Some Considerations For Single Race Exotics
By Chris Rossi, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor
While the basic strategy of win, place and show plays is focused primarily on matching price with selection, strategy can get a bit more complicated in the single race exotic pools. Whether it’s an exacta, trifecta or superfecta, the large number of possible winning combinations one can construct when building a ticket can lead to much higher rewards than playing in the straight win, place or show pool.
The psychological approach to handicapping single race exotics is markedly different from that of handicapping multi-race exotics, which focuses solely on picking winners. With exactas, trifectas or superfectas, the object is to pick not only the winner, but also those finishing up immediately behind the winner.
Success with this sort of wager often does not mean picking the likeliest two or three horses that might win the race. I cannot stress that last point enough when thinking about how to construct an exacta, trifecta or superfecta ticket. For example, the top two horses might hook up in a speed duel where one goes on to win and the other packs it in early, leaving other horses at longer odds to clunk up into second, third and fourth place.
Again, price is a factor to consider: not necessarily the odds of the horse, but the cost associated with placing the wager itself. It’s also important to know what the minimum allowable wager is for the particular exotic at the track you’re playing. For instance, some tracks now allow 50 cent trifectas, and most tracks have 10 cent superfectas.
Thinking about boxing up the top four betting interests in an exacta? While you might be likely to cash that ticket, the cost of playing it versus the return of a winning payout will have you quickly rethinking that strategy. The thought here is that the more horses that are boxed in any exotic, the more it costs, and the additional cost could diminish any return should you actually cash. After all, a boxed wager is covering all possible outcomes with any group of selections. Let’s take a look at the math involved and costs associated with boxing.
A quick way to figure out the cost of any box wager, whether it’s an exacta, trifecta or superfecta, is to take the number of horses you would like to box and multiply by the descending number consecutively down to the number of placings in the wager. So let’s say we want to play to a four-horse trifecta box.
4 x 3 x 2 = 24
24 is the number of combinations that a four-horse trifecta box yields. Now take that number of combinations and multiply it by the amount that you would like to wager. If you want to bet a $2 trifecta box, then the cost of the wager is $48.
An alternate to boxing is keying. Keying is slotting each horse in a particular finishing position. In the four-horse trifecta box above, say you like one of those horses to win more than the other three. So just slot one in the win position and the other three slotted beneath in the place and show position.
The ticket looks like this:
1 with 2,3,4 with 2,3,4
The number of combinations the above ticket yields is six. The math involved here is a bit complicated, but an easy way to think about calculating the number of combinations of a keyed wager is to start by focusing on the horse you’re keying and working outward from there. In essence, we have one keyed horse on top to win with a group of three horses underneath in the place and show position.
Here’s the math:
1 with 2,3,4
1x3x(3-1) = 6 combinations
Every person uses the key and box differently. Some bettors employ boxes when they think a vulnerable favorite will finish off the board. Others might box when a group of runners will benefit from a perceived track bias or pace scenario. Some use keys to enhance a strong opinion on a particular selection. Others use keys as backups, or saver bets, to hedge if they want to cover multiple scenarios
Whatever your strategy, you consider the cost of the wager versus the potential payout should that wager win. Ideally, the lowest paying combination should at least cover the wager, if not produce a profit.