Prior to the Kentucky Derby, you are typically required to lay about $1000 to win $100 on a “no” bet that there will be a Triple Crown Winner. Now that California Chrome has won the Kentucky Derby, there are only two legs left and the odds have shifted. Chrome’s owner is guaranteeing a Preakness win and is predicting a Triple Crown win. The media is again going crazy talking about the possibility of the first Triple Crown winner since 1978. It seems so inevitable! So should you bet California Chrome to win the Triple Crown?
Let’s look at the current odds:
So what was once a bet that required a huge lay-to-win ratio of 10 to 1 has now dropped to under three tenths of that.
Why? The public now has a “name” to go with for the “yes” bet. The media is “Chrome” happy and you have seen his name written hundreds of times since the Derby. You’ve heard his name countless more times on the radio and TV. People want a Triple Crown winner desperately. All of this hype invariably leads to over-betting on the “yes” for this prop.
But the public is acting irrationally. And from that, we shall profit.
A “yes” bet on the Triple Crown Winner prop pays +235 now. That equates to an assumed “win” percentage of about 30% to break even. So, in order to bet “yes” you have to believe that California Chrome has greater than a 30% chance of winning BOTH The Preakness and the Belmont Stakes!
Let’s assume California Chrome’s chances are equal in each of the two upcoming races. If he is to have a 30% chance of winning both, that equates to a 55% chance of winning each race individually (.55 x .55 = .26). Does this horse have a 55% chance of winning the The Preakness AND if he does, a 55% chance of winning the Belmont against fields of 10? The oddsmakers are pegging Chrome as having about a 55-60% chance to win the Preakness, so that is pretty spot on. But, thats only one of two remaining races. And, there’s that old saying about “the best laid plans…”
History would also say no way Chrome completes the Triple Crown sweep.
In 139 years of Triple Crown racing, the winner of the Kentucky Derby has won The Preakness 33 times (23.7%). That’s pretty far off from 55%.
Those that have what it takes to win the first two legs (the absolute best of the best in the history of the sport) only win The Belmont Stakes at a 33.3% rate (11 out of 33). Again, that’s nowhere near 55%.
In 139 years of Triple Crown racing, 11 horses have won the coveted trifecta. That’s 7.9%. Yet, California Chrome supposedly has a 30%+ chance? What’s so special about this horse to warrant a belief that this horse has a 3.8 times better chance than the historical average? In fact I would argue that if anything, this horse has a worse than normal chance (see below).
So if you are considering a “yes” bet on whether California Chrome will win the Triple Crown, think again. You are betting a 12-to-1 longshot and only getting paid out as if it were a 2.35-to-1 bet. We have a 7.9% historic figure that people are betting into as if it were over 30%. Granted, the historic numbers are just averages and maybe California Chrome has a better than average chance. But, even if that were true, the odds are still off considerably here.
That provides tremendous value on the opposite side – in this case, the “no” bet. Based on the actual historic chances over the 14 decades, a “no” bet should require a fair line of -1160 here.
So, we get to lay -275 on a bet that based on long-term averages, should be -1160. Talk about value!
When Big Brown was going for the Crown in 2008, he had a decent shot. Big Brown was a favorite in every race and for good reason. While Chrome could very well be the favorite in both of the two remaining legs, this horse is not one of the best of the best ever – far from it. Asking him to win The Preakness and the Belmont Stakes is just asking too much.
I ask you: Is California Chrome really better than the following list of horses:
Silver Charm, Real Quiet, Charismatic, War Emblem, Funny Cide, Smarty Jones, Big Brown, I’ll Have Another
None of those recent Triple Crown contenders (all of whom actually won the first two legs) could pull off the herculean task. Remember, only 11 horses have ever done this. Is Chrome really that good that he will defy these odds and win three in a row against the best fields the sport has to offer? Not very likely.
Wunderdog says: Take the “no” at -275 as you will rarely find a bet with this much value. Again, anything under -1160 odds technically represents value based on long-term averages and even if California Chrome is better than average, the odds should be much longer than -275.