Mar 30, 2021
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Between The Hedges: Diving into minus pools

by NYRA Press Office

The following is the fifth edition of a bi-weekly series entitled Between The Hedges, a column penned by Joe Longo, NYRA General Manager of Content Services. The series will revolve around the business of betting focusing on trending wagering topics and statistics. Send your questions for Between The Hedges to [email protected]

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – A minus pool in horse racing is the direct result of an established minimum payout threshold and a corresponding significant amount of money wagered in a pool on a heavy favorite.

Assuming the favorite runs as expected, the end result is a shortfall between what is left of the net pool to be distributed to the winning tickets and the guaranteed minimum.

The majority of the time minus pools occur in the show pools. But there are occasions where show pools are removed and the place pool is affected. The importance of minus pools is that they negatively impact the bottom line of the racetrack or account deposit wagering platform [ADW] that facilitates the wager. Simulcast contracts hold the guest locations responsible for covering any minus pool that is created by them wagering on the host track content.

In the 1943 Belmont Stakes, a minus win pool of $15,912, the equivalent of approximately $240,000 adjusted for inflation, took place when Count Fleet completed his sweep of the Triple Crown.

The 1969 running of the Belmont Stakes produced the first minus show pool in the history of the race when Arts and Letters won and created a minus show pool of $5,782.98 and ten years later another minus pool occurred in the Belmont Stakes when Spectacular Bid finished third at odds of $.30-1 to win, resulting in an on-track minus show pool of $19,500.81.

In recent years, field-size decline, coupled with net pool pricing, have contributed to an increase in minus pools. The availability of pool information and the ability to wager anywhere via ADW also plays a role.

The 2020 edition of the Personal Ensign at Saratoga Race Course, a nine-furlong test for older fillies and mares, provided a good example of how a minus pool is created. For the purpose of this example, the below illustration uses the gross pool and does not contemplate different takeout rates or currency conversion variances related to international guest locations.

A field of five, following the scratch of Bossy Bride [No. 5], went into the gate, including multiple Grade 1-winner Midnight Bisou. Prior to the race, the show pool was removed in anticipation of a large minus pool. A total of $419,154 was bet into the place pool. This was the corresponding percentage of the total:

No. 1 Abounding Joy - $13,055 (3%)

No. 2 Motion Emotion - $21,223 (5%)

No. 3 Midnight Bisou - $301,995 (72%)

No. 4 Vexatious - $25,758 (6%)

No. 6 Point of Honor - $57,122 (14%) 

The official order was 4-3-6-2-1, as Vexatious held off Midnight Bisou by a neck for a 9-1 upset win. It was a further 6 1/4-lengths back to Point of Honor in third. 

The total amount of the place pool wagered on the top two finishers was $327,753 or 78 percent.   

To calculate the place payouts, the first step is to subtract the total amount wagered on the winning tickets from the total pool, then remove the takeout from the difference. The total pool was $419,154 less the total on the top-two finishers of $327,753, with the new figure $91,401. After removing the 16 percent takeout, the difference was $76,777.

Under net pool pricing with two place payouts, the next step is to divide the $76,777 in two, leaving each of the top-two finishers with $38,389. In addition to the split of the $38,389, the amount wagered on the top-two finishers should be added to this amount, less the takeout. This leaves the amount on Vexatious to be distributed to the winning tickets at $60,025 and $292,064 on Midnight Bisou. Dividing these amounts by number of winning tickets, the raw $1 pay out was $2.33 to Vexatious and $0.97 for Midnight Bisou, or $4.60 and $1.93, respectively, when adjusted for the $2 payout after breakage.

The minimum payout for a wager in the state of New York is $2.10 on a $2 wager. For every $2 that was wagered on Midnight Bisou to place, a minus pool of 17 cents was created. Factoring in where the bet was placed, host fees, and potentially source market fees, it is reasonable to assume that some of the bet takers actually lost money on every place wager on Midnight Bisou.

The impact of the minimum payout threshold is even more pronounced in the state of West Virginia - the only one of its type - where the minimum is $2.20 for a $2 wager. In an effort to avoid losing money on these pools, ADWs will remove the show pool from their wagering menu on specific races.

The racetrack’s situation is slightly different in that they must first adhere to guidance or statutes from their regulators. The racetracks must then balance the risk versus reward of the minus pools they are responsible for and the potential host fees on the pool in question.

In New York, NYRA can remove the show pool from stakes races but we must offer the show pool for any overnight race that start five or more separate entries. As the industry evolves, so too will NYRA’s approach to managing minus pools in the best interest of all our stakeholders.

Send your questions for Between The Hedges to [email protected].


Bi-weekly stat pack

The bi-weekly stat pack provides a snapshot of who's hot over the past two weeks at the Big A versus year-to-date, including Top Trainer by ROI; Top Jockey by ROI; and Top Jockey and Trainer Combination by wins.

Also featured in this report is listing of the highest mutuel payouts of the past two weeks versus year-to-date, as well as a look at NYRA's bi-weekly handle, including average field size; number of race days; and daily average handle.

Eric Cancel was on fire for the two-week period of March 13-28 leading up to Closing Day of the Aqueduct winter meet, winning with 21-of-67 mounts with an ROI of $2.33. His next closest competitor, Manny Franco, won 14-of-63 starts for a $1.88 ROI over the relevant period.

Trainer H. James Bond boasted a $5.44 ROI over a small sample of two wins from seven starts, while Rob Atras finished the month strong winning with 6-of-13 starters through the relevant period for an ROI for $4.02.

Cancel formed part of 4-of-10 leading jockey/trainer combinations by wins, topped by a 4-for-6 record with Chris Englehart for a $4.83 ROI.

The red-hot Cancel won 6-of-8 races on Sunday's card to secure his first NYRA riding title.

For a closer look at the bi-weekly stat pack, click this link.


The Big Ticket: A $288 Empire 6 investment returns $38,712.20

On March 25 at the Big A, a horseplayer invested $288 into the Empire 6 and was rewarded with a payout of $38,712.20.

The ticket went as follows: 4,6/3,4,6,8/1,4,5,6,7/1,2,4,5/2,4,5/3,4,6

The bettor was rewarded in the opening leg of the sequence as the skinniest part of his ticket – using just the mutuel favorite Madera and 4-1 shot Ok Honey [No. 6, $10.40] - saw the higher priced option secure a 3 1/2-length score under Luis Rodriguez Castro for trainer Gregory DiPrima in a claiming sprint for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up.

Irish Giant [No. 3, $7.70] stalked and pounced to victory in the second leg, a maiden claiming event for New York-breds 3-years-old and up. With Manny Franco up for trainer Linda Rice, Irish Giant was the second choice in the betting in a field of seven.

In the third leg, the bettor used 5-of-8 horses in a wide open affair that saw four horses relatively close in the betting between 5-2 and just shy of 4-1. With winter meet leading rider Eric Cancel up for Rice, Him She Kisses [No. 6, $9.70) went gate-to-wire for a one-length score in a claiming sprint.

Betsy Blue [No. 2, $7.20] rallied from fifth in a field of seven to get up in the last jumps under Luis Cardenas and save the ticket from going up in flames. Mutuel favorite Shaker Shack [No. 7] had taken command at the sixteenth pole in the fourth leg, a starter-optional claiming sprint, but could not hold off the George Weaver trainee.

The bettor needed just 3-of-7 horses to find the highest price in the sequence when Customerexperience [No. 5, $18.40] launched a late bid to save the ticket with a neck score. Sent to post at 8-1 in the six-furlong allowance sprint, jockey Mike Luzzi angled the gray to the three-path in the stretch run and arrived in the nick of time to collar She’s a Black Belt [No. 8]. Rudy Rodriguez, the winter meet’s leading trainer, conditioned the penultimate leg winner.

There were no anxious moments in the finale as two of the bettor’s three runners, both at odds of 5-1, were part of a win photo in the seven-furlong maiden claiming sprint for state-breds 3-years-old and up. Dutchmen Forever [No. 6] had a head in front at the stretch call for Andre Worrie but Beatthatflew [No. 3, $12.80], with Cancel up for trainer Gary Sciacca, sprouted wings from fifth and notched a neck victory.

Learn more about the Empire 6 in our previous edition of NYRA Bets Notes here:


A look back…a look ahead

New York-breds won 5-of-10 races on New York Claiming Championship Day on Saturday at the Big A. The card was highlighted by Kentucky-bred American Power’s score in the $80,000 Caixa Eletronica. Read more:

A thrilling renewal of the $100,000 Haynesfield saw Eric Cancel secure leading rider honors with a rallying score aboard My Boy Tate. Read more:

The 11-day Big A spring meet begins on Thursday and the first stakes race of the meet is the Grade 3 Distaff on Friday which features the seasonal debuts of Lady Kate and Paris Lights. Read the advance:

On Saturday, the historic Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino, offering 100-40-20-10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top-four finishers, highlights a stakes-laden card.

Also featured on Saturday's card is the first Grade 1 of 2021 on the NYRA circuit in the $300,000 Carter Handicap, a seven-furlong sprint for older horses, and is bolstered by a trio of stakes races, including the Grade 3, $250,000 Gazelle at nine furlongs for sophomore fillies offering 100-40-20-10 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points; the Grade 3, $200,000 Bay Shore, a seven-furlong sprint for sophomores; and the Grade 3, $150,000 Excelsior at nine furlongs for older horses. 

For FREE TimeformUS analysis and selections for races from Aqueduct Racetrack, visit:

FREE daily NYRA selections are available from analysts Andy Serling and Anthony Stabile. Watch Serling and Stabile discuss the card each live race day from The Big A on Talking Horses:

Check out NYRA Notes for insights into recent races and the inside scoop on contenders for upcoming events with quotes from the connections:

Aqueduct spring meet Week 1 stakes probables

Saturday, April 3

Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino

Probable: Brooklyn Strong (Daniel Velazquez), Candy Man Rocket (Bill Mott), Capo Kane (Harold Wyner), Crowded Trade (Chad Brown), Dynamic One (Todd Pletcher), Market Maven (Penny Pearce), Prevalence (Brendan Walsh), Risk Taking (Chad Brown), Weyburn (Jimmy Jerkens)
Possible: Bourbonic (Pletcher)

Grade 1, $300,000 Carter Handicap

Probable: Chateau (Rob Atras), Mind Control (Gregg Sacco), Mischevious Alex (Saffie Joseph, Jr.), Shoplifted (Steve Asmussen), Souper Stonehenge (Mark Casse), Wendell Fong (Natalia Lynch)

Grade 3, $250,000 Gazelle

Probable: Army Wife (Mike Maker), Hybrid Eclipse (Linda Rice), Maracuja (Rob Atras), Search Results (Chad Brown), The Grass Is Blue (Chad Brown)
Possible: Alwayz Late (Bill Mott), Dollar Mountain (George Weaver), Mia Martina (Graham Motion), Zaajel (Todd Pletcher)

Grade 3, $200,000 Bay Shore

Probable: Beren (Robert Reid, Jr.), Drain the Clock (Saffie Joseph, Jr.), Freedom Fighter (Bob Baffert), Whiskey Double (Steve Asmussen)

Grade 3, $150,000 Excelsior

Probable: Backsideofthemoon (Robert Klesaris), Forewarned (Uriah St. Lewis), Grumps Little Tots (Rob Atras), Haikal (Todd Pletcher), Limonite (Amira Chichakly), Modernist (Bill Mott), Mr. Buff (John Kimmel), Tintoretto (Tom Albertrani)
Possible: Doubly Blessed (Mike Maker)


NYRA Bets promotions

A number of promotions are on tap this month for NYRA Bets customers, including the Derby Bankroll Builder.

Build your bankroll for the Kentucky Derby! Here’s how to earn the bonus:

·      Bet exactly $50 to win on one horse in any or all of the selected races through the NYRA Bets App.

·      Earn a $20 bonus per race – win or lose!

·      Participate in all 5 races and earn a $100 bonus.

Bankroll Builder Schedule

·      April 3: Wood Memorial, Aqueduct

·      April 10: Arkansas Derby, Oaklawn Park

For more info, visit

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