by Jeremy Plonk
September 27, 2021
Welcome to a continuing handicapping series for our Monday blog space, “Monday Myths.” Each week I’ll use the power of the Betmix database to take common handicapping assumptions and either support or dispel them with data. Betmix data powers the 1/ST BET app and its features like Angler and Birddog give data-minded horseplayers a treasure trove of information in which to query your own curiosities.
Horses bet down from their morning line odds are ‘live’ and ready to win.
The morning line may only be a fictional number created on the estimation of a singular person, the track linemaker, but it’s level of debate is great among horeplayers. When a horse is bet lower than that morning line, you’ll often hear players talk about how ‘live’ the horse is in the betting. Sometimes it’s a case of a bad line estimation; sometimes the public surprises reasonable prognostication. But are those horses bet down off their morning line really as ‘live’ as many assume?
I dialed up the Betmix database to look at the odds ranks of horses based on their morning line and their off odds, looking at every Thoroughbred race in North America this year. By odds rank, we mean that the favorite is ranked 1 in lowest odds, the second betting choice 2, etc. What I want to see is how often a second, third, fourth choice etc. is bet down to the favorite’s status and how well they do. I looked at both win percentage and $1 ROI for the top four wagering choices as well as the fifth-and-above category.
Morning line favorites bet to favoritism win 40% with a $0.83 ROI.
Morning line second choices bet to favoritism win 35% with a $0.86 ROI.
Morning line third choices bet to favoritism win 33% with a $0.85 ROI.
Morning line fourth choices bet to favoritism win 30% with a $0.84 ROI.
Morning line fifth and above choices bet to favoritism win 30% with a $0.90 ROI.
Post-time favorites overall win 37% with a $0.83 ROI.
Morning line favorites bet to second-favoritism win 23% with a $0.76 ROI.
Morning line second choices bet to second-favoritism win 22% with a $0.81 ROI.
Morning line third choices bet to second-favoritism win 21% with a $0.82 ROI.
Morning line fourth choices bet to second-favoritism win 21% with a $0.84 ROI.
Morning line fifth and above choices bet to second-favoritism win 19% with a $0.82 ROI.
Second post-time choices overall win 22% with a $0.81 ROI.
With each category of morning line selection, the likelihood of victory decreased as the morning line selection order increased. The ROI remained relatively steady throughout, but was best when taking the highest-ranked morning line performers who were bet to favoritism. The same can be said about the morning line’s correlation to horses who wound up second-favorite in the final betting: the win percentage decreased slightly with each higher ranking in the pecking order. The most likely winner among favorites is a horse who was the morning line favorite (40%), and that held true for the most likely winners among horses who were the eventual second betting choices, with morning line favorites winning (23%) most there as well.
If you’re in the camp that says a horse bet down to favorite or second-favorite off a higher morning line is ‘live,’ these aren’t the numbers that you’re looking for after more than 10,000 races. It might bemoan many to know that the morning line maker actually gets it right in conjunction with the betting public with more success than the public out-foxes the line. The ROI shows there is money to made when the situation does arise that a horse far, far misplaced in the line gets bet to the chalk, but those kind win far less than when the morning line chalk and the public aligns.
You can go into Betmix and run your own queries for a deeper dive into this theory and any that you can create. For instance, see which tracks this particular data dig works best, or worst, at. Sort by human connections to find out which trainers or jockeys perform best when they are bet down off a morning line price, etc.