For friends and family, though we had a win early in 2014 with Aroney down at the Fairgrounds, tomorrow we put our first 2014 MN runner on the track at Canterbury. Rapid Business runs and is still trying to break his maiden. We hope he stays healthy in 2014. Frankly, he may need a race. Denny V. is aboard, so here's a picture of Denny with a few of our Hastings girls.
We also hope to enter Supremo Struckgold for a next Thursday race. BJ's Angel will go also as soon as we get a race for her. Our 4 two years olds, Samstar, PJ's Angel, Minnie Soda Nice and Heso Dazzling are all at the track and learning how to run. We hope to see them race later this summer if they are ready.
Astar Thoroughbreds Believe It or Not, Two of the Top Three 2014 Sires of Minnesota Bred runners stand in Turkey!
We just came across a crazy fact when updating our thoroughbred data. Two of the current top three 2014 sires of Minnesota bred runners stand in Turkey! Yonaguska is rated first in earnings while Lion Heart is rated third, and both stand at the Jockey Club of Turkey Stud Farms, according to Bloodstock Research.
Yonaguska is the sire of Talkin Bout, the leading MN bred so far this year with $54,180 in 2014 earnings. She’s also a rare MN bred that can beat non-MN bred horses. (Must be time for the local data point boys to say she’s the best ever MN bred, eh?)
Talking Bout is owned by Cam Casby and trained by Gary Scherer. We rank them as some of the best MN owners and trainers due to their exceptional stable earnings per start profitability. (Here’s a link to our 2011 – 2013 MN Rankings.)
Who would have guessed that sires that now stand in Turkey would be the early leaders of MN bred horses in 2014? What a funny fact.
Every year it’s interesting to see how owners can’t wait to get their horses into the opening weekend at Canterbury. We used to do the same thing to “take advantage” of the early light entries. Funny but we rarely racked up many wins in May.
Interestingly, I just looked at the composite data for last weekend. There were 7 owners who ran 3 or more horses last weekend. They had a total 37 starts, but only 1 win! Wow, tough beginning. Even more amazing, they earned only $39,363 or $1,064 per start!
Of course I’m known for noticing unusual, and some would say irrelevant, data. Nevertheless, tough weekend for some folks.
If you ever want to get at this type of data for yourself, and sort it any way you like, here’s the link. Equibase does a nice job with this information.
Equibase Stats Central
Probability handicapping is simply developing a handicapping insight into the actual probability of a horse winning a race . Race 8 Friday Night at Canterbury.
I often get questions about probability handicapping, and after sharing my view of the Friday night Canterbury card in advance, a couple more came in so I’ll try to explain probability handicapping with an example.
Probability handicapping is simply developing a handicapping insight into the actual probability of a horse winning a race (you can also calculate place, show and exotic probabilities) and then determining what those probabilities dictate as your predicted odds. Then if the final odds at post time exceed your predicted odds by some margin, an overlay exists which may dictate a bet. Probability handicapping of course assumes you have good general handicapping abilities.
To offer an example, I will use race 8 Friday evening at Canterbury. In my overview post and blog, I indicated that it was the best handicapping race of the evening because it was the only race with a full field of 12 horses, all of which had full past performances to evaluate.
My handicapping methods involve many factors which I turn into numerical relationships. Jocks, trainers, their tendencies, layoffs, works, speed, relative class performance, trend, pedigree, race pace, track bias and post position all matter. These elements are also interrelated so for example, race pace might be favorable for a closer who is in a sprint with a bunch of speed balls at some race tracks but the Canterbury early speed bias mitigates the favorable closer effect there.
The chart which comes straight off my spreadsheet, indicates my handicapping view. I adjust for today’s post position, and then illustrate my predicted probability of winning. Those probabilities result in predicted odds (probability of losing divided by the probability of winning). The last 2 columns are simply filled in and illustrate the actual final betting odds and where those horses finished in the race.
Horse number 10, Mr. Shorty was predicted to be my even money favorite at 1 to 1. When I looked back at my handicapping analysis I found I minimized the importance of his recent runs on the turf, finding his dirt performances to be far more effective. This was consistent I found with his pedigree (Bloodstock Research Data) which indicated him to be more effective on the dirt than the turf.
With all of this said, my bet was obvious with Mr. Shorty being a 260% overlay. (Final odds 3.60 to 1 versus my view that he should be 1 to 1). The 2 and the 12 horse were the only other near bets in the race for me and useful in exotics in my view. Mr. Shorty won by two lengths over the 12, paying $9.20 for the win.
Anyway, I hope this sheds a little light on what probability handicapping is all about and answers some basic questions. By establishing some discipline, and only playing overlays with some margin for error, you watch many races without betting however; many times you will find combination exotics that yield substantial overlay returns. For example, the combination of the 10 horse at 3.60 to 1 and the 12 horse at 8.20 to 1 yielded a 32 to 1 payoff for the exacta in this race.
Can I really boycott horse racing (Churchill) even if they treat consumers, and horsemen, terribly? Just another conundrum in the disjointed racing industry.
Horse racing becomes stranger by the day and while North America becomes consumed with another possibility of a Triple Crown winner, a fascinating dynamic is playing out. Horseplayers are boycotting Churchill Downs because Churchill, which is a profitable publicly held stock company, has decided to make more profit by increasing their takeout rate.
A takeout rate is what racetracks remove from all the bets that come in from betters. For example, if $1,000,000 was bet of horses to win in a given day at Churchill last year, they took 16% of that money out, and only returned $840,000, back to the betters to pay off the win wagers. This is simply how pari-mutuel wagering works and the takeout represents profit, taxes and other expense costs. The odds you see constantly changing, factor the takeout rate in. In other words, the horse that is say 10 to 1 in odds would be about 12 to 1 if all the money betters had bet was actually returned to the winning betters.
This year Churchill raised the takeout rate for win bets from 16.0% to 17.5%, and to 22.0% for exotic wagers. This may not seem like much of a change but if you understand how these percentages average out against the Churchill profit margin, they are increasing their profit margin by 15% or more. So basically they raised prices. Interestingly, the chart on the left seems to indicate that on common betting days, not Derby or Oaks days of course, wagering handle is off significantly.
Churchill and the horse racing industry in general, has demonstrated little understanding or regard for consumers but it’s hard to tell if the Churchill data indicate a direct effect associated with the player betting boycott. Nevertheless, price increases designed to increase profit are often counterproductive particularly when an entertainment or wagering company ignores consumer feedback.
Personally, this is a tough issue for me. As a lifetime gambler, natural consumer behavior seems to dictate a full or at least partial boycott. Yet as a horseman, I find Churchill Downs “is” horse racing to the common public. Can I really boycott horse racing (Churchill) even if they treat consumers, and horsemen, terribly? Just another conundrum in the disjointed racing industry, but of course everything will be magically better if we get a Triple Crown winner, right?
OK, I had to post something else about horse racing today after a few owners looking to improve their racing fortunes talked with me last night, and sent messages today. As always, you may not like my advice but it’s as honest as I can be. The greatest barrier to generating profit or near profit as an owner is the owner ….. Not the horse, the trainer or for heaven’s sake the jockey!
Many owners just struggle to pay their trainer bills, and year after year generate only half the earnings per start they need to approach breakeven, yet they and their trainers constantly enter horses miles over their heads. They think their $7,500 Maiden Claimer will eventually win the Maiden Special Weight, or their Non-Winner of 2 Maiden Claimer belongs in the Non-Winner of 2 Allowance. They either think everyone wants to claim their horse, can’t bear the emotions of losing their horse, their trainer just wants the horse and income associated of having it in the stable, witness the occasional anecdote of some horse winning at big odds and say “see”, or the owner/trainer is delusional and thinks it’s just a magical matter of time before the horse improves.
The problem is that not only do they rarely take down a win while risking the horse in a race over its head, but they waste a 3 to 4 week period per race (costing them another $2K or so in costs) before they can enter the horse again (often right back over its head).
Oh well, seasoned and successful owners know this stuff but my advice to the new folks, to maximize your fun and return as a horse owner, is:
1. Set parameters around where your trainer will enter a horse and reset those after every race if you need to.
2. Properly handicap the previous race types (or get an honest handicapper to do it for you) and only place your horse in races where a plus or minus normal variation would provide a win.
3. Don’t keep pounding your horse, time after time, against competition where it loses by 7-8 lengths or more and can’t really engage the competition. It’s not good for you, and frankly it’s not good for the horse.
California Chrome throat blister and cough! Of course they say it's nothing to worry about but, what else would you expect them to say? Handicappers, keep an eye on this before loading up. Remember, there is a reason a blister develops and at this level of competition, a minor say 1% performance impact is 5 lengths when running 1 3/16 miles in the Preakness. Here's the link to the story.
Had a nice morning and saw some fast works with partner Tom Lindquist while visiting the Canterbury backside this morning. We also caught up with Dean Butler, Eddie Martin and Denny Velazquez as they worked our horses.
A whole new crew of Stormy Business (Our Stallion) foals worked today with our BJ's Angel (24 out of 44) and Rapid Business (7 out of 44) going an easy 1/2 mile. We also saw 2 other Stormy's go 4 furlongs with Renee Lureen's Clever Endeavor (28 out of 44) and Rollie Sampson's Stormy Ledger (12 out of 44). Our owned Supremo Struckgold also worked a half in 48.40 (3 out of 44).
BJ, Rapid and Supremo all went a little better than expected considering it was their first work since last September, though they were prepped well by Russ Rhone as always. Rapid and Supremo worked in company with another horse that has been running at the Fairgrounds.
When horses work in company they naturally compete and inevitably run faster than the would if going solo. I've always laughed at handicappers who think they know something by just looking at times and rankings of workouts without knowing the method of workout. They just don't have a clue as to what those times or rankings really mean. I've also wondered why "In Company Works", is not a recognized clocker criteria particularly since they use their own subjective view of effort as a designation, designate gate works, and are so often wrong with their times anyway. (Why do you think all good trainers clock their own times instead of just using the public times?) Oh well, ours is not to wonder why ...... when every day is a Saturday for smart handicappers.
Lastly, I heard more than one comment from folks talking about the Friday 10,000 Lakes Stakes race today. See my earlier blog post for my stand on this race.
Are You Ready for Some Racing? This Friday night Canterbury opens and it appears several barns are still shipping in. With 38 of the 64 horses running on the 8 race card being Minnesota Breds, I'm pretty excited to see live racing again. The 10,000 Lakes Stakes race should be particularly interesting.
Last year some great "Best Ever MN Bred" discussions involved a couple of the horses entered in the 10,000 Lakes. Bourbon County had run some high speed ratings but had never won a stakes race. Heliskier has dominated Minnesota bred horses over the last few years. Now they match up for the first time in a $60,000 Minnesota Bred Stakes Race.
How do I see it? It's hard to tell since condition and shape at the begining of any Minnesota racing season is always something only the trainers themselves really understand. Nevertheless, I'm thinking we should have a fast track Friday night and I'll take Heliskier on top. I frankly see him as a solid overlay, even at 3 to 5 odds, after 2 solid races at Oaklawn recently and Mac having a 25% win rate when horses run their 3rd race off a layoff.
Coconino Slim and Bourbon County should follow him home. Coconimo Slim is a two turn horse so who knows. Mac may be getting him on the track as a 6 furlong purse paying tune up for the season. Nevertheless, this 5 length winner of the MN Classic (A $55K Stakes Race last year) is close to Helliskier in past class performance. I loved Bourbon County last year, but with an obvious issue that took him off the track after a 4th of July run, he's tough to bet. A first out, in his first stakes race, after some injury, and a 315 day layoff ..... well, you know me better than that. Good Luck to All!
For my broken down horseplayer buddies and students of the game who understand probabilities, I thought I would share my view of last year’s track bias. Here's the link to the brief analysis.
Canterbury Track Bias
Dave Astar is a race horse owner, stallion owner, breeder, 40 year business executive, and 50 year handicapper.