You Have to Think It Through

I have taken my fair share of criticism on ticket structuring, which is an important aspect of success when you wager on horse races. Of course, when you win you’re brilliant and when you lose you are a fool who put together a terrible play structured improperly.

Be it raves or critique, I never pay attention to anyone when it comes to ticket structuring. If I have to do that I am in trouble before I start. First off, as I mentioned if you win you will get accolades, and if you lose those same people will give you kudos. None of that matters.

While I can’t say I have a formula to structuring multi-race tickets, I definitely have a “go for the kill style,” and also do not subscribe to the ABC method many people prefer and find helpful.

Briefly, I don’t personally like the ABC approach as I do not believe in leaving myself in a position where I have used every horse in a multi-race sequence, but don’t have them all on the same ticket. That leaves the door open to a burn when you were actually right. There will be enough times you are wrong; why leave the door open not to cash when you’re right? That doesn’t make sense to me. I prefer what I call the go-back method. I do believe I invented the term with a close friend of mine.

When I say go back, I mean play one ticket with every contender I want to use, then play a second or even multiple tickets with the horses I might prefer over some of the others. This way I hit the sequence once or if I am spot on multiple times. I will never have used all the winners in a multi-race sequence but on different tickets which the ABC method will do. Been there done that, not again. If it works for you that is fine, we all have our own styles and philosophies and it comes down to only one benchmark, if you beat the game. If you do, stick with what you do. If you don’t consider other options. You want to be at the table, not on the menu.

Last Saturday at Gulfstream the Fountain of Youth stakes anchored a Pick 4 I found enticing. While I knew Good Magic, the heavy favorite had a good chance and had to be used, I thought there was only one horse who had a realistic chance of beating him and that was Fulfilled Promises who was 20-1 on the morning line and was going to go into the gate at close to those odds. That meant that whatever happened in the first three legs the Pick 4 with Fulfilled Promises was going to pay nice bolstered by a large guaranteed pool and a lot of weekend and holiday warrior money. An automatic opportunity for a score.

The key was to be alive to Good Magic to make some money, and to Fulfilled Promises to take down a score. The first three legs were challenging. You had a maiden special weight race around two turns with horses stretching out, a competitive sprint stake, and a turf marathon where the two favorites were somewhat vulnerable. One was in a marooned post way outside with almost no run to the first turn. The other was off a layoff for an ice-cold trainer, albeit a capable one.

The thought process I had left me using only two horses in the last leg. That helps with cost. I had to have one other race with a single or at the most two horses, and then I could spread in the other races. I knew the sequence did not really call for a go back ticket, so I would hope to catch some prices early so if Good Magic was just too good which was possible, I’d still be OK.

In the maiden race that started things off, I liked the favorite on the rail, and the horse on the outside. That made things easy. That would be the other short race. I’d use those two, and hope I beat the favorite. Then I could spread. I used 5 horses in the sprint, and 9 in the turf race. I thought the turf marathon could produce a bomb, and with 9 horses covered I hoped I would have it if it did. That would put me in a very strong position if I was indeed right about Fulfilled Promises.

My ticket looked like this:

2 x 5 x 9 x 2 = $90 for a fifty-cent wager. It looked like $90 well spent as if things went right it could pay well. It was also a ticket you could play a few times.

Things started pretty good with the favorite losing to the only horse I thought could beat him who was 7-1. I survived an objection but even in these uncertain days of steward decisions I wasn’t too concerned. I got a horse who figured home in the Sprint at 5-1 or so but that was a competitive race and Favorable Outcome took a ton of the weekend and holiday money I spoke about earlier. That was a huge help. Then things got interesting, the favorite off the layoff for an 0 for trainer gets up late to nail one of three horses I left out. It was close to a bad burn and Fulfilled Promises wired the field in the Fountain of Youth at 20-1 capping a $3,051 Pick 4 for 50 cents. You have to think it through, there is no short cut way around it and every sequence is different. Further if the favorite in the first leg or Good Magic was my “A” horse there is a chance I could have used all the horses and not cashed the Pick 4.

The final thought is this, while a good day with no complaints, the story would have been better if a 25-1 or something like that won the turf marathon and it was one of the 9 horses I used. That is the key, think it through, and put yourself in position for the kill shot. You do that enough, you will nail one. As a pro I know two things, one day that horse I left out where I used 9 out of 12 will get me. That is OK though as I also know one day that 25-1 I used will get up just before my 20-1 wins and counting the money will take longer than it did Saturday.

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Jon Stettin

Since childhood, Jon has always had a deep love and respect for the Sport of Kings. His years of experience have earned him a well respected spot in the industry as a handicapper. He now is a frequent contributor to AmWager as well as writing for his own site.

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