Breaking the Bank: Saratoga’s Revenge on Chalkplayers


Breaking the Bank - featuring data courtesy of Equibase - highlights the biggest scores of the past week in racing. (Photo by Eclipse Sportswire)

Big longshots light up the toteboard and electrify the crowd at the racetrack, but huge mutual payouts are almost always just as dependent upon favorites.

With five-, six- and seven-figure payouts, the one constant almost always is the beaten favorite. Sometimes it’s an overwhelming favorite early in a multi-race wager that tastes defeat or a favorite finishing off the board in the trifecta or superfecta, but it is the performance of favorites that drives big scores just as much as longshots.

Last week provided a couple of perfect examples.

Let’s first take a look at the late Pick 4 on July 31 at Saratoga Race Course. This was a sequence that came pretty close to being a chalky $80 Pick 4. Instead, the payout on a $2 ticket was $69,635 (or $17,408.75 for the 50-cent minimum).

So, what happened? The favorite came in second … in every race.

The Pick 4 started with Race 7 and looked like it might get off to a predictable start when 9-to-10 favorite Prosecution opened a two-length lead with no pressure. The heavy favorite could not last, however, and gave way in the stretch to 12.20-to-1 winner For the Luv of Lil.

Grand Arrival held off 3.10-to-1 favorite Los Borrachos by a neck in the next race to win at 5.30-to-1 and then things really got interesting when Sinistra reeled in 8-to-5 favorite Big Business and 3.20-to-1 pacesetter Escapefromreality to win the featured Evan Shipman Stakes by a head at 27-to-1.

With favorite finishing second in each of the first three legs, it was only fitting when I’m Wide Awake, at 20.90-to-1 odds, put away 6-to-5 chalk Grandpa Len in the stretch of the nightcap. It was almost like the ghosts of Saratoga came out to haunt the chalkplayers for a day.

Click here for the Equibase charts from the July 31 Pick 4 at Saratoga

(continued below the tables)

Top Payouts for the Week Ended Aug. 3
Wager  Wager Amount   Payoff  Track Date Race#
Win  $2.00  $113.30 WO 8/3/14 7
Place  $2.00  $65.60 MNR 8/2/14 3
Show  $2.00  $39.40 SUF 8/2/14 1
Exacta  $1.00  $522.30 DMR 7/30/14 8
Exacta  $2.00  $1,028.20 IND 8/1/14 3
Quinella  $2.00  $491.80 DMR 7/30/14 8
Trifecta  $0.50  $368.50 FAR 8/3/14 4
Trifecta  $1.00  $8,955.60 DMR 7/30/14 8
Trifecta  $2.00  $16,445.20 MNR 7/29/14 9
Superfecta  $0.10  $1,835.75 GP 8/2/14 1
Superfecta  $0.50  $12,651.60 MNR 8/3/14 9
Superfecta  $1.00  $86,982.30 DMR 7/30/14 8
Superfecta  $2.00  $48,475.40 PID 8/3/14 3
Daily Double  $1.00  $224.70 CBY 7/31/14 9
Daily Double  $2.00  $1,250.20 SR 8/2/14 9
Pick 3  $0.50  $158.00 BTP 8/2/14 8
Pick 3  $1.00  $8,284.20 CBY 7/31/14 9
Pick 3  $2.00  $12,166.00 SAR 7/31/14 10
Pick 4  $0.50  $4,655.45 EVD 8/2/14 9
Pick 4  $1.00  $39,250.40 SR 7/31/14 8
Pick 4  $2.00  $69,635.00 SAR 7/31/14 10
Pick 5  $0.50  $15,512.85 DMR 8/3/14 5
Pick 5  $1.00  $13,400.00 DEL 7/30/14 7
Pick 5  $2.00  $18,315.00 SAR 8/2/14 5
Pick 5 Jackpot  $0.50  $298.65 LAD 7/31/14 8
Pick 6  $1.00  $5,072.50 AP 8/2/14 10
Pick 6  $2.00  $51,369.00 SAR 7/28/14 9
Pick 6 Jackpot  $0.10  $4,917.70 MTH 8/2/14 12
Pick 6 Jackpot  $0.20  $73,760.04 GP 8/1/14 10
Super High Five  $0.50  $5,235.10 MNR 8/3/14 9
Super High Five  $1.00  $5,150.50 GP 8/1/14 10
Super High Five  $2.00  $3,355.20 MNR 7/28/14 9
Click here for a complete list of racetracks with abbreviations.

© 2014 Equibase Company LLC, all rights reserved. Data provided or compiled by Equibase Company LLC generally is accurate, but occasionally errors and omissions occur as a result of incorrect data received by others, mistakes in processing and other causes. Equibase Company LLC disclaims responsibility for the consequences, if any, of such errors, but would appreciate their being called to their attention.  

For our second example, we head to Del Mar for Race 8 on July 30. This race produced the top $1 exacta, $2 quinella, $1 trifecta and $1 superfecta payouts of the week.

The winner was a first-time starter named Espirito Bueno who prevailed at 48.80-to-1 odds. Espirito Bueno definitely sparked the $522.30 exacta and $491.80 quinella and provided the key to a $8,955.60 trifecta.

But the massive superfecta return of $86,982.30 for $1 (Del Mar’s minimum for the super) required some assistance from beaten favorites.

The favorite, the second betting choice and the third betting choice finished fifth, 10th and eighth, respectively.

Third-place finisher and pacesetter Takeit Tothe Limit drilled a blistering opening quarter-mile in :21.80 that helped put away the second and third betting choices, and 2.70-to-1 favorite Ron’s Boy ran evenly throughout but never accelerated and finished fifth, which set the stage for the fireworks.

Triunfo finished second at 14-to-1 odds with 28.50-to-1 Takeit Tothe Limit third. Fourth place went to the fourth betting choice Eleven Zip (5.60-to-1), but with the top three betting choices out of the top four, plus a big longshot on top, the stars aligned for a massive payday for one lucky bettor.

Winner Espirito Bueno was the lone first-time starter in the field and he was pegged at 20-to-1 on the morning line. With not much to go on, the workouts at Fairplex Park provided some reason for optimism with a bullet (fastest at the distance) workout on July 14 and then an easy three-eighths of a mile drill 11 days later.

Even if you decided to jump on board the first-time starter in this 5 ½-furlong maiden claiming race — a race for horses who had never won a race and all were available to be claimed by anyone for either $18,000 or $20,000 — rounding out the trifecta and superfecta were significant hurdles with the top three betting choices nowhere to be found. 

Good luck at the windows, or I guess more appropriately this week, Bueno Suerte.

Commonly Used Gambling Terms

Account wagering – Betting by internet or phone, in which a bettor must open an account and deposit money with which to bet.

Across the board – A bet on a horse to win, place and show. If the horse wins, the player collects three ways; if second, two ways; and if third, one way, losing the win and place bets. Actually, three bets.

Bounce – An especially poor performance on the heels of an especially good one.

Box – A betting term denoting a combination bet whereby all possible numeric combinations are covered for certain horses.

Bridge jumper – A person who wagers large amounts of money, usually on short- priced horses to show, hoping to realize a small but almost certain profit. The term comes from the structure those bettors may seek if they lose the bet.

Chalk – Betting favorite in a race.

Chalk player – Gambler who wagers on favorites.

Daily Double (or Double) – Type of bet calling for the selection of winners of two consecutive races.

Exacta – A wager in which the first two finishers in a race, in exact order of finish, must be picked.

Exacta box – A wager in which all possible combinations using a given number of horses are selected.

Exotic (bet) – Any bet other than win, place, or show that requires multiple combinations. Examples of exotic wagers are trifecta, Pick 6, Pick 4.

Handle – Amount of money wagered in the pari-mutuel system on a race, full day of races, or entire racing season at a track.

In the money – A horse that finishes first, second or third.

Key horse – A single horse used in multiple combinations in an exotic bet.

Morning line – The starting odds set by the track handicapper.

On the board – Finishing among the first three.

On the nose – Betting a horse to win only.

Overlay – A horse whose odds are greater than its potential to win.

Pari-mutuel – System of wagering where all the money is returned to the bettors after deduction of track and state percentages.

Parlay – A multi-race bet in which all winnings are subsequently wagered on a succeeding race.

Part wheel – Using a key horse or horses in different, but not all possible, exotic wagering combinations.

Pick (6 or other number) – A type of multi-race bet in which the winners of all the included races must be selected. Pick 3, Pick 4, Pick 5, Pick 6 are commonly used by tracks in the United States.

Place bet – A bet on a horse to finish first or second.

Quinella - Bet in which the first two finishers must be picked in either order.

Show bet – A bet on a horse to finish in the money; third or better.

Speed Figure – A metric that rates a horse’s performance in a race, which is determined by a combination of the horse’s performance and the level of competition he/she competed against.

Trifecta – A bet in which the first three finishers must be selected in exact order.

Trifecta box – A trifecta wager in which all possible combinations using a given number of horses are bet upon.

Underlay – Horse whose odds are more promising than his potential to win.

Win – A bet on a horse to finish first.

Wheel – Betting all possible combinations in an exotic wager using at least one horse as the key.

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