In order for tote board handicapping work for me, I need to watch the odds change from the moment the first odds are posted until the horses begin loading into the starting gate. For many, many years, I would wager solely on the Southern California racetracks — Santa Anita, Hollywood Park, and Del Mar. However, I am finding it harder and harder to do so as these tracks frequently offer such small fields sizes that finding a solid Value Play is next to impossible.
Of the thirty-four races carded at Hollywood Park last week, six of them sported six horses, four of them ran with only five starters, one of them with only four horses, and, how sad is this, one of them had only three starters. Think about that for a moment. More than one-third of the races carded last week averaged just over five starters per race.
The three horse event was won by the odds-on favorite who distanced the second place finisher by six and one-half lengths, who in turn was fourteen lengths in front of the third place horse. A $2 Win ticket returned $3.00, the $1 Exacta paid $2.60, and the $1 Trifecta (I am amazed they even offered it) paid $2.80. Who benefits from these ludicrous races? It is certainly not professional handicappers such as me. We end up looking elsewhere (read other racetracks) for field sizes where we can find value for our wagers.
Now, I understand that, at this point, the folks at Hollywood Park likely no longer care about presenting decent races for their customers as the facility will be razed early next year to make way for “Hollywood Park Tomorrow, a $2-billion real estate project with plans for 3,000 residential units, retail stores, theaters, restaurants, a hotel and casino.” However, Hollywood Park is not the only racetrack in the country with a shortage of horses. Something needs to be done about this situation. Any ideas?