If you wagered on the first race at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 22, once the horses crossed the finish line you were either jumping for joy or scratching your head in disbelief.
The winner was Grand Lord, who was sent off at 83-1 and paid $169.80.
The runner-up was Discreet Manner, who was 58-1 on the toteboard.
Together, in a relatively small field of seven competing with a $6,250 claiming tag, they formed a $2,044.40 exacta for a $2 wager.
And they also offered a great example of a rule every handicapper should keep in mind.
Before getting to it, let’s take a look at both horses.
Grand Lord was coming off no less than a 45 ¾-length loss at the same distance and class level. In his last six starts, he was no closer than four lengths at the finish and in four of them he lost by 20 lengths or more. He was switching to a jockey with a 1-for-26 record.
About the only reason to bet him was that his trainer, Gennadi Dorochenko, can on occasion connect with a huge longshot, such Hero of Order who won the 2012 Louisiana Derby at 109-1 odds.
As for Discreet Manner, he broke his maiden three starts before the Jan. 22 race. In his two races since then, he was seventh and fifth at the same $6,250 level, losing by a combined 20 ½ lengths. His jockey was 3-for-51 at the meet and trainer 0-for-8.
Good luck explaining why he turned in such an improved performance.
So what’s the lesson?
It’s that anything can happen in a horse race and that sometimes, if you have a heavily overbet favorite, it makes to cover as many bases as possible.
In this case, Dero D was the favorite. He was seventh last time out and was dropping back to the $6,250 level where he had been more successful, finishing second and third in his last two tries. Off that record, he was a logical favorite, perhaps at 2-1 or maybe even 3-2.
But he was sent off as a 3-10 favorite, meaning he would have paid $2.60 to win, and that’s a ridiculously small price on a horse who lost his last two races at the same level of his current race. If he couldn’t win in his last two tries, why should the third be any different?
With Dero D taking so much money, it left the second choice at 9-2 and inflated everyone else’s odds.
Since picking Grand Lord was a bit of a reach, the only reasonable way to include him on your tickets was to hit the All button.
That strategy probably would not have helped anyone who bet the exacta, unless they like to take a fling and box the two longest priced horses in the race.
But if someone liked Assail in the second race (she was the 3-1 co-second choice) and believed there was a heavy but vulnerable favorite in the opening race, using her with everyone in the first race produced a winning $2 daily double ticket worth $991.40.
Beyond that, if you liked Coors Lute, the victorious 2-1 favorite in the third race, used him with the three favorites in the second race and everyone in the first race, a $21 total ticket with a $1 bet returned $2,947.30.
Admittedly, there’s a tremendous satisfaction that stems from picking a winning longshot at odds of 50-1 or more. Yet finding horses like that is a Herculean task.
One of the great parts about betting a horse race is that sometimes you can simply stumble onto to longshot by doing nothing more than betting on every horse in that race – and you shouldn’t be shy about doing just that.
It may not be satisfying to some people’s ego to hit an All button, but the bottom line is that the name of the game is to make money, and when the situation is right, that “button” can be the key to reaping a windfall of cash.