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Friday, September 11, 2009

Stop Cancelling Place and Show Pools

Have you noticed race tracks are a lot quicker these days to cancel place and show wagering when there is an overwhelming favorite is racing? Some people will argue that it is a gutless move on the part of race tracks to cancel place and/or show wagering just to avoid minus pools. While it is understandable tracks don't want to loose money on minus pools, perhaps there is a better solution for all involved.

The only time pools should be cancelled is when there are not enough horses entered in a race to make a pool feasible. For example, show wagering should be offered as long as six horses are entered to race and at least five horses start (allowing for a late scratch); place wagering offered as long as four horses start. That being said, is there a win-win situation for track owners and gamblers where place and show wagering may be offered in situations where it seems the only way a horse can lose is the proverbial bolt of lightening?

In Muscle Hill's recent race at Balmoral (American National) there were ten horses entered and show wagering was cancelled. Muscle Hill won his 'workout' and paid $2.10 to win and place. Cruisealong, the 63-1 second place finisher paid a whopping $2.10 to place as well. A great race to watch for the fans, not exactly a great betting race for anyone.

Perhaps we should be barring horses from wagering more often in situations like this? If we did, handicapping the race gets more interesting. Let's say this is a $100,000 race. While the barred horse will be disregarded for parimutuel purposes, it will still be racing so you still need to handicap the race accordingly. Will a driver of one of the other horses decide the purse is too tempting to ignore and get hooked up in a duel or will everyone concede the race to the winner and race for second? Will the fractions be reasonable or will they be blistering? All this will factor on how the rest of the field finishes. Handicap the race and wager, skipping the barred horse.

Let's go back to the American National. If Muscle Hill was barred, the fans would have still gotten to see Muscle Hill but now the race becomes bettable for the horseplayers/gamblers. For sure Cruisealong would not have gone off at 63-1 but at least people could have bet win or place and got decent payoffs when compared to the $2.10 payoff there was. Show players could have bet the race and exotics would have paid better. Yes, the bridge jumpers would have lost the ability to wager on the race but you might be doing them a favor in the long run; after all, bet $20,000 to show five races in a row to collect your $.05 on the dollar and be up $5,000 and if you lose the sixth bet you end up being down $15,000. True, you deny the gambler the chance to wager the super horse will make his first break ever, suffer an equipment failure, or be a victim of a suicide speed duel which neither horse survives but considering how often that happens, there is little downside to the gambler.

Make no mistake about it, a horse should not be barred just because he is an overwhelming favorite to win; a horse should be barred only in a situation when you can run the race over in your head a hundred times and there is no reasonable way the horse should lose. This could be the solution everyone can live with.

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