Before I left Nevada, I wandered through my betting apps and found something I did not expect to see from William Hill.
Underneath the list that starts with pro football and college football and all the usual suspects, underneath rugby and Australian rules football and international hockey, at the very bottom of that list of sports, there was a rarely seen icon with two words.
Wait a minute. What happened to that late-summer proclamation that racing futures were on the down-low? That the state Gaming Control Board was not amused by casinos taking bets on races without going through that contrived middleman known as the “licensed disseminator”?
Alas, when I opened what I hoped and expected to be Breeders’ Cup betting futures, I instead got this:
“Triple Crown winner in 2020 – yes v no.”
That is it. For horseplayers that is the extent of advance wagering in the Battle Born state of Nevada. (For the record, yes is 7-1, no is 1-11).
So in an era when the doors are being thrown open to sports gambling in an ever-expanding number of states, racing continues to get the squeeze. Somehow, against the tide of nearly 18 months of progress since the Supreme Court put the kibosh on PASPA, bettors looking for futures action on this week’s Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita are left to look off shore and overseas.
Among the highlights gleaned from Bovada (off shore) and Oddschecker (Europe):
* While four-time Grade 1 winner McKinzie (3-1 morning line) is the consensus favorite to win Saturday’s $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, it is Pacific Classic winner Higher Power (6-1) that carries the most obvious overlay. He is 16-1 at shops like Betfair and Paddy Power.
* Unbeaten in his last six races for trainer Chad Brown, Bricks And Mortar (9-5) is not a unanimous favorite to win the $4 million Turf. Parochially, Epsom Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck (3-1) is best-priced at 5-2 in Europe, where Bricks And Mortar is 9-2.
* Lightly raced 5-year-old Catalina Cruiser (4-1) has lost only once, and that was because his wandering eye took him on a right turn out of his outside post as the favorite in last year’s Dirt Mile at Churchill Downs. Now he is in the $2 million Sprint, breaking from the rail at his home track for Saturday’s six-furlong dash. Met Mile and Forego winner Mitole (5-2) is favored, but Catalina Cruiser is 6-1 at European shops like Unibet.
* If there is a horse that may beg to be singled on horizontal bets, it is Sistercharlie (8-5) in the $2 million Filly & Mare Turf. Winner of six consecutive races – all Grade 1s – Brown’s Irish-bred 5-year-old mare is as short as even money at Bovada and no longer overseas than 6-5 at 888 Sport. Her morning-line odds would actually represent value.
* While Omaha Beach (8-5) carries more potential than past performance into the $1 million Dirt Mile, trainer Bob Baffert has been openly confident about Improbable (3-1). And with wins in the Indiana and West Virginia derbies, Mr. Money (6-1) was a summertime buzz horse. While Omaha Beach is 5-4 at Bovada and in Europe, Improbable and Mr. Money are both best-priced at 11-2. But Improbable has attracted the late money while Mr. Money has been faded.
* Two colts are taking most of the money being bet on the $2 Juvenile. Dennis’ Moment (8-5) and Eight Rings (2-1) were 9-4 and 2-1, respectively, in the first 12 hours of European wagering after Monday’s draw. It had actually been a three-horse money race before Breeders’ Futurity winner Maxfield was an injury scratch Tuesday morning. Dennis’ Moment, the Iroquois winner trained by Dale Romans, has had most of the betting momentum over the past week.
While it is easy to look at these numbers as bellwethers for race-day betting Friday and Saturday, it is important to remember that foreign books have idiosyncrasies that reveal just how shallow their face value can be. The Costa Rican shop US Racing, for instance, shot its credibility in the foot for months with inconsistently updated odds that were replaced Monday by a copy and paste of the morning line. And throughout the summer Bovada and Oddschecker too often included horses that were declared out of the Breeders’ Cup.
But there is no shortage of adventurous bettors who crave fixed odds and go to great lengths over large bodies of water to secure a price that is not subject to the whims of pari-mutuel markets. And why not?
If only we had this in America, the land of the free but the home of the shackled horseplayer. If football bettors can lock in a price on a game a day, a week, even five months before a kickoff, why doesn’t racing have the same option?
Maybe I am just another bettor who has been spoiled by the convenience of advance-deposit wagering where I have been allowed to use it. But imagine the possibilities if those same ADWs were allowed to book futures.
We can dare to dream, can’t we?
Ron Flatter’s weekly racing column is normally posted every Friday morning at VSiN.com. It appears more frequently during coverage of big racing events, including this week’s Breeders’ Cup. You may also hear the Ron Flatter Racing Pod pop-up at VSiN.com/podcasts. In addition to the usual Friday episode, a pop-up will be posted Wednesday featuring Las Vegas racing handicappers Vinny Magliulo, Dave Tuley, Patrick McQuiggan, Johnny Avello and Chris Andrews. The RFRP is also available via Apple, Google, Spotify, Stitcher and at VSiN.com/podcasts.