Horseracing Beating the Odds

"You can beat a race but not the races," is a common slogan used at racetracks around the US. Since the sport of horseracing primarily revolves around the betting aspect, people try desperately to come up with a winning formula to beat the odds and tip the scales in their favor.

There are several stories about men and women who have beaten the odds in the past to amass large amounts of money. Several years ago, a woman attracted considerable attention by betting $20,000 to $25,000 to show on the favorite in the feature race of the day. She clicked in New England and once caused the track to have a "minus" pool. State laws require tracks to return at least a nickel, and in some areas at least a dime, on every wager. If too much money is bet on a red-hot favorite the pool, especially the "show" pool, may not be large enough to pay the state's share and return the required amount to bettors on that horse for show. In that case, the track must make up the difference.

This happens so seldom, however, that the $1,000 or $2,000, which the track pays out of its own pocket, brings it 100 times that in publicity. If the track sees such a situation may develop, especially in races with only five or six horses, it may cancel all show wagering.

A professor at an eastern university received a measure of notoriety by his announcement that he had perfected a foolproof mathematical system based on the odds of each horse. His system was simple and logical. He just wagered a scientific amount on each horse so that no matter which won he came out ahead. It's about the same principle upon which a bookmaker operated.

The professor, if the story is true, might have had a perfect mathematical system but it was of no practical use to him, a fact that newspaper writers should have spotted immediately. It was pointed out earlier that odds change on the "tote" every 90 seconds.

Stories from the past tell of big plungers who made fortunes at tracks. Again, some of them contain much truth and some have now been relegated to the realm of legends. Many of the big plungers either had their own horses or had an interest in the horses of friends. In those days, it was much easier to manipulate both horses and men.

Pari-mutuel wagering has discouraged plunges at tracks, for the bettor would simply be bucking himself. Theoretically, every dollar changes the odds, but, naturally, at tracks where $300,000 or $400,000 is bet on every race, it takes a sizable wager to tumble the odds.

However, the effects of any change snowballs. A wager of $1,000 would drop the odds on that horse. Hundreds of fans, noticing that drop, would conclude something is brewing and scramble to get aboard. That would tumble the odds still further and pretty soon the horse would wind up the favorite.

There is no sure-shot method to beat the odds. Every wager involves a large amount of risk and a small amount of luck. While going with the race favorite might be the wisest choice, the returns on betting on an underdog and winning can be astonishing.

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