A Little Creativity Can Go a Long Way When Betting Turf Races

A tight finish at Kentucky Downs in the Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Derby. (Reed Palmer Photography/Kentucky Downs)

If you wagered on the second race at Kentucky Downs on this past Wednesday and Nov. 12, 1978 was a key date in your life, you were either the happiest or angriest person at the track.

Maybe it’s your birthday. Or anniversary. Or birthday of a child. Or, just fill in the blank.

In any event, if that date had a special meaning to you, putting in a superfecta hunch bet — or keeping your money in your wallet — was the difference between collecting $72,462 or having a “woe is me” tale for the rest of your life.

Personally, an old issue of the Norwalk Hour newspaper (my place of employment back then) might shed some light on my whereabouts that day, though there’s nothing that comes to mind as special about that day that would have coaxed me into wagering on the winning 11-12-7-8 combination.

Nor could I see a reason to back the winner of the race that triggered such a huge payout.

It was Country Chick who won that second race and paid $248.40, the highest win price of the year in North America, and if you picked her, congrats. Now go buy a Powerball ticket.

Let’s not say Country Chick was impossible to pick. She did switch from synthetics to turf, the surface she was victorious on at 2-1 odds two starts ago, and she put in two modest bullet workouts for the race. Perhaps there was some system that pointed her out, but, for the most part, she seemed simply too slow to win the race. Way too slow.

Yet there was a way you could have cashed a somewhat logical wager on her. All you had to do was push the ALL button and wheel the race.

Admittedly, this is a bit of an exaggeration, yet Country Chick reflects the chaos that can happen in a turf race with a large field and why wheeling in that instance can sometimes be a wise move.

While using the ALL button is financially draining on a daily basis, for occasional players it can be a beautiful thing in the right spot, such when you like a horse at 6-1 or more and there’s the aforementioned turf race with a large field and a propensity for bad trips as opposed to a five-horse field in a dirt race.

In this instance, let’s start with race one on the same card. If you liked the winner, Salvator Mundi who paid $21, there were some nice daily double possibilities. So rather than chase 3 of 4 of them, why not take all 12 horses, which would have given you a ticket on Country Chick. The cost of the wheel would have been $24 for $2 bets or $12 for $1 and you could have added extra ticks on your main choices in the second race to boost those payouts.

The return? A whopping $1,227.20 for a $2 ticket and $613.60 for $1.

Now let’s look at the second race. Suppose you liked Focused, who was 7-1. A $2 win ticket would have paid $16.20 and a $20 win bet would have been worth $324. Of course, it can be wise to hedge and maybe you thought about betting Focused to place so that you could collect both bets if she wins.

Then again, you could have back-wheeled her for second in the exacta. The risk vs. reward here of playing her underneath everyone was a losing ticket if she won, but the strong possibility of a nice payoff in the exacta if she finished second.

What happened here? Let’s say you bet $22 to place on Focused. You received $103.40. Yet if you wheeled Focused for second with $2 exacta bets, you cashed for $1,309 with Country Chick on top.   

And you got to brag about nice score, too.

Yes, a wheel isn’t always an option, but in the right spot it can make you feel quite good about being wrong.

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