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Paddock analyst Brian Arrigoni speaks with a guest at Canterbury College.

Learning About Betting at Canterbury College

The rubber met the road at Week 4 of Canterbury College.

After three weeks of learning how to read a racing form and dissecting that information, we got into betting during the March 25 class.

I’m Kris Janisch, a rookie horseplayer who has been taking Canterbury Park’s free five-week handicapping course. Find previous installments of the blog:

Canterbury College: Perspective from a Rookie Handicapper

Rookie Handicapper: Week 2 at Canterbury College

Taking a Shot at Canterbury College

(Note: Registration for the current series of Canterbury College is closed. However, Canterbury Park will offer one-day classes for a small fee, which includes Race Day admission, once the live racing season begins. Details to come.)

Preferred Bets for PA and BA

One thing has become clear over the course of Canterbury College: two of our professors, track announcer Paul Allen and paddock analyst Brian Arrigoni, like to pick winners.

That might seem obvious, but it matters when it comes to the types of wagers they prefer. Instead of trying to structure their bets vertically — picking the top two, three or four horses in a single race — they would rather create horizontal wagers, which is picking the winner in three, four or five consecutive races. These are known as Pick 3s, Pick 4s and Pick 5s.

Canterbury College Week 4 blogAllen talked about getting a group of friends together to make several such bets, spreading out the risk and increasing the chances of making a big score.

“There are several ways to skin the proverbial cat,” he said.

For Daily Doubles, Pick 3s, Pick 4s and Pick 5s, there are certain strategies horseplayers can use, Arrigoni said.

If you identify legitimate favorites, those are fine to use in a horizontal wager. But at some point, “you have to take a stand,” Arrigoni said, and pick a non-favorite or longshot in one of those races. Most people will be picking the odds-on horses, so identifying vulnerable favorites is essential.

In a Pick 4 example, you might end up choosing two horses to win in Race 1, three in Race 2, three horses Race 3 and one in Race 4. You multiply 2 X 3 X 3 X 1 to get 18, and at 50 cents each the cost of that bet is $9.

Or, Arrigoni said, you can get a few people together to make a $200 wager, potentially hit a longshot and cash in for $10,000.

Allen also noted that the Pick 5 Jackpot at Canterbury Park will return this year. If there are no winners, a portion of the pot carries over and the jackpot grows larger.

“It can hit six figures,” Allen said.

Analyzing the Races

A week after thinking I was getting better at selecting winning horses, I was a bit dismayed to have a hard time handicapping our first simulcast race, at Gulfstream Park.

Still, it looked like the favorite, The Accuser, should win. But with the odds at 6-5, it wouldn’t make sense to bet the horse, Arrigoni said.

Racing form Canterbury CollegeBut in a Pick 4 situation, it could be a good race to take a stand against the favorite, Arrigoni said. If 75 percent of other Pick 4 players were using The Accuser in that race, it might be an opportunity to select another horse (or horses) and knock out the other bettors in the same Pick 4.

Allen and Arrigoni said they would have used the 2 and the 5 horse in a Pick 4, rather than the favorite. Props to them, because both those horses finished ahead of The Accuser, which came in third.

If you really like a favorite, it’s fine to use that horse in a horizontal wager, but at the same time it has to make sense in relation to the odds, and sometimes “you have to get creative,” Arrigoni said.

Vertical Wagers

While our professors prefer horizontal wagers, we did discuss vertical bets (single-race bets), as well. Specifically:

  • Exacta, picking the top two finishers in order
  • Trifecta, picking the top three finishers in order
  • Superfecta, picking the top four finishers in order


You can also “box” these bets. That means the horses you pick to finish at the top of the race can end up in any order among the top two, three or four, depending on the bet.

Superfectas can be exciting to play, Allen said, noting that he has seen 10 cent wagers hit for $180.

They are an inexpensive way to enjoy betting on horse racing, for example putting together a boxed superfecta for $2.40, Arrigoni said.

“You can have a lot of fun with superfectas,” he said.

But Allen cautioned during our second simulcast race, at Fair Grounds, that you have to be aware of the odds you’re getting on vertical wagers. The exacta that hit on our second race only paid 8-5, and you might be better off not betting it.

Pre-race Preparations

At Canterbury College, we have three hours to look over our racing forms and experts whose brains we can pick as we try to deduce what will happen in a given race.

When you’re planning to come to Canterbury Park on race day, however, you should take some time beforehand to study up and have a plan in place.

“It is essential,” Arrigoni said.

Those 20 minutes between races can go quickly, and by having a game plan you will feel less stressed and have a more enjoyable day at the track, he said.

There is a “vast” wagering menu at Canterbury Park, and getting ready before you hit the track will minimize the work you have to do between races, Allen said.

“Developing a pre-race plan is a fantastic idea,” he said.

Canterbury College: Week 5

Next week will be the last for this session of Canterbury College.

I can’t wait to put my knowledge to the test when the live racing season opens at Canterbury Park on May 4!