How morning lines were made for the International Turf Festival of Racing at Arlington

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TwinSpires Staff

August 8th, 2018


The purpose of the morning line is to give the wagering public a general idea of what the odds on each horse are expected to be at post time.

It's a subjective system, and is merely one person's – the morning line maker's -- educated guess. The program odds are calculated shortly after entries are drawn, usually 48-72 hours in advance of race day.

The importance of the morning line is often debated. A good percentage of seasoned horseplayers believe it's unnecessary and they'd like to see it go away completely, but in my opinion, in the world of simulcasting, it is important that the morning line odds are as accurate as possible.

A racetrack loses creditability when their morning line maker does a poor job, both with experienced horseplayers nationwide and more importantly with new fans who have a tough time understanding why the odds in the program are so far out of whack with the tote board. The accuracy of morning line odds often fuels a heated discussion on social media.

Elements used in calculating a morning line include:

• Recent form
• Speed figures
• Human connections (jockey and trainer)
• Strength of today's competition
• Fan popularity of horse
• Class
• Likely pace scenario
• Workouts

As the Arlington Park morning line maker for nearly 15 years, one of the toughest challenges I face are the three Grade 1 turf races that comprise the International Festival of Racing events this weekend -- the Arlington Million, Beverly D., and the Secretariat.

The significant overseas influence on the turf stakes adds a tricky element not only to the morning line, but to perceived value. Who are these horses? How strong is the competition they've been facing? Will they move up with Lasix and potentially on firm turf? How much upside to they have?

While establishing odds may appear to be a simple task, it actually requires a mathematical formula to be done correctly.

A true morning line must "balance." If there wasn't any takeout from the win pool, the base for the point system would be 100. But the line maker must factor in takeout to his formula to arrive at a mathematically correct morning line.

A common takeout in the win pool is 17%. Therefore, by adding 17 to a base of 100, we arrive at 117 points. Then, by designating an additional point per horse, the morning line will generally balance between 122 and 129 points for fields consisting of six to 12 horses.

Balance = 122-129 points

Odds Points Odds Points

1-5     70     7-2     22
2-5     65     4-1     20
3-5     60     9-2     18
4-5     55     5-1     17
1-1     50     6-1     14
6-5     45     8-1     11
7-5     41     10-1     9
8-5     38     12-1     8
9-5     35     15-1     6
2-1     33     20-1     5
5-2     28     30-1     3
3-1     25     50-1     2

If you want to take your handicapping to the next level, avoid looking at the morning line until after you've handicapped the entire card. Sometimes the program odds can influence how you look at a race.

Learn to make your own morning line, this way you will have three points of reference (your odds, morning line odds, actual odds). It may take a little more of your time, but if you think about it, while you're devising a set of odds, you're actually handicapping the race at the same time.

Rarely will your line "balance" the first time through. If it adds up to say 112 points, you'll need to lower the odds on a few horses. If you come up with say 150 points, which often times will happen in competitive races with many viable contenders, you'll need to raise the odds on a few horses to zero in on accuracy.

By formulating your own morning line, you will have a better idea of which horses offer value in YOUR eyes.

Now that I've explained the purpose of the morning line and how to go about calculating it, let's dig a little deeper in into the thought process.

Arlington Million

1. Circus Couture 30-1
2. Spring Quality 8-1
3. Almanaar 5-1
4. Divisidero 10-1
5. Century Dream 12-1
6. Catcho En Die 20-1
7. Twenty Four Seven 30-1
8. Money Multiplier 6-1
9. Deauville 6-1
10. Robert Bruce 9-2
11. Oscar Performance 3-1

The favorite: Last year as a three-year-old, Oscar Performance (3-1) won the Secretariat as the favorite. He enters the Million off an impressive victory in the Poker (G3), trainer Brian Lynch has been very public about how "well" he's doing coming into Saturday's race, and jockey Jose Ortiz takes money. There's a chance he gets bet down, but there are several playable horses in this year's Million, so I decided to lean towards conservative.

Chad Brown: America's turf maven has a trio of live bullets to fire here and they all look pretty equal on paper. Robert Bruce (9-2) is probably the most reliable of the three, so I made him the second choice. Almanaar (5-1) might be the most talented, but the long layoff and comeback win in an optional claiming/allowance might help inflate his price. Money Multiplier (6-1) is what he is, which is pretty good, but chances are he might get lost in the shuffle. There's a chance his morning line odds might be a little low, but if he does float up to 8-1 or even 10-1, that would represent value in my eyes.

Tough calls: A close third in last year's Million as the 9-5 post time favorite, Deauville (6-1) has been a major disappointment since. In reality, he's probably more like a 10-1 shot, but as a recognizable name trained by Aidan O'Brien and ridden by Ryan Moore, my thought was he'll take more action than he deserves. Century Dream (12-1) just missed in the Queen Anne (G1) two back at 20-1, but that was over a straight mile and the winner was 33-1. He tired in the Summer Mile (G2) last out, and I'm not sure a 10-furlong American turf race is what he wants to do. On the flip side, horseplayers looking for the "upside Euro" might decide to put their chips on his number, those lowering the price slightly, but I'm guessing 8-1 is his floor.

Beverly D

1. Daddy's Lil Darling 8-1
2. Nyaleti 15-1
3. Sistercharlie 9-5
4. Dona Bruja 6-1
5. Thais 30-1
6. Oh So Terrible 50-1
7. Fourstar Crook 9-2
8. Inflexibility 8-1
9. Athena 3-1

The favorites: I think there's little doubt that Sistercharlie (9-5) will be the favorite, the question is, how low will she go. She's been bet down significantly in her last two starts, and those runs have done nothing but enhance her reputation for Chad Brown. Dismissed at 10-1 in her Belmont Oaks (G1) win, Athena (3-1) stormed home to win in visually impressive fashion for the European dynamic duo of O'Brien and Moore. She's a three-year-old taking on a tough field of older foes, but a lot of horseplayers saw that race, and she's sure to lure plenty of money.

Chad Brown: In addition to the likely favorite Sistercharlie, Brown also has Fourstar Crook (9-2), who actually defeated her more highly regarded stablemate in a stretch free-for-all in the New York (G2) on June 8. Sistercharlie was 1-2 that day, Fourstar Crook was 4-1, and the former has won impressively since, thus the separation in morning line odds. Inflexibility (8-1) finished second as the odds-on favorite behind A Raving Beauty, one of the divisional leaders, two back in the Beaugay (G3) and was once again the runner-up in a watered-down Dance Smartly (G2). She's a four-year-old with upside who has yet to prove herself on the big stage, so it will be interesting to see how the betting public responds to her. Thais (30-1) is merely in the race to help assure an honest pace.

Tough calls: Dona Bruja (6-1) was the runner-up as the lukewarm 2-1 favorite in last year's Beverly D., but she's only run three times this year and not at all since April 14. She could go either way this year and is a wild card in the wagering. Nyaleti (15-1) showed promise as a two-year-old, but she had to travel to Germany to win a Group 2, and she's yet to compete in a race further than a mile. The presence of so many playable Americans likely keeps the price up.


1. Real Story 20-1
2. Platinum Warrior 10-1
3. Bandua 20-1
4. Carrick 20-1
5. Pont Du Gard 30-1
6. Ming 20-1
7. Captivating Moon 20-1
8. Untamed Domain 5-1
9. Analyze It 3-1
10. Sniper Kitten 12-1
11. Dubby Dubbie 30-1
12. Lucius Tiberius 12-1
13. Hunting Horn 7-2

The favorites: The top three were fairly obvious here. There's no question Analyze It (2-1) will be the favorite, and Euro raider Hunting Horn (7-2), who finished just behind him in the Belmont Derby (G1), is the logical second choice. Highly regarded all year, Untamed Domain (5-1) finished sixth as the 6-5 favorite in a weak edition of the Kent (G3) last out, but the trip he endured came right out of one of trainer Graham Motion's nightmares. The trouble has been well publicized by racing pundits, and "trip" horses often take more action than they deserve.

Tough calls: I had a hard time with the other Euros and if anything, I think all of them might go off at even higher odds. Of that group, Platinum Warrior (10-1) has the best resume with a Group 3 win over 10 grassy furlongs. Trained by Aidan O'Brien, Lucius Tiberius (12-1) is also proven over distance, but this will certainly be a class test. Bandua (20-1) and Ming (20-1) are both trained by high profile individuals in Dermot Weld and Aidan O'Brien's son Joseph, but neither has done enough on paper to warrant tote action -- 20-1 and not 30-1 is out of mere respect. Sniper Kitten (12-1) has won three in a row, but he's yet to compete in a graded stakes. If he's bet down below the morning line for trainer Mike "Money" Maker and owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey, take notice. He'll likely run big.