Want to Improve Your Football Parlay Plays? Try the Horse Racing Version

Gambling
Nothing beats cashing a big ticket at the races and cheering home a winner. (Penelope P. Miller/America's Best Racing)

Football fans, do you hunch over stats like a quarterback under center every Wednesday at the office, waiting for that snap count to reveal the perfect parlay bet? That is, the bundling of a handful of games into a wager, in an attempt to cash a big score.

If the sting of sports betting battles beckons, then it is probably fair to say that horse racing’s horizontal wagering — Pick 3, Pick 4, Pick 5, and Pick 6 bets — should be to your liking.

With both college football and the NFL poised for a red-letter kickoff, and sports betting expanding in 30-plus states across the country, there has actually never been a better time to also be a horseplayer because we are all after one thing: uncovering value.

Bet Structure, Strategy, Payouts

In a football parlay this weekend, you might play the moneyline by backing Cincinnati to beat Arkansas on the road (+200) and toss in Troy to bamboozle Ole Miss (+1100).

College football is back. (Wikimedia Commons/Tammy Anthony Baker)

To balance these longer shots, choosing favorite Ohio State to spoil a Notre Dame coaching debut (-770), and the Georgia Bulldogs to bag the Oregon Ducks in Athens (-830), might be in order. So, if you win this four-leg parlay, $10 brings you almost $450.

The betting structure of a horizontal horse wager, say a Pick 5, is similar. You are handicapping “legs” or individual races in an effort to predict the winner. So, the stronger the opinion you have about any given race, the cheaper the overall ticket will cost you. Most horizontal wagers, like a Pick 5, begin at fifty cents for the minimum base wager.

One strategy is to “single,” especially in races where you feel confident, and to go “deeper” in those that you do not. Having a bet calculator nearby (like this handy ABR calculator) can help when it comes to money management. You could take another approach.

On Saturday at Del Mar, the majority of horseplayers in their horizontal wagers that include Race 10 will probably be “singling” John Sadler’s Flightline. In the TVG Pacific Classic Stakes, he is a “free space,” since he is the 1-to-5 morning-line “chalk” or favorite. Most believe he will win.

If you think this Tapit colt is vulnerable, you might want to take a chance and use Country Grammer and/or Stilleto Boy on your ticket, which could increase the payout, if either hands Sadler’s ace an upset.

Value can also be extended beyond horse selections. Consider specific sequences when large numbers of people are betting because in pari-mutuel wagering the pools can be enormous and so can those payouts.

Thus, Saratoga, which ends their meet on Labor Day, almost always has a robust payout for its Pick 5, which offers a much lower takeout (the track’s cut) than the Pick 3 or Pick 4. On Wednesday, their late sequence had $608,364 in the pot, which brought $4,250.25 each to some lucky winners.

With another heralded betting opportunity, Kentucky Downs, running on both Saturday and Sunday, plus a number of other locations in North America racing through Monday, playing the horses can be just as lucrative as sports betting. Don’t forget, it can help you when weighing money lines and spreads, as you search for value.

Football parlay fans, Labor Day Weekend is here … it is time to become a horseplayer.

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