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Working with Favorites

It's always great to find a horse who you think is a lock to win a race, the problem is most of the time the general public has come to that same conclusion.  It's always a little demoralizing to look at the tote board and see the horse you like as the 6/5 or 4/5 favorite or worse the track announcer comes on and tells everyone this is the horse to bet.  Still there usually some was to capitalize on your opinion.

One of the easiest ways to take advantage of your heavy favorite is to use him as a single in a Daily Double, Pick 3 or Pick 4.  That gets you through a leg and you can take advantage of prices in other races.  Even a third or fourth choice winning in another leg can cause your multi race bet to pay much more even with your heavy favorite winning.  However to play multi race wagers I still like to have a good opinion in at least 2 or 3 of the races in a Pick 3, if not all 3 races.  Or, 3 out of 4 races in a Pick 4.  Without a good opinion in at least a few of the other races you may just be throwing away your money and your opinion.

But what about betting the favorite within the same race?  For me win betting this favorite is almost always out of the question (I rarely win bet anyway), the payoff just isn't worth the risk.  Especially, knowing that I would have to bet a larger sum of money to get a decent return.  How many times have you seen a favorite stumble leaving the gate or be compromised by traffic or pace?  It happens - everyday at racetracks all across the world!  I also hear people all the time betting the favorite "across the board" (a bet to Win, Place or Show).  Still the place and show pools are going to be extremely suppressed because of the amount of money being bet on the horse.  Which still makes it hard to wager based on the small return you would get.  A $2.60 or $2.20 payoff for a $2 show bet is hardly worth the risk to me.

But there are ways to use your opinion that usually pays much better.  One of the great things about having a horse who appears to be a lock in the race is that your usually able to have an opinion about which horse or horses have a shot a finishing 2nd or 3rd.  Using exotics bets can help you increase the return you receive on your heavy favorite choice.  I mainly use exactas and trifectas in these situations.  To take advantage of this you need to think through how the exotic pools work and compare these with your selections so you'll know which bet to use.

Watch the exacta prices and see if it is worth playing, but usually with a heavy favorite I like to bet him in the trifecta.  Here's why:  If you have a horse in the race who is a solid second choice that exacta payoff is going to be extremely suppressed.  Even the exacta prices on the top 3 choices will pay very small amounts because the majority of bettors box the top 2 or 3 choices.  It is an extremely inefficient way to bet, because you are giving all the horses in the box the same chance of winning even though you don't believe that in your handicapping.  However, with a trifecta even if the top 2 horses run first and second you still have a shot to get a little longer shot into the 3rd spot.  Or better yet what if you can get the second choice into the 3rd spot or even out of the trifecta all together.  One of my top trifecta hits to date was where a heavy 4/5 favorite finished first, an 8-1 second and a speed horse at 25-1 faded to finish 3rd.  Because I was able to get the second and third betting choices out of the top 3 spots, I was able to beat people who had boxed the top 3 or even 4 horses in trifecta.  This is one of my favorite plays where you have a speed horse at a larger price who figures to fade, but maybe not out of the money.

In the race I mentioned above the 4/5 favorite was my first choice or A horse.  My second choice or B horse was the second betting choice at 2-1, but he was a closer and I didn't figure he would be able to make up enough ground to beat the 4/5 to lock.  The 8-1 was the fourth betting choice and my C horse or third choice.  My fourth choice was the 4-1 third betting choice and the 25-1 speed horse was my fifth choice.

So my selections looked like this:
A Horse: 4/5
B Horse: 2-1
C Horse: 8-1
D Horse: 4-1
E Horse: 25-1

I figured if my 2-1 second choice couldn't make up enough ground to finish second, I had a decent shot at a trifecta that would pay.  One more thing I had going for me was this track offered a $.50 trifecta, which meant I could better weight my opinions when betting.

Here's how I bet the race and why I made each play:
$2 - A / B,D / B,D = $4 - I played this trifecta in case the top betting choices ran in the trifecta so it would add value to the one below.

$2 - A / B,C / B,C,D,E = $12 - The trifecta I figured had the best chance of hitting.

$1 - B / A,C / A,C,D = $4
$.50 - A / B,C,D,E / B,C,D,E = $6

Even though a heavy favorite ran first, but because the 2nd and 3rd betting choices finished out of the money and I got a long shot into the third spot this trifecta still paid $268 for $1 - and I had it 2.5 times!  I designed the play to give more weight to the selections I knew would be boxed where the payouts would be suppressed.  This would allow me to still make some money if they all ran in the trifecta.  I also gave my 4/5 a chance to lose with the B / A,C / A,C,D trifecta.

Now it certainly doesn't work out this well all the time or even the majority of the time, but you can still catch some decent prices in the exotics when betting the favorite to win.

As always keep good records and you'll become a much better bettor!

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