by Frank Cotolo
Bettors Banquet’s (BB) math and methods have a long history with the first Saturday in August at The Meadowlands. That means more than just a wagering relationship with the main events, the Hambletonian and Hambletonian Oaks.
The racing program highlighting those two trotting classics always presents a stream of stakes races that, by the very nature of their eminent classes, present betting opportunities on their own, as well as bet-backs reverberating in races for the future.
Our focus here, however, is on the glamor-boy-and-girl trotting events. They have particular value for wagering and, let’s face it, they are as historic to wager upon as they are in the fabric of the sport.
BB’s Hambletonian achievements through the years, however, have not been sterling in raw numbers. However, due to one aspect of the main event, and because of our sensible approaches to wagering, as we document in all of our BB columns, we have had satisfying profits.
The best aspect of the Hambletonian(s) for bettors is the same-day heat eliminations. Heat racing has been a marvelous tool for profits because it can present better prices to meet the demands of a personal odds line (POL). Mind you, there were Hambletonian heats, when they existed over the years that we passed on playing for POL reasons as well. Still, when meeting our estimations, the heats were more generous in their results than were some finals. Also, like in any other races wagered upon, luck and the lack of it comes into play for and against the bettor.
Two examples, in particular, come to mind. Thanks to the availability of elim heats in 2017, our POL directed us to a win wager on Perfect Spirit in the final, even after winning the elim heat that brought him to the final betting on another horse. It was, however, only due to the rare disqualification of the actual winner in the final that placed Perfect Spirit in the winning spot that we cashed on a double-digit price.
On the other hand, our POL measured considerable value on Father Patrick in the 2014 final, but his off-the-gate gallop rendered our bet worthless and the entire final moot to our bankroll.
Then, once in a while, a colt like Broad Bahn comes along and the crowd gifts a POL author with a double-digit win price far better than the POL demanded, and the race is clean, simple and a success from leaving the gate to the finish line.
Existential occasions aside, we won’t be in the gamblers’ hall of fame [sic] from a Brinks’ truck worth of Hambletonian profits, heats of no heats. Our general win-wagering return on the Hambletonian (and Oaks) winners barely resembles the rewards of Ken Warkentin’s brilliant call with 2003’s Amigo Hall. Then again, that result had existential assistance as well.
This year, the Hambletonian is a POL spectrum. The first elim heat field is deep with talent already proven and some improving. The second elim heat field appears to be a mild prep for the final starring a frighteningly great trotter who 9.5 people out of 10 believe will be the 2019 champ.
Meanwhile, the “Oaks,” sans elim heats, has two tiers of talent in its final. The Oaks — and other stakes on the card — provide enough information in their past performances for you to write POLs and find true value in strong contenders. This is not the case, of course, with the Hambletonian final, because of the elimination heats.
You may and should write POLs for the Hambletonian elim heats (because, obviously, there are past performances). You will not have the luxury of time, however, assigning odds (handicapping) for the final field. That does not mean you ignore wagering on the final. You can still get an edge to determine a play in the final.
How? BB offers a shortcut for writing a POL in the final.
It is a reasonably quick process that we have used in stakes with same-day elim heats through the decades (many other stakes races used the same-day heat methods before the format lost favor with the powers that be). The same-day elim-heat format was an edge for serious bettors. The week-before elims are fine, mind you, but there is a state-of-the-art gambling advantage to same-day elim heats that has benefited many a punter.
Now, back to the shortcut.
When the Hambletonian Final field is drawn, you should already have zeroed in on, at most, your three top contenders. This is because you have seen all horses coming into the final race already. Hopefully, some of your contenders from elim heats have made it into the final.
Even though the final field may include some unexpected entries, you must respect your original assigned odds for all horses — especially any horses you made contenders in the elim heats.
Writing a POL for the final should be a cinch once you establish your top three contenders. Instead of assigning every horse in the final field odds (percentages) to win using 100 per cent to spread over the entire field, use 80 per cent (give or take a point) for your top three contenders and make the remaining seven horses the “field,” worth the remaining 20 per cent.
This does not break any mathematic rules. The final will include 10 horses. You will assign odds to three, those odds equaling 80 per cent. The other 20 per cent, those seven horses that are not your contenders, does not have to be specifically assigned odds.
For example, your three contenders could be assigned odds 2-1, 2-1 and 6-1 (33 + 33 +14 = 80). Or, 9-5, 5-2 and 6-1 (36 + 29 + 14 = 79). Or 6-5, 3-1 and 10-1 (46 + 25 + 9 = 80).
These are the prices you demand, the same way you demand prices with any full-measured POL, and you wager when your demands are met based upon the public’s opinions. The special circumstances here, of course, are that you may have already profited from wagers in one or both of the elims, so passing the final maintains your profit from the Hambletonian.
… to be continued.