Swimming in the Mutuel Pools, a Look at Horse Racing Handicapping Angles

by Pool Builders on 10-29-2008 in Articles

The old saying, follow the money, applies to horse racing handicapping if you are trying to figure out the phonies from the real live horses. But there is a lot of confusion about just how to tell if a horse is really live. Of course, you must look at the mutuel pools to determine how the money is distributed.

Second favorites are the horses with the second highest amount of money wagered on them and the second lowest odds on the board. Sometimes the odds may seem like they are the same, that is, the favorite and second favorite are at the same odds, like 5-2, but a closer look at the payoffs will indicate that the favorite will pay less to win and therefore, is bet down more.

A curious thing about second favorites is that they often have more money bet on them to place and show than the favorite does. There are two schools of thought about imbalances in the pools. One line of reasoning is that if there is more to bet on a horse than another then that is the horse most likely to show or place, depending upon which pool the imbalance occurs in.

A second favorite with more wagered on it to place is more likely to place, and since the favorite has more wagered on it to win, then it is more likely to win. Is this true? The answer is, yes and no. Statistically, the favorite is more likely to win than the second favorite, but as far as the place money goes, the favorite is still more likely to pay to place as well, because you get the place money whether a horse wins, or places. Favorites win or place roughly 50% of the time. In order to beat that and make the second favorite a better place bet, it would have to place more than half the time.

We all know that second favorites do not place more than half the time. If they did, it would be the best bet in horse racing handicapping. Yet that is how many second favorites are bet. This brings up an interesting question. When is the favorite a good place bet? How about when the second favorite is getting pounded because the punters can only see the second favorite as the place horse? The second favorite is often the worse bet in horse racing for this very reason.

The other school of thought regarding the imbalances in the pools is that if a horse is underbet in a pool compared to its win odds, then it is a good bet. Dr. Z. popularized this type of betting and tote watching and proved it could be profitable in the long run. The problem now is that so many people know this and watch the pools, it is hard to catch a good bet because the pools are manipulated so much by late bettors and tote watchers.

For this reason it still seems like the best place to find a good bet in the place and show pools is with the favorite if another horse is getting too much action in those pools.

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