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Exactas Offer Better Value
by Greg Melikov

I knew a turf writing handicapper who refused to bet on favorites when the odds dropped below 3-1. The late Jack Slater, who has a stakes named for him at Gulfstream Park, did pretty well.

However, my Miami Herald colleague for many years only bet to win. I realized that if you want to gain more lucrative rewards, going the exotic wagering route is a must tactic.

The main reason: Exacta wagering pools offer more value than straight betting pools since there’s plenty of foolish cash going into quite a few races.

I see no harm including favorites in exactas, trifectas and Pick 3s, 4s, 5s, 6s, etc. But I always embrace at least one longshot in exactas and trifectas.

My favorite wager is the exacta -- a combination bet requiring horses to finish one-two. I usually follow several rules:

Seldom play favorites below 2-1 on top. If you do, throw out the second betting choice because both hardly ever run one-two. I researched this several years ago and found that’s especially true among 2-year-olds.

At some tracks that run quite a few races for juveniles, I found one of the top two choices wins more than their share.

If you box a pair at 2-1 and 3-1 in an eight-horse field, the $2 exacta payoff with the lower odds on top would be about $26 and only $7 higher if reversed.

Sometimes you can include overbet favorites 2-1 or below on the bottom while putting any overlays or longshots on top. The payoffs can be generous.

For example, if a 10-1 shot tops a 2-1 horse, the exacta returns $80. With the 2-1 horse on top, the payoff is $30 lower.

Rarely combine pairs of longshots 10-1 and up, but you can box two horses from 3-1 to 8-1 if at least one is an overlay. Two longshots at higher odds infrequently finish one-two. The rate of return is a losing proposition in the long run.

Say you box 3-1 and 8-1 horses: Lower odds on top would return $193 while higher odds would only produce $15 more.

Never box four or more horses no matter the odds. It’s smarter to use those four horses in a Pick 3 or 4 to give you a better chance to cash in.

There are as many exacta-wagering strategies as there are handicapping professionals. For example, several experts recommend betting your selection to win and also keying the two logical choices on top.

Many handicappers look for a shaky favorite and put two horses on top. When I follow that strategy, I make sure one is a price horse.

An interesting set of rules that appears on several racing websites advises:

Pick two races a day at your favorite tracks and look for contests with a minimum of eight horses while 10 the ideal field has 10 runners.

Don’t play the race if the favorite is bet down to 8-5 or less.

Find races that lack a heavy favorite because they produce generous rewards.

Keep an eye on the tote board, take notes and don’t wait to the last minute to place your bets.

I subscribe to that last rule wholeheartedly.

5Dimes Sportsbook