Don’t Cheap Out
When a few bucks stands between you and a decent score
By Dana Byerly, Hello Race Fans Co-founder

There will be a few times in your tenure as a horse player where a stunning opportunity will pop up unexpectedly. If you’re lucky, it will be a more than a few times, and if you’re even luckier you’ll a) recognize them and b) play them correctly. I’m about to share a tale of woe where one such opportunity happened to me. I recognized it yet, fumbled spectacularly.

I’m not much of a Pick 4 or Pick 6 player. If it’s a sequence where I’ve handicapped all the races I’ll usually take a shot. On Travers day 2009, NYRA was doing it’s usual all stakes Pick 4 and I decided to play along. I had some solid opinions and a few question marks. As a rule I like to put in my multi-race wagers last minute so I at least have the opportunity to see the horses in the first race of the sequence warm-up as visual handicapping is one of my strengths.

I planned to play a relatively modest $1 ticket of 2/3/3/4 for a total of $72 and $2 ticket of 2/2/2/1 for $16 . That all changed with the paddock, parade and warm-up for the first race, the Ballston Spa. As I detailed in my piece about the parade and warm-up, an unknown Euro invader named Salve Germania was making a quite a splash with her antics, and unlike most I liked what I saw. The short story is that I threw her on my ticket last minute at odd of 24-1 and instead of just adding her to my existing selections, I decided to exclude a horse I was on the fence about, Music Note in the Ballerina. Informed Decision and Indian Blessing seemed to be at their peak and Music Note was coming off a break into a tough spot, problem solved!

Salve Germania pulled the upset and suddenly I was sitting on a potentially notable score. My joy to turned to dismay when I saw how great Music Note looked warming up. The more she trotted around looking like a monster the more crestfallen I became. I decided to put in a last minute saver Pick 3 of 1/3/3 for $18, singling Music Note and going one horse lighter in the Travers as I didn’t want to spin totally out of control and start throwing too much money at the situation.

Music Note crushed the field and my dreams of what turned out to be a $8,546 Pick 4 payout. But I was still alive in the saver Pick 3! While I made it through the King’s Bishop, my string of bad decisions came to a glorious end when Summer Bird, the horse I left of my saver Pick 3, won the Travers. The moral of the story (besides just pointing out that I have bad judgment) is that for a mere $43 ($35 on the $1 ticket and $8 on the $2 ticket) I could have really capitalized on a rare opportunity. And for a measly additional $6 I could have at least hit the saver Pick 3!

So, my advice to you, should you find yourself a similar circumstance, is simply: don’t cheap out. This was not a circumstance where I didn’t have the money to do it and the amount to get Music Note on those tickets pales in comparison to payouts. Of course one should always stay within their bank roll, but don’t be afraid to allocate extra funds to take advantage of an opportunity if you have them!

We’ll take a look at money management issues in upcoming posts (something I’m looking forward to!). It’s also worth noting is that are more advanced methods of ticket construction for multi-race exotics. Mr. Exotic Wager Ticket Construction himself, Steven Crist, was kind enough to write an intro on the subject for us. Be sure to check out our review of his excellent tome (that I clearly haven’t read yet), Exotic Betting: How to Make the Multihorse, Multirace Bets that Win Racing’s Biggest Payoffs. It was ranked third in our index of Top 5 Handicapping Books!


  • Hi Dana…Just heard of your site on TV,with Nick and Tom…Love it!! Great info..After reading about your not taking advantage of the opportunities bc of not wanting to throw too much money at the p3’s and 4’s, I had to remember what my 98 year old Mother always said…”you can’t bet with scared money”!! She loved the track and I have her genes… will be learning more now that I have discovered you…Many thanks! And good luck at the races…..Pat

  • Thanks for stopping by Pat, and your Mother is right! Best of luck to you too.

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