Feb 19 2014

Weighted Wagers – Better Than Boxing Bets

Weighted Scale

In a prior article, we explained the concept of Boxing Bets, and in particular Boxing Exacta and Trifecta Wagers.  In this article we will explain why we think Weighted Wagers is a better approach and should be used with the majority of Exacta and Trifecta wagers, especially when you feel the horses have disparate chances of winning.

Boxing wagers assumes that each horse has an equivalent chance of winning.  And, maybe after handicapping a race, that is exactly how you feel.  If that’s the case, then by all means make a “Box” wager.  But, often you have a preference for one horse, over another, possibly over another.  In that case, if you’re handicapping is good … shouldn’t you be rewarded appropriately if your opinion turns out to be correct?

To illustrate the point, let’s use a real world example of the 8th race (A Maiden Turf Race) at Gulfstream Park on January 20, 2014.  After handicapping the race, my top three selections were 10, 1, and 2.  However, I did not feel they had an equivalent chance of winning … so I did not want to just box them in a trifecta.  My rationale and personal “weight” assignment follows:

No. Horse Odds Thoughts Weight
#10 Gala Award 1-1 Sharp 2nd in debut at same distance and surface, solid workouts since, top trainer and jockey,  no negatives. 6
#1 Dylan Ward 5-2 Had improved in three straight races, last solid 2nd at same distance and surface, but exiting a race that seems a cut below the quality of the favorite’s last race. 3
#2 Loves Last Chance 14-1 Blinkers added, finished behind #1 in last race, but had some traffic troubles, steady improvement in three races, possible value off some “hidden form” angles. 2

Based upon my personal “Weight” assignments for each horse’s chance of winning … I made the following wagers.

$6 Trifecta – 10 with 1,2 with 1,2 = $12

$3 Trifecta – 1 with 10,2 with 10,2 = $6

$2 Trifecta – 2 with 10,1 with 10,1 = $4

In addition to these wagers, I also made a Win-Place-Show wager on #2, since I felt that his odds of 14-1 offered better value over the other two horses.  So, what happened?

Gala Award (#10) proved best today, winning by 3/4 of a length over two hard charging horses, Dylan Ward and Loves Last Chance who were separated by only a neck at the wire.  At one point I really thought Loves Last Chance was going to pull off the upset, but his rider lost the whip in the stretch and I had to settle for cashing only the Show ticket on him.

To soften that disappointment, my highest weighted trifecta had clicked (10-1-2), returning $62 x 3 for a $186 return on a $22 investment.  Since I had weighted my wagers, I received more than if I had just boxed the three horses for a lesser amount.

Since estimated trifecta payouts are not posted, there is no way to know how much the trifecta would have paid if Loves Last Chance (#2) had finished first or second.  It’s reasonable to assume that it would have paid more, simply because his odds were so much greater than the other two horses.

Unlike trifectas, probable exacta prices are posted and this allows you to see how much of an impact Boxing Bets has on the eventual payouts.  I’m as guilty as the next person of taking the easy way out when it comes to making 2-horse Exacta Box bets.  It’s just so much easier to say or punch in a ticket for a $10 exacta box (3-13), rather than put in two tickets (e.g. $13 exacta 3-13 and $7 exacta 13-3).  I know, because I just did it a couple of days ago, and I was kicking myself after the race.  More about that down below.

To make the point about exacta payouts, a couple of days ago I jotted down some 2-horse exacta probable payouts that will demonstrate the effect of people boxing horses.  Notice, that despite the disparity in odds between the two horses (H1/H2), their probable exacta payouts are very (very) similar.  Keep in mind, the numbers below were pulled from just one day, at one track, for only a handful of races.  Circumstances like this occur everyday at tracks across the country.

Win Odds Win Odds Exacta Payout
Example Horse #1 (H1) Horse #2 (H2) H1-H2 H2-H1
1. 2-1 5-1 $32 $38
2. 7-2 5-1 $60 $65
3. 5-2 6-1 $63 $75
4. 7-2 5-1 $54 $56
5. 6-5 7-2 $22 $25

You can easily see the effect on payouts of so many people boxing their exacta wagers.  Look no further than Example #5; A horse that is 6-5 winning over a horse that is three times it’s price (7-2) … yet the exacta with the favorite on top will pay only $3 less than the other way around.

Now, don’t get me wrong … if you truly believe the likelihood of each horse winning is exactly the same, then make an exacta box wager.  If not, then making a weighted wager better suits your opinion.  Even if you like the 7-2 horse more than the 6-5 horse, weight your wager heavier on the 7-2 side.

Lastly, like I said above, I’m as guilty as the next guy on taking the easy way out.  On Sunday, February 2nd I was down to the last race at Gulfstream Park, and in fact I had narrowed it down to only two horses.  One was a 3-2 Todd Pletcher horse (#3), the other horse (#13) was 7-1.  I lazily entered an exacta box, when I know if I had weighted it … I probably would have done something like a 7 to 3 weighting.  So, when #3 surged past #13 in deep stretch, I had only myself to blame for not cashing a bigger ticket.

Developing the discipline of assigning personal “weights” to each horse will also serve you well when trying to construct multi-race (Pick-3, Pick-4, etc.) tickets.  But, that’s a topic for a different day.

So remember … it’s best to Weight your Wagers!

Neal Headshot2
By Neal Benoit

3 comments on “Weighted Wagers – Better Than Boxing Bets

    • You know it’s funny, sometimes when I write an article like “Weighted Wagers,” I think people might find something like this to be rather obvious. But, then I counter that with the need to be reminded from time-to-time … even for seasoned players. Also, I was surprised at how little effort it took for me to find glaring examples of probable payouts that demonstrate the effect of boxing bets.

  1. I think after years of playing an owning I believe boxing 4-6 horses in a tri or super for decent amount of cash is safest way to cash in, but only if think the heavy favorites are vulnerable to a few horses, and still can lose, personally sick of putting the “lesser likely horses” underneath just to miss the large payout when they do occur.

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