Thursday, June 6, 2019

2019 Belmont DAY: My betting strategy for the 'other' races.

The 2019 race card on Belmont Day at...well....Belmont is HUGE. No fewer than 10 graded stakes races, all of which could anchor their own day.  Unfortunately, that's not where horse racing is right now (more on that later) so instead of getting them all featured they're all going to run in the shadow of the Third (and most gimmicky) leg of the Triple Crown, which means that many fine races are going to go overlooked.

Even I'm not going to spend the time (TBH, I don't have the time) to break down all 10 races, instead I'm going to provide you with my betting strategy for the day here.

After skipping races 1 & 2 I'm going to start dabbling in the 3rd, hoping to catch some prices to build the bank-roll for the races in the heart of the card.

Race 3: $150,000 Easy Goer Stakes. I expect most of the money to be wagered on the 6 -Alwaysmining and the 4 - Outshine.  I'm going to take a different tack and look for somewhat of a price on the 2 - Dream Maker. Trained by Mark Casse and ridden by Julian Leparoux I think this horse has a real chance to pull an upset here. I'm hoping he goes off around 10/1  Bet: $5 Win - 2

Race 4: $700,000 Just a Game Stakes. Almost all of the money is going to be placed on the 4 - Rushing Fall, but I'm going to look toward a different Chad Brown horse the 6 - Environs. I typically like European turf horses better than I do their American counterparts and I'm still getting the best American turf trainer in the business, at a MUCH better price. Bet: $5 Win - 6

Race 5: $700,000 Ogden Phipps Stakes On paper this is a two horse race between the 1 - Come Dancing and the 2 - Midnight Bisou.  I cannot really argue with this but I like the 5 - Mopotism to come in 3rd at a long price which could let the Trifecta pay nicely. At least we hope. Bet: $2 Tri 2-1-5

Race 6: $400,000 Jaipur Stakes. I love turf sprint races, and I love when I can catch a Wesley Ward horse at a price in them. The 8 - World of Trouble is going to be the overwhelming favorite here but I'm going to play against him with two horses, the 1 - Undrafted  and the 7 - Belvior Bay. My hope is to catch lightning in a bottle. Bet: $5 Win 1 and $5 Win 7

Race 7: $700,000 Acorn Stakes. The traditional 3rd leg of the Filly Triple Crown isn't really a thing any more, but this is a good race with some good horses from which I really like the 1 - Serengeti Empress and the 3 - Cookie Dough. I'm going to hope for a speed dual and that my horses pick up the pieces.  Bet: $5 Win - 1 and $5 Win 3

Race 8 - 11:

8: $400,000 Woody Stephens
9: $1,200,000 Metropolitan Mile
10: $1,000,000 Manhattan
11: $1,500,000 Belmont Stakes

I'm grouping all of these races together because, outside of my Belmont wagers that I've mentioned before, I'm probably ONLY going to play the All-Stakes Pick 4.

My choices are as follows:

Race 8: 2-3-4-9
Race 9: 2-3-7
Race 10: 8
Race 11: 8-9-10

$18.00 total

It's possible that, in the Met Mile I'll throw a $5 win bet at the 3 - Mitole, but that depends an awful lot on the post-time odds. Outside of that the plays are odds dependent, so it will probably be the above pick 4 and sit and hope that Bricks and Morter is all that I think he is.

Good luck to you however you bet and enjoy the races.

2019 Belmont Stakes: No Triple Crown Contender, but a Strong Field Nevertheless

And so we get to the end of a weird, and wild, 3 Year Old racing season.

What's that? You think the horse racing season ends after the Triple Crown races? Oh how wrong you are.

While the public, and horse players, get all fired up for these races the truth is that the BEST horse races of the year are still to come.  The Haskell, The Travers, the Breeder's Cup. All are still to be ran. Not to mention the late-year races for 2 year olds, some of whom will feature in NEXT YEAR's Triple Crown.

But first, we have the 151st Running of the Belmont Stakes the oldest of the Triple Crown races, and the oddest, ran at 1 1/2 miles over the dirt course at a track affectionately known as "Big Sandy".

Here's a look at the field, the trainers/jockeys. the opening Money Line, my thoughts, and how I'm going to bet it.

1. Joevia 30-1 (Gregg Sacco/Jose Lezcano)  OK, he's fast. But when going longer, as he tried to do in the 1 1/8th mile Wood Memorial he seems to hit a wall. His best race was his last one, the 1 1/16th Mile Long Branch at Monmouth. It says something however that his connections chose this race in order to avoid Maximum Security. He might play an early role in the pace, but I think he'll be praying for the line at the end and should be near the bottom half.  I'm tossing him here.

2. Everfast 12-1 (Dale Romans/Luis Saez) Way outran his odds at the Preakness, where he finished second, which is much, much better than he's done in prior races against similar competition. IF you think he's an improving horse that "figured it all out" in the 2nd jewel then you might want to take a stab. I personally think it was a perfect trip situation and the extra distance is not going to help.  Possibly he can be included in the bottom of the exotics but that's about it.

3. Master Fencer 8-1 (Koichi Tsunoda/Julien Leparoux) The Japanese import was the horse that I identified as the "sharp horse" heading up to last weekend. Then he stumbled in training and has gone through multiple X-rays and the buzz around him seems to have cooled. I thought he ran an uninspiring 6th in the Kentucky Derby but he, like others, had trip issues and it's hard to take anything away from that race since the staff decided to harrow the track immediately prior to a deluge. I'm going to toss him, and I'll actually be a little surprised if he runs.

5. Tax 15-1 (Danny Gargan/Irad Ortiz Jr.) The big question regarding Tax is this: Can you draw a line through the Kentucky Derby, where he failed to fire and finished 14th? Or was that a sign of things to come?  When you throw in sub-par works leading up to the Belmont the questions abound.  The connections are pointing to a foot injury that they say should be healed by race day. Outside of that I'm not sure he's got the breeding in his background to go 1 1/2 miles. That said, I'm not keeping him in my exotics because he's a talented horse with a good bloodline.

6. Spinoff 15-1 (Todd Pletcher/Javier Castellano) Spinoff is a dead closer who seems to not be as effective closing as the race gets longer. His two wins are in short-ish races (5 furlongs and 1 mile and 40 yards) against non-stakes competition.  But trainer Todd Pletcher is tough to ignore at Belmont, and he thinks the slop of a track at Churchill is a good excuse. He's an exotic pick for me, near the bottom though.

7. Sir Winston 12-1 (Mark Casse/Joel Rosario) When running against similar, this horse finished out of the money, when running against a notch lower he hit the board.  There seems to be a feeling that he's an improving horse and the run in the Peter Pan, where he finished 2nd in hard-charging style, is evidence of that. He's got Afleet Alex and Deputy Minister in his bloodline, so the distance should not be a worry. I'm going to use him in my exotics, but not to win. I think he's not talented enough to do so.

8. Intrepid Heart 10-1 (Todd Pletcher/John Velazquez) When Tood Pletcher signs Velazquez to a horse,he thinks he's in with a chance. the problem is he's so lightly raced, it's hard to decide is the G3 Peter Pan was an exception, or the rule? This is a Tapit colt, and you cannot ignore that in the Belmont.  I'll be using him as my upset pick and I'll put him in my exotics just in case. I'll also probably use him in my vertical wager.

9. War of Will 2-1 (Mark Casse/Tyler Gaffalione)  This was my top pick heading into the Kentucky Derby, he was my top pick heading into the Preakness, and he's going to be my top pick heading into the Belmont.  As a matter of fact, were it not for Maximum Security bouncing all over the place in the Derby I truly believe that this horse would be a live shot for back-to-back Triple Crown winners. As it stands, I think after time passes we're going to find out that he was the best 3 YO in this class.

10. Tacitus 9/5 (Bill Mott/Jose Ortiz Jr.) There's a lot to like about this horse running 1 1/2 miles, he's got breeding (Tapit) and he's got the grinding style to wear down other horses in the LONG stretch at Belmont. He's a smooth-mover who looks great on the gallop, and could end up running away with it all in the end.  I think the odds are going to be too short to play him seriously on Saturday, but he'll figure prominently in my exotics and he'll be in all my vertical wagers.

Betting Strategy:

For ease of use I'm only going to talk about the Belmont, and not my vertical wagers.  Here's how I'm planning to bet this race:

$20 Win - 9
$10 Win - 8
$5 Tri 9-10-8
$5 Win 8

$1 Supr 9-10 with 9-10-8 with 8-6-5 with 8-6-5-2 ($26)

Good luck however you bet. I'm going to examine the Met Mile and talk about my All-Stakes Pick 4 ticket in a later post.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

A promise on June 4th: Yes, the podcast is coming back.

I recorded the first episode of my podcast, and then the bottom of everything fell out.

Work has been a beast, family issues, etc.

But I promise it's coming back, and it will be back on Wednesday in the run-up to the Belmont.  My plan is for this one to be a little longer, because I have a LOT of things to opine on.

Sorry for the delay, you know how life is right?

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Las Vegas Strip Gambling Hold drops again, but do they really care?

It's been another month of declining gaming revenues for Las Vegas Strip Casinos:

Nevada Registers 4th straight month of gaming revenue decline.

For Clark County, the three-month trend was down 0.7 percent and the Strip fell 3.07 percent. But downtown Las Vegas climbed 6.42 percent for the period.

The Strip, is suffering.

But is it really?

Occupancy rates remained at 91% (which is very high) and average daily room rate increased to $130.49.

So the Strip casinos are taking in less on gaming, despite tightening the odds, but are seemingly making more everywhere else. And if they're not, they cutting into their muscle to trim costs.

It's always viewed as "an bad thing" when gambling hold for the casinos drop. It's certainly a bad thing for the State of Nevada, whose budget relies mightily on this income, but is it a bad thing for the casinos?

Under some certain circumstances I would say no. And those circumstances appear to be happening.

1. Gambling as a percentage of earnings is dropping on the Strip, and this trend shows almost no sign of abating.

In fact, it appears to be gaining steam as casinos such as the LINQ announcing a bevvy of newnon-gaming entertainment options opening in the coming months.  Most CET casinos are shrinking their gaming areas, and are installing areas for non-gaming activity.

2. People buy in to these entertainment options.

This is far from a sure thing (See: Level Up! at MGM Grand) but IF some of them are successful they provide the casinos with a more predictable income stream.  If you spend $500 on Baccarat it's possible that you could leave out of there with almost $1000. If you spend $500 on Dinner, or a show it's 100% certain that you're leaving out of there -$500.

While it's true that Wall Street, and the Stock Market, have been described as a gamble, the main difference is the house is operating things in order for the players to (ideally) win.

Does this mean that gambling in Strip casinos is going the way of the Dodo?  No, I don't think so. I think there will always be gambling in some form, because people still want to gamble, but it will be shoe-horned into smaller spaces and offer worse odds.  It will also be geared for more 'immersive' social activities.

And the odds will suck.

I've written before that the Strip is no longer the place for the serious gambler, with a few exceptions the most notable of those being super-high roller types, of which you are probably not (nor am I) I think this becomes even more pronounced over the coming years as most of the good gambling migrates either Downtown, or (increasingly) way, way off Strip.  I've already decided to swear off CET and MGM properties and, if you take your gambling seriously, you might want to consider that as well.

It's not like the Strip casinos are going to care much, they're too busy living in their own virtual reality.

"I don't have a host" and other whimpers from a Video Poker Player.

I do not now, nor have I ever, had a host at a casino.

This is not for lack of trying.  On a normal trip over two to three days I'll put in around $4000 in play per day. Unfortunately, for me, most of that is on video poker, a game where I can mitigate the house advantage through use of advanced strategy, and whose (still) relatively small house advantage damages my theoretical loss.

But I play a LOT of video poker.

On my one trip to Vegas this year, in February, I spent two days at Luxor and wagered $10,050.75 primarily on video poker.  That's over $5000 per day.  Even using MGM's horrid pay-tables (7.5 DDB) the house 'edge' 4.288%.  That leaves me with a theoretical loss of $430.76 for the trip, or only around $215.00 per day.  Hardly enough to grab any attention in a world where people are gambling what I gamble over two days in one hand.

Even IF I played other games, I dabble in slots, I still wouldn't make the mark. But playing quarter video poker is never going to grab the attention at a casino. I'm what's known as a mid-level low-advantage player and that puts me near the bottom of players Strip casinos care about.

They want people playing 6:5 blackjack at $25 a hand, ordering drink and playing for 4 or 5 hours per day.  Those players can lose what I bet on a trip in a day.  Most do, because most don't understand, or take the time to learn even basic strategy.  I know blackjack at the basic strategy level, I just don't play it much because I'm averse to 6:5. (Which might seem odd, since I like VP and will play MGM pay tables despite them having a much higher house hold.)

But I KNOW VP better. And I understand how to play it at an advanced level.  Do I make the occasional mistake?  Sure, I'm human. And although Mr. Dancer thinks you shouldn't ever make a mistake (or have fun gambling) I tend to go down a different path.  As long as I'm not making horrific mistakes, I'm OK with the occasional button flub.

But that still will never get me a host.

I know several slot players, who plat at, or slightly above, my level of play and they have hosts. Not on the Strip obviously, but they have them. And one day I might get one at one of the lower end casinos, where I'm OK playing, but for now I'm pretty happy living without them.

For example:

On my last trip to L'Auberge in Lake Charles (where I'm nowhere close to a host but I am an 'invited guest') I pretty much limited my play to quarter video poker (9/5 DDB or a house edge of 2.13%) and I did very well.  In two days of playing I hit a Royal Flush ($1000), 4 Aces with a kicker ($500) 4 4's with a kicker ($200) and 4 4's with no kicker ($100) three additional times.  I left the weekend with no host, but with $1100 in profit.

Now, odds are I'll dump those winnings back into a casino in June, when I head to New Orleans, or in August, when I head back to Vegas, but it gives me a bigger bankroll with which to play.

And I STILL won't have a host.

My point is that, when you from all these gambling experts about their "hosts" and all of the wonderful perks they receive remember this: They are gambling at a very high level to attain these give-aways and they will need to continue to gamble at that level to keep them. There are no grandfather clauses in Vegas casinos.

Your secret to success in gaming is as follows:

1. Find your comfort zone.  Whatever money you gamble make sure that it's money you can afford to lose. Establish a gambling savings account and ONLY use that money. NEVER ATM at a casino except in emergencies.

2. Stay in your land: Don't be tempted to venture out. Discipline, whether it's through an envelope system or some other bankroll management system do whatever you can to ensure you both keep your winnings and don't dump them back in, and also that you don't exceed your comfort zone.

3.Don't chase comps.  You'll find yourself gambling way more than you wanted to, often with disastrous consequences.

4. Consider any money you bring to gamble with to be gone before the trip starts. They don't build those beautiful casinos on the backs of winning gamblers.

5. Enjoy your wins.  Because they are few and far between on most trips and you should take a minute to savor large wins.  Have a celebratory glass of Champagne after every Royal Flush, or a shot. Then take the winnings and lock them in the room safe before venturing back out with your original daily stake.

You may never have a host, but that doesn't mean that you can't live the large life in a casino. You'll just have to book your rooms yourself and pay for some things.  But you might find it to be worth it.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

When horse racing dies, it will be with a whimper.

While this is not a horse racing blog I've felt the need recently to blog a lot about this sport that I love, mainly because I'm afraid in the future there won't be much opportunity to do so.

To whit:

Feinstein renews calls for suspension of racing at Santa Anita Park. Horse Racing Nation

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Monday renewed her call for an "immediate moratorium" on racing at Santa Anita Park, where three equine fatalities in nine days have track safety issues under the magnifying glass again.
"How many more horses must die before concrete steps are taken to address what is clearly an acute problem?" Feinstein said. “I once again call for an immediate moratorium on racing at Santa Anita. We need a thorough investigation of practices and conditions at the track before any more races are held."

I'm going to point out a thing or two here that is not a defense of the Stronach Group, whom I deplore, but only serves to show just how silly and convoluted the current drama surrounding horse racing really is.

First, these attacks against horse racing are coordinated. When you have multiple groups spouting the exact same talking points you cannot assume that they are being honest when they say their complaints are occurring in a vacuum. In fact, all of the people who spoke in front of the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) who claimed to be a "private individual, without affiliation to any group" who then proceeded to spout the same talking points were not being truthful. These people were coached what to say.

Second, the goal of PeTA and other groups is NOT safe horse racing. It's NO horse racing at all in the United States. Much like the lies they repeatedly told about the circus, they will not stop until they reach their goal.  And yes, I have first hand knowledge of former circus behavior. I've seen how the animals were really treated and it wasn't in the same manner as heavily edited video from PeTA activists.  In almost all cases the animals were treated better than the humans who worked there. (The latter was the REAL controversy surrounding the circus, that never got any media play)

Finally, You cannot trust a group like PeTA when it comes to animal welfare issues. They are not legitimate actors in the game. In fact, PeTA has been directly responsible for more animal deaths than any of the groups they claim to be against.  PeTA are bomb-throwers, their job is to make noise and try to disrupt traditional American culture. They could give two-figs about animal welfare.

All of this doesn't mean that the complainers are wrong.

In fact, in one important aspect, horse drugging and overall welfare, they could be onto something.

Even more pathetic is the horse industry's response.  I Am Horse Racing is saccharine and overly sweet, but it doesn't even begin to address the problems that the industry is having. It's great that everyone involved is "3rd generation" and "loves horses" but that doesn't mean that every trainer, doctor, horse guru is operating under the same pretext.

The horse racing industry's failure to get control of the racing drug problem is problematic at best, damning at worst. The entire industry is built not around the customers, but profit for the suppliers. What that creates is an ungoverned, uneven playing field and a dearth of consistent, fair, regulations under which the suppliers operate.

Because of this the betting markets are skewed, viewed as unreliable under the most generous reading.  But many consider them unfairly skewed, which has led to a shrinking customer base frustrated by late-moving tote-boards, inconsistent race stewardship and, even worse, increasingly high take-outs which make profitability in gaming extremely difficult to attain.  We haven't even broached the subject of breakage and it's detrimental effect.

Now, horse racing has reached it's nadir.  It is now a sport with an aging fan base who has taken few good steps to attract an younger audience. It is operating primarily on income driven from slots, and the locations that do not have them fall further and further behind. Media coverage is non-existent, except for organizations who are profiting off the sales of historical data, which are free in other sports. Bettors are stuck with a devil's choice of high-takeout wagers, or high-takeout "jackpot" wagers which are almost impossible to hit.

The tracks that have tried to buck the high-takeout trends get little attention or action from the very bettors and horse players who grouse about these things. In many cases the gripers are no longer betting, and are just (pardon the term) continuing to beat a dead horse for attention.

This is one of those increasing events in the world where, no matter who wins, we are all losers.  Because the eventual winners in all of this are going to either be the "Bad folks" at PeTA, or the "Bad Folks" running horse racing. Evil, always, wins.  The arc of history in sports does not bend to justice or fairness, it bends toward greed.

Horse racing in America in on the precipice of falling victim to it's own greed, and the powers in charge could give a damn as long as they can move overseas and continue their practices there.

Dianne Feinstein doesn't care about horses, she cares about votes. And right now she thinks that there are more votes to be gained by trying to demolish an industry (which, by the way, would lead to the death of thousands of horses who suddenly don't have a purpose in life).

I'm going to close with this:  One of the largest criticisms leveled against horse racing in recently held CHRB meetings, and one that (amazingly!) was uttered by dozens of "independent citizens" was that the horses in the races were "non-consenting participants." (seriously, ALL of these supposedly unrelated people used the exact same words). Their argument centered around the belief that these horses did not want to be there and that, given the choice, they would not run.

To those people I have always said that they should actually go watch a horse and see what they do in a pasture.  They run if you've never seen one.

To them now I say, watch Bodexpress in the Preakness, who unseated his rider at the gate.

Now tell me these horses don't WANT to run.

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