Homeracing

New Pick 4 to enhance Royal Ascot betting options

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

June 15th, 2018

Fans in the U.S. that have made Royal Ascot their own viewing and betting tradition over the last several years now have an exciting new way to take part in one of the racing world's great spectacles and most important meetings.

Every day of the five-day Royal Ascot meeting, Tuesday-Saturday (June 19-23), a $1 minimum Pick 4 wager will be offered to the betting public. The races included in the Pick 4 sequence will be determined at the final declaration stage for entries, 48 hours before race day. Each card consists of six races.

For players concerned about the prospect of sifting through one of those historic handicaps with cavalry-sized fields, there may be an effort for contests with 24 or more horses to be excluded from the wager. Therefore, the possibility exists that the Pick 4 races might not be sequential.

Regardless, this is a welcome and long overdue development for U.S. fans of British racing. While watching and betting on races at these historic venues has been available for years, connoisseurs of multi-race wagering have been essentially shut out playing these tracks in their preferred fashion.

Win and Place (top three) wagering will still be available, as will Exactas, Trifectas, and the Omni/Swinger (selecting two horses to finish in the top three in any order). However, those that find it easier or preferable to find potential winners in each race rather than guessing who the place-getters will be for the vertical exotics are in for a treat.

The Royal Ascot schedule varies little from year to year. Races tend to be run on the same day as they have been in previous years and occupy the same slot on the program. For example, the Queen Anne (G1) for older horses at one mile is always the first race of the meeting on Tuesday. The 2 1/2-mile Gold Cup (G1) is always the fourth race on Ladies Day (Thursday).

While it's too early to speculate what the Pick 4 sequence will be each day, that firm, orderly lineup of races at least gives bettors an idea of what they might be as well as a head start on researching the fields when initial entries are released, typically seven days out.

Budget management will be crucial as large fields, routinely bigger than the ones bettors are accustomed to seeing in the U.S., are, with some exceptions, assured. The variety of races themselves will pose a supreme test to the handicapper. From sprinters to stayers, from the classic generation to aged geldings with a few Royal meeting appearances already under their belts, every sequence will be a challenge.

Perhaps the biggest is if the Pick 4 happens to include any of the six Listed or Group stakes for juveniles. The average field size in those races in 2017 was around 19. Coming so early in the season, most of the entrants will have no more than a few runs (some none at all). Many will be cross-entered in other spots throughout the week, so researching too early might prove not only an arduous task but possibly futile if they are ultimately not declared at the final stage.

While it would be simple enough to single the Wesley Ward trainee(s) or spread only a little from there, keep in mind the stable was blanked in the juvenile races they participated in last year, with the average starting price in Britain of the winners being around 11-1. The "all button" is really no option in these situations. Pedigree research, replay viewing, and perhaps a little intuition will be essential for not only these type of races, but all of them in order to keep the ticket cost manageable.

The introduction of this wager should prove immensely popular. Close followers of European action with strong opinions might perceive they'll have a built-in edge. Perhaps they will, but anyone who is right figures to enjoy a huge payday.

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