• Players' Pool preparation
    Step 1, pre-entries

    POSTED Oct 26, 2011
    Pre-entries for the 2011 Breeders' Cup World Championships are finally available, and with their release comes earnest planning of how to wager on the blockbuster cards November 4-5 at Churchill Downs.

    The preface to step 1 is staying up to date on all the divisions throughout the year by watching races, reading Handicapper's Edge, etc. Doing that without overdoing it is a topic for another day, but the macro view is I try not to get too invested in a particular horse or race before the pre-entries come out because things are so fluid, but nor do I want to be completely surprised by a name or figure in the PPs either.

    Pre-entry PPs help put things in focus. I won't get to the point where I'm proposing to any horses, but I'm definitely figuring out who I like--as in like like--and hopefully some those quality relationships will grow over the next week and a half to form the base of my wagering for Breeders' Cup. Of course, sometimes you get to know a horse and realize, I'm just not that into you.

    As captain of the TwinSpires.com Players' Pool, I'm responsible for wagering $100,000 on the races. The challenge at that price point becomes not picking winners--we have the capital to use most horses in most races (a 5x5x5x5x5x5 pick six costs $31,500)--but to structure the bets to optimize the syndicate's chances of winning money. Spending $50,000 on the Ultra Pick Six on Saturday and cashing for half that amount is not exciting. The pre-entry period is great for parsing each race and figuring out where to zig when others might zag or when to single when others might spread (or vice versa).

    Using last year as an example, using Dakota Phone was unquestionably the key to a pick six that paid $800,000. Having a strong opinion on Uncle Mo and Goldikova turned the rest of the sequence into a $2 pick four. I realize that's easy to say in hindsight, but to me, the best opinion to have last year isn't necessary "Dakota Phone will win" but "Uncle Mo and Goldikova will win and the other races are more open."

    I'm not sure who the Uncle Mo or Goldikova is this year if there even is one, let alone two, but having $100,000 means you don't necessarily need a single. To me, being able to use three horses with 90% confidence of getting through a race is far more powerful than a single who's 50% to win. That single is obviously a great win bet at 3-to-2 and certainly offers value exotic wagers, too, but you're still a coin flip away from elimination.

    And that's what this period is all about. I want to identify the races that are worth having the strongest opinion on and build my tickets around those opinions.
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