These four Saturday races at Belmont Park meet the criteria I've established for using the superfecta-key betting strategy.
The Brooklyn Stakes (G2) is a 1 1/2 mile dirt race for 4-year-olds and up and a field of 11 has been assembled, including two with new trainers.
All runners come out of dirt races - six at Churchill and one each at Aqueduct, Laurel, Belmont, Pimlico and Thistledown. Four runners are trying the distance for the first time.
The field has combined for an in-the-money rate of one in two starts overall and is three of four at the distance.
These runners have combined for a lead at the second call one of every six starts for races that show. The pace should be solid with the advantage to runners just off the lead and those who have some late foot.
No. 1 Portos finished fourth in this event last year and has the right running style to be a factor late. He does not win much but has finished in the top four in eight of his last 10 starts and his trainer Tom Morley has solid numbers. His odds are 15-1 and he is your key runner.
No. 9 Calibrate is making his first start for Jamie Ness a situation where Ness has extremely strong figures. Coupled with the runner's grinding style and record of one win in two tries at the distance make him a legitimate superfecta player here at 10-1.
Mike Maker took over the training duties of no. 2 Red Run two starts back and this runner has rewarded him with a third and a strong second in his first try at Saturday’s marathon distance. He figures to be right there late at odds of 6-1.
No. 7 Warrant is as consistent as they come with 14 in-the-money finishes in 16 lifetime starts, including a first, second and third in three starts at the distance, the second coming in this race last year. He is 5-2.
Solid percentage small stable trainer William “Dougie” Cowans sends out the proven marathon runner no. 5 Next, who has been impressive in marathon events his last three after running non-marathon distances on dirt, synthetic and turf. He has logged two wins and a third at distances of 1 1/2 miles or longer and is 3-1.
The play: 10-cent superfecta key using 1 with 2, 5, 7 and 9. Total wager: $9.60.
The Metropolitan Handicap (G1), contested at one mile on the dirt for 3-year-olds and up, attracted a field of nine, including one runner who has a new trainer.
All runners exit dirt races - two each at Belmont and Churchill and one each at Aqueduct, Keeneland, Gulfstream, Oaklawn and Santa Anita.
The field has combined for an in-the-money rate of three in four starts overall and four of five at the distance.
These runners have combined for a lead one of every six starts for races that show. The pace should be slow with the advantage to runners on or near the lead.
No. 2 Slow Down Andy, trained by Doug O’Neill, has finished in the top three nine of his 10 starts, including a win in a graded event on turf and a third in his last try in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile last fall. The layoff is a question mark but his record supports that not being an issue. He is a grinder who always shows up and is an attractive 10-1, which looks like an overlay on your key runner.
Dallas Stewart sends out no. 4 Hoist the Gold, who has finished in the top four nine of his last 10 starts. A grinder who seldom wins, he looks every bit of a solid superfecta chance at 30-1.
The hot pace is going to work to the advantage of no. 6 Zandon, who comes into this with 10 lifetime starts never finishing worse than fourth. He should be a strong factor late and is 5-1.
No. 5 Charge It has run some very impressive races, including three wins and three seconds in eight lifetime starts, but also has also disappointed as a heavily bet favorite. He is 6-1.
No.1 Cody’s Wish is six for six at the distance and has been in-the-money in all 12 of his starts. He will be odds-on and difficult to beat.
The play: 10-cent superfecta key using 2 with 1, 4, 5 and 6. Total wager: $9.60.
The Manhattan Stakes (G1) is a 1 1/4-mile inner turf event for 4-year-olds and up and drew a field of 10, including two each from the barns of Charlie Appleby, Mike Maker and Chad Brown.
All runners come out of turf races - five at Belmont, two at Churchill and one each at Aqueduct, Keeneland and Gulfstream - with four runners trying the distance for the first time.
The field has combined for an in-the-money-rate of two in three starts overall and is four of five at the distance.
Runners have combined for the lead at the second call one in every six starts for races that show. Those runners on or near the lead should have an advantage.
No. 5 Soldier Rising, trained by Christophe Clement, has been in the money 13 of 16 turf starts and has a win, second and third in three starts at the distance. He is an overlay at 12-1 and is your key runner.
No. 10 Highest Honors comes into this off 10 consecutive top four finishes. He wins infrequently, but is consistently grinding toward those ahead of him. He fits the profile of a solid superfecta player, trained by Chad Brown, and is listed at 20-1.
The first Appleby runner is no. 3 Warren Point, who is making his second U.S. start following a loss by less than two lengths in a graded stake - his first off-the-board finish in nine lifetime tries. He will improve with a better break and is 5-1.
Appleby also saddles no. 4 Ottoman Fleet, who has never finished worse than fourth and has 10 in the money finishes in 11 lifetime turf starts. In his lone U.S. try, he came from off the pace to win a graded event at Belmont. He is 5-2.
The likely favorite is no. 8 Up to the Mark, who is trying a marathon for the first time. He is likely to improve with the added distance and looks very tough here at low odds.
The play: 10-cent superfecta key using 5 with 3, 4, 8 and 10. Total wager: $9.60.
The Belmont Stakes for 3-year-olds, contested at 1 1/2 miles on the dirt, attracted a field of nine, including three trained by Brad Cox and two trained by Todd Pletcher.
All runners exit dirt races - three at Churchill, two each at Pimlico and Gulfstream with the final two at Oaklawn and Belmont.
The field has combined for an in-the-money rate of two in three starts overall and this is the first time any have contested the distance.
The field has combined for a lead five times in 61 total starts. The pace should be advantageous to runners on or near the lead.
The Cox runner no. 8 Angel of Empire has only one bad effort in his seven lifetime starts and that was a turf event at Kentucky Downs. While he is an off-pace runner he has never been further than five lengths behind at the second call and has four wins to his credit along with a second and third. He is your key runner at 7-2.
Cox also saddles no. 1 Tapit Shoes. who has improved in virtually every start and should be forwardly placed. He enters with three in-the-money finishes in five lifetime starts and a slight improvement should get him in the top four at generous odds of 20-1.
No. 3 Arcangelo comes off a win in the Peter Pan (G3) and is the only runner in the field who has experience at Belmont in a route. That should prove advantageous to this runner, who has a record of two wins, a second and fourth in four tries and has shown improvement in each start. He is 8-1.
No. 4 National Treasure, the Preakness winner, is the likely speed and if left unchallenged may prove to be dangerous. He has never finished worse than fourth in any of his starts. He is 5-1.
The Pletcher runner no. 2 Tapit Trice is going to take a lot of money coming out of a troubled trip in the Kentucky Derby after four wins and a third in six lifetime starts. He is a persevering grinder and his odds are 3-1.
The play: 10-cent superfecta key using 8 with 1, 2, 3 and 4. Total wager: $9.60.
Why play superfectas?
For me, one main attraction to superfectas is that a superfecta probable payout pool is not displayed making this bet an unknown endeavor relative to an exacta and even trifectas in some circumstances where the probable payouts are available. However, if you observe the pool results over a long period of time, you will come to realize the heavily wagered upon runners tend to be over bet in the superfecta pool and when outsiders come in especially in the top two positions, explosive payouts might result.
This is why a 10 cent superfecta is a great leveraged wager if you select one runner you strongly believe will land in any one of the top four positions.
The table below summarizes the reduction in your outlays for superfecta wagers when you key one runner essentially boxing it with four to seven other runners.
Superfecta key wagering savings
There are books out there and it is common logic that the box wager makes no sense unless all horses are valued equally by the handicapper. Without getting too technical here, it is obvious if you have an opinion on a race, a straight box of any sort makes little sense.
The superfecta key strategy illustrated above requires you to ensure that your keyed horse finish in one of those top four positions. To maximize return, I am looking for three conditions to create potential for a high payoff.
The conditions are:
• Betting interests of at least nine entries but not more than 12.
• The ability to confidently key a horse that is not an odds-on or a heavily bet favorite.
• Field that has runners seemingly ignored in the pool that would be at very high odds at post time but could be in the top four randomly.