A Closer Look at Stephen Foster Day Payouts

Racing fans at Churchill Downs. (Penelope P. Miller/America's Best Racing)

The previous weekend, it was Belmont Stakes day and a 13-race card with 10 stakes. Last weekend, it was Churchill Downs’ turn to celebrate a big day, or more precisely, a big evening of racing.

The Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap was the highlight of an 11-race card at the home of the Kentucky Derby with five graded stakes and a collection of stars topped by Dubai World Cup runner-up Gun Runner.

It was a great card with solid favorites that offered little reward for longshot players - just one winner paid more than $10.60 - but once again it offered an opportunity for gamblers with a limited budget to tackle horizontal wagers that might normally be out of their price range.

Consider the Pick 5 to close the card. Four of the five winners paid $4.60 or less, with Forever Unbridled ($4.20) in the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Handicap and Gun Runner ($3) in the Foster kicking off the sequence in a very chalky manner. The final two legs, a pair of maiden races, were also won by favorites paying $3 and $4.60.

In between, a second choice, Sweeping Paddy ($9.20), took the Grade 3 Regret Stakes.

That meant the Pick 5 featured four favorites and a second choice, the kind of combination that could be hit with a relatively small ticket.

The payoff was hardly huge, checking in at $55.70 for a 50-cent wager. Yet with a ticket loaded with chalk, the logical approach was to increase your base wager so you collected with at least a $1 or $2 ticket and pocketed $111.40 or $222.80, respectively.

Some of the Pick 3s also paid surprisingly well.  For instance, one started with second choice Kasaqui ($8.40) prevailing in the Grade 2 Wise Dan Stakes. It continued with predictable wins by Forever Unbridled and then Gun Runner.

The return was $45.40 for $2, not bad considering a parlay on the three horses paid about $30.

Even a Pick 3 of odds-on McCraken ($2.40 in the Grade 3 Matt Winn Stakes), Kasaqui ($8.40) and Forever Unbridled ($4.60) paid a small but generous $36.40.

A Pick 3 that started just before the stakes and included third choice Fifth Title ($10.40), McCraken and Kasaqui returned a healthy $102.40 for a combination that consisted of a third choice, favorite and second choice.

With Del Mar and Saratoga right around the corner, there will be a few more “big days” to tackle before too long.

Whether they will produce as much chalk as the cards for the Belmont Stakes and Stephen Foster remains to be seen. Saratoga is well-known for its unpredictability. Yet if there are races with standouts, do not quickly turn the page in pursuit of a bigger prize at the betting windows. Sometimes what seems small can turn out to be rather large if you package it properly.

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