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Believing the Board

Posted by on 9/10/2014 8:59:05 PM

The best man to rely on when seeking tips from the tote board just might be Serge Fradkoff, who owned and raced the triple Grade 1 winning machine named Kilijaro several decades years ago.

Kilijaro was a push button horse in the exact sense. She was tactical enough to lead or be placed anywhere in a race and when asked for speed, she accelerated like her jockey had a gas pedal attached to the stirrups.

Legend has it, and I’ve seen the money personally show up on the tote board immediately at Santa Anita, is that Serge would have one of his people bet $20,000 or $30,000 on Kilijaro as soon as the betting windows opened.

Serge , a seriously successful Swiss businessman, liked to bet, and $20,000 was a drop in the bucket for him, but reasoned that if the populous saw the horse they liked was 2-5 or less right off the bat, they would go shopping and the price would rise on his beloved Kilijaro.

And he was right. She often was bet off the board early, only to drift up as the minutes to the post drew closer.

These days, there are few that can alter the tote the way Serge did. First, the pools are bigger and with simulcasting making it almost a worldwide sport, $20,000 really does not make the dent that it used to back in the day.

And with the computer generated betting options, money can explode into the track’s pool from the time the gates open to the time the computers catch up and adjust the odds. It is now common place to see a horse be 5-2 just as the gates open, but go to 8-5 before the run a quarter of a mile.

To garner clues from the tote one must first believe that the morning line maker at the track in question is skillful and sets an accurate line from the get go.

If the linemaker sets bad numbers, then action on the board is probably more a case of his incompetence rather than a sign that a horse is live.

The bettors in Southern California are lucky enough to have very good linemakers at all of the major stops. Everybody makes mistakes and a horse will get by now and again, but as a rule, the SoCal line is solid.

The main way a bettor can glean information from the tote board is in maiden races. First timers are by their own identity mysteries and if a horse in SoCal is say 20-1 on the line and is cut to half of that or more, bettors had better wake up and smell the coffee.

One has to be careful not to take moves on the board at face value. If a horse is 20-1 on the line, is now 6-1 but was a contending speed going in and was improved when the speedy chalk scratched, then 6-1 would have likely been a more realistic starting point.

Trainer Vladimir Cerin’s runners sometimes also get bet when one would least expect it and they rate extra consideration. A. C. Avila is no stranger to the betting windows and it shows up in the horses he runs.

Smaller stables, like Paul Aquirre’s or Vann Belvoir’s, also seem to pop if their stock gets added attention on the tote.

Another thing a bettor has to worry about the tote, and this applies to seasoned runners and not just first timers, is why is this horse being bet? If a runner is from a supposed easier circuit, but has taken steady money since the windows opened and is considerably a smaller price than he started at, then one must assume that the runner is here because his connections think he fits in this perceived tougher league.

When looking for lead pipe cinches in regard to tote action, one has to be very careful. For every first timer that is bet like Ruffian and wins, there are dozens that are bet the same way and are still running.

Like most things in life, making intelligent decisions regarding the tote board often comes down to experience and what one has seen happen and win in the past. So in other words, get out there, pay attention, and be aware that money fuels this game, nobody throws it away and if a horse is taking extraordinary action, it might be for a very serious reason.

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