by Mike Hayes - 10/25/2005
For the best bang for your buck when playing the Breeder's Cup card this Saturday consider the Pick-4 and Superfecta wagers which for a relatively small investment could yield huge results.
The growing popularity of these wagers is evident in the fact the Superfecta, in which you have to correctly select the top four finishers of a race, will for the second consecutive year be offered in all eight Cup races, up from four that were added to the betting menu in 1997, when the bet was first introduced to the Breeder's Cup wagering card.
The Pick-4, in which you must correctly select the winner of four consecutive races, is for the second consecutive year being offered on the first four races and last four. From 2000-2003 the bet could only be made on the last four races.
What makes both the Superfecta and Pick-4 attractive is that unlike the Ultra Pick-6, in which the bettor must select the winner of the last six Cup races, the wager can be made in multiples of $1 rather than $2, allowing for more betting combinations and a real chance to cash a large ticket.
History shows that the Superfecta seldom pays less than $500 for a $1 bet with a high of more than $690,000 for a single buck in the 1999 Classic, when Cat Thief won at 20-1, Budroyal ran second at 26-1, Golden Missle third at 75-1 and Chester House fourth at 63-1. Talk about a lot of bang for your Breeders' Cup wagering buck.
Even by Breeder's Cup standards the 1999 Classic was unusual, but most Breeders Cup supers are worth a few thousand dollars and with some smart handicapping and a bit of racing luck can they can be hit.
Of the 153 Breeder's Cup races run to date, in 47 of them a horse with odds of 20-1 finished first or second and even without big numbers on top you can get a significant return on your superfecta wager.
Look no further than the first Breeder's Cup race run at Lone Star in Texas last year, the Distaff.
Favorite Ashado won the race at 2-1 with second-choice Storm Flag Flying placing at 4.60-1. Stellar Jane ran third at 10-1 and Tamweel fourth at 9-1. The Superfecta returned $1,191 a healthy price when you consider the favorites ran 1-2 and the horses below were by no means outrageous long shots.
In the very next race at Lone Star, for Juvenile Fillies, 2-1 favorite Sweet Catomine ran first with third choice Balletto, at 4-1 running second. Runaway Model, fifth choice among the betting public at 10-1 ran third with 20-1 Sis City rounding out the super for a return of $1,560.
A strategy to consider when making superfecta bets is to key one or more horse in the top spot over horses you believe are less likely to win, but that could run second, third or fourth, below.
If you key one horse over three, the bet would cost $6 and you would collect as long as the key horse wins and the three run in any order below. The cost to key one horse over four is $24; five $60 and six $81.
A more efficient way to key the race might be to select bottom horses in the spots you feel they are most likely to finish. For example, a superfecta bettor could key two horses in the top spot, put the same two in the second spot with a third horse, the same three in the third spot with an added fourth and the previous four in the last spot with an added fifth selection for a cost of just $16 (1-2 with 1-2-3 with 1-2-3-4 with 1-2-3-4-5). If you like three horses in the top spot you could use the same formula, adding a horse in each leg, for a total cost of $81 (1-2-3 with 1-2-3-4 with 1-2-3-4-5 with 1-2-3-4-5-6).
If your hope is to catch a real long shot on the back end of the wager you could increase your chances by adding horses only in three and four spots and for $36 could get a ticket like this, 1-2 with 1-2-3 with 1-2-3-4-5 with 1-2-3-4-5-6.
While the Superfecta can be lucrative the Pick-4 can be an even better play on Breeder's Cup where you only have to select winners and not worry about the runner-ups.
Consider that an investment of just $64 in the late Pick-4 on last year's card would have returned more than $23,000 to a bettor who was wise enough to wheel the less than even-money favorite Ouija Board in the Filly and Mare Turf, with all in the Juvenile, with all in the Turf, with the 5-2 favored Ghostzapper in the Classic.
The all buttons in this instance yielded 28-1 shots Wilko in the Juvenile and Better Talk Now in the Turf and the resulting $23,000 payout for a single dollar.
Of course hindsight is 20-20 and it might have been just as easy to use the favorites in the Juvenile and Turf, where Kitten's Joy was an even bigger favorite than Ouija Board, but the point is that in two of four races the favorite came in and the payout was astronomical.
In fact, in the limited history of the wager on Breeder's Cup day the bet has paid no less than $800 for $1 to the high of $23,000 mentioned above.
The early Pick-4 last on last year's card returned more than $1,500 for a buck and included two favorites, Ashado and Sweet Catomine at 2-1, a close second choice at 3.70-1 in Speightstown ( the favored Midas Eyes was 3.60-1) and Singeltary in the Mile who even though was just 16-1, was the eighth betting choice in the race.
The strategy here is simple and easy to calculate. Use a couple of horses in your key race or races and a few more in each of the other legs. Unless you really don't like the favorites in a given leg for some reason I would suggest using them with a few of the longer shots you feel have a chance.
To calculate the cost of your bet multiply the number of horses you are selecting in each leg and that is your cost. For example, a ticket with two horses, four horses, three horses and two is a $48 wager.
Even more favorable is trying to isolate one or two legs where you can use a single horse and use more options in the legs you are less sure about. Using a single in one leg, two horses in a second, and five in the other two legs would cost $50 and gives you a better chance of collecting if the horses you really like come in.