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Pick 4’s: Clearly the best bet at Canterbury Park

By Dave Valento (David_Valento@Dell.Com)

“Bet small to win big.” All theories and ideas roll up into that one universal strategy in its simplest form. The pick 4 wager at Canterbury Park is the one bet that truly embodies that strategy.

There have been 90 race dates since opening day 2007. That means there have been 90 pick 4 payoffs. That subset of data has illuminated the attractiveness of the pick 4 wager. No other betting option offered by Canterbury Park, including the pick 6, is as relatively easy to hit for massive payoffs. Quite simply, it’s the best bet at the track!

Some pick 4 facts:
$1,287 = Avg. payoff
20% = Paid on 3 of 4 winners
40% = Paid $1,000+
$5,283 = Largest payoff
51% = Payoff was an IRS ticket ($600+)
80% = Payoff was greater than $1 win parlay on same winners
85% = Paid $100+
50% = 4 winning tickets or less

The amazing thing about the pick 4 is how often low priced runners win while still providing a huge payoff. There have been 25 pick 4’s that have paid $2k or more. An astonishing 68% had at least one winning favorite in the sequence.

When you look at the biggest pick 4 payoff to date, it alone is an example of why the bet is so appealing.
The largest pick 4 payoff ($5,283) came on 7-7-07:
5th race: 12-1 Finalactofdefiance won a turf race as the 5th choice in an 8 horse field (morning line of 10-1)
6th race: 6-5 Sul Lago took down the Victor Meyers as the favorite in a 6 horse field (morning line if 9-5 favorite)
7th race: 5-2 Run With Joy won the F. Genter as the narrow 2nd choice behind 2-1 Thanksforthetip (morning line of 6-1)
8th race: 7-2 Chasm won a small 6 horse turf event as the third choice (morning line of 7-2)

Another good example was on 8-23-07. There was a payoff of $3,407, which is the 4th highest over the past two years.
The winning sequence for 8-23-07 ($3,407 payoff):
5th race: 9-5 Zoombyu won as the favorite in a 6 horse field (morning line of 2-1)
6th race: 7-1 Chestnut Gold won in an evenly contested 5 horse field (morning line of 6-1)
7th race: 7-5 Fancy Gold won her 3rd straight race as the favorite in a 6 horse field (morning line of 3-1)
8th race: 7-2 Queenofthegalaxy won a small 5 horse race as the 3rd choice (morning line of 10-1 before 3 scratches)
It would have cost you $25 to play Fav/all/Fav/all and yet the pick 4 paid 136 times that cost.

When the first leg of the pick 4 is won by a favorite, the payoff averages $833. With the favorite losing the first leg, the average payoff was $1593. However, it’s not all that bad even when the favorite does win the 1st leg. In 25% of the pick 4’s where the favorite won the first leg of the sequence, the payoff was still over $1,000.

Holidays have drawn the largest pick 4 pools with an average of $6,613. Ironically, Thursdays have the 2nd largest pick 4 pool average with $4,964.
$6613 = Holidays
$4964 = Thursdays
$4508 = Saturdays
$4232 = Fridays
$3638 = Sundays

Having at least one 10-1 shot or greater in the sequence is a sure way to inflate the payoff. It has happened 39 times from the last 90 race dates. The average pick 4 payoff when that happens is $2,200. In 33 of the 39 cases where a 10-1 shot or greater won somewhere in the pick 4 sequence, cashing on the pick 4 required your social security #.

So, how do you use this historical data to help construct a pick 4 ticket? Here is the “Valento” pick 4 guide:
1. Try and beat the favorite in the 1st leg.
(History says this will immediately double your payoff even if you have the second favorite).

2. Have a few long prices in your sequence.
(Obviously, the more you can afford, the better. Search for a few “live longshots” or horses you think will go off at 10-1+ and add them when you can even if you have a strong feeling about lower priced runners).

3. Identify the toughest race and go light on the number of runners you use; spread elsewhere.
(This is completely opposite of what most players do and the few times you are right in the tough race you will have a huge advantage on your competitors by spreading out in other races).

4. Try not to single the “obvious favorite” and do your best to add at least one more horse.
(Most players “gang up” on the big favorite and, thus, a vast majority of the tickets crash and burn when the big favorite disappoints. You can get low prices in the other three legs and still have a large payoff).

5. Don’t be afraid to hit the “all” button when you can afford it.
(I cannot tell you how many times I have eliminated ONE horse from a race and it has beaten me. There are going to be those races where you are dead wrong and it’s ok to cash when your handicapping is off).

6. Have at least one combination that could give you the whole pool.
(You can’t hit a huge one without giving yourself a chance).

7. Focus your handicapping on the pick 4 races.
(Very often, people will start their handicapping in race 1 and work their way down. How often have you found yourself pouring over race 1 or 2 and spending significantly less time later in the card because we can only devote so much time to handicapping? Starting with the pick 4 sequence will allow you to maximize your limited attention span to the most fruitful races).

So far in 2008, there have been 22 pick 4 payoffs and 5 have resulted in no winning tickets. That is almost once a weekend where you can take down the whole pool. A ridiculous 12 of 22 (55%) have had only 2 winning tickets or less. There may not be any other wager at the track that will reward good handicapping so generously with such a small cost to play.