Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire
History can often teach a valuable lesson – if you’re willing to listen.
Case in point: Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.
Thanks to the 20-20 vision of hindsight, it’s rather simple to put together what happened on a rainy day in Louisville when Orb splashed to a 2 ½-length victory as a 5-1 favorite.
Learning from it is a far different matter – and one of the most important lessons to come out of the 139th Run for the Roses is the difference between handicapping and wagering and how to apply both in a successful manner.
Realistically, the top two finishers offered two extremes to someone analyzing the Derby.
Orb, the 5-1 favorite, was easy to spot. Golden Soul, a 34-1 shot, not so much.
So what was the key to unlocking the $981.60 exacta combining the two?
Finding something to like in Golden Soul was the easiest way, but how exactly did someone do that? While some handicappers deserve to take a long bow for liking Golden Soul, what they saw was a bit obscure. He had displayed a nice late kick while finishing fourth in the Louisiana Derby and sixth in the Risen Star and was working impressively at Churchill Downs, which hinted that he might be poised for a big effort.
If you didn’t pick up on the hints, though, don’t feel bad. You weren’t alone.
In contrast, liking Orb was a snap. He came into the Derby off impressive wins in the Florida Derby and Fountain of Youth and perhaps the most confusing part of the hours leading up to the Run for Roses involved why it took so long for him to become the betting favorite.
The trick was putting the two of them together, which could have happened if you were willing to spread your wagers.
In this instance, by placing $20 to win on Orb and spending another $18 wheeling him on top of everyone in $1 exactas you were giving yourself a chance at a big payday in case a longshot happened to sneak into the picture. Had Revolutionary, the second choice, finished second the exacta would have returned about $32 for the $18 and you might kicked yourself for not betting the extra $18 to win on Orb. But, in a race as traditionally zany as the Derby, the gamble paid off this time as the payoffs were $128 for the win ticket and $490.80 for the exacta. Add it together, and you could have collected $618.80 for a $38 wager - on the favorite, no less.
That’s a pretty nice reward, provided you bet properly.
In a lot of cases, like in a seven horse field, wheeling might not make sense. There’s not enough value in the pools to offset all of the losing tickets. But in a race like the Derby, with so much value inherent in a 19- or 20-horse field, there are so many large payoffs that the risk/reward ratio is not out whack.
As additional proof, look at the trifecta. The Orb-Golden Soul-Revolutionary finish returned a huge $6,925.60 for a $2 bet, illustrating how difficult it was to come up with the winning 16-4-3 combo.
Yet in this case by once again spreading your wager on a couple of logical horses it offered a rather handsome reward.
Let’s say you liked Orb and Revolutionary, who were the two betting favorites. If you boxed them in the exacta, because of the large field, the willpays were in the $65 range for $2. As a result, betting a $10 exacta box on the two would have returned around $325 for the $20 bet.
With a return like that, you would hate to get split at the finish line, right? So as a saver wager why not play a trifecta of Orb over ALL over Revolutionary and then Revolutionary over ALL over Orb. This way you’re covered if your two top choices finished 1-2 or 1-3 and if you bet 50-cent trifectas it would have cost you only $17.
And the return for that 1-3 finish by your selections was $1,731.40 for an investment of less than $20.
Not bad, eh. Your exacta gets split but you wind up winning more money than if you had been right. It’s kind of like coming close and getting the cigar.
And it wasn’t just the exacta and trifecta that offered a rich reward for backing a favorite.
If you liked Orb and wanted to get a head start on betting on him, you could keyed him in the Kentucky Oaks-Kentucky Derby double. A solid case could have been made for backing five horses in the 10-horse field, but if you’re going to spread your wager that much why not spend an extra $10 and add the other five horses just in case something unpredictable happens?
Spending that extra $10 proved to be a wise idea when 38-1 shot Princess of Sylmar won the Oaks, and someone who spent $20 wheeling Orb in the Oaks-Derby double collected $621.40 for covering every base.
Putting it all together, the lesson in betting the Derby is to adopt a shotgun approach. With so many big payoffs on the board, chasing several of them, not just one or two, can help you cash an I.R.S. ticket even if your handicapping is slightly amiss.
It’s a nice consolation prize, isn’t it?
Just keep in mind that when it comes to the Derby what seems so illogical can sometimes make all the sense in the world – if you listen to history.
KENTUCKY DERBY PAYOUTS