Carryover Exploration: ROI Update & The Hook

Unfortunately, I’ve fallen behind on tracking the initial metrics proposed for this exercise. However, I think I have a view into the numbers that will be just as interesting to some of you, and maybe even more helpful. In order to set this up properly, let’s start with a little personal history and the hook that got me into this game we all love.

As a young lad, I spend many hours on my grandparents’ farm in rural Minnesota. They had beef cattle, corn fields, and hay fields, as many would visualize when thinking of a midwest farm, but the main operation was mink fur farming. So I guess it would be fair to say I knew about animal rights activists before I knew about horse racing.

The old farm sign

This is where my love for animals started, playing with the farm dogs and cats, hollering at the cattle, and enjoying the open space. I never developed any sort of love for the mink, and neither did my grandpa. Years later, when he was in his 90s and still living on the farm, I asked him more about his days actively farming. He was quick to say that he missed the cattle, but he hadn’t missed the mink at all. I found that very interesting, as the mink were his true livelihood. Also, it was very understanding, as mink are nasty creatures.

As I grew older, I spent less and less time on the farm and more and more time playing competitive sports. Even living in rural Minnesota and being on family and friends’ farms, horses weren’t a part of my life growing up.

After college, I moved to Minneapolis, and on a rare occasion I would visit Canterbury Downs. Even though I knew next to nothing about wagering, I always enjoyed my time there, as it reminded me of home, the farm, my love for animals, and competitive sports. The more I watched, the more I marveled at the power and grace of the equine athletes. However, I still wasn’t hooked.

In May 2011, a friend of mine asked if I wanted to go to Canterbury for the Kentucky Derby. I thought that sounded like a good time, so I accepted the invite. However, as many dumb 28 year olds do, I had more than my fair share of fun the Friday night before, and barely made my way out to Canterbury on Derby Saturday. I met up with my buddy, who had also bumped into a few acquaintances of his. One of these gentleman had a printed sheet that he offered to us for review. We kindly accepted, as neither of us had any idea about what was going on. After reviewing the sheet independently, we split ways and made our bets. When we met up after placing our bets, we did the “what did you bet?” exchange. It turned out we had bet the exact same thing, a $10 exacta box. My buddy also had placed a $50 win bet on a horse.

That win bet happened to be on Animal Kingdom, and our exacta boxes were Animal Kingdom with Nehro. We watched the race unfold on the lousy Canterbury TVs, and after the race, we had no idea who won. If you recall, it was a mud-fest, and the sound was of no help. We anxiously waited for the final results to be posted, and after seeing the payouts we were both ecstatic. My buddy cashed out and went out to celebrate; I cashed out and went straight to bed to nurse my hangover. I haven’t missed a triple crown race since, but as you can see from my wagering history below, it didn’t immediately spark a horse wagering maniac.

I think personal context is important to know as you think through your own horse wagering path. I have no inside connections, no knowledge of horses that would give me an advantage. I always, and will always, only use Brisnet PPs and try to get through most handicapping as quickly as I can. I lean heavily on speed figures at the distance and surface, Prime Power, workout times, pace and form cycle. I find trainer and jockey stats to be nearly useless for many reasons. When I hear someone say “that trainer with that jockey wins at X percent when running that distance at that track” my eyes glaze over. There are way too many independent variables to factor into that scenario to lean on those percentages. I try to look at each racing scenario as it’s own independent puzzle. The horse the trainer and jockey are running today isn’t the same as the horses that made up those percentages. The horses they will run against today are not the horses that made up the field those other days. The one trainer stat I find helpful is first time starter stats. However, I will lean on good work times for the horse 100 out of 100 times over a trainer’s first-out percentages.

Where I do have an advantage is pool selection and ticket construction. A professor of my college math course, following a session on probability where I needed to correct her a few times, instructed me to skip the remainder of the classes and show up for the final (For the record, I’m actually not “that guy” and I still didn’t get an A!). I understand probability and basic math, which you absolutely must to win at this game. Basic math tells me that more money coming out of a pool than going in is a pool I must participate in. A pool where <80% of the money coming in is going to be paid out, is a pool I must pass on. It took me way too long to commit to this simple idea.

Here are my wagering numbers for many of the past years; you can get an idea of the progression. This is the last time I will show exact numbers, for obvious reasons, but I think it’s meaningless to keep harping about the winning effects of carryover-focus without showing the effects of my previous wagering.

2013 – Great year for me, as I broke even…I didn’t wager a dime through the ADW! I’m fairly certain I wagered at Canterbury for the Triple Crown races, and lost.

2014 – Another year of wagering the Triple Crown races

2015 – More of the same

2016 – Alright, things are picking up. The year is carried by a $2 Trifecta hit in the Belmont.

2017 – After a winning 2016, confidence is high, time to beat the game! Sound familiar to anyone else?! Crashing back to earth.

2018 – Year of ups and downs, up a bit in October after a big High 5 carryover score at KEE (first time I really noticed the carryover scene). Pressed things hard at the end of the year and ended down for the year.

2019 (“YTD” and “8/8/19 – YTD Carryover”) – Overall, looks pretty good, but through 8/7/19 I was committed to the “live or die by the big score” and could not hit anything the first half of the year. Deep down I knew I was betting into terrible situations due to takeout, and not committing enough money to the sequences I was betting. I was playing 15%+ takeout situations on the regular and punching tickets that were not adequately covering my opinions, and certainly not doing it efficiently. 8/8/19 I started this carryover commitment, and it has been a fun ride since. Also, the handle numbers have grown exponentially, even though # of bets has gone down a ton since the carryover commitment. I’m finally betting what I know I should into pools with little or no takeout, and in some instances a substantial player edge of more money coming out than is going in. It would also be easy to look at this and chalk it up to a lucky stretch. I can tell you it has been anything but lucky. The tickets I have hit, I have hit hard and squarely. I have also been alive for $9K-$20K to the final leg with 3 of 5 horses covered, two of the horses 4/5 and 2/1, and lost.

Since beginning the carryover-focused exercise, results have been great. Although I don’t have the numbers, I’m up a lot on P5s, and down on P6s and High 5s.

This carryover exercise has solidified to me that this is the way for me to move forward. I’m usually one for “there are different paths for different people,” but if your different path includes the majority of your bankroll going to high takeout wagers, I urge you to give this carryover path a try.

Good luck out there!

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