Commentary

Your $6 day at the races

Updated: May 21, 2009, 4:06 PM ET
By Jay Cronley | Special to ESPN.com

There are several approaches to horse-race wagering that seem basic enough.

One way to bet on horse racing is to try to make a killing when the opportunity is there, or when the opportunity is in reasonable proximity. Another way is to do it is to try something else, like attempt to cash a lot of tickets and $100 them into submission, "they" being those looking for more.

More is more exiting than less. You don't see many horse-racing books with a title like "My $16 Exacta."

My fondest racing recollections are of the Form and of payoffs. I like color and pageantry and animal-interest stories as much as the next person. It's just that being right is a big way is the most rewarding aspect of the game.

The thought that more is better in no way detracts from the great charm of short-priced winners. The sign of a genuine gambling idiot is somebody who holds $200 worth of losers on 15-1 shots and says, "The exacta only paid $16."

All winners have value. All idiots have excuses.

The point of this writing is to suggest that perhaps more can be made of your successful 2-1 wager.

Here's one important question to come from Rachel Alexandra's victory in the Preakness: What's the best way to make good money on a favorite?

Finding even such a beautiful winner as the filly is so hard, you have to get more than $6 for your display of skill.

There are three main ways to get the most from your investment on a favorite.

One way is to play the exacta, trifecta, or superfecta: to pick one or more, in order, behind the winner.

Another way is to use the good favorite in a Pick 3, 4 or 6.

The other way to go after what you deserve is to put a grand on your favorite. As I am a fan of off-the-beaten-homestretch race tracks, where a member of the gate crew might bring a burger to the post, betting a lot of cash on the soundest of favorites is pressing your luck.

Dozens of thousands of horse players undoubtedly had Rachel to win, but missed second.

This was no simple exacta to find.

Tough choices are why they make an "All" button. But for a $10 wheel with the favorite up, you're looking at collecting dinner for four at a fine restaurant.

Rachel Alexandra was much easier to like in front of the gate rather than in it or behind it. A chief opponent -- the one, Big Drama -- bucked in the gate and then stumbled out of it. Blinkers off when speed was of the essence, please.

Here's the point, and it sounds like it could be decent. It's easier to pick firsts than seconds. So attach your favorites to Pick 3s, 4s or 6s, not exactas.

Who's the biggest knucklehead: Somebody who took a shot with a little something to win a lot and got beat, or somebody who had the winner but didn't collect beans?

Write to Jay at jaycronley@yahoo.com.

ALSO SEE