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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

You Make the Call - Post Script

Remember the blog entry You Make The Call where we discussed whether or not the trotter Emily Do should have been disqualified or not last week and how difficult judging can be? Well she was back in action last night at Pocono Downs; more about that in a moment.

In the replay of the race, it looked to me like Emily Do was rough-gaited and possibly off-stride at the end of the race.  When I saw the isolated slo-mo, it became obvious to me she definitely was on a break though I thought it was possible the trotter was back on gait at the very last second (I must acknowledge the video was a bit grainy to say it with 100% certainty).  The judges did post the inquiry sign to see if there was a violation of the breaking rule and they decided there was no violation.  Apparently, they didn't think there was even a break as the trotter was given a clean line. 

Last week I asked a former and a current driver to take a look at the race and both of them said they weren't sure.  The current driver indicated Emily Do was off-stride but appeared to be back on when the flash of the photographer went off, but not knowing where the photographer was standing in conjunction to the finish line it was hard to make a call, especially with the quality of the video.  He pointed out the judges have access to different angles than the replay showed and certainly better quality video.

As for the those blog readers who decided to respond, it was basically unanimous; the judges blew it big time.  You had no doubt Emily Do was off-stride at the end of the mile and felt there was a violation of the breaking rule.

So now, let's return to last night when Emily Do was racing.  The public loved her and made her a 1.50-1 favorite.  Unfortunately, the racing gods were not kind to her.  Parked out to the half mile pole, it apparently was too much for the trotter to keep up so she jumped off stride approaching the half mile marker and once again in the stretch.

Now, I am not going to re-debate last week's race.  For arguement sake, let's accept the judges call.  If you are a gambler who relies solely on the past performance lines as being gospel, you may have very well wagered on the Emily Do last night.  Odds are if you were there last week or are one to watch video replays, there is an excellent chance you would have stayed away from Emily Do like the plague, especially at 3-2. 

So what does this teach us?  allow me to present my top three handicapping rules:

  • Rule #1 - Racelines do not tell the whole story. 
  • Rule #2 - If you are wagering serious amounts of money, you better be watching replays.
  • Rule #3 - If you can't watch all the replays, you better not be betting serious amounts of money unless you like throwing money away.

Now, I will be the first one to say I am a recreational player so I don't watch the replays.  Besides, with all the tracks one can wager on, you need to be a full-time gambler to watch all the races you should be watching.  If you don't watch the replays, you are at a big disadvantage when you are wagering against serious gamblers (which you are doing when it comes to pari-mutuel or exchange wagering). 

Being I know this and I love racing as a sport first, it is not that big a deal.  To me, going to the track is entertainment, so winning or losing on a particular night is not paramount to me (though I need to have some winning nights).  However, I know I am in a very small minority as most people come to the track (and watch on their laptops) for the gambling.  I also believe while the serious handicappers will always have an advantage over the recreational gambler, racing must do its best to make the betting landscape as fair as possible for the little guy.  How can this be done?  I call them racing responsibilities (RRs for short):

  • RR #1 - Judges must strive for 100% accuracy.  Yes, mistakes will be made, but realize your decision not only impacts gamblers this week, it impacts gamblers next week.
  • RR #2 - Racelines must be as accurate as possible.
  • RR #3 - Meaningful comments on each raceline. - What if Emily Do's last comment line said 'rough deep stretch'?  Odds are she wouldn't have gone off 3-2 last night and may not even have been the favorite.
It all boils down to 'Gamblers matter'.