Beginner’s Bet of the Week: The Place Bet

A close one-two finish at Belmont Park in spring 2021. (Eclipse Sportswire)

This week marks the second installment of a new series on America’s Best Racing, the Beginner’s Bet of the Week, sponsored by NYRA Bets. Each week, this blog will explore a new type of bet by explaining exactly what it is, how best to use that bet, and by putting the wager into practice in a race.

“Get in on all of the action of Belmont Park with NYRA Bets and a special promotion for new NYRA Bets users. Just click here and apply promo code MATCH200 for up to a $200 deposit match your first deposit. And don’t forget to tune into FS2 every afternoon now through Sunday where “America’s Day at the Races” will provide live coverage of Belmont Park and Churchill Downs all fall!”

This week, we’ll focus on the place bet, which serves as the intermediate wager of sorts between the low-risk show bet and the riskier win bet. The goal of a place bet is for your selection to finish in the top two. When you bet a horse to place, as long as they finish first or second, you win.

The place bet has a little less margin for error than a show wager, but results in higher payoffs. On Saturday, Sept. 18, the average return on a $2 place bet was $5.69, or roughly 1.84-1. Getting more than your money back is not a bad return on investment for a lower-risk bet.

As a rule of thumb, a horse usually pays to place about half of what they would pay to win. It represents a good wager for novice horseplayers who are ready to move on from show betting, but may not feel comfortable betting to win just yet.

Much like with show betting, betting to place is a decent option when you find a horse who you perceive as being a good value but are not sure if they’ll be able to win.

One trap some bettors sometimes fall into is playing a horse they like to place in a race with a big favorite. The rationale is that, even if the big favorite wins, their horse can finish second and pay a decent price. However, place prices are often depressed when a big favorite wins due to the large number of tickets sold on the favorite to place. It would be a better bet to play an exacta with those two horses, as we’ll detail later in the series.

Saturday’s Belmont Park Place Bet

Race 2, #5 Blue Lou Boyle: Saturday’s second race features an interesting group of claimers going 1 1/16 miles on the turf. Blue Lou Boyle debuted in 2019, missed almost all of 2020, and has been getting better with every start this year. His last start at Saratoga was his first in more than three months, and he turned in a respectable fourth after saving ground. I’m expecting some improvement in his second start off the bench. He’s shown the ability to both take the early lead and set the pace or rate just off the leaders and pounce on the turn. He also has great late-pace figures, which will suit him well at this distance. Whichever way he goes, he should sit a great trip.

There are quite a few horses in similar form entered here, but I like that he’s lightly-raced and continues to improve. By contrast, most of his rivals have firmly established form and are unlikely to make any rapid improvements. I think Blue Lou Boyle is an excellent bet to finish in the top two and should pay a decent price to place.

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