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In today’s world of thoroughbred wagering, the evolution of options has made it so that there are likely as many wagering gimmicks as you could find on the menu at your local eatery. Well, maybe not that many, but you get the idea. 

Let’s begin with the options available during the current meet at Saratoga and the takeout the track extracts or each type wager: 

15 percent – Pick 5
16 percent – Win, Place, Show
18.5 percent – Exacta, Quinella, Daily Double
20 percent – Empire 6
24 percent – Trifecta, Superfecta, Grand Slam, Pick 3, Pick 4 

I printed these figures because today I want to make the case that a gimmicks player (Exactas, trifectas, Pick 3’s Etc.) might want to consider the First Bet on the Key Horse in a given race to be a Straight Win or Win-Place Bet

And what follows are three examples that favor the placing of the Straight Bet before any of the gimmicks,  

(Example One)

For purposes of this suggestion let me begin with the takeout. Obviously you know that the Payoff you get in return for a successful wager is based on the pool available to you and the other correct players, divided by the number of winning tickets. 

Comparing Win/Place/Show at 16% with an Exacta and Quinella at 18.5% means that before you get back your share of the pool the track takes an extra $2.50 for every $100 in that divisible pool. If over the long run your handicapping abilities are equally successful for an exacta (two horses in a race must run 1-2 or 2-1 if they are part of a boxed wager) you begin by paying that 2.5 percent premium.

Simply put, it costs you more to play an Exacta than a Straight Win, Place or Show wager. Never mind a Trifecta (1-2-3), Superfecta (1-2-3-4) or Pick 3 (Winner in 3 consecutive races) or Pick 4 (Winner in 4 consecutive races) wagers for which the track withholds 24% from the pool, or $8 more for every $100 than it does for a Straight Bet. 

Playing the Key Horses to Win before anything else has resulted in these terrific payoffs since the meet began:
Lovely Lucky – $41.40
Big Engine – $28.80
Admiral Lynch – $16.20
Wicksters Dream – $13.20
More Like It – $11.00 

(Example Two)
It is a reasonable argument that based on, among other things, the largest number of wins, the Ortiz brothers, Jose and Irad, Jr., are the most productive jockeys at the Saratoga meet. 

Standings for first 9 days…July 16 to July 26:
Jose Ortiz – 73 Starts – 16 Wins
Irad Ortiz, Jr. -66 Starts – 14 Wins
Joel Rosario – 58 Starts – 13 Wins
Javier Castellano – 45 Starts – 7 Wins
Tyler Gaffalione – 46 Starts – 7 Wins 

In fact, Jose Ortiz and Irad are right where they belong as one or the other brother looks to take the 4th straight riding title at Saratoga while the other will be challenged by his brother throughout. 

Now, as to making the case for Straight Bets over Exactas, for instance, there is a general belief that both Jose and Irad tend to suppress the value of a win bet because the public long ago recognized their superiority and that public tends to over bet their mounts. 

So far in 2020 results would question that assumption. 

For his part, Jose’s 16 winning rides have returned a total of $217.50 based on a $2 Wager. That made the average winning payoff $13.60. More importantly, based on 73 races or a total investment of $146.00 based on a $2 wager, bettors would right now be sharing in a Return On Investment (R.O.I.) of $2.97 for each $2 wager. 

While Irad’s R.O.I. is not as lofty, it is still in rare plus territory to the tune of $152.80 for a total investment of $132.00 or an R.O.I. of $2.32 (a 16% return on your money.) 

That in itself might make the case for a Straight Bet before all else. But let’s take it one step further.  

Given the success of the Ortiz brothers, one would think that an argument could be made for boxing the two in an exacta whenever they faced each other in a race. This could not be a more disastrous play. 

So far after 9 days of racing at the current meet (through Sunday, 7/26) the brothers have faced each other in a race 54 times. They have combined to finish 1-2 only twice. Those two exactas paid $6.20 (not a misprint) and $77.00. That is a total return of $83.20. And based on 54 races or a total investment of $4 (the cost of a two horse box at $2) you would have invested $216.00. Wagering that way won’t keep you around very long. 

And as a reminder, the track takes 18.5% out of the pool for that exacta bet as opposed to 16% for the Straight Bet. 

(Example Three)
Finally I would suggest that if you are playing an exacta because you are not confident of any of the horses in the race and are either keying the lesser of evils with a few other horses or boxing three or more, with all due respect, you are chasing your tail. 

If you are going to play an Exacta or a Trifecta you should do so only after you have zeroed in on at least one key horse. And if you like that horse enough, it should be a Win bet at least, or as is the case with my DOUBLE DIGIT LONGSHOT SERVICE (See The Details Here) a case where every horse I give out, whether a single or the lead in an exotic is never the longshot, you should play the horse at least to Win first or as I recommend, Win & Place. 

In my next HURLEY ON HORSES I will delve more deeply into why Exotics should be carefully evaluated. I would never dissuade people from playing them, but as I said in the paragraph above, playing them because you are not sure of any single horse in the race and then playing a multiple horse combo while telling yourself all I have to do is hit it once in a while to make a big score does not work. 

This is a small sample of what goes into not just finding the right horse but recommending the Right Horse At The Right Price, something my Jim Hurley racing Network has been doing for 35 years. 

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