A $25,000 score at Sam Houston Race Park in March was not enough cushion to keep me in the black for a year of wagering, as 2017 closed with an ROI of -3.44% on record handle.
I began meticulous record keeping of all my Thoroughbred wagers on January 1, 2010, and in that time have improved my ROI from -16.5% 2010-2013 to -4.89% 2014-2017 (on 52% more handle).
My 2016 ROI of -1.81% is my personal best during a calendar year, and +11.72% May 2016-April 2017 is my personal best during any 12-month period. This is akin to a bowler lacking a perfect game on his resume despite having strung 12 strikes in a row across games.
It’s frustrating to have such a big score and lack the discipline to wager within my means after it by chasing even bigger score and/or playing tracks I lack an edge, but the purpose of this exercise is twofold: be transparent with those who consult my handicapping about my success with it, and to learn from it and develop as a horseplayer.
My vastly improved ROI over the first four-year period versus the previous four years is a good indicator that the latter goal is being met. And looking at just the previous three years paints an even better picture, going from -14.17% 2012-2014 to -3.65% 2015-2017 (on 84% more handle).
So there’s definitely some good news from 30,000 feet, but zooming in closer at 2017 revealed some serious aforementioned links. I liken this to a solid 2-5 player at poker thinking s/he can beat 5-10 (maybe) or 10-20 (dubious) just because of a heater. Or even more cynically, going up in stakes after a short-term run with variance on your side.
Sam Houston wasn’t the only bright spot on the year, though. Of the 26 tracks that attracted at least 1% of my total handle for the year, I’m glad to see Fair Grounds, Oaklawn, and Santa Anita in the positive ROI column (the list to the right is sorted by total handle on those tracks).
Gulfstream is a money pit, and I need to avoid playing it save for Pick 5 carryovers or days I have more familiarity with the product. There are some great stakes there as part of the championship meeting, but the weekday product more and more resembles the Calder of old, and I bet 0 on Gulfstream Park West last year, so no sense engaging with that product without additional incentive.
Pimlico, Belmont, and Del Mar are especially heinous because of my “big event” futility. Massive losses on racing’s biggest days continued in 2017, and that is something I really need to address going forward. Yes, the pools are big enough that “it only takes one” to make me look like a big event genius, but with 8 years of data and losses on those days beyond the lower end of my performance, it’s obvious that I don’t do my best thinking on those days.
So that’s a wrap on 2017. Overall, I’m not bitterly disappointed in a -3.44% ROI. I know that’s tons better than most players–even some professionals–but it’s impossible not to be disappointed against the backdrop of a big score that seemed destined to make this a winning year.
Here’s to better results and more fun in 2018.