Jason Beem's Thursday Column for Aug. 31, 2023

August 31st, 2023

A good Thursday morning to you all! Hope everyone is doing fine and ready for the holiday weekend. We’re starting to wind down here at Colonial Downs, but also ramping up for next week’s big Virginia Derby card. I hope you’ll be able to join us and watch one of these final seven cards. It's once again been a fun season with good field size and good turf racing. OK, plug over.

So, last Thursday I decided to try my hand at making a morning line. I recently wrote a column about how I thought the skill of making a good morning line is actually good for horseplayers to have in their arsenal. In part because I think it’s important to know what kind of price you might and should be getting, but also to know how the public bets and why at your particular track. So I picked a random card at Colonial and spent a couple hours to try my hand at it. 

Overall, I think I did OK. I certainly finished better than I started. The first race there was a horse that our line-maker had at 30-1 that I had at 9-2. I was sure this horse was going to take some money, but kind of didn’t, and ended up going off at 12-1.  Now some of you might think “well 12-1 is closer to 9-2 than it is 30-1.” I don’t think it is by percentage points, especially when you consider that the race had 2 scratches. If those two horses remain in, that 12-1 price obviously goes even higher. 

I did get the favorite right in the first race, but then I missed a few. For the nine race card I had the correct morning line favorite in six of the nine races. Two of the three I missed were kind of coin flips where I’d have two horses at 2-1 and 5-2, and the 5-2 would go off favored. So clearly I knew the horse was going to take some money, but not as much as it did. One of the favorites, the second race, I just flat out whiffed. I had the horse as the 3-1 second choice and it ended up going off as the 4-5 favorite and that was with no scratches in the body of the field. 

Other than that I don’t think I had any, what I would call, disaster misses. No horses I put at 30-1 that went off at 3-1 type things. I was talking to a friend the night before the card and he was speaking about how often times line-makers will make two horses the same price and they’ll go off at wildly different odds. I think going into this exercise, I was probably going a little more for having the rank of the horses correct than the hard odds number. But his comment made a lot of sense after he used a sports betting analogy, because if two horses are lined the same odds, they should be going off really close to the same odds. One race I had two horses at 9-2, one went off at 5-1, so I was nearly dead-on there. The other went off at 13-1. Not so dead-on.  

Overall it was a fun exercise and a fun job. I’ve turned down being the morning line maker at three tracks I’ve worked at over the years, mostly because I don’t want all the negative feedback and tweets that come along with it. I can also see how it would be a grind to do it every night on top of your primary jobs. But I do believe with practice I could be good at it. I think the more seasoned line-makers will tell you that you start to learn more about your circuit, what connections get bet, etc, it probably becomes a bit easier to be accurate. 

Have a great holiday weekend everyone!