If you have been following our series on horse racing, where I set out the basics of the various wagers you can place at the track (win, place and show, exacta, trifecta, superfecta, double, Pick 3, Pick 4, Pick 5, Pick 6), you may have gotten to a dark spot following the Breeders Cup.
To some degree, horse racing’s prime season runs from the Kentucky Derby prep races in late winter until the World Championships in early November. But fear not, there are some interesting options for fans this time of year. Let’s look at some days and bets to keep you interested as temperatures drop.
Over the last two decades, Churchill Downs has offered fans an opportunity to chose their Derby horse early, and often times get great odds when doing so. The first official pool closed last weekend, but there are other future pools opening in late January, February, and March. Many sportsbooks also offer future wagering on the Run for the Roses.
The field, i.e. none of the 23 horses specifically listed, closed at 6/5 during the first pool. Juvenile Champion Classic Empire was the second choice at 6/1. Trainer Bob Baffert’s Mastery was the third at 10/1 after debuting with a maiden win in October, and turning around to win the Bob Hopes Stakes on November 19.
Future betting is can be a lot of fun, especially for those new to the sport or new to betting. For a small bet, you can get good odds on a horse that projects to be great. But futures aren’t only for the uninitiated. There’s value in it for experienced bettors who know their ponies. On the first Saturday in May, the favorite might be 3/1. If you spot that horse during the winter before anybody else has recognized him as a future champion, you may get 20/1 or more.
A sport that sometimes lacks imagination and clings to old traditions is doing something new on January 28. The weekend between the NFL Championship Games and Super Bowl will feature a mile-and-an-eighth race at Gulfstream Park (Florida) with a purse of $12 million, the largest in horse racing history.
What makes the Pegasus different is the 12 open slots that were sold off at $1 million apiece. The purchasers are now free to race a horse, lease the spot, contract or share a starter, or sell their place. The open slots went quickly, with the owners of California Chrome and Nyquist among the purchasers.
With an enormous purse, the best horses in the world will be interested in running. That sets up a fun wagering event for fans, plus Gulfstream, and other tracks, are planning great cards for the day to entice betting. Additionally, whether the value of slots goes up (because there are more than 12 horses that want in) or down (because there are only a handful of horses who can beat Chrome and not that many people want to invest $1m to lose) will be fascinating. Innovation creates excitement, and this is an event worth following.
Tracks have started offering Jackpot or Rainbow Pick 6’s in many locations. By and large, these are awful bets. The concept is that customers who bet the Pick 6 only get a full payout if there is a single winner. In other words, you can hit all six races, but if someone else also correctly identifies the six winners, a portion of the pool carries over to the next day.
The idea is to create a lottery effect with huge pools that people are chasing. However, the more money in the pool each day, the less likely there is to be a unique winner (usually more than one person hits it each day). These bets do become valuable, though, at the end of a track’s meet, when the track is forced to pay out the entire pool whether or not there is a unique winner. This creates a betting scenario where there could be a million dollars or more up for grabs. The extra cash in the pool outweighs the takeout, and therefore it is a great betting opportunity.
Photo credit: Boston Public Library [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
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