by Dustin Fabian
July 15, 2017
Any longtime bettor will be quick to point out that there’s no sure thing in horse racing. Man O War lost. Secretariat lost five times. More recently, American Pharoah, Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra and Ghostzapper failed to retire with unblemished records. Hope of an upset forever springs eternal in this great sport. After all, you don’t have to be the better horse – you just have to be better on that particular day.
That said, any outcome other than a Songbird victory in Saturday’s Grade 1 Delaware Handicap would be nearly universally regarded as nothing less than an enormous shock. Songbird is 12-for-13 in his illustrious career, with 8 Grade 1 victories on her resume. She’s won races at Santa Anita, Saratoga, Del Mar, Belmont and Parx, and her $4.1 million in earnings are $2.7 million more than the combined bankroll of Saturday’s five rivals. And it took them 110 starts to get there.
Songbird will be piloted in the ‘Del Cap’ by Hall of Famer, Mike Smith, and sits at an unappealing 1/5 on the morning line. Don’t be surprised if she slips to 1/9 by post time. All of that makes the question facing horseplayers is a simple one – how can they make money betting such a heavy favorite?
Bets made in the Win, Place and Show pool are tough. The maximum payout for a Songbird victory is probably $2.20 and she’s nearly a lock to pay $2.10 in the Place and Show pools, assuming Delaware Park chooses to offer Show wagering. That means a $100 Win bet on Songbird will pay about $110, while a $100 Place bet is going to return $105. Those are pretty paltry returns for a bet with inherent risk. As Xpressbet’s Johnny D always says, ‘never bet a lot to win a little.’
So how can you make money on her? Well the good news is there are more options on the wagering menu than ever before. Delaware offers rolling Doubles and Pick 3’s, as well as Pick 4’s, Trifectas and Superfectas. Talk about choices! Plus, you’ve got more information at your fingertips. Thanks to Probables on the Oddsboard, you know (approximately) what your Double or Exacta is going to pay before you bet it. Use that information to your benefit when mapping out your wagering approach.
Here are a few ways I think you can get paid while betting Songbird on Saturday:
Exacta: Songbird over Martini Glass and Line of Best Fit
For the sake of this article, let’s assume Songbird is close to being a ‘sure thing.’ So instead of betting her at 1/9 odds, why not couple her in an Exacta with the likeliest runner ups? In my opinion those two horses are Line of Best Fit and Martini Glass. Each is in strong form and both have won races at Delaware before. I’m going to try to beat the morning line second-choice, Weep No More, who has done absolutely nothing since winning the Grade 1 Ashland last year at odds of 30/1. Consider keying Songbird over Martini Glass, Line of Best Fit and Weep No More in the Trifecta. A $5 base wager will cost $30 and should return better than that.
Daily Double: Frostmourne with Songbird
In the race prior to the Del Cap, the Grade 3, $200,000 Kent Stakes, Frostmourne looks like a standout. The Christophe Clement-trainee won the Grade 2 Penn Mile last out and is 3-for-5 in his career. Joel Rosario is in from New York to ride him, and if he’s able to find clean sailing, he should hit the wire first. Check out the Double Probables before betting and consider playing a smaller Double with Todd Pletcher’s Master Plan and Songbird to hedge.
All-Stakes Pick 4
Delaware’s card features an All-Stakes Pick 4 with a 50-cent minimum. The good news – your bet isn’t limited to just 50-cents. Love Songbird and Frostmourne? Hook them up with a few horses in the first legs and up the ante. If you bet it at a $5 base and use three horses in the first leg, two in the second and one each in the third and fourth, your total ticket cost is $30. And even if the Pick 4 returns $10 for a 50-cent base, you’re getting 10x that. My ticket would include Adirondack King, Ain’t Got Time and Discreet Lover in the first leg, Chief Lion and Eighty Three in the second and Frostmourne and Songbird in the third and fourth. Use the same horses in the rolling Pick 3’s with a similar approach.
Bet Against the Bridge Jumpers
Bridge Jumpers are bettors who make large Show bets on (generally) heavy favorites. Like we said, a $100 Place or Show bet on Songbird will pay about $105. Not much. But remember, a $10,000 bet will return $11,000. And a $50,000 bet will pay $55,000. All of a sudden, that return doesn’t feel as paltry. And some bettors will take that plunge and make those big bets. But what happens when those big Show bets lose? You get paid if you hedged against them. When Shared Belief was pulled up as the heavy favorite in the 2015 Charles Town Classic, the Show payouts for the first three finishers were $23.20, $71.20 and $45.60. Had you simply bet $2 to Show on every horse in the field, you’d have turned $18 into $140! Take a look at the pools on Saturday. If there’s a huge number bet on Songbird to Place or Show, consider making a bet against that money. It’s low risk – worst-case scenario is you bet $10 and get back about $4.40.
So while Songbird looks like a ‘sure thing,’ hopefully we can find ways to make a nice return while betting her. Play the Delaware Handicap Saturday at 5:30PM ET. First post is 1:15. Good luck!