Horizontal wagers, or bets involving picking the Winners of multiple races in a row, are among the most glamorous in horse racing. There’s nothing that gets bettors and the Daily Racing Blog fired up more than a juicy Pick 4 or Pick 5 sequence.
As a result, their counterparts – the Double and the Pick 3 – can often get lost in the shuffle. However, both of those wagers offer plenty of money-making potential, and are a great way to capitalize on a strong opinion, without having to take as much risk.
The pictured Pick 3 ticket is from Saratoga this summer, and the return on an $18 dollar wager was quite nice.
The goal of the Double, also known as the Daily Double, is to pick the Winners of two consecutive races. Originally offered on only the first two races of the day, many tracks now offer rolling doubles on any consecutive two-race sequence. The wager was introduced in the 1930s, and for decades it was the only exotic wager offered besides the usual Win-Place-Show menu.
Most tracks have a $1 minimum wager on doubles.
The objective of a Pick 3 is to pick three consecutive Winners. This bet was first introduced in California in the 1980s and quickly spread across the country. Like with the Double, many tracks have rolling Pick 3s enabling a bettor to wager on any consecutive three-race sequence they want.
The most common minimum bet on a pick 3 is 50 cents, but a few tracks, most notably the NYRA venues, have a $1 minimum.
Because there is less risk involved, Doubles and Pick 3s usually do not have the glamorous payoffs that can result from Pick 4s and Pick 5s. However, if played correctly, doubles and Pick 3s can also result in bonanzas.
The best time to play those bets is when you have a very strong opinion in at least one race in the double or Pick 3 sequence. With proper resource allocation, you can play that sequence for a large amount, resulting in a potentially large payoff.
Like with all horizontal wagers, bettors have the option to spread and use multiple horses in different races, albeit at a higher cost. While this strategy is often sound in playing Pick 4s and Pick 5s, it is less so in Pick 3s and is emphatically not the case in doubles.
If you like three horses in each leg of a Double, for example, playing that double using all of them will cost $9 (3 X 3) on a $1 minimum bet. The median return on a Double wager is $26.90, which means you’re likely to only get about a 3-1 return on your money if you’re right. By contrast, if you can narrow even one of those races down to just one horse, it would cut the total cost of your bet to $3 (1 X 3), and save you some money. If you play a cold Double and use just one horse in both legs, all the better.
The Pick 3 gives you a little room to spread, but any play should still be concentrated around one or two strong opinions. If you really like two horses in the sequence, for example, and want to spread in leg three, you can do so while still creating a bet that gets you a good R.O.I.
For the novice bettor, Doubles and Pick 3s are a great introduction to horizontal betting. They are lower-risk and have the potential for a decent reward. You also don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a good chance at Winning, unlike the Pick 4 or the Pick 5.
In short, bettors of all bankrolls shouldn’t sleep on doubles and Pick 3s. If you’ve got some good opinions on a string of races, don’t feel forced into playing a Pick 4 or a Pick 5 because they’re more glamorous. Smaller bets can offer just as much value.