04/02/2015 3:44PM

Giwner: Tackling the Jackpot Hi-5 at Woodbine


On Saturday harness handicappers will be presented with the rare opportunity to get rich quick when Woodbine Racetrack offers an $847,458 Jackpot Hi-5 carryover with a mandatory payout. That means any bettor who correctly selects the first five finishers in race 11 will walk away with an equal share of the carryover loot and 85% of the money wagered on the bet Saturday.

How much money are we talking about?

With history as a guide we can predict a total pool somewhere in the neighborhood of $3 million. That’s certainly the high rent district.

The previous two times there was a mandatory payout with a carryover of at least $600k, the winning tickets returned $1,347 and $8,759 (for the base 20-cent wager) as 10 and 11 horses, respectively, went to post in each race. On Saturday night, a jammed-packed field of 12 will assemble behind the gate and thus decrease the chances of winning while in the process possibly creating a payoff that could easily reach five figures.

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For me the key is finding one or two horses you like and building a pyramid. By that I mean starting with a key horse, using two or three horses for second and increase that amount by one or two horses in each position until fifth, where I always hit the ALL button.

Visually speaking the ticket could look like: A with B,C,D with B,C,D,E with B,C,D,E,F with ALL. Using the base 20-cent wagering amount, this ticket would cost just $48.60.

Of course the above doesn’t live in a vacuum. If you strongly feel that only two horses can finish first and second by all means get creative. Play your top two horses in the first and second spots while spreading deeper in the other legs. Or maybe even use your key horses first and third while trying some longshots in the second slot in the hopes of hitting a bigger ticket. The only “must” for your tickets is that you get full coverage with your key horse(s). You don’t want your top choice to finish second to another contender and you fail to cash.

After studying the race for Saturday (check out the DRF Harness Eye expanded PP’s here), I’ve come up with the following plays. My normal limit on any ticket is $96, but for a wager this size I could go as high as double that amount if I had a good handle on the race. In this instance I found one key horse that I’ll use in a pyramid wager. I’ll then back it up with my clear second choice in the race over my key horse. The total comes to slightly more than I would like, but seems like it could be worth a play.

2 / 4,8,10,11 / 4,7,8,10,11 / 4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12 / ALL = $179.20

8 / 2 / 4,7,10,11 / 4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12 / ALL = $44.80

Since two heads (or in this case five) are better than one, I’ve enlisted some other professional handicappers for their advice on strategy when it comes to these Jackpot type wagers. Jay Bergman, Darin Zoccali, Garnet Barnsdale and Bob Pandolfo dish out some knowledge below and in some cases included their suggested ticket. Good luck!

Jay Bergman

The question of how to handicap or wager on this race is secondary to me. Understanding how much to wager is what’s vital. Though each wager is but 20 cents, the numbers can add up when you look for extreme coverage in a 12-horse field. The size of the pool is enough to increase your typical wager, but to me I wouldn’t go further than doubling my normal bet. That’s because there are a 95,040 possible combinations in a 12-horse field. At 20 cents per, to cover the entire field it would run $19K.

I think in order to hit this bet without blowing the bank you have to limit your choices in the top three positions and perhaps go for added coverage in the fourth and fifth slots. If you can’t eliminate at least five of the 12 horses from consideration it becomes extremely expensive, too expensive in my opinion. As is always the case if you’re looking to go with more possibilities find some partners.

Darin Zoccali

There are two different approaches to this wager. The first is going for the jackpot as the carryover builds. Getting the favorite out of the top 3 spots is key to this strategy as well as finding not just prices, but longshots to key off.  However, on the night of the mandatory payout a different strategy should be implemented.

While it would be great to have the only winning ticket, given the size of the pool that is extremely unlikely. My goal would be to identify one or two horses that offer good prices and build tickets around them, but don't get consumed by the lure of winning $2 Million, because it's probably not going to be possible.  Identify your key horse, play off him with confidence and try to hit ALL in the 5th spot and get as much coverage as you can in the 4th spot as well. Handicapping for a horse to finish in the middle of the field is impossible.  On the night of the mandatory payout, bring a bankroll and don't be cheap. Scared money doesn't win.

8, 12 / 4, 6, 8, 12 / 4, 6, 8, 11, 12 / 2, 4, 6, 8, 11, 12 / ALL = $86.40

Garnet Barnsdale

For a bettor, there is no juicer wagering opportunity than the one that presents itself here. With an expected $3 million wagered into an already large carryover, the result will be a wager where there is no takeout and actually bonus money available. Below are my “do’s” and “don’t’s” for the bet.

Do find a horse or two to key in on and single them in the first and/or second slots. There are typically only so many contenders that can win a race, but many for minor awards.

Do try to identify horses that are likely to take advantage of a trip to fill some of the lesser slots (in many cases at big odds). For example, one that is likely to start in the top five and stay glued to the rail throughout and stick around for a top-5 finish or a deep closer that consistently passes horses after the winner has been decided.

Do make sure you cover as many of the lower slots as your budget allows. After all, virtually anyone can finish 5th in any race.

Don’t cheap-out on this wager. If you make only one bet Saturday night it should be this high-5 bet. A near $1 million carryover in a harness race happens once a year if we are lucky.

Don’t get too fancy or worry about nailing an obscure ticket that others won’t have. Remember the ENTIRE pool pays out. Just worry about hitting the ticket

4 / 2,5,7,8,11 / 2,5,7,8,11 / 2,5,6,7,8,9,10,11 / 2,5,6,7,8,9,10,11 = $120

Bob Pandolfo

The jackpot is already over $800,000 and this means that even if quite a few bettors correctly pick the winning numbers, the payoff could still be juicy.  With so much money in the pools and considering the bulky field, I would think that it's unlikely that the race will be boring. The drivers have to be aware of the situation, and that could cause them to drive more aggressively. I expect a quick pace.

J M Jet Set ships in off a big speed effort at the Meadowlands, but he drew the second tier. He could regress off that big effort and the post may hurt, but he should help ensure a hot pace. I would look for a closer and my keys are (2) Bilbo Hanover, who finished fastest of all in his last start, and (9) World Away, who won by rallying off a slow pace. I'd use those two horses as keys with the 4, 8, 9, 11, 12.

2, 9 / 2,4,8,9,11,12 / 2,4,8,9,11,12 / 2,4,8,9,11,12 / ALL = $192

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