Morning lines are a part of every wagering race in the U.S. no matter whether it is a Grade 1 at Saratoga or a $4kN2L at Beulah Park. The maker of the morning line has an arduous task in trying to figure out how the public will interpret all the possible information in front of them, including who has what information, and whether that information will lead to a lot of money being bet on the horse. It is not an enviable task, but someone has to do it. This task will always leave someone unhappy but it is a necessary part of racing. The line exists to help handicappers, especially a newbie to the sport, see who presumably will have a larger chance to win a particular race. So when a morning line maker does a poor job in making a morning line, it has a negative effect on the bettor no matter whether it's the $2 win bettor or the $3000/ticket Pick 6 player.
There are two main ways a morning line can be bad. One is when a horse is listed at odds that ends up being way off compared to its actual post time odds (though it is normally only complained about when it is lower than the listed morning line odds). This can happen through the morning line maker doing a poor job reading the information; the connections of the horse betting more than expected on him; or the horse is getting a lot of buzz at the track, but what shows up on paper is not very enticing. The happens from time to time, and while annoying, can be forgiven as one of the vagaries of the game.
The other way a morning line can be bad, and the one that this post is mostly about, is when a morning line equals a percentage that is just too high to be reasonable. This is what I'm calling an "overvalued" morning line. If any of you have any interaction with this blog's writer through social media, you will know that this a hot-button issue with me. A bad morning line bothers me more than it should - but then why all the ranting about it? First, let this blog explain what a morning line should equal. The morning line should equal 100% + the takeout on the win bet. Since the morning line uses whole, easy to understand numbers, yet odds can be counted down to a tenth, it is acceptable to have the line fall within a range. That range is 116 percent to 125 percent, depending on what the track's takeout is on that wager. When a morning line does not fall into that range, it is considered a bad line. There are occasions when that happens and people give it a pass, such as the Kentucky Derby, where the unique circumstances of the race make it impossible to craft a line to a normal percentage. But even that has it limitations on how high it can be before it becomes objectionable. When the morning line of an everyday race is above 125%, it is a sign that the morning line maker struggled with the field. But when every race on the card has a line that is significantly over 125%, and this occurs on a daily basis, that is a sign of a morning line maker who is just not doing his job correctly. There are examples at major tracks across the nation, from the San Gabriel Mountains to the Bluegrass all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.
Why all this fuss over an "overvalued" morning line? Well, there are a few main reasons. First, is that it decreases value for the handicapper. How? When it comes to the multi-race exotics all but the most disciplined of players will look at the morning line when considering whom to add in the later legs of those bets. Horse players are always looking to add value in the form of longer odds horses when playing. So if two horses have the same odds, the more likely they will be used in an equal manner. However, if those horses who have the same odds do not have an equal chance (or very close to it), and one should be at higher post-time odds, that mistake in the line will cost the bettor both in the investment and the payout. This issue will especially affect newbies bettors, who depend on the morning line more than the seasoned horse players to help them make decisions on who to use and who not to use. So when a bad line exists on a daily basis at a meet, it erodes value on every possible bet, costing the bettor several times during the meet.
Another reason a consistently overvalued morning line is worthy of an uproar is that it subconsciously destroys the trust between the bettor and the track. How so? Let's use this example: If a company claimed that a product would deliver a specific range of performances, but if the product's performance consistently failed to fall into the range, the consumer would have less faith in the product, and would be less likely to consider using the product and what it is associated with - So if the morning line is consistently incorrect, the betting public will have less faith in it. If the bettor has less faith in it, they are unlikely to use the line and play the racing associated with it. The bettor's decision not to play the track is their way of exercising their free market ability against an unfavorable situation. The lack of trust causes the serious bettor to go elsewhere with their wagering dollars.
The newbie bettor is affected differently by a consistently overvalued morning line when it comes to the issue of trust. Since the track puts out a morning line with the specific intent of helping the bettor, the line's relative accuracy is imperative. With the newbie's dependence on the line, a track would be remiss if it did not provide a competent morning line. If the track is endorsing a consistently overvalued morning line, it is doing a disservice to the bettors by willingly misleading them. If a newbie bettor feels taken advantage of by the track, their discretionary money will be taken to another track or even towards a different sport entirely.
So there's my 'ten cents' on why a overvalued morning line is a bad thing for any level of bettor, whether the $2 type or the $20,000 type. Agree? Disagree? Comment below and help further the discussion. Maybe with enough buzz about it, overvalued morning lines can become a thing of the past.