Focusing on Exacta Bets in Breeders’ Cup: A Winning Strategy

Handicapping the races at the 2016 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Last week’s homework for the Breeders’ Cup extolled the virtues of sequence wagers.

Now, for the benefit of the $2 player, let’s look at a wager with much less risk to it: the exacta.

The premise of the exacta is very simple. Pick the first two finishers in exact order.

Sounds simple, but it’s a much more difficult challenge when applied to the full and competitive fields at the Breeders’ Cup.

Like any wager, risk vs. reward is important and one benefit of an exacta as opposed to Pick 3 is that you can look at the tote board and see what the probable payoffs are, which should help you structure your bet.

Keep in mind, exacta payouts will be much lower than Pick 3s or Pick 4s, but it will be easier to cash a ticket.

As for the payoffs, looking at the last two years, the exacta payoffs, for the most part, fell into the category of $200 or less for $2 wager.

Of the 27 races, only six had payoffs higher than $201 (for a $2 bet), though there was a $2,060 blockbuster combining a 66.70-1 shot over an 18.10-1 shot.

Good luck hitting that one!

Based on this sample, betting the two favorites in that order in the exacta on a regular basis may not be a wise idea, either.

The cheapest exacta since 2017 was a $26.80 payout.

Beyond that, there were more than double the number of exactas paying $42 to $200 than those paying $40 or less.

Looking at the numbers, there were six payoffs of $40 or less compared with seven for $42 to $100 and eight for $102 to $200 (again, based on a $2 bet).

What does all that mean?

It says if you like a favorite, fine. Go ahead and put your money down to win.

But don’t be afraid of adding a 10-1 or 20-1 shot to the mix in your exacta plays. Getting a favorite home is one thing. Getting the two favorites home in that order is a much different and far more difficult task. In such competitive fields, chances are that chalky finish might happen once or maybe, yes maybe, twice during the course of the two days and for the low payouts they are not worth chasing on a regular basis.

So, take some chances, don’t be afraid to be wrong, and have a grand time betting on the 36th edition of the Breeders’ Cup.

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