Sometimes knowing who not to bet can be just as valuable as knowing who to bet.
If that’s confusing, the gist is that if you spot a highly vulnerable favorite, it’s wise to take a stand against it either by placing a win bet on another horse or two, or use a few of the other horses in exotic or sequence wagers and hope for a big payoff.
To better explain, take the eighth race at Belmont Park on Sept. 15. It was a $35,000 claiming race, moved from the turf course to main track (big surprise these days, eh?). That resulted in a miniscule four-horse field with an overwhelming favorite.
Enthusiastic Gal looked like such an easy winner that she was bet down to a 1-4 favorite, which spells out to a $2.50 payoff on a $2 wager.
And if the race had stayed on the turf course and Enthusiastic Gal faced the same three rivals, 1-4 odds would have been justified. But this race was on the main track and Enthusiastic Gal had never raced on dirt before. Yes, never. And you had to bet $4 on her just to make a buck.
On class, Enthusiastic Gal looked best, but when faced with the prospect of taking such ridiculously low odds on a proposition loaded with mystery – such as how she would handle dirt -the risk and the reward were completely out of whack.
Enthusiastic Gal was basically impossible to bet at that price, leaving two options. For one, you could simply turn the page and check out the next race. Or you could dabble with the other horses in some plays such as a double or even the exacta.
As it turned out, Enthusiastic Gal didn’t care for “Big Sandy” and she checked in a well-beaten third.
The winner was Peaches and Spice, who had finished a distant second in the same type of off-the-turf race in June at Belmont. She was actually more accomplished on dirt than turf and went off at 9-1 odds. If you landed on her as the one to benefit most from the favorite’s inexperience on dirt, you collected $20.20 for a $2 wager.
If you used her on top in the exactas with one of the other horses with dirt experience, you pocketed $75 for $2.
And if she was your play in the daily doubles, she keyed payoffs of $494 on the back end (with a 33-1 shot) and a $118 double on the front end with a victorious 3-1 favorite in the second leg.
Realistically, hitting the $494 double requiring picking the right horse other than Enthusiastic Gal and wheeling her with everyone else in the previous race, which was not a simple task. But in the other double, using the favorite with all three of the horses with dirt experience would have cost just $6 while generating $112 in profit.
And that’s how avoiding vulnerable favorites can lead to a very successful day at the races.