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Ten Heads and 40 Hooves


It's so impossible. When you wager your hard-earned $2 on a 1-to-2 horse, you know that approximately seven of every 10 people did the same thing. It's almost a guarantee that the horse will run well and might even win, but a certainty in racing is that favorites only win about one-third of the time. Almost unbelievably, but with as much certainty, they finish out-of-the-money (fourth or worse) about one-third of the time.

In the first eight days of racing at Les Bois Park, favorites won about 37 percent of the races, a little more than one-third. Betting these favorites to win was a losing proposition—for every $2 win bet, the favorites returned $1.89. They were out-of-the-money only 28 percent of the time, though. Surprisingly, a $2 show bet on every favorite so far has returned an average of $2.27.

Odds-on favorites (horses whose odds are lower than 1-to-1 at post time) fared better in win percentage (57 percent), but you're still stuck with a win-bet loss, getting back only $1.80 for every $2 wager.

These numbers are in line with historic norms. They hold on the small scale and in the grand scheme.

This weekend at the track, Boise's first Memorial Day weekend with live horse racing since 2003, you can see if the numbers hold true. They might even help you turn a profit!

Fans of quarter horse racing get their fill over this Memorial Day weekend at Les Bois Park, with a stakes race carded for each day. On Memorial Day afternoon, it's the $100,000 Bitterroot Futurity, annually the richest race in Idaho. This Grade 2, 350-yard event is limited to the 10 fastest 2-year-old quarter horses from 12 races conducted on May 12 and 13. Finalists from May 12 are (with speed indexes in parentheses), Little Man Rocks (90), Teenseter (87), BMS My Sista Starr (86), Stuckonafeeling (85) and Little Brain Wave (85). May 13 qualifiers are Special Czech (91), Marmalade Lady (90), Seperate Cocktails (90), Oogah Chucka (89) and Magnolia Lane (89).

The fastest qualifier—Special Czech—covered his 350-yard heat in 17.882 seconds, and the slowest of the qualifiers finished in 18.073 seconds. If all 10 duplicate their times from the trials, we'll see 10 heads within 11 feet of each other crossing the wire. Definitely not the type of race to settle for betting the favorites.

Jockey assignments should prove intriguing, as five horses will have to find new riders. Jockeys Mark Boag, Jay Conklin and Danny Marshall each qualified two horses for the final, and Travis Hamilton qualified three. It's safe to assume that whichever horse each of the jockeys picks to ride is a top contender, but it's not quite that simple. Boag's two were both faster than any of the others. And Magnolia Lane, with Berkley Packer aboard, was faster than either of Conklin's qualifiers.

My pick is Oogah Chucka, especially if Hamilton rides. Oogah Chucka was one of only three who qualified for the final with no previous experience in races. And he has a cool name.

Friday evening has the Bitterroot Derby at 400 yards, with a purse of over $15,000. Gigarad cruised to narrow victory in her trial race and looked to be saving a little for the final. Gigarad won last year's Bitterroot Futurity, and her record now stands at seven wins from 11 starts, with five of those wins in the state of Idaho. On Friday, she tries for a perfect 4-for-4 at Les Bois Park.

The Bitterroot Juvenile, with a purse of over $10,000, is Saturday evening's feature race. This 350-yard quarter horse sprint is usually packed with horses who "just missed" qualifying for the Bitterroot Futurity. Bettors should look for horses who finished close to the horses who "just made" the Futurity.