Avoid the Pig Pile

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By Dean Arnold

Avoid wagering on favorites hovering around odds-on favoritism as post time approaches unless you will be satisfied with final odds two to three ticks lower once the race is official.

The following scenario has happened to every horseplayer. Having decided the 3/2 favorite is all but unbeatable, you bet the horse to win and feel a $5 payout is more than fair. The race begins and as the horses round the clubhouse turn, the odds at the bottom of the screen flash 6/5. Around the far turn, the odds again change to 1/1. And after the horses have crossed the finish line, the final odds display 4/5. Even if your horse won, there is a bittersweet feeling that you didn’t get what you bargained for.

With the majority of money coming from off-track simulcasting these days, as much as half of the final win pool may be unaccounted for during the final moments a bettor has to place a wager. As a result, the final odds will fluctuate even after the race begins and sometimes after horses cross the finish line. It is difficult to predict where late money will fall, but one consistent trend is that the favorite will receive a disproportionately heavy part of the action in those final moments.  

A horse may be the 3/2 favorite entering the starting gate and, win or lose, may cross the line as the 4/5 favorite. Players expecting a potential $5.00 payoff will only get a $3.60 payoff if the horse wins. However, if you bet a 10/1 horse and the final odds drop to 8/1, a win will still net a relatively healthy profit. But with favorites, the already narrow profit margin is seriously slashed by the late action.

To explain it another way, let’s look at the percentage of profit you stand to lose. A 10/1 winner will pay $22 for a net profit of $20. If the horse drops to 8/1, it would pay $18 for a $16 profit, a 20% decrease in profit from the 10/1 payout.  

An even-money shot that would pay $4 dropping to 3/5 and paying only $3.20 would decrease your profit from $2 for every $2 bet down to only $1.20, for a 40% drop. Granted, it may take more money to drop a favorite two ticks on the odds board, but with the majority of late action falling upon the favorite, this is in fact, commonplace.

On the other hand, if post-time money drives the price down on a favorite, the odds on other horses in the field will go up. In such situations, a mid-priced contender leaving the gate at 3/1 might climb to 7/2, 4/1 or even 9/2.  

While there is no way to predict which runners will go up in odds with certainty, late money does tend to land on the favorites. Morning line favorites hovering at or above the morning line odds at post time are always candidates for large amounts of late action. When money pours in on these entries, the odds on the rest of the field will rise like a tide. If you like to play against vulnerable favorites, these are opportunities to increase your payoffs.

Requirements to Avoid the Pig-Pile:

– Decide what you consider to be a fair payout before making a wager.

– Wager as close to post time as possible without getting shut out. The closer to post, the more information you have about where the public’s money is going.

– Without keeping your eyes glued to an odds board, try to be mindful of plummeting odds, particularly on favorites. If a runner’s odds are dropping minute-to-minute, expect the trend to continue until the odds are finalized.   – Especially when playing favorites, be prepared to accept the worst case scenario of receiving a payout below what you see when betting. If you are not going to be satisfied with the lower payout, avoid the bet altogether.

Be sure to check out Dean Arnold's handicapping book, A Bettor Way, on sale now through Amazon.


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