You can still find value while betting odds-on Always Dreaming in Preakness
by DICK POWELL
Nine brave horses are going to take on Kentucky Derby (G1) winner ALWAYS DREAMING (Bodemeister) in the 142nd running of the Preakness S. (G1) this Saturday at Pimlico. If you want to take a shot against the heavy favorite (4 to 5 on the morning line), you will get a juicy price. If not, then you will have to swallow hard on a horse that will be heavily bet.
What always amazes me is that many of the public handicappers that scoff at his chances find fault with every favorite. What if Always Dreaming is, by far, the best horse? Nobody is saying go out and bet him to show at that price but with the diverse menu of wagering opportunities available to us, what is wrong with a solid single in a horizontal bet?
I have written this before but I often wondered who today’s skeptics would have picked when SECRETARIAT (Bold Ruler) was going for the Triple Crown in the Belmont S. (G1)? How ridiculous would you have looked after he won by 31 lengths? And, this was before all the exotic wagers available today.
A couple of years ago, AMERICAN PHAROAH (Pioneerof the Nile) was going for the Preakness after a handy score in the Derby. I didn’t see any way he could lose so my bet was a big cold exacta with him on top of DIVINING ROD (Tapit). He had just come off a win in the Lexington S. (G3) at Keeneland and went off at 12.60 to 1.
American Pharoah was 9 to 10 and despite a severe thunderstorm that hit after the horses took to the track, he gunned to the front and never looked back. I was looking pretty smart when Divining Rod was second by three lengths with a furlong to go but here came TALE OF VERVE (Tale of Ekati) at 28 to 1 to beat me out by a length.
If memory serves me, the American Pharoah/Divining Rod exacta was going to pay $37 and the exacta with Tale of Verve paid $124.40. So, you got 61 to 1 odds on a 28 to 1 shot finishing second. It was only an eight-horse field and Tale of Verve was the second-longest price on the board.
The point is, if you think Always Dreaming is a worthy odds-on favorite, there is plenty of value left in the pools.
Another way of making money on Saturday is to buy seats for the Belmont Stakes before the Preakness result. As I write this, there are 25 seats available for $215 each in section 3H which is right past the finish line. Let’s say you buy four seats. Okay, a dent in your betting budget.
But what if odds-on Always Dreaming wins the Preakness? Your Belmont Stakes seats would be worth three or four times face value as people come out of the woodwork to see a Triple Crown. Worst case scenario is that he loses and you get to go the Belmont Stakes which is not a bad place to spend the day with all the other stakes action. So your seat investment could bring 3 or 4 to 1 return on investment. Just saying.
As long as he is not below 1 to 2, he will still represent decent value in many wagering pools on Saturday. My handicapping is based on who will run second and try to make money that way. I know that goes against today’s “Bet a little, win a lot” betting behavior but sometimes you can make a lot of money by betting a lot of money.
I listen to Sirius channel 204 in the afternoon/early evening. VSIN is the Vegas Sports Information Network and is broadcast out of Las Vegas in the South Point casino. They cover sports from a gambling and analytics perspective and even though I don’t bet sports, I enjoy listening to it.
One of the things they have pointed out is how many bettors are willing to lay huge odds on the money line without any pointspread to worry out. Jimmy Vaccaro, senior linemaker for the South Point and frequent regular on the radio show, has pointed out that a seven-point favorite used to be around minus 250 on the money line but is now around minus 480.
When the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers were waltzing through the early rounds of the NBA playoffs, the sports books would raise the pointspreads so high they were not worth betting but bettors were willing to risk a thousand dollars to win a hundred on the money line. They feel – so far they are right – that these two teams are unbeatable until they face each other, and the money line, despite the odds being tilted away from them, is worth laying. We are talking six-figure wagers.
The linemakers like Vaccaro handicap the matchup and then the bettors have at it. No matter where Vaccaro sets the money line, the bettors crush it despite the huge risk. Unlike many of today’s horse racing bettors, they bet a lot to win a little; relatively speaking.
In other countries, the win and place pools are where most of the betting occurs. You wish that American horse racing could attract these big sports bettors into our pools and get them to see that American Pharoah at 9 to 10 in the 2015 Preakness is just as much a mortal lock as the Warriors and Cavaliers have been in the NBA playoffs.