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The field for the $6 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park is displayed on a video board Monday, Oct. 28, 2019, at the track in Arcadia, Calif., in advance of the Breeders' Cup series of horse races this coming weekend. (AP Photo/Beth Harris)
The field for the $6 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park is displayed on a video board Monday, Oct. 28, 2019, at the track in Arcadia, Calif., in advance of the Breeders' Cup series of horse races this coming weekend. (AP Photo/Beth Harris)|Associated Press
Thoroughbreds

Betting the Breeder's Cup, Part 1: Garrity discusses bankroll and strategy

Chris Garrity

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This may have become a bit lost in the shuffle, with the advent of legal sports betting in so many states in the past few years, and with the problems that horse racing has had in 2019, especially in Southern California. But it is still true, we think, that the Breeders Cup is the best pure gambling event of the year -- in any sport. With 14 races spread over two days, with arguably the best aggregation of horseflesh anywhere in the world in one place, with full fields in just about every race and more exotic wagering than a dedicated railbird can shake a rolled-up program at, it is a veritable orgy of the very best kind of gambling that exists. Try to turn $100 or $150 into many thousands of dollars at a casino, and you'll probably be busted in a matter of minutes; but at the Breeders Cup, these kinds of massive scores are very, very possible. It's part of what makes it such a great event, and so exciting.

But to have any chance at success, one must have a plan, not just in terms of handicapping the races, but in how to bet. In fact, we have come to think that wagering strategy, and to a lesser extent bankroll management, are the most important factors in parimutuel success at the Breeders Cup: what you know matters, but how you bet matters much, much more.

The reason for this, of course, is the sheer volume of available wagers. There are five races on Friday, and nine on Saturday; every one of them offers both traditional win/place/show betting, as well as an overwhelming array of exotic wagers: exactas, trifectas, superfectas, and so on. And then there are the multi-race wagers like the double, Pick 3, Pick 4, Pick 5, and so on. Diving into these pools without a plan -- and make no mistake, the Breeders Cup is the deep end of the pool when it comes to horse race betting -- will leave you busted just as fast as if you walk into a casino and play poker against a guy named Slim. One must have a strategy to have any chance at showing a profit.

So what, then, is the best way to attack these races? The good news is that there is no one correct answer. Different players have different handicapping skills, and one's wagering strategy should reflect that. If you're good at identifying the top two runners in a race, play exactas. If you're good at identifying live longshots, then make win bets -- the Breeders Cup, in fact, is probably the best time of year to bet horses at huge prices.

The two main factors, to us, anyway, that dictate betting strategy are bankroll and your desired profit. If your bankroll is, say, $200, there are players who would be more than happy to double or triple that: that is certainly a good result in just about any form of gambling.

But the thing about the Breeders Cup that excites us the most is the ability to turn a small amount of money into a massive score. This can be done in the super-exotic bets like the superfecta and the Super High Five, but our favorites are the multi-race wagers like the Pick 4 and Pick 5. In fact, the Pick 5, with its lower takeout (the takeout rates at Santa Anita this weekend will be 15% for the Pick 5, and 23.68% for most of the other exotic bets), is probably the best bet at the Breeders Cup: not only is the rake lower, it is spread over multiple races.

But how does one go about attacking the Pick 5, and the rest of the multi-race wagers? What is the best way to play? What is the best way to structure the bets?

In our next segment, we will look at the lineup of races, and take a shot at beginning to formulate a wagering strategy. Look for it in this space soon.