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Quinellas Offering Value at Arlington Park – Part 2

Arlington Park Communications | 03/24/2014 #

Others Comment, plus Strategies to Consider

Two weeks ago I posted the blog story, Quinellas Offering Value at Arlington Park.  You can read it by clicking here and scrolling down.

In that story I pointed out that, through the first five weeks of the current Arlington meet, quinella payouts were averaging 63% of exacta payouts on the same races.  I added that the results of a study I did some years ago, over many more Arlington races, showed that quinellas were averaging 61% of exactas at that time.

I have updated my study through the first seven weeks of the current Arlington meet and the figure has slipped closer to that 61% (currently 61-1/2%, to be more accurate).

The summary statement of that story was:  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

My intent had been to return with this Part Two and offer observations and strategy suggestions.  After my blog story was posted, several of my friends over on followed on by offering their observations so let’s incorporate those posts herein.

From poster Honest and Balanced Terry:  The key to quinellas, in my experience, is that if they include a short price horse on top and a longer priced horse underneath, they are usually going to pay more than the $1 exacta. Since that's the way the horses usually finish, it probably contributes to that 61% or 63% of value that Scott observed. So, if there's a short price horse with a real good chance to win, the quinella is probably your play. However, if you truly expect the long priced horse to finish first, then that $1 exacta is likely to pay more. Or, as Scott says, you could hang out under the will pay board and not just wing it like I do.

We know that horses in a race tend to finish in an order that basically reflects their odds.  That is, shorter-odds horses tend to finish higher than longer-odds horses.  One can simply look at the odds column in a results chart for confirmation.  As Terry speculates, and I agree, that phenomenon contributes to the extra value offered by the quinella versus the exacta over a large sample of races.

Poster Joe Mama supports:  Yes, I often took this approach. I would watch the two big boards when I would go to AP and look for what you are referring to.

Poster Mick expanded horizons with this:  What I like, and have some experience from 1975, was picking a solid horse in a contentious race and boxing with all. When there's a real contentious race but one horse stands out in your mind (say 6 - 5 to 9 - 2) I will box all. You never know when a bomber will hit the bottom or top end of the race. I've had 50 - 1 horses finish second and 20 - 1 winners matched with my horse. The payoffs can be real nice. With larger fields, this is a nice play, you only get burned if you selected poorly or if a prohibitive favorite is on top.

Mick is referring to what was named a Wheel All and using his key horse in first, then in second, wheeled with all the other horses.  He collects as long as his horse finishes first or second.  That’s a lot of losing tickets to buy, which means you are investing more money, making you more in need of a bomber payout.  As Mick warns, you get burned if you select poorly (true with any wager) or if a prohibitive favorite wins. 

Here’s how to quantify the latter.  Let’s assume you wheel your key horse, to finish first and second, in an 11-horse field.  That’s 20 combinations, or bets.  For a $2 base bet the total cost is $40.  Let’s say that a favorite wins and a long shot does come second, and the exacta pays a juicy $122.  You have just turned a 60-1 return ($122 for $2) into a 2-1 return ($122 for $40).  But chances are you wouldn’t have the exacta without wheeling.     

Mick’s suggestion presents two variations to consider when the quinella and exacta are offered on the same race. The simple one is to buy a quinella wheel using your key horse.  If you are still willing to put $40 in the race, make your base bet $4 instead of $2.  You collect as long as your key horse is the official winner or place horse.   

The second suggestion is a little more complicated.  Consider an exacta wheel with the “solid horse” on top with the field.  Then add a quinella wheel with the “solid horse” and the field.  The exacta wheel is your primary bet and the quinella wheel is your insurance bet.  Should the results come back “solid horse” on top you’ll collect on both strategies.

The tendency for bettors is to work with equal amounts, such as a $2 exacta box.  However, poster Red Ketcher carries the discussion farther by offering the following:  (I) Prefer Exacta , but if investing $10,(I) would do $ 8 EX with #1 choice over #2 choice and back it up with $2 Exacta 2 over 1. Gives chance at big hit but still covers you if second choice wins. (Box or Quinella only seems most logical where you think both horses have equal chance) Don't know if right or wrong, just one person's view.

Red is exactly right.  A two-horse exacta box and a two-horse quinella (one can box three or more) are appropriate when your analysis says to you that the two horses have an equal chance. 

But what if you believe one of the two horses has a slightly better chance of winning than the other?  Say, you predict A will run a speed figure one length better than B, then it’s a big margin back to your projections for the rest of the field?  Or, you observe that one of your two horses has a tendency to settle for second and third (say, a record of 16:1-4-5)?

In races with exactas only, you can follow Red’s suggestion and bet more one way than the other.  It could be Red’s $8-to-$2, or a less extreme ratio of $6-to-$4, even $7-to-$3.  This is akin to hedging strategies in financial markets.  Again, look to the will-pay displays for guidance on how much to invest each way.

Or, again, you can combine strategies as discussed above, if you have quinellas available along with exactas.  You can back up your stronger opinion with an exacta and make a quinella on those same two horses.  And, again your bet doesn’t have to be the same for the quinella as it is for the exacta.  And, again, you just may collect both bets, an option you don’t have if you only use exactas both ways where you are automatically making losing bets.

Two final points.  One principle I always emphasize is, always apply the wagering strategy that your analysis of the race calls for – do not try to make the strategy fit the race.  I simplify it by saying, let the race talk to you, not the other way around.

Second, always consult the probable payouts and look for value.  Every wager reflects a risk-reward ratio – make sure you are optimizing potential return while minimizing risk as much as possible.

What is the ideal situation that I’m waiting for?  Why, the long shot that I think has a solid chance to win or run second.  Instead of betting him win-place, I’ll wheel him with the field in the quinella, then I’ll back up the truck to collect.  I just hope he’s entered on a Sunday.

I’ll meet you under the probable-payout displays.

Email me at with suggestions for future blog stories.


M. Scott McMannis

  • Handicapping Seminar and Contest Host, Arlington Park
  • Expert Selections Handicapper,
  • Midwest Correspondent, The HorsePlayer Magazine
  • Owner and Publisher, The McMannis Speed Figure & Trip Note Service Newsletter
  •      And Arlington and Hawthorne Trainer Patterns