Making the Morning Line

Many handicappers have mixed feelings about the morning line. Some feel it’s not necessary, and others feel it’s a “beginning” to where wagering kicks off. I have always enjoyed reading the lines of Mike Battalgia,  Joe Kristufek, and many others who cover the tracks in their daily handicapping. I learned at the foot of an old-time book maker who showed me three different ways, and my good friend John McDulin who who writes for the Daily Racing Form, and is an Equibase chart caller is more than versed in the art of the morning line creation. – I have over 25-years of handicapping experience, and have won, placed, and qualified in many tournaments around the nation. Thoroughbred racing has been my love since I was looking over the entries in the school library a hundred-years-ago. – I take great pride in making a line to get the players started, and it was John McDulin who gave the me the inspiration. “Ed, you’ll love this as much as betting the ponies.” – He was right, and I have enjoyed every step along the way.

The point formula is using 100 as a constant. Then you add in the win–place-show takeout rate, and add them together. In Ohio, it is 18%, and the beginning number starts at 118. Then, I add one point for every horse in the race. Depending on the field size it will be 118+ 1 point for each runner. Entries are counted as one, and do not get two points added to the number. Now you have the basic formula, here comes the balancing act.

You start by examining the field and I like to start with the longshots first. They are assigned the highest odds as I feel the public will dismiss them on sight. Remember, this is an estimation of how the morning line odds-maker projects the public to wager. These are NOT my official selections in the race, but rather a starting point  barometer to handicap. Next comes the middle range runners from 10-1 down to 5-1. They are the runners players may look at when making multi-race wagers. After the big number runners are given a point value, I start to examine closely the ones who could be the favorites. After all said and done, you do not just assign random numbers to horses as there is a point system to keep the morning line “balanced.”

Point values can be tricky, but if you look closely. You’ll find they make good sense. If you have an eight horse field, the line should be 126. – I like to keep the line as balanced as possible, but I try to get one to three points close to the number. If you cannot, you’ll have to tweak out the numbers by making the odds a bit higher or lower on some runners to keep it balanced.

Here is an example of how the point values are determined. Take 100, and if your horse is (2-1), you’ll need do divide 100 by 2, but you’ll need to ADD 1 to the (2-1) making it 3. = 100 divided by 3 = 33.33 points.

Here is another: = 100 divided by (7-2). / Use the (7-2), and divide the seven in half, and it comes out to 3.5. – Add one point  to the 3.5, and you’ll get 4.5. Now divide 100 by 4.5 = 22 points for that runner. Now, add up the points to hit your target projection, and you may need to raise or lower some odds to balance the line.

The line is made at least 48 hours in advance, and you’ll have some scratches from time-to-time where you need to go back and re-adjust figures. Remember, once the betting windows open the morning line odds can be tossed as now it is in the hands of the betting public. Use it as starting point, and if you have enough time you may want to create your own lines to find runners that may be an overlay for the card. John McDulin was right. It is better than handicapping, as you are projecting how the betting public will wager. Best of luck and have fun making your own lines!


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