Finding Value in Exactas
Exhibiting all the eagerness of Snooki entering a house of mirrors, we can’t wait to plunk our money down. As the designated race draws nearer and nearer, visions of yacht parties with Donald Trump and Warren Buffet dance in our head. We order a hot dog at the racetrack/OTB concession stand — mainly just to pass the time — and then refuse it when we’re told that Gray Poupon mustard is not available and, no, the concessionaire does not offer a wine list.
Finally, post time arrives… and our dreams are shattered. The love of our life, our wagering salvation, is a measly 1-5 on the tote. Depressed, we scan the board for other options, maybe bet our second choice and, then, watch in dismay as the 1-5 shot rolls by 10 lengths and sets a new track record in the process. With a depleted bankroll and dour spirits we make our way home and have a hot dog for dinner, minus the mustard — we’re out.
Sound familiar? Well, although such situations can be frustrating, they needn’t be devastating. Remember, at most racetracks, there’s an exacta or exactor (for my Canadian friends), which requires a bettor to pick the first- and second-place finishers in precise order, in nearly every race. Hence, with thoughtful wagering, a punter can improve his/her odds — at least in theory.
But what is the best approach to betting the exacta? I decided to find out. Using a pool of 280 races run from 2004-present, I examined various techniques. I began by obtaining some preliminary numbers.
Given that the point of this exercise is to increase one’s ROI — whether that ROI is positive or negative — and understanding that everyone’s handicapping skill varies, I focused on both morning line favorites (horses with the lowest pre-race odds) and morning line longshots (horses with the highest pre-race odds) in my study. I obtained the following results:
MORNING LINE FAVORITES
Number (races): 290 (280)
MORNING LINE LONGSHOTS
Number (races): 164 (164)
In some ways the data is stunning. Although I strongly suspect the biased sample contributed greatly to the positive ROI numbers (even wheeling the morning line favorite produced a 20.9 percent return on investment), the table above does drive home the point that value is generally derived by keying favorites or near-favorites with longer-priced steeds — and not the other way around.
Derek Simon’s Free Weekend Win Factor Plays
BET(S): WIN on 4 at even (1-1) odds or greater.
BET(S): WIN & PLACE on 1/1A entry at odds of 3-5 or greater.
BET(S): WIN on 1 at odds of 4-5 or greater.