The handle at The Meadowlands for the meet starting around Thanksgiving has been very good – if you don’t believe me, ask The Meadowlands, and they’ll tell you. (I mean that statement as a compliment, for it is one of the most basic tenets in The Publicist’s Handbook, which my editor and I devoured as pups under Marv Bachrad and Bruce Stearns – when things are going well, publicize them everywhere. In fact, if Tom Aldrich is reading this, he’s probably recalling with a smile when his track, Northfield Park, used these tactics during a Golden Period in 1987-89.)
There have been several reasons given and hypothesized about this mutuel gain – catering to “whales,” the New Meadowlands/physical renaissance, extra effort in distribution of signal, and so forth. But there is one basic area which is of primary concern to the majority of handicappers/fans – What kind of value am I getting on my bets? Is the diet of favorites too steady for my taste? What is the average win price so far in the meet? These are the questions we are going to address in this article.
The percentage of winning favorites at North American hippodromes comes in slightly over 40%. The percentage at tracks such as The Meadowlands which regularly start big fields is just below that. Racetrack managements like the percentage of favorites down as far as possible, with the concomitant rise in average win price, as their logic is that fans want to make some money, and they view “making money’s” major outlet as higher-priced payoffs, as commonly measured by the consistent index of win price.
On the first five cards at The Meadowlands, favorites came in at 41.5%, with 27 chalkies out of 65; the next seven programs saw an increase of only three winning chalks in 26 additional contests, 30 for 91, for a period percentage of 33.0% and a meet figure of 36.5%. Then this past week, the first three-card week at the Jersey oval, favorites went 19-39 (48.7%), the meet figure rising to 39.0%.
The results of all three periods can be explained.
The first five cards featured a single card on opening Saturday; the next week saw the TVG FFA Finals and the freshman Final Four on Saturday, November 30, classy horses producing a logical result – the first night of 7 successful chalks. The last of the five cards saw favorites going 7-13, too (though something else happened that night of huge significance, as we shall see shortly.)
The meet “settled down” after this start, with more horses available as tracks went on winter hiatus, whether short or long, and there were many high-class, competitive fields, where one horse was not as likely to stand out.
With the Jersey track going to three nights this past week (January 9-11) comes more of a reliance on some of the lower-level horses, claimers, and the start of the late-closers, with certainly the latter two generating a lot of predictable winners. The first Thursday card saw nine of 13 races with morning line favorites at 2-1 or less; the classier two cards of the weekend had only five such morning liners between them. Thus it was no surprise that two more 7-win nights for favorites resulted last week (Thursday and Saturday) – the first ones since that Card 5 on December 7.
Favorite percentage being up usually results in the win price being in the $10 or less average range. But a very important piece of The Meadowlands betting jigsaw that despite the 39% favorite rate, the average win price is $14.82 – well above the norm, and the envy of many racing emporiums.
How can this be accounted for?
Well, remember when we pointed out above that one unusual thing happened on December 7, Card 5, among all the winning chalk that night? That key unusual occurrence came after race 7, as Marcus Miller paraded Bolder, who had rallied from last at the half to win, back to the winners circle – over his shoulder, the tote board lit up with the official prices, and “$187.00” came up in the win position.
And après Bolder, la deluge. (After Bolder, the downpour or flood, to translate from the French.)
No fewer than thirteen horses have paid $50 or more to win at The Meadowlands in the first 15 cards of the season! Bolder’s mutuel, the first big one, has held up as the highest, but here are the other numbers behind them: $183.40 (just this past Friday night), $87.60, $84.40, $82.00, $80.20, $67.40, $56.20, $51.40, $51.20 three times (including twice on December 20), and $50.00.
That’ll jar your average price!
Statisticians have a way of dealing with what they call “statistical anomalies,” or what they think are accidental occurrences that were fluky and wouldn’t hold up in the long run. But even using their technique here – subtracting the longest-priced winner from each night and then figuring the average payoff -- that number would still come to $10.72 – a figure exceeding the total average price at many ovals!
The strange thing about this Long Shot City is that you could take away two blocks of four consecutive races and one block of six races, and you’d get the average price down almost three full dollars, to $11.98! But lightning has struck three times at The Meadowlands to date:
Last four races on December 13: $51.20, $82.00, $19.60, $32.20.
First four races on December 28: $67.40, $19.40, $19.20, $84.40.
Races 3-8 on January 10 (this past Friday): $183.40, $5.00, $5.20, $21.40, $80.20, $50.00.
Last week, the first with three cards, the average win price was “down” to $12.55 (even with that six-race streak mentioned above), and we have already noted that the chalk rate was almost 49%. Will this phenomenon extend into the next few weeks of three cards per? I think it will, with the early-closers, and the sheer unlikeliness of this concentration of so many long shots. BUT NOT BY MUCH – many of the horses that are winning did show some form in paper (as did that $76.20 Meadowlands winner this corner picked a year ago, at about the same time of year), and the go-go-go-GO style of racing being practiced by the talented driving colony is going to upset the apple cart on a few more occasions, I think.
The Meadowlands has helped itself in many ways – it is still a work in progress, but there are many things to like. If you’re a bettor looking for good value, that $14.82 average win price has to rank highly for you on such a list.
By Jerry Connors for Harnesslink.com