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Bet the Breeders' Cup Efficiently & Aggressively

by Jeremy Plonk

October 22, 2018

Between now and Nov. 2-3, everyone you know with an opinion about racing will be sharing hot takes on particular horses. It’s what we do. Whether you want that input or not, brace yourself; because it’s coming. But what you’re not likely to hear or see from many is just exactly what you should be doing as a bettor to prepare for the Breeders’ Cup.

Here are my tips toward betting the Breeders’ Cup with efficiency and aggressiveness.

Bet More Than Usual

The very premise of pari-mutuel wagering is that the losing tickets pay the winners. It’s that simple. Despite the vastly increased handicapping challenges the Breeders’ Cup presents, its betting benefits far outweigh the difference. This, and Kentucky Derby Day, are the two days on the calendar that you have to get involved and let the math work for you. Because of massive pool sizes (dollars bet), the event’s average payouts are astounding, from a par $2 exacta of more than $200 to trifectas and superfectas that return 2-3 times more than what we’re used to seeing even in 12-horse fields at major racing meets. The numbers don’t lie. Get paid when you’re right is my absolute philosophy in horse racing. This is the time on the calendar when that will happen when you click. And speaking of the calendar, let’s be honest – a strong percentage of regular horseplayers take a little respite after the Breeders’ Cup anyway. Go out swinging.

Look For Massive Overlays, Not Ordinary Win Plays

Whether it’s Breeders’ Cup Friday or a Tuesday in the dead of winter, 3-to-1 pays $8. The beaucoup pools at the BC don’t really matter when it comes to assessing your potential returns in the win pool. That’s a static percentage. But there’s little doubt that you’ll find horses at odds you’ve never seen them at before, and likely won’t see them at again. Therein comes your value judgment for overlays. If you think West Coast is 2-1 to win the Classic and he’s offering 5-1 because of the depth of the field, that’s the beauty of the Breeders’ Cup, and the very definition of an overlay. But unless you’re betting large sums, an extra $10 to win on a 5-1 shot that should have been 2-1 likely isn’t going to move your memories. You’re not going to remember back to 2018 when you turned $10 into $60 and outsmarted them all. I almost hate to say it, but this is a weekend when I put the win pool aside. I can find $12 returns for a deuce all day Tuesday at Anytrack USA.

Subtract One

The easiest move you can make when betting the Breeders’ Cup is to reduce your bet type. Not your bet amounts, but your bet types. For every pick four you think you can hit, instead attack a pick three and spend the same amount of money while having each combination more times; try the exacta vs. the trifecta. These are extremely difficult races to decipher, so don’t make the mistake of adding all kinds of 50-cent and dollar combos to bets that are unlikely to cash. Subtract a race, bet more on the simpler wagering combination and see your returns come back just as big or bigger as that tougher bet you probably weren’t going to hit anyway. You will be much more profitable with a $3 pick three than that $.50-cent pick four that ‘just missed.’

You Can’t Beat the Races

Haven’t you yet learned the old adage: You can beat a race, but you can’t beat the races? The idea is a simple one in that you can expect to be right some of the time when forecasting the future. But long-range success comes at a steeper price. Literally. So don’t try to devour all 14 of these races with anywhere near the same voracity and equal bankrolls. There will be at least 4-5 no bets, AT LEAST. Maybe 4-5 mild bets. And maybe 3-4 stronger bets, if not LESS. Make sure that if you hit 2 races this weekend that you win the weekend. Who knows, maybe even 1 will be enough? For this reason, resist as much as possible going too gung-ho into pick fours, fives and sixes. Defeating that many races in a row at this level is a continuous dance with danger. You’ll find that you can beat a race with success in the exacta, trifecta or superfecta far more often than you can beat a series of races. It’s true in adage or reality.

Search Out Doubles

If you must go the multi-race route, and I know many of you do, then let me recommend a search for not one single, but two. If that sounds like Mission Impossible, it just may be. But you’re not going to be comfortable in coverage no matter how much 99.9 percent of you spend. A pick four with full fields of 12 offers 20,736 combinations. That’s what you’re going up against. So let’s say you play a conventional ticket of 2x4x4x5 for 160 combinations ($80). You have covered only 8/10 of one percent of the combos. But what’s more, you’ve actually put just 15 horses on your ticket in the four races. If you’re willing to single the 2 horses you feel best about, you can put together a 1x1x12x12 ticket that doesn’t require any opinion whatsoever in half the sequence. It would cost $72 (cheaper than the 2x4x4x5 play’s $80 pricetag), and actually give you 26 horses on your ticket. If you wanted to have the same grand total of 15 horses on your ticket, you could go 1x1x6x7 on the same pretext, and you’re spending only $21, but obviously are leaving yourself more exposure in the non-single legs. If you can’t find two singles in a sequence, then move on to the next one, or continue to focus your bankroll on intra-race bets.

Feel-Out Friday

Finally, remember that Friday and Saturday are both Breeders’ Cup Days in name, but they don’t have to be connected to your bottom line the same way. Five races for 2-year-olds (3 on the turf) are scheduled for Friday with 9 races for older horses (5 on dirt) set for Saturday. If the juvenile races are not your thing, and you prefer dirt to turf handicapping, then you have to really be disciplined on Friday and weight your bankroll to Saturday. I’m looking at spending 10 percent on Friday and 90 percent on Saturday. So if you’ve got $250 to play on the Breeders’ Cup weekend, that’s $25 of fun money on Friday and $225 to get serious on Saturday. Perhaps you feel stronger about Friday’s races than Saturday, then by all means reverse the course I’m taking. But know which day and races you prefer beforehand. Don’t overspend Friday, only to be left short-handed on Saturday.