Best ways to leverage the low takeout Pick 5 on Churchill Downs’ opening day

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TwinSpires Staff

April 26th, 2018

by Scott Shapiro

Opening day at Churchill Downs is just a couple days away and with the start of the meet comes fantastic news for horseplayers.

OPENING NIGHT BET BACK! Get your Win Bet back!

The Pick 5 wager that formerly carried a 22 percent takeout rate will move to a player-friendly 15 percent, making it an extremely attractive option on the wagering menu starting Saturday evening.

As those who read my work regularly know, I put a large portion of my budget into horizontal wagers and, of course, lower take options make turning a profit more feasible. Therefore, I will be heavily involved this spring in the revamped Pick 5 at the home of the world-famous Kentucky Derby.

Like most serious horseplayers, my strategy differs depending on the wager. When I construct Pick 3s and Pick 4s, I need to be against at least one favorite or I opt to invest my money elsewhere. This differs from when I “dip my toe” into a Pick 6 carryover, where the main goal is to simply navigate my way through the sequence.

My approach to the Pick 5 falls somewhere in between in that I am not afraid to use multiple favorites on a sizeable ticket, as long as there are a couple of legs where I can create separation from the public.

Here are a few things I recommend keeping in mind as you dive into the Pick 5 at Churchill Downs this meeting:

Build your ticket around your strongest opinions

I like to be able to tell myself a story regarding each ticket I play.  The first part of the narrative always involves the race or races I have the strongest opinion on. This could be about a horse that I do not think can lose or it also could be a situation where I am against a heavy chalk or a group of favorites. Either way, I am always prepared to tear up my tickets if I am incorrect. I am all in.

Determine your budget AFTER formulating your opinions

I used to go into every card prepared to invest the same amount each day into the Pick 5, but that is not that right strategy. I ended up tossing horses onto my tickets that I did not like just because I had “room” for them.

I have modified my tactics and now base my budget on what I think the Pick 5 can pay and whether I believe I have a solid chance of maneuvering my way through all five races. If I am against a number of favorites and still feel confident in my handicapping, I am very willing to invest a serious amount. However, if I think it will “chalk out” or if I lack a strong opinion in the majority of races, I will lower the amount I invest considerably.

Do not be afraid to use favorites, but refrain from spreading deep in races where you give the top choice a big chance

The biggest Pick 5 I ever hit included a 4-5 winner that I singled on both tickets, so there is no reason to get cute and try to beat horses you expect to win. That being said, if you are using a short-priced horse you want to abstain from spreading in that race and diluting the little value that he or she offers. Either live or die with that horse or leave him off your ticket completely. If you lack the confidence needed to single that horse, you probably think that he or she is beatable and worth taking a shot against.

Few things are better for the horseplayer than a decrease in takeout. Hopefully we can take advantage over the next couple of months. I look forward to it.