Thus far in our series on horse racing bets, I have concentrated on single-race wagering such as win, place and show, exactas, and trifectas. Before we move on to “multi-race exotics,” it is important to touch on “superfectas” and “super high fives”. At first glance, trying to pick the top-four or five finishers in a race, in order, seems impossible. Make no mistake, it is incredibly difficult, but those who attack these wagers strategically can occasionally garner very high payouts.
You must select the first four finishers in order (for the superfecta) or the first five finishers in order (for the super high five).
Most tracks offer “supers” for 10¢ per combination, though others have a 50¢ minimum, and you may find $1 minimums occasionally. Because you generally need to pick a ton of combinations in order to win the super high five, anything more than 50¢ makes the bet almost impossible to play unless your bankroll is very large.
Superfectas have a large range of takeout prices from 19-percent at Keeneland to an offensive 30-percent at Penn National and Philadelphia Park. Between 24 and 25-percent is average, but the rake is not consistent and is worth reviewing before wagering. The super high five various wildly from 15-percent to close to double that. I can’t stress enough the importance of walking away from bets with too large a takeout. When the house is taking a quarter of the pot, it’s virtually impossible to win frequently enough to post a positive ROI.
The degree of difficulty in these wagers makes the competition irrelevant. Whether it is people playing their favorite numbers and praying or sophisticated bettors, nobody is “buying” these bets (betting so many combinations that they are guaranteed a winner or covering all of the most likely combinations), and therefore no single ticket is grossly overplayed. You will get a fair price if you hit supers and high fives.
When you have a really strong opinion about the best horses in a race.
Ideally, you can hone in on one horse you really believe is going to win, and limit the next spots to a couple options. If so, you can make a reasonable bet that looks something like A (to win) with B or C (to come second) with B or C or D (to come third), plus several options in the fourth spot. (We’ll limit the examples here to the superfecta to keep it manageable.)
If you feel really strong about the top-two, you can play it with no secondary choices, and give yourself more flexibility at the back end of the wager. That would look like: A or B (to win) with A or B (to come second) with C, D, or E (to come third) with C, D, E, F, or G (to come fourth).
Obviously, the same strategy works if you are keen on the top-three. You can play a pseudo “tri box”, i.e.: A, B, or C (to win) with A, B, or C (to come second) with A, B, or C (to come third), plus a bunch to come fourth. But as has been discussed in this series, being that confident in a trifecta is not going to happen frequently.
The only other time these bets make a lot of sense is if you can eliminate horses. If a field of 12 can be reduced to seven because there are five horses that you don’t feel can hit the top-four or five in a race, by process of elimination, you can put together a ticket by tiering who you like best, and go for a big score.
It is also worth noting that the super high five is not won everyday and some tracks carry over a portion of the pot. If it rolls over long enough, track’s tend to do an automatic payout of that pot (usually on the last day of a track’s meet). When there is bonus cash to be won, the value obviously increases. (It’s kind of like betting the PowerBall when the jackpot gets up to $600million.) If your odds to win are 292 million-to-one, and the prize is $600 million, there is good value in a bet!
Though I can’t imagine somebody going to the window and playing a superfecta or super high five box, it practically goes without saying that you are going to need a little wiggle room, and picking the five horses you like best and wheeling them is a low-percentage bet. Because of the difficulty in these wagers, and the very high number of possible combinations, if you don’t have a theory on the race (e.g. there are three standout horses; all the speed is going to die; etc.) it is going to be difficult to play with confidence.
Those without a sizable bankroll might want to consider exactas and trifectas, which cut down on the difficulty and number of combinations you need to bet to win. Finally, as noted earlier, avoid these bets at all costs if the takeout is unreasonable.
Photo credit: Slooby [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
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