IRS rule changes make multi-race wagering at Breeders' Cup more enticing

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TwinSpires Staff

October 26th, 2017


I have never been a proponent of opening up your bankroll on big racing days. Just because there are large fields in race after race, you better have a deep bankroll to survive. At least the Kentucky Derby is one-shot so even with the chaos of a 20-horse field, it is worth hammering. When you hear “great betting race,” there should be a sub-headline that says “very tough betting race.”

Thirteen races, with full fields in nearly all of them, makes for some tough wagering decisions. I like to crush straight exactas and win bets and on Breeders’ Cup weekend it becomes very tough. If you are right enough times, the payoffs will be well worth it but it can be a long, expensive two days if you are not careful.

I am especially looking forward to this year’s renewal on November 3-4 at Del Mar because of the recent changes to how the Internal Revenue Service determines which winning tickets have to be declared and withheld.

One reason I like to bet Win and/or Place is that they have the lowest takeout rates of any bet on the menu. I protect with exactas and usually their takeout rate is not too bad. This year’s Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar is a mixed bag. WPS takeout is an extremely low 15.43% but exactas are relatively high at 22.68%.

The only Pick X type of wagers that I make are ones with either low takeout or they contain “dead” money from carryovers. Del Mar has a 14% takeout on their Pick 5 but they only have one each day and it begins in race one both days. I have given myself plenty of time to get there before the first race each day but don’t want to stretch myself out too thin too early in the day. We’ll see.

There are six Pick 4s over the two days but here is where the bad news comes in. The Del Mar takeout (really, the state of California’s) on the Pick 4 is 23.68%. Yes, less than NYRA’s 24% but still a dent. Daily Doubles have a 20% takeout rate but they have a minimum $2 bet except for the Distaff/Classic daily double which has a $1 minimum.

Usually, I would play very little on Pick X type bets for a second reason and that was the IRS. I sign for my own tickets but do everything I can to not only avoid high takeout but bets that might force me to sign.

Now, I can go into these pools without the IRS being a factor. Like most things in my life, it will take me a while to get my arms around the new taxation changes but I should be ready by Del Mar. It will mean that I won’t hesitate to play multi-races bets as long as the takeout rates are within reason.

When you are a vertical player, you can first make a decision of pass or play. If the decision is to play, then what vertical bets are you going to play.

Horizontal plays require much more planning. You have to map out a strategy ahead of time and then have a backup if you get knocked out early. As long as Uncle Sam is not looking over my shoulder, I will be playing lots of smaller amounts on many more horses in Pick X races.

Let’s take a typical 14-horse Breeders’ Cup race. Depending on my bankroll, if I like a horse enough, I will bet $50 to win on it. To protect the win bet, depending on the odds, I will then play three $10 exactas over it for a total cost of $80 for that race.

Without the IRS factor, I might be inclined to play a Pick 4 with the four horses in the race above, four horses in two other legs, then maybe three horses in a leg that looks more formful. For $.50 cents, this would only cost me $96; not much more than the vertical bets from above.

If you can find a horse that you can single or narrow a race down to two horses, you can then spread out even more in races that are more chaotic.

Vertical betting is race-by-race betting where you only have to decide to play a single race. Horizontal betting requires you to examine a series of races and decide what strategy to employ to hit it.

With the pre entries released yesterday and final entries drawn next Monday, you have plenty of time to handicap individual horses, individual races and a series of races. From there, you can pick the right strategy. And now, if you do have to sign for a ticket, it’s a sign that you hit a big one.