Avoid Overextending When Betting


A solid betting strategy can lead to celebrations like the one above at Keeneland Race Course. (Keeneland Photo)

Horseplayers love to make excuses. Following a losing race, you’ll hear players utter any number of phrases such as, “I really liked that horse last night” or “that was one of my top plays,” or some other excuse as to why the bets the player made didn’t turn out as expected.

Upon reflection, the player may believe that they understood how a specific race would unfold but they simply didn’t pick out the “right” bets.

If you’re looking back at your races and betting results – and that’s an important step for any player – knowing why you won or lost a race is critical. If you find yourself frequently looking at post-race results and noticing that you had marked up your form and identified the right horse in a specific race but you end up not making any money in the race, that could be a sign of issues on the bet construction side of your game.

As all horseplayers know, handicapping and identifying your picks for a race is only one side of the equation to making money in this game. The other part involves translating our handicapping into good, successful betting. 

If you’re able to identify the right horse race after race but find yourself continually ripping up losing tickets, then your game can’t reach the next level.

Something that a lot of new players - and some old ones, too - can get caught up with is overextending their bets on a particular race. And by overextending, I’m referring to spreading the action over multiple outcomes.

On big days like the Kentucky Derby or Breeders’ Cup World Championships where there are big fields, big pools, and potentially big payouts to go after, there’s a tendency to spread out into many bets in order to simply “get” the exacta or superfecta, or whatever it is you’re after.

That strategy can work well on those days because in many cases the large fields and the payouts justify taking a shot at multiple outcomes.

However, players have to be careful in their regular day-to-day wagering not to extend their bets in a manner that almost negates what happens during the race because they’ve made so many contradictory plays. 

While bet construction and betting philosophy varies from player to player based on their experience, it’s important for players to avoid conflict with their own handicapping conclusions. There’s no insurance while betting the ponies; “saver” exactas and trifectas have their place but only as a minor part of betting strategy.

If you like horse “A” in a particular race but play savers to horses “B” and “C”, you may end up with a situation where horse “A” wins and your profit is significantly reduced because of the losing saver plays to horses “B” and “C”.

Ultimately, if at the end of a race your top play wins or the horses you like all finish as you envision during your handicapping, you should be cashing for maximum value on your tickets.


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