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Hostile Intrusions

Author

Mark Patterson

Date

Mon, Aug 1, 2016

Without a true sister -track to call its own-Presque Isle, mom and dad’s other kid, was abducted at birth by alien footing, and Charlestown, West Virginia’s brand “X”, stands a tedious 5-hours south- Mountaineer has always operated and been perceived as a small island unto itself. Turn-of-the-century research I did for a national magazine piece, however, indicated we’d come a long way, baby, since our pre-slots incarnation that saw the same tired horses trudge post-ward week after week…after week.

During 2000 and 2001,18% of Mountaineer starters had last run elsewhere. A look at 2013 shows the number at an escalated 23%, and that’s despite intervening purse cuts. As the number of invaders has increased here, so has their win-rate, translating to a 1.38 impact value (% of winners divided by % of starters) last season, up from 1.27 in 2000-2001. Even so, wagering profitably on new shooters became harder. Flatbetting the earlier group would have netted $1.93 per ventured deuce, while the ROI on last year’s invaders worked out to $ 1.82 In comparison, Mountaineer-based runners took their traditional backseat in 2013 with an impact value of just .88 and an ROI sitting at $1.61, just below the 17% skim.

Not surprisingly, Mountaineer draws the bulk of its shippers from tracks in closest proximity. Horses vanned from Thistledown (2-hours northwest) not only were most numerous, but won 30% more races than their statistical share, and, even factoring out a freakish 90-1 bomb, generated a flat-bet profit of nearly 25%. That’s quite a change from a facility long considered a cut below Mountaineer, but it’s also a sign of the times. Look for Ohio’s now slot-infused purses to further shift the balance of power.

The public eventually will catch on, though, and Thistledown invaders become less profitable-or even a losing proposition. That’s been the case with intruders from Presque Isle, which features premium synthetics and the biggest pots in this tri-state region. Understand first that common perception is correct: Clark Kent-horses switched from Tapeta to the mountain-main can and do take off and fly. How about winning twice their share from mid-September through late October, a period framed around Pid’s early Autumn closing? The kryptonite part comes at the windows, because flat-betting each Pid shipper last year would haven eaten one-third of your outlay.

Runners from Turfway Park, another track with all-weather footing, also performed well off-the-van, with a 1.58 impact value. 86% of those documented here last year arrived in March or April, presumably benefiting from a fitness edge over inactive locals. Still, enough winners from Turfway slipped under the radar for the group’s ROI to soar well into the black at $2.42. Disconsider longshot outliers, and that drops to $1.80.

Continuing to take stock of feeder tracks with purse structures roughly on par with Mountaineer’s: Charlestown horses making the 5-hour trek won 20% more races than their numbers would warrant., but at $1.60 per deuce, afforded no advantage to players. A stronger than ever influx from Indiana Downs commenced soon after they opened in April and totaled 246 by our season’s end. Those intruders posted a formidable 1.42 impact value. However, with half the group’s winners paying 6/5 or less, if we remove the one payoff higher than 20-1, Indiana invaders were sufficiently overbet to incur a startling 26% loss. Beulah Park also sends here in significant numbers, but is set to relocate with sharply increased purses, rendering last year’s stats practically meaningless.

Churchill horses shipped here in surprising numbers, and the primary agenda was to break maiden. 57 (40%) of the 144 total did target maiden purses, and 13 scored diplomas, which computes to an impact value of about 1.7. Churchill’s aura, not unpredictably, attracted enough play to more than negate that impressive strike-rate. Believe it or not, those maidens showed a flat-bet loss of nearly 40%. Churchill Downs was the only major track that sent horses here in significant numbers last year.

Mountaineer’s intricate system of conditions forms numerous “class”-levels within the bottom claiming-price. And, traditionally, invaders attacking the lower rungs of that ladder fare best. New shooters, for instance, win 40% more than expected when competing in the nw-12 months spot, Mountaineer’s most restrictive veterancondition. ( A pair of basement spots less vulnerable to intruders were nw 2 life and nw 3 life. That stands to reason, since those races are commonly written at other tracks, which means invaders with just 1 or 2 career scores weren’t “dropping” at all here.) Those postward under nw 2 in 6 mo or nw 3 in 12 mo stipulations, our least restrictive conditions, recorded an aggregate iv of just 1.19.

“Open” claimers contain sharp locals with an established liking for the mountainmain. Consequently, invaders trying those spots won barely their share and (ignoring an inexplicable $92 winner) kicked back a mere $1.24 per $2 bet. Shippers contesting open races at the higher $7500 and $10,000 levels came out even worse, subjecting their backers to a 50% loss.

Fed a large portion of slot-fueled purse bumps early this century, non-life allowance races started luring classy invaders and came to perhaps best exemplify Mountaineer’s ascending status. At our apex 6 or 7 years ago, prominent Ky-based outfits frequently sent big-league prospects here for confidence builders and lucrative paydays. Now, Ky shippers still reign in such races, with last year’s impact value just under 2.00, but many of the winners come from Turfway, rather than Keeneand or Churchill, and lots bring claiming forms.

Charlestown’s casino subsidies haven’t crested and tapered off quite the way ours have, which was underscored by runners from southern WV scoring 11 non-life allowances here in 2013. Just one of those wins came under state-bred restrictions. Intruders did even better in another type of non-claimer offering disproportionately high purses: Msw races. But primarily as chalk. Just three of the 72 Msw scores posted by new shooters last year paid double-digit odds, while 35 (nearly half) returned $5 or less. Comparing the group’s consequent ROI of just $1.40 to their healthy iv of 1.4 proves that winning form-traits can be losing bets.

*With the exception of Msw races, turf events weren’t factored into the above statistics or analysis.

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