6 Things I Learned at Arlington Park on Saturday

6 Things I Learned at Arlington Park on Saturday

I spent another gorgeous Chicago summer Saturday at Arlington Park.

Armed with an open mind, open wallet, open ears and a shut mouth, I ventured into the newsroom (not recommended if you don’t have a media credential) looking to get my horse playing swag back and tap the minds of anyone who would give me the time of day.

1. Early Money is Usually Smart Money

That saying is true everywhere, but it seems particularly prescient at Arlington, as my friend David reminded me. As big as Arlington Park is, the Win/Place/Show pools are not as large as you may think.  So when a confident and deep-pocketed bettor (or someone who knows a lot about this horse) gets a hunch this is what he does- Heads to the betting window a few hours before his race goes off and make a large win bet.  Such a big bet, that early, will greatly affect the pool (i.e. the total money bet by everyone) and skew that horse’s odds way down.  Savvy bettors like these guys know their huge bets will plunge the odds, so they do it when no one is looking (hours before their race, when bettors are focused on the current race). That way no one sees the odds drop from 9-1 to 2-1 in one tick of the odds, and by the time his race finally does roll around he just appears to have somehow benignly changed to 2-1 by the time it’s race’s odds come up.

The Lesson: When you get to the track and see your horse that was 12-1 in the morning line is somehow 4-1 already, that means it has taken a lot of early money. Sure you’d rather get a long price on him, but all that early money may be good sign. Stick with your horse despite the poor value because someone who knows more than you may know something about this horse.

2. Speed Held up on the Main Track

In the horse racing context, “Speed” means “early speed” or the horses that get to the lead early.  Arlington’s main track appeared speed-favoring, especially along the rail. Just ask Forestry Type from the 2nd Race, or better (bettor?) yet, watch his replay and see for yourself. The same went for Mad Mercer in the 3rd race.

The Lesson: If there’s a horse on the dirt that you are certain will get out to an early lead, take a shot on him or her- especially if they’re a longshot. You needn’t understand why and how a speed bias works to profit from one, you just have to be able to identify it.

3.  Late Money may be Worth Looking at too

We learned that early money is money bet on a horse well before it’s race actually goes off, and late money is the opposite: it’s bet at the last second before the race goes off. Why do it? So a sophisticated gambler can get in his huge bet without anyone noticing and saying, “Wow, a lot of money came in on that horse.  Maybe a bigshot knows something! I guess I should bet it.”, thereby lowering its odds.

Prime example: Kip Berries in the 5th race. This race featured a strong favorite and two or three other horses at odds of 6-1 or shorter. Right up until post time Kip Berries was hovering around 14-1, and this is where you will want to check the replay link. As the race started, Kip went right to lead where they showed his odds at 14-1. Then a bit later in the race, they showed his odds as 9-1. The final tick of his odds went down 5 full points from when the horses were being loaded into the gate until the beginning of the race when the betting stops for that race.

Not surprisingly, the horse whose odds dropped 5 points at the last second went on to win.

4.  Even Grisled Veterans of Horse Racing Love This Old Disney Video About Horse Racing


5. Lay off the Trifecta Wagering for a While

After being asked how I did on that race, I answered that I lost the trifecta despite having the first and second finisher- and that was the second consecutive race I did that. Upon hearing that, The editor-in-chief of Midwest Thoroughbred Magazine made this suggestion, “Don’t bet trifectas here. Getting the last horse in is just too tough.”  While she was telling  me that she had a distaste for the gimmicks  she was cashing an exacta she just won 5 minutes before on the featured race.  Since she was cashing a winner she told me about before the 1st race even started, I’ll probably heed her advice as she must be doing something I’m not.

6. Bring Your Headphones if You’re Taking the Metra

That was the best choice I made all day.  I learned early that Metra trains going to Arlington on a Saturday means pre-gaming 20-somethings travelling in packs with 12-packs. I’m all about groups of young fans taking in a day at the races and having a good time, but I’m also all about not hearing them do it. And besides,  it finally gave me a good reason to enjoy this song.


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