Sunday, March 30, 2008

Exotic Bets: The Trifecta

I have been running a poll that asks: What type of bet do you use most often? ( )Just behind the win bet and the exacta is the trifecta at 20%. Infact these three bets make up 71% of the betting that horse players say they use most often.

Let me talk about the trifecta and how it can be played. With a trifecta we are concentrating on the horses that will win, place and show when the race is over. Before the race starts some good handicapping is usually needed to determine which horses could win, place or show and which horses you can throw out. Removing horses from your bet can many times make the difference between a profitable wager and a losing one. Let's first consider a trifecta box (a very common wager with horse players). The number of horses you put in a trifecta box can run up in cost very rapidly. For example, $1 trifecta box 3 horses costs $6, box 4 costs $24, box 5 costs $60, and box 6 costs $120. It gets rather expensive fast. The difference between boxing 3 horses and 6 horses is a huge $114. Now can you see why throwing out improbable horses is so important to a smart bet.

What if you like 6 horses in a race? What can you do to whittle down the cost of boxing 6 horses? Here are some suggestions. First, consider how much you will (or can afford to) put into the trifecta bet. Let's say $40. Next go back to your handicapping and see if you can reduce the number of horses that you think could win to say three. Let's say horses D, C, and B. Next look at the horses that you consider could place, say D,C,B,E. Now look at any other horses that could show, say A and F. Your bet is now CB/DCBE/DCBEAF. This will cost $36.

Some other examples of common trifecta bets are the following:

$1 trifecta A/BCDE/BCDE costs $12
$1 trifecta A/BCDEF/BCDEF costs $20
$1 trifecta A/BCDEFG/BCDEFG costs $30

$1 trifecta BCDE/A/BCDE costs $12
$1 trifecta BCDEFA/BCDEF costs $20
$1 trifecta BCDEFG/A/BCDEFG costs $30

Remember to keep your trifecta bets to what you can afford or are willing to spend.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Making good use of the Morning Line (M/L)

One of the statistics available to the horse player is the morning line (M/L). It's available in the program at your local track as well as on the internet at in the free 'entries' for every track.

The morning line is often overlooked and not given much value by both the beginning horse player as well as the seasoned player. I took a recent look at a large sample of race tracks around the country and found that at the end of the track meet that the morning line favorite won at the track between 25 to 33 percent of the time depending on the track. So on average let's say that the M/L favorite wins about 30% of the time. If you were to bet the M/L favorite all of the time you would expect to win 30% of the time. This is a pretty good average for a baseball player but it's a losing proposition for a horse player.

So what good is the morning line and is it useful? I say yes. I use the M/L as a base for comparison at the track. If you have a pad of paper with you at the track or at home while watching the tote board on your PC screen, it is very useful to watch the tote change on some horses. For example, if you see a horse in a race whose M/L is 4/1 and as post time nears you see the actual tote odds go down to say even odds or 1/1, something is going on here. There is a lot of money being bet on this horse. Why? There can be a lot of reasons which you may not know about but this horse should gain your immediate attention and you should factor this in your handicapping of the race before you bet.

Another use of the M/L, particularly in grade I, II, or III stakes races is when the M/L favorite is a heavy favorite at say, even odds (1/1). Sometimes the tote goes against the heavy favorite. It maybe 2/1, 5/2 or even 3/1. This tells you that the money bet on the horse does not match the M/L expectations. This should get your attention and you should take a second look at how you will bet the race.

I believe the morning line has some value if you integrate it in your thinking properly.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Tote Analysis of the Mac Diarmida Handicap

The featured race, race 8, on Sunday, March 16th at Gulfstream was the Grade II Mac Diarmida Handicap. It started out with 14 horses but two were scratched. Here was a race with some quality horses. I want to illustrate with this tote analysis the choice of a race to bet on, how the tote analysis works, and the placement of the bets from the analysis.

The tote analysis for this race can be found at . First observe that the 3 horse, True Cause, ridden by John Velazquez, at the 20m (20 minute) mark immediately took a lot of money and the tote odds were at 2/1. The morning line (ML) started at 5/1 and the profit line (PL) was at 9/1. The 3 horse was indeed one to watch closely. Down to the 10 minute mark True Cause was still at 2/1. Both the morning line (3/1) and profit line (9/5) favorite was the 9 horse, Stream of Gold ridden by Eibar Coa. At the 5m and 3m marks the 9 horse began taking a lot of money and the odds went down to 8/5. The 3 horse odds came up to 7/2. Both horses looked very strong on the toteboard.

To bet this race I will use $2 win bets, $1 exacta bets, and $1 Trifecta bets for illustrative purposes. My actual bets were higher than this. I chose to place $2 to win on both 3 and 9 ($2 win 9,3). I placed a $1 exacta box on 3 and 9 ($1 exacta 3/9 and 9/3). As a hedge I also bet the exacta 3,9/1,4,11. My trifecta bets were 3,9/3,9/1,4,11 and the hedge bet was 3,9/1,4,11/3,9. The finish for this turf race was 9-3-11. The 9 horse paid $4.60 to win, the $1 exacta paid $10 and the $1 trifecta paid $47.80.

Note from the tote analysis that I used the top five tote picks in my bets. Horse 9 was the top tote pick at 8/5. The 3 horse was second at 7/2. The 1 horse was third at 6/1. The 11 horse was fourth at 9/1 and the 4 horse was 5th at 10/1.

The cost of the bets in this race were as follows: Win bets cost was $4. The exactas cost $2 for the exacta box 3,9 an $6 for 3,9/1,4,11. The trifecta cost $6 for 3,9/3,9/1,4,11 and $6 for 3,9/1,4,11/3,9. The net gain for this race was (4.60+10.00+47.80)-(4.00+8.00+12.00)= $38.40.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Exotic Bets: The Exacta

I have been running a poll on my web site for quite a while now. The results of this poll show that the exacta bet (26%)is about as popular as the win bet (25%). This leads me to taking a look at the exacta and how it can be used as a profitable bet.

The concept of the exacta is to focus on who will win and who will place after the race is over. The horseplayer considers what horses can win the race as well as the horses that can place in the race. The bet takes into account your best possible combinations for a particular race. For example, if you believe horse A will win and horse B will place then an exacta bet is very simple and inexpensive to buy (A $2 exacta costs $2.). You merely bet the exacta A with B (written as A/B). This will rarely pay off no matter how good your handicapping is. The approach to placing exacta bets is to use your handicapping results to choose those horses that you believe can win over those horses that you believe could place and see what those combinations will cost you.

Example 1: You believe that horse D will surely win but you also believe horses A,B,E and F could place. In this case you would place a bet as D/A,B,E,F. If it is a $1 exacta it would cost you $4. You would have 4 possibilities working for you: DA, DB, DE and DF.

Example 2: You believe that horse C will win and that any of the other horses in the race could
place. Your bet would be C/ALL. (A race with 10 horses in it will cost $9.)

Example 3: You believe there are several long shot horses in the race that could win and that
horses A and D will place. You would place the bet ALL/A,D.

A popular bet is the exacta box. This is a bet that allows for any of the horses in a box to win or place and you win the bet as long as both horses are included in the box bet. The limitation of the bet is the cost. Using a $1 exacta, for example, boxing two horses will cost $2, three horses $6, four horses $12, five horses $20, six horses $30, and seven horses $42.

The approach to betting the exacta is to doing some careful handicapping ahead of time. Use the
technique of throwing out those horses that you believe from your handicapping can not either
win or place. This way you can bring down the cost of the bet and at the same time maximize
your profit.


Sunday, March 9, 2008

Win Bet Stategies

Placing a win bet seems simple enough ... but is it? All to many times one has the tendency to just 'do it' without too much thought particularly if it's just a $2 win bet. Now a $100 win bet is a different matter unless you just have plenty of money to throw away. With a $100 win bet you want to have a very high confidence level that your bet will pay off. This is where your handicapping comes into play.

Just concentrating on a 'win bet', there are lots of considerations. If you pick a race to bet on you may come to the conclusion (from your handicapping) that there is just one horse that you are convinced will win the race. In this case scale your bet to your level of confidence. For example, you may be so convinced that you are willing to bet $50 to win on that horse but no more.

Now in another race that you have handicapped you find two horses, or maybe even three that you are convinced could win the race. You just don't know which one. With a little knowledge of the odds on each horse you can do a quick calculation to determine if you'll place a win bet on these 2 or 3 horses. For example, let's say these three horses have odds of 2/1, 3/1 and 5/1 on the tote board at race time. Quite simply you could place say, a $10 bet on each of these three horses to win. If the 2/1 odd horse wins your return would be (2 x 2 + 2) x 5 or $30. You bet $10 on all three horse so your cost was $30. You get your money back. Now if the 3/1 horse wins your pay off will be (3 x 2 + 2) x 5 or $40. So you come out $40 - $30 or $10 ahead. If the 5/1 horse wins your return is (5 x 2 + 2) x 5 or $60. That's $60 - $30 or $30 ahead. If you're totally wrong and one of the other horses comes in you lose $30.

Notice that in the above example that you bet the same amount "$10" on each horse. What if you wanted to scale your bets on each horse so that you come out ahead no matter which horse wins. This technique is called 'dutching'. By going to you can learn more about dutching. If you google 'dutching' you can find calculators to take to the track with you to perform these strategies. A specific tool I have used is called 'hedgehog'. It can be found at I will dedicate a complete article at a later time to dutching.

Monday, March 3, 2008

My Favorite Exacta Bet

Sunday, March 2, 2008 I played the horses at Gulfstream. I wanted to combine both tote pick analysis and my favorite exacta bet. I set the threshold for a tote pick at less than 0.5 and used both the morning line (ML) and profit Line (PL) as my base. So to do the computation you just divide the tote odds by the ML (tote odds/ML) and/or the tote odds by the PL (tote odds/PL). The tote odds will be at the 3 minute mark(3m). You will see in my notes for each race what I did.

My favorite exacta is one where I take the favorite either on the basis of the ML or the PL or the tote pick or any combination of the three. My ideal would be when the favorite is the ML favorite, the profit line favorite, and the tote pick favorite. This doesn't always happen often enough so I may use the favorite who is both the ML and PL favorite. My exacta bet would then be the favorite/ALL (ALL is all of the other horses in the race). However, my hedge for this bet is ALL/the favorite. Actually the hedge is what I am hoping will happen. Why? Because the pay off can be quite large if the favorite is beaten by one of the long shots in the race. I have seen it happen hundreds of times where a heavy favorite is beaten in the last hundred yards by one of the other horses in the race. I don't have exact statistics on this phenonemon but it is often enough to play the hedge bet.

I am going to show you my notes for every race so you can see the tote analysis as well as my thinking for each race. Let's start with race 1. Click on to see my notes. In race 1 at the 3 minute (3m) mark, the 7 horse is a strong tote pick with 0.375 (ML) and 0.125 (PL). For purposes of illustration I'm going to use a $2 win bet on the 7 horse. (I actually bet $20 to win. I came with a $200 bankroll.) The 7 horse did win and paid $6 for each $2 bet. A good way to start for the day.

On to race 2. Click again on to see my notes and the tote analysis. The tote pick in this race was the 5 horse with a 0.333 (ML). Again we bet $2 win on the 5 horse. Luck is with us again and the 5 horse wins. This time the pay off is $6.40 for each $2 bet. We're feeling pretty good at this point. Let's not get too over joyed at this point and emotional. We want to keep our emotions at a minimum.

Race 3 is next so click on and take a look at the tote analysis for this race. At the 3m mark the 2 horse has a 0.3 (ML) value and a 0.171 (PL) value. Again we have a strong tote pick so we bet $2 win on the #2 horse. This time the 2 horse fades and isn't even in the money. So back to reality.

The 4th race is next. Click on and take a look at the tote analysis. The 5 horse is the ML and PL pick. I took a look at the Daily Racing Form (DRF) and came to the conclusion that several horses could beat the 5 horse. I took a break and didn't bet this race. The hamburger tasted pretty good.

The 5th race had a couple of scratched horses. One scratch was early (#6) and one scratch was right at post time (#5). Click on and take a look at the tote analysis. Here is another race where there was no obvious tote pick so I opted to not bet this one either. As it turned out I hadn't finished my hamburger and I got in a conversation so I lost my focus. I don't like to bet in this instance.

With the hamburger and conversation out of the way I now am ready to concentrate on race 6. I have to admit that one of my favorite jockeys is John Velasquez. He is riding the #4 horse.
Click on and take a look at my notes. The 5 horse is my ideal pick however. The horse is the ML, PL, and tote pick in this race. Now is the time to to play my favorite exacta bet: 5/ALL along with the hedge bet ALL/5. Johnnie V on the 4 horse leads all the way to win the $1 exacta for $13.40. The hedge bet (4/5) pays off. However, the net gain is only $3.40.

Race 7 is the first race on the card with a lot of horses in the race (11 horses, one was scratched). This race had three particularly good indicators. Click on to take a look. Notice that the 12 horse was both the ML and PL favorite. He looked to be the quality in the race. See how the odds started at the 20m mark at 7/1. Money kept coming in on the horse for 15 minutes until at the 5m and 3m marks the horse was at 5/2. I really liked seeing this. I played my favorite exacta bet 12/ALL along with the hedge (for insurance) ALL/12. The 12 horse came around wide at the 3/4 pole and went on to pass all the horses in front to win. The 2 horse came in second at 22/1 odds to produce a nice $1 exacta of $79.10.

Race 8 was a nice allowance race with 6 horses after the 4 horse was scratched. Johnnie V was on the 1 horse who was a heavy ML and PL favorite as well as the money odds 1/2 favorite at 3m to post. Click on to see my notes on this race. Again I placed my favorite exacta bet 1/ALL and ALL/1. Sure enough the 1 horse won by 8 1/2 lengths. Keep your eye on this horse for the Kentucky Derby, "One Hot Wish".

Click on for the 9th race. The feature race of the day, the Davona Dale Stakes, has John Velasquez and Todd Pletcher teaming up on "Game Face" a very heavy favorite. My favorite exacta is 4/ALL and ALL/4. The 1 horse beat the 4 and again the hedge bet pays $9.40 to just about break even.

The last race, race 10, Johnnie V and Pletcher again combine on "Linkin". Click on . There were 14 horses in the race. Two were scratched. The ML and PL favorites were the 5 horse Linkin. I bet my favorite exacta again, 5/ALL and ALL/5. The 11 horse at 14/1 outfinished Linkin at the finish by a length and 3/4. A really nice way to finish the day. The hedge bet $1 exacta paid $109.70.

For the afternoon the net gain was $152 (assuming $2 win bets and $1 exactas). This was a nice Return On Investment of 295%. Click on for the summary.

'til next time.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Test your handicapping skills for free

There are two locations that I like where you can try your hand at handicapping the horses and you can do it for free. One is a daily contest to pick the winning horse. The other is weekly on Saturdays. has a free contest called 'Race of the Day' that you can enter each day at The contest builds up entries toward a drawing that is made twice a year. The first part of the year the contest ends with a round trip for two to the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May. The second half of the year the contest ends with a trip for two to the Breeders Cup races in October. In addition, each week or month that you are one of the top 50 handicappers, you will receive a bonus of 50 additional entries. The Grand Prize Winner is chosen at random at the end of the contest. is a weekly handicapping contest that is free and you can enter by going to They usually have four races (sometimes more) each Saturday at different tracks around the country. You pick a horse to win with two alternate horses in case of scratches out of the race. The results are based on $2 win bet. You run up dollar winnings based in the payoffs from the winning $2 bet. There are three contests run during the year. The 'Publichandicapper Prep' runs from February through April ending with picks on Kentucky Derby Day at Churchill Downs. The 'Publichandicapper Challenge' runs from the Kentucky Oaks to the Breeders' Cup in October and has the biggest prizes. The 'Winter of Our Discontent' Runs from December through January. Prizes are awarded weekly and at the end of the contest period. Check out the 'Rules and Prizes' on their web site.

Try both contests out and hone you skills for free.