‘late $’,’smart $ [ or so they claim] has changed my bet.I mean,don`t we get to the betting parlor and approach the machine after we `ve looked at the available lines,form ? There is nothing worse than losing after betting against oneself.I`m usually ready to bet within a couple of minutes after the payoff$ and if the present prices go up/down it wont change my opinion,that`s besides the only ‘system’ that i use with ML odds which means that those automatic bets are in sooner,especially in big races. Of course,the same applies with Football,Basket games. It seems like a [ risky ? ]gamble for New Jersey going Euro style . That might welcome outside $ to be bet in NJ. We`ll see if Las Vegas will follow suit…..

        1. JG,

          Without getting into everything, I want the entire game to go to a 96-hour box. I know about logistical issues but no reason we all can’t have the information we want earlier to pick and choose between the different types of races and wagers. And yes, I do sometimes change my mind with a second or third look; it probably meant I was uneasy about the original decision

  3. JP can correct me if I’m wrong but I believe you will have to physically be in NJ to take advantage of this new form of betting.

    1. You’re probably right TJ–that’s why the wisecrack about the shell company–expect that to be the case…

  4. JP, You can catch a train to Long Branch out of Penn Station. Short walk to track. Did this once in early ’80’s. It’s not the A-train to Aqueduct but it’s still pretty good. And they’re off in the first at Monmouth. Julie Krone won big there. The Julie Girl, she’s gonna win it all-Jack Lee

    1. Wonder if it will put more pressure on whomever does the morning line odds since, still, too many semi automatically pick the my fav.

      1. meant to write ML Favorite ,not ‘my’ ,Pardon ! Another proof that even in the betting sports world it keeps on getting closer and with less differences among nations,continents. Who knows, we`ll soon have a legal daily or weekly list,slip of professional games to bet on with parlays,combos and other gimmicks that rival the legalized daily numbers game which i believe started in Harlem [ or so i was told ].What will it be next,Raffle Tickets between races ? C; I remember JK who after a race at Belmont was yelled at by an ignorant sexist remark and after she stopped and called the guy out he sheepishly vanished into the crowd. There WONT Ever Be another Julie Krone…or Muhammad Ali,Secretariat, Hank Aaron,Wilt Chamberlain ,Elvis or that British horse that won some 30 races in a row until last year. Let`s be glad that we witnessed their glory,ability and God Given talent. ” Son ,don`t you waste your talent ! From ” A Bronx Tale ” one of those few dedicated movies that i keep watching when they come on. Same with ‘Grapes of Wrath’,Let it Ride’, ‘Champ’ with John Voight, Dangerous Liaisons with Michelle Pfeiffer ,and of course ‘Cyrano De Bergerac’ with Jose Ferrer,1951. ‘Sea Biscuit’ was Ok..,’Unbroken’ was about a native Italian man .Louis Zamperini, with whom i had a long conversation before he became famous,but i doubt about some of his ‘feats’. Hey,we all exaggerate in bios !! {{ Sometimes i don`t believe 80% of the stuff that i write ..and 95 % of what i read !! Pricci excluded,of course ! }} PPS: The more info i find about the late Brooklynite handicapper,math wiz, Dick Mitchell,the more i`m impressed. Any one knows ‘what i`m talkin` ??

  5. Nice posting, JR. The horse you mentioned who won 30 straight is a 7-yr old mare named Winx. Check this out if you have time: There was another mare, bred in New Mexico, named Peppers Pride. This gal reeled off 19 consecutive wins, all in her birth state. In 2008 she won the Overachiever of the Year Insider Award “To the history making little NM-bred filly that could, Peppers Pride.” She was bred to California Chrome and American Pharoah, among others, and her last foal was a filly (American Pharoah) named American Pepper. Born in February of 2019. Peppers Pride passed away 7 months later. Cool horse.

  6. C; thanks for mentioning the brave mare WINX because i forgot her name and could not find it even under ‘British horses` winning streaks’. Wonder if the old Beyer number would have been comparable between these winning ladies and ,let`s say,Kenyatta just for the sake of curiosity and admiration. Always root for the female running against horses,colts,geldings. NM ? Never heard of such courageous animal. i`ll check it on U TB,,wonder if she made any real $. Did she race on the ‘Big Shows’ [ Gulf.Sara.,Belm,.CD., S. A.] ? Thanks x the input !

    1. Another horse that is winning in high style from way back is Zulu Alpha. Former claimer, albeit an 80k claimer, is making a lot of money for owners who took a chance. Nice story. Pepper’s Pride made money also but not in the big leagues. Nineteen straight in New Mexico at Zia and Sunland, many of them stakes. Her most recent foal is American Pepper but Pepper’s Pride died 7 months after giving birth from laminitis. Sucks.

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