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Track Tracts

Exacta Soft Spots
by Gordon Pine

A manuscript by a guy named Douglas Railey passed over my desk about 10 years ago. I had the opportunity to evaluate a number of manuscripts and proposals for handicapping books in that job, but this was the only one I jumped on. It was about exotic wagering, written by a man with a knowledge of statistics and horse racing, and connected with the Louisiana State Police Racing Investigative Unit. In that position, Railey had access to the raw parimutuel data from Louisiana tracks. This gave him a unique perspective and opportunity to see what, if anything, was crawling around under the parimutuel rock. And, as a handicapper, it gave him a chance to empirically study exotic wagering outside of any possible gambling larceny.

The manuscript was well written, but full of tables and charts that needed meticulous editing and text that needed some polishing. The end result was worth it. It�s a really good handicapping book and available at Gambler�s Book Shop at

Railey studied exacta wagering, and broke down the potential exacta combinations by odds position � for instance, the favorite, the second favorite, the third favorite, etc. He looked for patterns of profitability or near-profitability � what I call soft spots. Some interesting soft spots in the exacta pool involve extreme favorites: extremely strong favorites and extremely weak favorites. By strong favorites, in this context, I�m talking about favorites with odds of 2/5 or less. By weak favorites, I mean favorites with odds of 7/2 or greater. (You�ll find a favorite like this in about one of every 25 races or so.)

In general terms, betting the favorite to the second favorite (AB combination) and the second favorite to the favorite (BA combination) in the strong-favorite races (in other words, boxing the top two favorites) resulted in a small profit. In the weak-favorite races, betting the second favorite to the favorite (BA combination) also showed a small profit. Interestingly, betting a weak favorite on top of the second favorite produced a miserably negative ROI.

The soft spot involving strong favorites is easy to understand. The same thing happens in the place and show pools in races involving strong favorites: the place and show ROI is nearly break-even in these races. The weak-favorite soft spot is a little harder to explain. It seems these sluggish favorites can�t be trusted to win, but they manage to come in second enough to make the BA combo profitable.

I�ve seen similar studies by handicappers who tracked their top pick (as opposed to the top favorite) in exacta wagering. Their AB combos (their top pick on top of their second pick) often were profitable or nearly profitable when restricted to situations where their top pick was especially strong. One handicapper I remember used to make money betting his AB combo in maiden claiming races � it�s not unusual for one horse to dominate a maiden claiming field filled mostly with slugs. This dominance is not always reflected in the exacta pools of maiden claiming races, maybe because the crowd has the idea that anybody can win these cheapies. This phenomena may not apply to all handicappers, but it�s worth looking into.

So, when the favorite is on one of the extreme ends of the bell curve, either extremely strong or extremely weak, don�t skip the race and walk to the donut stand. This type of favorite seems to set up opportunities in the exacta pool when combined judiciously with the second favorite. Thought you ought to know. NC

Copyright �2001 NetCapper Inc. All rights reserved.

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