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January 24, 2019

The Morning Line

By: Jonathan Stettin


I think there are just some things related to playing the horses that come with time and experience. You can’t substitute anything for watching and learning the game by attending the races and studying the sport. There are no cliff notes or shortcuts. Does it mean you will win all the time? Of course not. Some players never win. Does it give you an edge over a novice or newcomer? Absolutely, if you’re an astute player and student.

One of the things that have come to me over time is looking at a field and knowing two things almost off the bat. One is the likely or approximate post time odds. The other is the odds a horse should be, based on their likelihood of winning. It just comes to me after looking at the past performances and more times than not I’ll be spot on. Yes, I look at the morning line, but I don’t have to to get my feel for the probable odds.

A true morning line is not indicative of the oddsmakers opinion of the horses and their chances. Not at all actually. It is reflective or at least should be of what they think the odds will be at post time. They are handicapping how we will bet more than the horses themselves. A lot of people think if an oddsmaker puts a horse at say 9-5, they must like that horse or think the horse has a good chance. That may or may not be the case. They may think the horse has no shot, but feel the public will bet the runner to 9-5. It is important to understand this when you look at a morning line.

Most line makers use a formula. It goes something like this:
Use a base of 100 and then add points to correspond with the win takeout, say 15%. Therefore, by adding 15 to a base of 100, we arrive at 115 points. Then, by designating an additional point per horse, the morning line will generally balance between 123 and 127 or something like that for fields consisting of 8 to 12 horses.

Once a race is assigned a point value, the oddsmaker must now balance the field of horses to add up to the designated total or at least as close as a point or two.

This is pretty much the formula that is used, or perhaps a close variation of it. If you like to make a fair odds line for yourself to spot overlays and underlays and bet accordingly, you probably use a similar formula. Personally, I don’t make a fair odds line. As I stated earlier when I study a race I know what I think the post time odds will be, and also what I think are fair odds on a horse based on my opinion of their chance of winning. I’m comfortable with that. I also don’t let it affect my betting as much as some might. I don’t bet against the horse I think will win regardless of price, and I don’t bet a horse I think won’t win just because they are long odds. That said if I think a 30-1 horse will win I will bet them the same as I would a 6-5 horse. I’ve singled long odds horses on expensive tickets. It’s just how I play. There is no value in a losing bet.

The morning line has less of an impact today than it did maybe 20 years ago and prior to that. There are far more sharks in the water today. I think it has the most significant impact on payoffs in multi-race wagers. Those are bet without knowing the odds of the advance legs. Those are the races you can easily take advantage of bad morning lines. Once live race betting begins the sharks will balance the line more often than not.

I don’t let odds dictate to me, so I surely would not let a morning line affect my play too much, or my opinion on a race at all. That works for me. It might not for you, and that’s fine. Whatever works for you is what matters.