Long before American Pharoah became the first Grand Slam winner on a racetrack, handicappers had been wagering on a bet known as the Grand Slam.
First introduced by the New York Racing Association in 2006, the Grand Slam is a Pick 4 with an intriguing wrinkle. Instead of having to pick four winners to collect on the wager, a handicapper has to pick a horse who finishes among the top three in the first three legs and then hit the winner of the fourth and final leg.
What that means is that your horses can run third, third, third and first and you collect.
As easy as that might seem, the wager is quite challenging. Like a Pick 4, the cost of the bet will rise dramatically if you load up with choices in one or two of the legs. For instance, a 2 x 5 x 5 x 3 $1 wager will cost $150. You could, if your horses finish 1-2 or 1-2-3 in each of the first three legs, have 18 winning tickets, which might potentially create a nice profit. Yet if you only have one or two horses hit the board in the first leg and then one apiece in the next three, you might have only one or two winning tickets and absorb a big loss off your $150 investment.
Remember, while the Grand Slam is essentially a Pick 4, since you are dealing with horses finishing in the money instead of winning the race, the Grand Slam will inherently pay much less than a Pick 4.
The Grand Slam is hardly an immensely popular bet. NYRA tracks and Sunland Park appear to be the only tracks offering the wager, and not every ADW handles it, but if you have access to it, the Grand Slam is worth a try.
To get a better handle on it, here’s three recent payoffs at Aqueduct, where the wager usually culminates with the eighth and featured race:
On Jan. 2, the first three legs featured horses at odds of 3-2 (favorite), 2-1, 4-1 with 9-2, 30-1, 7-1 with 10-1, 10-1, 14-1. In the finale, the 3-1 second choice was victorious and the payoff was $278 for a $2 ticket.
Jan. 1, 2017 began on a huge note for Grand Slam players. The winning combination featured horses at 3-2 (favorite) finishing first and third in an entry plus 3-1 with 7-2 (second choice), 4-1, 8-1 with 7-1 (fourth choice), 8-1, 61-1. Then the 5-2 second choice was victorious in the final leg. The payoff? What’s your best guess? Maybe $400. How about $1,096? That’s a highly generous payoff considering that if you bet the favored horses in the wagering on a 1 x 2 x 4 x 2 ticket, you spent $32 and walked away with a profit of $1,064.
On Dec. 31, the year ended on a chalky note with a sequence that included horses at 2-1 (favorite), 4-1, 44-1 with 7-2, 8-1, 9-5 (favorite) with 14-1, 2-1 (favorite), 8-1 and a victory by the 3-5 favorite in the final leg.
The payoff was just $20.20. Yet if you bet the favorite in all four races, including a 3-5 shot, you got 9-1 odds on that wager, which is a nice payoff considering only two of your choices won.
Keep all of that in mind the next time you handicap a NYRA or Sunland Park card. Even if you’re not a horse of a lifetime or a phenomenal athlete, you can still be a Grand Slam winner.