08/17/2006 11:00PM

Saratoga Stakes Play for Friday


Amid the roughly 478 handicapping seminars televised here each morning on the Capital OTB TV channel, several sages opined today that the key to playing today's featured Lake Placid Stakes is to make a choice between Lady of Venice and Wait and While, the two overwhelming favorites. By using them both in pick-whatevers, the theory goes, you are diluting your investment and devaluing your price since they'll be taking so much of the money. Supposedly you should instead stand alone in the multirace wagers with one or the other or just make a win bet at around even-money on the one you prefer.

I disagree. If you actually have a strong opinion between them, go ahead and take your chances. If you're like me, though, and find them impossible to choose between, I think it is mathematically, parimutuelly and even morally defensible to use them both in multirace bets.

For argument's sake, let's say that both fillies go off at even-money in a five-horse field. This would mean, under the 15 percent win-pool takeout in New York, that each filly had attracted 42.5 percent of the win pool, with the remaining 15 percent spread among Dancing Band, Diamond Spirit and Art Show, who would then each be 16-1 if bet in equal proportions.

Sticking with the proposition that Lady of Venice and Wait a While are inseparable but leagues ahead of their three overmatched rivals, what are the true odds and prices here? Let's say there's a 1 in 5 or 20 percent chance that something goes wrong and one of them doesn't run her race. The only scenario under which one of the three longshots can win is if something goes wrong for BOTH favorites, which is then a 1 in 25 (5x5) chance, or 4 percent. So the inequality if that while 85 percent of the betting is on the two favorites, they are a combined 96 percent to win the race.

Again assuming that you can't pick between them, this inequality does not offer any value making a win bet at even money. You're actually taking a little worst of it getting $4.00 on a horse with a 48 percent chance of victory. But in the multirace pools, even if 90 rather than 85 percent of the money runs through the two favorites, you're getting a little bit the best of it because only 42 to 45 percent of the pool is going through horses with a 48 percent chance of winning. In other words, there's not enough money being bet on the three longshots to make either favorite an attractive win bet after takeout at even-money, but you get a premium on either in the pick-three and pick-four pools.

So I'm using them both and surrounding them as follows:

$2 pick-four partwheel: 3,8/1,4,7,8/2,3/1,2,4,8,9 = $160

$1 pick-four partwheel: 1,6/1,4,7,8/2,3/1,2,4,8,9 = $ 80