Emerald Downs Daily Doubles

I Keep Saying and jockey Isaias Enriquez notch a one-length victory in the $14,500 feature race for 3-year-olds and up at Emerald Downs. Jim Penney is the trainer, Homestretch Farm Inc. the owner and breeder. Saturday, May 25, 2013 - Erin Palmer/Emerald Downs Photo

At every track there are certain bets where the crowd does a good job of assessing the relative value of the horses and bets where the public misses more than it hits. At Emerald Downs, the rolling Daily Doubles are a wager where a player can find some additional value.

Over the last several seasons I've casually followed the payouts for the rolling Double at Emerald Downs and a comparison of those payouts to the win parlay for the same sequence. During past meets I compiled a few spreadsheets looking simply at the early and late doubles, or simply analyzed the data over the first few weeks of the meet in order to get a high-level view of the landscape. This year, I decided to do the full-on data crunch of all double sequences during the 2013 meeting in order to get a more detailed picture of how the crowd at Emerald is assessing the chances of horses.

The wonderful aspect of bets like the exacta and the double is the fact that the payouts are not (or I should write "should not") be a huge surprise to any player diving into those pools. Most of the information a player needs to evaluate the value of those wagers is presented to them prior to making the best. (The Double adds the volatility and uncertainty of the win pool for the second leg of the sequence but the will-pays provide enough data to make calculations based on certain assumptions and odds changes.)

Overall, the $2 Double at Emerald has paid better than a $2 win parlay over 72% of the time (88/121) during the 2013 meet (as of 5/24/13). Below are the averages, median, high and low Double payouts during the current meet and the corresponding Win Parlay for the same sequence:

$2 DD $2 Parlay
Average $89.10 $68.52
Median $35.40 $30.68
High $1,496.40 $1,310.40
Low $3.60 $4.20

Raw Data: Emerald Downs Daily Double 2013 (via Google Drive)

If we simply look at the Double/Parlay averages so far this meet, the Double pays about 30% better than the parlay. Of course, averages get skewed pretty easily from a couple of really big payouts; if we look at the median payouts, the Double still clocks in as a 15% improvement on the parlay.

One aspect of the doubles I wanted to examine further was a comparison of favorite/favorite payouts to the parlay. At times, favorite/favorite combinations in the multi-race exotics (or favorite/2nd favorite combos in the exactas, tris and supers) can get over bet by the crowd, with the resulting payout returning less than it should (in theory), so I was curious as to how the favorite/favorite doubles payouts performed at Emerald during the current meet. Overall, the favorite/favorite double sequence performs quite well versus the parlay.

As of the card on Saturday, May 25th, 17 times a rolling Daily Double at Emerald Downs has involved a favorite/favorite scenario, with all but three of those sequences paying better than the parlay. Below are the favorite/favorite sequences during the current Emerald meet.

Date Races Leg 1 Leg 2 $2 DD $2 Parlay
19-Apr 5/6 2.20 1.60 $22.20 $16.64
20-Apr 1/2 1.50 0.90 $12.20 $9.50
20-Apr 8/9 1.20 1.20 $12.20 $9.68
21-Apr 3/4 1.00 1.90 $25.00 $11.60
26-Apr 3/4 0.40 0.50 $3.60 $4.20
26-Apr 4/5 0.50 1.50 $11.60 $7.50
26-Apr 5/6 1.50 2.30 $24.60 $16.50
26-Apr 6/7 2.30 2.50 $20.80 $23.10
27-Apr 3/4 1.00 1.40 $23.80 $9.60
27-Apr 4/5 1.40 1.20 $10.60 $10.56
28-Apr 1/2 0.80 0.40 $4.80 $5.04
4-May 7/8 1.10 0.60 $8.60 $6.72
5-May 6/7 0.80 1.60 $16.60 $9.36
11-May 6/7 1.60 1.50 $19.80 $13.00
17-May 3/4 1.40 0.60 $7.60 $7.68
19-May 6/7 1.80 0.50 $9.60 $8.40
25-May 8/9 0.70 0.30 $4.60 $4.42

While the Double pays better than the parlay on the majority of favorite/favorite sequences, the gaps (for the most part) aren't huge. However, on several occasions, the payouts were completely out of whack from what we'd expect from a favorite/favorite scenario.

Check out the sequence from race 3 and race 4 on April 21st: an even money favorite combined with a 2/1 favorite spit out a $25.00 $2 Double payout, over twice the payout than the parlay. On April 27th, an even money winner and a 3/2 winner paid $23.80, over twice the return of the $9.60 parlay.

Anybody playing Emerald on April 21st could have simply looked at the will-pay for a favorite/favorite sequence in the Double for race 3 and 4 and quickly observed that massive overlay. But, as we all know, a portion of the crowd at the track doesn't pay attention to any of that information.*

*One additional piece of data that would be useful for this analysis is the morning line odds to compare to the odds when the gates opened since any comparison of the double will-pays to the parlay would require us to know what the odds will be on the horse in the second leg. It's likely that many of these situations where the Double paid much better than the parlay occurred when a longer odds horse was bet down in the second leg win pool. Perhaps the April 21 and April 27 sequences involved a horse bet down hard in the second leg. But that's a project for another day.

Oddly enough, the parlay tends to do better than the Double when a favorite doesn't win at least one of the legs in the sequence (although the difference is just a few percentage points after two months of the meet). Where the parlay begins to come out ahead of the Double is when a horse at odds 10/1 or better wins one of the two legs. This, suggests to me people simply playing long shots either A) hoping to hit a big score, or B) thinking the longer shots represent some kind of "value". If your definition of "value" is simply big prices, then I suppose playing double combinations that pay less than the parlay could be considered a good play. If, however, you define value as a better than expected return, or return above and beyond what should occur given the circumstances, then simply playing prices in the double is clearly not a value play in this situation.

As of Saturday's card at Emerald Downs, 81 Double sequences have involved at least one non-favorite in either leg 1 or leg 2. Of those 81 sequences, 56 paid better than the parlay, a 69% success rate. There have been 13 sequences where at least one of the winners went off at odds of 10/1 or better, with the Double paying better than the parlay just three times out of 13. When looking at sequences with a winner in either leg at odds of 5/1 or better, the Double has paid better than the parlay in 21 of 40 instances.

Simply put, the big odds horses are over bet in the Emerald Doubles, while the lower priced horses and combinations are typically under bet. And while I'd much rather cash a $200 double than a $20 double, if you're willing to play a couple of under bet favorites in a cold $20 double, you can take advantage of the fact that the crowd is not accurately assessing the chances of a short-priced horses sweeping the Double sequence. But even if you are playing the larger odds horses in the Double (as long as they aren't huge bombs), you're still likely to return better-than-expected payouts.

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