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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, January 31, 2023—It is categorically undeniable that the seventh renewal of the Pegasus World Cup Invitational lacked a true equine star to build in the lead up to Saturday’s $3 million event yet the event’s appeal continued to grow on several fronts.

Empirically, the crowd had a Kentucky Derby vibe, many skewing younger than racing’s geezer demographic as Millenials and Gen Z’ers mixed with a smattering of younger Gen X’ers who came dressed to the nines, ready to dance to the music.

Indeed, it was a party crowd, more South Beach than Hallandale Beach, proving that rebranding works, even if it is annoying to hear that the event is be based in Miami, a 37-minute drive south, sans construction delays, of the racetrack.

But the day, which featured six graded races, attracted all-sources handle of nearly $44 million, a home run in any ballpark as simulcast players supported the 13-race program where Eclipse partiers queued up with the hipsters in attendance.

The seven-figure purse wasn’t enough to keep Flightline away from the breeding shed for a month, as it had with Horses of the Year Gun Runner and Knicks Go and Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winners Life Is Good and City of Light. But it did attract a limit field on which $17,598,355 was wagered in all pools.

Those there for sport enjoyed a good show. Eclipse winning Irad Ortiz Jr. rode four winners and finished second aboard Defunded in the Pegasus. His execution aboard Atone in the Pegasus Turf was worthy of a time capsule. He didn’t panic and his patience was rewarded with running room and a big kick from a 6-year-old pro.

Atone’s victory was the third of the day for Mike Maker, who also won the William L McKnight and Fred W Hooper with Red Knight and Endorsed, respectively. Ortiz’s third of four wins came aboard Shug McGaughey’s Personal Best, giving him a turf marathon sweep.

It wasn’t quite the Cody’s Wish story, but there was a local, feel-good result when Maryquitecontrary won her fifth straight, climbing the class ladder throughout the streak, and took her first graded event, the G2 Inside Information, for Joe Catanese and solid local reinsman Luca Panici.

Now 6-for-7 lifetime, Maryquitecontrary was bred in Florida by owner Rodney Lundock. The First Dude four-year-old had some help when the odds-on returnee, Obligatory, appearing a bit soft in the paddock, ran as if badly in need of the run, never threatening.

With respect to the wagering, when I complained out loud how my 5-1 shot at post time turned into 7-2 on the result video, a press box colleague offered that Gulfstream Park was the “Winter Home of the Batch Bettors,” confirming my observations.

We did not bet on all races Saturday, involved in the stakes and an allowance race. As I mentioned in the comment section of a recent blog, winning Kosay was halved from 5-1 to 5-2. Personal Best egregiously went from 5-2 to 6-5 in the flash no one can react to. Atone went from 5-1 to 7-2; Wolfie’s Dynaghost went from 7-1 to 5-1.

And, of course, Pegasus-winning Art Collector, 19-1 entering the gate, was 15-1 when the order of finish is posted.

Again we state ad nauseum that while we do not believe there’s any illegal past posting occurring, there are occasions when some bettors need not be paranoid to disbelieve what they just saw.

When HISA finally addresses uniformity with respect to processing rules and regulations vis a vis medications, legal and otherwise, it must address wagering security as incidences of hacking have increased exponentially in recent years in every facet of life.

I’m aware how betting cycles work, that there is approximately a 20-second lead time between when wagers are transferred from betting hubs to racetracks and ADW video screens, but last-second odds changes that is sure to retard handle growth.

Sports bettors, a fertile population for horseplayer conversion, will never cross over in a meaningful way if the odds they bet is not close to the odds they get. As above, odds change several traditional levels at once.

On days like Saturday, it takes beaucoup bucks to move betting odds so dramatically. I know many serious players that have been driven away, including serious Meadowlands harness players.

The word betting “value” is thrown around casually in this age of instant handicapping expertise, many of whom have jobs because they look good on camera. Value doesn’t mean any horse that is a non-favorite. Value exists only in relation to a horse’s true winning odds, whatever that price is.

The average rank and file player, no matter the size of the wager, cannot compete with the speed afforded by computer programs, bettors who are granted special access to pools because tracks believe their betting volume warrants it.

Rebates, ranging roughly from eight to 12 percent, is another advantage denied the masses. There is no way that independent players, however large their personal handle, can compete with the calculus and betting speed of computers that can arbitrage pools instantaneously by sucking out the value.

Parimutuel wagering is outmoded and is killing the game because of the instant access it affords computer syndicates. Fixed-odds wagering is the answer because not only is it inherently fairer but also is the means to attract sports bettors who know that the payoff they get is the payoff they  expect. HISA needs to level the playing field for all horseplayers.

How will it work? That’s for greater minds, or AI to discern. I’m a horseplayer armed with only a knowledge of pedigree, human trends, and visual observations to lead the way. Loyal horseplayers and fans are getting crushed. The game is hard enough without knowing what you’re playing for.

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14 Responses

  1. We have discussed this time and time again, but it gets no less frustrating. I’m not sure how you’re even supposed to handicap when you have no idea what price you’re getting when you put in your bet. And we’re not talking about a 5/1 dropping to 9/2 from time to time. Why take the time and effort to handicap a race, and coming up with what price you need for each of your contenders, when you have absolutely no idea if you’re ending up with an overlay or an underlay despite waiting until they start loading to get your bet in. And it’s even worse in the exotics; imagine needing 32/1 to make a specific DD bet, the probable is 43/1 entering the gate, but they cross the wire and it’s paying $22.40? Why bother anymore?

    1. Well, as someone who used to pay attention to board$, like the Daily Double possibilities, I have noticed huge price-payoff prices come down from both harness and flat racing. As a matter of fact, the first time that I noticed it, it was on the last race of a wintry Aqueduct. Angel Cordero’s mount went down in double digits from opening odds to the eventual victory. “Eureka,” but I kept it to myself for a while then no one believed me, calling it a coincidence or a lucky first-time bet…Years later, off and on, I kept it secret since everyone was skeptical. Gamblers do not trust anyone else and I’m including myself. Last two races have been, according to my old tab$ have been more reliable than the first two. But now, with so many concurrent daily doubles it is more difficult to follow them all. Just stick to what you know to be more reliable, as long as you are fast with simple arithmetic because many times there is no time to write it down. Do most heavy bettors use computers, algorithms? I do not know. I would not have time…or even know what to do…It’s Greek to me.

    2. Ditto. ditto, ditto, ditto and ditto. Exactly the point Doc Honestly, if I weren’t about to be 79 and needing to keep my brain working I would be out the door. And this game is and has been my life since I was 17… it was a very good year.

      And living in Florida, I can’t make a legal sports bet. It’s not the action I am needing; it’s the handicapping challenge. I go to the Hard Rock for concerts, not table games.

  2. JG, one exclusive rebate shop, RGS, has about 120 customers that account for a huge percentage of the national handle, many betting eight figures a year. Therefore, if you bet $10 million and break even, you’re “winning” $1 million per year. That’s a pretty good living.
    Rank and file players can’t hope to go up against that every day and succeed. The programmers are not always right, only more often than not.
    They are betting all live contenders in a race so most often winning odds are going down, not up, on live runners.
    Tracks are not about to give these players up, but at least they can cut them off at, say, three minutes to post. NYRA has done something like this. Don’t know exactly how or when because there is no real transparency in this business.
    Independent players need a chance to react to the syndicates that are setting the odds instead of how it works now. And there would not be the same rate of negative effect on final payouts as there are now.
    This will not happen until tracks are forced to do so. Kentucky, to their credit, went to penny breakage. Has any other state followed their lead? What do you think?
    HISA, how about doing something for the majority of racing fans who make this game go?!

    1. If I would break even I’ d be wasting my precious time, after all, as one horse author wrote,” How much is Your Time Worth ?” YES, IT IS INTRIGUING TO THE MIND, KEEPING IT WORKING AND YES READING THE PP’S OF BIG RACES IS LIKE SOLVING A PROBLEM YOUR WAY, WITH YOUR OWN DEDUCTIONS, CALCULATIONS, ALMOST LIKE MOST ACTUARIES, BUT IT’ S NOT MAGIC. I wish I knew half as much as when I was trying to find a ” secret” to winning at these games. None of the author’s really helped and I believe that I learned more from the comments of veteran public handicappers such as Harris, Pricci and some other minor ones who came and went. Disliked those who just lined up picks by their ML odds and you know who they were even a couple of husband and wife. What a waste of space, money! Wonder what happened to pickers like Finley, Bossert, Litfin, McCarthy… To me, today is like choosing which food am I going to eat, cook. A couple of choices,(high allowance), stay away from foreign foods,(claiming)and just pay attention to a limited few, just like glasses of wine. Just pay attention to the top brands( no small tracks) and concentrate on what you do best. If ” The Odds Must Be Crazy ” still stick with your choices because there are a few things, situations Worse than watching a number win After you changed your mind. Shoudda, coudda do not apply in betting, or in life relationships.

      1. Dave Litfin and Richard McCarthy, “Wolfie” to his friends, have passed on. Those two racetrackers are not easily replaced.

        1. Sorry about the bad news.I mentioned their names ,as the others, out of respect for their professionalism.Boy,it feels like a century ago when we would daily grab a couple of tabloids and reading ,devouring them from the headline to the sports back pages!I even remember when the NY Times would show Belmont-Aqueduct results and the news station would announce race results every twenty minutes. L.I. Press at five cents a copy and Newsday ten or twenty-five cents,all well worth it !Last time in NYCity,a couple of months ago,riding in about a dozen subway trains,I only saw less than ten people,besides me,who were holding a newspaper while the rest seemed to be robotic minds staring at their cellulars…like if hiding from their surroundings .Easy victims.

          1. And don’t forget, when the NY Post had an afternoon edition. coming home from work on the subway I’d see the daily double results–the only multiple bet pre-exactas, and I could read William H Rudy’s New York racing column.

            Those were the days my friend and, like the song goes, we thought they’d never end.

            (PS, JG, Thanks for the clean copy today…)

  3. JGR and JRP, I very much enjoyed reading your give and take regarding the days of old. We go on with the times, but so loved those days of old👍.

  4. NY Post: For a year I was working near Wall Street and I guess that the Post had the warehouse- headquarters nearby because several times its front page changed from one headline to another one, more ” bombastic” than the previous one. On a gambling note, besides casino connections trying to grab the former Nassau County Coliseum now a bidding has started for Manhattan’s lower east side piece of real estate for another new casino. What’s next, one in the Steinfeld show area of the West side ( my favorite living area of the former livable NYC)
    So, now, within 45-50 miles there will be access to ,at least, Four Casinos- Racinos in the area, as some 7500 New Yorkers leave the state Daily. In my logic, in the long run, it won’t work for most of these joints .” Only the Strong Survive” as a song went… which applies to their aging patrons also.

    1. My sources are telling me the Nassau Coliseum sports betting deal will happen, but that NYRA may not be sharing in those proceeds. Stay tuned.

      (Have cleaned up–though improving–your copy again but have for the last time, sir. Please show a little more respect for our audience. The HRI Faithful are not members of the the illiterati class. Thanks)!

      1. So ,i`m the illiterato ? Thanks for finally helping and convincing me that you`re still snobbish with the few, rare people who are peeking into your hole ! I don`t need you to pick horses, or games, as proven to you ,publicly by picking $ 32 winners in horseracing and doing better than your ‘Expert’, Lawrence, with his stats copied from other sources in football. Your loss.

  5. “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” John Mitchell was quoted as saying when parting ways with Richard Nixon. Only the strong will survive indeed. So glad we have John Pricci keeping the rascals somewhat in check and by pushing for real time odds. The only place we now have access to anything close is with the Derby Futures Pools, and even there the selections are quite limited from real time odds in Vegas Casinos. Scratched and you lose out as well. Ouch!

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