The Grade III Sham Stakes last Saturday at Santa Anita kicked off the west coast schedule of Kentucky Derby preps with the heavy favorite – a big gray colt named Coliseum trained by Bob Baffert – a very interesting prospect for both fans of the sport and serious horseplayers.
Racing fans are always looking for a top Derby prospect, and the royally bred Coliseum (by leading sire Tapit) was super impressive winning his career debut sprinting at Del Mar in November, earning a lofty 91 Beyer Speed Figure in the process.
Serious horseplayers, on the other hand, noted that Coliseum has been a very temperamental sort in a.m. training, had shown a tendency to break poorly, and had gotten rank many times in his works, suggesting his first race around two turns may be a good opportunity to bet against the hype.
Three potential alternatives to the favorite were his stablemate Much Better (who was getting back on dirt after failing to handle a bog-like Churchill Downs turf in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf), Gray Magician (who improved a ton beating Maidens when tried around two turns for the first time), and Gunmetal Gray (proven routing on dirt and already Grade I placed when third in the American Pharoah Stakes behind eventual Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champion Game Winner).
The value in the race to horseplayers appeared to be Much Better, who was 12-1 entering the starting gate. Gray Magician also represented value at 8-1 in the gate. The reservations about Coliseum proved true, as he broke slowly, was fanned very wide around the first turn while getting rank and pulling early, and was never a factor thereafter. Gunmetal Gray took advantage of a fast pace and used his experience to make the last run and get the win.
The real story was on the tote board as the horses crossed under the wire, however, as the final odds looked much different than the odds shown when all of the horses were loaded in the gate.
Here is the comparison:
Both Much Better and Gray Magician were almost bet in half in the final 30 seconds of wagering, while longshot Savagery was bet down some 30 percent in price. The timing of the late odds changes caused horseplayers to take notice, as Much Better’s price dropped as he secured a nice pressing position on the first turn while Savagery made an easy lead and after Coliseum broke poorly and got parked wide on the first turn.
It has become obvious that high-end horseplayers using computer algorithms searching for wagering value are increasingly affecting the final odds with large batch bets at post time. With the win/place/show pools in the Sham Stakes totaling over $500,000, the size of the wagers that changed the odds were significant.
Those odds changes affect consumer confidence and give conspiracy theorists reasons to believe some players are allowed to wager after races have begun.
In this case, none of the horses that got hammered in the last round of wagering won. But how would Johnny Horseplayer feel if Much Better had won and he went to cash thinking he tabbed a 12-1 winner only to get back 7-1?
Like any type of bettor, horseplayers won’t get involved if there is no reasonable anticipation of final odds.
This is a problem that can be resolved by simply closing the betting windows once the first horse is loaded into the starting gate, which would allow for a final update of the odds to occur before a race starts.
Pegasus takes shape
The Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park, a $16 million race won last year by Gun Runner, has been realigned into two races for this year, the $9 million Pegasus World Cup and the new $7 million Pegasus World Cup Turf.
With less than three weeks before the 2019 edition takes place on January 26, here are the probables for each race:
The 1 1/8-mile $9 million Pegasus World Cup: Breeders Cup Classic winner Accelerate, Breeders Cup Dirt Mile winner City of Light, Mexican Triple Crown winner Kukulcan, Audible, Bravazo, Gunnevera, Patternofrecognition, Seeking the Soul, Something Awesome, Tom’s d’Etat, True Timber, and possibly McKinzie.
The 1 3/16-mile $7 million Pegasus World Cup Turf is still a work in progress. The current list of probables includes Yoshida, Bricks and Mortar, Catapult, the Japan-based Aeorlithe, Magic Wand from Europe, and Next Shares.
Sidelined since fracturing his C3 vertebrae in a training accident at Del Mar last July, jockey Victor Espinoza got on a horse for the first time since the incident when he worked St. Joe Bay five furlongs at Santa Anita this past Saturday for trainer John Sadler.
Espinoza is scheduled to work more horses this Saturday but still needs to be cleared by his doctors before he can return to riding on a full-time basis.
Lindo Report Play for Gaming Today: Santa Anita Thursday Race 4 – Miss Boom Boom (No. 3). Red-hot trainer Richard Baltas’ veteran mare exits an extremely productive race November 22 at Del Mar (at least three horses have already come out of that race to win their next starts).
She drops in class and gets a huge rider switch to Joel Rosario. She appears to be very well meant.
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