The Morning Line: Early Political Odds Making In The Commonwealth

By John Fredericks

If you have ever played the ponies at Virginia’s Colonial Downs Racetrack in New Kent, or at any of their numerous OTB outlets and kiosks throughout the state like I regularly do, then you know how it works.

The track’s resident handicapper surveys the horses entered in each race while considering a wide range of factors such as classification, past performances, money earned, trainer, jockey, bloodlines, etc., and then designates “morning line” odds in the daily program after each entry in every race.

This is a purely subjective analysis. The odds are posted in the daily racing book or online before the real wagering begins.

The final payout odds for each horse are mathematically determined via a Pari-mutuel wagering system based on the amount of money actually bet on each horse by the players themselves, found on the “tote-board.”

After all the betting is done, the horses then run the race.

Concerning the statewide political races for Virginia in 2013, we are in the first phase of handicapping, called the morning line. I have handicapped all the races, and my early odds postings and selections are below.

Now, truth be told, I am a former professional racehorse trainer, and I paid my way through college by serving as a professional horse race handicapper.

But things change, and I can’t quit my day job, if you catch my drift. I am a net annual contributor to the state’s racing “take out” coffers.


Virginia Governor – The Feature Race on the card

Terry McAuliffe 4:5 – The Democrat is the chalk going in; lots of money, solid bloodlines and he likes this turf; but he’s unproven at this distance and he got toasted in this classification by lesser opposition last time around. Still the one to beat, he’ll attempt to wire the field. He’s slick and smooth, he huffs and puffs, and he posses a ton or early speed. He’s got the wise guy money on him from Vegas high rollers.

Ken Cuccinelli 9:5 – This stallion warhorse is tough as nails; he’s never lost a race — but he’s moving up in class. He’s got enough speed to stay with the leader, and has a proven kick down the stretch. If he stays within striking distance of the favorite going to the 16th pole, look out. No one really knows how good is he really is. We’ll find out. At 9:5, he’s a solid play.

Bill Bolling 7:1 – The dark horse in the race, this long in the tooth gelding is a bona fide closer who can stalk the leaders and then take the whole thing with a furious and fierce go for broke rally down the stretch, coming three wide off the final turn. If he stays within three lengths of the pace setters at the three quarters he’ll prove a nightmare for the frontrunners in the final furlong. But he’s prone to lameness, and could be a late scratch. If he’s entered, he’s my long shot special at a whopping 7:1.

Lt. Governor – Democrat

Anesh Chopra 3:5 – This colt’s workouts are impressive, and although a maiden, his speed on paper can’t be ignored. Handled by the infamous Obama barn, he’s equipped with blinders and they’ll send him right out of the gate to set the pace, and hope he never looks back. But he’s green, and could get spooked when hoofs start flying off the rail. No one knows what his level of stamina will be in the last quarter of this mile and one-quarter race.

Ralph Northam 7:2 – The perennial plodder from the Peninsula, he’s a steady performer. Not much early speed, not a formidable closer and no razzle-dazzle, but he manages to keep on winning in his class. He’ll attempt to hug the rail and wait for the leader to falter down the stretch. If this plays out, the battle-tested chestnut from the Southside just might eke out the win. He’s bound to get late money near post time, so his odds may drop somewhat. Beachside gamblers love this horse, and he has his own fan club of groupie horseplayers. He’s lights out on a sloppy track, so pray for rain if you play him.

Daily Double Picks

I like the long shots: Bolling at 7:1 and Northam at 7:2. Note: I get my money back if Bolling is scratched from the race. In that event, I’ll double down on Northam at 7:2 and hope for a monsoon and a muddy track to foil the favorite.

You can always check at the real horse happenings at Colonial Downs:

Coming tomorrow: Lt. Governor – Republican; Attorney General – Republican

John Fredericks is syndicated radio talk show host in Virginia and can be heard M-F 6-9 a.m. on WTNT –AM 730 & 102.9FM in D.C., WLEE AM 990 in Richmond, WHKT AM 1650 in Tidewater and WBRG AM 1050 & 104.5 FM in Lynchburg – Roanoke or streaming online at