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Quinellas Offering Value at Arlington Park
Exotic Wager is Under the Radar to Big Brother Exacta
You do know Arlington Park offers quinellas on its wagering menu, don’t you?
Perhaps not, if wagering is any consideration. Currently at Arlington the pools for exactas are sometimes 20 times the quinella pool on common races.
Quinellas are available only on Sundays at Arlington. That no doubt contributes to fans forgetting about them. However, based on current history, fans are advised to consider quinellas in their wagering strategies because they often offer value.
First, what a quinella is, and what it isn’t.
The quinella requires the bettor to pick the first two official finishers in a race, regardless of order. The quinella is similar to, but not the same as, the exacta which requires us to pick the first two official finishers in exact order – thus the name exacta (or perfecta, as it is also known, although use of that term is waning).
You will hear people say, “The quinella is the same as an exacta box.” Not so. They are similar in that, like the quinella, the exacta box covers both possible finishes of your two horses, 1-2 or 2-1. However, they are different for two distinct reasons.
First, when you buy an exacta box, you are making two wagers, and one is automatically a losing bet (except in that rare instance of a dead heat for win).
Second, since they are individual wagers, they have separate pari-mutuel pools. And that means individually-calculated payouts based on the public’s wagering on combinations. And, that can mean disparities, perhaps exploitable ones.
The generally-accepted theory is that, when a quinella and an exacta are offered on the same race, the quinella should pay half of what the exacta pays since the exacta is twice as hard to hit. Obviously, however, that cannot be a hard-and-fast relationship. There will be times where the longer-odds horse of the top two finishes first, contributing to an exacta payout that is more than twice the quinella payout. Of course, those events will be offset by the (more frequent) times where the longer-odds horse of the top two finishes second.
Therefore, in order to test that generally-accepted theory, we would need to use an average of a large number of instances, races, something a statistician would call a large sample size.
I went back to the beginning of this nascent meet and tabulated the data from all the races where a quinella and exacta were offered on the same race. That gave me a sample size of 38 races. While the expected outcome would be that quinella payouts averaged 50% of exacta payouts, the actual result was that quinella payouts averaged 63% of exacta payouts, and, three times the quinella actually paid more than the exacta!
A fluke? Probably not. A number of years ago I did a similar study during that particular Arlington meet when quinellas and exactas were offered on every race, not just on Sundays. Thus, the sample size was much larger. That exercise revealed that quinellas were paying 61% of what exactas were paying.
As I indicated above, this deviation from the expected could make for an exploitable situation.
If you have been to Arlington, you know that there are huge electronic boards over many of the mutual lines. As a side note, these boards were in place for the opening of the “new” Arlington in 1989, following the fire and rebuilding, and were considered most innovative and fan-friendly then, and still are. Interesting, isn’t it, that they never came into wide-spread use at other racetracks? But that’s another story.
These displays give us, on a rotating basis, the next-race probable payouts for exactas, then quinellas (currently on Sundays), then (rolling) daily doubles. They are so massive that the entire spectra of payouts for each pool can be displayed at once – all exacta combinations, then quinellas, then doubles…then they cycle over again, right up to post time. It is an excellent way to compare the payouts on combinations you are considering.
Germane to this topic, it is also an efficient way to note the payouts on exacta combos you are considering, then, with the next rotation of the display, for you to compare to the quinella payouts on those same combos, to each other and to the corresponding exacta payouts!
The message is clear. When you are considering a two-horse wager and the race offers exacta and quinella wagering, you owe it to yourself to compare payouts in search of the exploitable situation. The goal is to find those instances where the quinella is projected to pay more than half the exacta.
For example, let’s suppose you believe that horses three and four have an equal chance of winning the next race, and the rest of the field is out of contention. Therefore, your analysis calls for a two-horse wager. In its simplest form, that would translate into a quinella or exacta. In the case of the exacta, you would need to bet the exacta both ways, 3-4 and 4-3, commonly called boxing, since you give equal chance to each horse to win – you can’t split them.
Upon checking the probable payouts, you learn that the exactas are paying $30 for the 3-4 combination and $32 for the 4-3 (hinting that the public can’t split them, either). Then the display cycles and you discover that the 3-4 quinella is paying $20. What is your proper course of action?
It comes down to this. You can bet a $2 exacta box (a $4 investment since its two bets) covering a 3-4 outcome or a 4-3 outcome, in pursuit of a $30 or $32 payout. Or, you can make that $4 investment in a 3-4 quinella and get back $40 if you are correct in your analysis.
I’ll meet you under the probable-payout displays.
M. Scott McMannis
- Handicapping Seminar and Contest Host, Arlington Park
- Expert Selections Handicapper, arlingtonpark.com
- Midwest Correspondent, The HorsePlayer Magazine
- Owner/Publisher, The McMannis Speed Figure & Trip Note Newsletter
- And Arlington and Hawthorne Trainer Patterns