Betting Strategy: How to build tickets around trip angles

Profile Picture: Kevin Kilroy

June 25th, 2022

This week we get an inside look into the Chief Trip Officer’s mind. Ryan Flanders, aka Benny Southstreet, and I watch a race together, and discuss how he builds tickets around his trip angles. Flanders is the man behind Trip Note Pros. His tournament successes are many, including five trips to the NHC, where he made the final table finishing 9th in 2014. In the 2021 Breeder’s Cup Betting Challenge, he won over $49,000 finishing in 13th. Follow him @BSouthstreet

Tell me about your post the other day about ticket construction. “Writing correct tickets is way more important than handicapping and it ain't close.”

Two of my horses in that first leg were short prices and two horses were bombs. So as a regular horseplayer I should have been able to connect some dots and play a thoughtful exacta and a thoughtful trifecta efficiently without spending much time, but I didn't spend one second doing it. And the bombs came in on top of the logical for the trifecta but I didn’t have it.

So in hindsight what tickets would you have written?

There are certain bets that I won't write because they don't offer any value. I think the two logicals were 7-5 and a 7-2 second choice--there's no trifecta I would play that included both of those. But I would remove one of them and play the favorite on top of your longshots. And I would do the same thing with the longshots on top of the others. And if I would have, I would have fell into a trifecta that paid a lot, over $1,000.

You did great in the BCBC last year. What’s one of your live money tournament tickets?

When a lot of people dutch bets, I think they play them wrong. They always assume that the lower price horse is the one they have to play more, trying to make it so all the bets pay out the same. In contests specifically, I play it differently to where if the favorite wins I might make a tiny profit or simply recoup my money. But if my longshot wins, I crush it. So I dutch it in the way the favorite is preserving my capital. If I think the favorite can beat me. Let’s say I am going to risk $1,000. I’ll play the favorite on top in a way that if he wins I’ll make my $1,000 back, but if my longshot wins I might make $20,000.  Instead of dutching to get to a certain number--the same payout if your longshot wins or the favorite wins--I dutch the payout to what I am risking.

I know I fall into the trap of blindly betting back horses that I have trip notes on. How do you handle working with your notes? 

Trip handicapping means everything to me. The whole reason I did what I did with Trip Note Pros. Everything that everybody sees is baked into the price. Everything. The markets are really really efficient. 

People fail with watch lists. Why? Because they play them blindly next time out. Just because you have a horse on your watch list doesn't mean you need to bet them back. I think handicapping is a worthy, intellectual pursuit and you have to do the same when you are betting. If I have a good note on a horse, does that mean play it? No. I do think people can be a little more thoughtful about a good note. They don't have to hammer next back just because it has value. 

Like a horse has hidden speed. He breaks a little slow and gets crowded and he’s not able to get his feet under him for more than a furlong and then he splits horses like a champ and he duels and he gets tired and he runs up the track. And I know that break meant everything to that horse. If he breaks a little bit cleaner, he’ll run well. But I don't know who he’s running against next time. Maybe he has no chance to make the lead, so he’d probably be a fade. So that's why we say in Trip Note Pro “know that this horse has more speed than what it shows on paper.” That's important to know. It doesn’t mean bet this horse. It means know that he is faster than what it says on paper and there may be a faster pace than others realize on that day, or maybe he clears and becomes dangerous. But that’s for the bettor to decipher.

So do I play to win next time with a horse I make a note on? It depends on the circumstances moving forward.

I’ve got a trip note on a horse running at Churchill Downs today. Bourbon on Fire 12-1 on the morning line. “Lane pinched, then pinballed, clipped. Eagerly on outside racing up using energy and has nothing/not asked at end.”

Alright let’s watch his last race. #6 coming out of the gate now. Clipped heels. Alright let me get to the pan shot. I like to watch the head-on for the first furlong. He gets crowded, pinched, there’s the clip. Who’s the jockey?

Brian Hernandez Jr.

He’s on his wrong lead, wait just switched. He didn’t get the most thoughtful ride into the first turn. He was a little keen so he didn't bother covering up, because he probably would have run up on horses. The pace is going to show up as fast because that guy is seven lengths ahead of everybody. So this would be a fake fast pace.

Yup, fractions are listed as red in the PPs.

So I would disagree with that. It's likely a normal pace. That horse in front is 80-1 so he’s not the right target, there he’s toast fading after half. He’s not asking him for anything, but he’s getting a nice view on the backside. I’m toggling to the head-on--I can't see what this guy’s doing. He’s following the horse that’s keyed up. He’s got a really nice cadence with a long stride. The 1 goes by him and he should follow that move. He’s not, he’s staying covered up. That to me is total jockey intent. Put yourself in his shoes. Everyone is going but he’s got really quiet hands, showing no interest in keeping up. 

Right. An Ian Wilkes horse, off a layoff; they’re using this race for a different goal.

That was the correct target. Riders know who their targets are: I want to follow that guy, that guy's a trash can, I can't get stuck behind him, he’s cheap speed. So maybe you have three horses that you want to follow and three that you don't. That's the plan. The plan should have been if I see this guy coming by me, follow him. So to me this doesn't look like much of a try. So he is either on empty, or this is not much of a try. He lost a bunch of ground at the beginning and went wide all the way around in a fake fast pace that was on the slower side. Maybe he didn't like the trouble early and he didn't think he could get there anyways and so he decides to save it for another day. This is a classic no try. I like that one. That's a good dig.

Alright, the trip note is there, but when I look at the field, there are several other horses that make sense to me. How do you use the horses with trip notes trip handicapping play into how you express your opinions in your tickets? Do you use multiple pools?

I’ll tell you how I bet this type of situation. My go-to plays. This is how I think. I like this horse, and I want to play him. We know he’s way faster than he showed. I will try to get live to him in the double. If you get to him then you don't have to bet him to win. And then I would play him underneath. With who you think are eligible to beat him, and I would play that efficiently as well. He’s already big value on the win end, you exacerbate the value if you get live to him in the double. So I would risk that money and try to get live to him in the double. And I would play smaller, way smaller in a Pick 3. Let’s say you start a Pick 3 and miss the first leg. No big deal, you didn’t put that much into it. But if you do hit the first leg, you can potentially play smaller in getting live in the double. I would take 60% of what I want to bet on this horse, and I would take 5-10% of that in a pick 3. 40% of it--ballpark--to try to get live in the double. If neither come in, now you're chasing equity so you think of how you want to play getting out of there. Maybe you play an exacta with him on top and some stuff underneath. But if you get live, then your odds go through the roof and you can play him underneath in an exacta with who you think can beat you. And then I would key him third in the trifectas. That’s how I get to horses I like. That’s exactly how I got to Aloha West in the BCBC last year.